27 October 2004 | Draft
Functional Complementarity of Higher Order Questions
psycho-social sustainability modelled by coordinated movement
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This paper is an annex to Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness (2004).
Semantic interrelationships between WH-questions
Engaging with tendencies to twisting movement -- insights from helicopter control
Measure formulae as the basis for a semantic template
Qualitative operational relationships associated with learning cycle
Cognitive instruction set for a semantic vehicle
Set of measure formulae as a template for WH-questions
Challenge of interpretation and comprehension
"Pathology" of Q&A: problematic answers to single-mode questions
Existential dynamic in a "cognitive helicopter"
Challenge of closure
Reframing possibilities of closure
The semantics and pragmatics of questions have long been the object of linguistic exploration, as usefully reviewed by Judith Blanchette (Questions in the Online Learning Environment, 2003) and by Michiel Borkent and Riemer van Rozen (On logic and questions in dialogue systems, 2004). Several types of questions in English are distinguished: yes/no questions, WH-questions, alternative questions, tag questions, and intonation questions.
There is an extensive literature on those referred to as "WH-questions" (see Robert D. Van Valin, Jr. The Acquisition of WH-Questions and the Mechanisms of Language Acquisition). These are notably considered of importance in language teaching. The set consists of questions such as: Who, Why, Where, What, How, When, Whether, Whither, Whence. All these forms are ultimately derived from an Indo-European root (kwo-), a stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. In Latin and Romance, the corresponding forms generally begin in "qu-" (e.g.Latin quid, quod; French qui, quoi, quand, etc).
The semantic relationships between WH-questions do not appear to have been explored, the main focus being on pragmatics, intonation, and comparative syntactical issues across languages. For example, Lisa Lai Shen Cheng (On the Typology of WH-Questions. 1991, 1997) proposes that the typological distinctions among languages with respect to the formation of WH-questions can be attributed to the availability of question particles and the properties of WH-words. Unfortunately, the problem of identifying question type has long been recognized as a difficult one.
Michiel Borkent and Riemer van Rozen (On logic and questions in dialogue systems, 2004) move towards such an exploration through logical relationships in a "logic of questions" (analogous to a logic of propositions). Their interest is in how a logic of questions can contribute to the analysis of questions in dialogue systems and their improvement -- in order to "lift the work in this field to a higher level".
Hui Yang, et al. (Modeling Web Knowledge for Answering Event-based Questions, 2003), in discussing the correspondence of WH-questions and event elements, conclude that a QA event shows great cohesive affinity to all its elements and the elements are likely to be closely coupled by this event:
But it might also be asked whether there are other kinds of WH-questions characteristic of other epistemological mindscapes in the light of the arguments of Magoroh Maruyama and others (see Systems of Categories Distinguishing Cultural Biases, 1993). Irrespective of the syntactic structure and the use of intonation in questioning, which are a major focus of linguistic research, there seems to be an interesting assumption that the set of WH-questions (however constructed) is semantically invariant across languages -- perhaps as a feature of a universal grammar. This would be curious given the recognition of the existence of languages with minimal distinction of numbers and colours -- and richer distinctions with regard to features characteristic of their environment (eg snow, etc).
Although interrelationships between them do not however appear to have been directly addressed, the Principia Cybernetica integrates them -- in relation to eternal philosophical questions -- into the articulation of a complete world view. It is also instructive to reflect on the ways in which the dynamics of the "Garden of Eden" -- as an archetypal epistemological space -- can be framed in terms of the complementarity amongst such "WH-questions".
Given their fundamental role, as a semantic or cognitive set, the concern here is the possibility that the WH-questions may be interrelated in a particularly interesting way. This is seen to be of relevance to:
The relationships between the WH-questions might usefully be understood as a form of cognitive knot -- different threads weaving to form a cognitive fabric (a "magic carpet"). The threads involve a degree of entrainment / entailment / enaction / engagement with reality. Each is associated with a different kind of dynamic connection or framing: the "why energy", the "who energy", the "where energy", the "what energy", the "how energy", etc. However it is highly probable that the terms (or their syntactic equivalents) are used in discourse in ways that blur recognition of the unique functions to which they relate. Some terms using one form may in fact reduce to another: "How long before it rains?" may be reduced to "When will it rain?" The terms may therefore be rough pointers to a semantic or cognitive set which is the focus of what follows.
An interesting approach to the nature of the integration performed by any practitioner of movement is offered by the work of Arthur Young in Geometry of Meaning (1978). His insights derived from his engagement in the development of the Bell helicopter. His learnings developed from reflection on how such a vehicle could be navigated in three dimensions in a controlled manner -- responding to the challenging tendencies for the vehicle to twist out of control in various ways. This could be seen as the basis for a useful articulation of the challenge for any body to navigate in a complex space. Such knowledge is the basis for successfully undertaking challenging sports involving a high order of kinetic intelligence.
Young presented the generalization of his insights as an explication of the learning-action cycle, expressed in 12 phases. He associated each of these with one of 12 measure formulae fundamental to dynamics of piloting a vehicle. A commentary on learning cycles is provided elsewhere (Cycles of dissonance and resonance). His model has been tentatively adapted and developed, notably in relation to Clues to integrating movement through kinetic intelligence (in Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002):
In Young's original presentation, the vehicle was a helicopter. In the more general case it could well also be applied to the human "vehicle" in the Buddhist sense -- or any conceptual vehicle. In marked contrast with the classic static presentations of virtues and vices in any culture, his approach introduces the dimension of time that is central to movement in different ways. It emphasizes the way in which movement is coordinated -- and how attributes such as "momentum" are used in complex manoeuvers by practitioners. From such a perspective, an attribute like "inertia" may be of considerable positive significance -- in contrast with its negative characterization as vice (cf in Christianity) or fetter (cf in Buddhism) of "sloth".
As briefly expressed elsewhere (see Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002), there is a lack of operational specificity to the various static "guidelines" to movement in semantic space. But as those participating in many sports would probably argue, it takes experience to learn what subtle experiential meaning is associated with attitudes appropriate to any "code words" about improved performance. Much may be achieved with inappropriate attitudes, but they do not raise the level of performance beyond a certain degree. Ultimately the person is judged as lacking something subtly associated with "style", "élan" and "flow". Basically the performance is not sustainable. In this respect the relationship, in Buddhist meditation practice, between the "hindrances" and "fetters" encountered, and the articulation of necessary values, is somewhat more explicit.
WH-questions (Where, Why, When, How, etc) are basic to piloting a vehicle. A pilot must constantly ask and answer such questions, whether consciously or unconsciously. What is required is a fundamental way of interrelating the WH-questions and determining how they are necessary in order to navigate other spaces -- including that of experiential reality. A valuable lead in this is the work of Arthur Young (The Geometry of Meaning, 1978) on measure formulae and the learning/action cycle (despite the reservations of Frank Barr: Toward a Solution of the "Big Questions", 1988). His work is particularly valuable because of the mindset he had to cultivate in developing the Bell helicopter -- a fundamental challenge to controlled movement.
For Young, in discussing the "categories of knowing represented by measure formulae", he argues (pp 20-21):
Young continues in a discussion of "generating other measure formulae" (pp 32-33 ):
Young then demonstrates the generation of other measure formulae (see Table), noting that of the twelve, 10 (recognized by physics) are used to analyze the dynamics of a moving body, whilst 2 are "not presently recognized in physics textbooks, but used in engineering".
In seeking to use this as a possible template for recognizing the semantic relationships amongst the WH-questions, the point to be made is that such questions are, to an important degree, focused on orientation and movement in semantic space-time, whereas the Young framework builds on the challenge of moving in physical space-time. The WH-questions may thus be understood as different kinds of informational interaction with the semantic context that are necessary for controlled movement in that context. Of particular significance, in the interaction through such questions, is the process of learning through which questions are refined -- hence their current relevance to information retrieval system design.
Young himself focuses at length on the nature of the learning cycle in elaborating what he terms a "Rosetta Stone" of meaning. This is "not just a translation of meaning, but is a generation of meaning. It is the relationships between the words we must use, not their definitions, that give them their meaning" (p. 38). With respect to the learning cycle, he distinguishes four basic categories of act, relationship and state that he interrelates as follows:
He addresses the challenge of relating this learning cycle to the set of measure formulae on the following basis:
The table below uses a clumsy array of approximate terms to identify a possible set of complementary ways for the "driver" of an existential "all-terrain vehicle" to "handle" the relationship with the environment. Each mode suggests a different way of using energy to act coherently, although all are necessary according to the nature of the challenge. The presentation is distorted because it underemphasizes the ways in which the challenge from the environment may invite a gentler and more seductive response than is suggested by the metaphor of driving an all-terrain vehicle -- a metaphoric trap with which the world is now all too familiar.
Given this richly integrated fundamental semantic template, the challenge is whether and how the WH-type questions might map onto it. The key issue is whether each of Young's 12 categories implies a particular ("archetypal") style of WH-question. The approach to this challenge here builds on several earlier attempts to interpret/adapt the Young template for other purposes. (See: commentary on learning cycles in Cycles of dissonance and resonance; also Characteristics of phases in 12-phase learning / action cycles; also adaptation to Typology of 12 complementary strategies essential to sustainable development; and Typology of 12 complementary dialogue modes essential to sustainable dialogue).
In this light the approach to such a mapping of WH-questions may be made tentatively
in the following table.
The preceding tables pose fundamental challenges to comprehension which are addressed by Arthur Young's more detailed arguments regarding their two-fold, three-fold and four-fold dimensionality. The basic challenge is the distinction between:
This is the distinction between memorizing a detailed manual on flying a helicopter and the actual ability to coordinate the different cognitive operations essential to that process. This might be understood in terms of the term "operacy" as promoted by Edward de Bono:
In exploring the above tables, the challenge is to avoid being locked into a particular style of question in relating to any context, whether:
This applies in particular to use of the same style of questioning in exploring the above pattern of questions! The perspective called for (in piloting a "cognitive helicopter") is the ability to shift appropriately between the question -- a detachment from any one of them as a preference (like preferring 2nd gear in an automobile). Piloting is the ability to shift appropriately. [black helicopters]
One way to characterize the trap is to compare the form of the table to the frontal view of many multi-storied buildings. The eye moves most readily over the alienating rectangular patterns of that form. This has very little to do with any cognitive dimensions which are portrayed and interrelated through that form. This is best recalled by recognizing the fundamental nature of questioning and the dynamic application of questions in areas such as:
Another aspect of the trap is evident in the case of proprietary systems of categories by which questions and answers are configured. The current market-oriented approach to exploitation of knowledge and insight results in many such frameworks being copyrighted, or restricted to use under license. An example is the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI® ) a registered trademark of Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., the publisher of the MBTI instrument. What can be copyrighted does not hold the dimension essential to new understanding -- but could essential questions or answers be coyprighted?
As stated by Alfred Korzybski (Science and Sanity, 1933): "A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness" -- a key understanding for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) [more]. This challenge to the diffusion of knowledge is discussed elsewhere (Future Coping Strategies: Beyond the constraints of proprietary metaphors, 1992)
The quality denoted by the label associated with the cell of a table above is a dynamic resolution of two questions. The label points to a dynamic answer, holding (or embodying) the unresolved (unanswered) dimensions of the question constituted by a strategic dilemma in piloting the cognitive vehicle. The quality associated with the cell does not bring closure to the questions associated with it. The "focus" is "in" rather than "on" the dynamic -- it is not a static focus.
According to Michiel Borkent and Riemer van Rozen (On logic and questions in dialogue systems, 2004), the "things all questions have in common" are:
The emphasis in many such conventional approaches to the study of questions and answers ("Q&A") is in the direct connection between question and answer. Specific questions imply specific answers. A question that cannot be answered is not a proper question. Answers are designed for specific questions (FAQs).
Such a Q&A framework does not respond to many subtler existential questions that emerge in navigating the cycles of daily life -- for which "satisfactory" answers may be sought in distraction (entertainment, substance abuse, etc), consumerism, religion or sex. This recalls the adage: "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong". Some questions do not go away -- because the answers available are not satisfactory. This is most obvious for many young people in the case of what to do with one's life. It is evident to all in relationships -- where the response to a key question may be "maybe".
The existential nature of the quandry is well-illustrated by the function of a koan posed to a student by a Zen master. The koan is indeed a "question" which can be asked: "What is the sound of one hand clapping"? There are many possible "answers", which although credible are "wrong". The essential role of the koan is to evoke a different attitude that effectively reframes the question and any possible answer. The answer is in the transformation of perspective -- a learning that is quite distinct from what is conventionally understood by the retrieval of information (as with a riddle).
The contrast can perhaps be most briefly described as between an immediately comprehensible answer and one that requires learning. What we need to understand may only be expressible in a language we do not know.
Through many publications, Edward de Bono has focused, notably in corporate strategic environments, on the challenge of transcending thinking traps with more appropriate and challenging questions. He has even recommended the use (in English) of a new operator "po" as a means of transcending "yes and no" mentality (Edward de Bono. PO: beyond YES and NO. London, 1972; see discussion in Categorical Straightjackets PO: A suggestion for a de-patterning device for international organization descriptions, 1974).
Elsewhere de Bono has explored the use of sets of cognitive "hats" and "shoes" (Six Thinking Hats, 1987 and Six Action Shoes, 1991). The "shoes" are notably in relation to his understanding of operacy -- which would be a key to the operation of any cognitive helicopter. As he puts it: "Most executives, many scientists, and almost all business school graduates believe that if you analyze data, this will give you new ideas. Unfortunately, this belief is totally wrong. The mind can only see what it is prepared to see."
The "pathology" of a mono-modal thinking approach might be understood in terms of so-called "freaks":
As noted earlier, the challenge of piloting a helicopter was the inspiration for Arthur Young's model -- used here to order WH-questions relating to movement in semantic space. Such are the cognitive challenges of helicopter movement that a study has in fact been made of a "cognitive helicopter" (A. Walsdorf, et al. Cognitive Helicopter Cockpit: From Human Operator to a Cooperation between Man and Cognitive Assistant System, Internationales Hubschrauber Forum 2000, Bückeburg). Of course the focus there is on the "helicopter", whereas here the concern is with "cognition".
WH-interactions with "reality", and how the latter is reframed and re-engaged by that process, might be understood as what being alive is all about. WH-interactions are what is happening moment by moment to sustain relationship with reality and be nourished by it. Those interactions are like a cognitive form of REM (rapid eye movement).
It would be very interesting to explore WH-interactions from a perspective of different kinds of meditation -- especially those so highly articulated by Buddhism. Meditation might indeed be understood as piloting a cognitive helicopter -- as "cognitive helicoptering". The higher disciplines of meditation purportedly involve engaging with reality so as to reframe the knower-known relationship. Who asks the questions? Who answers?
Ironically the term "helicopter" derives from the Greek adjective "elikoeioas," (Latin "helix")meaning spiral or winding and the noun "pteron," meaning feather or wing.
The ability of a helicopter to rise vertically and move in any direction is consistent with the freedom sought in many forms of meditation. Both "helix" and "wing" are significant metaphors in meditation. Again, the capacity to "hover" in place might be compared with the quality of detachment from mundanities -- as sought in meditation -- or the appropriate navigation of patterns of virtues and vices (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002). Insights of relevance are also articulated in relation to aerobatics (see Why Hummingbird?, 2002). Arthur Young in 1946 moved on from his work on the helicopter to an interest in the psychopter -- the helicopter as a metaphor: "What is the Psychopter? It is the winged self. It is that which the helicopter usurped -- and what the helicopter was finally revealed not to be." (The Bell Notes: A Journey from Physics to Metaphysics, 1979). It might even be instructive to consider the parallels between the earliest efforts at helicopter design [more] and exploration of the psychological technologies of meditation.
This approach is also consistent with that of enactivism, and specifically the phenomenological explorations of Francesco Varela (The Embodied Mind, 1991) relating to embodiment as discussed elsewhere (En-minding the Extended Body: Enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003).
The helicopter metaphor also points to the merit of considering the importance of "torque" in the psychological analogue -- especially since torque is essentially a "twisting" or rotational force (Twistedness in Psycho-social Systems: challenge to logic, morality, leadership and personal development, 2004). It is the moment of a force; the measure of a force's tendency to produce torsion and rotation about an axis.
In the case of a helicopter, and in accordance with Newton's law of action and reaction, the helicopter fuselage tends to rotate in the direction opposite to the rotor blades. This effect is called torque. It is associated with the geometric center of the main rotor and results from the rotor being driven by the engine power output. It must be counteracted and or controlled before flight is possible and must be continually corrected during any manoeuvers:
A form of "torque" has been considered of significance in relation to schizophrenia (T Blau. Torque and schizophrenic vulnerability: as the world turns. American Psychologist, 1977, 32, 997-l005). the question of "psychic torque" seems to have been explored by Eddie Oshins whose lifetime interest in martial and meditative arts was reflected in an experimental proposal for measuring certain forms of self-referential motion predicted by his theories. Through his Quantum Psychology project, he proposed a modification of the results of experiments with monkeys by A. P. Georgopoulos, which indicate neuro-correlates for mental rotations such as have been shown to occur in mental imagery by R. N. Shepard and colleagues. Oshins suggested a simple experimental adaptation from the wing chun kuen martial art's "siu nium tao form" to derive data supporting his hypothesis of a "psychic torque." [more]
The relevance of "torque" to any meditative "ascent" of a "psychopter" is suggestively indicated from a Zen perspective by Chuan Zhi Shakya (Being a Good Shepherd and Being a Non-Shepherd):
A much more grounded insight into the relevance of vehicle driving to any understanding of navigation of cognitive spaces is suggested by the challenge of marketing vehicles, as in Driving dynamics are a metaphor for contemporary lifestyles:
Implicit in a focus on questions is a search for "closure". An answer provides a degree of closure -- effectively de-energizing or discharging the question. Paradoxically the "closure" provided by an answer may be in some cases characterized by an unusual form of "openness" -- acknowledged notably through the insights triggered in answering a koan. Curiously the "challenge of closure" is also of particular importance to Christian evangelism:
The challenge of closure has been extensively explored by Hilary Lawson (Closure: A Story of Everything, 2001). It is an attempt to provide an account that overcomes the problems of self-reference inherent in other philosophical systems. In the words of one reviewer, Tim Gwinn (2004):
The inadequacy of any explanatory closure is also the fundamental theme of Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem (1931) with regard to mathematical and philosophical questions -- proven by a particular use of prime number theory (see E Nagel and J R Newman. Gödel's Proof, 1958) [more]. This challenge has also been explored by Douglas R. Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1979)
Self-reflexively, in relation to the more appropriate exploration of more insightful questions that is the theme of this paper, it may therefore be asked what kind of closure is sought by who -- when, where and how -- and why?!
Rather than seeking the stasis normally associated with closure, the emphasis here is on the nature of the dynamics associated with navigation in the knowledge space through continual interactive questioning of that context.
This might be understood as the cognitive analogue to the challenge of Arthur Young in developing the helicopter. This is likely to have been what led to his later exploration of process thinking. Young's Theory of Process is a formal analytical tool, a model based on number theory, geometry and topology -- as well as on traditional wisdom disciplines and other modes of knowledge and insight -- in an effort to help comprehend and integrate a number of disciplines and areas of inquiry. One articulation in physical terms of this challenge is the thesis summary of Shumin Zhai (Human Performance in Six Degree of Freedom Input Control):
Given the many and varied approaches touching on the cognitive challenge, it would also be totally presumptuous to seek closure. In fact it is more interesting to see the many approaches as interweaing -- twisted together in various kinds of knot -- into a pattern whose outlines preclude closure, even when they can be intuitively recognized to some degree. Perhaps as some form of cognitive Klein bottle?
Some of the tantalizing approaches that enrich this understanding are presented in the following table. It would be good to think that the dimensions of such a table could point to a higher ordering of the preoccupations that it endeavours paradoxically to hold. Could they be usefully ordered in terms of WH-questions with respect to higher order reality?
The challenge of such ordering has also been explored elsewhere by the author (Patterns of Conceptual Integration, 1984).
The processes by which any one such approach maps into another call for particular attention. For example, Xavier Sallantin has long taken a very fundamental approach to the natural foundations of digital data processing aimed at the exegesis of machine languages (Le Métalangage naturel de l'informatique digitale). This raises questions about the relationship to Young's approach. In Sallantin's application of the theory (Genetics: the digital key to genetic coding, 2001) he postulates and exploits an ontological connection between the elementary logical functions and the physical functionings.
In relating this approach to the fundamentals of genetics, he notes:
In discussing the natural digitization of codons, Sallantin notes:
Sallantin uses the details of experience on a helical pathway through a cube of 64 numbered cells (extensively illustrated using a multistory parking lot) to trigger this shift in perspective:
Sallantin points to the possibility of a software simulation of this non-Cartesian helicoidal trajectory "to feign the behavior of living people suffering from fractal dyslexia and it will save effort here and relieve the individual from the anthropomorphism of univocal arithmetic... NRA is indeed on the one hand the corresponding interface between 64 codons, and on the other, 20 amino acids and two punctuation marks".
The emphasis by Sallantin on the need for a helicoidal perspective suggests the possibility of an ordered comprehension of the twistedness that is the theme of the main paper (Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness, 2004) and related annexes (Twistedness in Psycho-social Systems: challenge to logic, morality, leadership and personal development, 2004; DNA Supercoiling as a Pattern for Understanding Psycho-social Twistedness, 2004). Given the ethical challenge of twistedness, it is therefore interesting that Sallantin, as a mathematical epistemologist, has a related paper on the challenge of evil (Le problème du mal à la lumière de la cyberscience).
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