Threshold of Comprehensibility: a fourfold minimal system?
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Part 4 of Development
. Augmented version of a paper
originally prepared for Integrative Working Group B of the Goals, Processes
and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the Human and Social Development
Programme of the United Nations University (UNU). This document was originally
distributed as a separate monograph in 1983. The paper provides a structure
linking reviews of alternation as it emerges in studies from a wide range of
sources. The paper is in 9 separate parts
[searchable PDF version
It has been sufficient to present the argument in terms of learning "cycles".
But such cycles are rather abstract concepts. They may constitute good descriptive
"geometry", but the challenge is to find additional features whereby
the abstract geometry is geared or anchored into the complexities of perceived
reality. Additional design constraints are required to relate any such
cycle to its environment and prevent it spinning out of control or losing
its integrity. This question can be examined in very different ways, each
of which, as a "language", throws a different light on the relationships
and significance of the dimension required to structure a minimally comprehensible
system of adequate complexity. For this reason the arguments of the following
authors are presented at some length.
4.1 Omnitriangulation: interlocking cycles
The interrelationships of circles has been extrensively studied by Buckminster
Fuller (46), an architect, as the basis for a model of the non-transient existence
of energy and material systems. He makes the point that:
"Not until we have three noncommonly polarized, great-circle bands
providing omnitrangulation as in a spherical octahedron, do we have the great
circles acting structurally to self-interstabilize their respective spherical
positionings by finitely intertriangulating fixed points less than ISO degrees
apart..." (46, I, 706.20)
Furthermore, the more minutely the "sphere" so delineated is subtriangulated
by other great circles, the lesser the local structural-energy requirements
and the greater the effectiveness of the integrity resulting from such mutual
interpositioning. This interlocking is then spontaneously self-stabilizing
(42, I, 706.22).
Assuming the circular representation of cycles, Fuller is in effect saying
that it takes at least three interweaving cycles before there is interaction
(entrainment?) of a type to stabilize the abstract processes within a minimal
non-abstract form which their interlocking brings about, in this case a sphere
(#2). With less than three, the form can exist only as a transient phenomenon,
if at all. In his terms, three cycles is the condition for a minimal
But whilst three such cycles can interlock to engender a system, the system
can only become comprehensible if a fourth cycle (corresponding to
the processes of the observer's involvement in a comprehended system) is added.
With less than four, the system may be identified with, opposed, proposed,
or participated in, but it can only be partially contained within any communication.
Its totality is only apparent as a succession of experiences in time. The
unity of a minimal system as a whole only emerges in terms of a minimum of
four event foci (46, I, 400.08). In Fuller's terms "Systems are aggregates
of four or more critically contiguous relevant events..." (46, I, 400.26).
All conceptually thinkable experiencings are fourfoldedly characterized (46,
II, 1072.22). This is the basis for the "the minimal thinkable set
that would subdivide Universe and have interconnectedness where it comes back
upon itself" (46, I, 620.03) and is differentiated from its environment
(46, I, 400.05).
As is clarified below, this suggests that not even a conceptual process involving
the three classic processes of the dialectic can render any kind of meta-answer
comprehensible (#4). It is no wonder that unitary or dualistic answers are
insufficient, even though they may be necessary as part of a larger scheme.
These considerations cause Fuller to distinguish four interwoven processes
which relate to the learning perspective. "Life consists of alternate
observing and articulating interspersed with variable-recall rates of "retrieved
observations" and variable rates of their reconsideration to the degrees
of understandability." These four are therefore: observation (or recall),
(re)consideration, understanding, and articulation. (46, I, 513.06-07)
4.2 Number and time
The concern with alternation cycles arises because of a collective need to
obtain a more conscious awareness of integration in a developing world system.
It is therefore appropriate to take account of the insights of psychoanalysis.
Marie-Louise von Franz, in pursuing the work of C G Jung and linking it to
modern physics, makes points which bear a strong relationship to the distinctions
made by Fuller. She presents material indicating the fundamental role which
number plays in ordering both the psyche and matter.
"Taken as rhythm or dynamism, three thus introduces a directional
element into the oscillatory rhythm of two, whereby spatial and temporal parameters
can be formed. This step involves the interference of an observing consciousness,
which inserts a symmetrical axis into the two-rhythm, or else "counts"
the latter's temporal and spatial succession. In terms of content the number
three therefore serves as the symbol of a dynamic process....three signifies
a unity which dynamically engenders self-expanding linear irreversible processes
in matter and in our consciousness (e.g. discursive thought)" (47, pp.
Her remarks, citing Jung, clarify further the limitations of single-answer
or dualistic thinking:
"...at the level of one, man still naively participates in his surroundings
in a state of uncritical consciousness, submitting to things as they are.
At the levewl of two, on the other hand, a dualistic world....image gives
rise to tension, doubt, and criticism of...life, nature, and oneself. The
condition of three comparison denotes insight, the rise of consciousness,
and the rediscovery of unity at a higher level...But no final goal is reached,
for "trinitarian" thinking lacks a further dimension; it is flat,
intellectual, and consequently encourages intolerant and absolute declarations."
This suggests again that, despite the necessity of answers formulated in
such modes, they are not sufficient at this time. The difficult step across
the "incommensurability" between three-fold and four-fold thinking
is effectively a progression from the infinitely conceivable to finite rezlity
"based on the inclusion (no longer avoidable) of the observer in his
wholeness within the framework of his processes of understanding"
(47, p. 122). Citing both myths and sets of physical constants von Franz
notes: "The fact that mankind's repeated attempts to establish an orientation
toward wholeness possess a quaternary structure appears to correspond to an
archetypal psychic structural predisposition in man" (47, p. 115).
For von Franz, a fourfold approach appears "to constitute the fundamental
minimum means for subdividing and thus classifying the circle or wholeness"
(47, p. 121). "Two pairs of opposites, a quaternion, are required to
set up a bodily unity" (47, pp. 1 27). Below four the perception of wholeness
is partly unconscious. As soon as the unconscious content enters the sphere
of consciousness it has already split into four basic modes of awareness.
"It is perceived as something that exists (sensation); it is
recognized as this and distinguished from that (thinking); it
is evaluated as pleasant or unpleasent (feeling); and, finally, intuition
tells us where it came from and where it is going" (47, pp. 1 21). As
a minimum condition, if they are not incorporated into an "integrated"
approach, they must necessarily be projected onto competing approaches in
the environment, with all the intellectual and institutional consequences
for any harmonious integration. Such a fourfold approach is a necessary requirement
for comprehending any "meta-answer".
The significance of a quaternary attitude is evident, whether for
any human and social development programme or arising from it:
"Instead of proclaiming absolute dogmas, a "quaternary"
attitude of mind then develops which, more modestly, seeks to describe reality
in a manner that will - if it is based on archetypal concepts - be understandable
to others. One remains simultaneously aware of the fact that assumptions
of the unconscious do indeed reflect outer or inner reality, but also that
they are transformed, through their passage into consciousness, into constricted,
time-bound language." (47, p.26)
The step to a fourfold approach to the world problematique was beyond the
impotence of mental processes revolving about "intellectual theorizations"
into those which partake of the creative adventure of "realizations in
the act of becoming" (47, p. 131). Von Franz cites Ferdinand Gonseth's
advocacy of a quaternary outlook which would no longer involve "the summary
and brutal coercion of one variant over another, but the play of identifications
and differentiation, agreements and complements, limitations and expansions,
a game which can lead to dialectical synthesis, built up in four rhythms."
(48, p. 583)
4.3 Logos and lemma for interparadigmatic dialogue
In discussing the conditions for inter-paradigmatic dialogue, especially
in the social sciences, Kinhide Mushakoji, Vice-Rector of the United Nations
University, argues for the need to move beyond the accepted limits of formal
"Inter-paradigmatic dialogue - not only in natural but also in social
sciences - should be concerned not with the determination of who is right
or wrong in defining a concept one way or the other. It should rather concern
itself with the question of what part of the natural or social realities are
best approached by one or the other position.
Two formally contradictory definitions of the (natural or social) realities
may be both relevant and complementary in shedding light on different aspects
of the same social realities. This is why the logic of inter-paradigmatic
dialogue cannot be bound by the laws of Aristotelian formal logic: identity,
contradiction, and excluded middle." (49, p. 19)
He also draws attention to the problem of "binary" approaches and
the need for a "third pole":
"By the very nature of scientific logic which is binary, intellecturals
tend to form bi-polar structures with two opposed camps rallied under two
paradigmatic banners. The polarization often takes place even within each
of the two poles which then divide themselves into two sub-poles, and so on...An
inter-paradignatic process should be able to break the bi-polarity of the
intellectual community by introducing a third pole in the dialogical process....The
role of such a pole is to introduce extra paradigmatic considerations (into
the discussion) and to break the dichotomic argumentation bringing into the
discussion innovative ideas." (49, pp. 15-16)
Mushakoji sees such a pole as "a basic condition of a successful scientific
revolution". Without it the "opposed schools of thought send their
best champions for a cholastic exercise...leading to nothing else but a reaffirmation
of one's paradigmatic superiority over the others" (49, p. 18).
But Mushakoji then draws attention to the "logico-real" problem
of the relationship between the logical and the reality levels. He suggests
that catastrophe theory (19) can help to shed light on the different logical
positions in the morphogenetical space by relating the continuous reality
(i.e. "signifie") to the discrete set of concepts (i.e. "signifiant").
This leads him to advocate a fourfold non formal logic model to provide
a logical basis for inter-paradigmatic dialogues. Such a logic emerges from
the work of Tokuryn Yamauchi (50) who interrelates oriental thinking based
on "lemma" with occidential thinking based on "logos".
Lemma concerns itself with the modalities according to which the human mind
grasps reality, rather than how human intellect reasons about it. Mushakoji
sees the lemmic approach as offering a breakthrough in response to the static
ontology of the West.
"The tetralemmic model which has been developed in oriental logic
stipulates the existence of four lemmas:
(c) non-affirmation and non-negation
(d) affirmation and negation (49, p. 21)
Here (a) and (b) both belong to formal logic, whereas (c) and (d) are unacceptable
to it, although they are acceptable in theoretical physics. "Only an
acceptance of the third and fourth lemmas can allow a full representation
of the contemporary world problematique in its totality since contemporary
world reality is full of cases where a mere affirmation or negation does not
make sense." (49, pp. 21-22)
It is unfortunate that Mushakoji has limited his concern here to representing
or grasping reality for the purposes of revolution in thinking.
This does not respond to the problem of how to intervene in that reality on
the basis of any such revolution - a vital preoccupation in furthering human
and social development. And yet the four lemmas lend themselves to such
an action-oreinted interpretation as the basis for a more general "action
(a) affirmative action, including support, commitment, initiative, proposition,
cooperation, consensus formation, empowering, "opening"
(b) negative action, including sanction, withdrawal (of support), denial,
disassociation, delimitation, criticism, opposition, promotion of dissent,
(c) non-affirmative and non-negative action, including indifference,
indecision, non-action (in the oriental sense), "neither confirm nor
deny", "opening and closing"
(d) affirmative and negative action, including ambiguous action,
non-violent resistance, "dumb insolence", "giving with one
hand and taking with the other", "double dealing", "stick
and carrot tactics", the "yes but no" response of the frustrated
The conventional western-based logic of international actions uses modes
(a) and (b) consciously, although some groups promote strategies based on
one or the other only. For example, those in favour of "positive thinking"
claim not to use (b), despite the positive value of closure as discussed earlier.
Whereas those who fear "contamination" by a system gone wrong claim
not to use (a).
The strength of the tetralemmic perspective is that it draws attention to
the complementary role of the two other modes (c) and (d), which are outside
the framework of action explicitly (consciously) accepted by the international
community, although they are evident in its interstices. The (a) and (b)
modes are embodied in formal agreements and procedures and are the focus of
academic study of international action. The existence of other modes can
only be publicly "recognized" as scandalous illegality meriting
no serious attention, except as the spice of information discussion. The
(c) and (d) modes are the tools of wily, world-wise actors, as well as of
those they are trying to maneuver, both being aware that there are degrees
of freedom of action which the (a) and (b) modes are unable to reveal. In
contrast to the "cut and dried", overt (a) and (b) modes, in the
essentially covert (c) and (d) modes what is not done is as significant
as what is.
Most of the examples given suggest the questionable value of the (c) and
(d) modes because until recently they have been largely embedded in the collective
unconscious at least for the Western mind. These are the kafkaesque worlds
of double dealing ("crime"), influence ("old boy networkds"),
double standards ("hypocritical leadership"), and collective resistance
("bureaucratic stonewelling"). Other possibilities are however
suggested by the oriental approach to action, by their extensive literature
on non-action, and by the recent innovative use of "non-violent"
strategies. All the modes are significant for development, as well as being
vulnerable to misuse.
4.4 Epistemological mindscapes
In a remarkable series of articles, Magoroh Maruyama has studied patterns
of cognition, perception, conceptualization, design, planning and decisions
processes (51, 52, 53, 54). His central concern is the role of epistemological
types, especially as they affect cross-disciplinary, cross-professional, cross-paradigm
and cross-cultural communications (5). In contrasting his own work with that
of previous research in this area, he distinguishes two traditional approaches:
the psychological and psychoanalytical bases of individual differences in
patterns of cognition, and the cultural and social differences as determined
by sociologists and anthropologists.
Marauyama notes the various terms that have been used to describe such patterns,
none of which has proved satisfactory: models, logics, paradigms, epistemologies.
To these might be added Kenneth Bouldings "image" (55). In Maruyarna's
latest work he favours "mindscapes". This is a more attractive
term than "answer (domain)" as used here, although it lacks the
active connotation of responding to a need. He provides a very valuable
summary of these different exercises in "paradigmatology" and their
relation to social organization (3).
Although he no longer favours the term, he defined paradigmatology as the
"science of structures of reasoning" whether between disciplines,
professions, cultures or individuals (53). He notes that the "problem
of communication between different structures of reasoning had not been raised
until recently", since scholars tended either to advocate their
own approach or describe that of others. Contributing to this neglect
is the fact that the choice between logics is based on factors which are beyond
and independent of any logic.
Although he carefully emphasizes that there are many possible mindscapes
or paradigms, Maruyama argues that "for practical purposes" it is
useful to distinguish four main types (53, p.6). He stresses that
these are not meant to be either mutually exclusive nor exhaustive and warns
that any attempt at separating them into non-overlapping categories "is
itself a victim of a paradigm which assumes that the universe consists of
non-overlapping categories" (53, p. 142). What is intriguing is that
over the years he has continued to struggle with the same attributes, grouping
them first into three types (51), extended to four (52), then to five (53)
and now seemingly stabilized at four again (54).
The four types are:
(a) H-mindscape (homogenistic, hierarchical, classificational):
Parts are subordinated to the whole, with subcategories neatly grouped into
supercategories. The strongest, or the majority, dominate at the expense
of the weak or of any minorities. Belief in existence of the one truth applicable
to all (e.g. whether values, policies, problems, priorities, etc.). Logic
is deductive and axiomatic demanding sequential reasoning. Cause-effect
relation may be deterministic or probabilistic.
(b) I-mindscape (heterogenistic, individualistic, random):
Only individuals are real, even when aggregated into society. Emphasis on
self-sufficiency, independence and individual values. Design favours the
random, the capricious and the unexpected. Scheduling and planning are to
be avoided. Non-random events are improbable. Each question has its own
answer; there are no universal principles.
(c) S-mindscape (heterogenistic, interactive, homeostatic):
Society consists of heterogeneous individuals who interact non-hierarchically
to mutual advantage. Mutual dependency. Differences are desirable and contribute
to the harmony of the whole. Maintenance of the natural equilibrium. Values
are interrelated and cannot be rank-ordered. Avoidance of repetition.
Causal loops. Categories not mutually exclusive. Objectivity is less useful
than "cross-subjectivity" or multiple viewpoints. Meaning is context
(d) G-mindscape (heterogenistic, interactive, morphogenetic):
Heterogeneous individuals interact non-hierarchically for mutual benefit,
generating new patterns and harmony. Nature is continually changing requiring
allowance for change. Values interact to generate new values and meanings.
Value of deliberate (anticipatory) incompleteness. Causal loops. Multiple
The above descriptions are brief summaries of extensive listings of characteristics
in relation to overall social philosophy, ethics, decision-making, design,
social activity, perception of environment, human values, choice of alternatives,
religion, causality, logic, knowledge, and cosmology (52, 53, 54). Of special
interest, in the light of Attali's "seductive" concern, are the
implications for aesthetic principles favoured (54). Maruyama considers
that the influence of such "pure" types predominates in certain
cultures, although in practice the types are quite mixed. Thus the H-type
predominates in European, Hindu and Islamic cultures. The I-type develops
in certain individuals, such as those of existentialist philosophy. The
S-type is characteristic of Chinese, Hopi, and Balinese cultures. The G-type
predominates in the African Mandenka culture, for example. H, S. and G characteristics
can be distinguished in different streams of Japanese cultures.
Maruyama has recently (54) compared his four types with an extensive survey
of epistemological data grouped by O J Harvey into four "systems"
System I: high absolutism, closedness of beliefs, high evaluativeness,
high positive dependence on representatives of institutional authority, high
identification with social roles and status position, high conventionality,
System II: deep feelings of uncertainty, distrust of authority,
rejection of socially approved guidelines to action accompanied by lack of
alternative referents, psychological vacuum, rebellion against social prescriptions,
avoidance of dependency on God and tradition.
System III: manipulation of people through dependency
upon them, fairly high skills in effecting desired outcomes in his world through
the techniques of having others do it for him, some autonomous internal standards
especially in social sphere, some positive ties to the prevailing social norms.
System IV; high perceived self-worth despite momentary frustrations
and deviation from the normative, highly differentiated and integrated cognitive
structure, flexible, creative and relative in thought and action, internal
standards that are independent of external criteria, in some cases coinciding
with social definitions and in other cases not.
The two authors find that they agree on three types and differ on the nature
of the fourth (which Jungian's would presumably consider as corresponding
to a partially "repressed function" they have in common). It is
much to be regretted that such surveys have not explored the epistemologies
in "developing" countries to a greater degree, nor the extent towhich
different epistemologies are co-present in the same culture, group, individual
Maruyama uses his approach to clarify the essential weaknesses of the interdisciplinary,
holistic programmes associated with generalists and their education.
"The concept "interdisciplinary" presupposes that there
are first disciplines which have to be put together later....Such "interdisciplinary"
programs, "holistic" views and production of "generalists"
are all patchwork which perpetuates and aggravates the inadequacies of the
classificational thinking. What we need, instead, is non-disciplinary programs,
de-categorization of science and trans-specialization. Trans-specialization
consists in maintaining a contextual view while focusing on specifics and
details." (53, p.243)
But in analyzing such inadequacies of classificational thinking, Maruyama
seemingly fails to recognize that they necessarily arise from over-reactions
to inadequacies in non-classificational thinking (to which he does not accord
any attention). Any pre-logical tabulation of this kind must however necessarily
reveal the sympathies/antipathies of the formulator for particular types therein.
Is it then useful to ask, for example, how "valid" is Maruyama's
seeming over-reaction to the (excessive) dominance in world society which
is engendered by the dominant (homogenistic) mode?
To clarify the need for "trans-specialization", Maruyama (53) distinguishes
(1) The study of paradigms engendered by different types of logic
which are chosen in terms of extra-logical factors. Such work has been done
in anthropology, history, psychology and psychiatry, physics and biology.
(2) The study of cross-paradigmatic communication. Work on this
has focused either on inter-cultural communication or on the problem of researching
other cultures. More recently this has been related to communication in community
(3) The study of the trans-paradigmatic process, namely of the process
whereby new paradigms are created. Little work has been done on this.
Of this last process Maruyama says: "Perhaps there cannot be such a
methodology: a methodology, once established, would limit the type of paradigms
that it can generate." (53, p.278) This is the essential dilemma in
this paper. His approach to this "methodology" is given in a subsequent
paper on ways of increasing heterogeneity and symbiotization as a basis for
epistemological restructuring (54). In contrast to causal (homogenistic) or
random (heterogenistic) paradigms, he notes that no adequate mathematical
formulation has been provided for mutual causal heterogeneity (54, p.l53)
(#20) In a later paper he concludes that although "mindscapes are learned
rather than innate", they are mostly formed in childhood and it seems
extremely difficult to change them later in life (52, p.23).
Perhaps the widespread disaffection with existing models is evidence to the
contrary, especially where it results in "alternatives" being adopted.
And, as argued here, maybe it is not so much a question of "changing"
existing modes as of being able to "alternate" into and out of them
whenever appropriate. The problem is how to "formulate" the nature
of alternation in order to make this trans-paradigmatic process credible in
In arguing for a heterogeneity of expestemologies, Maruyama offers a
metaphor in response to the (homogenistic) question "but which one is
suggests that in binocular vision it is irrelevant to raise the question as to
is correct and which wrong.
"Binocular vision work, not
because two eyes see
different sides of the same object, but because the differential between the two
images enables the brain to compute the invisible
dimension" (52, p.84). The brain
computes a third dimension which cannot be directly perceived. And if we live in a
multidimensional space even more epistemological "eyes" are required
p.269-272). Reducing such vision to
the parts in common provides much less than
monocular vision. The difficulty with
Maruyama's presentation however, is that he
often appears to associate such "poly-ocular" vision with the
characteristic of Japanese culture, although this may not be his
would then preclude the use of a homogenistic epistemological "eye"
in any such
poly-ocular configuration. Each
"eye" has its inherent limitations and strengths, and
the homogenistic "eye" presumably has its own vital contribution to
make to the
process of encompassing (or responding to) the complexity of our collective
condition. In terms of his metaphor,
this paper is about the design of such
poly-ocular configurations and how they may be comprehended through any given
"eye". His work, with
Harvey's, demonstrates that a minimum of four such "eyes"
are required to describe the variety of perceptions of our collective reality.
4.5 Complementary languages
A philosopher of language, Antonio de Nicolas, has studied the
limitations of single
languages as a vehicle for complex, action-oriented, human-centred
use of "language" corresponds to "answer" as used
here. For him one of the most
widespread misleading misconceptions is the implied existence or possibility of
universally adequate language. The
problem becomes more crucial when within a
culture everything that is said is necessarily reduced to what can be said by
certain criterion of one particular language (30, p.190).
Given this point of departure de Nicolas explores the problem of the
interrelation and mutual exclusivity of rational thought systems, particularly
Western origin. To obtain perspective
on the problem, he analyzes the philosophical
languages embodied in the Rig Vedic hymns to which much oriental philosophy can
trace its origins. These clarify the
problem of responding to a multiplicity of
perspectives which, even when understood, each on their terms, do not
offer any reconciliation of the multiplicity of "answers" which they
synthesis of them is unable to "provide the antithetical perspectives
freedom" (30, p.66).
De Nicolas points out that reconciliation is not a question of
opposing views, since each such compromise is an "amputation" of a
portion of "one's
own flesh". What is then
significant in the prevalence of Western-style compromise
"is not that a questionable compromise is being carried out; but rather...that a new
human orientation has been demanded, or been imposed through power, on all
humans; in fact, a single perspective has been imposed or demanded on all
Any form of reconciliation between answers has to contend, not only with
saving the multiplicity of perspectives, but with the fact that these perspectives
have become embodied in psycho-social structures (30, p.67). The "songs"
characteristically sung in the expression of each answer engender the "bodies"
through which we function in society and determine our images of ourselves.
But "if thought is the ground of man, then it follows that thought is
radically man's body. The limits of his body being again the same limits
of the thought that grounds it." (30, p.82) In this sense, as explored
by Geoffrey Vickers (57), the proponents of any answer are trapped by the
bodily image they engender (#21). Getting out of such traps calls for continuing
attention to the decision process, whereby they are engendered:
"If the plight of man is grounded neither in language nor in the mirror
(thought) but, rather, in man's decision to reduce himself to a universalized
form of thought by grounding himself on it, then the_emancipation of man
will be in radicalizing himself on his decisions rather than on his images.
But in order to do so man needs other men and the ability to discover them
at their origin - at the radical level of their decisions and not
just their images or ours, for this is man's own origin and, ultimately, his
own flesh, though this might demand of every man a constant sacrifice of images
- the ability to liberate himself from the prison of his mirrors - and
to acknowledge a human reality which, though the source of multiple images,
can neither be reduced nor identified with any of them. The other is my
own possibilities and, in realizing these possibilities, I actualize my right
to innovation and continuity." (30, p.3)
The distinguishing "linguistic" and epistemological feature of
the hymns is the manner in which they are grounded in sound and demand a selection
amongst alternative musical patterns. Since the number of tonal systems
is infinite, the selection of a finite number of them by the singer/musician
at the moment of execution, not only closes him within a certain limitation
or determination (e.g. just tuning, equal temperament) but, more radically,
it forces him to constantly face the internal incompatibility of any such
selection. In order to be able to accept "a democracy" or "a
plurality" of such systems, the tones of every conceivable system must
constantly face and submit to a radical sacrifice to permit others to emerge
"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 being; 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." (30, p.57)
Recalling Klapp's (41) concern with alernation between opening and
closing, each necessary choice is a closure to alternatives, but each
such choice can be sacrificed through the movement which must open
to other possibilities if development is to continue.
"Rg Vedic man, like his Greek counterparts, knew himself to be the
organizer of the scale, and he cherished the multitude of possibilities open
to him too much to freeze himself into one dogmatic posture. His language
keeps alive the "open-ness" to alternatives, yet it avoids entrapment
in anarchy. It also resolves the fixity of theory by setting the body of
man historically moving through the freedom of musical spaces, viewpoint transpositions,
reciprocities, pluralism, and finally, an absolute radical sacrifice of all
theory as a fixed invariant." (30, p.57)
Of great interest is the manner in which the sets of categories, necessary
to order the perceptual world, are developed and related, highlighting both
the potential dynamics for harmony and discord between them. This possibility
is entirely lacking in the present fashion for "pragmatically objective"
elaboration of sets of categories (#22). Thje consequences of basing work
on sets of 2, 3 or more categories has not been recognized, despite obvious
conflictual implications of a 2-element set (whatever the content) when reflected
in a 2-division organization, for example (58). And yet, the process whereby
such sets are defined, determines how whole psycho-social systems are fragmented
for analysis, comprehension, and communication.
In a musically grounded language, the basic whole is the octave. That tones
recur cyclically at every doubling or halving of frequency is the basic miracle
of music. But the octave refuses to be subdivided into subordinate cycles
by integer ratios. "It is a blunt arithmetical fact that the higher powers
of 3 and 5 which define such subordinate intervals in 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." (30, p.56)
This dilemma with all that it signifies for music, philosophy and social
organization has been explored by Ernest McClain (30, 31, 127). The present
day equivalent is the problem of how different sets of concepts, with differing
numbers of categories, can nest together to encompass the societal whole without
creating a degree qualitatively unacceptable discord in use - namely a "gap"
or "error" between reality as envisaged (or desired) and as perceived
through the chosen pattern of categories. This gap provokes demands for an
alternative in which the gap is at least diminished. (The process of reducing
the gap is itself encoded in Rg Veda according to McClain's analysis (127).
It is not the case that numbers or ratios control movement, but it
is the case that movement may be ordered according to certain ratios. Conceptual
movement, and development in general, takes place through the elaboration
of constellations of categories in which each category is context and structure
dependent (#23). Opposite or reciprocal possibilities can be perceived as
equally relevant, whether co-present or succeeding each other. "Any
perspective remains just one out of a group of equally valid perspectives...but
no song has so universal an appeal that it terminates the invention of new
ones...the function of any language is to make clear its own dependence on,
and reference to, other linguistic systems." (30, p.63.4)
"In a language ruled by the criteria of sound, perspectives, the change
of perspectives and vision, stand for what musicologists call "modulation".
Modulation in music is the ability to change keys within a composition.
To focus within this language, and by its criteria, is primarily the activity
of being able to run the scale backwards and forwards, up and down, with these
sudden shifts in perspectives. Through this ability, the singer, the body,
the song and the perspectives become an inseparable whole. In this language,
transcendence is precisely the ability to perform the song, without any theoretical
construct impeding its movement a priori, or determining the result of following
such movement a priori. Nor can any theoretical compromise substitute for
the discovery of the movement of "modulation" itself in history.
The human body would then be asked to lose the memory of its origins; a
task the human body refuses to do by its constant return to crisis."
Given this context, it is not surprising that the Rg Veda requires four
languages, rather than one, in order to convey the contrasting natures
of its meaning. De Nicolas, following Husserl, describes such languages
as intentionality-structures. "The intentionality-structure of a particular
question, then, determines or prefigures the kind of answer it will receive."
(30, p.79) The four languages, with their multiple perspectives, function
as four spaces of discourse within which human action takes place, and from
which any given statement in the text gains meaning. The languages show the
human situation within disparate linguistic contexts embodying different ways
of viewing the world. (30, p.9and 73). The four languages may be described
(a) Language of non-existence: Provides the modality of
being in a world, either of possibilities to be discovered, or of stagnant
dogmatic attitudes. It is the field condition out of which all differentiation
in human experience emerges. It is the continuing context for choice. In
this world there is always the tendency to lift one explanatory set to the
level of an internal image as a guide for action. It then functions as a
suppressed premise or fundamental myth, and is hardly ever made explicit (30,
p.92-4). When the originating potential of this world is not recognized,
man is deprived of the possibility of returning existentially to his origins
and those of others by the dogmatic reduction of multiplicity to the "song"
of one theoretical voice. In de Nicolas words the tragedy of human and social
development in this world is that "We have cried for and praised many
Saviours, but have lost our own act of creation and the power to revive it."
(30, p.73 and 107)
(b) Language of existence: Provides the modality
of acting in a world of truth to be built, formed or established, as the discontinuous
results of innovation. This world is one of continuity and discontinuity,
multiplication and division, with a pluralism of perspectives generated from
a common field admitting many alternative structures and autonomous images.
In this world man is challanged by the possibility of embodying any perspective,
of being bodily "at home" within any structure or autonomous space
(with which his body then shares its dimensions). This world is characterized
by forces experienced either as constraining, enclosing and destructive, or
as liberating and growth-enhancing. The root of contemporary man's crisis
in terms of this world lies in the reduction of these multiple aspects of
man to the names of objects with which he is confronted and to which he then
has no effective originating relationship.
(c) Language of images and sacrifice: Provides the
modality of acting in a world through regathering the images of the dismembered
sensorium (the multiplicity of worlds of existence) by sacrificing their multiple
and exclusive ontologies. In contrast to the centrifugal language of existence,
the images are grouped and regrouped, creating and erasing boundaries, in
a centripetal process converging on a unique configuration of forces in a
final "efficient-moment" of sacrifice which reveals the underlying
"common body of the norm", the efficient centre of creative action,
or "embodied-vision". The image of sacrifice stands therefore
for an activity of eternal return to the radical originating power through
which the multiplicity of perspectives is engendered. It is the efficient
centre of the discontinuities of space of perception and time, or the link
between efficient acts and discontinuous acts. It is not a renunciation of
action, but rather a renunciation of the limits of perspectives which interpretations
attach to the structured subject-object sensorium. (30, pp.139-154)
Sacrifice is the necessary response to the ills of polycentricity with
their many consequences for the fragmentation of the body of man. No idea
of the body, whether monocentric or polycentric (validly chosen as styles
of expression), is prior to man and therefore prior to this embodiment.
(30, p.141) Fundamental to the problem of human development is that "any
identification of man with a theory of "man" obscures the fact that
any and all theories of man about "man" are made of the radical
dismemberment of man himself, and distract him from engaging in his only original
and primal activity: the sacrificing of all theories about himself so that
he may recreate himself as man." (30, p. 70)
It is for this reason that Rg Vedic man does not accept any way of understanding
man's role other than as an original and continuous sacrifice (an activity
rather than a theory)." (30 p.70)
(d) Language of embodied-vision: Provides the modality of
having gone through, and being in, a world which remains continuously because
it comprehends the totality of the cultural movement on which it is grounded
(30, p.74). It is the embodiment of choosers in movement. Rationality
is not then based on "the narrow logic of appeal to permises and conclusion,
but rather, on an appeal to a community of listeners capable of understanding
and changing, or re-directing the movement of their song". (30, p.154)
The vision becomes an objective norm, not as the result of a dogmatically
imposed constraint on action, but rather as the embodiment of the norm as
discovered in a community of plural activities, decisions and descriptions.
(30, p.154) Within such a context "we find ourselves facing moving webs,
moving structures; each structure a rhythm through which a body-world appears,
revealing a background of living beings together with the glory and terrors
of their life". (30, p.122)
In contrast to the Western emphasis on a visually-based "linear
movement, which disclosed a perspectival, three-dimensional space and linear
time...the audial space-time structure opened by sound...was articulated not
only by rhythm and cyclically recurring movements, but movement itself
became the base of all contexts (structures), and the sources of meaning within
each and every field of experience."
(30, p.84-5) There is no substitute for
the historical discovery of the criteria
by which music became one form of
music as opposed to another; for
it was by these criteria of music, that the
body of man became now one flesh, now another. Furthermore, "without the
historical mediation of the criteria of sound, by which man both imagined and
lived his worlds, there is no eternal return, and therefore, no emancipation
man's memory and imagination." (30, p.175) "Man's emancipation lies
precisely in his ability to break the barriers imposed on his memory and
imagination by any abstractions which serve to reduce the human body to only
the movements of a theory, and deprive man from the whole historical
movement of which his historical body is the visible path." (30, p.170)
Of striking significance to the inertia characteristic of human and
development initiatives is the advocation of a movement which points
at the heart of the stillness we never dared to move: the human body...we
come face to face with our most radical problem...we have never dared to set
into motion our own beliefs about the human body." (30, p.155) Using
perusal of his own work as an example, de Nicolas states "It would indeed be a
radical failure of the way of these meditations if, at the end of the journey,
the human body...remained still, unchanged, undivided, and as silent with its
memories and imaginations as when we started this journey." (30, p.l56)
"Every man must actively constitute himself by creating a certain order
the things around him (structure) within a general orientation he already has
(or has received) about the whole of life;
it is in relation to this activity that
the body of man appears as flesh, and that the flesh of man makes present for
us a context and a structure with which it shares its dimensions. For this
reason, our path or method must focus on
the silent and fleshy unity which
underlies and is the root of any human reflective thinking." (30, p.53)
The body can then be brought to share the dimensions of every
song it encounters, "thus turning theory into human flesh". (30, p. 176)
"Theory must turn into song; it
must be performed" to guarantee man's and
society's continuity and innovation.
(30, p.l67) This can only be
done by placing theory "within a different historical context: the context
sound." (30, p. 174) Every
vision "carries concomittantly an act of creation
which can only be effective if that vision coincides with the original
whereby that world was created.
"By creating structures of knowledge to see
the world in such a manner, the doer of this activity becomes the efficient
vision and its concomittant creation."
(30, p.l59) It is this
the active power of the word making the world that joins efficient action with
efficient vision (30, p.61). Opening
and closing are involved for the "structure
of the embodied subject has the double-barrel effect of opening a horizon of
inquiry and restricting what may appear within that horizon." (30, p.l56)
This calls for a three-fold acceptance: the possibility of viewpoint shifting
through the activity of dialogue-ing, the integration of the formal aspects
of experience by the rationality of practical life, the (re)achievement through
practical life and action of a unity which unrelated formal models render
otherwise impossible (30, p.166). Such activity, which "keeps the
community moving" is of course "not formalizable, but the spaces
of discourse within which it appears may be formalized." (30, p.168)
In calling philosophers "to discover the language ruled by the criteria
of sound" de Nicolas contrasts the atomicity of classical physics and
Western philosophy with that of modern physics in its correspondence to Eastern
views of reality.
"It is only secondarily that classification of individual entities
is made possible, and for this we revert to ordinary (Boolen) symbolic manipulation.
In other words, to perceive anything apart from the total field is to perceive
it as a subsystem, an artificially created aspect of a field of stresses,
i.e. pattern. In fact, according to the law of complementarity, what can
truly be said in one context-language, the same cannot be truly said in the
other context-language." (30, p.33)
The implications of this point have been explored in different wasy by a
number of authors including Bohrn (8), Capra (59), Zukav (60), Heelan (32),
Hooker (33). But a special merit of de Nicolas presentation is that he draws
attention to a response to the radical misunderstandings which arise from
"detached objective aloofness with which we in the West are accustomed
to view whatever is presented to our speculative reason. This is the precise
error of knowledge which the Rg Veda is trying to correct....As a result
(of the error), philosophical activity became (in the West), not liberating
knowledge, but an alienation of man from man, since he was bent on equating
himself with the objects of his knowledge." (30, p.186-7)
As a systems theorist, Francisco Varela, in developing the insights of Spencer
Brown (61), clarifies this problem in a manner which is a warning to formulators
of models of human and social development:
"In finding the world as we do, we forget all we did to find it as
such, and when we are reminded of it in retracing our steps back to indication,
we find little more than a mirror-to-mirror image of ourselves and the world.
In contrast with what is commonly assumed, a description, when carefully inspected,
reveals the properties of the observer. We observers, distinguish ourselves
precisely by distinguishing what we apparently are not, the world." (62,
These considerations enable de Nicolas to turn to the ordering of complementary
frameworks in the logic of quantum mechanics as a way to formalize the spaces
of discourse through which action (dialogue) in the world may take place.
It appears that such complementarity or contextual logic offers "a very
suggestive 'model' for positive dialogue between rival philosophies, and even
more important, within human experience itself." (30, p.10) As a
partial ordering (lattice) of complementary descriptive languages, such frameworks
involve changes in the embodied subjectivity of the knower, changes that make
possible mutually exclusive objectivities or horizons. The "sacrifice"
called for "involves a partial ordering of languages in a non-Boolean
logic, the non-Boolean character of which is the mediation for growth and
liberation." (30, p.l X7)
Man may then "re-create himself and his society through the appropriate
sacrifice, eternally, exercising thus his right to innovation and continuity.
This sacrifice is the constant watch man must keep over himself for re-directing
his own radical interpretive activity." (30, p.187) The present inability
of individuals and societies to "sacrifice" their cherished beliefs
is instrumental in "freezing" society and increasing its alienation,
aside from the material consequences for development. Re-thought sacrifice
could constitute the sort of fundamental myth which can give "philosophical
meaning to the facts of ordinary life." (30, p.l48) For de Nicolas,
"it would be unphilosophical and inhuman not to open up man's possibilities
by grounding him on that movement which will set him free." (30, p.46)
His emphasis on "critical" philosophy recalls the preoccupations
of the Frankfurt School (63) which would presumably also give a central role
to some equivalent of "sacrifice". Indeed de Nicolas approaches
their language in identifying the presuppositions of his formalization:
"the construction of the structures of experience both affirms and
denies experience; the negation of experience has to be again denied through
the activity of experiencing through other constructed experiences (i.e.,
other frameworks); this negation of the negated constructed experience produces
the real affirmation of experience in insight, or a series of insights, which
such activity generates; these discontinuous insights should eventually
produce a continuous (eternal or a perspectival) viewpoint which would be
effective in the sense that no separations could be established between seeing
and action, vision and action." (63, p.87)
As a way of perceiving the de Nicolas formalization raises critical questions
of how it is to be perceived in its own terms. Such questions include:
do the very valuable corrective perceptions concerning the limitations
of vision-based perspectives, Western modes, and theory, necessarily imply
a fundamental primacy for sound-based perspectives, Eastern modes,
and non-theoretical action, or rather a temporary expedient in a
continuing alternation of perspectives?
to what extent is the approach locked into the idiosyncracies of Rg Vedic
Sanskrit, and Vedic-oriented (Hindu) culture?
is the primacy accorded the fourth language necessarily fundamental or
could each language appear fundamental from certain perspectives?
what would be the status of other languages and perspectives in relation
to the Rg Vedic approach?
if the approach is so powerful, why has it seemingly failed to respond
to the problems of collective action in the country where it is still understood?
It is perhaps a paradoxical necessity that the very openness and fluidity
of its philosophy should be based on a set of hymns which has remained
unchanged (although each interpretation is conceived as a renewal). But it
would seem that, like it or not, his perception/presentation of it is paradoxically
a temporary product in the process he so usefully clarifies. His perception
is necessarily impermanent and incomplete and does not encounter the dynamics
of those who would disagree with it.
4.6 Nonlinear cybernetics
Edgar Taschdjian has recently suggested that if cybernetics is to move
current preoccupation with the "simplified world of abstract models",
it appears to
be necessary to develop a "nonlinear cybernetics able to handle
regulations which are
time-dependent and dialectic rather than mechanistic". (64) Many world modelling
exercises are based on such simplified models.
Tashdjan argues that human behaviour is not constant and that "too
much of a good
thing can become a bad thing".
Furthermore, the "bipolarity of human motivations
permits switches from positive to negative, from attraction to repulsion", whether
in the case of an individual or of a group.
The classic concepts of negative and
positive feedback fail to encompass this reality since the results of such
in a system are purely linear, in the sense that regulators either add or
output from the unit governed.
Regulation maintains an "equilibrium". The negative
feedback concept, based on nullifying deviations, is "not sufficient to
real behaviour of the steersman of a sailing vessel buffeted by changing winds,
has to "tack" first in one direction, then in another." 3ust as in the case of
(development) policy-making, there is a need to "change the course
repeatedly in order to reach his objective", especially if he has to steer around an
obstacle. On the other hand, the
positive feedback concept, based on amplifying
deviations, is only able to explain exponential growth, whereas "real
processes are not exponential but sigmoid", namely a function of
time. All growth is
constrained by counteracting processes.
Now in a situation where there are effectively two interacting
the same working unit, for example two alternative policies (political parties)
which a society is (successively) governed, this "three-body
problem", even in
mechanical systems, is not susceptible to deterministic analysis. The synergisms and
antagonisms which emerge are essentially nonlinear interactions. Such double
regulation is of great importance in natural systems and society.
The overall effect of such interactions is a continual disequilibrium.
In the case of
physiological systems, "Once the organism reaches equilibrium, it is
attempting to regulate any such oscillating systems, timing of intervention is
as is evident in attempting to control a child's swing. The
timing of any therapeutic
treatment is as important as its nature and direction.
From these considerations Taschdjan concludes that "when we want to
model systems existing in nature and society, the dialectic process of
antagonistic actions requires the model to be quadripolar rather than bipolar". He
points out that there is no difficulty in representing this mathematically
totality of positive and negative real numbers constitute a bipolar system,
representable on one axis. It is
accepted mathematical practice to add another axis
perpendicular to this to indicate the bipolar system of imaginary numbers, which
then, as discussed by C Muses (65), represent the temporal dimension necessary
describe nonlinear processes. For
Taschdjan, therefore, "to say that a system of
dialectic interactions is quadripolar, is merely another way of saying that the
is nonlinear". Analysis then
requires the use of vectors and tensors rather than
scalars, and these are multiplicative rather than additive.
4.7 Modes of managing
In discussing the dilemmas of the organized society, Charles Handy, a management
scientist, distinguishes three types of management problem: (a) steady-state,
programmable, predictable problems that can be handled by systems; (b) development
problems designed to deal with new situations; and (c) exceptional problems
or emergencies where speed and instinct are essential (125, p. 45)
Handy identifies four styles of organization and management which respond
to these problems. He points out that any organization will tend to make
use of all these styles, although the larger the organization the more evident
will be their role in the blend of styles used. The manager therefore has
to embrace within himself all four of the styles, using each in appropriate
circumstances, since none is sufficient to contain all combinations of problems
(even though style-bound managers may believe it possible). Each has a
place under certain circumstances.
For convenience, Handy labels each of the four philosophies of management
(and the corresponding organizational culture) with the name of a Greed god
Zeus style: this is the club culture of the "old boy network"
in which the crucial links are the empathy radiating out in a web-like manner
from the patriarch or inner circle. It is excellent for speed of decision
in high rish enterprises but relies heavily on trust, dependent on common
background. Power lies at the centre.
Appolonian style: this is the role-structured, hierarchical organization
portrayed in standard organization charts, split into divisions at the base,
linked by a board at the top. It is excellent for routine tasks in which
stability and predictability are taken for granted, and no one is irreplaceable.
Power lies at the top.
Athenian style: this is based on a network of task-oriented units
responding to new one-off problems. Resources are drawn from various parts
of the network to focus on a particular problem. It is excellent where
innovative responses are required and experiments are encouraged. Power
lies in the interstices.
Dionysian style: this is the style in which the organization
is perceived as existing to help the individual in it achieve his idiosyneratic
purposes, and preserve his identity and freedom. Coordination is accepted
as an "administrative" necessity but no ultimate authority is
recognized other than the peer group. This tyle is excellent where the
talent or skill of the individual is the crucial asset of the organization.
Handy points out that the ways of each style are anathema to the others.
Linkage between these modes is however essential. He distinguishes
three elements of effective linkage: cultural tolerance, allowing each mode
to develop its own methods of control: bridging mechanisms, including exchanges
of correspondence, liaison groups and task forces; and a common language.
He argues that the organization of the future will be a membership organization,
multi-purpose and dispersed, combining the search for community, the economics
of quality, and the revolution in communications.