22nd October 2008 | Draft
Happiness and Unhappiness through Naysign and Nescience
comprehending the essence of sustainability?
- / -
In quest of a new methodology
Pursuing a Quest?
Science of "Unknowing": "Apophasis", or "Nescience"?
"Unsigned", "Nart", "Nelegance", "Nesign",
Representation of cognitive challenges on a complex plane
Dynamics of any quest: the learning/action cycle
Local Diversity of Naysign and Nescience?
This exploration is a response to the study by Y.
S. Rajan (In
Pursuit of Happiness, 2007) received at the conference
of the World Academy
of Art and Science (Hyderabad, 2008). As keynote speaker at that event,
the author introduced the theme Change and Change Agents.
What follows is not so much a commentary on the study as such but rather
a reflection on the issues it evokes, notably in the light of conversations
with the author on that occasion -- without in any way implying his agreement
with what is suggested here.
Of particular interest is the context from which that study arose. Y. S. Rajan
combines an unusual range of skills as a scientist, technologist, administrator
and builder of organizations, diplomat, writer and poet -- with an emphasis
on innovative thinking and implementation. These skills have been deployed
in India in space research, notably as Scientific Secretary of the Indian Space
Research Organisation (ISRO). Perhaps appropriately, India launched its first
the moon immediately following the Hyderabad gathering.
In Pursuit of Happiness is divided into two parts: Sustained
Happiness: a real possibility in a knowledge society and Science,
Technology and Economic Development: new tools of unity of matter and spirit.
The latter is understood as a yoga of a variety of forms. The study as a whole
is an attempt to resolve the apparent contradiction between material and spiritual
Such a focus on happiness should of course be seen in relation of the
creative initiative of Bhutan in developing Gross
National Happiness (GNH) since 1972 as an attempt
to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross
National Product. While conventional development models stress economic growth
as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH is based on the premise
that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development
occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. In 2007, Bhutan
ranked 8th out of 178 countries in Subjective Well-Being, a metric that has
been used by many psychologists (Adrian G. White, A
Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: a challenge to positive psychology? 2007).
Rajan, as an Indian, is especially sensitive to the contradictions and dilemmas
of life in a much-challenged Indian society exposed to the forces of globalization
-- especially as perceived by the privileged and as experienced by the underprivileged:
So India is faced with poverty, poor nutrition, poor sanitation and health
services, a number of human-made and natural calamities in addition to divisive
conflicts due to caste, language, religion or political affiliations. There
is a huge network of organized crime. Over and above these, terror and violence
unleashed from actors outside India, add many gruesome happenings within
His study is a development of his earlier work on Empowering
Indians, with Economic, Business and Technological Strengths (Har-Anand,
2002). It is designed as an effort to find solutions to human happiness. within
the framework of a knowledge society. extending the earlier approach "to all
forms of human knowledge, as science and technology is only a part of human
In reviewing forms of human knowledge, Rajan notably makes reference to the
seminal study of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global
Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999) who was also present at
the Hyderabad gathering. Goonatilake specifically focuses on possibilities
of how science can be with modern scientific methods and yet without Euro-centric
blinkers. Rajan recognizes the importance of including traditional knowledge
forms, knowledge derived from the arts, as well as the possibility of mystical
insight that is so valued within the Indian culture.
A clear distinction is made between the possible forms of happiness to be
derived from spiritual life and subjective reality whilst acknowledging that
happiness cannot be achieved on an empty stomach by negating material reality.
The author had himself been involved in envisaging the viability of responding
to conventional needs and aspirations at the lower levels of Maslow's
need hierarchy (A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Y. S. Rajan,
India 2020: a new vision for a new millennium, 1998). However he
notes that many difficulties emerge in moving up Maslow's hierarchy of needs
where mental processes play an important role in perceptions of happiness.
As such he is specifically concerned with the "knowledge-happiness interface"
It appears that happiness at these levels (as perhaps in other levels as well)
is never unmixed nectar. A process of pain accompanies pleasure; agony accompanies
ecstasy ! Is it possible to transcend this dialectical process?
Rajan looks forward to a society where:
- the applications of science, technology, economics, business and organizational
systems can lead to reasonable satisfaction of the lower level Maslow needs
of all citizens
- the applications of legal, judicial, ethical, social, intellectual, arts
and religious/spiritual systems for better handling of love and esteem for
those who rise above the "minimum basic need level".
Such a society can then also produce a large number of persons who can self-actualise
in various fields of human endeavour. However the author recognizes that
The world and human knowledge pool are approaching a phase where super-specialized
approach to individual knowledge bases alone would not satisfy the collective
and individual needs of humanity. Therefore, we need to address the basic
issues of human existence; the "truth" of human consciousness;
and the actions which humanity has been taking so far with a naive realist
approach to life and human existence.
He recognizes that it is not practical to wait for the scientific and analytical
methodologies to provide the "right" answers, even though it is necessary to
pursue such investigations.
If humankind has to be happy in the emerging knowledge society, it is essential
that every human being -- every individual -- would have to grapple with
the problem of values: being in harmony with nature, with society, with oneself,
with ideas, with bio-diversity, with cultural diversity, and with continual
changes. Nobody can afford to delegate these responsibilities to more learned
persons and expect that solutions will come.
In the second part of the book Rajan explores Science, Technology and
Economic Development: new tools of unity of matter and spirit. He argues
It is the interdependence between material wealth and value systems that
should be understood and internalized....In fact the upper parts of Maslow
needs require much greater injection of value systems or spirituality. In
fact, life is a great continuum of existence and experience. As one learns
more about it, one is able to "enjoy" more of it: this "enjoyment" is not
the mere consumption as it is in the bottom scale of Maslow needs; but it
is the sublime part of existence and experience.
This brings the author to the scientific and other understandings of the nature
of reality -- concluding that, from a scientific perspective:
it is unlikely that human beings will arrive at the ultimate answer at any
point of time now, in the near future or after centuries.... There is no scope
for a digital answer of this or that or yes or no!
With respect to the possibilities offered by art, the author cites Nirmal
Verma (Concept of "Truth" in Art, 1996):
All works of art in this sense are an attempt to recover the memory of divine.
'Beyond' in art is not something what is to be attained, but to remember
that which has been forgotten.... Hence the critical role of memory in art
which is to recover art what has been lost in life. To be able to do that
art makes us return inwards, towards the depth of our own self. But it also
makes us move in the opposite direction, towards the world outside...
Rajan sees science, technology and economic development as helping art to
grow and spread thus enriching the understanding of reality or truth in many
other dimensions of art as well. Similarly they may also assist mystic approaches
In a concluding section on the maturity of collective human knowledge, Rajan
returns to the unresolved contradiction -- particularly notable in Indian culture
-- between the supposedly illusory nature of objective reality (that
is the focus of knowledge society and its disciplines) and the supposedly valid
nature of a transcendent subjective reality (accessible through mystical insight).
Typically each sees the other as exemplifying ignorance. He however sees these
perspectives -- respectively termed avidya and vidya in
Sanskrit -- not as being as absolute alternatives.
They are at best technical definitions of different routes of epistemology.
With reductionist -- empirical approaches of science, technology, economics
-- at one "end" and "mystic" approaches on the other "end", there are many
overlaps of artistic methods. Even for scientific creativity there are many
flashes of intuition, reported by most scientists. Same is the case with
many business entrepreneurs who take decisions contrary to many reductionist
business management types of analyses...
Further commentary on their complementarity is indeed provided by Richard
H. Jones (Vidyā and
Avidyā in the Ĭ+Śa Upanisad, Philosophy
East and West, 31, 1981).
In quest of a new methodology
Rajan's arguments may be used in what follows as the basis for more speculative
explorations suggestive of a new methodology, potentially more appropriate
to the challenge of managing the dilemmas and polarizations so characteristic
of modern society -- and apparently inhibiting desirable social change. The
approach calls into question conventional assumptions that typically go unexamined
-- on the assumption that this is essential to any relevant innovation.
A useful indicator of such a possibility is offered by the pattern of prefixes
in English and the manner in which they influence the appreciation of what
is considered appropriate (New Paradigms via a Renewed
Set of Prefixes? Dependence of international policy-making on an array of operational
One example is provided by the "pursuit of happiness" itself.
This is not only the title of Rajan's study but also figures as one of the
most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence: Life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is recognized as
one of the "inalienable
rights" of man. In recognition of this, the web resources at pursuit-of-happiness.org stress "happiness
is understandable, obtainable and teachable".
Reflection and commentary on
of happiness in the western tradition
date back to classical Greece where it was held to be the highest good.
As hedonism, the pursuit of happiness was condemned by St Augustine as "more
fitting for swine than for men". For him pigs symbolized daemones or devils.
Such symbolism was used by J. Stuart Mill in defining happiness: "It is better
to be a
being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied". In the Christian tradition, following
St Thomas, the happiness people seek is one that goes beyond anything that
can be experienced in this life. Only a relative
happiness is to be experienced in this life. Again, Albert Einstein is quoted
as declaring "happiness is for pigs". Other recognize it as a potential inhibitor
Recent research on happiness by psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Tim Wilson,
and by economists George Loewenstein
Kahneman has begun to question the decision-making
process that shapes our sense of well-being: how do we predict what will make
us happy or unhappy -- and then how do we feel after the actual experience?
As reported by Jon Gertner (The
Futile Pursuit of Happiness, New York Times, 7 September
2003) the research undermines:
a number of fundamental assumptions: namely, that we humans understand
what we want and are adept at improving our well-being -- that we are good
at maximizing our utility, in the jargon of traditional economics. Further,
their work on prediction raises some unsettling and somewhat more personal
questions. To understand affective forecasting, as Gilbert has termed these
studies, is to wonder if everything you have ever thought about life choices,
and about happiness, has been at the least somewhat naïve and, at worst,
In this way the "pursuit of happiness" has an illusory quality in
which unhappiness is an ever-present reality. There is currently an academic
debate as to whether unhappiness, especially when understood as depression,
should be eliminated in some way. The debate has been helpfully summarized
by Jessica Marshall (Woes Be Gone. New
Scientist, 17 January 2009) notably with reference to the study by Jerome
Wakefield. and Allan Horowitz (The Loss of Sadness: how
psychiatry transformed normal sorrow into depressive disorder, 2007).
The question is whether depression is a pathological condition and how its
elimination (notably with the aid of medication) might in fact conflict with
healthy processes of bereavement and accommodation to other losses.
A more comprehensive perspective therefore calls
for relating happiness and unhappiness in some unforeseen
manner. The "pursuit" over time, and its completion, might for example be
more fruitfully understood in terms of such symbols of renewal as the Ourobouros or
the poetic recognition of T.
'We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know it for the first time.'
T S Eliot, Little Gidding
This points to the vital importance of recognizing a four-phase approach to
many terms that are conventionally only considered in a two-phase, binary manner
in which one is framed as "good" in some way and the other as therefore "bad".
Recognized as a quadrilemma according to Kinhide Mushakoji (Global
Issues and Interparadigmatic Dialogue, 1988), the
four phases may be represented as:
- Condition A ("happiness")
- Condition Not-A ("unhappiness")
- Condition A-and-Not-A
- Condition Neither-A-nor-Not-A
It is the last two conditions, and the set as a whole, that is suggestive
of further insight. The pattern of prefixes may be helpful in this respect.
Such an approach is well-recognized through the Sanskrit adage Neti
Neti (Not this,
Not that). In that light, "happiness" as pursued is not adequately
defined by any one of the above conditions.
Pursuing a Quest?
As suggested by the symbol of the Ouroboros, the above poem, and the quadrilemma,
any understanding of the nature of any "pursuit" of happiness should
not go unchallenged. Conventional understanding implies the pursuit of a visible,
comprehensible but elusive target when it is not even clear that it is appropriate
to understand that pursuit to be over a surface that could be mapped in three-dimensional
space (as further discussed below in relation to a complex plane). There is
even the possibility that such stalking of "reality" may be in some sense counter-productive,
as with any woman of dignity (Beyond
Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities, 1996).
The term "quest" is more appropriate when much is in doubt -- as exemplified
in the Arthurian tale of the vain pursuit of the Questing
Beast. Of greater potential relevance is the very nature of any quest and
the questions which impel it. Is there a higher order and function to questions
in relation to the answers sought as discussed elsewhere (Engaging
with Questions of Higher Order cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees
of 7 WH-questions to 7 Elementary Catastrophes: an exploration of potential
psychosocial implications, 2006). A four-fold pattern of relationships
between questions and answers may be usefully mapped as segments of concentric
circles distinguishing three levels in each case (Sustaining
the Quest for Sustainable Answers, 2003):
- outer circle: the appreciation of questions and answers as encountered
in daily life
- middle circle: the framing of the conclusion regarding the encounter
with questions and answers in daily life (in the outer ring)
- inner circle: the existential understanding of the insights of the
outer and middle rings..
Science of "Unknowing": "Apophasis",
If understanding of the pursuit of "happiness" can be fruitfully enriched
by associating it systemically with the experience of "unhappiness", the approach
might be applied to a more fruitful understanding of "science" as presented
by Rajan or indeed to its significance in the title of the World Academy of
Art and Science. If indeed there are other modes of knowing, as Rajan argues,
some may be better recognized through unknowing where
this is indicative of a useful contrast to the scientific mode of knowing.
"Unknowing" is of course a term that has been promoted by mystics (cf The
Cloud of Unknowing).
The possibility of a "science of unknowing" has
been recognized in literature, as in an example analyzed by Camille R. La Bossière
Conrad and the Science of Unknowing, 1979) who
explores the principle of the coincidentia
oppositorum as it underlies Conrad's fiction. He argues that
an understanding of Conrad's dream logic, defined in its negative relationship
to Aristotelian philosophy, and considered in a tradition traced from Cusa
and Caldron to a number of 19th- and 20th-century writers (including Slowacki,
Amiel, and Claudel) assists the reader in perceiving
the subsurface unity of Conrad's thought and art without sacrificing the
integrity of the separate tales.
"Unlearning" is notably promoted by an Institute
of Unlearning. The importance of the process is recognized in the case
made by Trevor Pateman (Lifelong Unlearning, 2002). A new "science of unlearning"
is noted by Norman Doidge in a review of neuroscience (The
Brain That Changes Itself: stories of personal triumph from the frontiers of
are involved in learning than in unlearning....When the brain unlearns associations
and disconnects neurons, another chemical process occures, called "long-term
has nothing to do with a depressed mood state). Unlearning and weakening
connections between neurons is just as plastic process, and just as important,
as learning and strenthening them.... Evidence suggests that unlearning
existing memories is necessary to make room for new memories in our network.
Unlearning is essential when we are moving from one developmental stage to
the next.... Walter J. Freeman... has assembled a number of compelling biological
facts that point toward the conclusion that masssive neuronal reorganization
occurs at two life stages: when we fall in love and when we begin parenting.
Freeman argues that massive plastic brain reorganization -- far more massive
than in normal learning or unlearning -- becomes possible because of brain
Chris Lucas (Patterns
of Unreality, 1999) has argued for the need for "unlooking" the
The acknowledgement of "not knowing" is recognized as a fruitful,
if not essential, precursor to learning and discovery -- where "knowing" necessarily
inhibits recognition of new knowledge. Clearly any "science" of unknowing
would call for a quite different perspective than that of knowing, especially
where it called into question the appropriateness of the methodology of knowing
-- as in the case of the scientific method. One approach to such a possibility
has been explored elsewhere (Towards
Conscientific Research and Development,
Another approach to such unknowing was first identified in the western tradition
by Aristotle as apophasis,
namely as the deliberate avoidance of definitional closure through "not
in contrast with the kataphatic assertive mode characteristic of science (Being
What You Want problematic: kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008).
It is a feature of apophatic theology (Michael A. Sells, Mystical
Languages of Unsaying, 1994). This
contrast has also been recognized in eastern traditions (Robert M. Gimello,
and Kataphatic Discourse in Mahāyāna: a Chinese view. Philosophy
East and West, 26, 2, April 1976, pp. 117-136). Whether "unsayable" or
"unsaid", the significance of the latter has been explored elsewhere (Global
Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid": from myth-making towards
Patrick Laude (Malamiyyah
Psycho-Spiritual Therapy, 2002) provides a valuable account of the
importance of the science of unknowing in a Sufi tradition in the following
The science of unknowing that is at the core of malamiyyah spirituality,
can be defined as a way to place each reality on its own level. Thus, spiritual
health consists in preventing confusion of the various levels. Such a confusion
would be deadly since it would amount to a 'deification' of the human individual
as such, or of one of his deeper layers of being. Now, this type of confusion
is intrinsically connected, according to Sulami, to the very notion of inner
'consideration' or 'vision' of oneself (nazar). For the soul to 'see' is,
in a certain sense, to 'appropriate' and therefore to 'bring down'. Spiritual
progress presupposes a measure of 'unknowing', and any attempt at monitoring
this progress amounts to individualizing what pertains, by definition, to
Given the common metaphoric use of "light" in recognition of "knowing", whether
with respect to scientific/secular or mystical insight (as with enlightenment),
it is appropriate to note the process of endarkenment that precedes such insight
in many traditions as discussed elsewhere (Enlightening
Endarkenment: selected web resources on the challenge to comprehension, 2005).
The play of prefixes also suggests the possibility of using "nescience" as
an indicator of such a science of unknowing. In an extensive comment, however,
Ramjee Singh (From
Nescience to Omniscience: a perspective in Jaina philosophy and religion)
identifies this as the "force
which prevents wisdom shining from within, that is that which holds it in latency." Curiously,
in the confusion of terms and significance, it might be argued by some that
this is one definition of "science" and that it is the negation
of that (reductionist) science which would then be more appropriately termed
Understood more generally as a condition of ignorance, or absence of awareness,
the question is how such ignorance can be understood operationally and creatively
-- rather than simply as an obstacle to enlightenment, as is typically the
case in many Eastern traditions. From a Bahai perspective, as argued by John
Nescience, Bahais Online,
is not the same as ignorance, which is a bad thing. Nescience is not necessarily
bad or good. It is not the same as innocence, though. Innocence is always a
good thing. Nescience is neutral.
Alexander Schatten, et al. (Closing
the Gap: From Nescience to Knowledge Management, 2003) proposes
to enhance knowledge management processes by accentuating the importance
of nescience in information and knowledge-centric processes. "Nescience",
used as suggested, does of course raise the question of the nature of any "nescientific
method" perhaps notionally implied by the "negative
of the poet John Keats:
... it struck me, what quality
went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature and which Shakespeare
possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is
capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable
reaching after fact and reason.
Further possibilities are suggested elsewhere with respect to a "school" of
International School of Ignorance ? an ongoing experiment in dialogue meeting
design, 1996; Anthony Blake, A
Self-Organizing Group in Dialogue, 1994). The relationship of nescience
to agnosticism, and the negation of beliefs of orthodoxy, have ensured its
use in the International
University of Nescience ("leader in agnostic
education since the Second Millennium").
Unsigned, "Nart", "Nelegance", "Nesign",
In contrast to what is conventionally understood by "science", Rajan appropriately
sees "art" as a distinctly valuable way of knowing -- as noted above. Art may
also be understood as intimately related to "design", especially where prominence
is given to aesthetic rather than technical criteria.
The challenge in both cases lies in their conventional (and traditional) meanings
and the manner in which these are too readily understood, thereby inhibiting
access to larger meanings with which creative reinterpretation comes to be
associated in their future development. The case of "design" is especially
interesting because of the faith-inspired debate regarding "intelligent design"
by a transcendent "creator" -- and the threat it is perceived to constitute
for conventional science (End
of Science: the death knell as sounded by the Royal Society, 2008).
The approach advocated here might be more fruitfully applied to "art" through
the neologism "nart". The latter term offers an aesthetic resonance
to the Nart Sagas a
set of folk tales originating from regions of the North Caucasus currently
of great political sensitivity, namely the Ossetians and the Circassian peoples,
closely followed by the related Abkhaz and Abazin people. Nart sagas are also
present in Karachay-Balkar and Chechen-Ingush folklore. Some motifs in these
sagas are shared by Greek mythology. It has also been speculated that many
aspects of the Arthurian legends are derived from the Nart sagas
A sense of the larger significance of art and design is evident in certain
psychoactive symbols which directly evoke a distinctive intimate mode of knowing
of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations,
2008). This evocative "direct" mode contrasts with the "indirect", detached
mode characteristic of science. This may be especially evident in certain forms
of poetry such as haiku as
described in the light of a meeting of the World Academy of Art and Science (Ensuring
Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns: reframing the scope of the "martial
arts" in response to strategic threats, 2006). A description
of this mode is provided in the much-cited classic taoist tale by Chuang
All I care about is the Way. If find it in my craft, that's all. When
I first butchered an ox, I saw nothing but ox meat. It took three years for
me to see the whole ox. Now I go out to meet it with my whole spirit and don't
think only about what meets the eye. Sensing and knowing stop. The spirit goes
where it will, following the natural contours, revealing large cavities, leading
the blade through openings, moving onward according to actual form -- yet
not touching the central arteries or tendons and ligaments, much less touching
This traditional understanding is presumably comparable to the notion of flow as
the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in action
through a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the
process of the activity -- also phrased as "in the zone". This has been extensively
articulated by Mihály
Csíkszentmihályi (Creativity: flow and
the psychology of discovery and invention, 1996; Finding
Flow: the psychology of engagement with everyday life, 1998).
On a larger scale, there are many explorations of the "art" of living,
whether or not they reflect such understandings (for example, Art
of Living Foundation;
Tom Morris, The
Stoic Art of Living: Inner Resilience and Outer Results,
2004; Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing
a Life, 1990; Organization
and Lifestyle Design: characteristics of a nonverbal structural language,
It is appropriate to note that any such "art" is of a nature distinct
from that which can be "signed" or subject to intellectual copyright
-- as with "patent
art" or "prior art". As such it is essentially "unsigned".
Appropriately it is then necessarily impossible to appropriate in contrast
with proprietary metaphors (Future
Coping Strategies: beyond the constraints of proprietary metaphors,
Applying the suggested method, the question is to focus attention on that
which is (or may be) "not art" or "not design" in these
conventional senses. In the case of "design" a possible neologism
to this end is "nesign". With
respect to the World Academy of Art and Science, this is of potential value
given a workshop under its auspices with the theme "Who is designing the 21st
Century?" as described elsewhere (Designg
the 21st Century through integration of the arts and sciences, 1995).
One of the contributions explored the importance of "de-signing" (Definitional
Boundary Games and De-signing the 21st Century, 1995):
Designing can be understood as removing the significance of the underlying
experience of nature. In this way architects and planners have eliminated
the experience of nature.... In this way it may be understood as de-signifying.
However design may also be understood as removing the architectural graffiti
imposed by architects and planners on nature. Production of graffiti is a
way for some to impose their tag or sign on any available surface. In this
way de-signing may be understood as the removal of such defacement, namely
of the artificial signs imposed upon nature rendering it invisible.
Pronouncing "nesign" as "naysign" -- implying the absence
of sign or trace -- offers another sense, as indicated in that same contribuition:
A comparison has been made between French and Japanese cooking in the following
terms. The most eminent French chef is known by what he does to the food. He
is recognized by the tastes he adds to it in the form of sauces -- in which
his hand is to be experienced at every turn. By contrast a Japanese chef is
known by the impossibility of distinguishing his hand in the food that is offered.
His work is to reduce the interface between the eater and the food to the strictest
minimum -- allowing the flavours of the food to emerge of their accord. The
question is whether the designers of the 21st century are to be of the first
kind or of the second.
Representation of cognitive challenges on a complex plane
It would seem fruitful to take reflect the complex oppositions
explored above on a surface of appropriate complexity such as the complex
plane, as understood in mathematics. This is a geometric representation
of the complex numbers established by a real axis and an orthogonal imaginary
axis. This can can be thought of in terms of a conventional Cartesian plane
-- but with the real part of a complex number represented by a displacement
along the x-axis, and the imaginary part by a displacement along the y-axis.
The complex dynamics of any quest, as an inherently dynamical
system, might then be represented in terms of movement over such a plane.
|Application to axes of a complex plane
-- the width of the band around the vertical axis
and the height of
that around the horizontal axis would then be of significance
-- the variety of composite experiential resultant (de)satisfiers are then
defined by coordinates on the axes
Using such a framework, the nature of a complex cognitive dilemma -- as experienced
as a composite under particular conditions -- might then be positioned appropriately
in any of the quadrants. This could be used for dilemmas such as:
- happiness/unhappiness (enabling representation of the many forms of "bitter-sweet"
experience of happiness)
- western/non-western (notably as in the debate regarding the "clash
- belief/unbelief (notably as in the debate regarding faith-based governance
- sustainable/unsustainable (notably as in the environment/development debate)
- hope/despair (notably as regards "positive" vs "negative" and hope-mongering
- global/local (notably as regards the globalization vs localization debate)
The framework might then also be understood to represent:
- conventional thinking (the horizontal axis)
- imaginative thinking (the vertical axis)
- "in-the-box" thinking (the cross-over zone of horixontal and vertical axes)
- innovation (through efforts to broaden the horizontal axis -- "pushing
- design (through efforts to broaden the vertical axis -- "pushing
- Maslow's basic needs (the zone defined by the horizontal axis)
- Maslow's higher needs (the zones above and below the horizontal axis)
- the contrast between experiential (horizontal axis) and existential (vertical
axis) forms of knowing
Of relevance to the above framework is the exploration by Chris Lucas (Glimpsing
Heaven, Oh So Close, 2006) of the ideas of Buddhism in relation
to complex systems science and those of Maslow. Elsewhere (Chris Lucas,
1999) he emphasizes Maslow's values in relation to science. He
has also argued (Chris Lucas,
2000) that such a vertical (imaginary) axis is more closely associated
with a feminine perspective.
Two key requirements of innovation indicated in a presentation in Hyderabad
Mashelkar, President of the Global
Research Alliance, may also be
associated with the above framework:
- that the innovator should not know that something is impossible before
engaging with the challenge it represents (a condition usefully to be associated
with the nescience axis)
- that the innovator should not use a conventionally accepted mode of knowing
(a condition usefully to be associated with the naysign axis)
The most radical innovation is well illustrated in the case of
the craziness of Theories
of Everything, as illustrated by the much-quoted statement by Niels
Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli: "We are all agreed that your theory is
crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have
a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough." To
that Freeman Dyson added:
When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled,
incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only
half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation
which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope! (Innovation
in Physics, Scientific American, 199, No. 3, September 1958)
The framework bears an interesting relationship to one previously elaborated
problematique, resolutique, "imaginatique" and "irresolutique" (in Imagining
the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation,
2007). Possibilities of combining them might be considered as a further
extension of the associated In
quest of mnemonic catalysts for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics (2007).
Dynamics of any quest: the learning/action cycle
The "pursuit" of the final resolution of any quest -- as with happiness --
may be usefully represented on the above framework as a cycle centred on the
origin of the axes. The movement around the cycle may then be understood in
terms of the learning/action cycle explored by Arthur
1978) and described and adapted elsewhere (Characteristics
of phases in 12-phase learning / action cycles; Typology
of 12 complementary strategies essential to sustainable development).
Elsewhere the dynamics of such cycles over a complex plane have
been related to the emergent order associated with the Mandelbrot
through the Dynamics of Strategic Dilemmas -- in the light of the coherence
and visual form of the Mandelbrot set, 2005 and its annex Psycho-social
Significance of the Mandelbrot Set: a sustainable boundary between chaos and
order, 2005). With his systematic, cross-cultural focus on nonduality
Kent D. Palmer (Is
a Science of Nonduality possible? 2005) provides a very
useful articulation of the challenge in terms of dissipative
to the Threshold of the Social: the mathematical analogies to dissipative,
autopoietic, and reflexive systems, 1997) which seem the clearest
and most relevant for the above purpose. For him (pp 587-588):
Dissipative systems hold two strands of illusory continuity together. They
concern the situation where there are two orders that are in imbalance so
that one order is displacing the other. Notice that if there is only one
order there cannot be a dissipative system. Also if the two orders are in
balance or stasis there cannot be a dissipative system. A dissipative system
is when there are two different orders or ordering mechanisms that are out
of balance with each other so that one ordering mechanism is disordering
the other and creating a boundary between the two ordering mechanisms where
one is dominant and the other is being dominated.
The operation of the "circular quest" was also explored in relation
to the coaction cardioid
handled through a coordinate system orginally developed by Edward Haskell (Full
Circle: the moral force of unified science, 1972) to map pairs
of interacting biological species in terms of the nature of their transaction
or "game" (Cardioid
Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart
of sustainable relationship, 2005).
Such considerations clarify the mystical intuition that "true happiness" is
indeed "not of this world" and is only to be achieved by transcending
the significance attached to a learning/action cycle. This is presumably to
be related to the cycle of
the cycle of reincarnation or rebirth in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism
and other related religions. However, given the use of the complex plane in
this representation of cognitive dilemmas, the resolution of the other dilemmas
-- including those understood in terms of sustainability -- may also call for
an anlogous form of cognitive transcendence. This may be what is implied in
the circular processes in the taoist classic The
Secret of the Golden Flower (Tai
Yi Jin Hua Zong Zhi) -- a book on Chinese meditation.
Such considerations may be related
to a corresponding necessity for identity to be associated with the cyclic
processes in contrast with conventional understanding of it -- as argued elsewhere
of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined,
of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
Local Diversity of Naysign and Nescience?
For an organization like the World Academy of Art and Science, in quest of
a more appropriate role and sense of purpose for the 21st Century, the exploration
of opposites seemingly negating its current identity may be seen as a way of
opening up a richer understanding of its possibilities -- consistent with
the more complex logic of the quadrilemma. The organization might then understand
itself as a World Academy of Naysign and Nescience.
Using the suggested method however, the other terms might also be reframed.
The Academy originally had an interest in establishing a "World University"
and is continuing to reflect on that possibility. Its motto was long "Unity
in Diversity". But both "Academy" and "University" may
be fruitfully reframed as "Diversity" to challenge simplistic understandings
of the elusive understanding of how knowledge is to be appropriately "unified" in
a complex evolving knowledge society. This consideration also applies to "World",
or "Global" as an alternative,
suggesting the merit of a new and more focused understanding of "Local".
These concerns have been explored in more detail in the case of another body
Quest of "Meta-Union"? Interplay
of generic dimensions of any "union of international associations",
The "shadow" cognitive or epistemological challenge to a "World
Academy of Art and Science" of the future would then be represented through
Diversity of Naysign and Nescience"
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