Quora answer: What is the difference between design thinking and analytical thinking?

What is the difference between design thinking and analytical thinking?

Design as Synthetic Thinking as opposed to Reductive Analysis

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This is a very good question, something unusual for Quora, so it deserves an in depth answer. The reason it is a good question is that this is something that is widely misunderstood even by people for whom this is a speciality. In other answers I have talked about the relation between synthesis and analysis, between what Peirce calls analytic precision, and synthetic precission. Understanding this distinction is key to trying to answer this question about design. So let us start again from the beginning and try to place this insight of Peirce in the context of this question. Of course for me this question is close to home because it is near the topic of my dissertation, which is called Emergent Design at http://about.me/emergentdesign or http://emergentdesign.net and so we will probably spill over into the ideas presented there as we get into the question more deeply. And what is more to the point is that it really is like the difference between Continental Philosophy and Analytical Philosophy which is a gigantic rift left over from the Cold War. And this is one of the reasons design thinking is so poorly understood. This question is rooted deeply in our tradition and so we must explore those roots in order to understand the question properly.

So we need to do some stage setting in order to orient ourselves to this question, so that we are approaching it from the right direction. First we must ask the question, what is thinking, before we try to get into the difference between the kinds of thinking related to synthesis and analysis. Fortunately, we have Heidegger’s What is called Thinking as a jumping off point to give us some idea of where to begin. In What is called Thinking Heidegger in the relates thinking to the Old English cognate word Thanking which is related to memory and the disposing of what comes from memory. Thus for Heidegger Thinking/Memory/Thanking is receiving, not something we do from ourselves but something that is given to us as a gift. We are given gifts which we are thankful for, and we are given thoughts that we think about and ponder. Of course, for Heidegger what is the most thought provoking is that we are not yet thinking. This is the gift we are given to think about which is nearest our own essence. But also he looks at the saying of Parmenides that Thinking and Being are the Same which he translates as “Needful: the saying also thinking too: being :to be” which is normally translated “Needful: the saying (legein) and so the thinking (noein), to that being is” which finally becomes under Heidegger’s scrutiny “It is useful to let-lie-before-us (legein) and also the taking-to-hear (noein) also: beings in being” where he eventually interprets the being in being as the Presence of what is present. So this gives us a beginning point in considering the nature of thinking that we will eventually have to distinguish between synthetic and analytic. As said in my answer concerning Kant these duals are contrasted with with A Priori and A Posteriori distinction so that we get a cartesian cross of these two distinctions which is the basis of Kantian critical transcendental philosophy. So let us think along with Heidegger for a moment concerning the nature of thought as gift and related to its cognate in Old English Thanking which is related to memory.

“It is useful to let-lie-before-us (legein) and also the taking-to-hear (noein) also: beings in Being”

Saying (legein, related to logos) and Thinking (noein, nous, noesis) is are the intertwined faculties that give rise to various kinds of knowledge like Techne (knowledge of making), Episteme (knowledge proper), Phronesis (practical knowledge), and Sophia (theoretical wisdom).

I think we can safely say that thinking is what results in knowledge ultimately, and knowledge is the most stable aspect of our experience.
So this brings us to a crucial point, made over and over in my various answers, which is that Being is unique to Indo-European languages, and that in these languages the purdurence of Knowledge is displaced to the construct from fragments of different linguistic roots of Being (Sein in German, Sat in Sanscrit). So the realization of the fragmentation of Being has a profound impact on our understanding of what Being (as well as Having) is. It is these two roots that are most fragmented in the Indo-European languages which is very revealing. For instance in Object Oriented Design the key relations that objects can have with each other are ISa and HASa. One means it is the same inheritance hierarchy, and the other means that it is attached to the other object by being pointed at by its attributes or being in a Queue within the object. One means that the object is essentially the same as another with a few more attributes and methods, while the other says that one object is external to the other which owns it. This split is like the split in Spencer Brown’s Laws of Form between Crossing and Calling. For Brown Extension collapses and nesting vanishes. There is an inverse rule set for anti-form in which nesting collapses and extension collapses which is rarely discussed, because Brown did not consider the inverse of his own rules. But we can see that something being the same as something else X is Y is a collapsing of extension or nesting, while having has to do with extension where extension or nesting vanishes. In other words when something HAS something else it is either within or without what dominates the other and it causes its independence to vanish. So there is a duality between Being and Having. And the Laws of Form take one approach of this relation while the anti-laws take the other approach. Laws of form emphasizes both (as calling) extension collapses producing something and (as crossing) nesting vanishes producing nothing, but in the anti-laws extension vanishes producing nothing and nesting collapses producing something. So the laws of form produces something (a single mark) outside while the anti-laws produce something (a single mark) inside. In this process Being and Having cooperate either way to be productive either outwardly through laws or inwardly through anti-laws. Because our Western society has a hidden assumption that the reason for being of man is to produce (See the Mirror of Production by Baudrillard) then it is the laws of outward form that is emphasized by Spencer Brown, but the other direction that produces something inward can also be emphasized as it was in ancient India where it was spiritual technology that was emphasized rather than outward material technology. But in India the inward spirituality was based on SAT just as our outward technology is based on Being (Sein). Being is the key to the production of technology. Techne and Phronesis are the outward kinds of knowledge and Sophia and Episteme are the inward kinds of knowledge. Nous is the source of all of these as intelligence that is the faculty that makes them all possible. Parmenides says Being and Thinking are the Same. And Heidegger says that the Same is different from identity and means belonging together. So Being and Thinking belong together, because ultimately Being is intelligibility, and that is why Heidegger takes the meaning of Being as his ultimate question.

“It is useful (necessary) to let-lie-before-us (legein) and also the taking-to-heart (noein) also: beings in Being”.

It is therefore useful for us to let-lie-before-us (collected and organized as Present, Identical, Real, True) and what appears as gift in that should be taken-to-heart (distilled into a conceptual non-representable quintessence) as beings in Being which stand in for the knowledges (knowls) in Knowledge by stealing their persistence. The types of knowledges has to do with Techne, Phronesis, Episteme and Sophia which are approaches to different types of entities that are known. We can know how to make (techne) with excellence (arte), we can know how to do in a practical way in the world with respect to external things, or we can know how to understand theoretically, or in terms of philosophy. Note that these could correspond in some way to Plato’s divided line where sophia is knowledge of non-representable intelligibles, and episteme is knowledge of representable intelligibles, and teche is how to relate to grounded opinions and appearances, and phronesis is how to relate to ungrounded opinions.

So we can see with this that already we are in a complex nexus when we ask what thinking is in-itself as it relates to Being and Having with respect to knowledge and eventities within the world. It is a “problematic” (a field of significant inquiry) that as we explore it becomes more and more problematic for us. So when we add the question of the difference between Design and Analytical Thinking then we really are pushed over the edge into a morass of distinctions which have plagued our philosophical tradition. We take Design to be an artificial synthesis where the designer projects a plan (object of design) which is then executed to get the designed object. Analysis is a way to approach either the designer, the design, or the designed object by taking them apart and reducing things to the lowest common denominator. This analytical reduction substitutes supervenience for emergence. But with the dominance of Analytical Philosophy english language countries (UK/USA) then there is a fundamental problem thinking about design philosophically if one has an analytical prejudice. That is because due to Cold War politics we gave up on thinking about Hegelian syntheses because that way of thinking was taken over into Marxism in a very superficial and mechanical fashion. However, Sartre in Critique of Dialectical Reason treats dialectics for the first time exhaustively as essentially dialectical and thus revolutionizes our idea of dialectics.
So we need to recount the arising of this distinction between synthesis and analysis and put it into context. The fundamental text for reasoning in our tradition is Euclid’s geometry. In the geometry Euclid summarizes the findings of the school of Plato regarding mathematics. In the proofs of the Geometry Euclid is using nous with as reason to derive necessities implied in the axioms of geometry. The proofs are of necessities, that are in turn useful for other proofs and for understanding the basic mathematical a prioris that underly our experience of the singular of space seen in geometry. Descartes recognizes extension and mind. Extension is of space and the mind is something abstracted from that medium. Kant on the other hand sees the mind as something that projects a piori spacetime, categories and schemas onto the world, and the first step in that is to project not just a priori analysis of concepts, but also a priori synthesis of the singular space itself as a necessity. Synthesis must come before analysis, but that synthesis in the first instance comes from us as an ecstasy of dasein as being-in-the-world from our faculty of imagination. For Kant the transcendental subject projects the a prioris on experience from beyond experience and it cannot quite reach the heart of the transcendental object which is the noumena, but the two are kept in sync by the transcendental of God who bridges the link between the two. In the process the transcendental ego is able to analyze concepts alone as an analytical a priori. But it must also project the a priori synthesis of space, time, categories and schemas in order to avoid the critique of Hume but also as a receptivity toward experience itself, which refuses to isolate reason from experience and thus pursues understanding as the mixture of the two ends of the divided line and thus of the kinds of knowledge. The categories of Kant have a static dialectical form, and Hegel transforms this philosophy into something dynamic that sees Philosophy from the point of view of History, in Phenomenology of Mind. In that book Hegel gives a dialectical account of the development of philosophy from the master/slave dilemma. Only slaves can be self-conscious in his opinion, but of course Nietzsche tries to reverse that decision by developing a self-consciousness for the nobles as well. This brings us back to the Being verses Having distinction. The Master has the Slave. But in time this reverses so that the Slaves take control of the master, as we see with the Greek Slaves in Rome where the Greeks really took control of determining Roman culture even though the Romans won the wars and took them as slaves. Hegel under the inspiration of Heraclitus and the Skeptics like Sextus Empiricus develops a dynamic view that hearkens back to the idea of the dialectic in plato as something that moves like a conversation, by question and answer rather than a doctrinal statement. Notice that all the kinds of knowledge apply to speech. There is the Techne and Phronesis taught by the Sophists, but there is also the Episteme and Sophia that is taught by real philosophers like Socrates. Socrates uses dialectic to make stable distinctions that point to non-representables that are the source of wisdom. He wants to show that the Sophists who merely teach the practical and technical side of speech do not get to the profound core of things of relevance and significance and ultimate meaning. But what is of interest in Plato’s portrayal of Socrates is that we cannot tell him from the Sophists in many instances so the distinction between Philosophers and Sophists is a very fine line that Socrates seems to cross a times, and at other times the Sophists seem to cross in the other direction. Specifically I am thinking here of Gorgias who is the ultimate skeptic attempting to prove that nothing IS in contrast with Parmenides as portrayed by Plato as one who is saying that only Being is and everything else has non-existence. For Hegel these are Antimonies and they reduce to Heraclitus’ view that all is flux, but that the flux advances in a synthetic and dialectical fashion which is part of our logocentrism. In Hegel’s logic being and nothing produce flux that turns into dasein, i.e. determinate being, which then Heidegger adopts as the central character in his drama of the projection of Being as an ecstasy, that produces the monolith of Being that includes two modalities static like Parmenides and dynamic like Heraclitus. Heidegger says that these two modalities of being-in-the-world, i.e. ready-to-hand and present-at-hand are equi-primordial and are based on the temporality of dasein which is enveloped by equi-primordial moments of time, but the most important of which is the future, i.e. the temporality that is the most exemplary of projection. Heidegger says that the categories of Kant are all about the object of science and that we need to balance those by understanding the existentials of Dasein which are discoveredness, understanding and talk whose mutual core is Care.
“It is useful (necessary) to let-lie-before-us (legein) and also the taking-to-heart (noein) also: beings in Being”.

Talk is logos related to reason (ratio) which lays things out before us. And when what is laid out before us is necessary prior to all experience then that is the a priori. This occurs when we are dealing with the representable intelligibles in geometry which is based on the synthetic a priori of projected space. But when we take what is laid out to heart (nous) then we have a chance of approaching the non-representable intelligibles. Those are things like the Fate and Good, which is contrast to representables like Right and Order. Proofs are right or wrong, and they either exemplify the necessary order of things in space or they do not. So there are really two series that constitute the intelligibility of Being, i.e. what can be thought and spoken about, which are the aspects and the core nonduals. The aspects are Reality, Truth, Identity, and Presence (to which Heidegger alludes) that appear in the realm of doxa (appearance, opinion) and on the other hands the non-nihilistic core distinctions between Order, Right, Good and Fate that appear in the realm of the intelligibles (ratio).

Now we start to round the corner to head for home after wandering about in the metaphysical desert for some time. Without the singular synthesis of a priori projected space we cannot do the analysis using the ratio that is necessary to do proofs in geometry. Synthesis always proceeds Analysis in Kant, and Hegel goes to the heart of the issue and says how Synthesis is produced in time. Analysis is a laying out (legein) within speech or thought, while synthesis can only be understood by a taking to heart or an internalization (nous). In Husserl this difference appears as the difference between abstraction and essence perception (intuition). Analysis deals with abstractions (glosses) while when we look at objects and perceive their essences we are apprehending the internal constraints on their attributes that make them the kind (species) they are. We take to heart the object when we perceive its essence, while we lay out the object separating and reducing when we do analysis. But either way we are concerned with the necessity that gives beings their Being from which we derive our knowledges of the world.

So in Design we are using the Schemas that we project on Spacetime/Timespace which according to the S-prime hypothesis of General Schemas Theory are ten: Facet, Monad, Pattern, Form, System, OpenScape (Meta-system), Domain, World, Kosmos, Pluriverse. (as an aside we should not that the epics of our worldview, i.e. the Mythopoietic and the Metaphysical or the Heterochronic are kosmic). When we design we use the fact that the schemas organize both language and spacetime into various nesting scopes of templates of understanding or intelligibility of order. When we use the schemas we are using them in a pure way to structure our designs that we then describe using language or logos. Designs are a laying out that lays before us which points to the emergent properties of the semiotic design object that we would like to realize in the object of design that is implemented. But we need to use nous, i.e. a taking to heart to give the design the proper synthetic properties that go beyond the parts have on their own which is discovered by analysis when they are considered only supervenient. The design is a model, and as such we can relate it to the formal system that is exemplified by the aspects identity, presence and truth and the properties that come out of their relations which are completeness, consistency, and clarity (well-formedness). However, it is when we add the aspect of Reality that meaning is generated, i.e. the intelligibility by which we recognize that the design can be verified and validated and is in fact coherent. This fact that meaning is generated when we add the aspect of reality to the formal system model is like the taking to heart after the laying out of the pieces of the design. The taking to heart and the generation of synthesis are correlates of each other. The design synthesis is a projection of the Schemas on spacetime as the dwelling together of eventities but it is understood internally as it is represented by language which is also organized by the schemas. This homeomorphism between what can be represented in language which captures episteme and sophia and what can be built with our techne and phronesis is a fundamental necessity in Design. I have proposed in my dissertation that this occurs in terms of Quadralectics and Pentalectics the extension of Hegel’s dialectics and trialectics associated with work. Both General Schemas Theory and the idea of extending Dialectics and Trialectics into higher dimensional configurations is new in our tradition. But you can read about that in my dissertation.

Our point here has been to explore what Heidegger says about thinking in general in order to lay the ground work for understanding the difference between Synthetic Design thinking and Analytic Reductive thinking. And then we have developed the Analysis and Synthesis distinction out of that ground, because it takes the form of both laying out useful as a precursor to analysis and taking to heart that gives coherence to the synthesis and generates the meaning that gives intelligibility to beings which are part of the Being of the synthetic design.

As we have said in other answers it is Peirce that tries to bridge the chasm between Hegel and Kant. He takes what has been learned though the Hegelian wars back to Kant and Logic and improves on logic by introducing a phenomenology and a semiotics, and improves on logic by introducing the third order of the syllogism that gives us hypothesis which he calls abduction (as opposed to induction, and deduction). He also introduces the existential operator into symbolic logic. But in many ways his most useful contribution was emphasizing the importance of Thirds (contiua, mediation, synthesis) over Firsts (isolata) and Seconds (relata). In this vein he distinguished Analytical Precision from Synthetic Precission. As shown separately this is the difference between looking at the part in the context of the synthesis, and taking the part out and isolating it and breaking up the synthesis through reduction. Because of our extremity of avoiding synthetic thought during the Cold War, we are left without a good handle on these key ideas of Hegel and Peirce and how they related to design. Design is a funny combination of analysis precision and synthetic precission. On the one hand Design entails projecting through pictures, plans and models the synthetic whole which is unachievable through mere repetition, and on the other hand the Design is a laying out of analytical parts and showing how they interface together and play a role in the functioning of the whole that is being designed. Thus to carry out Design we need both Analysis and Synthesis. This is why in industry (cultural Physis) there are two kinds of people operating with the title Systems Engineers. There are application specialists and true systems engineers. Application specialists emphasize reduction, speciality, and analysis, while Systems Engineers emphasize the whole synthesis of the end product being designed. These groups do not understand each other very well, but they are in the best circumstances able to cooperate in teams to produce complex working designs with the anticipated emergent properties. Design is a projected hypothetical schematization that is arrived at though dialectical (discussion), trialectical (work), quadralectical (applying minimal methods to represent non-representables), and pentalectical (system/meta-system co-design) synthetic processes. Thus the abduction of Peirce is essential to understand how Design is part of Logic. Deduction is a result of an Analyitic a priori, while Induction is part of a Analytic a posterori. So Synthesis is left out of account and comes back into account only if we understand that there is not just the synthetic a posteriori of original experience as pre-existing synthesis in experience but that must be based on the synthetic a priori of singular of projected spacetime/timespace. The synthetic a priori of singular spacetime is projected as a chora or receptacle as Plato says within which synthetic a posteriori experienced things appear. They are already schematized because the synthetic a priori projection of space time is not a homogeneous plenum as is usually thought, but is instead a set of nested scopes of different organizations that provide different templates of understanding at different scopes. We project as an abduction the hypothesis onto the synthetic a posteriori of experience from our understanding that comes from the combination of reason and experience, or ratio and doxa. But that abduction is projected on the fundamental synthesis given in empirical experience itself. Only after that can we induct with the Analytical a posteriori or deduct with the Analytical a priori. In my dissertation I make the case that this work of design that takes conceptual, essential, perspectival, and design approaches to understanding experience occurs at the Hyper Being (Differance) meta-level of Being. Thus design is part of the internal coherence of the sign itself at its higher meta-levels of Being. So design is essential not an accident as it represents what Plato calls the third way of Being in the Timaeus by which the Demiurge creates the world. All our creation of things in the world reflect that same urge to pro-create the world that was experienced by the Demiurge and which was embodied though the third kind of Being that appears in design which is the slippery interface between System product and process.

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Posted May 15, 2011 by kentpalmer in Uncategorized

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