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Epistemological challenges: Mindscapes

Global Strategies Project


1. Epistemological types

In a remarkable series of articles, Magoroh Maruyama has studied patterns of cognition, perception, conceptualization, design, planning and decision processes (1974, 1977, 1978, 1980). His central concern is the role of epistemological types, especially as they affect cross-disciplinary, cross-professional, cross-paradigm and cross-cultural communications. In contrasting his own work with that of previous research in this area, he distinguishes two traditional approaches: the psychological and psychoanalytical bases of individual differences in patterns of cognition, and the cultural and social differences as determined by sociologists and anthropologists.

Maruyama notes the various terms that have been used to describe such patterns, none of which has proved satisfactory: models, logics, paradigms, epistemologies. To these might be added Kenneth Boulding's "image" (1956). In Maruyama's more recent work he favours "mindscapes". This is more attractive term than "answer (domain)" as used here, although it lacks the active connotation of responding to a need. He provides a very valuable summary of these different exercises in "paradigmatology" and their relation to social organization.

2. Paradigmatology

Although he seems no longer to favour the term, he defined paradigmatology as the "science of structures of reasoning" whether between disciplines, professions, cultures or individuals). He notes that the "problem of communication between different structures of reasoning had not been raised until recently", since scholars tended either to advocate their own approach or describe that of others. Contributing to this neglect is the fact that the choice between logics is based on factors which are beyond and independent of any logic.

3. Principal mindscapes

Although he carefully emphasizes that there are many possible mindscapes or paradigms, Maruyama argues that "for practical purposes" it is useful to distinguish four main types. He stresses that these are not meant to be either mutually exclusive nor exhaustive and warns that any attempt at separating them into non-overlapping categories "is itself a victim of a paradigm which assumes that the universe consists of non-overlapping categories". What is intriguing is that over the years he has continued to struggle with the same attributes, grouping them first into three types, extended to four, then to five and now seemingly stabilized at four again.

The four types are:

  • H-mindscape (homogenistic, hierarchical, classificational): Parts are subordinated to the whole, with subcategories neatly grouped into supercategories. The strongest, or the majority, dominate at the expense of the weak or of any minorities. Belief in existence of the one truth applicable to all (e.g. whether values, policies, problems, priorities, etc.). Logic is deductive and axiomatic demanding sequential reasoning. Cause-effect relations may be deterministic or probabilistic.
  • I-mindscape (heterogenistic, individualistic, random): Only individuals are real, even when aggregated into society. Emphasis on self-sufficiency, independence and individual values. Design favours the random, the capricious and the unexpected. Scheduling and planning are to be avoided. Non-random events are improbable. Each question has its own answer; there are no universal principles.
  • S-mindscape (heterogenistic, interactive, homeostatic): Society consists of heterogeneous individuals who interact non-hierarchically to mutual advantage. Mutual dependency. Differences are desirable and contribute to the harmony of the whole. Maintenance of the natural equilibrium. Values are interrelated and cannot be rank-ordered. Avoidance of repetition. Causal loops. Categories not mutually exclusive. Objectivity isless useful than "cross-subjectivity" or multiple viewpoints. Meaning is context dependent.
  • G-mindscape (heterogenistic, interactive, morphogenetic): Heterogeneous individuals interact non-hierarchically for mutual benefit, generating new patterns and harmony. Nature is continually changing requiring allowance for change. Values interact to generate new values and meanings. Values of deliberate (anticipatory) incompleteness. Causal loops. Multiple evolving meanings.

The above descriptions are brief summaries of his extensive listings of characteristics in relation to overall social philosophy, ethics, decision-making, design, social activity, perception of environment, human values, choice of alternatives, religion, causality, logic, knowledge, and cosmology. Of special interest, in the light of Attali's "seductive" concern, are the implications for aesthetic principles favoured. Maruyama considers that the influence of such "pure" types predominates in certain cultures, although in practice the types are quite mixed. Thus the H-type predominates in European, Hindu and Islamic cultures. The I-type develops in certain individuals, such as those of existentialist philosophy. The S-type is characteristic of Chinese, Hopi, and Balinese cultures. The G-type predominates in the African Mandenka culture, for example. H, S. and G characteristics can be distinguished in different streams of Japanese culture.

3. Epistemological data

Maruyama has recently compared his four types with an extensive survey of epistemological data grouped by O J Harvey into four "systems" (1966).

  • System I: High absolutism, closedness of beliefs, high evaluativeness, high positive dependence on representatives of institutional authority, high identification with social roles and status position, high conventionality, high ethnocentrism.
  • System II: Deep feelings of uncertainty, distrust of authority, rejection of socially approved guidelines to action accompanied by lack of alternative referents, psychological vacuum, rebellion against social prescriptions, avoidance of dependency on God and tradition.
  • System III: Manipulation of people through dependency upon them, fairly high skills in effecting desired outcomes in his world through the techniques of having others do it for him, some autonomous internal standards especially in social sphere, some positive ties to the prevailing social norms.
  • System IV: High perceived self-worth despite momentary frustrations and deviation from the normative, highly differentiated and integrated cognitive structure, flexible, creative and relative in thought and action, internal standards that are independent of external criteria, in some cases coinciding with social definitions and in other cases not.

The two authors find that they agree on three types and differ on the nature of the fourth (which Jungian's would presumably consider as corresponding to a partially "repressed function" they have in common). It is much to be regretted that such surveys have not explored the epistemologies in "developing" countries to a greater degree, nor the extent to which different epistemologies are co-present in the same culture, group, individual or life-cycle.

From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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