You are here

Development of cognitive artefacts from vehicle to tenor

Adaptive Hypercycle of Sustainable Psychosocial Self-organization (Part #8)

[Parts: First | Prev | Next | Last | All] [Links: To-K | From-K | From-Kx | Refs ]

In the case of metaphor a distinction is conventionally drawn between vehicle and tenor. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the subject from which the attributes are derived. As phenomena are reified and associated categories are defined, metaphor may draw upon older and more salient categories as a source of metaphor -- attributes are drawn from such "vehicles" and ascribed to the emergent category (the "tenor") as a means of defining it and rendering it comprehensible. A major psychosocial difficulty is associated with the manner in which some categories are framed as absolutes and necessarily "right", with others held to be inherently misconceived. There are many examples of such polarization with evident difficulty in bridging the dynamic between them and those perceived to be subscribing to one or the other.

This process serves to highlight how the more tangible "vehicle" is effectively "in-the-box" -- a linear category box interacting with similar boxes of the same explanatory order. Transcending their dynamics is enabled by the progressive contextual construction through introducing appropriate "curvature" -- using a metaphoric intangible to cross scales and give form to a larger cognitive whole. The non-linearity of metaphor is then a key to this process. As a metaphor of metaphor construction, this offers added significance to earlier arguments regarding the relevance of metaphor to governance (Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991; Metaphor as an Unexplored Catalytic Language for Global Governance, 1993; From governing metaphors to governance through metaphor, 1995).

Given the importance of the much-discussed transition to any new paradigm, a valuable metaphor is offered by the use of a spiral to enable such transitions by vehicle traffic. A track transition curve, transition spiral, or spiral easement, is a mathematically calculated Euler spiral fitted between a straight (also known as tangent) and a circular curve on a section of rail track or highway. Clearly such a perspective merits attention as offering a smooth cognitive transition "out-of-the-box".

The Fibonacci sequence offers a way of framing this situation and transcending it -- as illustrated by the following. The initial squares at the core of the image on the left (1 and 1) epitomize polarization -- reframed by the square with a side corresponding to their total (2=1+1). In this sense "2" becomes the metaphorical "tenor" whose attributes are derived from the dynamics between the "vehicles" ("1" and "1"). The progression continues with "3" as a metaphorical tenor for the categories that preceded it, and so on.

Fig. 3: Construction of Fibonacci spiral
(numbers in both images indicate the length of sides of squares, not the number of "boxes" within each square)
Fig. 3a: Initial steps in process of construction of the spiral,
based on a succession of combinations of squares
(detail of the image on the right)
Fig. 3b: Insertion of connecting curves into the framework
of image on the left
(only steps 1 through 8 shown on left)
Construction of Fibonacci spiral Construction of Fibonacci spiral

The progression may be framed in terms of explanation of successively higher order, possibly understood as of greater dimensionality (across "planes" a , b, c , d , e, etc corresponding to labels in the image above):

  • a: 1st order: good-evil, good-bad (stressing the problematic "other", a duality to be eliminated from a fundamentally unitary system)
  • b: 2nd order: a 4-fold explanation holding polarity dynamics and distinctions (Jung, AQAL, etc)
  • c: 3rd order explanation:
  • d: 4th order explanation
  • e: 5th order explanation

The transition curve from one explanatory order to another is achieved through the geometrical metaphor of a "pivot" point, the centre point of the curve by which the transition is "encompassed". These are marked in the above diagram (A, B, C, D, E, etc) corresponding to the explanatory order.

Of great interest is the nature of the cognitive process indicated by the box construction in the left hand image above. Recognition of the need for a larger context may be understood in terms of:

  • reacting against the dysfunctionality and "traps" of the pattern of lower order
  • recognizing the need for:
    • "ex-planation" to shift out of the plane in which lower order dynamics occur (as with calls for a new paradigm)
    • a "bigger box" (as cognitive container of sub-boxes) within which to handle the unresolved dynamics (the psychosocial "stuff") between category boxes at level(s) of lower order -- providing a framework to "hold" what "came before"
  • discovering, through learning, a stereoscopic (or polyocular) perspective of greater "depth" from which:
Fig. 4: Summary of implications
games, personality types,
team members and delegates enacting dynamics
"category boxes"
for ex-planation
0 0 1 0 "self-explanatory" nonduality / apophasis
"good-guys" vs. "bad-guys"
"us" vs "them"
1 (a) 1 1 2 (good-evil,
tennis, male-female,
producer-consumer, etc
2 (b) 2 2 4 (Jung, AQAL, most
conventional "models" using quadrants)
16 (MBTI)
bridge 3 (c) 6 (2x3) 3 (triadic) 9 (enneagram, Haskell/Wilken) 81 (Tao Te Ching)
enneagram types 4 (d) 15 (3x5) Alexander 5 (mindscapes) (25) (625)
chess (8x8 board) 5 (e) 40 (5x8) 8-fold 64 (I Ching) (4096)
Wéiqí/Go (19x19 board)          
meeting delegations, seating arrangements,
Dunbar's number

It is appropriate to note that the formalizations of patterns, involving sets of larger sizes with more complex dynamics, are effectively anticipated in the form of games, recognition of distinct but complementary personality types (possibly recommended for management teams), size or number of delegations for meetings on complex issues. A degree of comprehension of the patterns is then achieved by "enacting" them as in some complex rituals. Of potential relevance is Dunbar's number as a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom a person can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. No precise value has been proposed for Dunbar's number, but a commonly cited approximation is 150. Of further interest are analogous constraints on the cognitive ability of certain patterns of "governance" to maintain "stable social relationships".

Aspects of these issues are explored in the following:

The relationship between the first numbers, and especially the role of zero, has long been a matter of comment (John D. Barrow, The Book of Nothing, 2000; Brian Rotman, Signifying Nothing: the semiotics of zero, 1987; Raj Patel, The Value of Nothing: how to reshape market society and redefine democracy, 2010). Of relevance to governance is also the extent to which a central issue may be neglected, denied or otherwise omitted (Lipoproblems: Developing a Strategy Omitting a Key Problem -- the systemic challenge of climate change and resource issues, 2009). Curiously this may be appropriately portrayed in a circular diagram (Mapping the Global Underground: articulating Insightful Population Constraint Consideration, 2010). This mapping could well also benefit from a spiral design.

[Parts: First | Prev | Next | Last | All] [Links: To-K | From-K | From-Kx | Refs ]