Archive for February, 2015

The Rational Structure of Inquiring Systems

February 26, 2015

sq_engelhartWhat are the components of consciousness? In the dissertation of L. Kurt Engelhart we see a fourfold used to analyze the texts and bodies of work of both scientists and philosophers, a hermeneutical tool if you will. This tool is also styled by concepts of “systems theory”, and requires the exposition of the aspects of Content, Control, Process, and Purpose of the authors. These match closely the Four Causes of Aristotle, which are the causes of made things or the explanations of how and why they came about: material, efficient, formal, and final. In fact, this close association was one of the main reasons I dove into the world of fourfolds. Texts are made things, after all.sq_causes

Making is so fundamental to what we do, that humans have been called “Homo Faber”, man the maker. We make tools, stories, culture, and even our concept of self. What if I turned this tool onto my own work, the writings and images found here? Perhaps that will be the project of another analyst, if my efforts warrant. What if I applied this tool to Engelhart’s project? That would be interesting indeed.

Another fourfold Engelhart presents is that of the domains of conscious experience, or the self itself as system. sq_four_alsThis fourfold consists of the Real, the Actual, the Ideal, and the Literal, but my version is in disagreement with Engelhart’s as to the classification of integrative and differentiative for the Ideal and the Literal. My assignments match the conjunctive and disjunctive properties of the operators of Linear Logic. Also left out is the Universal and how it supersedes the Actual as we make a complete turn. I like my version because it is similar to Richard McKeon’s Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions. Also T. S. Eliot’s Falls the Shadow.

Of course this is just a brief gloss of the rich ideas presented in Engelhart’s work. Another of his key concepts is that of wholeness, which I have completely omitted. I hope to return and write a better review at a later time. I’m glad to see that Engelhart’s dissertation is now available as a Kindle book for the low, low price of $1. It is much easier to read in this format! From the Amazon Book Description:

This study describes, as a single systemic model of inquiry, the context common to conscious experience of the phenomenon of inquiry. Data are the published texts of selected contemporary writers relevant to the question. The problem is to define a common systemic structure of inquiry in a context of consciousness. Research verifies that a specific structure is common to these writers and that their respective views are converging on this same structure.

Identifying a common structure involves reducing the textual descriptions of the writers to their systemically relevant essentials. Defining the essential elements and describing a reduction method depends heavily on theory of metaphor and metaphorical evolution. A history of the metaphorical structure relevant to inquiry is described and this structure is used as a basis for finding structure in the selected texts. Texts researched include evolutionary biology, sociology, psychology (phenomenology), and philosophy. This work replicates that done by Talcott Parsons in experimentally describing a voluntaristic theory of action. A wholistic theory of inquiry is described using the same systemic scheme.

The metaphysical approaches to inquiry of realism and idealism have converged on a common theoretical structure for describing inquiry. Commonalities emphasize systemic structure comprising the elements of function: purpose, process, content, and control. It has been necessary to distinguish between affectual and instrumental purposes, and between organic and mechanical function. The ontological essentiality of the structure reveals a necessary logical relationship between function, systemicity, wholeness, and rationality in human understanding. Continuing research in philosophy is crucial to expanding our understanding of the ontological and epistemological structural essentials of consciousness.

Human inquiry during the last century has specialized in the material realm of realism, objective description, and mechanical explanation. A wholistic theory of inquiry does not discount the contributions of realism-based science or idealism-based philosophy, but expands the horizons of each to include the other. Where mathematics provides essential tools for mechanical explanation, organic explanation still lacks abstract structural tools for describing conscious organic, including human, behavior. The intent of a wholistic theory of inquiry is to provide conceptual tools that support disciplined inquiry into conscious behavior.

References and Links:

L. Kurt Engelhart / Wholeness and the Rational Structure of Inquiring Systems: A Dissertation


I removed some text about the “Book of Nature”, because it needed more work. This mentioned the systems theory adage “the purpose of a system”, which can also tie into “meaning as use”. I also missed seeing an obvious thought that inquiry is making.

[*2.188, *3.104, *8.134]


A Four-fold Riddle

February 19, 2015

sq_roses_dogs_stars_stonesA rose I give to you
This rose so fresh with fragrance rare,
Its petals bringing joy to you
The fairest of the fair.
Oh roses are like memories
They fade and pass above
But you dear heart will e’er remain
My fading flower of forgotten love.

Fading Flower of Forgotten Love by Agnes Ellicott Strong

John Crowley (author of the AEgypt Tetralogy) has mentioned several times in his books a curious list: dogs, stones, stars, and roses. What can he mean by this?

I propose this is a metaphor (Meta-four?) for the four colors of the Magnum Opus: yellow dogs, black stones, white stars, and red roses.

At least until I find out otherwise!


[*8.13, *9.116]


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

February 11, 2015

sq_TMNTIt’s turtles all the way down!

— See Wikipedia.


Even the personalities of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be put in correspondence with the Four Temperaments!





[*7.194, *8.127, *8.156]


Magnum Opus

February 9, 2015

sq_great_workThe Magnum Opussq_magnum_opus, or Great Work, is a term from alchemy for the process of creating the Philosopher’s Stone, which is a substance that was purported to be able to turn stuff into gold, like King Midas’s Touch. Work and Stone can also be metaphors for perfecting the individual self, as gold was considered the perfect material.


Tsq_RWBYbhe Great Work is often broken into four stages, identified by different colors also seen in the Medicine Wheel of Native Americans. Red is Rubedo or Iosis, White is Albedo or Leukosis, Black is Nigredo or Melanosis, and Yellow is Citrinitas or Xanthosis. The order is usually Black, White, Yellow, and then Red, through beginning to ending stages of the work.


Is this my Great Work? Will I create a Philosopher’s Stone?


[*6.182, *8.12, *8.13]


Kant’s Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

February 5, 2015

sq_kant3One of the oldest and most problematic philosophical questions is the comparison of the a prioria posteriori distinction with that of the analyticsynthetic distinction. Both are used in epistemology to divide knowledge, or true statements, between the innate and the learned, or the immediate and the earned, so they might even be considered the same. A priori and a posteriori statements are before “experience” and after it, respectively. Analytic statements are true only by their “meaning”, whereas synthetic statements are true only when facts about the world are combined consistently with that meaning.

It seems we have complicated the issue because now we must define and understand “experience” and “meaning”. However, these concepts are not independent because we must experience meaning, and meaning in turn conditions experience. In addition, even the a priori or the analytic are not innate or immediately obvious because deductions and the rules of logic require effort just like inductions do. Otherwise we would have Fitch’s Paradox: all truths are in fact known. What a muddle! So both experience and meaning are necessarily locked into a cooperative spiral dance to improve each other.

Even so, these two distinctions can be distinguished and combined into a fourfold.

The web site of Stephen R. Palmquist has a great wealth of material on fourfolds in relation to Kant’s as well as his own philosophy. sq_kant3bFrom my own initial reading of his extensive material I have tried to choose a canonical Kantian fourfold which has the most relevance to my project.

The fourfold shown to the right Dr. Palmquist calls Kant’s “reflective perspectives on experience”. Consisting of the logical, the empirical, the transcendental, and the hypothetical, these facets bear a close analogical likeness to many of the fourfolds presented here.

Logical: Analytic a priori
Transcendental: Synthetic a priori
Hypothetical: Analytic a posteriori
Empirical: Synthetic a posteriorikant_table

Dr. Palmquist also has many of his own books available on his web site for the interested reader. I will certainly be returning to his web site in the future for much enjoyable study.


Revised diagrams to switch analytic and synthetic axes.