18th January 2010
Clustering Questions of Existential Significance
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Clustering of questions
This is an exercise in clustering the 31 questions formulated by Acarya. Shambhushivananda Avadhuta (Eternal Philosophy: Questions and Answers). The document produced for the College of Neohumanist Studies (Sweden) of which he is rector, and in which capacity he is chancellor of the global education network Ananda Marga Gurukula (AMGK), which runs over 1,200 educational institutions in over 80 countries. The merit of the document for this exercise is the general nature of the questions as they variously relate to any concern with religion or philosophy. Other questions might of course be added to the 31.
The specific focus of the exercise is to cluster the set of 31 questions in terms of the classic set of 7 "WH-questions" (what, where, when, which, how, who and why) used here to formulate the religion-related concerns. Irrespective of the religious focus here, WH-questions are a common focus of linguistic studies. Of the 31 questions here, 8 were not specified in these terms (those at the bottom of the table). Two of the WH-questions (which and how) are not used in the original 31.
Where possible, it was decided to use any of the WH-questions to reformulate these 8 and distribute them within the relevant clusters, as indicated in the table below (in italics). At the end of the table the columns indicate to which of the clusters the 8 have been reallocated. It might of course be fruitful to process those originally associated with a particular WH-question in the same way -- identifying variants to be added to other clusters. This has not been done.
Some possible comments on the process are given following the table.
One interest in distributing the questions in this way is that it helps to draw attention to the cognitive, philosophical and meditative implications of a question. This is especially the case when any of the WH-questions effectively determines a manner of thinking and engagement intimately related to a sense of identity and purpose. It is suggestive of an approach to any imponderables.
The document is entitled Eternal Philosophy: Questions and Answers. A challenge seemingly absent from the document lies in the nature of a "question" for the person formulating it, the quest for an "answer", and how to engage with any such answer. The latter raises the further question of what it means to be "satisfied" or "dissatisfied" by an answer. It might offer an interesting approach to answers held to be satisfactory in negating the relevance of any imponderable -- as with those of Richard Dawkins in promoting "science" as of greater adequacy in providing such answers (The God Delusion, 2006).
What indeed is an "answer" -- for which other WH-questions could also possibly be added:
Framed in this way, it raises the "question" as to whether there are fruitful ways of thinking beyond the fundamental dynamic of "question and answer" -- even as they may be raised in the widespread worldwide quest for "sustainability", "peace" and "harmony". Is it possible that that dynamic constitutes a form of cognitive entrapment which the future may seek to transcend in seeking more fruitful ways of engaging with reality? The subtle dynamic associated with reflection on a koan in Zen suggests possibilities.
Going further, the challenge to identity itself may be provocatively formulated through the speculative "question" as Am I Question or Answer? (2006).
Related lines of exploration are possibilities associated with the classic set of WH-questions, including the question of whether there are more than 7 such questions, notably within other lingustic and cultural frameworks. The following papers discuss some possibilities in relation to:
It is appropriate to note that the recognition of a set of 31 "eternal questions" is also of interest in its own right. The "question" is what makes for an integrative, complete set of that size in the light of the issues raised elsewhere (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978). The same question might be asked with respect to the 30 articles of the "eternal values" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) -- and of possible "extensions" of that pattern (Universal Declaration of the Rights of Human Organization: an experimental extension of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1971).
Whether as "questions" or "values" the possibility remains of fruitful representations of sets of that size as argued and depicted elsewhere using the integrity of polyhedra allowing for mapping of 30 elements onto their features (In Quest of a Strategic Pattern Language: a new architecture of values, 2008). However, in the case of "questions" so ordered, "the question" is then what is implied in cognition of the pattern as a whole as explored separately (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality: in response to global governance challenges, 2009; Geometry, Topology and Dynamics of Identity, 2009; Geometry of Thinking for Sustainable Global Governance, 2009).
A further possibility results from framing the question-answer dynamic as a form of cognitive cycle, as is characteristic of learning/action cycles (Arthur M. Young, The Geometry of Meaning, 1976). This offers a means of reflecting in mythopoeic terms on the nature of cognitive emergence (Emergent integrity of a configuration of cognitive cycles -- a "Lord of the Rings", 2009).
this work is licenced under a creative commons licence.