- / -
of comprehenisibility: a fourfold minimal container?
7. Complexification of integration
of comprehension and compehension of development
The authors of the preceding five sections (Stamps, Rescher, Bohm, Dossey, and Rudhyar) each argue for an alternative to Cartesian/Newtonian frameworks as a necessary condition for any adequate approach to perceived complexity. The need to elaborate a strong argument for such an alternative in each case obscures the author's explicit recognition of the continuing need for a Cartesian/Newtonian framework under certain conditions. The two alternatives may even be viewed as complementary in the full sense of the term (161), necessitating an alternation between them.
The first unsatisfactory feature of these presentations is that they do not go far enough in showing how the alternatives can be interwoven in order to be of practical relevance to the present crisis in human and social development. Thus Stamps, although acknowledging the bicameral nature of mind, uses a classical taxonomic framwork as a vehicle for his arguments for holonomy, and discusses "networking" in an unrelated book. Rescher stresses the local significance of Euclidean hierarchical structuring, but does not offer more than the recognition that the complexities of any global pattern can be viewed as a "chain-mail structure" (91, p. 202), otherwise known as the "fish-scale" structure of knowledge. Bohm provides graphic examples of the unfoldment and enfoldment of explicate forms in relation to the implicate order, but (although he idscusses its relevance to consciousness) it is not his purpose to show how such perception can be applied concretely in human and social organizations. Dossey avoids discussion of the interface between implicate and explicate therapy and of the nature of the framework in terms of which any decision to use one or the other would be made, namely the art of alternating between them. Rudhyar avoids the nature of the thinking required to alternate between tonality and syntonic perspectives, and what that implies for social organization.
Given the incompatible, but complementary, natures of the alternatives with which each of these authoris is dealing, it seems necessary to focus more clearly on the structure and dynamics of any "marriage" between such alternatives. How is any such marriage brought about and how does it "work" in practice? It does not seem to be sufficient to switch in an unmediated manner between sophisticated Euclidean taxonomies and sprawling associative networks (Stamps and Rescher) or between their process equivalents (Bohm and Dossey). The abyss separating them in practice invites the chaotic ineffectiveness and abuse which is characteristic of present conceptual and organizational dilemmas and of operation "schizophrenia". In any "marriage" such a situation is associated with abusive "sexual politics". The either/or nature of the switch is in itself an essentially Cartesian trap.
A step towards concretizing the implications of any such marriage can be explored firstly in structural terms. The problem can be defined as how to design (or comprehend) a marraige between "hierarchy" and "network" so that the union constitutes a whole of greater significance than the "incompatible" so that the union constitutes a whole of greater significance than the "incompatible" parts. This problem has been explored elsewhere (97, 93, 99) in the light of the tensegrity (tensional integrity) structures discussed by Buckminster Fuller (46) and subsequent authors (116, 117). The problem is essentially one of fitting hierarchy into network. This can be done such that the local advantages of hierarchy are melded into the global advantages of network. In this way the local weakness of network and the global weaknesses of hierarchy are counteracted. The large range of tensegrity structures (116) may then be viewed as indications of possible patterns of processes within a whole.
The special significance of tensegrity structures as "denk modelle" lies in the way they reflect and combine realistically the continuity of network and the discontinuity of hierarchy. The strong "constraining" bonds of hierarchy are interlinked by the weaker "restraining" bonds of network as in the reality of social organization. The two types of structural element, if appropriately interrelated, bring about the emergence of an entirely new structural system, with dynamic self-stabilizing and load distribution properties of a unique kind. Of great significance, when they take a spherical form, is the fact that the centre is unoccupied by any structural element. It becomes a vital point of reference for the global characteristics, but is defined solely by the manner in which the local structural elements are configured around it.
Although physical models of tensegrity structures can be built (and effectively underlie the construction of large-scale geodesic domes), a criticism that has been made of their potential significance as models of psycho-social organization is that they are too symmetrical and complete, and thus are not open to any further development. This criticism is valid if psycho-social organization is modelled by one such tensegrity structure only, as it is also if organization is modelled by a particular hierarchical or network pattern. But there are many such tensegrity structures, even in the spherical form. Each such structure may then be considered as a possible alternative. The process of development from one to another, or of the alternation between them, then models the potential richness of psycho-social organization more effectively. There are many transformation pathways between them (46).
The set of such alternative structures, between which alternation takes place, may be more clearly understood in the light of the theory of resonance. Johan Galtung first explored the possibility of using the organization of chemical molecules to clarify the description of social organization (118). He dealt with fixed structures and not with the transition between alternatives. The theory of resonance in chemistry is concerned with the representation of the actual normal state of molecules by a combination of several alternative "resonable" structures, rather than by a single valence-bond structure. The molecule is then conceived as resonating among the several valence-bond structures, or rather to have a structure that is a resonance hybrid of these structures.
The classic example of a resonance hybrid is the benzene molecule of 6 carbon atoms for which F A Kekule introduced the idea of oscillation between two alternative structures (Fig. 1: A and B). The pattern of oscillation was later extended by Linus Pauling to include three more alternates (Fig. 1: C, D and E). The actual configuration is a resonance hybrid of the five forms, which through quantum mechanics has been shown to have an energy less than any of the alternate structures. This is potentially of great significance for any social structure analogue, in view of the call for a low-energy society (see below).
Such structures recall the context of Bohm's arguments (above) concerning unfoldment of explicate forms. The wave function representing a stationary state of the resonance hybrid in quantum mechanics can be expressed as the sum of the wave functions that correspond to several hypothetical alternates.
The proper combination is that sum which leads to a minimal energy for the system (#7). Of significance in any social structure analogue is that the higher energy of each alternate is associated with some degree of "distortion" (different in kind in each case), which effectively renders the alternate rneta-stable (#8). Whilst the value of using such tensegrity or resonance models may be contested, they do have the advantage of shifting the debate, currently somewhat sterile, to a level at which the merits of particular answers are no longer the sole issue. They open the way to more fruitful discussions both about how alternation between the opposing answers characteristic of a complex society can be improved and about the kinds of social structures that could be based upon such patterns of alternation.
In a learning society, in which no one can aspire to be informed of every item of significance, it is quite unrealistic to expect ignorance and non-comprehension to have a purely minor role, hopefully to be further diminished by development programmes and information technology. Whether it be between the preoccupations of disciplines, cultures, generations, levels of education, or temperamental preferences, non-comprehension must necessarily continue to play a major role in the ordering of society, if not a progressively increasing one. The inability to respond to the minimal educational needs of developing countries is a striking example of the problem, matched by recent evidence of the increasing ineffectiveness of the sophisticated education programmes in developed countries. There are practical limits to learning, some of which have been explored elsewhere (81) in a critical review of the recent UNESCO-endorsed report to the Club of Rome "No Limits to Learning" (44).
This is the second reason for which the investigations of integration in the previous chapter by Stamps, Rescher, Bohm, Dossey, and Rudhyar are unsatisfactory. They do not recognize the wider social structuring effects of a person's inability to comprehend any more "seductive" answer. It is assumed that with some minimum of explanation comprehension will necessarily result and the person will switch from Cartesian to non-Cartesian, from linear to non-linear, as providing the only "reasonable" mode of comprehension. It is assumed that people can be provided with the educational context within which this transition can be facilitated. This is not the case, perhaps fortunately. Available resources do not permit such education on more than a limited scale, but more importantly, people have other agendas to which their concepts of human and social development are linked. It is through this process that the variety of the psycho-social system is protected from homogenizing tendencies, however benevolently initiated.
The structuring effect of non-comprehension in complex organizations is most clearly seen through q-analysis as discussed by Ron Atkin (above). One interesting feature of this is the effect of the forces to which an individual is subject by exposure to something which is not fully comprehended, especially when the non-comprehension is not consciously recognized, or is disguised by satisfaction with a superficial explanation. In a sense, recalling Dossey's arguments, the comprehension of an individual creates the spacetime geometry within which he functions (in Atkin's terms), whereas his non-comprehension determines the nature of the forces to which he is subject within that geometry (again in Atkin's terms).
The difficulty in engendering a more healthy approach to non-comprehension, as a phenomenon in which everyone participates, is that it is still treated as something to be disguised or denied, whether to oneself or to others. Or, perhaps worse, it is treated as something that can be eliminated by some kind of educational "fix" (a course, a tape, a book, etc.), or acknowledged with pride as something one does not need, or have time, to know.
It is for such reasons that Christopher Alexander, an architect/designer, is helpful in demonstrating that the central "quality without a name", which makes any context attractive to be in, can only be "tangentially" described in terms of a range of possible aspects:
"There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named." (36)
He shows how the nature of this central quality is not encompassed by any of the following attributes, each with its special advocates: alive, whole, comfortable, free, exact, egoless, eternal (36, pp. 25-40)
For Alexander, in order to define this quality, it is necessary to recognize that every context is given its character by certain patterns of events that keep on happening there. By arguing that these patterns are always interlocked with certain geometric patterns which structure any inhabited space, Alexander effectively provides a concretization of Atkin's insights relating to organization space (35). Both are intimately linked to the process of development:
"The specific patterns out of which a building or a town is made may be alive or dead. To the extent they are alive, they let our inner forces loose, and set us free; but when they are dead, they keep us locked in inner conflict. The more living patterns there are in a place...the more it comes to life as an entirety, the more it glows, the more it has that self-maintaining force which is the quality without a name" (36, p. )
It is interesting that by defining the central quality as nameless, Alexander frees it from the problems, encountered earlier, of the essential inadequacy of any particular language. The quality is "defined" as not comprehensible through any one such language. As such it is totally in sympathy with the nature of Bohm's holomovement, by which such "names" are engendered.
Using the spherical tensegrity model, each such language is characterized by (explicate) surface features or patterns of the tensegrity which encompass a central empty space without occupying it. Using the resonance model, each attribute is an alternative in the pattern of alternation, but the nameless core quality is represented by the resonance hybrid. In Atkin's terms, the central quality functions as a higher dimensional q-hole which engenders a pattern of communication amongst the perspectives or languages configures around it.
The "New Global Order" called for by the crisis of the times may be thought of as brought into being by recognition of the fundamental distinction between local, specific, surface features (centres, values, languages, groupings, etc.) and the unoccupied common centre whose position is determined by the pattern of all such specialized features constellated around it. It is the very pattern of harmonies and dissonances between these local features which can then engender the space of which the unoccupied centre is the focal reference point. This can only occur if the mutual rejection of those most strongly opposed is contained, by allowing them appropriate- separation, and is thus itself used to maintain the form of the pattern.
These considerations clarify ways of thinking about any "meta-answer" and show the essential role of non-comprehension in structuring the space for the nameless quality of life which development programmes try in their different ways to enhance. The meta-answer is thus a resonance hybrid of answers based on particular conceptual languages or epistemologies. Development of that quality of life calls for the dynamics of resonance between answers or frameworks despite the conceptual discontinuity that this involves. The languages used above by different authors (in chapter 4, for example) clarify the strengths and weaknesses of particularly approaches in endeavouring to encompass this quality. In a sense the essential feature of this paper is the search for ways to alternate between the insights of each such language and thus engender some understanding of the nature of the resonance hybrid they form.
In order to give more practical significance to these considerations, further work is required to show, in the light of the insights of Dossey and Atkin, what kinds of spacetime geometries a person (or group) may create for himself through his mode of comprehension and through the "valencies" of the nodes in his pattern of communication. Much of relevance to such an investigation is implicit in Fuller's "geometry of thinking" (46), and explicit in Atkin's work (72, 74). Atkin especially clarifies the structuring effect of interactions between groups "living on different geometries". Fuller clarifies the transformations between configurations. But each such language must always be recognized as limited.
Another way to think about this question is in terms of "conceptual gearboxes". Use of a single-answer mode of comprehension is similar to the use of the first gear on an automobile, with ail its advantages and disadvantages. Modes of comprehension corresponding to alternation patterns between two, three, or more, such languages, are then similar to second and higher gears. The problem is then one of improving the design of such gearboxes and learning how to use them. For the difficulty at the moment is that individually and collectively we tend to get "stuck" in a particular Conceptual gear, and are unable to "shift" up or down according to the needs of the moment. This approach is explored in a separate paper (122).
The disadvantage of the gearbox model is highlighted by a "woven basket" or "birdcage" model in the same paper (22). The structural features of a spherical tensegrity may be considered as indicating the different functions active in a viable whole (99). What remains to be determined is what degree of functional differentiation is appropriate under what circumstances. A viable pattern of functions bears a strong resemblance to a viable basketweave pattern with its counter-balancing properties integral to the structure - hence the notion of "functional basketweaving". In this sense it has yet to be recognized that the psycho-social world is "functionally round" rather than "flat" as many seem to assume. Considered as a "birdcage", the problem is to interweave functions in such a way as to construct an environment for the essential living quality (of Alexander) which cannot otherwise be "kept alive" by the gross and devitalizing concepts so widely employed by programme designers.
An even more dynamic model emerges from the possibility that conceptual processes can be usefully conceived as engaged in a "pumping action". A "conceptual pump" (as in the respiratory cycle) involved transformation of attention processes through a single category, to a polar category set, to an N-category set, and back again - corresponding to the movement from principles to details. (Buckminster Fuller argues strongly in support of the fundamental significance of topological equivalent he describes, namely the vector equilibrium "jitterbug".) Problems in the pumping cycle can arise when the pump locks onto a set of a particular number, as is evident in many conceptual systems. Problems also arise when, for example, the single category set is projected onto some detailed feature of the environment, effectively reversing the action of the pump.
The approach to learning discussed is too basic for it to be possible to derive much of significance that can be applied directly to organizations. The problem lies in the Western bias discussed earlier in favour of a learning "zigzag" in an essential linear direction. If the zigzag is considered as occuring around a learning cycle however, marrying in the Eastern bias towards recurrence, this cycle can then be subdivided into sufficiently detailed elements to be of significance for organizational operations. Jantsch discusses cyclical organization in terms of the system logic of dissipative self-organization:
"Hypercycles, which link autocatalytic units in cyclical organization, play an important role in many natural phenomena of self-organization, spanning a wide spectrum from chemical and biological evolution to ecological and economic systems and systems of population growth. The cyclical organization of a system may itself evolve if autocatalytic participants mutate or new processes become introduced. The co-evolution of participants in a hypercycle leads to the notion of an ultracycle which generally underlies every learning process." (21, p. 15)
The question then becomes how many discontinuous phases (Jantsch's "participants") it is useful to distinguish in the cycle. Too few and the incompatibilities between them are too fundamental, too many and the distinctions between them are too subtle. The operational significance of this conceptual constraint has been explored in earlier papers from which it is apparent that significance is lost if more than about 7 categories are used (43), unless the total breaks down into sub-sets based on simple (e.g. 2, 3, 5) factors (23).
A novel approach to the learning cycle in relation to action has been taken by Arthur Young (70) as a consequence of his experience as the inventor of the Bell helicopter (whose three-dimensional movement is notoriously difficult to control - as with the development process). He establishes the vital learning-action link through a new interpretation of the operational significance of the set of 12 "measure formulae" through which material phenomena are observed, acted upon and controlled in physics and engineering. Of special interest for the development theme is the significance he attaches to the sequence of movement around the cycle: one direction involving essentially unremernbered experience-without-learning, the other involving conscious learning-action. As briefly presented here (see Table 2 and Diagram 5), his approach has been adapted and modified to further emphasize the action-learning significance (#9). It is interesting that the philosopher Stephane Lupasco also attaches importance to the analysis of such measures in terms of the polarities they constitute and the types of energy with which they are associated (147, p. 26).
Inspection of this example clarifies how portions of such a cycle are vulnerable to institutionalization (as specialized, independent answer domains, or habitual responses) to the extent that there is no learning bridge across the discontinuities. The problem of (social) integration is thus intimately related to the functioning of (collective) learning cycles (#10). It seems probable that needs (and their satisfiers) also relate to different portions of such cycles, as would ranges of incompatible development goals or alternative visions of desirable futures. In each case the point to be emphasized is that such seemingly incompatible fragments are "frozen" portions of a cycle with which individuals or groups identify. None are of lasting significance in their own right, especially insofar as they hinder the collective learning process which must take place through them.
The facilitative and obstructive factors to further learning (i.e. successful "struggle" in marxist terms) at each stage in the cycle are probably linked to patterns of complementarity and incompatibility between the stages according to their membership of (2, 3, or 4-member) sub-sets in the cycle (e.g. preceding and succeeding stages in the cycle are in conflictual relationship since they would correspond to thinking of the opposite hemisphere). Answers given from any part of a cycle are of course "questionable" as perceived from other parts of the cycle.
Comparison with previous comparisons
Unintended shift of - perspective - position - reference
Displacement of focus
Intentional shift of - perspective
- position - reference Range of conscious attention scan
object of focus
(l) Observation; act of considering;
determin- ation of position reactive learning based
(L/T) Adaptive change ; reaction; passive adaptation or change of position in response to
(L/T3) Control of transformative action
(ML) Recognition of
moment (ousness), significance (as in
"matters of great
moment"), relevance (as
related to leverage);
weight of facts;
importance; bringing matters into focus
(ML/T) Recognition of the momentum (of an
issue) resulting from a
change, namely the
formation of awareness
or embodied as a result
(or disruptive) action
sense of being
of disciplined pattern
of response; consolid-
ated or harmonious
control of action
forces in check
Subjection to an unintended shift of perspective
Projection of an intended shift of perspective into reality
Relationships Application Follow-through
(ML) Faith in current paradigm or perception of reality; unexarained, habitual commitment to a projection, proces, or understanding, irrespective of inconsistent disturbing factors
(ML2/T) Decision or impulse to act or initiate a process
determining the future
(ML,2/T2) Achievement of a desired result by
application of under-
standing, and adjust-
ment of implicit beliefs in response to external factors; working action on reality
(ML2/T3) Power of acquired knowledge; know-how ; integrated or embodied experience; capacity (not to act) ; non- action
Mass of inform-
constraints Mass of evidence "Matter of fact"
Table 2: TENTATIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF PORTIONS OF A 12-PHASE LEARNI.NG CYCLE (see Diagram 5 )
(adapted and developed from Young (70))
As noted earlier, a single cycle is not a sufficiently concrete representation of the complexity to be encompassed by an adequate meta-answer. Where several cycles interlock to form a sphere, the nodes are effectively combinations of cyclic phases. The relationships of challenge and harmony between such nodes have been discussed in earlier papers (97, 98, 99) concerning Fuller's tensegrity concept (46).It is this which clarifies the potential and vulnerability of networking (1, 100) as an essentially right hemisphere mode of organization which needs to be more "seductively" married to the much-criticized left-hemisphere, hierarchical mode.
The acid test of learning cycles however, is whether they can encompass the discontinuities between the major political tendencies by which the world community is seemingly divided. Any such relationship posited must necessarily be highly controversial, but the controversy should be patterned according to the aspects of the learning challenges involved. As an exercise (in oversimplification) therefore, the 12-phase cycle has been collapsed to a 4-phase cycle, with portions of which the major political answer domains have been tentatively identified (see Diagram 6). Note that collapsing any cycle to this degree overloads each phase with significance so that any label effectively becomes a caricature of the multi-facetted reality associated with that phase.
Positions on each axis distant from the origin are here interpreted as indicating more extreme manifestations of the phase characteristics. The learning cycles within each phase are then effectively represented by distorted (elliptical) "cycles" in which other phases are "repressed" or "inadequately expressed". The range of elliptical shapes can be used to distinguish varieties of political tendencies sharing the same basic axis (#11). A somewhat related diagram (Diagram 7) can be used to highlight the problem of asymptotic convergence on a meta-answer. The axes represent right- and left-hemisphere thinking, with other equivalent dichotomies collapsed into them. The diagonal therefore reflects practical positions of balance between them, namely viable compromises between structure and process, for example (#12).
Some answer domains have tentatively been located on the necessarily oversimplified diagram in an approximate manner. A distinction is made between the answer as expressed in theory, doctrine, or public claims (subscript D), and the answer as it tends to manifest in practice (subscript P) faced with nasty decisions due to the consequences of its own limitations or impracticality. It would appear that the diagonal serves as a kind of "mirror" in that "D" answers are "rotated" about it into a corresponding "P" position when they are implemented and their negative features are experienced by others.
This would accord with the concept of the "repressed" or "inadequate" features of an answer being brought to light under such conditions. In Jungian terms, the "P" answer is the unconscious "shadow" (78, pp. 210-243) of the "D" answer. The "third perspective" is located on the diagonal, but the more ideal the practical combination of structure and process sought, the more "inaccessible" it is along the diagonal (#13).
|Indicating 4 phases characteristic of extreme policy options with the destabilizing dilemmas to which each is vulnerable The cycles associated with particular political strategies are indicated tentatively as "eliptically distorted" orbits with eccentricity and orientation according to the degree to which they embody the extreme policy phases. (Note the relationship to the constraints on movement of a steering "joy stick".) Larger orbits indicate strategies of greater scope which internalize a broader range of the lear ing processes to which society is subject. This approach could be used to distinguish between various "brands" of socialism, for example. Note that the shape of eccentric orbits could be used as an indicator of the relative amount of recognition accorded to corrective policies required at each stage in order to maintain a stable orbit. An orbital dynamics model also opens a new perspective on the problems of transitions between strategies. Orbital overlap could also be used to indicate the degree of shared strategic concern.||
1. Market capitalism
5. Fascist 6. Terrorist 7. Fourth world 8. Charismatic guru 9. Networking (New Age) 10. World order (WOMP) 11. Peoples world govt. 12. Nations world govt. 13. World federalism 14. NIEO 15. Feudalism
hierarchical order, controlled participation, structure-oriented, form-oriented,
efficiency/effectiveness, as well as dimensions associated with such symbols
as yang, thanatos, and Apollonian. It also implies sufficient complexity
to contain variety.
"Right-hemisphere" includes: associative, participative, process-oriented, content-oriented, aesthetic, as well as dimensions associated with such symbols as yin, eros, and Dionysian. It also implies sufficient simplicity to be comprehensible readily as a gestalt. Note that percentions of positions after effective implementation in practice (subscript P) are displaced through the diagonal "mirror" from their positions as portrayed in theory or by advocate propaganda.
|Diagram 6: "Steering wheel" model of counter-flowing learning cycles||Diagram 7: Doctrine/Practice interrelationship of selected strategic options in terms of a 2-dimensional scheme of collapsed categories|
Given the essential discontinuity between the domains in a pattern of alternation, the key question is whether there is any way of comprehending and communicating the nature of the transformations between the elements in the pattern, other than "superficially" in purely right-hemisphere (dramatic) terms. Furthermore, it would be useful to clarify the basis for the emergence of each domain within the pattern. A recent study by Ernest McClain, a musicologist, demonstrates that the "father" of political philosophy, Plato, has further unexplored insights to offer concerning these matters, especially in view of his aesthetic concerns (which correspond to Attali's requirement). McClain points out that great care must be taken in exploring Plato's political allegories because of his considerable use of puns metaphor and humour as a form of presentation appropriate for arguments comprehensible to a musically and mathematically informed audience. It is appropriate to follow Mcclain's lead because he draws attention to a language which can be used to clarify the nature of alternation.
McClain demonstrates with considerable musico-mathematical precision how Plato conceived four very different tuning systems whose characteristics he described through the four different communities (Callipolis, Ancient Athens, Atlantis, Magnesia) which are the subject of his later dialogues. As McClain says, they are:
"each vividly, presented but each necessarily "sacrificed" to let the alternatives come into view. This mode of thinking, or manner of talking, is appropriate for the realm of alternative aesthetic structures which are equally appealing - from one point of view or another - but mutually incompatible in time. Not only do Plato's musical cities come to be, but each must pass away - as each tone, each mode, each rhythm must pass - to allow the next to come into focus. There is no dialogue which "fixes" Plato's thought for us. The Republic and Laws are so opposed in spirit - the first proposing a communal brotherhood with few laws and common wives, children and property, the second satiated with law and central government - as to appear to be the work of two different men....Plato is in no sense what we have come to understand as a "Platonist". Neither is he a Pythagorean. His Pythagoreanism is but a prelude to philosophy, to "the song itself...which dialectic performes", a prelude to which Platonists have declined to listen, although it establishes the multiple perspectives from which Plato understood himself." (31, p. 132-3)
The constrants and possibilities of developing a tuning system within which harmonies and discords can play themselves out allows McClain to demonstrate, using Plato's material:
McClain's analysis provides a much richer understanding of how and why alternatives may be distinguished, and of how the sets of categories may be derived by which a "seductive" pattern of functions (or institutions) is defined. It shows the need for sufficient variety to "contain" or "carry" interesting harmony, but marks the emergence of various limits necessary for the integrity of the system. But although the pattern of alternatives clarifies the nature of the required container, the art of choosing and moving between them remains (delightfully) elusive, as pointed out in a study (30) of Vedic musically-encoded philosophy to which McClain refers in an earlier work:
"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."
In this sense much can be learnt from current interest in "techniques" of improvisation in music groups in which each instrument is free to respond to the others in a "dominant" or "subservient" manner:
"...each musician must search for missing material in the performance of the neighbour (pitches from the first, length from the second) and react to it in different ways: imitate, adapt himself to it (if need be further develop), do the opposite, become disinterested or something else (something "unheard of")" (102)
The difficulty in exploring patterns of alternation is the seeming lack of concrete (as opposed to abstract) examples by which the credibility of such patterns in practice may become apparent. The rotation of agricultural crops is therefore an interesting "earthy" practice to explore in the light of the mind-set which it has required of farmers for several thousand years.
Crop rotation is the alternation of different crops in the same field in some (more or less) regular sequence. It differs from the haphazard change of crops from time to time, in that a deliberately chosen set of crops is grown in succession in cycles over a period of years. Rotations may be of any length, being dependent on soil, climate, and crop. They are commonly of 3 to 7 years duration, usually with 4 crops (some of which may be grown twice in succession). The different crop rotations on each of the fields of the set making up the farm as a whole constitute a "crop rotation system" when integrated optimally.
Long before crop rotation became a science, practice demonstrated that crop yields decline if the same crop is grown continuously in the same place. There are therefore many benefits, both direct and indirect, to be obtained from good rotation (103, pp. 176-8):
The situation is somewhat different in the case of single-species forests where "rotation" is the guiding principle in the special sense of the economic age to which each crop can be grown before it is succeeded by the next one. (For example, on a 100-year rotation required for oak, one per cent of the forest would be clear cut each year, and a further 20 percent thinned out.) In total contrast to crop rotation the "monoculture" cropping system in which the same crop is grown every year. This is possible on a large scale only by the application of chemical fertilizers, herbicide and pesticides. It leads to long-term problems of soil structure and erosion, as well as to the accumulation of pollutants.
Because of the short-term advantages of fertilizers, efforts to design new approaches to crop rotation have been limited. It is only with the resurgence of interest in non-exploitive, non-polluting agriculture that such possibilities are being investigated (104).
From an agronomist's perspective, the problem is to strike a balance between harmonizing the three-fold soil-plant-climate relationship and those of the economic constraints of production. Because such threefold relationships are now fairly well understood, rotation cycles can now be considered as a whole in which the order and the plants used are of secondary importance. The problem is to ensure that the soil-plant-climate relationship is in an optimally balanced state at every moment in order to become increasingly independent of its past. The production constraints complicate this evolution and the choices possible, especially when requirements change rapidly without taking into account the recent history of a crop rotation (104)
There is a striking parallel between the rotation of crops and the succession of (governmental) policies applied in a society. The contrast is also striking because of the essentially haphazard switch between "right" and "left" policies. There is little explicit awareness of the need for any rotation to correct for negative consequence: ("pests") encouraged by each and to replenish the resources of society ("nutrients", "soil structure") which each policy so characteristically depletes.
There is no awareness, for example, of the number of distinct policies ("crops") through which it is useful to rotate. Nor is it known how many such distinct cycles are necessary for an optimally integrated world society in which the temporary failure of one, due to adverse circumstances (disaster) is compensated by the success of others. It is also interesting that during a period of increasing complaint regarding cultural homogenization ("monoculture"), voters are either confronted with single-party systems or are frustrated by the lack of real choice between the alternatives offered. There is something to be learnt from the mind-sets and social organizations associated with the stages in the history of crop rotation which evolved, beyond the slash-and-burn stage, through a 2-year crop-fallow rotation, to more complex 3 and 4-year rotations. Given the widespread sense of increasing impoverishment of the quality-of-life, consideration of crop rotation may clarify ways of thinking about what is being depleted, how to counteract this process, and the nature of the resources that are so vainly (and expensively) used as "fertilizer" and "pesticide" to keep the system going in the short-term. The "yield" to be maximized is presumably human and social development.
Society may be usefully perceived as facing an entropic crisis. This view has been explored by Jeremy Rifkin (105). The second (entropy) law of thermodynamics states that matter and energy can only be changed in one direction, from usable to unusable, or from available to unavailable, or from ordered to disordered. And whenever any semblance of order is created anywhere, it is done at the expense of causing an even greater disorder in the surrounding environment. For Rifkin the inexorable nature of this process provides an understanding of why the existing world views are breaking down. For:
"The laws of thermodynamics, then, govern the physical world. The way humanity decides to interact with those laws in establishing a framework for physical existence is of crucial importance in whether humankind's spiritual journey is allowed to flourish or languish" (105, p. 9) (#16)
He anticipates three types of response to the implications of the entropy law, namely from optimists, pragmatists, or hedonists. It is very interesting that he challenges the use to which Prigogine's work on dissipative structures will be put by the optimists. For Rifkin:
"The theory of dissipative structures is an attempt to provide a growth paradigm for an energy environment based on renewables, just as Newtonian physics provided a growth paradigm for a nonrenewable energy environment." (105, p. 245)
He argues that the theory of dissipative structures completely ignores the wider significance of the entropy law by concentrating only on that part of the unfolding process that creates increasing order. And on the question of irreversibility on a cosmic scale, Prigogine does indeed state "I prefer to confess ignorance" (39, p. 214). Rifkin continues:
"By refusing to recognize that increased ordering and energy flow-through always creates ever greater disorder in the surrounding environment, those who advocate bio-engineering technology as the transforming apparatus for a renewable energy environment are doomed to repeat the same folly that has led to the final collapse of our nonrenewable energy environment and the age of physics that was built upon it." (105, p. 247)
"Like it or not, we are irrevocably headed toward a low-energy society....The longer we put off the necessary transition from a high- to a low-entropy society, the bigger the entropy bill becomes and the more difficult the turnaround becomes....The alternative to this wholescale squandering of available energy is an internalization of the values and dictates of the entropic paradigm," (105, p. 254)
The difficulty is that Rifkin is clear on what should not be done but provides few practical insights into the social order required to do whatever ought to be done - whatever that is. In particular, in the light of the theme of this paper, he accumulates significance in relation to entropy at the expense of conceptual ordering in relation to issues and perspectives to which others are sensitive. By striving for support, as does any proponent of a world view (whatever its merits), he condemns his perspective to compete in the "gladiatorial arena" discussed earlier.
Rifkin believes that the entropy constraint applies only to the physical domain and that there is an escape route.
"There are those among us who are willing to accept the finiteness of the physical world but who believe that the entropic flow is counterbalanced by an ever-expanding stream of psychic order. To these people, the becoming process of life is synonymous with the notion of an ever-growing consciousness." (105, p. 257)
Whatever the merits of the argument, as an ordering device, it does not clarify the basis for the emergence of such a new psychic order. His presentation implies that it could be based on a psychic, constraint-free replication of the pattern which he so effectively criticizes in the physical domain. But the accumulation of "hot spots" of significance at the expense of a surrounding, unredeemable "wasteland" of increasing irrelevance does not seem to be the basis for the needed breakthrough. Whether it is "experienced" or "achieved", somehow a low-energy psychic order is required to interrelate the various domains of significance to permit the emergence of a physical low-energy society. "Hot-wiring", to use Rifkin's term, also needs to be avoided in the patterns of communication between such domains, between his "answer" and those of others.
The entropic constraint in social development has been specifically explored by anthropologist Richard Adams. He cites Alfred Lotka's observation that the second law of thermodynamics cannot be contravened by human action. Lotka's principle states that in evolution natural selection favours those populations that convert the greater amount of energy, that is, that bring the greater amount of energy form and process under control. But any "islands" of local order are not themselves an indication of counter-entropic process but rather zones where energy is hastened to entropy or converted into equilibrium forms (130, pp. 125-6).
Adams argues, with Carneiro, that the evident macroscopic expansion of human society in terms of "culture traits" is exponential due to this expansion being proportional to the number of traits already generated. But instead of culture traits, Adams argues that the concept of energy conversion (as opposed to input) is more significant, as well as more directly related to loss of entropy.
He suggests the formulation: "The rate of cultural change is proportional to the rate of energy conversion carried out within the system." (130, p. 281). He emphasizes that this is not simply valid for the material portion of the system. "For not only does the amount of energy in the system have a direct relation to the amount of energy that will be communicated and stored, but it is also subjected to the inevitable human-cultural device of reduction to size." (130, p. 281)
This "reduction to size" takes place through the central process of binary differentiation which Adams considers as providing the basis for ranking and the treatment of much of what is meant by value: "I do not know whether the mere fact of identification, that is, of making a binary differentiation, may be said to imply the immediate bestowal of something we may want to call value; and I am not sure that it really makes any difference." (130, p. 155) A significant aspect of the process is that it is done constantly:
"While there is obviously great individual difference in the relative ability to project new cuts in the environment, we are nevertheless constantly imposing old bifurcate categories on new events, thereby reducing them and simplifying them - in a word, mentally classifying them. More important, there are regularly new formulations of such differentiations, new ways of cutting up the world, that are invented and tried out. Most of these, like the lethal mutants of the genetic process, serve to extinguish themselves (and in some case their bearers)....Westeners have tended to see this process of recutting the world as something of a hallmark of progress. It can, however, also be seen as man's way of reducing the world to size, to terms with which he can deal." (130, p. 281)
Adams points out that in these terms mankind can be viewed as a species confronting a constantly changing environment. The confrontations are however repeatedly made with relatively fixed mental equipment:
"No matter how new the events perceived, they had to be reduced to a comprehensible scope and to familiar dimensions. The totality of the energetic component may have been beyond his control, but man could always cut a piece of it down to size and form it to fit the "order" demanded by his rnentalistic limitations...So while societies become increasingly complex in terms of their energetic structures, their organizational dimensions are constantly reintegrated to mentalistic structural dimensions that are comprehensible to the human mind." (130, p. 282)
Adams draws attention to research on the apparent limitation on the number of taxonomic dimensions that the human mind can comfortably handle within a social communication context (130, pp. 157-8). This number appears to be around six or seven as discussed earlier (58). He cites studies of folk taxonomies showing that there are at least five, perhaps six, taxonomic ethnobiological categories which appear to be highly general if not universal. They are arranged hierarchically and taxa assigned to each rank are mutually exclusive. One modern example given is a banner in a hall at the Palais des Nations (Geneva), indicating: family, village, clan, medieval state, nation, federation (130, p. 158-9).
For Adams the limited number of levels of integration a society uses to describe its own organization then replaces in practice the levels of articulation that may be empirically found in the course of interactions in society (130, p. 282). Such levels of description then become significant determinants of the kind of structures which can be perceived as emerging or required in society (cf. the category structure of the GPID Group A Report). Adams points out that the process of binary differentiation, taxonomy making and classification, and ranking with its implicit bestowal of priority, is not an unorganized activity unrelated to the question of power and control:
"It is, rather, a mentalistic structural concomitant of overt control....Ranking, then, is an attempt to arrange events in the external world so that they will behave as our mental limitations dictate and will reflect our ability to handle them. It becomes a way to put order in the environment, to imbue things with a positive or negative value that permits them to be maximized, minimized, or optimized." (130, p. 166)
Adams also notes how the taxonomic limitations are related to the learning process, even if the six/seven constraint is bypassed as in the Levi-Strauss observation that the figure of 2,000 is the order of magnitude of the threshold corresponding roughly to the capacity of memory and power of definition of ethnozoologies or ethnobotanics reliant on oral tradition. This figure, taken as 2,047, has been shown by Buchler and Selby (131) to be the number of items, classes or terminal taxa that would be found in a taxonomy composed of eleven levels with systematic binary poartioning. Furthermore, the number of deleted taxa at level seven is then 32, at level eight is 16, at level nine is 8. These figures correspond closely with the breaking points observed by Paget and his colleagues in the learning and developing behaviour of children (1 32, p. 72). In a separate paper (27) it has been argued that such figures could well be used as a way of rendering comprehensible the design of any classification system for international organization action. The results of an exercise of this kind are shortly to be published (133).
Given the above relationship between the mentalistic and energetic components, much of Adam's study is concerned with how a (demographically) expanding society organizes itself. For him, the process whereby centralized units expand through a multiplication of their numbers is a coordinate growth process not involving any qualitative change. Centralization, however, marks a qualitative change in the amount of energy that is being brought under control within one part of the system. The process of development has as a parallel a process of power centralization, whereas the process of growth has as a parallel a process of coordination. This correlates closely with the process of ecological succession except that, instead of moving into a steady state limiting further expansion, new inventions set aside this governing mechanism and permit an increase of energy input to press for a continued expansion (130, p. 287). Of great interest therefore is the possibility of using computers to assist in the invention of better cuts of the environment which remain comprehensible. This is one reason for further investigating tensegrity organization as a more powerful way of handling and integrating sets of binary differentiations.
Adams draws attention to the oscillation between the two modes noted above (which correspond to mentalistic and energetic emphases):
"The alternation of phases of coordination and centralization that can be seen in the macro view of societal and cultural evolution is equally useful in the examination of the processes that particular societies are undergoing at a given point in time....This oscillation may take place simultaneously in two phases or dimensions: (a) horizontal, that is, the shift from a fragmented (identity) unit to a coordinated unit and back (in other terms, fusion and fission, or recombination and segmentation); and (b) vertical, that is, the shift from a coordinated unit to a centralized unit and back (also described as integration and disintegration, centralization and decentralization, etc.)" (130, pp. 290-3)
The literature of ethnography and history is replete with instances of societies undergoing some such kind of oscillation, of which Adams gives a number of examples. With regard to this alternation process he concludes:
"I think that we would have to argue that oscillations are inevitable parts of the evolutionary process; they are the ongoing trial-and-error of a unit, at whatever level, the coming into direct touch with the environment, the testing of the validity of mentalistic pictures and accumulated knowledge. It is the constant inherent structural push toward expansion that makes actors and the units they operate in try again. The oscillating pattern simply means some lack of success, which may be due to any of a wide variety of circumstances. But "success" is hardly the appropriate word, particularly when we recognize that consumption and destruction are both necessary parts of the scene. The fact that old people die will, in the long run, mean success for the young. Or what is successful centralization for one nation, state, chiefdom, may spell disaster for another. What is important about the oscillation process is that it cues the observer as to what he should be looking for. Every operating unit will be at some stage of oscillation at any point in time; to seek out its state and the factors that make it move is to understand how the power system is currently working." (130, p. 298, emphasis added)
In a study still in progress, John and David Keppel explore the situation of man at the interface between the entropic degradation of order and the development of new forms of order(134). For them new conceptual tools are required to respond to those aspects of the current social condition for which determinism has proved inadequate, if not dangerous in its efforts to maximize certainty and to marginalize uncertainty. They see the key as lying in the logic of living systems with their inherent ability to deal with uncertainty to their own developmental advantage. There are principles involved in this logic which are valuable to any new ordering of society.
In such a framework the spread of control among diverse entities serves as a focus for the development of any such system. Error, imperfection and accident, with their implicit static bias, are in fact vital to learning within any living process, in contrast to their current status in societal management. Destruction of information in any form may well lead to the recovery of uncommitted potentiality for adaptive response to change. For the Keppels what persists are the broad principles according to which things in flux relate to each other.
The preliminary study stresses the importance of the partnership of living beings as essential to regulatory feedback processes based on differences. Such symbiosis depends on the essential diversity or non-homogeneity of society. Reciprocal relations underlie all evolutionary processes and are essential to mental development, psychic balance and cultural advance.
Whilst the arguments are developed in some detail with specific suggestions for political initiatives in the United States, at both national and at local levels, the study does not - in its preliminary form - demonstrate the nature of the new conceptual and social patterns required. It is one thing to draw attention to the principles involved and to show how they work in nature. It is another to elaborate their implications at the level at which they enable new initiatives to be undertaken. They stress that evolution works by the adaptation of existing structures rather than by exact design of a new structure suited to the new order. But the question is what form to give to the "conceptual ley lines" to enable such adaptation to take place in a decentralized manner. Is it sufficient to assume that the logic of living uncertainty is an adequate guideline? If not, how is this understanding to be "geared down" to facilitate the emergence of more appropriate patterns? How is it to avoid being coopted as a newly fashionable cosmetic for unchanging strategies, as have so many previous guidelines over the past decades - cooperation, development, interdisciplinarity, networking, etc.?
This difficulty calls for a means of building into the conceptual framework countervailing elements of a kind which correspond to the diversity-enhancing nature of the principles involved. Specifically the study does not take into account the dynamics resulting from opposition to those principles and the process of attempting to implement them. How are they to respond to their own negation? How are they to "dance" with those of the opposition? It is giving form to the nature of the dance which is the core of the problem of "coherence" which the authors identify as the only authoritative answer to the present chaos of problems and rival solutions. But in the authors' own terms, coherence must surely dance with incoherence in a developing society grounded on uncertainty.
Uncertainty is clearly closely related to "future possibility". Both are associated with "ignorance", a feature of the learning process discussed earlier. Society may have various attitudes towards all three. At the moment defensiveness prevails. Ignorance in particular is a social "evil". It must be "eliminated", despite the fact that it is "regenerated" with every baby born "ignorant", and with every scientific and cultural innovation about which people are as yet ignorant. It is also generated in government, military and commercial practices, even at the grass-roots level, through the need to avoid revealing the truth under certain conditions (143, 144).
Specialists are necessarily educated to be ignorant of domains other than that with which they are specifically concerned. Ignorance is in fact the matrix from which innovation and renewal emerge. As with the generation of event-horizons by black holes, it is the orifice through which we enter time, or leave it. The problem is not to eliminate it, but rather to accept it (as every parent does, usually with pleasure) to recognize its positive functions, and to give it a central "place" in society rather than marginalizing it. Unless it is appropriately "contained", society is unable to relate effectively to the direction from which its own future development will emerge. Rejection of ignorance is a rejection of transformative development. All that then remains is non-transformative development in the light of pre-existing, "ignorance-free" programmes.
An understanding of development calls for an understanding of how the shapes and behavioural patterns of psycho-social entities are determined. Rupert Sheldrake, a biochemist, has recently explored the limitations of the prevailing paradigm in biology and has put forward an original and revolutionary answer to this problem. His closely argued thesis is that the form, development and behaviour of living organisms, including human beings, are shaped by "morphogenetic" fields of a type at present not recognized by physics. His presentation suggests a fruitful new approach to thinking about the emergence, stabilization and development of societal, institutional and conceptual patterns and structures.
Sheldrake argues that such morphogenetic fields are moulded by the form and behaviour of past organisms of the same species through direct connections across both space and time:
"The characteristic form of a given morphic unit is determined by the forms of previous similar systems which act upon it across time and space by a process called morphic resonance. This influence takes place through the morphogenetic field and depends on the system's three-dimensional structures and patterns of vibration. Morphic resonance is analogous to energetic resonance in its specificity, but is not explicable in terms of any known type of resonance, nor does it involved a transmission of energy." (128, p.116-7).
The relevance to human and social development lies in the way in which this insight clarifies the influence or constraining effect of past patterns on the possible emergence of new patterns. What he is suggesting is that "by morphic resonance the form of a system, including its characteristic internal structure and vibrational frequencies, becomes present to a subsequent system with a similar form; the spatio-temporal pattern of the forms superimposes itself on the latter." (128, p.96) Forms therefore get "canalized" or locked into particular developmental pathways known as "chreodes" (129). The difficulty of shifting into more fruitful developmental pathways is thus explained by the "weight" of all past systems of similar form. These act to increase the probability of the repetition of forms of a given type:
"The most frequent type of previous form makes the greatest contribution by morphic resonance, the least frequent the least: morphogenetic fields are not precisely defined but are represented by probability structures which depend on the statistical distribution of previous similar forms." (128, p.l18)
The emergence of new forms, or a "new order", of any kind is therefore a low probability event difficult to bring about. But once the pattern has been brought about it becomes progressively easier to maintain. "Once the final form of a morphic unit is actualized, the continued action of morphic resonance from similar past forms stabilizes and maintains it." (128, p. 118) Sheldrake puts forward evidence in support of this hypothesis and suggests a number of experiments by which it may be verified.
His perspective can also be applied to the problem of learning about the nature of any new order whilst "immersed" in the patterns of the old order:
"People usually repeat characteristically structured activities which have already been performed over and over again by many generations of their predecessors....All the patterns of activity characteristic of a given culture can be regarded as chreodes....rnorphic resonance cannot itself lead an individual into one set of chreodes rather than another. So none of these patterns of behaviour expresses itself spontaneously: all have to be learned....Then as the process of learning begins, usually by imitation, the performance of a characteristic pattern of movement brings the individual into morphic resonance with all those who have carried out this pattern of movement in the past. Consequently learning is facilitated as the individual 'tunes in' to specific chreodes." (128, p.195-6)
This suggests the fink between learning, chreodes and the "answer domains" which were the point of departure of this paper. Sheldrake in effect clarifies the specificity of patterns of credibility and the relationship between them. In the psycho-conceptual realm, his morphogenetic fields are as much "credibility structures" as probability structures. It is easier, for example, to get funds for research that has been done in the past because its credibility has already been established. Such fields render patterns perceivable or recognizable.
Sheldrake provides a framework within which to take the alternation argument of this paper a step further. In the turbulence of modern society it is to be expected that at a particular moment strategy/pattern A would prove appropriate to a community (say). But the environmental turbulence may well erode its appropriateness and effectively call for the emergence of strategy/pattern B, or C, or D. There will probably be morphic predecessors for each, possibly embedded in the folk tales of the culture, to give some credibility to the "alternatives". But the alternatives are in each case relatively high probability/credibility structures compared to the meta-strategy/pattern (A:B:C:D), which allows the community to shift between these alternatives in response to the turbulence of the environment. There are few morphic predecessors to clarify this pattern. Hence the importance of seeking out the kinds of analogies recorded in this paper.
The question then becomes how to increase the credibility of this meta-strategy/pattern rather than, as at present, how to increase the credibility of some momentarily significant alternative. Visions of desirable futures could therefore usefully focus on alternation patterns as much as on the specific patterns or alternatives between which alternation must necessarily take place in a dynamic society (#15).
|Diagram 8: Diagrammatic representation of the development of a system from a morphogenetic germ (triangle) by the normal chreode, A. An alternative morphogenetic pathway is represented by B, regulation byC, and regeneration by D. The virtual form within the morphogenetic field is indicated by the stippled area. Reproduced with slight modification from Sheldrake (128, p. 78)|
For it is the meta-pattern of alternation which provides the transition pathways between its essentially antagonistic constituent patterns. Without such pathways the transition itself becomes socially catastrophic, irrespective of the catastrophies the appropriate alternative is designed to avert. Unfortunately our present mind-set requires that transitions should be socially catastrophic because, like a stumbling infant or a drunken adult, we have not yet collectively learned any better way of shifting from leg to leg in the process of moving forward.
An adapted version of one of Sheldrake's diagrams is included to suggest the nature of the dynamics between the "completed" meta-pattern and various partial patterns in which only some strategies are explicit (see Diagram 6). The complementarity of such constituent partial patterns may well be governed by its own type of rnorphic resonance - between different "lock and key" forms, rather than between similar forms as in Sheldrake's case. Each morphic "lock" then provides a morphic niche for a "key" whose emergence it eventually evokes, although in more complex cases the number of distinct morphic species interlocking in this way might be much greater than two.
William Irwin Thompson, a cultural historian, has sharpened considerably the ecology-sensitive intuition concerning the psycho-social lessons to be learned from cooperation between co-evolving systems (106). He stresses the importance of an appropriate understanding of the interaction between opposites by citing E.F. Schumacher:
"The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens man's sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding is possible without awareness of these pairs of opposites which permeate everything man does....Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy is a denial of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot be solved but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly, societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and private interest, planning and laissez-faire, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally both." (107, p. 127).
For Thompson any ecosystem is a form of life in which opposites interact:
"It isn't the case that the ocean is right and the continent wrong...As it is with an ecosystem, so it is with a political system. It isn't the case that one party is right and the other party is wrong. Truth cannot be expressed in an ideology, for Truth is that which over-lights the conflict of opposed ideologies." (106, p. 32)
As with Attali, Thompson refers to Atlan's synthesis of information theory and biology. Atlan moves beyond the prevalent superficial enthusiasm for cooperation by recognizing the role of discontinuity in healthy development:
"So then, it would suffice to consider organization as an uninterrupted process of disorganization-reorganization, and not as a state, so that order and disorder, the organized and the contingent, construction and destruction, life and death are no longer so distinct. And moreover that is not all. These processes where the unity of opposites manifests (such a unity is not realised as a new state, a synthesis of the thesis and the antithesis, it is the movement of the process itself which constitutes the "synthesis"), these processes cannot exist unless the errors are a priori true errors, that order at any given moment is truly disturbed by disorder, that destruction (though not total) is still real, that the irruption of the event is a veritable irruption (a catastrophe or a miracle or both). In other words, these processes which appear to us as one of the fundamental organizing features of living beings, the result of a sort of collaboration between what one customarily calls life and death, can only exist precisely when it is not a question of co-operation but always radical opposition and negation." (1 7, p. 57) (emphasis added)
In this context Thompson argues that:
"A global polity cannot be simply capitalist or communist, Christian or Muslim; it has to be a planetary ecology of each and all....As ecology begins to inform our perceptions of the body politic, we will begin to understand that any polity must be an interaction of opposites. In a policy that has the shape of opposites, the wisdom of William Blake's "In opposition is true friendship" will be understood." (106, p. 32)
Thompson does not elaborate on his understanding of the dynamic nature of the relations between opposites in the polity, except through the overused term "interaction" and the notion of "symbiosis". Despite his quotation of Atlan, he interprets such interaction as cooperation, without giving much more than the usual "public relations" content to the term. And yet it is the nature or pattern of healthy interaction which is the goal of the collective quest at this time.
By introducing the powerful concept of enantiornorphy he stresses the static aspect of the mirror image nature of the relationship between opposites, at an archetypal level. Elsewhere he introduced the "inexorable" process of enantiodromia (#16), whereby opposites eventually transform into each other. For example: "The rejection of industrialization in romanticism ended up by becoming the mechanization of romanticism in that blend of nativism and technology, Nazism" (106, p. 20)
This process is strongly related to that of alternation as explored here. And Thompson does affirm (106, p. 175) both the cyclic and innovative learning nature of this process by quoting the well-known verse of T.S. Eliot: "The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." Thompson develops his argument by exploring in some detail "one model for a field of interacting opposites". He uses the traditional psycho-cultural image of the Quaternity, a geometrical version of William Blake's "Fourfold Vision" (#17). This permits an enantiomorphic juxtaposition of the four basic political orientations he distinguishes: conservative, liberal, radical, reactionary. The four political parties "attempt to play out certain values in time...". He suggests that the structure can also be used to interrelate the four basic political and economic worlds he distinguishes: the capitalistic first world, the communist second world, the resource rich third world, and the fourth world of least developed countries:
"In the present transitional world-system, the interactions of the Four Worlds are unconscious, full of projections, and laden with conflict and violence....The purpose of invoking the archaic Quaternity in a modern context of international relations is to make the unconscious conscious...The Quaternity enables us to see and model relationships of a more complex, polycentric variety." (106, p. 50)
Thompson suggests that the fashionable centre-periphery model increases the potential for conflict by reinforcing simplistic perceptions of possible relationships. But he believes that in such a "planetary ecology...the health of the whole requires that one does not dominate the others." (106, p. 50) This is an over-simplified (or possibly atemporal) understanding of "dominance" in ecological systems. It does not reflect Atlan's view, nor does it accord with the process of alternation as argued here. Alternation, through enantiodromia, may indeed be understood to follow patterns such as Thompson's quarternity, but in them it is the dominance, or focus of power, which switches its locus in order to maintain the health of the whole. Dominance can only be absent in a system of maximum entropy associated with "energy death". Or it may appear to be absent, when in effect it has been displaced into a less obvious form whose consequences may be much more pernicious, as in the case of structural violence.
Both Thompson and Klapp (41) use the metaphor of a ball-game (with four zones or teams), whilst stressing that "the rules and the court are not the game; they are merely conditions that enable the game to be played" (106, p. 44). But initiative (#18)and dominance lie where the ball is located, even though it must be expressed by movement of the ball for the game to continue, with the real risk of its loss to another team whenever their strategy is more appropriate. But there is a vast difference between a good game and a bad one (whatever the quantitative indicators), and none of the above clarifies the art of playing a qualitatively superior game (#19). It does suggest that such a game is possible.
In the previous section Thompson draws attention to the need to understand the patterns encoded by more complex games. Jantsch cites Eigen who is investigating the new lessons to be learnt in biology concerning the "game of life". And indeed Eigen has recently co-authored a book on the "Laws of the Game" (135). It is to be expected that such games can encode richer and more dynamic patterns, which is one reason for the resources allocated to war games and the hopes of finding "win-win" solutions attached to world modelling exercises based on game theory.
Xavier Sallantin, a military theorist working on the logic of conflictual systems, has provided a valuable analysis of the nature of the domains to which game theory applies, thus clarifying hidden dimensions underlying reliance on the game perspective (1 36). Interestingly, in the light of the "answer arena" theme of this paper, Sallantin uses a "gladiatorial arena" to illustrate his point. He notes that in that arena the gladiators risk their lives, the rule of the game being that one of them should die, however carefully they study their moves.
Surrounding that arena are the "stands" from which spectators observe, as well as betting their assets on the issue of the game. There are therefore two categories of "players" at such a "circus", one risking existence, the other risking possession. In "vital" games of the first degree, the gladiator risks himself, whilst in "venal" games of the second degree the spectator risks an object he possesses. The distinction between these domains is further clarified by the processes which occur when a spectator daringly jumps into the arena to taunt the gladiators - only to escape back again when the risk becomes too great, as is the case in many "demonstrations". Or when a gladiator jumps into the stands to expose bettors to the reality in which they only wish to participate vicariously, as occurs in cases of terrorism.
Sallantin demonstrates that in terms of logic, the negation resulting from the loss of the "bet" does not have the same status when applied to games of the first degree, involving a co-terminous subject and object (constituting a unity in arithmetic terms) as in the second, where they are distinct (constituting a duality). In physical terms the first terminates temporal existence, whereas the second terminates a spatial relationship (between the bettor and his property) having the character of a cohesive force. He shows that such distinctions are an essential condition for univocal communication, whether in biology or in informatics.
For Sallantin the ontological status of the game has an entirely different meaning if one's existence or identity is liable to be terminated by it. He points out that recognition of this meaning is what distinguishes "militants", whether conscripted or self-appointed, from those who only risk the loss of a possession and may well re-enter a later phase of the game to gain it back twofold. It is one thing to risk loss of academic status in favouring Gandhian non-violence, for example, it is another to risk one's life in the active practice of it.
In games of the first degree a positive relationship to death must be developed which effectively redefines the game. The encounter with death involves a transformative process of great psychological significance for those who undergo it. This is absent in games of the second degree, except in a vicarious sense. Setting aside the problem of counteracting abuses of militancy in any form, Sallantin questions whether a society can satisfactorily order itself without the kinds of commitment and identity-risk implied by games of the first degree. This is the assumption made by those who seek substitutes for such games in games of the second degree. The positive function of games of the first degre is clarified in cultures recognizing the "way of the warrior" - the theme of a proposed international conference which would not simply deny the value of the military perspective (151).
To further clarify the hidden dimensions and degrees of freedom behind the rules of a game, Sallantin draws attention to the possibility that the gladiators might subvert the game, and the expectations of spectators, by seeking death together rather than fighting to live. He illustrates this possibility by locating a "pit of annihilation" in the centre of the arena into which one or both might jump. This then represents a game of degree zero. Although he does not discuss the possibility, presumably this also covers the case when the gladiators blow up both themselves and the observers in the stands.
Sallantin further develops his argument by mapping the arenas into a spheric geometric model which recalls Fuller's preoccupations. He suggests that the limited freedom in the confrontation between the gladiators (resembling that of a tournament "list") can best be represented by a diameter of a circle, where the area of the latter represents the domain of the bettors. The centre of the circle then represents the pit of annihilation (into which a gladiator may jump or be pushed). He then defines a third domain, having a further dimension of freedom, represented by the sphere of which such a circle is a cross-section. The sphere is then the "space" within which bettors and gladiators mentally model and evaluate the progress of the game in endeavouring to assess how best to make their next moves. It is also the conceptual domain in which our own thinking links with theirs in endeavouring to grasp the rules of the game. It is a transdimensional domain in that it permits moves across dimensional frontiers but it also negates the spaces of more limited degrees of freedom in which games of lower degrees become possible. This negating process is counteracted whenever a "position" is taken by the generation of a line representing a possible first degree game. The spheric "trans-spatial" domain is thus one of free interplay of possibilities from which particular games crystallize.
Sallantin then points out the need to correlate the conceptual freedom of the trans-spatial domain with the verbal domain within which consensus is established. For a game to be possible, all involved must be "attuned" in a consensus on the rules, on a reference polarization, or on a direction of the game.
This is most evident in fixing a convention for the interpretatation of the codification of a "bit" in informatics, as being signaled either by "switch on" or "switch off". A similar convention is necessary to specify which pole of a battery is to be considered "positive" or "negative". Sallantin's striking example of the fundamental nature of this question is that of a referee who asks two players before the game whether they understand the rules. Both nod their heads. However one comes from a culture in which, unknown to the referee, a nod indicates a negative, not an affirmative. For players to be in agreement, they must first be in agreement about the significance of the verb "to agree".
Sallantin argues that any such consensus is intimately related to the physical phenomenon of resonance. There is an ontological correlation between verbal agreement and the physical resonance expressing that agreement or in the syntony between sender and received: "Il faut necessairement que le signifie et le signifiant de la concordance concordent, sinon la concordance signifierait la discordance."
Each of the four "universals" so defined for any game are then interpreted by Sallantin in terms of four distinct ways of being:
The first three are aspects of the fourth. Sallantin suggests that the fourth may be represented by a hyperspace, as an affirmatory polar complement to the negatory function represented by the centre of the sphere. The development of the system through increase in its negentropy is then a function of the settings or levels on which the consensus is based to determine the nature of possible games. Sallantin suggests that when the processes of society as a whole are seen as a game, the four different domains (vital, venal, conceptual and verbal) may then be associated with different aspects of society (military, economic, political and social, respectively). His use of "military" needs however to be seen as signifying any creative confrontation with the risk of the loss of identity.
His insights cast a fruitful light on the arguments of previous sections. Once again the need for a fourfold grasp of a system through distinct "languages" is demonstrated. Use of a spheric model ties in with earlier arguments concerning a non-linear container, as does his insistence on the importance of resonance in interrelating the participants. Note however that consensus understood as based on resonance is quite different in nature from a static, superficial consensus where there is no understanding of the resonance dynamics which make it possible.
"Le consensus ne peut etre le fruit que de la clarte qui est 1'expression optique de la resonance. Tout accord de surface reste precaire et vulnerable; il faut aller au fond des problemes pour dissiper les malentendus. La souffrance qu'engendrent ces desaccords contraint la pensee a un approfondissement en vue d'elucider la racine des contradictions."
It is this constraining force which is a vital aspect of the human and social development process.
Prior to the end-game, the dynamics of the game may be seen for each participant as an exciting alternation between conditions of "advantage" and "disadvantage". With the termination of the game and the alternation process, the identity of one participant is "exalted" and that of the other is "extinguished", crushed or dissipated. There is a distinct transformation of state, achievement of which is usually the object of the game, whether sought or feared as a resolution of uncertainty. This change of state constitutes a form of development. According to conventional thinking, winning is obviously better, since it ensures immediate "development" (for the winner), whereas losing is to be avoided at all cost (as an unwelcome increase in personal "entropy"). Winning is perhaps the most widely accepted social indicator of development. Development theorists seek "win-win" solutions to avoid the unfortunate loss of identity, or the continuous generation of "losers" in a two-class society: we should all be "winners".
The preoccupation with winning is also confused with the cult of the new, the cult of youth, the cult of the beautiful, the cult of "bigness", and the cult of "wealth". These reinforce each other so that achievement of any is to some degree an achievement of the others. Unchecked, such cults respectively favour: the exploitation of non-renewable resources and the erosion of collective learning, the rejection and institutionalization of the elderly, the avoidance of unbeautiful realities (including toxic waste dumps, slums and the deformed), the inhibition of grass-roots initiatives, and the marginalization of the poor. It is precisely this obsession with winning and the avoidance of loss which obscures a more fundamental alternation process on which long-term human and social development may well be grounded.
The problem with win maximizing is that success tends to be due to the deployment of a particular set of attributes which confer advantage under particular environmental conditions. The winner is however trapped by these attributes when the environment changes and other sets of attributes have an advantage. New "winners" then tend to emerge from the pool of "losers". It is in fact in this pool that are conserved those "psycho-social genes" governing attributes not currently manifest. But whilst the winners have relatively little freedom within their defining attributes, new forms can emerge from the pool of losers into which all winners must eventually be reabsorbed. In terms of long-term human and social development there is therefore in operation an ecocyclic process. Focus on a single game merely offers insights into a portion of that cycle - a broken cycle. It does not show what happens to the winner after reaching the state of identity exaltation, nor to the loser after having been exposed to identity extinction.
A new dimension may be added to Sallantin's analysis by introducing the concept of "degree of identification" for this is basically what distinguishes gladiators from bettors. (It would be fruitful to explore Atkin's (72) description of communication geometry as a framework for identity of different degrees.) The identity of the gladiator tends to be engaged in the game, through his physical "self-bet", to a far greater degree than that of the bettor. But clearly if the bettor's self-image is identified to a very high degree with his possessions, which he then loses, then he too may well be psychologically destroyed by the outcome of the game. What is interesting about this kind of identity "death", which R.D. Laing has shown to be a powerful existential experience, IN that it opens up the possibility of a "rebirth", if the player can then reformulate his identity on a new foundation. The winner, once exalted does not however have access to this possibility of rebirth, which necessarily requires a destruction of the set of characteristics by which his identity as a winner is defined. Even if the winner wins in a new game he merely confirms and extends the exaltation of his identity, but he does not renew it. It is the difference between a quantitative and a qualitative development. The latter calls for a fundamental transformation based on a radical "mise en question" following real loss.
The loss phase can be related to the learning process. As Kenneth Boulding points out: "Disappointment forces a learning process of some kind upon us; success does not." (152, pp. 1 33). There is then a need to change the image of the world in some way (152, p. 145). He suggests that science itself "is essentially a system of organized learning from disappointments" (152, p. 135). Beyond the play on words, there is even value in the link between "appointment" (as a win-phase) and "disappointment" as the loss-phase which must necessarily follow it.
By designing strategies to minimize disappointment, there is clearly the risk of minimizing learning. Again, Boulding notes: "One of the most striking phenomena of the human learning process is the extent to which it is self-limiting. Far beyond the physiological capacity of the human nervous system, we learn not to learn. We paint ourselves into a tiny corner of the bast ballroom of the human nervous system." (152, p. 1 56-7). This then implies that we learn not to engage in transformative development.
This suggests that long-term human and social development is based on a process involving risk of identity loss, winning and losing. Periods of losing are then as important as periods of winning to the development process. Just as "small is beautiful" so "decay is also ok" - a fairly obvious remark with regard to ecological processes. Real strength, in military terms, comes with the ability to accept loss and the lessons it brings, including the ability to be weak and disorganized. Real weakness results from an identification with the need to win always and be permanently strong - in judo terms, the inability to take a fall and learn to lose as part of a larger process. Development through alternation between the conditions of winning and losing is then associated with the ability to "disintegrate" at will and to "reintegrate" at will - without long-term identification with the forms used in this process.
This recalls the arguments of de Nicolas, discussed earlier, concerning the fundamental importance of sacrifice as part of the renewal of form in the Rg Veda. Educating a child, for example, involves an understanding of when the child should lose and when the child should be allowed to win - accepting the fact that at some stage it will no longer be a question of "allowing" him to win. The teacher must eventually accept the opportunity of identity loss as a real loser if the student is ever genuinely to experience the nature of the win portion of the cycle and learn how to use it responsibly. The teacher, like the parent and the psychoanalyst, must accept rejection if the student is to be free.
The win mind-set is partly responsible for the inadequacy of the response to economic cycles. Troughs are necessarily experienced as regrettable, and efforts are necessarily made to maintain peaks - but it would probably be extremely unhealthy to eliminate the cycle, even if that were possible. The problem is that the transitions and associated transformations are spastically forced upon the relevant actors for lack of any sense of the developmental significance of any cycle involving loss. To employ a biological metaphor, deciduous trees are a more advanced evolutionary form than evergreens precisely because of their ability to engage in a cycle of leaf loss and subsequent regeneration. The combustion engine is possible because it integrates a cycle of ignition/combustion with extinction/evacuation, in which the latter makes possible the power strike of the former portion.
Loss phobia and win mania, which are themselves integral and necessary features of a larger alternation cycle, obscure the nature of that cycle and its significance for human and social development. It is unfortunate that lack of awareness of such cycles may well contribute to the ambiguous status of widely used techniques common to political "re-education", business executive "re-motivation" (in Japan), religious "conversion", and military manpower "training". In these highly successful processes, whose phases are now well-defined, "stripping" of identity is one of the techniques applied as a preliminary to forcing the person to "win-through" to a new understanding and self-image (142). Greater understanding of such cycles is required to determine to what extent the "manipulative" nature of such techniques of "human development" is acceptable, under what conditions, and to whom - and whether more acceptable processes can be envisaged.
Under the concept ecodynamics, Kenneth Boulding, an economist, has attempted an ambitious synthesis which interrelates many physical, biological and social processes that are usually kept apart (152). Of special interest in the light of the argument of this paper is that his synthesis internalizes both its conflictural relationship to other competing visions and the recognition of its own mortality as an artifact.
"Every vision, of course, conflicts with other visions...Each vision must be understood in terms of what it is not as well as in terms of what it is" (152, p. 19)
He therefore indicates how his evolutionary vision is "unfriendly" to various other visions to which his is an alternative. A special feature of his vision is the recognition of the dynamics of the relationship between such visions as they emerge as artifacts and occupy and expand various riches in society.
For Boulding "The pattern of human development is therefore seen to be an extension, enlargement, and acceleration of the pattern of biological development, operating through mutation and selection." (152, p. 18). Social dynamics is then to be thought of primarily as the evolution of human artifacts. Human artifacts not only include material structures and objects, they also include organizations, institutions and social groupings. These all originate and are sustained by images in the human mind. Such artifacts are species just as much as biological artifacts. And:
"Just as there is the genosphere or genetic know-how in the biosphere, so there is a noosphere of human knowledge and know-how in the sociosphere. The noosphere is the totality of the cognitive content, including values, of all human nervous systems, plus the prosthetic devices by which this system is extended and integrated in the form of libraries, computers, telephones..." (152, p. 122)
The processes of biological evolution are also to be found in the evolution of human artifacts, namely replication, recombination, reconstitution, redefinition (mutation) and selection. Boulding suggests that Darwin's metaphor concerning the "survival of the fittest" is unfortunate. "A more accurate metaphor would be the survival of the fitting, the fitting being what fits into a niche in an ecosystem" (152, p. 110). This corresponds to the self-consistency constraint imposed on the organization of dissipative structures. Furthermore:
The social dynamics of human history, even more than that of biological evolution, illustrate the fundamental principle of ecological evolution - that everything depends on everything else. The nine elements that we have described in societal evolution of the three families of phenotypes - the phyla of things, organizations and people, the genetic bases in knowledge operating through energy and materials to produce phenotypes, and the three bonding relations of threat, integration and exchange - all interact on each other." (152, p. 224)
Boulding sharpens the generality of this statement by noting that it is changes in knowledge or know-how that are the basic source of all other changes. In biological evolution it is the genetic structure that evolves with the phenotypes as encoded carriers of it. In societal evolution it is the human artifacts which are encoders of the knowledge structure that is nevertheless continually expressed in human beings. Knowledge is therefore primal as "what evolves" (152, pp. 224-5). The "noogenetic" processes by which each generation of human beings learns from the last then come to be of far greater importance than the biogenetic processes by which genes are transmitted. But, as noted earlier, Boulding sees as the ultimate constraint that "we learn not to learn" and that "the learning patterns themselves are self-limiting." (152, p. 123)
The question is then what self-limiting patterns emerge and how are they to be comprehended? For it is then these patterns which govern the kinds of human and social development that are currently possible - unless richer patterns can be designed or comprehended.
Boulding has many reservations about dialectics as one of the basic patterns, aside from the problems of the confused variety of meanings associated with it. "The substantive question, which is very difficult to answer, is just what is the quantitative or even qualitative significance of dialectical processes, interpreted narrowly as involving conscious conflict, struggle, victory and defeat, winning or losing, revolution and counterrevolution, war and peace, in the great four-dimensional tapestry of the universe." (152, p. 262) He asks when it matters who wins and suggests that such processes affect the details rather than the larger patterns of history, arguing that this could however be significant on historical "watersheds" (152, p. 262-5).
Boulding recognizes that few people accept this view:
"Dialectics in many different forms has a surprisingly good press. Most people believe that struggle is very important and that it is important to be on the right side in a conflict....Part of the difficulty is that the human race has an enormous and by no means unreasonable passion for the dramatic, and conflict is much more dramatic than production....The awful truth about the universe - that it is not only rather a muddle, but also pretty dull - is wholly unacceptable to the human imagination. Nevertheless, it is the dull, nondialectical processes that hold the world together, that move it forward, and that provide the setting within which the dialectical processes take place. Evolution is the theatre, dialectics the play. It is a tragic error to mistake the play for the yheatre, however, because that all too easily ends in the theatre burning down...Unless there is a reasonably widespread appreciation of the proper role of dialectical processes, these tend to get out of hand and become extremely destructive....doing more harm than good." (152, p. 266)
The popularity of dialectics, regretfully noted by Boulding, is however due to the ("seductive") sense of transformation with which it is associated. This is necessarily absent from the "dull" production processes which "hold the world together", protecting it from the effects of random disturbances. The two can however best be perceived as complementary. But the problem is indeed one of how to provide the setting within which the dialectical processes can take place. Is this not the problem of comprehending equilibrium processes as a context for disequilibrium processes, or at least of designing the (shifting) balance between them? Here however Boulding does not offer many insights because he is seemingly handicapped by his stress on "everything depends on everything else". How indeed is the manifold to be structured for comprehension, or by it?
Boulding offers a useful point of departure in a discussion of types of ecological interaction between two species. These are (152, p. 78):
Now in a biological environment the species may well be locked into one of these types of interaction. In the case of the social environment interacting species, including organizations and roles, may well switch from one type of interaction to another. This is perhaps seen most clearly in the case of two individuals (e.g. husband and wife) or of two nation-states. In both cases there can be an alternation between many of the types according to circumstances. Within any type the interaction may well have dramatic potential as a disequilibrium process for the individuals involved. For the population of those interacting species, however, such interactions may form part of a non-transformative equilibrium cycle (e.g. predation cycles). Switching between types of interaction may also constitute a dramatic change of strategy as a disequilibrium process for the individuals involved. But the pattern of alternation between strategies would then provide an equilibrium context for such shifts.
Conventional values stress the importance of everyone abandoning other types of interaction in favour of the "mutual cooperation" type. Boulding suggests, using the classic example of the "prisoner's dilemma", that "there is a very long-run evolutionary process in this direction that is precarious, however, in the sense that it is constantly being interrupted by lapses" (152, p. 204). He points out that there are "limits to love" about which little is known (152, p. 203 and 304). Of course these "lapses" are the very ingredients of much that is valued for its dramatic significance in any period of culture. It is these lapses, continually engendered by the birth of "ignorant" children, which renew the learning cycle associated with alternation through the other types.
Now in the case of the biological environment, Boulding points out that "the biosphere recycles its materials through all the organisms that comprise it" (152, p. S6). Examples are the nitrogen cycle and the carbon dioxide-oxygen cycle. But he does not suggest, as his vision implies, that the noosphere could recycle its materials through the organizations (and other artifacts) which comprise it. The question is if it did, or rather does, what are those cycles and how do they interweave? For it is then their interweaving that provides the context for the transformative, dialectical processes which are hopefully to be appropriately contained.
The tragedy of the seven types of interaction is that they emerge as the only credible set of alternatives because of the binary valued logic which governs their generation (e.g. 3 species, each affected positively or negatively by the interaction, or not at all). Such a limited set has the twofold disadvantage of reinforcing the conflictual logic of dialectics without strengthening and enriching the non-dialectical context through which such transformative processes play themselves out. (The "mutual cooperation" type then merely functions as a "day of rest" which evokes the dramatic opportunities of the other six.) They constitute a self-limiting pattern.
If the number of basic distinctions made was greater (e.g. N = 20, for example) a much finer grained set of alternatives would emerge. These would provide a richer ecology of interactions within which people and groups could develop. The finer the grain the more probable it is that people would find that one or more such interaction categories was specifically meaningful to their condition. The ability to vary N would introduce a new degree of conceptual freedom. The problem is of course to safeguard the integrity of each such set and relate it to others.
This suggests the need to elaborate a continuumce of patterns of which the simplest would correspond to the transformative diseqilibrium processes. The more complex would correspond to the equilibrium processes based on a richer set of interaction types woven together by a variety of interlocking and mutual stabilizing cycles through which alternation takes place. This possibility is explored in Annex I. In the light of Sheldrake's argument, the existence of such a range of patterns should make it easier to avoid learning not to learn within the current self-limiting patterns. This should help to release the potential for healthier human and social development.
The Soviet statistician, V V Natimov, has recently completed a trilogy of which the third volume (160) constitutes a remarkable synthesis drawing on the entire range of knowledge (including elements of semantics, natural and social sciences, mysticism, and the arts) in an effort to understand how the human mind perceives the world. The methodology is borrowed largely from physics (as capable of tolerating paradoxes within its own theories), with considerable attention to the role of metaphor and the function of human imagination in capturing manifestations of consciousness and unconsciousness. The primary ontological position is that the world is an open one, the outcome of processes that are probabilistic in nature and constantly the domain of novelties and uncertainties. The language in which one captures aspects of Reality is itself polymorphic, metaphorical, and constrained_by Godelian principles of undecidability. Right and left hemisphere modes of consciousness are, through links provided by the unconscious, capable of functioning along unusual circuits so that sequential processes become concurrent in real time.
For Nalimov the "words, on which our culture is based, do not and cannot have an atomistic meaning. It has become possible and even necessary to consider words as possessing fuzzy semantic fields over which the probabilistic distribution function is constructed and to consider people as probabilistic receivers" (160, pp. 5-6). This leads him to ask whether taxa are discrete, as is normally assumed in the various typologies through which the world is perceived, especially in connection with human and social development.
"What we are considering is not merely the probabilistic vision of the world stemming from its infinite complexity, but inwardly deterministic "in fact". We mean the probabilistic world where probability lies at the core of the world. We mean probabilistic ontology of the probabilistic world, not probabilistic epistemology of a deterministic world" (160, p. 6)
Acquaintance with taxonomy in various branches of knowledge leads him to suggest the hypothesis that "taxa probabilistic by nature are neither an exception to nor a result of deficiency in our cognition; they are the rule and an immanent property of the world." (160, p. 7) Consequently in the probabilistic world clear-cut boundaries and the absence of embarrassing "transitional forms" merely testify to a reduction in completeness.
"We are accustomed to the idea that evolution means the appearance of something absolutely new. The truly new thing is a new taxon or archetype. But within the world of probabilistic taxa, archetypes, and individuals, evolution may take another course: it suffices to redistribute probabilities. A rare deviation becomes the norm, while the norm becomes an abnormality, an atavism. 6ut potentiality still exists....What we keep in mind is the constant potentiality which underlies various probabilities of manifestation." (160, p. 8)
For Nalimov, culture is a deep collective consciousness whose roots lie in the remotest part. It forms a fuzzy mozaic of concepts with the distribution function of probabilities given over it. But real people have their own individual probabilistic filters of perception which generate personal perception of culture, again probabilistically given. The (Jungian) collective unconsciousness is then related to low probability concepts. Groups in society with similar filters then constitute clusters or psychic genotypes. In this probabilistic sense man is never free being dominated by the past as stored in the collective consciousness. But at the same time he is free because the genotype does not rigidly determine the probabilistic structure of an individual filter of perception; it only gives certain possibilities for its formation (160, p. 9)
Nalimov stresses the continuous nature of consciousness, with which a person is always in contact, but which cannot be reduced to the discreteness of language (except partially through rhythmical texts). Phrases constructed over discrete symbol-words are always interpreted at the continuous level. "The continuous nature of everyday language finds its expression in the limitless divisibility of the verbal meanings, while the continuous nature of the morphology of the animate world is expressed by the impossibility of constructing a discrete taxonomy." (160, p. 30)
This leads him to suggest that:
"Perhaps we should be more cautious and speak not of consciousness of the world but of the semantic field of universal significance through which the world we know as divided is restored in its wholeness. Is there any other way to imagine the world in its integrality?" (160, p. 14)
The question is then what is the semantic field of the world. "How can the fuzzy, probabilistically weighted vision of the world be combined with formal logic, which we cannot afford to reject?" (160, pp. 1 5). If one phenomenon can be explained by several scientific hypotheses, "there is still a tendency to evaluate these hypotheses and to select the only true one. If this cannot be done, the situation is evaluated as obviously unsatisfactory. Is it possible to act otherwise, i.e., to perceive the phenomenon through a field of hypotheses, without their discrimination...But shall we be able to cope with this at the psychological Ivel: is our rnind ready for this vision of the world?" (I 60, p. 1 6). And how is this field to be conceived as being organized for comprehension?
Nalimov suggests that: "If all the taxa of our culture, despite their uniqueness, are but various translations of our Text...and biological species are various translations of another Text, then it is quite plausible that they all are translations of one and the same Text." (160, p. 14). The world is then seen as a text, and through texts accessible to consciousness individuals interact with the world (160, p. 26). The question directly relevant to human and social development is how such texts evolve.
Transformative evolution, according to Nalimov, results from the multiplicative nature of the interaction between two probability distribution functions, one corresponding to the Initial text and the second to a preference filter. Then it is not the initial text but the filter which changes. Thus the progress of science also consists effectively of the endless filtration of new ideas through the filter of paradigmatic criteria carried by past conceptions - filters which may be softened, rather than destroyed, when they prove inadequate.
Innovative development can then be seen as a response to a semantic vacuum. "New texts are always a result of free creativity realized on a probabilistic set which may be regarded as an unexposed semantic universe or nothing, the semantic vacuum or, metaphorically, an analogue of the physical vacuum. Here we deal with the problem of nothing which stimulated thinkers both in the East...and in the West..." (160, p. 29)
Nalimov devotes three chapters to this question. Of special interest is his concept of the way a person is defined for himself and others both through the generation of discrete words or symbols and through their comprehension at a continuous level. Both aspects are realized through contact with the semantic field, which in physical terms can be described as emission and absorption of semantic field quanta. But in the light of the Heisenberg uncertainty relation, "semantic interaction between people...is possible only as a consequence of semantic fuzziness of both the human psychic domain and verbal semantics." (160, p. 76). Humans may however, interact with the semantic vacuum through unobservable (virtual) vacuum manifestations:
"Just as any physical virtual particles of various types, very similar processes go on in the psychic domain too. The latter may be described as a constant fluctuation of the probability distribution function determining a person's individuality on the semantic field. A human being never remains frozen and unchanged." (160, p. 77)
Nalimov then reviews experiments in meditation, some of which were conducted with his colleagues. In his terms such experiences
"may be reinterpreted as a ceaseless reconstruction of the distribution function of probabilities determining a person's individuality....The keen interest of modern Western man in meditation is easily understandable: the culture of our time has squeezed human individuality, and the distribution function determining personality is becoming needle-shaped. Meditation is a technique that allows people to loosen this unbearably narrow__structure, to make it fuzzy. (160, p. 138)
These considerations lead Nalimov to ask the question: "in what way can a possible change in the metrics of the semantic space be interpreted?" (160, p. 287). In the physical analogue changes of fundamental constants are thought to produce another physical world. He sees the entire past, through the colonial period, as involving an expansion of the life space. "In contrast, we see the new as an expansion of the space for human existence - the entrance into new psychological spaces. But is our consciousness mature enough not to pollute these new spaces?" (160, p. 300). Such new spaces also call for a multidimensional concept of personality which he explores (160, p. 287).
Of special interest in the light of the arguments of this paper is Nalimov's view that the Aristotelian bimodal logic cannot be replaced by another one:
"The insufficiency of logic in everyday language is made up for by the use of metaphors. The logic of the text and its metaphorical side are two mutually complementary phenomena. And, to my mind, further evolution of linguistic means should proceed by deepening language complementarity rather than by searching for another kind of logic." (160, p. 281).
According to the complementarity principle, in order to reproduce an object in its integrity it is necessary to alternate through a pattern of descriptions of it in terms of mutually exclusive classes of concepts. This implies the use of a "manifold of models generated by essentially different paradigms", but Nalimov questions " whether people are prepared for this intentionally incomplete vision of the world" (160, pp. 276 and 283). However, as has been argued earlier in this paper:
"If it is typical of human reason to perceive the world through antinomies, why not try to find a language in which these antinomies...would act as mutually complementary principles." (160, p. 284)
Nalimov points out that:
"Clear-but conceptualization oppositions create the polarization without which the passionate temperament of individuals that provides society with its energy could not have been realized" (160, p. 294). Such "passionarity" looks like an obsession and has dramatic consequences when expressed collectively. But without it, persons or nations may lose their energy. "We must acknowledge passionarity to be immanent to people. A selective manifestation of the whole, man tends to discover the entrance for the selectivity and thus acquires energy" (160, p. 295).
Again as argued in this paper, Nalimov sees the manifested semantic universe as structured not by logic, but by number (160, p. 285). In this sense he considers the probabilistic vision of the world to be a realization of the dream of Pythagoras and Plotinus of describing the world in its integrity and fuzziness through number, or through a "koan of numbers" (160, p. 32-36). But despite an extensive review of Eastern and Western symbols (including mandalas), he seems to limit his attention to numbers in their probabilistic sense rather than extending it to include their configurative geometrical sense, although Chladni patterns (164) might be considered a link between the two. Whereas this paper stresses the possibility of using number-governed configurations of complementary languages, symbols or metaphors to provide a variety of learner-responsive ways of organizing comprehension of the semantic universe and the possibilities of acting in it.
In the light of Nalimov's work it is possible to imagine configurations of complementary languages as being organized as N-dimensional "semantic Chladni patterns". These would probably only be comprehensible where N was less than 4. Clearly when N was 2, these could resemble many of the symbols discussed by Nalimov. With N equal to 2 or 3, they might resemble the "macrons" examined by Ralph Abraham (165). And with N equal to 3, there is the intriguing possibility that the stable configurations could be conceived as resembling the organization of sets of electron orbits around an atom. Such "atoms" might lend themselves to a Mendeleyev-type periodic classification into what would then be a (developmental) sequence of viable "learning manifolds", each with characteristics properties, whether as a description of a multi-facetted personality, group, or society.
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