Archive for the ‘hermeneutics’ Category

The Book of Nature

July 26, 2015


The natural world we find ourselves in is of sufficient wonder, beauty, pain, and terror that many insist that some demiurge had to have made it, and fashioned us as well. For centuries before the dawn of science, the notion of the “Book of Nature” was an influential concept of how knowledge about the world was to be found and understood, borrowed from ideas on how to read and interpret religious writings: exegesis or hermeneutics. Nature was a text, writ by its creator.

Back in Medieval times, there were four ‘senses’ of reading and understanding scripture:

  • Anagogia: the higher meaning (I.I.)
  • Allegoria: the deeper meaning (I.V.)
  • Historia: the literal meaning (V.V.)
  • Tropologia: the moral meaning (V.I.)

Perhaps the meaning of these senses were more or less literal. Therefore on my diagram I have placed the higher above, the deeper below, the historical in the past, and the moral in the future. Morals inform us what we should do or what our purpose is. A heuretic of systems thinking coined by Stafford Beer is “the purpose of a system is what it does.” And remember the immortal words of Yoda: “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

Fortunately or unfortunately, nature is nothing like a text. All texts are written by people, and are structured by human thought and language. Nature requires other methods for understanding its basis and processes. The so-called scientific method evolved by fits and starts to explore the workings of nature, its components, causes, structures and functions. And it continues to evolve because it is not in itself entirely mechanistic: no precise algorithm that we know of can be specified to turn the crank and do ‘science’. Does that mean it’s unscientific? Not at all.

References and Links:

[*8.48, *8.52]


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]


Walter Watson and David Dilworth’s Archic Matrix

December 2, 2011

Throughout the history of philosophy, there have been many conflicting stances both towards claiming what exists (ontology), and how we can know our claims are valid (epistemology). There are the oppositions between idealism and realism, between rationalism and empiricism, between thinking all is change and all is changeless, between all is many and all is one, and so on. One approach to overcome these oppositions is to combine them to form their Hegelian synthesis. Another is to deconstruct them à la Derrida. Another pluralistic approach is to consider that there is a germ of truth on each side of the conflicting stance, an aspect of reality for which that stance is valid. Some might think that pluralism is the same as relativism, but it is not. Relativism and pluralism form yet another philosophical opposition like others mentioned above.

Regardless of the validity of pluralism, it can be very useful to analyze what philosophical stances are possible and how they relate to one another. The philosopher Richard McKeon created a rich schema for philosophical semantics that deserves greater recognition. This schema was both simplified and elaborated on by Walter Watson and David Dilworth in their books about the Archic Matrix. There are four main aspects, all exemplified by ancient philosophers: the Sophists, Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Everything else is a combination of these original aspects, or essentially a rehashing of them. The main aspects are perspective from the Sophists, reality from Democritus, method from Plato, and principle from Aristotle. These partition “what is”, however it is conceived, into four aspects, each of which can be interpreted in four different ways.

Considering Whitehead’s Criteria, note that perspective has consistency, method has coherency, reality has applicability, and principle has adequacy.

Walter Watson / The Architectonics of Meaning: foundations of the new pluralism

David A. Dilworth / Philosophy in World Perspective: a comparative hermeneutic of the major theories