Archive for April 2011

Quora Answer: What is phenomenology?

What is phenomenology?

Phenomenology is the Key to the split in Western Philosophy

Since I asked this question elsewhere, it seems appropriate that I answer it here, so I will not be accused of answering my own questions too much. However, if the questions were better on Quora, one would not have to ask cogent questions in order to give cogent answers. Be that as it may . . .

My answer to the question as to what Phenomenology is would concentrate on the differences between the phenomenologies of Hegel, Peirce, Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. It is of great interest that Heidegger begins and ends Being and Time with critiques of Hegel, and then goes on to use a key term from Hegel as his own key term, i.e. Dasein (Being There) which is the term for existence (determinate being) in German Philosophy, despite having the word sein in it. But Heidegger rightly refers to existence as both ecstasy and exi-stance (standing outside of Being). From this we can infer that Heidegger is trying to gain distance from Husserl, his teacher by appealing to Hegel the earlier phenomenologist, and Aristotle, for him the father of Philosophy. Heidegger treats Aristotle as if he were a phenomenologist and thus reads him anew, with the insight that Alethia is a dynamic process of uncovering the truth rather than a static verification of logical statements. This realization of the essential dynamism implied in Greek philosophy as opposed to the tradition that took philosophy as static true answers that could be verified is the basic impulse behind the break from Husserl we see in Heidegger. Heidegger is trying to make Husserl dynamic as Hegel did for Kant. However, it seems that much of what Heidegger says that appears new remains unpublished in the archive of Husserl’s work at least according to new commentators who have studied the later work such as Donn Welton. Both Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger are said to have taken liberally from the later ideas of Husserl about Generative Phenomenology, i.e. dynamic time immersed phenomenology, and this shows in their work and their obsession with the question of time, especially in Heidegger. Merleau-Ponty goes on to focus on the translucence or opacity of perception, as well as developing further kinds of Being beyond the two posited by Heidegger (Hyper and Wild).

When we look at these different phenomenologies then it is the phenomenology of Peirce that stands out as being outside of this stream of the tradition. His phenomenology is prior to Husserl and is offered as an alternative to Hegel, where the phenomenology is only meant to ground  logic in actual phenomena, it was through this phenomenology that Peirce realized the importance of signs in connecting logic to experience. Signs also play an important role for Heidegger, but he does not use the Percian concept of the sign. Peirce is a philosopher looking for an alternative to Analysis and Reductionism. He is a Kantian that takes Hegel seriously and then who takes that reconciliation back to logic and tries to apply it to give a grounding to logic, in order to avoid the nihilism of symbolic logic. Of course, it is ironic that this was a crucial step in the development of our modern symbolic logic. Perice contributed the existential operator. He is trying to connect Logic more to life and to see what the ramifications of that are for logic itself. One result was defining abduction (hypothesis) as the third combination of the elements of the syllogism that had been forgotten or lost in oblivion within the tradition.

So there is an interesting relation between the various phenomenologies whose purpose has been to try to understand how logic and number fit into the actual processes of living consciousness within the world. It is an attempt to embody science, logic and mathematics. Each takes a different route in doing so, but the various alternatives build on each other within the tradition setting the scenes for later developments in phenomenology. And phenomenology is only one strand there is also ontology, hermeneutics and dialectics. These four strands capture most of what is central in modern Continental Philosophy. And actually phenomenology must be considered in the context with the other strands in order to be completely understood. Heidegger is a crucial player within the tradition in this regard. Heidegger includes all four strands together. Gadamer develops his strand of hermeneutics in Truth and Method. His idea of a sign goes beyond de Saussure in as much as it is dynamic, having to do with pointing at the absent rather than being merely a diacritical marker in a plenum. His ontology adds the ready to hand (Process Being or Becoming, Heraclitus, dynamic) to present-at-hand (Pure Being, Parmenides, Static). The only strand that Heidegger does not deal with is dialectics, and that is because in his time it was taken up by the Communists and he was a Nazi.

If we go back and look at Hegel in this regard we can see that his emphasis was on the dialectic, trying to bring time into philosophy. Heidegger takes up this cause but says that the two modalities of being-in-the-world (dasein) are equiprimordial. Hegel’s phenomenology is of spirit/ghost/mind. It recounts the teleology of history of philosophy which developed by exploring all the alternatives of a philosophical space within the consciousness of the slave mentality. It is very interesting to see Hegel’s work on the background of the enslavement of the Greeks by the Romans. After Sense Certainty is posited, then he starts with Skepticism, Stoicism and Epicureanism as the fundamental dialectical moments of the development of philosophy in slavery. Hegel says only slaves are self-conscious, thus only they can develop philosophies. This ignores the fact that Plato and Aristotle were nobles. Nietzsche tries to reverse this idea in Hegel by developing a philosophy of Nobility. Basically dialectics explores all the possibilities of the logical space at each developmental level. He is trying to develop a dynamic logic of synthesis to counter the static logic of analysis in Kant. Kant introduced static dialectical structures at the core of his philosophy in the categories. Hegel only has a dynamic view, but that dynamic view itself is still frozen at each moment of unfolding. Moments cancel out and that is what takes us from one plateau of the development of consciousness to another. So it is only partially dynamic. Thus dynamism is partial in Hegel, and he is dealing with the totality of consciousness rather than the unity of the faculties as Kant attempts to do. Heidegger on the other hand says that these two approaches Kant (static) and Hegel (dynamic) are equiprimordial and are two modalities of being-in-the-world. Heidegger goes to what is before the arising of the Subject/Object dualism by identifying dasein as the projector of the A priori that appears primordially before the arising of that duality and which embodies temporality as the ecstasy of the projection of Being. The process of ex-stasis, projecting what stands outside of dasein is called existential by Heidegger. He develops the existentialia that concern the inherent structure of dasein as a dual to the categories of Kant which concern the inherent structure  of the object. Hegel and Kant are both idealists but Hegel is trying to understand why the rationalism of Kant results in the bloodbath of the French Revolution. Kant is part of the Enlightenment while Hegel is taking his inspiration from the Romantics (beautiful souls). Hegel says that there is a determinate teleology to the unfolding of sprit/ghost/mind within the tradition and it is that fated unfolding that he records and tries to rise above in his phenomenology. For Hegel Ontology is that of Heraclitus, which he says sprouts from the synthesis of Being and Buddhist Emptiness. Thus Hegel takes as his starting point the emptiness of existence, and is probably one  of the only Western philosophers to recognize existence as standing as a reference  point outside the unfolding of the great chain of Being. For Hermeneutics Hegel uses the story of Antigone as his touchstone throughout. The contradiction that she is trapped within between tradition and king on the one hand and family and brother on the other hand Hegel takes as the sign of the primordial duality within the tradition between power structures and familial allegiance. So in Hegel the emphasis is on the dialectic, which is taken from Plato and developed on the basis of Skepticism, which is an image of Buddhism in philosophy. Hegel tries to find an alternative to the stasis of Kant by brining history into our account of philosophy. Thus he really develops a meta-philosophy that encompasses all the philosophies of the western worldview as they unfold, and assumes that to be teleological. In terms of Phenomenology what he means is how spirit/ghost/mind appears in our experience which is brought out from the condition of power relations and especially slavery.

Husserl takes a different route by attempting to put the transcendental idealism of Kant in the context of the actual workings of consciousness considered phenomenology. So Husserl has a phenomenology of the individual thinker rather than the experience of the tradition in its development within history as an intersubjective whole. Husserl more or less ignores Hegel. But takes Kantianism in a new direction by discovering the difference between abstraction and essence perception. Basically he discounts the idea of Descartes of simple ideas. He notices that in consciousness the apprehension of essences is completely different from the production of abstractions. This is the basis of the distinction made by Heidegger between present-at-hand and ready-to-hand. Abstraction is something rendered present-at-hand, and Essences are something rendered ready-to-hand. Essences are constraints on characteristics that appear as attributes of an object. Abstractions are glosses that leave out details and particulars. Essences are from the objects themselves as their self-organization of their characteristics, while Abstractions (Universals) are from us as we filter out what is non-essential from the essential in our experience.

Heidegger makes a brilliant synthesis of all these influences, that overcomes many of their weaknesses by going back to Aristotle and looking at his types of Knowledge, and concentrating on the kind of knowledge that is practical. Heidegger makes the difference between Essence Perception and Abstraction into modalities of Being related to totality and unity respectively. We related to the totality of the infrastructure of technology though a circumspective concern in the making which is different from the way we relate to finished products that that present abstractions. Then he focuses on showing how Being and Becoming are equi-primordial and exemplify these two modalities. And then he focuses on Time and the ecstasy by which dasein projects Being as a whole combining the two modalities. We call this the monolith of Being and recognize as valid M. Henry’s criticism of Heidegger’s assumption of Ontological Monism based on his reading of Meister Eckhart. Heidegger does not consider that Being might have an unconscious, i.e. an essence that is never manifest. In this way he is similar to Husserl. Heidegger as we said combines Ontology, Hermeneutics, Semiotics, and Phenomenology in a single comprehensive system for understanding the worldview. What he leaves out is dialectics.

Merleau-Ponty tries to represent Heidegger in a psychologically comprehendible way and discovers the concomitants of present-at-hand is pointing, and of ready-to-hand is grasping. He goes on to identify that as we make our tools part of ourselves we expand our being-in-the-world and that has to be another kind of Being. He calls that the hyper-dialectic between Process Being and Nothingness of Sartre which is the inversion of the kind of Being that Heidegger introduces as being dynamic. Sartre goes back to Hegel and introduces the terminology of Being in-itself and for-itself, as well as Being in-and-for-itself. Sartre is dismissed these days as misunderstanding Heidegger, but when we consider how deeply rooted Heidegger’s thought is in Hegel this needs to be reassessed. Heidegger recognized this third kind of Being, as Plato calls it, as Being (crossed out) and Derrida picks up on that and calls it Differance. Merleau-Ponty goes on to discover the fourth kind of Being he calls Wild Being which is the contraction of being-in-the-world that is the dual of Hyper Being. Thus, the emphasis of Merleau-Ponty is on the development of our understanding of the kinds of Being by making them concrete in our experience. Other thinkers like Levinas contributed to this project by recognizing that the concomitant of Hyper Being is bearing. For Merleau-Ponty dialectics is as Hegel and Marx defined them and is taken for granted. He spends more time on the sign and its embodiment. In general, Merleau-Ponty’s biggest contribution is extending the kinds of Being which then were explored by others such as Derrida (Hyper Being) and Deleuze (Wild Being).

Phenomenology is what appears in consciousness. But also in Continental Philosophy there has been an obsession with understanding the Unconscious, that which does not appear, or is hidden and must be uncovered. We get this development prominently in Lacan, who is interpreted by Badiou and Zizek today but who had a big impact on Deleuze, who tried to make something useful out of Lacan’s cryptic ideas about the functioning of the unconscious which was based on Semiotics and Structuralism.

When we look at the development of Phenomenology in Hegel, Peirce, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Derrida, M. Henry, Lacan (via Zizek), Deleuze we get a very interesting field of similarities and differences which are very thought provoking when read in the context of each other. Also if we take Dreyfus seriously we can see that Foucault is part of this tradition also because he took the structures he discovered in Heidegger and applied that to the analysis of Power. It develops all the strands of Modern Continental Philosophy which are ontology, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and dialectics, as well as structuralism and semiotics.

Most philosophy, like Analytical Philosophy is trapped in the Present-at-hand and never escapes. Continental Philosophy escapes into the meta-levels of Being where the aspects of Being (truth, reality, presence, identity) are  transformed emergently at each stage up to five where we suddenly discover existence. Thus if Ontology can be extended up the meta-levels of Being by using Russell’s type theory to understand it, then also Hermeneutics, Phenomenology, and Dialectics can be extended as well. Merleau-Ponty has developed this extension for Phenomenology based on the fundamental framework developed by Husserl and Heidegger of splitting modes of being-in-the-world. Basically, the monolith of Being containing Pure and Process Being is what is conscious and the Hyper and Wild Being pair is unconscious and so that explains why these higher modalities are only recognized with difficulty. Hermeneutics can be seen in our recognition that the aspects of Being transform as we move up the meta-levels. And in my dissertation I have taken the dialectics and trialectics of Hegel and extended them into the realm of Quadralectics and Pentalectics. (see

Understanding what Phenomenology is at a deeper level means understanding the field of Phenomeologies as developed in the tradition, and that is continuing beyond those mentioned, and also understanding phenomenology in the context of the other strands of postmodern philosophy. Implicit in this is a critique of Analytical Philosophy. Analytical Philosophy never knows anything but Pure Being. Analytical Philosophy sticks with Truth as Verification. They call themselves realists but this is only understood in the most basic sense, not as it is transformed as we move up the meta-levels of Being. Same with Identity and presence. Notice that Phenomenology is about what becomes present. But deeper phenomenologies deal with how what is present relates to what is absent and recognizes the dynamism of showing and hiding. Ontology deals with the status of entities that have their own identities both as abstractions and essences as well as ideas and concepts. Hermeneutics deals with truth as it unfolds at the various meta-levels of Being. That means dialectics has to do with reality and the synthesis we encounter prior to what ever reductionism and analysis we perform. Synthesis is given in our experience, and thinking is for the most part is reductive in our tradition.

Analytical Philosophy only works with reason alone and tends to ignore experience as it searches for a completely rational utopia. It eschews the consideration of time and its impact except in the realm of argumentation. It ignores real meaning and accepts the abstractions of symbolic logic and set theory as its basic building blocks. It is happy living blindly on the surface of the worldview, and not recognizing its depths like most people. Once we recognize the depths of the worldview then we have to render an account of it, and that is the task that Continental Philosophy has set for itself. The latest installment in that project is Badiou’s Being and Event. Continental Philosophy is an intellectual adventure of the first order, which uses all of history, literature, psychoanalysis, and science as its springboard for new discoveries about the nature of Being. But this was all kicked off by Husserl who decided to make Kantian Idealism more embodied in the world so he could understand the place of logic and number in consciousness. Now philosophies that do not have a phenomenological, hermeneutic, ontological, or dialectical component are laughable. And that is the bulk of Analytic philosophy. We can think about this in relation to the Aspects of Being. Formal Systems are based on Identity, Presence and Identity and thus these are taken for granted by the Analytical philosophers as the basis of their work with set theory and symbolic logic. But Analytical Philosophy itself considers itself realist, and thus concentrates its effort on identity, truth, and reality, leaving aside presence as an imponderable. For instance, Schlick wants to separate concepts from precepts to create a general science. So the presence aspect of the formal system is downplayed and the reality component that is missing is given pride of place in their philosophical framework. Phenomenology on the other hand does not start with the formal system but with the phenomenology of consciousness which is the context for our manipulations of the formal system. Phenomenology identifies presence as the key aspect which it gives prominence to. So there is a symmetry breaking in Philosophy between the formal system and analytic philosophy, but on the other hand also between Phenomenology when it emphasizes presence as the source downplaying reality. Phenomenology is interested in truth and identity, more than reality. Truth are seen in its attempts to understand reasoning and judgement, and identity in its attempt to understand the noematic nucleus and essence of the object.

So we see that there are here three symmetry breakings where on aspect is left out.

  • Formal System leaves out reality dealing with identity, presence, truth concentrating on illusion (the unclear, ungrounded)

  • Analytical Philosophy leaves out presence dealing with identity, reality, truth concentrating on absence (lack of proof)

  • Continental Philosophy leaves out (cannot find) truth dealing with identity, presence, reality concentrating on fiction (literature, Sartre is best example)

  • Postmodernism leaves out identity (as unity and totality) dealing with reality, presence, truth concentrating on difference (Deleuze, Derrida, Badiou)

Analytical Philosophy exploits the Formal System

Postmodernism exploits Continental Philosophy

And never the twin shall meet.

Phenomenology is the necessary antidote for Analytical Philosophy, just as Formal systems are the antidote for Continental Philosophy.

So that is why I try to develop formal systems in the context of Continental Philosophy. It is by taking the antidote that meaning is generated in each framework.

The formal system generates meaning in model theory by introducing reality.

Posmodernism generates meaning by the reintroduction of identity, as we see in Badiou’s work which reduces ontology to mathematics and presumably epistemology in his next work to logic. summary:


Posted April 29, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Quora Answer: What is Namesake?

Quora and Namesake post words as art

quora and namesake are complementary

Namesake appears to have what Quora lacks. I have been complaining bitterly about several deficiencies in Quora for some time now. The first one was that questions have not context within any problematic. The second one was the seeming arbitrary censorship which others have complained about more strongly than myself. Thirdly there is the fact that there is no real discussion here except in comments, but rather people are talking past each other as they all answer the questions in their different ways, but there is no way to work out and reconcile the answers with each other. And finally there is a lack of dialectic, so questions and answers are considered atomic and are not part of a larger dynamic structure like a dialogue. I ventured to invite people to Convore as a place where some realtime conversation might happen on my profile but no one took me up on that offer as far as I know.

I was just invited to join Namesake today, and I immediately started a philosophy discussion in which others heartily participated. The environment reminds me a lot of Quora but has some interesting differences with respect to reputation building that I have yet to appreciate, so there is a subtle difference to the organization of the site, beyond the obvious fact that it is oriented toward realtime direct rather than indirect conversation mediated by the Q&A structure here on Quora. There is no censorship because it is real time chat. And it is dynamic so you can get a sense of the style of the other persons thinking in real time. And it allows for a dialog. There I was actively comparing Namesake to Quora, and probably that was not appreciated by the developers, but my experience here on Qurora and what is right about this community and its culture as well as its deficiencies gives me a particular perspective that I would not have had if I had not known Quora first.

I had tried to start my own chat framework using at in hopes of producing something one like Namesake, but now I find that it has already been done, and has been growing since last year. My suggestion is that we use the two platforms together to enhance the experience of both. Namespace specifically answers my complaints about Quora, and thus lessen the demand of those complaints. When I get fed up with Quora I can go to or and express myself how ever I like outside the censorship of Quora. I am not censored very much here so my complaint in that regard is not very great, but it is the arbitrary nature of the actions by the staff and the other volunteers that is particularly irksome. For me the more important problem is the lack of context for questions and the lack of an overall framework of dialectic within which the questions can be answered, as well as the lack of the problematic background to questions. Questions seem to come out of the air, from nowhere, because people are sitting in front of their monitors and they feel as if they just must ask something, even if it is not a real concern. From that we get all kinds of bogus questions that are not vetted as much as the answers. For me it is fun to take the seemingly philosophical ones and try to make something meaningful out of them even if they were not really meant to be meaningful in the first place. These bogus “deep” questions come out of peoples thought that they must ask something profound since they are here in a question and answer environment where questions are taken seriously.

Unfortunately it appears that the people who built Quora the Question and Answer site really do not understand the nature of Questions and Answers very deeply, and thus we get this flawed environment within which we must struggle to stay sane and make it work for us. We like to answer questions. We just wish there were real questions to grapple with. People make valiant attempts to answer all sorts of inane questions. Fortunately these are not all the questions that appear here, and thus there is relief when we find a genuine question that someone really has a pining to get an answer to. But, it would help if people could have real conversations like they can at in order to get a sense of who each other are through the dynamic interaction. Anyway, I would like to invite you all over to when you need a break from Quora, and want to actually interact with respect to any of the subjects that I like to talk about. And if you really want to be adventurous you can ask for an invite to my own environment Namesake gives 1500 characters and I give 2500 characters for a post. Philosophy questions need plenty of space to be answered, and fortunately there are no limits that I know of on answers he at Quora. But occasionally one might want some realtime back and forth interaction, because real answers to significant questions need to be explored and understood by each individual differently. It seems like Namesake.commight be a good place to do that.

Posted April 28, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Quora Answer: What is the coolest looking animal on earth?

The coolest animal on earth is the one furthest from Extinction, which right now seems to be humans. Of course what is not so cool is that this animal seems hell bent on wiping out all the others. Why we became so disconnected from our environment to countenance such a state of affairs is unknown. But my suspicion is that it has something to do with the structure of the Western worldiview which by military and economic domination has asserted its unique structure on all other cultures and worldviews. What is interesting is that other worldivews and cultures are seem to be dying out almost as fast as other species. We can correlate the death of other worldviews to the death of other languages, which are vanishing very fast. Thus we can see that Otherness, what is other than the dominant worldview is perishing. And if Hegel is right then we can really only know ourselves through the other. And thus we are as Nietzsche thought entering into a time of oblivion, which he referred to as the blinking of the last man. One thing we can say is that a big part of the problem is our metaphysical understanding of things. There was Indo-european dominance during the Mythopoietic Era as seen by the expansion on horseback and chariot across the known world. And then again in the Metaphysical era there was colonialization in which the known world expanded to the entire globe. Now we are entering the post metaphysical era which I call Heterochronic and we can expect further globalization within this new era. And with all this creative and emergent expansion of the unique indo-european worldview there comes widespread death and destruction. Just like in the story of the Iliad in which the culmination was pillage, rape, and murder, we see the same thing happening globally with all the wars between colonial and post-colonial disrupted societies all over the world.
We hold up pictures of crazy species. or beautiful species which we think are cool,  but the obverse of this coolness of what is still living, is the annihilation of the uncool, because very dead, species symbolized by the Dodo. The coolness of our fascination with the strange, wieird, or beautiful is the dual of the uncoolness of our killing off myraid of other species, i.e. Other than us, which forces us into Oblivion seen by the lack of mention of the myriad recent decimated wild species.
So I think it behoves us to look at ourselves carefully. And for me it means looking at the Western worldview which is implicated in this crime against other species. If there was a world court for species then we would definitely be at the dock for speciesocide (species genocide). What stands out to the philosopher is how the Western worldview has a unique language construct called Being that is unique to Indo-european languages. And the other think that is singular about the Indo-europeans is the use of technology in extreme  forms to assert dominance. This can be seen in the use of the horse to invade the known world in prehistory, which is the precursor to global colonialization, and now globalization. When we look at other languages which are Other than Being, we see that they are either languages with copula  only, or existence. For instance, Sumerian whose early interaction with the Indo-Europeans has left the trace of loan words in both languages had ME, which meant the copula as a verb and meant something like cultural tattvas as nouns (arts  of civilization). The Sumerians battled the monstrosities of the KUR, which meant Hell, and also was the place where the Indo-europeans had their homeland (ancient Turkey, home of the Hittites, and other Kurgan peoples). Kurgans are the burial mounds of Kur. Even today cur means outcast which is perhaps a way that the settled peoples refer to the nomadic. Now that we know that this area of Turkey had monolithic sites from 12,000 BC we can guess that the Indo-europeans were an ancient people who just happened to live in a natural bread basket, where several natural “ecopatches” of grain of various species overlapped. Just harvesting this bounty of Eden would cause it to become domesticated and lead to agriculture. But it was the Sumerians that took this to its logical conclusion building the first civilization based on agriculture, which the Kurgans regularly invaded. That is until the Sumerians drove them off into the Steppes. In the Steppes they put their genetic engineering knowledge to work on breeding horses bigger, which was a genetic possibility hidden in their species DNA. Eventually the horses got big enough to pull chariots, and then after a while  large enough to ride horseback. Out of this came a war machine of incredible might, based on the power of the horse, which we still use as the measure of power today. Kurgans using the horsepower looking like Centaurs set out to conquer the known world and managed to take over Europe, and India in their excursions across the globe. Much of warfare in recorded history are  internecine warfare between various Indo-European rivals as recorded in the Iliad for example. This rivalry expressed itself in unprecedented technological warfare, i.e. developing war technologies and then using them to advantage to expand the territory of one indo-european group over another. When ever non-indo-europeans were involved they were mostly conquered, because they did not have the ongoing dynamic of technological innovation. Case in point is that the Chinese developed most inventions prior to the Renaissance a thousand years prior to their western counterparts. But they never synthesized inventions together. Rather they would invent, forget, reinvent, forget in a cycle. The odd thing about the Indo-europeans is that they would invent something, then combine it with other inventions, and the inventions would persist, especially if they had to do with war machinery, which were essential for dominance.

So I don’t think it is going too far afield if we associate the uniqueness of having Being in the languages of the Indo-europeans, with this persistence and combination in synthesis of technological inventions which appears to be a sustained unique property of Indo-european societies and cultures. We are not saying that all Indo-european societies excelled in technological invention and combination in all periods, but that there was always some Indo-european society that was actively engaged in it, and so the baton of preeminence was passed from society to society throughout the millennia. Eventually this led to the preeminence of the European powers and world colonialization during the Metaphysical era, and now globalization.

So lets go back and think about this connection between Being and Technology. Heidegger building off of Nietzsche identifies Technology with Nihilism. Nietzsche had identified in the Will to Power nihilism as the fundamental driver within the Western worldview. Heidegger said the essence of Technology was nothing technological, but instead was Nihilism, and particularly the “enframing” together with the “standing reserve”.
“Unconcealing his questioning concerning technology further, Heidegger aims centrally at defining the modern technology’s essence, which he names “Gestell [enframing]” (324). Here, “Enframing means the gathering together of the setting-upon that sets upon man, i.e. challenges him forth, to reveal the actual, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve” (325). Put somewhat more lucidly, enframing refers to the calling out, impelling, or challenging-forth, of humans to reveal, or unconceal the “actual” (the aletheia/veritas/truth) as ever-present and “on call” (322) (the “standing-reserve”). Put differently, “Enframing, as a challenging-forth into ordering, sends into a way of revealing. Enframing is an ordaining of destining, as is every way of revealing. Bringing-forth, poiesis, is also a destining in this sense” (330). Enframing is “destining”, from which “the essence of all history is determined” (329). Enframing is the essence of modern technology, for Heidegger, because he roots modern technology in techne: it is a means for sourcing true forms and ideas that exist before the figures we perceive.”…
It is interesting that we do not demand a standing reserve of variety that is represented by species and language difference, but rather we are hell bent  on destroying his very variety, even as we develop philosophies of difference like that of Deleuze or Badiou. Rather the Enframing is the destining of the fate of annihilation for all otherness, symbolized by English becoming the world dominant language, the new Latin, or Mandarin. What is clear is that the Emergent and Creative bringing forth of technology is intimately connected to the destruction of languages, cultures, worldviews, species globally. The symbol of this is the Winchester House in Santa Clara where the widow of the man who sold the Winchester rifle, which led to such destruction in America, especially of the Indians, went mad and created a labyrinth of death and destruction due to her guilt over the inheritance of blood money. In that house there are stairs to nowhere. Stairs that go right into the ceiling with no outlet. And I take this as an image of a basic trait of the Western worldview to have meta-levels of Being that lead to nowhere. Not  only is Being itself unique to the Indo-european worldview but also the meta-levels of Being are also unique. These are Pure, Process, Hyper, Wild and Ultra Being. We get these by repeating meaningfully the word Being. So the Being of Being is becoming. Thus Heraclitus and Parmenides are both right. At the Pure Being level there is Static Being, while at the Process Being level (becoming) there is flux and dynamism as Hegel recognized following Heraclitus and the ancient Skeptics. This stairway to nowhere was know by Plato who recognized in the Timaeus the third way of being which was associated with the chora or the receptacle and its impregnation by the demiurge. Later it was rediscovered by Heidegger, and taken up by Derrida who called it Differance (differing and deferring). Paul Simon called it “slip-sliding away”. And thus we get the first intimations of strange difference between Process and Pure Being which leads to another weird kind of Being that is their difference in relation to each other, and at the same time a new and exotic kind of Being. It turns out that this kind of Being is the basis for creative emergent design of artifacts. (See The dual of Hyper Being (The hyper-dialectic between Being and Nothingness according to Merleau-Ponty) is Wild Being. While Hyper Being is an expansion of being-in-the-world, so Wild Being is the contraction of being-in-the-world. Technology innovation is the expansion of being-in-the-world because it gives us new tools mostly for war, but for other purposes as well. The affordances of those tools give us new ways of interacting effectively in the world, like for instance with smart phones, the  internet, and global communications. But with every emergent innovation there is a dark side which is the intensification of nihilism, which can be seen in the fact that most email is spam, meaningless automated chatter. When he looks at it the last man merely blinks. He is fascinated by the promise of the new and misses the fact that it just got slightly darker, and he became just a little more lost in oblivion. As languages die we blink as we consider what we will not watch on TV because we are lost in a myriad of channels that we surf. As species are lost we blink because are thinking about what is for dinner, without considering that the chicken we will be eating was grown in a box. We even read books called Blink, but it is what we do not take in in a moment of perception, that which we are blind to which is the scariest thing (the unknown unknown).

These stair steps to no where reveal the Fragmentation of Being within the Western worldivew. In other words the western worldview has an Achilles heel. What we discover is that at the core of Being at this  highest meta-level which is meta-level five we break into existence. There we see  Ultra Being the singularity,  i.e. the way Being looks like from the outside as a thing found when it is no longer encompassing us. This is the deepest secret of our worldivew. For all its dominance and its destructive arrogance at its core it is empty. And this was discovered by the Buddhists long ago, and this core was called emptiness (sunyata). Enlightenment was seen as escaping from the illusion production of Being into Existence. But that place was were all other languages were already at, i.e. they did not  have to escape from Being, because they were already outside of it. The heresy of Buddhism tries to take us back to the state of existence prior to the advent of Being.  This is called Wu (Void) in Taoism. However, you cannot get back to the primordial condition so easily and so there is an essential difference that makes a difference (ala Bateson) between emptiness and void which is a non-intuitive result. So for instance deep ecology is different from primordial undisturbed wilderness. Deep ecology is a reservation, like we put the Indians in hoping they would die. If that did not work we gave them infected blankets. A reserve for animals not touched by humans is different from untouched wilderness that has not yet been explored. The untouched reserve is a standing reserve of wildness. It is part of the enframing. While untouched wilderness is prior to the enframing.

So somehow we need to find a nondual solution to this problematic of the Western worldview which generates nihilism though its creative destruction that produces emergent artifacts leading to the intensification of nihilism, as for instance Peace Studies being supported by the Military Industrial Complex and myriad other nihilistic (unnatural extreme) opposites produced by the Western worldview. You can see that in the production of genetically engineered fish that glow in the dark. They are animals of our fantasies distorted from their natural genetic foundations. But as Zizek says there is no pure condition to refer to. For instance they found that wildfires on the prairies were set by hunting humans, and that the ecosystem needed that. Not having wildfires occasionally actually degraded the environment, so parks had to start to have burn offs in order to keep the prairie healthy. Humans already in history had had an impact on ecology, and the ecology was adapted to that impact. And so in reality if there was a deep ecology sanctuary, for it to run properly we would probably have to intervene on a regular basis to maintain the purity of the ecosystem.

So when we look at these odd animals that seem so strange, or the beautiful animals that capture our fantasy, we are looking at the extremes we are fascinated by, and already that is a nihilistic projection on nature which is intertwined with our fundamental approach to nature that destroys it. Somehow we have to get out of that nihilistic attitude which underwrites the destruction of species, ecologies, languages, societies, cultures other than that generated by the Western worldview. Some how we need to take a nondual position, which entails doing no harm, even the harm done by helping to save the declining species that are dropping off into oblivion.

3 Comments •  •   • 4:52pm on Wednesday • Not for Reproduction

This is a stark contrast to all the other answers. You really got into it…geez man.

Anthony Smith •  • 5:58pm on Wednesday 2011.4.14

Spam. This answer probably wouldn’t help someone who wanted to know about the question. See Why are answers on Quora marked as Not Helpful?

Clint Law •  • 2:54am 2011.4.14

This answer addresses the why of the question itself. How can we ask such a question? What does that question say about us? What in our worldview leads to facile questoins like this in the face of planetary disaster of species annihilation? What we see in these answers says more about us than the species that are pictured.

Kent Palmer •  • 2:04pm 2011.4.14

Posted April 15, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

My original Autopoiesis Entry improvement verses the Entry today


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This is an old revision of this page, as edited by (talk) at 00:17, 17 July 2003. It may differ significantly from the current revision.

Autopoiesis literally means “self-reproduction,” and expresses a fundamental complementarity between structure and function. The term was originally introduced byChilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana in the early 1970s. More precisely, the term refers to the dynamics of non-equilibrium structures; that is, organised states (sometimes also called dissipative structures) that remain stable for long periods of time despite matter and energy continually flowing through them. A vivid example of a non-equilibrium structure is the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, which is essentially a gigantic whirlpool of gases in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere. This vortex has persisted for a much longer time (on the order of centuries) than the average amount of time any one-gas molecule has spent within it.
For a general introduction see The Web of Life by Fritjof Capra [RandomHouse 1997]

A good book on Autopoiesis is Self-Producing Systems by John Mingers [Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 1994].

A good website with more explanation is THE OBSERVER WEB: Autopoiesis and Enaction at

An email list on Autopoiesis exists at See

Several papers on Autopoietic theory are available at



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Look up autopoiesis inWiktionary, the free dictionary.



Autopoiesis (from Greek αυτό (auto), meaning “self”, and ποίησις (poiesis), meaning “creation, production”) literally means “self-creation”, and expresses a fundamental dialectic between structure and function. The term was introduced in 1972 by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela:

An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network.[1]

[…] the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system on the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection.[2]


Autopoiesis was originally presented as a system description that was said to define and explain the nature of living systems. A canonical example of an autopoietic system is the biological cell. The eukaryotic cell, for example, is made of various biochemical components such as nucleic acids and proteins, and is organized into bounded structures such as the cell nucleus, various organelles, a cell membrane and cytoskeleton. These structures, based on an external flow of molecules and energy, produce the components which, in turn, continue to maintain the organized bounded structure that gives rise to these components.

An autopoietic system is to be contrasted with an allopoietic system, such as a car factory, which uses raw materials (components) to generate a car (an organized structure) which is something other than itself (the factory).

Though others have often used the term as a synonym for self-organization, Maturana himself stated he would “never use the notion of self-organization, because it cannot be the case… it is impossible. That is, if the organization of a thing changes, the thing changes.”[3] Moreover, an autopoietic system is autonomous and operationally closed, in the sense that there are sufficient processes within it to maintain the whole. Autopoietic systems are “structurally coupled” with their medium, embedded in a dynamic of changes that can be recalled as sensory-motor coupling. This continuous dynamic is considered as a rudimentary form of knowledge orcognition and can be observed throughout life-forms.

An application of the concept to sociology can be found in Niklas Luhmann‘s Systems Theory, which was subsequently adapted by Bob Jessop in his studies of the capitalist state system. Marjatta Maula adapted the concept of autopoiesis in a business context.


Criticism of the use of the term in both its original context, as an attempt to define and explain the living, and its various expanded usages such as applying it to self-organizing systems in general, or social systems in particular, have been widespread.[4] Critics have argued that the term fails to define or explain living systems and that, because of the extreme language of self-referentiality it uses without any external reference, it is really an attempt to give substantiation to Maturana’s radicalconstructivist or solipsistic epistemology,[5] or what Danilo Zolo[6][7] has called instead a “desolate theology.” An example is the assertion by Maturana and Varela that “what we do not see does not exist”[8] or that reality is an invention of observers. The autopoietic model, said Rod Swenson,[9] is “miraculously decoupled from the physical world by its progenitors […] (and thus) grounded on a solipsistic foundation that flies in the face of both common sense and scientific knowledge.”

[edit]See also


  1. ^ Maturana, Varela, 1980, p. 78
  2. ^ Maturana, Varela, 1980, p. 89
  3. ^ Maturana, H. (1987). Everything is said by an observer. In Gaia, a Way of Knowing, edited by W. Thompson, Lindisfarne Press, Great Barrington, MA, pp. 65-82, p. 71.
  4. ^ Fleischaker, G. (Ed.) (1992). Autopoiesis in Systems Analysis: A Debate. Int. J. General Systems, Vol. 21, No 2, pp. 131-271
  5. ^ Swenson, R. (1992). Autocatakinetics, Yes—Autopoiesis, No: Steps Toward a Unified Theory of Evolutionary Ordering. Int. J. General Systems, Vol. 21, 207-208
  6. ^ Kenny, V. and Gardner, G. (1988) The constructions of self-organizing systems. The Irish Journal of Psychology, 9, 1, 1988, pp. 1-24
  7. ^ Wolfe, Cary (1998). Critical environments: postmodern theory and the pragmatics of the “outside”. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 62–3. ISBN 0816630194.
  8. ^ Maturana, H. and Varela, F. (1988). The Tree of Knowledge. New Science Library, Shambhala, Boston. p 242.
  9. ^ Swenson, R. (1992). Galileo, Babel, and Autopoiesis (It’s Turtles All The Way Down). Int. J. General Systems, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 267-269.


  • Goosseff, Kyrill A. (2010), Autopoeisis and meaning: a biological approach to Bakhtin’s superaddressee. Journal of Organizational Change Management > Volume 23 issue 2 Abstract DOI
  • Capra, Fritjof (1997). The Web of Life. Random House. ISBN 0-385-47676-0 —general introduction to the ideas behind autopoiesis
  • Dyke, Charles (1988). The Evolutionary Dynamics of Complex Systems: A Study in Biosocial Complexity. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Livingston, Ira (2006). Between Science and Literature: An Introduction to Autopoetics. University of Illinois Press. —an adaptation of autopoiesis to language.
  • Luhmann, Niklas (1990). Essays on Self-Reference. Columbia University Press. —Luhmann’s adaptation of autopoiesis to social systems
  • Luisi, Pier L. (2003). Autopoiesis: a review and a reappraisal. Naturwissenschaften 90 49–59. —biologist view of autopoiesis
  • Maturana, Humberto & Varela, Francisco ([1st edition 1973] 1980). Autopoiesis and Cognition: the Realization of the Living. Robert S. Cohen and Marx W. Wartofsky (Eds.), Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 42. Dordecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co. ISBN 90-277-1015-5 (hardback), ISBN 90-277-1016-3(paper) —the main published reference on autopoiesis
  • Maturana, H. R. & Varela, F. J. (1987). The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
  • Maula, Marjatta (2006). Organizations as Learning Systems: Living Composition as an Enabling Infrastructure. Elsevier. ISBN 0-08-043919-5
  • Mingers, John (1994). Self-Producing Systems. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. ISBN 0-306-44797-5 —a book on the autopoiesis concept in many different areas
  • Robb, Fenton F. (1991) Accounting – A Virtual Autopoietic System? Systems Practice 4, (3) (215-235).
  • Tabbi, Joseph (2002). Cognitive Fictions. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3557-9 — draws on systems theory and cognitive science to introduce autopoiesis to literary studies
  • Varela, Francisco J.; Maturana, Humberto R.; & Uribe, R. (1974). Autopoiesis: the organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. Biosystems 5187–196. —one of the original papers on the concept of autopoiesis
  • Winograd, Terry and Fernando Flores (1990). Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design. Ablex Pub. Corp. —cognitive systems perspective on autopoiesis

[edit]External links

Posted April 12, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

Emergent Design entry on Wikipedia improved

Emergent Design

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Emergent Design means that Design of Artifacts is itself an Emergent Phenomenon. This implies that it emerges in the creative design process, rather than being a blueprint that exists eternally in the ether like the Platonic source Forms and also that the artifact that is designed has emergent properties that are more than the sum of its parts. Supervenient Design would be the opposite and it would imply that the designed artifact’s properties were the sum of its parts, and that the design itself was cobbled together only by permutations of factors that already existed in some other form, say in nature. Thus emergent design has a two fold meaning. It means that the design process is creative and cannot be done by rote, and thus it is a non-routine type of work, but also it implies that the result of this creative non-routine work itself has emergent properties that cannot be reduced to the parts that it is composed of by supervenience.

Emergent Design as an idea can be applied to many different disciplines, but the term is most well known as applied to Education and Software Engineering.




[edit]Emergent Design in Education

‘Emergent Design’ is a phrase coined by David Cavallo to describe a theoretical framework for the implementation of systemic change in education and learning environments. This examines how choice of design methodology contributes to the success or failure of education reforms through studies in Thailand. It is related to the theories of Situated learning and of Constructionist learning. The term constructionism was coined by Seymour Papert who Cavallo studied under. Emergent Design holds that education systems cannot adapt effectively to technology change unless the education is rooted in the existing skills and needs of the local culture.


The most notable non-theoretical application of the principles of emergent design is in the OLPC, whose concept work, also written by Cavallo can be found supported in Models of growth – towards fundamental change in learning environment.

[edit]Emergent Design in Agile Software Development

Emergent Design is a consistent topic in Agile Software Development, as a result of the methodology’s focus on delivering small pieces of working code with business value. With Emergent Design, a development organization starts delivering functionality and lets the design emerge. Development will take piece of functionality A and implement it using best practices and proper test coverage, then then move on to delivering functionality B. Once B is complete, the organization will look at what A and B have in common and refactor out the commonality, allowing the design to emerge. This process continues as the organization continually delivers functionality. At the end of an agile or scrum release cycle, we are left with the smallest set of the design needed, as opposed to the design that could have been anticipated in advance. The end result is a smaller code base, which naturally has less room for defects and a lower cost of maintenance<references/>.

As Emergent Design is heavily dependent upon Refactoring, practicing Emergent Design without a comfortable set of unit tests is considered an irresponsible practice.


[edit]Emergent Architectural Design in Systems Engineering Product Development

Emergent Design refers to not just software but all forms of design of any kind of systems, including Architecture of Buildings, or large Systems of Systems produced by the networking of many systems together. Systems (and Systems of Systems) are by implication emergent as they have properties that cannot be reduced to their parts. Also in the process of Systems Design there is a creative and artful side to the Design Process by which the Design appears in the process of design. This broader sense of Systems Architectural Emergent Design is explored by Kent Palmer in his Dissertation titled Emergent Design.

[edit]External links

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Posted April 12, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized