engaging opposition in psycho-social organization
- / -
Prepared for the meeting on methodology of the Goals, Processes and Indicators
of Development Project (GPID) of the United Nations University.
Organized by the Division of System Studies of the University of Bucuresti, Bucharest,
1-4 December 1981 [searchable PDF version
1. The basic point of this paper is that our society has proved itself unable
to design any frameworks, whether conceptual or organizational, in which disagreement
is an accepted, permanent integral feature. The frameworks now used era all
based on the assumption that agreement and consensus is the essential element
an which any viable organization depends. As a consequence disagreement can
never be tolerated except through processes designed to eliminate it (e.g.
conflict resolution, mediation, arbitration). These of course include competition
and violent conflict, in which victory, through the downfall of the opponent,
2. It would seem that all intellectual and political effort is directed either
toward achieving some measure of agreement or toward manipulating any disagreement
to the advantage of one party so that the disagreement is suppressed and a particular
"agreement" prevails. Even arguments for a "moral equivalent of war" are based
on the necessity of believing that a victor can emerge and eliminate the disagreement.
3. Perhaps the most tragic consequence is the amount of effort devoted to the
illusion of "peace" in which disagreement is somehow absent, inactive or without
functional significance. This is the simplistic ideal that "all men will be
brothers", which ignores the basic issue of how to structure a society in which
brothers disagree - as they do with great frequency and for extended periods
of time. The significance of the "peace movement" lies not in the essentially
fragile ad hoc agreement to demonstrate on particular occasions, but rather
in the disagreement with other power groups.
4. At this point in time much hope is placed on reaching agreement on a set
of values or ethical standards an the key to any action strategy. There is no
evidence whatsoever that thin hope is well-founded for the foreseeable future..
Every item of evidence indicates the contrary - unless strategies based or the
imposition of a set of values are considered acceptable, whether or not they
are viable as a result of the imposition process.
5. The immediate relevance of this argument can be seem from the following
quotations concerning the recent Cancun conference.
Before: "The obvious needs saying, because the biggest threat to next
week's summit of rich and poor countries in Cancun, Mexico, comes not from
apathy but from too-high hopes., So start with two things that Cancun will
not achieve. First, it will shun the sort of Rubik-cube completeness in which
industrial countries agree, eg. to reduce tariffs on third-world imports in
return for, eg., oil producers' promises to maintain a steady supply of oil.
That was the painstaking approach of the Brandt Commission, which originally
proposed this summit. Its members took more than two years to agree upon a
package that bound none of them and changed net a line of legislation nor
a decimal point on tariffs. The Cancun summiteers are in power and short of
time. .They will rightly go for something less ambitious. That means, second,
that Cancun will produce few, if any, commitments that presidents and Prime
ministers can wave in the air". (Economist, 17 Oct 1961)
After: "Leaders of 22 industrialized and developing nations have ended
two clays of talks with a detailed analysis of problems of world poverty but
without an agreement on a global strategy to alleviate them". (International
Herald Tribune, 26 Oct 1981)
Great hopes are once again placed on the slender possibility that something
of major significance could emerge from the new round of "global negotiations"
which it was tentatively' "agreed should be held in the future. This possibility
diverts attention from the essential problems of disagreement which have undermined
the significance of all previous initiatives of this kind.
6. The fear of situations in which disagreement prevails is such that they
are shunned, whether unconsciously of, by well-ration alized processes. Where
they cannot be avoided, much effort is devoted to amplifying the significance
of whatever minor items can be discovered on which agreement in achieved. A
Veneer of agreement is thus generated to disguise fundamental disagreement.
Agreement then becomes an essentially superficial pretence of little operational
significance. A tragic example is the vast body of resolutions generated by
United Nations bodies and almost immediately forgotten. According to the International
Herald Tribune (24 Nov 1981):
'Many envoys here, however, complain that this year's UN General Assembly
is notable chiefly for its overly familiar debates. Virtually all 126 items
on the agenda have produced almost identical resolutions and votes for three
or more years. Some of the deepest concerns here are discussed only in corridors,
not on the assembly floor.' (International Herald Tribune)
In the case of UNESCO, these are now being generated by "consensus voting"
to avoid the problems of disagreement.
7. A strange feature of the preoccupation with seldom-achieved agreement is
that little attention is given to the processes which are able to occur once
that condition has been achieved. To the extent that it is not superficial,
agreement involves a degree of homogeneity in approach which is rapidly repudiate
as constricting and alienating. Dynamism of any sort is associated with disagreement.
8. In a very meaningful sense, the present is in basic disagreement with the
past and with the seeds of the future as they emerge. Again it is not the continuity
from past-to-present-to-future which provides significant information, but rather
the dynamics arising from the disagreement of past and present positions (as
epitomized by generation "gaps") The nostalgia occasionally encountered for
a "golden age" in the past, and the hopes projected onto some utopian ideal
in the future have a common weakness. In both cases their significance lies
in their contrast with the tensions and disagreements of the present. Such ideal
settings are seen as disagreement free and, consequently, there in great difficulty
in describing their processes in an attractive manner.
9. An obvious feature of academic or even political life is the relative lack
of significance attached to agreement with a particular thesis - except in terms
of the essentially "mechanical" process of marshalling support to ensure that
a particular position triumphs and maintains its position. Of much greater interest
to those involved is the process of responding to the challenge of those who
manifest disagreement. It is this which is the stimulus which energizes many
psycho-social processes. Associating for any length of time with a group of
people in basic agreement is of very little interest - unless a new level disagreement
can be discovered.
10. It is useful, in the light of the previous points, to view the development
process as one based on disagreement rather then agreement. Little "happens'
if everyone agrees. With the introduction of disagreement comes the possibility
of development. To stress consensus as a key to development, is to come dangerously
close to destroying the basis for its dynamism. Development can only occur if
there is disagreement with the current state of affairs.
11. The previous point suggests that there is a fundamental weakness in the
"liberal goodwill" viewpoint which has encouraged the favourable attitude towards
solving all the "nasty" world problems. This has effectively generated a kind
of conspiracy of consensus, based an mutual tolerance, and a horror of disagreement
which has progressively under- the original thrust. Indeed, once every issue
becomes a "motherhood" type issue, namely one which calls for unthinking, universal
agreement, then no further progress is possible. The "mutual tolerance" mentioned
is counter-productive to the extent that it de-activates disagreement and the
dynamics associated with diversity.
12. Because a sense of dynamism would seem to be a fundamental nee,!, the reality
of groups making up the "peace movement", for example, is one of extensive fragmentation.
Sadly to some, the constituent groups are usually extremely hostile to one another.
Since disagreement is an anathema, each group turns in upon itself or towards
its special. constituency and avoids any reflection on the significance of that
disagreement for the future of "peace". But the identity of each group is clarified
by dynamics which reinforce for it the understanding of why it cannot possibly
associate or agree (other than te m- under special circumstances) with any of
the other groups. A similar point could be made with regard to the "ecology
13. The previous point comes even more into focus in the case of the various
movements for "equality". The goal of such movements is to eliminate "inequality".
However it is no exaggeration to remark that the amount of "inequality" in the
world is now greater than ever before. "Equality" is well-implanted as an ideal,
hut indicators of its universal non-achievement are all too evident. Society
is at present primarily characterized by non-equality, except for a variety
of token legal rights whose significance in practice is negligible or cosmetic.
It is no longer sufficient to play out the pretence of operating in an egalitarian
society - this only permits the unrecognized dynamics to reinforce the fundamental
disagreement between ideal and reality. It also prevents exploration of the
significance of the disagreement and the inequality.
14. There are presumably many traditional psycho-cultural reasons which reinforce
the treatment of disagreement as an anathema, and in many cases as "bad" and
inherently "evil". It is disagreement which banishes man from the Garden of
Eden, introduces dissonance into the mythical Golden Age, and destroys the "golden
age" of childhood experience. It is a denial of the spiritual union which is
fundamental to many religions. As such it is necessarily the "work of the devil"
or his equivalent. Even Pythagoras is supposed to have rejected the irrational
disagreement associated with the square root of 2.
15. Such views strongly influence the manner in which an "enemy" is defined
as a result of disagreement. "If you are not with me, you are against me" and,
as such, to be contained (or eliminated, if possible). No religion, Hinduism
possibly excepted, has developed a viable framework for dealing with disagreement
- with well-known consequences. Equivalent problems occur with ideologies. In
both cases considerable difficulty is experienced with disagreement giving rise
to schisms which in the religion case may be labelled "heresies". These give
rise to violent exercises in suppression.
16. Disagreement is also a major problem in mass movements such as trade unions
for which the key word is "solidarity". Disagreement undermines the solidarity
which is vital to successful bargaining and must therefore be violently suppressed.
In societies based on the dictatorship of the proletariat, as an extension of
such mass movements, the problem of handling "dissidence" remains unresolved.
17. Discontinuity is a special form of disagreement. It is only very recently
that the study of discontinuity has proved -1 possible or admissible in mathematics
as catastrophe theory , despite the general nature of the problem and the
practical value of the results to natural and social sciences. Discontinuity,
as a form of disagreement, has presumably been a victim of its subconscious
association with death an(' accidents although birth also constitutes a discontinuity.
18. From a theoretical standpoint, disagreement generally implies invalidity
or error. There is an extremely well-developed tendency to disguise error, because
of the way it is related to job performance and. career evaluation. This is
true of professionals, of bureaucrats, of businessmen, and of scientists. It
is also true in organizational reporting procedures, whether military, business
or government. Glossy "public relation," reports prevail.. It is unfortunate
that it should even be necessary to make the following point:
"Changing towards long-range social planning requires that, instead of avoiding,
exposure to and acknowledgement of error, it is necessary to expect it, to
seek out its manifestation, and to use information derived from the failure
as the basis for learning through future societal experiment. More bluntly,
future-responsibility societal learning makes it necessary for individuals
and organization to embrace error. It is the only way to ensure a shared self-consciousness
about limited theory as to the nature of social dynamics, about limited data
for testing theory, and hence about our limited ability to control our situation
well enough to expect to be successful more often than not". Donald Michael
("On the requirement for embracing error". In: On Learning to Plan and Planning
to Learn. Jossey-Bass, 1973, p. 131).
19. The response to disagreement between achievements as planned and as implemented
introduces a special kind of blindness. Planning reinforces awareness of social
reality as perceived through the system under implementation. As lived however,
individuals are obliged to cross the boundaries between systems which do not
"recognize" each others existence, and between new systems (possibly incomplete
or already breaking down) and whatever remains of older (or even very old) systems.
The lived reality is characterized by widespread incompatibility that is experienced
as a kind of hubris between the various systems. A material indicator is the
standardization problem of getting parts to fit or match. A bureaucratic indicator
is the traditional problem of "red tape". Others are more subtle. It is very
difficult to grasp these forms of disagreement.
20. The problem of handling disagreement is also evident in the design of legislative
assemblies for complex societies. The traditional 2-party Westminster assembly
has only proved successful in a few countries and it can be argued that its
success is largely one of creating the impression that it is a success. Complex
issues (e.g. defence budgets) can no longer be given more time then simpler
ones and there is little time for most issues, especially new ones. Many developing
countries have abandoned multi-party assemblies as being "unsuitable". This
may be considered an indication that exposure to disagreement is actively avoided
there: opposition is forbidden or suppressed.
Scientific suppression of disagreement
1. It is the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend who hap recently drawn
attention, dramatically to the manner in which science-as-practised suppresses
disagreement in a somewhat desperate search for the single method and the
ultimate theory (4). He argues that this bears a relation to how science advances
(when it advances) and that this confusion Is dangerous for society.
2. Feyerabend argues that:
'Such a field study of science reveals that, while some scientists may
proceed as described, the great majority follow a different path. Scepticism
is at a minimum it is directed against the view of the oppositio and against
minor ramifications of one's own basic ideas, never against the basic ideas
themselves. Attacking the basic ideas evokes taboo reactions which are no
weaker than are the taboo reactions in so-called primitive societies. Basic
beliefs are protected by this reaction as well as by secondary elaborations,
as we have seen, and whatever fails to fit into the established category system
or is said to be incompatible with this system is either viewed as something
quite horrifying or, more frequently, it is simply declared to be non-existent.'
(4, p. 298)
He considers that this massive dogmatism is not just a fact but also has a
most important function. Science would be ,impossible without it (4, p. 298).
'In the preceding chapters, which are rough sketches of an anthropological
study of particular episodes, it has emerged that science is always full of
lacunae and contradictions, that ignorance, pigheadedness, reliance on prejudice,
lying, far from impeding the forward march of knowledge are essential presuppositions
of it and that the traditional virtues of precision, consistency, "honesty",
respect for facts, maximum knowledge under given circumstances, if practised
with determination, may bring it to a standstill. It has also emerged that
logical principles not only play a much smaller role in the (argumentative
and non-argumentative) moves that advance science, but that attempt to enforce
them universally would seriously impede science.' (4, p. 260)
3. He considers that the belief that science has found some special method
is simply a fairy-tale.
'But the fairy-tale is false, as we have seen. There is no special method
that guarantees success or makes it probable. Scientists do not solve problems
because they possess a magic want-methodology, or a theory of rationality
- but because they have studied a problem for a lone, time, because they
know the situation fairly well, because they are not too dumb (though that
is rather doubtful nowadays when almost anyone can become a scientist), and
because the excesses of one scientific school are almost always balanced by
the excesses of Some other school. (Besides, scientists only rarely solve
their problems, they make lots of mistakes, and many of their solutions are
quite useless)'. (4, p. 302)
4. Feyerabend then points out that:
'Basically there is hardly any difference between the process that leads
to the announcement of a new scientific law and the process preceding passage
of a new law in society: one informs either all citizens or those immediately
concerned, one collects 'facts' and prejudices, one discusses the matter,
and one finally votes. But while a democracy makes some effort to explain
the process so that everyone can understand it, scientists either conceal
it, or bend it, to make it fit their sectarian interests.' (4, p. 304)
5. Disagreement amongst sciences is in practice resolved by vote contrary to
what is normally claimed:
"No scientist will admit that voting plays a role in his subject. Facts,
logic, and methodology alone decide this is what the fairy-tale tells us.
But how do facts decide? What is their function in the advancement of knowledge?
We cannot derive our theories from them. We cannot give a negative criterion
by saying, for example, that good theories are theories which can be refuted,
but which are not yet contradicted by any fact... Lawyers show again and again
that an expert does not know what he is talking about. Scientists, especially
physicians, frequently come to different results so that it is up to the relatives
of the sick person (or the inhabitants of a certain area) to decide by vote
about the procedure to be adopted. How often is science improved, and turned
into new directions by non-scientific influences.' (4, pp. 306-307)
6. The unity of science is itself a myth:
'Science is split into numerous disciplines, each of which may adopt
a different attitude towards a given theory and single disciplines are further
split into schools. Whatever unity remains is dissolved during (scientific)
revolutions, when no principle remains unchallenged, no method unviolated.
Even individual scientists arrive at different judgements about a proposed
theory.' (4, p. 202)
7. Given this situation, the danger lies in the generalization of this myth
'Scientists are not content with running their own playpens in accordance
with what they regard as the rules of scientific method, they went to universalize
these rules, they want them to become part of society at large and they use
every means at their disposal - argument, propaganda, pres- tactics, intimidation,
lobbying - to achieve their aims.' (4, p. 220)
'A society that is based on a set of well-defined and restrictive rules
so that being a man becomes synonymous with obeying these rules, forces the
dissenter into a no-man's-land of no rules at all and thus robs him of his
humanity.' (4, p. 218)
8. It is ironical that, the avoidance by scientists disagreement, as described
above, and the scientific dedication to the elimination of discrepancies in
theory, are complemented by the deep disagreement amongst philosophers of science
concerning the nature of the scientific process itself.
Significance of incommensurability
1. Feyerabend clarifies his own favoured approach as follows:
'One might therefore get the impression that I recommend a new methodology
which replaces induction by counter-induction and uses a multiplicity of theories,
metaphysical views, fairy-tales instead of the customary pair theory/ observation.
This impression would certainly be mistaken. My intention is not to replace
one set of general rules by another such set: my intention is, rather, to
convince the reader that all methodologies, even the most obvious ones, have
their limits.' (4, p. 32)
2. For, when a new theory or methodology has been elaborated:
'It will seem that the truth has at last been arrived at. At the same
time, it is evident that all contact with the world has been lost and that
the stability achieved, the semblance of absolute truth, is nothing but the
result of an absolute conformism. For how can we possibly test, or improve
upon, the truth of a theory if it is built in such a manner that any conceivable
event can be described, and explained, in terms of its principles? The only
way of investigating such all-embracing principles would be to compare them
with a different set of equally all-embracing principles - but this procedure
has been excluded from the very beginning. The myth is, therefore, of no objective
relevance; it continues to exist solely as the result of the effort of the
community of believers and of their leaders, be these now priests or Nobel
prize winners. This, I think, is the most decisive argument against any method
that encourages uniformity, be it empirical or not. Any such method is, in
the last resort, a method of deception. It enforces an unenlightened conformism,
and speaks of truth; it leads to a deterioration of intellectual capabilities,
of the power of imagination, and speaks of deep insight; it destroys the most
precious gift of the young - their tremendous power of imagination, and speaks
of education.' (4, p. 45)
3. He concludes as follows:
'To sum up: Unanimity of opinion may be fitting for a church, for the
frightened or greedy victims of some (ancient, or modern) myth, or for the
weak and willing followers of some tyrant. Variety of opinion is necessary
for objective knowledge. And a method that encourages variety is also the
only method that is compatible with a humanitarian outlook.' (4, p. 46)
4. Feyerabend takes this argument even further:
'There is no idea, however ancient and absurd that is not capable of
improving our knowledge. The whole history of thought is absorbed into science
and is used for improving every single theory. Nor is political interference
rejected. It may be needed to overcome the chauvinism of science that resists
alternatives to the status quo.' (4, p. 47)
5. On this basis he continues:
'Knowledge so conceived is not a series of self-consistent theories
that converges towards an ideal view; it is not a gradual approach to the
truth. It is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible (and
perhaps even incommensurable) alternatives, each single theory, each fairy
tale, each myth that is part of the collection forcing the others into greater
articulation and all. of them contributing, via this process of competition,
to the development of our consciousness. Nothing is ever settled, no view
can ever be omitted from a comprehensive account. Plutarch, or Diogenes Laertius
and not Dirac, or von Neumann are the models for presenting a knowledge of
this kind in which the history of a science becomes an inseparable part of
the science itself - it is essential for its further development as well as
for giving content to the theories it contains at any particular moment. Experts
and laymen, professionals and dilettanti, truthfreaks and liars - they all
are invited to participate in the contest and to make their contribution to
the enrichment of our culture. The task of the scientist, however, is no longer
"to search for the truth", or "to praise god", or "to systematize observations",
or "to improve predictions". These are but side effects of an activity to
which his attention is now mainly directed and which is "to make the weaker
case the stronger" as the sophists said, and thereby to sustain the motion
of the whole.' (4, p. 30)
6. In discussing incommensurability, Feyerabend draws attention to the problem
of science as rational:
'Incommensurability, which I shall discuss next, is closely connected
with the question of the rationality of science. Indeed one of the most general
objections not merely to the use of incommensurable theories but even to the
idea that there are such theories to be found in the history of science is
the fear that they would severely restrict the efficacy o traditional, non-dialectical
argument.' (4, p. 171)
7. He welcomes the use of apparently rational arguments to introduce revolutionary
doctrines in the guise of familiar, common sense statements, as a means of transforming
common sense itself (4, p. 200). Rationalists will then:
"be much less reluctant to concede that the ideology of rationalism has no
intrinsic advantage, they will realize that even in science one is subjected
to propaganda and involved in a struggle between opposing forces and they
will agree that argument is nothing but a subtle and most effective way of
paralysing a trusting opponent". (4, p. 200)
8. Feyerabend summarizes his position on incommensurability in the form of
- there are frameworks of thought (action, perception) which are incommensurable
- the development of perception and thought in the individual passes through
stages which are mutually incommensurable
- the views of scientists, and especially their views an basic matters, are
often as different from each other as are the ideologies that underlie different
cultures. (4, p. 271 and 274)
9. Feyerabend argues against the assertion of Karl Popper's that "What is true
in logic is true in psychology .... in scientific method, and in the history
of science". He points out that there exist legitimate scientific statements
which violate simple logical rules. He gives examples of statements which play
an important role in established scientific disciplines and which are observationally
adequate only if they are selfcontradictory. (4, p. 258)
10. According to Feyerabend, if many facts become available only with the help
"Then the refusal to consider them will result in the elimination of potentially
refuting facts as well. More especially it will eliminate facts whose discovery
would show the complete and irreparable inadequacy of the theory. Such facts
having been made inaccessible the theory will appear to be free from blemish
... This will further reinforce the belief in the uniqueness of the accepted
theory and in the futility of any account that proceeds in a different manner
... At the same time it is evident, an the basis of our considerations, that
this appearance of success cannot in the least be regarded as a sign of truth
and correspondence with I nature ... In other words, the suspicion arises
that this alleged success is due to the fact that the theory, when extended
beyond its starting point, was turned into a rigid ideology". (4, pp. 42-44)
11. Feyerabend points out that "Nobody admits that there could be various forms
of knowledge and that it might be necessary to make a choice". (4, p. 213) Consequently,
he argues that:
'General education should prepare a citizen to choose between the standards,
or to find his way in a society that contains groups committed to various
standards but it must under no condition bond his mind so that it conforms
to the standards of one particular group. The standards will be considered,
they will be discussed, children will be encouraged to got proficiency in
the more important subjects, but only as one gets proficiency in a game, that
is, without serious commitment and without robbing the mind of its ability
to play other names an wall ....
It seems to me that such a change in education and, as a result in perspective
will remove a great deal of the intellectual pollution Lakatos deplores. The
change of perspective makes it clear that there are many ways of ordering
the world that surrounds us, that the hated constraints of one set of standards
may be broken by freely accepting standards of a different kind, and that
there is no need to reject all order and to allow oneself to be reduced to
a whining stream of consciousness.' (4, p. 218)
Approaches to the art of disagreement
1. The previous section suggests that there is a major need for a "science
of disagreement" to clarify the manner in which active disagreement can be usefully
structured. It appears that agreement in society is essentially superficial
or token (if it prevails at all). There is a total absence of knowledge on how
to disagree intelligently in an organized manner, rather then in an irrational,
fear-ridden manner requiring some form of violent response to eliminate the
disagreement as soon as possible.
2. It might be assumed that the methodologies of conflict resolution, mediation
or arbitration would provide guidelines for a science of disagreement. This
is not the case. Such methods are primarily concerned with eliminating the disagreement
between the parties, or reducing it to a level at which it is not significant
for their relationship.
3. In looking for a "science" of disagreement some care is necessary as the
previous sections have shown. Science, as it claims to be practiced, can be
usefully considered to be about agreement processes and the elimination of
disagreement. "Art" may however be considered to be about disagreement processes,
set against a background of the rise and fall of agreement. Agreement is not
useful without disagreement. In fact it is meaningless. It is the disagreement
which introduces the essence of diversity and avoids the uniformity of undifferentiated
4. There is an obvious problem in using Feyerabend's "method" as a basis for
any art or science of disagreement. He explicitly advances his views as epistemological
anarchism and states:
'It is clear, then, that the idea of a fixed method, or of a fixed theory
of rationality, rests on too naive a view of man and his social surroundings.
To those who look at the rich material provided by history, and who are not
intent on impoverishing it in order to please their lower instincts, their
craving for intellectual security in the form of clarity, precision, "objectivity",
"truth", it will become clear that there is only one principle that can be
defended under all circumstances and in all stages of human development. It
is the principle: anything goes.' (4, pp. 27-28)
But he goes further in arguing that science is itself anarchistic:
'To sum up: in so far as the methodology of research pro- is "rational".
it does not differ from anarchism. in so far as it differs from anarchism,
it is not "rational Even a complete and unquestioning acceptance of this methodology
Hoes not create any problem for an anarchist who certainly does not deny that
methodological rules may be and usually are enforced by threats, intimidation,
deception. This, after all, is one of the reasons why he mobilizes (not counter-arguments
but) counter-forces to overcome the restrictions imposed by the rules.'
(4, p. 198)
But the somewhat quixotic element in his extremely valuable approach is then
revealed in his remarks on its status in his own view (as the author):
'Always remember that the demonstrations and the rhetorics used do not
express any "deep convictions" of mine. They merely show how easy it is to
lead people by the nose in a rational way. An anarchist is like an undercover
agent who plays the game of Reason in order to undercut the authority of Reason
(Truth, Honesty, Justice, and so on).' (4, p. 33)
5. Feyeraband takes us to the very useful point at which it is possible to
say that "disagreement is OKI' and that scientific progress might be impossible
if imperfections were eliminated (41 p. 255). But, as an anarchist, he is obviously
totally uninterested in the need to "organize" disagreement in any way, even
if it were possible. As a result his approach provides no clues for any new
way of organization which could take account of new levels of disagreement.
6. The most fruitful guide to further understanding of disagreement should
be found in writings on dialectics, which were clearly of value to Fayerabend.
But whether it be in the writings of Hegel Marx, Engels or Lenin, or in recent
writings on dialectics as it emerges in modern science (e.g. complementarity,
etc), there is little to be gleaned beyond the concept of the essential (thesis,
antithesis, synthesis). Most authors emphasize the intimate relationship to
the cognitive subject-object process, about which it is necessarily difficult
to be "objective" without distorting comprehension of its essential dynamism.
Thus: "If we try to analyze what it is that the threefold describes, we are
in a bind for it is just that element of participation in life that analysis
cannot, and does not even pretend to, cope with" (5, p. 57). "Since it is basically
nonconceptual, it cannot be defined..." (5, p. 27). For this reason dialectics
has been most favoured as a method by those capable of anchoring it in practical
action a concrete material context.
7. The Marxist scholar Jean-Marie Brohm points out that neither Marx nor Engels
attempted to define dialectics positively (6, p. 43). They defined it negatively
by the criticism of adverse positions, as have most of their successors:
"Ce faisant ils obéissaient à un grand principe général
do la dialectique: la négativité. Le positif est toujours le
résidu do le négativité, un moment négatif provisoire
qui attend à son tour d'être nié .... La dialectique est
le produit d'une lutte ininterrompue contre les conceptions adverses. Elle
se définit négativement par ce contre quoi elle s'oppose". (6,
8. Hegel summarizes the essence of dialectics as follows (as quoted by Brohm):
"les choses finies sont, mais leur rapport à elles-mêmes est
de nature négative, an ce sens qu'elles tendent à la faveur
de ce rapport à se dépasser. Elles sont, mais Ia vérité
de leur être est qu'elles sont finies, qu'elles ont une fin. Le fini
ne se transforms pas seulement, comme toute chose en général,
mais il passe, il s'évanuit; et cette disparition, cet évanouissement
du fini n'est pas une simple possibilité, qui peut se réaliser
ou non, mais Is nature des choses finies est telle qu'elles contiennent le
germe de leur disparition, germe qui fait partie intégrante: l'heure
de leur naissance est an même temps celle de leur mort". (7, p. 129)
9. In commenting on Hegel's Science of Logic (7), Lenin clarifies
one of Hegel's definitions of dialectics by the following:
- Definition of, the concept on the basis of itself (the thing itself should
be considered in its relationships and in its development)
- Contradiction in the thing itself, forces and contradictory tendencies
in each phenomenon
- Union of the analysis and the synthesis.
Then he further clarifies these elements in 16 points (8, pp. 209-210):
- objectivité de l'examen (pas des examples, pas des digressions,
mais Ia chose an elle-même).
- tout l'ensemble des rapports multiples at divers de cette chose aux autres.
- Ie développement de cette chose (respective phénomène),
son mouvement propre sa vie propre.
- les tendances (at aspects) intérieurement contradictoires dans
- Ia chose (le phénnomène, etc) comme somme et unité
- la lutte respective (ou encore) le déploiement de ces contraires,
aspirations contradictoires, etc.
- union de l'analyse at de Is synthèse, séparation des différentes
parties et réunion, totalisation de ces parties ensemble.
- les rapports de chaque chose (phénomène, etc) non seulement
sont multiples et divers, mais universels, Chaque chose (phénomène,
processus, etc) est liée à chaque autre.
- non seulement l'unité des contraires, mais aussi les passages de
chaque détermination, qualité, trait, aspect, propriété
en chaque autre en son contraire.
- processus infini de mise à jour de nouveaux aspects, rapports,
- processus infini d'approfondissement de la connaissance par l'homme des
choses, phénomènes, processus, etc, allant des phénomènes
à l'essence et d'une essence mains profonde à une essence
- Ia coexistence à la causalité et d'une forms de liaison
at d'interdépendance à une autre, plus profonde, plus générale.
- répétition à un stade supérieur de certains
traits, propriétés, etc, du star's inférieur et
- retour apparent à l'ancien (négation de le négation)
- lutte du contenu aver le forms et inversement. Rejet de la forma, remaniement
- passage de la quantité en qualité et vice versa. (15 at
16 sont des examples du 9)
10. In the case of psychologist Jean Piaget, there are five characteristics
- construction of previously non-existing interdependencies between two
systems considered either as opposed or as strangers to each other, and
which are thus integrated into a new totality; whose properties exceed them.
- the interdependencies of the parts of the same object are in dialectical
- every new interdependency engenders properties exceeding the component
parts if it results in a totality greater then that without it.
- intervention of circularities or spirals in the construction of interdependencies.
- relativisation of parts due to their interdependencies..
These five properties of dialectics are summarized by a sixth which gives its
general significance: "dialectic constitutes the inferential aspect of all equilibration".
This means that dialectics does not intervene at all stages of cognitive development,
but only during the course of the equilibrating process. It is therefore important
to distinguish carefully between the state of equilibrium corresponding to a
non-dialectic moment of evolution and the dialectic processes permitting the
construction of new frameworks. Piaget distinguishes eight kinds of interdependency
(9, pp. 213-227). A co-author, Rolando Garcia, draws attention to similarities
between Piaget's concept and that of Lenin as detailed above (9, pp. 233-237).
11. In one of the few studies that also reviews non-marxist concepts of dialectics,
Paul Foulquié concludes with the following general definition:
"Est dialectique une pensée constamment tendue pour as dépasser
elle-même aussi bien en allant jusqu'au bout de ce qu'elle a découvert
qu'en se portent à des points de vue nouveaux qui semblent contredire
ses affirmations premières". (10, p. 125)
12. Despite the relevance of dialectics to the problem of disagreement, as
noted above, it does not appear to do more than explain the dynamics of the
environment it constitutes. It explains the eventual future evolution
beyond the stage of disagreement, but does not clarify the nature of any possible
present order whilst the disagreement holds. It does not clarify
the nature of the psycho-social forms to which disagreement can give rise in
the present, it merely affirms that they are necessarily temporary. The question
is whether there is any pattern in the present to the ancillary processes to
which a dialectical confrontation gives rise. Is it possible to discover
any underlying structure to disagreement? For example, evident disagreement
might be considered to be structured like interference patterns from distinct
interacting wave sources. Or disagreement might be compared to recent thinking
on the relationship between interacting parallel universes.
13. More accessible to reflection (but spread over time) is the concept of
development stages, of which the beat example is the individual human being.
Development for the individual is a series of separations which give rise to
a qualitatively different sense of unity. Stages include:
- birth (loss of physical connection within the womb)
- physical separation from adult, supervision
- emotional separation with external orientation of affections at puberty
- intellectual separation from parental framework with departure from home
- and possibly others
Each of these separations, as a form of disagreement, can be very painful.
They are accompanied by changes of perspective which are difficult to communicate
to younger siblings, for example. This effective secrecy is enshrined in primitive
initiation rites of which equivalents still exist for apprentices, students,
and soldiers. At each stage new adversaries emerge as potential enemies with
whom to disagree.
14. The shock effect of such initiations has been extensively explored by psychoanalyst
C G Jung in his study of the confrontation of an individual with archetypes
(including adversaries) corresponding to each initiatory level (11). Of special
interest is the individual's encounter with his "shadow" and its relation to
creative comprehension of the significance of death as a dramatic form of disagreement.
He clearly demonstrates that avoiding this confrontation is unhealthy for the
development of the individual.
15. At each such development stage intense regret may be expressed for the
loss of the togetherness and innocence of the preceding stages despite profound
appreciation for the new insights achieved. The advantage of using such stages
to model levels of disagreement is that it highlights the possibility that many
of those involved in movements for "peace". "equality" and "solidarity" may
be hoping to achieve a kind of womb-like of agreement within their environment.
Or some childish condition of "eternal summertime" and parental security. But
the more separation or disagreement that has been achieved, the greater the
potential for new kinds of unity. It is the degree of disagreement which qualifies
the scope and depth of the unity possible.
16. This problem is well illustrated in the various levels of disagreement
with which the poets of the ancient Rg Veda hymns struggled using music
as a language:
"In the beginning was tone. This is the most important clu to beer in mind
in our effort to understand the Rg Vedic conception and use of Language and
of languages. The whole of the Rg Veda is chanted ... we have already pointed
out the sophisticated musical-metrical structure of the hymns; and it is precisely
an this model of musical tones that the meaning of the hymns is grounded ...
That tones recur cyclically at every doubling or halving of frequency or
wave-length is the "basic miracle of music". From this acoustical phenomenon,
the number 2 acquires its "female" status; it defines invariantly the octave
matrix within which all tones come to birth. Here, in this initial identification
of the octave with the ratio 1:2, is the root of all the problems which haunt
the acoustical theorist, problems which the ancient theorist conceived as
symbolizing the evil and disorder of the universe. The octave refuses to be
subdivided into subordinate cycles by the only language ancient man knew --
the language of natural number, or integers, and the rational numbers derived
from them. It is blunt arithmetical fact that the higher powers of 3 and 5
which define subordinate intervals of music never agree with higher powers
of 2 which define octave cycles. It is man's yearning for this impossible
agreement which introduced a hierarchy of values into the number field. For
our ancestors, the essence of the world and of the numbers which interpreted
that world was sound, not substance, and that world was rife with disagreement
among an endless number of possible structures ...
Therefore, from a linguistic and cultural perspective, we have to be aware
that we are dealing with a language where tonal and arithmetical relations
establish the epistemological invariances... Language grounded in music is
grounded thereby on context dependency; any tone can have any possible
relation to other tones, and the shift from one tone to another, which alone
makes melody possible, is a shift in perspective which the singer himself
embodies. Any perspective (tone) must be "sacrificed" for a new one
to come into bein the song is a radical activity which requires innovation
while maintaining continuity, and the "world" is the creation of the singer,
who shares its dimensions with the song.' (11, pp. 55-57)
17. Clearly there is a communication problem in arguing for new levels of unity,
if this is comprehended as equivalent to arguing for separation of mother and
child, for example. Any such argument can then only be perceived as "bad" or
"evil" under present circumstances. But, at the same time, as the Rg Veda
case illustrates, there is a certain level of disagreement inherent in any
pattern of organization which gives rise to an "impossible yearning for agreement"
that drives the search for subtler levels of agreement. But this search may
be driven in either of two conflicting directions, whether towards the primordial
unity (soundless, womb-like, by recovery of the past). Or towards a unity based
on greater differentiation (in the future). In both cases it is necessary to
live with disagreement, rather than rejecting it as "evil". As the previous
"It is men's yearning for this impossible agreement which introduced a hierarchy
of values into the number field...and that world was rife with disagreement
among an endless number of possible structures".
The disagreement is only absorbed and contained, as a complementary study
demonstrates, by the use of large numbers sets:
"The great expansion of the number sets in later diagrams is motivated, I
believe, by the effort to approximate as exactly as possible the irrational
square root of 2 which is needed to locate a tone symmetrically opposite the
mean on D, that is, precisely in the middle of our octave". (14, p. 37)
An interesting study has been made of dissymetry as an anti-entropic force,
This may lead to a valuable contrast between symmetry (as agreement) and dissymetry
'Dans toute symétrie établie peut surgir une rupture partielle
at non accidentelle qui tend à compliquer l'équilibre formé.
Une telle rupture est proprement une dissymmétrie. Elle a pour effet
d'enrichir la structure ou l'organisme où elle se produit, c'est-à-dire
de les doter d'une propriété nouvelle ou de les faire passer
à un niveau supérieur d'organisation.' (13, p. 78)
The problem of "world peace", etc needs to be seen in a similar light. As
presently conceived, the level of articulated separation, disagreement or diversity
is not yet great enough to sustain more than an undifferented, mass-consciousness
version of the-desired level of agreement.
18. The previous point would appear to indicate that the deficiency of dialectics
in understanding disagreement arises whenever some stability is required for
disagreement sets higher than the threefold by which it is characterized (e.g.
thesis, antithesis, synthesis). This is clearly stated by Arthur Young: "But
when the stimulus causes wrong action and the result is not achieved, the (fourfold)
learning cycle becomes necessary. Thus the learning cycle only becomes necessary
when there is an obstacle in the larger, threefold cycle". ( 5, p. 24)
19. This suggests the need to explore more highly differentiated patterns of
disagreement with higher numbers of component elements. The most interesting
development in this direction is that arising from the impact of quantum theory
an the conceptual bases for the classification of knowledge (15), especially
that of P A Heelan (16) who is concerned with incompatible frameworks, and with
complementary frameworks and dialectical development. He advocates the use of
non-Boolean partially ordered lattices to interrelate such frameworks and the
languages associated with them. Heelan's approach is cited by the authors of
the above-mentioned studies on the Rg Veda as appropriate to the complexity
with which they are dealing. Heelan relates his own work to that of Feyerabend
who was extensively cited above:
'The context of assumptions in which I am working comprises those counter-positions
to classical logical empiricism, established by such authors as N R Hanson,
P K Feyerabend and T 5 Kuhn, such as the absence of any hard distinction between
observational and theoretical language, the validity of multiple explanatory
viewpoints, the existence of both continuous trajectories of theory development
and discontinuous trajectories representing revolutionary episodes in the
history of science or culture.' (16, p. 260)
'From the foregoing, it is clear that there are a variety of logical
models at hand to understand inter-framework relationships and especially
developmental transpositions between frameworks in history. The task of using
these models practically in problems of classificationp has yet scarcely been
begun.' (16, p. 272)
20. Heelan indicates the relevance of his approach to relating certain incompatible
theories of physics. The question is whether, by using the term "logical", he
is restricting its relevance to situations in which the disagreement is less
fundamental. How irrational can disagreement be and still be organized in some
way? Both Feyerabend in his book Against Method (4), and Heelan in identifying
himself with "counter positions" (quotation above), are taking up positions
and "disagreeing" with others. They are therefore trapping themselves in a dynamic
relationship without providing any organization for that disagreement thus leaving
the basic difficulty unclarified. It would seem that the difficulty lies in
the .paradigm in which "positions are taken". The difficulty is less that of
whether one takes a particular position and more that of the nature of the relationship
to the positions one fails to understand or support (of which others, or the
future, may understand more).
21. Paradox is implicit in the approach of Feyerabend and Heelan, but can it
be made paradoxically explicit? Somehow any static "balance" between agreement
and disagreement must be by-passed through a set of paradoxes which legitimate
contradictory positions. It is strange that the absence of humour from the development
of psycho-social organization is not a cause for comment given its fundamental
importance to human beings, even in political life. Arthur Koestler has explored
its relation to paradox and creativity ( 17 ). Can contradictory positions be
mapped into a self-reflexive hierarchy of paradoxes in which dynamism is inherent?
Such a context might then prove more appropriate for the dialectic process.
At present this is rather like having access to the central component of an
electric generator, without being able to mount it in a suitable framework so
as to be able tap the energy generated to drive other psycho-social processes
-- and without tearing the mounting apart as it rotates between opposing positions.
22. The remainder of this paper explores the possibility of generating a
pattern of progressively more differentiated disagreements as a basis for a
more appropriate manner of psycho-social organization.
Constraints on method
1.1 The design of any text concerning method immediately raises the question
as to whether that design will facilitate or hinder implementation of any insights
embodied in the text. The form of the text is not a trivial matter and should
ideally be isomorphic with the pattern of operations to which it gives rise.
Texts which fail to take this constraint into account tend to give rise to methods
which are poorly understood and rarely used, whatever their merits
1 .2 In recognition of this problem, the design of the "method" outlined here
emerges as the result of the application of a series of constraints. Without
such explicit constraints, any text on method is free to meander in an unstructured
way through hundreds of paragraphs of inoperable statements.
1.3 The intent is therefore to establish a constraint framework such that different
kinds of development discussed can be effectively distinguished whilst at the
some time clarifying why those we do not happen to favour appear disagreeable
and essentially unjustifiable, if not incomprehensible.
1.4 The aim is therefore to achieve an optimum degree of congruence or isomorphism
between statements relevant to psycho-social reality, methods relevant to the
transformation of that reality, and structures designed to implement such methods.
2.1 Any text an method can be further elaborated by introducing statements
in agreement with the initial statement. There is no well-defined limit to this
2.2 In the present social context a statement on method only acquires significance
through the manner in which it disagrees with other extant statements. This
may be used as an explicit technique for limiting the further expansion of sets
of statements in agreement with one another. Each statement must therefore be
matched with other opposing, or mutually disagreeable, statements. Instead of
emerging only in the dynamics of the debate between adherents of methods, disagreement
is thus "internalized" as an explicit structuring device in the design of the
text. Unless such disagreement is internalized, the method described is always
essentially inadequate and must always assume the existence of other methods
to complement it. Since adherents of a particular method tend to have difficulty
in acknowledging the significance of other methods, failure to internalize strongly
reinforces application of inadequate methods without any device for their reconciliation.
2.3 Disagreement is usually conceived as being a condition prevailing between
two elements which together constitute a set, whether of : people, values, principles,
concepts, methods, or facts. The condition may however exist between a larger
number of elements.
2.4 In the absence of a suitable constraint framework embodying the complete
pattern of potential disagreement, statements and counter-statements in any
debate twist into predictable and essentially pre-determined patterns. There
is In fact an interesting parallel to the description of energy states in fundamental
physics. The possible energy states (i.e. debate statements) are described by
a probability wave function. When a particular probability is actualized (i.e.
debate position is taken), the wave function "collapses" (ie no other statements
are relevant in that context).
3. Underlying relationship
3.1 Unless they are identical, members of a set necessarily differ and this
difference may be interpreted as "disagreement". In order to understand how
such disagreement may be organized, a search must first be made for sets which
contain elements in maximal disagreement.
3.2 If such sets are meaningful, then the elements of the set retain some degree
of commonality which binds them together despite the high level disagreement
between them. The qualitative characteristic of the bond is what needs to be
3.3 The disagreement becomes specially interesting when the elements are such
that the disagreement is somehow "active". The elements are then complementary
in that each is a vehicle for a particular perception of an underlying condition
which cannot be adequately conveyed through any of them (cf. the complementarity
between wave and particle descriptions of light). This complementarity may of
course be denied and then the set elements are perceived as opposed The set
as such may then not be considered a meaningful grouping device for those elements.
3.4 It is the presence of this combination of maximal disagreement with an
underlying commonality, or relationship between set elements, which constitutes
the third constraint.
4.1 The previous constraints do not in any way limit the expansion of a set
of matched statements. A new constraint is therefore introduced to limit a particular
set of matched statements to a given number of elements.
4.2 This is done on the assumption that once established the set constitutes
a complete pattern of incompatible positions and cannot be enlarged or reduced
(although the individual statements may of course be reworded).
4.3 If further matching statements are required to clarify the methods, these
should be combined in one or more other sets each complete in its own way.
5. Number uniqueness
5.1 In the practical use of sets of elements such as those it is intended to
generate here, there is an important constraint relating to the uniqueness of
any given set. For example, the concept of the method or approach as implemented
constitutes a fundamental 1-element set. Furthermore, if in applying the method
a balance has to be maintained between two conflicting considerations, this
constitutes a 3-element set. In both cases, the dynamics it is intended to encompass
will also be present when dealing with some sub-component of the method -- where
the sub-component approach then itself again constitutes a 1-element set, for
5.2 The previous constraints do not prevent the emergence of sets for which
the pattern of disagreement between the elements is effectively a replication
or a qualification of that in other sets.
5.3 A new constraint is therefore introduced which requires the only one set
be allowed with a given number of matching statements as elements.
5.4 This constraint highlights the essential "management" issue of handling
the set elements and maintaining the integrity of the set. It is not possible
to apply a method without having a 1-element set, for example. It may even be
explicitly stated that there is no single central concept but that is then itself
the one governing central concept. It is highly probable that the application
of the method will also, for example, at some point involve an explicit polarization
between two complementary approaches or considerations, thus constituting a
2-element set requiring some form of mediation governed by statements in a 3-element
5.5 These questions become clearer when considered in the light of any organizational
structure created to implement the method. A hierarchy necessarily emerges with
concerns relating to the 1-element set "at the top". Note however that this
conceptual hierarchy does not have to be matched in a one-to-one relationship
with the organizational structure of roles and departments. S e of the
sets may instead be reflected in the sets of principles, values, strategies,
or procedures of that organization -- or even i informal factions concerned
with particular policies.
5.6. The set associated with a given number N effectively gives rise to a range
of N-"person" games as an organizational, management, coordination or strategy
problem. It is the qualitative characteristic of the range of games that is
t be elucidated as well as the set elements "activated" as role stereotypes
for "players" implementing the method.
6. Number pattern
6.1 The previous constraints do not prevent the usual situation in which sets
of elements are treated independently, each set being embedded wherever convenient
within an arbitrarily structured text which supposedly provides the connecting
links between them.
6.2 To the extent that the text constitutes a complete explication of a method,
of which the essential items are formulated as set elements, some degree of
order should emerge from the relationship between those sets. The various Sets
in effect constitute some kind of hierarchy of N-person games within which disagreement
or contradictions are handled.
6.3 A new constraint is therefore introduced which requires that the numbers
whereby the sets are labeled should themselves fall into a pattern (not necessarily
complete) which can be used to elucidate the relationships between the methodological
significance of the sets.
6.4 A pattern of numbers can be considered as a "minimal form". The question
is what pattern of numbers is most appropriate as a constraint. In terms of
number theory, the conventional number series 0, 1, 2, 3, ... is arbitrarily
based on the number 10 (written N10). It is preferable to avoid possible
distortion arising from this particular choice of pattern. The hybrid number
pattern which appears to avoid this problem in the most balanced manner can
be obtained by taking the series in which each succeeding number in the series
is taken with itself as base, namely
00, 11, 22, 33, 44,
As indicated above, a set corresponding to any number in the series is then
composed of elements equal to that number (e.g. at level 5, there are 5 elements
or matching statements.
6.5 The imposition of any such numbering pattern may appear totally unnecessary.
Why is any such device required ? A response is that most social science texts
avoid the issue of how systematically their arguments need to be structured
to render explicit as many relationships between statements as is feasible.
There is no implication that such texts should be structured other than arbitrarily
for editorial purposes. It is not surprising that insights emerging from such
texts cannot be easily geared into any set of transformative operations.
7. Transformation operator
7.1 The set elements in academic texts tend to be unsatisfactory because they
are primarily descriptive. A descriptive set is essentially static and de-emphasizes
7.2 The problem is therefore to generate a set in which the elements are essentially
dynamic or have an operative dimension, namely a set of operators. This requirement
constitutes the seventh constraint on set design.
7.3 Such operators are effectively methods or methodological operations. However,
given the design of the set, each operator would be in maximal opposition to
the other operators in the same set. The operators would therefore be counteracting.
7.4 If such sets of counteracting methods are to be designed, the question
is how much incompatibility can be effectively built into operators without
destroying the basis for grouping them as a set ? And yet the more they are
incompatible, the greater the probability that they will be able to "contain"
the complexity of conditions to which they are applied (cf. Ashby's Law, also
the gene pool concept).
8.1 Whilst the operational emphasis introduced by the previous constraint ensures
a degree of action entailment, such action lacks focus. Statements can be sharpened
by introducing a suitable focus.
8.2 Whilst the statements could be oriented towards many domains of action.
The one which introduces the greatest constraint and the sharpest degree of
focus is that relatinq to the generation of statements on method and related
forms. This is effectively a self-reflexive, self-constraining constraint.
9. Containment of unpredictable
9.1 Although previous constraints have emphasized the importance of maximal-incompatibility
consistent with set formation, they fail to allow for a specific openness to
the risks and hazards of real-world processes.
9.2 A further constraint is therefore introduced to ensure such responsiveness
to the possibility of unforeseen conditions.
10. Inter-set consistency
10.1 Although the number pattern ensures a formal relationship between the
sets, a further constraint is introduced to ensure that there is consistency
between the contents of different sets.
11. Operational relevance
11.1 Although a previous constraint requires that the set element have a transformative
dimension, a further constraint is required to ensure that such operations are
important to any isomorphic management process.
12. Inter-set harmony
12.1 Although a previous constraint requires that there be consistency between
sets contents, this is only a neutral "mechanical" condition.
12. 2 A further constraint can be useful, introduced to require that the set
elements be conceived in such a way, that there is harmonic reinforcement between
elements in different sets. Such harmony would also be significant to any isomorphic
13.1 The previous constraints leave open the possibility that the set elements
may be generated with the conventional, idea of producing a definitive, finished
product. This would close the set elements to any process of conti nuing refinement.
13.2 A further "constraint" is therefore introduced which requires that each
statement be subject to ongoing reformulation. The pattern of statements thus
itself becomes a domain for necessary further action, in the light of experience
1. In order to generate such an integrated multi-set grouping of operational
statements it is of course vital to have a rich variety of source material an
possible content. Such material was collected for an earlier paper (18) and
tentatively ordered there according to the number of elements in the sets in
question. The contents of that paper are given here as Annex
1, as an indication of the variety of material. As pointed out in that
paper, this ordering permitted useful comparisons between sets in different
schemes having an equal number of elements.
2. Such material can only be useful if care is taken to treat the morphological
characteristics as independent of the special properties of the substrate with
which a given set is particularly concerned. This point has been clearly by
Rene Thom in his study of morphogenesis:
'L'indépendance du substrat: L'idée essentielle de notre
théorie, à savoir qu'une certaine compréhension des processus
morphogénétiques est possible sans avoir recours aux propriétés
spéciales au substrat des formes, ou à la nature des forces
agissantes, pourra sembler difficile à admettre, surtout de Is part
d'expérimentateurs habitués à tailler dans le vif, et
continuellement en lutte avec une réalité qui leur résiste.
L'idée cependant n'est pas nouvelle, et on Ia trouve, formulée
presque explicitement, dans le traité classique de d'Arcy Thompson
On Growth and Form; mais les idées de ce grand visionnaire étaient
trop an avance sur leur temps pour s'imposer; exprimées souvent d'une
manière trop naivement géométrique, il leur manquait
d'ailleurs une justification mathématique et dynamique que seules les
recherches récentes pourront leur donner ... On m'objectera qu'ici
j'ai comparé l'incomparable, an mettant sur Ie même plan un processus
biologique d'une part, et un processus de la nature inanimée d'autre
part. Précisément, cette comparaison fera sentir un point important,
dont peu de gens sont conscients: à savoir que la morphogenèse
en nature inanimée est moins bien connue at tout aussi peu comprise
que la morphogenèse des êtres vivants; cette dernière
a attiré l'attention des biologistes depuis plusieurs siècles
Le dédain des physico-chimistes pour ce genre de questions s'explique
aisément: c'est qu'il s'agit là de phénomènes
extrêmement instables, difficilement reproductibles, et rebelles à
toute mathématisation: en effet, Ie propre de toute forms, de toute
morphologie est de s'exprimer par une discontinuité des propriétés
du milieu: or, rien ne met plus mal à l'aise un mathématicien
qu'une discontinuité, car tout modéle quantitatif utilisable
repose sur l'emploi de fonctions analytiques, donc continues.' (19, pp
10-12, emphasis added)
The point is also made in relation to one of documents included in the material
'This study will develop the hypothesis that the "lattice logic" which
de Nicolas perceives in the Rg Veda was grounded on a proto-science
of number and tone. The numbers Rgvedic man cared about define alternate tunings
for the musical scale. The hymns describe the numbers poetically, distinguish
"sets" by classes of gods and demons, and portray tonal and arithmetical relations
with graphic sexual and spatial metaphor. Vedic concerns were with those invariances
which became the focus of attention in Greek tuning theory. Because the poets
limited themselves to integers, or natural numbers, and consistently used
the smallest integers possible in every tonal context, they made it possible
for us to rediscover their constructions by the methods of Pythagorean mathematical
harmonics.' (14, p. 3)
3. Using equivalent sets from the source material as a guideline, a new set
for the number in question was "generated" taking into account the constraints.
Given the variety of emphases of sets of an equivalent number of elements, this
process of generation necessarily involved non-logical operations, especially
since the intention was to maximize the incompatibility between the elements
in any given set. The results are given in Annex 2
4. Two interesting and related difficulties emerged in comparing equivalent
items from the source material.
- Clearly some sets are formulated at a higher level of abstraction than
others. The problem was, using the constraints as guidelines to generate elements
of an equivalent set at an appropriate level of abstraction.
- Clearly sets differ greatly in the nature of the elements, whether: stages,
values, qualities, problems, methods, conditions, etc. Again the problem was
to use the contraints to arrive at some neutral formulation of which the above
might be considered aspects. In both cases the problem was to find appropriate
words (whether general or neutral) to carry the incompatible qualities associated
with each set.
5. For each set an underlying relationship or theme is common to each element.
The incompatibility is embedded in the qualification on that theme.
The only similar exercise detected is a doctoral thesis in philosophy (20)
which was composed directly onto a word processor (to facilitate experiments
with alternative structures) using the poetic power of the German language to
1. The ordered collection of statements presented in Annex
2 raises a number of interesting questions. It is necessarily imperfect,
and is even more so as a first draft. Its current status can best be compared
to an unituned musical instrument. Only when it is tuned, to the extent possible,
will it be possible to determine whether it can be realistically applied as
a guide to operations.
2. Prior to, or during, the tuning process itself it will be necessary to sharpen
up the sets to a greater extent. This is due to the weakness of some of them
in terms of the constraint requirements for:
- maximal disagreement between set elements, perhaps requiring a greater degree
of controversy, risk, uncertainty, or paradox
- operational orientation, since some of them are more descriptive rather
then transformative (the emphasis is on nouns or adjectives, and not on verbs)
In this sense it is necessary to "charge up" each set and render it inherently
more dynamic. The generated sets can be confronted with new source material
to assist in this process. (For example the 16-point definition of dialectics
by Lenin, quoted above).
3. The "tuning" process may be envisaged as follows. The different sets need
to be compared to highlight the pattern of relationships between them. For example,
the sets with common numerical factors (e.g. 2, 4, 8, etc) have commonalities
which can be highlighted. This will help to clarify the contents of each set
and to increase the degree of order prevailing between them.
4. The tuning process is necessary to overcome the problem of the awkwardness
of the individual statements. Such awkwardness, is to be expected in a first
draft, given the manner in which the sets were generated. There is a basic dilemma
in formulating such statements in order to avoid an impression of jargon. But
the problem is really that a "general, neutral" set of statements is inconsistent
with the underlying philosophy of this approach. No particular wording is adequate.
5. Efforts to produce an exhaustive "definition" merely result in an exhausting
amount of text. The study of the significance of some of the sets has in fact
been a life work for some people, resulting in many volumes of commentary (as
is the case with Carl Jung and the 4-set). The very quantity of information
quickly becomes counter-productive in terms of operational criteria.
6. One may around this problem of awkwardness and length is to use the "artificial"
statement scheme as generated here as a basis for generating other schemes,
corresponding to the difficulties initially encountered:
- Schemes may be produced scaled up or down in level of abstraction (Vertical
- Schemes may be produced oriented in terms oft stages, qualities, problems,
conditions, etc (Horizontal scaling)
- Schemes may be produced using different lan uages: poetic formalistic, religious,
sociological, etc. (Model scaling)
By combining these different possibilities sets of "more readable" statements
can be produced which will presumably be closer in terminology to particular
source material sets. Sets may thus be generated according to application.
7. The problem of the lack of sufficiently general words needs to he seen in
the light of the previous point and the use of synonyms. In effect by shifting
the emphasis according to any of the above scales, there is a shift through
the set of synonyms used to generate the set. The tuning process and the generation
of sets could be better studied using an on-line synonym database, which could
also permit alternation between noun, adjective and verb.
8. It is possible that the problem of lack of general words would disappear
in sets having an even higher number of elements where the emergent concerns
would become much more specific.
9. At this preliminary stage, it is preferable to assess the value of the approach
an the basis of the internal structure and consistency of the scheme. Specific
references from each generated element to source material have been omitted
because of the quantity of such material and the complexity of the decision
process leading to a particular choice of words. In some cases, for example,
20 source sets were compared to produce the generated set.
10. It will be noticed that the attributes of the higher number sets are aspects
of those associated with their lower number factors and "condensed" into those
associated with their prime number factors. In affect each set "tells the same
resource management story", but in the lower number sets the story is highly
compacted. In the higher number sets, the attributes associated with elements
are simplified, and more easily comprehensible, at the cost of making the relationship
pattern more complex. In the lower number sets, these qualities are absorbed
into more complex set elements, at the cost of comprehensibility, although the
relationship pattern is simpler.
11. It will be noticed that sets which are multiples of 2 do not result in
new information. The 2-operator merely dichotomizes each element in a set, elaborating
on a common point. However a set with 2 as a factor establishes an unresolved
polarity which can only be handled in an operational setting by introducing
a new perspective (the set elements + 1) from which the polarity can be viewed
and balanced. In this sense such polarized sets can effectively "give birth
to" a new perspective as pointed out in one of the source documents:
'A vibrating string of any reference length can be halved to sound the
octave higher or doubled to sound the octavo lower... The number 2 is "female"
in the sense that it creates the matrix, the octave, in which all other tones
are born. By itself, however, it can only create "cycles of barrenness", in
Socrates metaphor, for multiplication and division by 2 can never introduce
new tones ...' (14, pp. 19-20)
12. As structured the scheme supports the view that a monolithic structure
of any kind inhibits development. The tension of a polarity is necessary to
engender any development. It is useful to distinguish growth or elaboration
(in which no new pattern is introduced, by a 2-factor, for example) from new
development (in which a new pattern is introduced as a result of balancing a
polarity). This suggests that any of the classic polarities are very healthy,
if they can give birth to a new pattern: capitalism/communism, governmental/nongovernmental,
rationalism/empiricism, etc. It suggests that a monolithic "world government"
would be a total inhibitor of development. In an earlier paper (21), it was
suggested that oscillation or resonance between two or more polar positions
was essential to significant integration or qualitative transformation. The
extreme example of brainwashing (stick and carrot) techniques (22) was given
there as an example of oscillatory operations which have there constructive
equivalent. This emerges more clearly here.
13. "Disagreement" as it has been discussed here, and allowed to emerge in
the generated sets has not been clearly defined. This is because the definition
is implicit in the 2-level set. At that level the subtleties of any distinction
between opposition and complementarity, for example, do not emerge. "Disagreement"
therefore also covers its synonyms, namely: disaccord, dissent, unconformity,
controversy, disunion, discrepancy, difference, oppo4ition, dissonance, irrelation,
inequality, incompatibility, irreconcilability, etc (Roget's Thesaurus).
14. There is a progressive "dilution" of the degree of disagreement between
elements in a set as the number of elements increases. In affect the basic maximal
disagreement of the 2-level is spread between the elements. This suggests that
using sets with a higher number of elements as operators makes it progressively
easier to contain the disagreement.
15. Each set is a container for a different kind of disagreement. Each can
also be used to highlight what can go wrong when working with operators at that
level, namely the characteristic errors for that level of operation.
1. By deliberately internalizing disagreement, the scheme moves beyond the
stage of being a "cook book for potted wisdom" or a set of "bloodless categories".
Each set can be tuned to constitute a set of challenging operations -- challenging
because of the difficulty of maintaining them in equilibrium. The question is
how effectively the sets can be tuned to take the scheme beyond the status of
being simply an interesting exercise.
2. The scheme is valuable because of the way it interrelates incompatibilities
at different levels '. It is significant also because of the way each set is
embedded in a context of interdependent sets.
3. Given its relation to the source material of diverse cultural origin and
specialization, the scheme is also valuable to the extent that interfaces can
be provided to such specialized sets. It offers a way of interrelating and engaging
groups working through apparently different concept schemes.
4. The awkwardness of the statements at present draws attention to the basic
problem of how to condense qualitative complexes. The solution in traditional
cultures of projecting them onto gods or demons (about whom stories could be
told to bring out those qualities) was a good way of transforming the problem.
5. As designed the scheme is not "ideal" in the sense which is now so easily
condemned. No set element is imposed, since as a hierarchy of paradoxes the
problem of comprehension is central. A distinction may even be usefully made
- Freedom to choose between a plurality of competing concept schemes each
with overdefined concepts, namely the conventional approach. Here the individual,
once the choice of scheme has been made, has no further freedom, because the
concepts within the scheme must be accepted as they are defined.
- Freedom to choose how to understand within a single concept scheme composed
of underdefined, concepts whose significance may be partially associated to
those of other schemes seen as non-competing. Here the individual is constantly
challenged with the freedom to understand particular concepts in some more
significant manner in the light of the concept set within which it is embedded.
6. The generation of these sets has been approached as a design problem in
which constraints are necessary and must be creatively selected ( ). It is possible
that the constraints could be refined as part of the tuning process.
7. It might be supposed that the use of any number pattern as a constraint
on the ordering of social relations is quite arbitrary. There are however number-bound
constraints as psychologists and psychoanalysts have shown. It would be interesting
to explore their relation to the well-defined number-bound constraints on certain
concrete mechanical operations (e.g. number of constraints to immobilize an
object, or number of possible space relations)
8. The basic question raised, as to whether there was any pattern in the present
to the ancillary processes to which a dialectical confrontation gives rise,
is answered affirmatively. The sets show how the level of articulated disagreement
can be increased to produce the level of differentiation capable of sustaining
a non-homogenized society.
9. Any commentary and criticism of the gets could itself be usefully organized
as an ordered breakdown using an analogous number pattern.
10. The pattern of sets opens the way to distinguishing very precisely various
kinds of development. For example, one kind is associated with activating in
a societies sets with a given factor (e.g. 7, 14, 21, etc). The decay of a culture
(or an individual) may well correspond to the loss could well go undetected
for some time. The loss of sets of exceptional operators, corresponding to the
isolated prime numbers, be extremely difficult to detect, despite their importance
for development. Such sets "stabilize" operators which are elusive in normal
11. This scheme suggests a much healthier approach to "positivity" as a slogan
and "negativity" as an anathema in society today. The more responsible approach
is well-illustrated by the following:
'What does it mean, to be whole? It means that we must be willing to
conceive of, to contain within ourselves, whatever is "other than" any limited
idea. It means knowing that when we emphasize a positive, we are at the same
time creating a negative. When we choose an ideal of knowledge, then we must
deal with the ignorance that is other than the knowledge. When we emphasize
an ideal of holiness, then we must live with the sin that is its companion,
and accept our responsibility for having created it. If we deny doing so,
that is a contraction of awareness ... If we allow that ugliness is always
within us, then we are free to create beauty. If we know that stupidity is
always within us, then we are free to emphasize this intelligence' (24,
Annex 1: REVIEW OF CONCEPT SCHEMES INCLUDED
The material forming the basis of this experiment (and used to construct Annex
2) was originally presented in a document entitled: Patterns
of N-foldness; comparison of integrated multiset concept schemes as forms of
The annexes, containing the conceptual schemes derived according to this 'method',
formed the bulk of the document, and were as follows:
Annex 0: UNU/GPID Project: It is appropriate to employ the same presentation
method to the GPID concept scheme as It is now emerging.
Annex 1: Geometry of Meaning: This Is a modern effort to order a complex
pattern of information on change and development In the light of physical concepts
of dimensionality and control.
Annex 2: Book of Changes: This is the 3000-year old Chinese I Ching
which is conceived as encoding the complex pattern of changes in physical and
social phenomena. It has been of considerable Interest to Leibniz (philosopher),
Jung I psycho- analyst) and western mathematicians, and its poetic expression
has proved highly acceptable to a segment of western society.
Annex 3: Catastrophe theory: This is a now controversial way of thinking
about change in all kinds of phenomena In the light of the mathematics of differential
Annex 4: Tibetan Buddhism: This is a highly structured traditional scheme
of concepts sets which, because of both illiteracy and the absence of paper,
uses powerful imagery to facilitate memorability and communicability
Annex 5: Genetic code: This recent fundamental breakthrough in the biological
sciences groups a number of concept sets in a highly integrated pattern.
Annex 6: Chinese Communist terminology: This is included because it
illustrates the importance in one non-western political systems of concept sets
governed by number.
Annex 7: Tonal patterns of Rg Veda chanted poetry: The Rg Veda
is, in terms of survival over 4000 years, the most successful active communication
vehicle. The concept scheme interlinks many concept sets in a very powerful
Annex 8: Movement and dance notation: This concept scheme is one of
the most widely accepted frameworks of understanding of dance Is ordered.
Annex 9: Chinese art of war: This traditional scheme Is even row considered
basic to ordering perceptions of strategy and tactics
Annex 10. Art of colour: Artists achieve certain visual effects by selecting
Intuitively amongst a range governed by a perception-oriented concept scheme
distinct from the colour preoccupations of physicists and chemists.
Annex 11: Islamic cosmological doctrine: As In the case of Tibetan Buddhism,
this concept scheme has been of special significance to Islamic culture for
an extended period.
Annex 12: Language and transformational-generative grammars: Language
itself should be rich in concept schemes which are themselves a form of language.
This annex, unlike the others, considers aspects of current thinking which have
rendered superficial the traditional concept sets in this area.
Annex 13: Thermodynamics: This fundamental discipline is concerned with
the description of change In physical processes. It has been applied by analogy
to social processes. Its pattern of concepts is very well integrated. Unlike
the other concept schemes, the concept sets are not explicitly set out. An attempt
is made in this annex to show how they might emerge for comparison with other
Annex 14: Periodic classification of chemical elements: This fundamental
scheme is included because of the comprehensibility of the pattern goverrning
the complexity of the information ordered.
Annex 15: Systematics: This modern scheme, formulated by a philosopher,
is included because of the variety of phenomena it encompasses and the leads
It offers to understanding number-governed patterning complexity.
Annex 16: Periodic coordinate system: This ambitious modern scheme is
included because it purports to order patterns of interaction in a variety of
Annex 17: Synergetics: geometry of thinking: This highly original and
well-integrated scheme is included because of the multiplicity of concept sets
it includes and the leads it provides as to how transformations between them
may be accomplished.
Annex 18: Polygons and polyhedra: This annex indicates the sets of polygons
and polyhedra. It is significant in the light of the previous annex as indicating
how set elements can be interrelated in an integrated whole.
Annex 19: Topological features of polyhedra: Again, in the light of
Annex 17, the number-governed sets. associated with this material offer useful
indications as to how such sets are interrelated In patterns.
Annex 20: Chladni patterns: This is included as a systematic study of
the range of patterns arising form the vibration of a surface area. It Is significant
in that it indicates how a zone Is "broken up" into sub-zones.
Annex 2: Results of experiment
The material forming the basis for this experiment were originally presented
in a document entitled: Patterns
of N-foldness; comparison of integrated multiset concept schemes as forms of
presentation (14). The results have been presented
as Annex 2 of this paper, but now appear as two separate documents. The first
version has been used to highlight the relevance to articulation of sets of
principles, charters or declarations:
Distinguishing Levels of
Declarations of Principles
The second version has been adapted to highlight the challenge of dialogue
with 'aliens', notably those on this planet who are experienced as
alien -- especially those of different cultures:
Distinguishing Patterns of
Assumption in Dialogue with Aliens
4. Paul Feyerabend. Against Method London, Versa, 1975
5. Arthur Young. The Geometry of Meaning. Delecorte Press/Seymour Lawrence,
6. Jean-Marie Brehm. Qu'est ce qua la dialectique? Paris, Savelli, 1976
7. W F Hegel. Science de la Logique. Tome I
8. V Lenine. Cahiers Philosophiques. Paris, Editions Sociales, 1973
9. Jean Piaget. Les formes élémentaires de le dialectique. Paris,
10. Paul Foulquié. La dialectique. Presses Universitaires de
France, 1976 (8th revised ed)
11. C G Jung
12. Antonio T de Nicolas. Meditations through the Rg Veda. Shambhala,
13. Roger Caillois. Le dissymétrie. Paris, Gallimard, 1973
14. Ernest G McClain. The Myth of Invariance: the origins of the gods, mathematics and music from the Rg Veda to Plato. Shambhala, 1978
15. C A Hooker. The impact of quantum theory on the conceptual bases for the
classification of knowledge. In: 3 A Wojciechowski (Ed). Conceptual Basis of
the Classification of Knowledge. K G Saur, 1978, pp. 284-315
16. P A Heelan. The Logic of Changing Classificatory Frameworks. In: J A Wojciechowski
(Ed). Conceptual Basis of the Classification of Knowledge, Mlinchen, K G Saur,
1976, pp. 284-315
17. Arthur Koestler. The Act of Creation. 1964
18. Anthony Judge. Patterns of N-foldness; comparison of integrated multiset
concept schemes as forms of presentation (Paper for GPID Forms of Presentation
Meeting, June 1980) [text]
19. Rene Thom. Modèles mathématiques de le morphogenèse.
Christian Bourgois, 1980
20. Wolfgang Dahlberg. Ordnung, Sein und Bewustsein; zur logischen, ontologischen
und erkenntnistheoretischen Systematik der Ordnung. Frankfurt, 2 vols, 1981
(Doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Frankfurt)
21. Anthony Judge. Liberation of integration; pattern, oscillation, harmony
and embodiment. (Prepared For the 5th UNU/GPID Network Heating, Montreal, 1980)
22. R J Lifton. 'Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism. 1961
23. Christopher Alexander. TheTimeless Way of Building (vol 1); A Pattern Language
(vol 2). Oxford University Press, 1977
24. Thaddeus Golas. The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment. Palo Alto, Seed