Comments: Patterning disagreement
Integrative Knowledge Project |
1. Tuning the pattern
The ordered collection of statements presented in Section KP (see document)
raises a number of interesting questions. It is necessarily imperfect,
and is even more so as a first draft. Its current status can best be compared
to an untuned musical instrument. Only when it is tuned, to the extent
possible, will it be possible to determine whether it can be realistically
applied as a guide to operations.
Prior to, or during, the tuning process itself, it will be necessary
to sharpen up the sets to a greater extent. This is due to the weakness
of some of them in terms of the constraint requirements for:
maximal disagreement between set elements, perhaps requiring a greater
degree of controversy, risk, uncertainty, or paradox;
operational orientation, since some of them are more descriptive rather
than transformative (the emphasis is on nouns or adjectives, and not on
In this sense it is necessary to "charge up" each set and render it inherently
more dynamic. The generated sets can be confronted with new source material
to assist in this process. (For example the 16-point definition of dialectics
by Lenin, quoted earlier).
The "tuning" process may be envisaged as follows. The different sets
need to be compared to highlight the pattern of relationships between them.
For example, the sets with common numerical factors (eg 2, 4, 8,
etc) have commonalities which can be highlighted. This will help
to clarify the contents of each set and to increase the degree of order
prevailing between them.
2. Awkwardness and artificiality of statements
The tuning process is necessary to overcome the problem of the awkwardness
of the individual statements. Such awkwardness, is to be expected in a
first draft, given the manner in which the sets were generated. There is
a basic dilemma in formulating such statements in order to avoid an impression
of jargon. But the problem is really that a "general, neutral" set of statements
is inconsistent with the underlying philosophy of this approach. No particular
wording is adequate.
Efforts to produce an exhaustive "definition" merely result in an exhausting
amount of text. The study of the significance of some of the sets has in
fact been a life work for some people, resulting in many volumes of commentary
(as is the case with Carl Jung and 4-set). The very quantity of information
quickly becomes counter-productive in terms of operational criteria.
3. Generation of other schemes
One way around this problem of awkwardness and length is to use the
"artificial" statement scheme as generated in Section KP as a basis for
generating other schemes, corresponding to the difficulties initially encountered:
(a) Schemes may be produced scaled up or down in level of abstraction
(b) Schemes may be produced oriented in terms of: stages, qualities,
problems, conditions, etc (Horizontal scaling)
(c) Schemes may be produced using different languages: poetic, formalistic,
religious, sociological, etc. (Model scaling)
By combining these different possibilities sets of "more readable" statements
can be produced which will presumably be closer in terminology to particular
source material sets. Sets may thus be generated according to application.
4. Inadequate vocabulary
The problem of the lack of sufficiently general words needs to be seen
in the light of the previous point and the use of synonyms. In effect by
shifting the emphasis according to any of the above scales, there is a
shift through the set of synonyms used to generate the set. The tuning
process and the generation of sets could be better studied using an on-line
synonym data base, which could also permit alternation between noun, adjective
and verb. It is possible that the problem of lack of general words would
disappear in sets having an even higher number of elements where the emergent
concerns would become much more specific.
5. Internal structure
At this preliminary stage, it is preferable to assess the value of the
approach on the basis of the internal structure and consistency of the
scheme. Specific references from each generated element to source material
have been omitted because of the quantity of such material and the complexity
of the decision process leading to a particular choice of words.
In some cases, for example, 20 source sets were compared to produce
the generated set. It will be noticed that the attribute of the higher
number sets are aspects of those associated with their lower number factors
and "condensed" into those associated with their prime number factors.
In effect each set "tells the same resource management story", but in the
lower number sets the story is highly compacted. In the higher number sets,
the attributes associated with elements are simplified, and more easily
comprehensible, at the cost of making the relationship pattern more complex.
In the lower number sets, these qualities are absorbed into more complex
set elements, at the cost of comprehensibility, although the relationship
pattern is simpler.
6. Emergence of new information
It will be noticed that sets which are multiples of 2 do not result
in new information. The 2-operator merely dichotomizes each element in
a set, elaborating on a common point. However a set with 2 as a factor
establishes an unresolved polarity which can only be handled in an operational
setting by introducing a new perspective (the set elements + 1) from which
the polarity can be viewed and balanced. In this sense such polarized sets
can effectively "give birth to" a new perspective as pointed out in one
of the source documents: "A vibrating string of any reference length
can be halved to sound the octave higher or doubled to sound the octave
lower... The number 2 is "female" in the sense that it creates the matrix,
the octave, in which all other tones are born. By itself, however, it can
only create "cycles of barrenness", in Socrates metaphor, for multiplication
and division by 2 can never introduce new tones..." (C A Hooker, 1978,
7. Development through polar tensions
As structured the scheme supports the view that a monolithic structure
of any kind inhibits development. The tension of a polarity is necessary
to engender any development. It is useful to distinguish growth or elaboration
(in which no new pattern is introduced, by a 2-factor, for example) from
new development (in which a new pattern is introduced as a resulting of
balancing a polarity). This suggests that any of the classic polarities
are very healthy, if they can give birth to a new pattern: capitalism/communism,
governmental / nongovernmental, rationalism / empiricism, etc. It
suggests that a monolithic "world government" would be a total inhibitor
of development. In Section KD it is suggested that oscillation or resonance
between two or more polar positions may be essential to significant integration
or qualitative transformation. The extreme example of brainwashing (stick
and carrot) techniques is given there as an example of oscillatory operations
which have there constructive equivalent.
8. Definability of disagreement
"Disagreement" as it has been discussed here, and allowed to emerge
in the generated sets, has not been clearly defined. This is because the
definition is implicit in the 2-level set. At that level the subtleties
of any distinction between opposition and complementarity, for example,
do not emerge. "Disagreement" therefore also covers its synonyms, namely:
disaccord, dissent, unconformity, controversy, disunion, discrepancy, difference,
opposition, dissonance, irrelation, inequality, incompatibility, irreconcilability,
etc (Roget's Thesaurus).
There is a progressive "dilution" of the degree of disagreement between
elements in a set as the number of elements increases. In effect the basic
maximal disagreement of the 2-level is spread amongst more elements in
the sets containing progressively greater numbers of elements. This suggests
that using sets with a higher number of elements as operators makes it
progressively easier to contain the disagreement, but only if the relationship
between those elements is not eroded or lost. Each set is a container for
a different kind of disagreement. Each can also be used to highlight what
can go wrong when working with operators at that level, namely the characteristic
errors for that level of operation.
9. Definitional "holes"
This hierarchy of sets of "paradoxes", as it was termed, can be usefully,
related to the work of R H Atkin on Q-analysis (Combinational Connectivities
in Social Systems, 1977) discussed in Section KD. It would seem that
the set elements generated at any given level are in effect focal points
(for the elements) whose relationship define a Q-hole or Q-object in Atkin's
terms. As is pointed out there, the major achievement of Q-analysis probably
lies in its ability to give precision to discussion about psycho-social
phenomena which are, by definition, sensed beyond the boundary of (collective)
comprehension. These are represented by "holes" in a physical structure
and are indistinguishable observationally from solid objects in the physical
In the psycho-social case, such holes are necessarily less substantial
without losing their reality. "Generally speaking it seems to be confirmed
that action (of whatever kind) in the community can be seen as traffic
in the abstract geometry and that this traffic must naturally avoid the
holes (because it is impossible for any such action to exist in a hole).
The holes therefore appear strangely as objects in the structure, as far
as the traffic is concerned. The difference is a logical one in that the
word "Q-hole" describes a static feature of the geometry S(N) whilst the
word "Q-object" describes the experience of that hole by traffic which
moves in S(N)." (p.75)
As an "object" this phenomenon is an obstacle to communication and comprehension
and obliges those confronted with it to go "around" it in order to sense
the higher dimensionality by which it is characterized. As a "hole" this
phenomenon engenders is or, engendered by, a pattern of communication.
It appears to function both as "source" and "sink". It is suggested that
in some way that is not yet fully understood, such object/holes act as
sources of energy for the possible traffic around them. From the initial
research it would appear that such objects/holes are characteristic of
communication patterns in most complex organizations. It seems highly probable
that they can also be detected in any partially ordered pattern of communication.
As such "societal problems", "human needs" and "human values" merit examination
in this light.
10. Frustration of change
The special value of this Q-hole perspective is that it can clarify
why action/discussion in the presence of such a hole tends to be "circular"
in the long-term, however energetic it may appear in the short-term. As
such it shows how social change is blocked by the way in which conceptual
traffic patterns itself around the sensed core issue which is never
confronted as such because the connectivity pattern is inadequate to the
dimensionality of the issue. This would explain why so many issues go unresolved
and why the institutional process of solving problems becomes of greater
importance than the actual elimination of the problem. This approach also
draws attention to the probable presence of holes/objects of even higher
dimensionality than those whose presence can be sensed relatively easily.
Such phenomena, it may be supposed, are of great significance to long-term
11. Configurations of "holes"
In Section KD the importance of configurations of holes is raised.
Clearly the hierarchy of sets generated in Section KP constitutes such
a configuration. How can such holes exist in relation to one another? What
is necessary to permit transitions from one configuration to another? The
question is how configurations of holes can be identified and/or
designed. It is the configuration of the holes which provides the minimum
structure to stabilize and give form to the co-presence of the differing
concepts of development. Such configurations, in order to fulfil their
function, must presumably exist within two boundary conditions:
12. Designing better "holes"
the connectivity between elements bounding holes must not be so great as
to erode or destroy the identity of the holes so connected;
the connectivity between elements bounding holes must be great enough so
that the integrity of the configuration as a whole is maintained.
A further question is then the manner whereby better holes are to be
identified or reached within such configurations. Now from one point of
view it is necessary to avoid introducing an elements of evaluation, because
from each hole the perception of other holes will be distorted so that
no communicable assessment can be usefully formulated. On the other
hand, it may prove to be the case that, at the level of the configuration
as a whole, more than one such configuration can be identified/designed
in order to interrelate the perspectives associated with the set of holes.
And at this level, without privileging any particular hole, more
adequate inter-relationships between the elements making up the holes can
13. Internalizing disagreement
By deliberately internalizing disagreement, the scheme moves beyond
the stage of being a "cook book for potted wisdom" or a set of "bloodless
categories". Each set can be tuned to constitute a set of challenging operations
- challenging because of the difficulty of maintaining them in equilibrium.
The question is how effectively the sets can be tuned to take the scheme
beyond the status of being simply an interesting exercise.
The scheme is valuable because of the way it interrelates incompatibilities
at different levels. It is significant also because of the way each set
is embedded in a context of interdependent sets.
Given its relation to the source material of diverse cultural origin
and specialization, the scheme is also valuable to the extent that interfaces
can be provided to such specialized sets. It offers a way of interrelating
and engaging groups working through apparently different concept schemes.
The awkwardness of the statements at present draws attention to the
basic problem of how to condense qualitative complexes. The solution in
traditional cultures of projecting them onto gods or demons (about whom
stories could be told to bring out those qualities) was a good way of transforming
the problem (as argued in Section
14. Central issue of comprehension
As designed the scheme is not "ideal" in the sense that is now so easily
condemned. No set element is imposed, since as a hierarchy of paradoxes
the problem of comprehension is central. A distinction may even be usefully
15. Challenge of set design
Freedom to choose between a plurality of competing
concept schemes each with overdefined concepts, namely the conventional
approach. Here the individual, once the choice of scheme has been made,
has no further freedom, because the concepts within the scheme must be
accepted as they are defined.
Freedom to choose how to understand within a single concept
scheme composed of underdefined concepts whose significance may
be partially associated to those of other schemes seen as non-competing.
Here the individual is constantly challenged with the freedom to understand
particular concepts in some more significant manner in the light of the
concept set within which it is embedded.
The generation of these sets has been approached as a design problem
in which constraints are necessary and must be creatively selected. It
is possible that the constraints could be refined as part of the tuning
From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential