Dynamics of N-fold Integration of Disparate Cognitive Modalities
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 15 Feb 2021
Prefixes Determining Experience of the Present Moment Underlying Pseudophilia
15 Feb 2021 – Faced with multiple crises and conflicts of every kind, the world is witness to appeals for unity on the part of leaders variously embroiled in such crises. Despite the gravitas with which these appeals are framed, they can be increasingly recognized as naive — in the light of past responses to such initiatives. (Finian Cunningham, Biden’s ‘Unity’… By War? Information Clearing House, 22 January 2021; Michael Rectenwald, The ‘democracy’ and ‘unity’ of Biden’s inaugural address have fine print: ‘After dissent is silenced’, RT, 20 January 2021).
The naivety with regard to simplistic understandings of unity is currently evident in the commentaries evoked (Peter Baker, In Biden’s Washington, Democrats and Republicans Are Not United on ‘Unity’, The New York Times, 21 January 2021; Julie Hollar, Media Allow Republicans to Use ‘Unity’ as Tool of Division, FAIR, 22 January 2021; Steve Chaggaris, Joe Biden’s difficult, if not impossible, push for ‘unity’, Al Jazeera. 21 January 2021; David Siders, Biden gets a cold dose of ‘unity’, Politico, 21 January 2021; Joseph Stepansky, Biden is promising ‘unity’. But what does that mean? Al Jazeera, 6 February 2021).
False optimism? Such appeals are consistent with one or more optimistic beliefs that are widely shared to a degree, variously including:
- the possibility of global peace as the outcome of insightful global leadership
- the discovery of some kind of philosopher’s stone or Holy Grail — a cognitive Rosetta stone by which differences could be reconciled
- a Theory of Everything as the outcome of scientific endeavour and insights of a higher order into transdisciplinarity (Engaging with Insight of a Higher Order, 2014)
- the possibility of a new Renaissance (Missing the New Renaissance? 2010)
- the arrival of a messianic leader, as variously prophesied
- anticipation of singularities of various kinds — more especially a technological singularity (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009)
These possibilities may well be articulated using “healing” as a metaphor, beyond any reference to healing individuals (David Corn, Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address Was a Plea for “Unity”. But Healing the Nation’s “Soul” Won’t Be Easy. Mother Jones, 20 January 2021; Edward Achorn, Abraham Lincoln Healed a Divided Nation. We Should Heed His Words Today. Time, 16 February 2020; Clinton Global Initiative, Healing the Nation, Clinton Foundation). Similar references could be found with respect to “healing the world”‘ and “healing the Earth”.
Unfortunately with regard to use of the healing metaphor, it fails to address the divisions between those who have contrasting understandings of “healing”, whether inspired by a particular religion or by the challenge evident in healing the body (Remedies to Global Crisis: “Allopathic” or “Homeopathic”? 2009). The contrast between “mainstream” discourse and the protesting “dissenters” can be seen in this light.
Constraints: Complementing the hopes — and the quest for their realization — is an unfortunate array of constraints on integrative global sense-making. These might be understood to include:
- the evident inadequacy of the remedies variously proposed and implemented — in the light of a depressing track record
- the evident disagreement about those remedies — especially those promoted as alternatives
- the resource constraints associated with particular remedies — and competition for possession of those resources
- the marked preference for simplicity in the face of undeniable complexity (and despite any technical need for detailed explanation) — exemplified by preference for slogans, potentially embodied into marketing jingles
- the challenge of comprehension in a multilingual society — despite assumptions regarding the use of international languages, especially English
- the challenge to interrelating the insights of the variety of disciplines claiming relevance — especially in the light of the variety of jargons by which they affirm their distinctive expertise and identity
- the challenges to the credibility of those claiming unique knowledge of what is most appropriate — given criticism of their relevance and track record from other perspectives, however questionable
- the restrictive claims on the articulation and implementation of remedies, especially with regard to use of technologies claimed to be relevant — most obviously intellectual property rights (copyright, patenting, licensing, and the like) by which vital knowledge is incarcerated
- the emphasis on certification after a requisite period of learning for valid comprehension — readily deemed elitist and of pseudo-relevance to the complex nature of emergent crises
- the emphasis on appropriate publication (“rendered public”) as a guarantee of credibility — in a period when such publication is dubiously and uncritically controlled by the few and potentially subject to levels of secrecy and paywalls limiting access and effective dissemination
- the relative indifference to the challenge to significant sectors of society in adapting to the imposition of new technologies — most obviously the challenge for the elderly of online facilities (banking, welfare, voting), effectively institionalizing new forms of inequality, most obviously treating as irrelevant the time required for delivery and uptake
- marked delays in the diffusion of information and the uptake of significance — despite claims regarding the role of the web
- the major shift from a degree of success in presentation of information in text to that presented visually or otherwise — thereby raising questions as to what can be effectively communicated, to whom and with what delay
- a marked tendency to knee-jerk condemnation of the unconventional — and the possibilities beyond convention and “outside the box”
Perspective? With respect to both the hopes for effective remedial responses and any critical analysis of the constraints, seemingly missing is the lack of perspective on the various processes from which appropriately integrative understanding could emerge
Complementing that lack of perspective is the lack of necessary appreciation of a “right to be ignorant” — in contrast with the legal principle of Ignorantia juris non excusat. This could be understood as including:
- a right to be impatient at the inadequacies of elites claiming unquestionable competence
- a right to be unable (or unwilling) to understand complex explanations and proposals
- a right to act on a previously acquired knowledge base, however limited — empowered as it may be by intuition (however misguided)
- a right to “rediscover the wheel” — especially given its integrative symbolic role (as with the mandala)
- a right to assume that one has been “sold a pup” (Having Bought into a Wreck — What Now? Cognitive challenges of embodying reality otherwise, 2018)
- the right to be dubious regarding elitist proposals such as the Great Reset
- the value of “unknowing” — notably as celebrated with respect to creativity and mysticism
There is considerable irony to the fact that, however limited, a degree of perspective on such processes has been widely publicized through the “poem” notoriously presented by Donald Rumsfeld in his role as US Secretary of Defense in the midst of the so-called “humanitarian intervention” in Iraq. The focus on “known unknowns” and “unknown knowns” can be taken further with respect to “undoing” (Unknown Undoing: challenge of incomprehensibility of systemic neglect, 2008; Strategic Patterns in terms of Knowing, Feeling and Action, 2008).
Grasping for remedies? A fundamental problem with any quest for an integrative perspective in such a context is its recursive nature as a “grasping” exercise. It is a particular cognitive modality complementing a number of other cognitive modalities potentially valued more highly (by some) under certain circumstances. In this sense the quest itself has the potential of being as much a part of the problem as part of the solution. Failure to appreciate that inhibits recognition of what may be required to comprehend the nature of any viable solution. In seeking to grasp and possess the integrative remedy, the global significance and implications of a “solution” gets lost (Beyond Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities, 1996)
The challenge, if it is to be framed metaphorically as such, is one of eliciting insight of a higher order (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000). If making sense and grasping are to be understood as features in an array of cognitive functions, it could then be asked how best to explore that possibility in the light of considerations such as the following:
- how many cognitive functions might be usefully distinguished? Of concern would be what might be recognized as “too few” (2?), and what might be recognized as “too many” (10?, 20?, 30?) — by whom, when, and for what purpose?
- what resources point to constraints and possibilities in that respect (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization, 2014)
- if the closure implied by grasping is part of the problem, how could that too be called into question (Hilary Lawson, Closure: A Short History of Everything, 2002; Orrin E. Klapp, Opening and Closing; strategies and information adaptation in society, 1978; Openness and Closure in Pattern Language: geometry versus resonance, 2012)
- how best to engage with cognitive functions (too) readily labelled when the significance of the labels tends to shift depending on the number of functions recognized
- the insight of Albert Einstein: Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.
Questionable answers? Framing the challenge through the use of questions, as above, to which the possibility of answers is implied, may itself be problematic — however indicative. How does the binary dynamic of question and answer fit into any dynamic array of cognitive functions?
It would seem that some such possibility is being explored otherwise as “joined-up thinking” (Rick Lewis, Joined-up Thinking, Philosophy Now, Nov/Dec 2014; Chris Frith, Neuroscience: Joined-up thinking, Nature, 2014; Philip Delves Broughton, Joined-up thinking, Financial Times, 8 June 2011; Joined-up Thinking, Lloyd’s News, 1 December 2014; EU development policy needs joined-up thinking, say MEPs, European Parliament News, 25 October 2012).
Is the dynamic between joined-up thinking and the prevalence of silo mentalities to be recognized as exemplifying a problematic binary framing?
How is this form of integrative thinking enabled within the world wide web? (Corpus Callosum of the Global Brain? Locating the integrative function within the world wide web, 2014). Rather than “materialism”, is global civilization in process of being systematically confused by pseudophilia?
In Quest of a “Cognitive Gearbox” or Transmission System
Tags: Crisis, World
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