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Epistemological challenges: Interparadigmatic dialogue

Global Strategies Project


1. Beyond formal logic

In discussing the conditions for inter-paradigmatic dialogue, especially in he social sciences, Kinhide Mushakoji (Global Issues and Interparadigmatic Dialogue, 1988), argued earlier for the need to move beyond the accepted limits of formal logic: "Inter-paradigmatic dialogue - not only in natural but also in social sciences - should be concerned not with the determination of who is right or wrong in defining a concept one way or the other. It should rather concern itself with the question of what part of the natural or social realities are best approached by one or the other position. Two formally contradictory definitions of the (natural or social) realities may be both relevant and complementary in shedding light on different aspects of the same social realities. This is why the logic of inter-paradigmatic dialogue cannot be bound by the laws of Aristotelian formal logic: identity, contradiction, and excluded middle". (1978, p.19).

2. Need for a third logical pole

He also draws attention to the problem of "binary" approaches and the need for a "third pole": "By the very nature of scientific logic which is binary, intellectuals tend to form bi-polar structures with two opposed camps rallied under two paradigmatic banners. The polarization often takes place even within each of the two poles which then divide themselves into two sub-poles, and so on...An inter-paradigmatic process should be able to break the bi-polarity of the intellectual community by introducing a third pole in the dialogical process... The role of such a pole is to introduce extra paradigmatic considerations (into the discussion) and to break the dichotomic argumentation bringing into the discussion innovative ideas." (1978, p.1516)

Mushakoji sees such a pole as "a basic condition of a successful scientific revolution". Without it the "opposed schools of thought send their best champions for a scholastic exercise...leading to nothing else but a reaffirmation of one's paradigmatic superiority over the others" (1978,p.18).

3. Relationship between logic and reality

But Mushakoji then draws attention to the "logico-real" problem of the relationship between the logical and the reality levels. He suggests that catastrophe theory can help to shed light on the different logical positions in the morphogenetical space by relating the continuous reality (i.e. "signifié") to the discrete set of concepts (i.e. "signifiant"). This leads him to advocate a fourfold non formal logic model to provide a logical basis for inter-paradigmatic dialogues. Such a logic emerges from the work of Tokuryn Yamauchi who interrelates oriental thinking based on "lemma" with occidental thinking based on "logos". Lemma concerns itself with the modalities according to which the human mind grasps reality, rather than how human intellect reasons about it. Mushakoji sees the lemmic approach as offering a breakthrough in response to the static ontology of the West.

4. Tetralemmic model

The tetralemmic model which has been developed in oriental logic stipulates the existence of four lemmas:

Here (a) and (b) both belong to formal logic, whereas (c) and (d) are unacceptable to it, although they are acceptable in theoretical physics. "Only an acceptance of the third and fourth lemmas can allow a full representation of the contemporary world problematique in its totality since contemporary world reality is full of cases where a mere affirmation or negation does not make sense". (p.2122).

5. Challenge of strategic intervention

It is unfortunate that Mushakoji has limited his concern here to representing or grasping reality for the purposes of revolution in thinking. This does not respond to the problem of how to intervenein that reality on the basis of any such revolution - a vital preoccupation in furthering human and social development. And yet the four lemmas lend themselves to such an action-oriented interpretation as the basis for a more general "action logic":

6. Positive vs Negative

The conventional western-based logic of international actions uses modes (a) and (b) consciously, although some groups promote strategies based on one or the other only. For example, those in favour of "positive thinking" claim not to use (b), despite the positive value of closure as discussed in a earlier note. Whereas those who fear "contamination" by a system gone wrong claim not to use (a).

7. Unrecognized modes

The strength of the tetralemmic perspective is that it draws attention to the complementary role of the two other modes (c) and (d), which are outside the framework of action explicitly (consciously) accepted by the international community, although they are evident in its interstices. The (a) and (b) modes are embodied in formal agreements and procedures and are the focus of academic study of international action. The existence of other modes can only be publicly "recognized" as scandalous illegality meriting no serious attention, except as the spice of informal discussion.

The (c) and (d) modes are the tools of wily, world-wise actors, as well as of those they are trying to manoeuvre, both being aware that there are degrees of freedom of action which the (a) and (b) modes are unable to reveal. In contrast to the "cut and dried", overt (a) and (b) modes are unable to reveal. In contrast to the "cut and dried", overt (a) and (b) modes, in the essentially covert (c) and (d) modes what is not done is as significant as what is. Many valuable illustrations of the importance of the (c) and (d) modes are given in Douglas Hofstadter's justly acclaimed Gödel, Escher, Bach (1979). The authors cited provide conceptual, visual and auditory indications of the opportunities for transcending the limitations of the (a) and (b) modes.

8. Possibilities

Most of the examples given suggest the questionable value of the (c) and (d) modes because until recently they have been largely embedded in the collective unconscious at least for the Western mind. These are the kafkaesque worlds of double dealing ("crime"), influence ("old boy networks"), double standards ("hypocritical leadership"), and collective resistance ("bureaucratic stonewalling"). Other possibilities are however suggested by the oriental approach to action, by their extensive literature on non-action, and by the recent innovative use of "non-violent" strategies. All the modes are significant for development, as well as being vulnerable to misuse.

The relevance of these concerns emerges in an earlier note (Note 8.8) and in a discussion of values (Section VZ, Volume 2).

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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