Comparable Modalities of Aesthetics, Logic and Dialogue
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 1 Nov 2021
In the Light of Correspondences between Their Polyhedral Representation
1 Nov 2021 – Various elements of the following argument originally featured in a discussion of Living with the enemy as an aesthetic challenge? (2021), in the light of the strategic shift by a number of governments from “elimination of COVID-19” to one of “learning to live with the virus”. Framed as the principle enemy of humanity at this time, the shift is subtly related to other arguments with regard to the need for an enemy as a sustaining focus for viable governance as currently conceived.
As indicated earlier, when framed as a conventional threat, an enemy typically evokes the kinds of strategic response favoured from a security perspective and cultivated with military metaphors (Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998). Terrorism and Afghanistan have been witness to the questionable outcome.
The aesthetic modality is typically ignored (other than in parades) or presented through horrific images to evoke a military response. Given such unfruitful outcomes, it is appropriate to ask whether aesthetics offers more integrative possibilities, as previously argued (Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490, 1990; A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2006).
The curious possibilities of poetry have been argued with respect to Afghanistan, for example (Poetic Engagement with Afghanistan, Caucasus and Iran an unexplored strategic opportunity? 2009; Strategic Jousting through Poetic Wrestling: aesthetic reframing of the clash of civilizations, 2009). In any exploration of living with the enemy, a more general case can be made (Poetry-making and Policy-making: arranging a marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993). With respect to the new challenge of negotiating with the Taliban, this may be of particular relevance — seemingly as yet to be explored.
A major difficulty in any unconventional exploration of the wider significance of “aesthetics” follows from the characteristics of so-called silo mentalities. Typically those with greatest insights into music, for example, are alienated by the perspective of mathematicians on the matter — who may well have little interest in the aesthetics of music. Both may question the relevance of logicians, for whom aesthetics as such may be close to meaningless. Given the hypersimplicity of strategic decision-making in this period — with its dependence on binary thinking — any possible relevance of aesthetics to governance and more fruitful processes of dialogue are readily held to be inherently remote. As might be expected, those offering mediating skills in dialogue attach little significance to aesthetics, maths or logic.
Curiously however, great value is attached to iconic poetry, song and music on the occasion of some forms of summitry — purportedly exemplifying the values central to their decision-making. The choral role of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in the Anthem of Europe is an obvious example — although its cognitive relevance to those exposed to it would seem to be completely and utterly ignored, as speculatively argued (Reversing the Anthem of Europe to Signal Distress, 2016)
Arguable there is good reason for impatience in this context, given the crisis of governance. Rather than the old advice of “following the money”, the bias in the following argument is to “follow the numbers” as an organizing principle — especially given the extent that they are potentially meaningful across disparate and otherwise incommensurable domains. A striking example is offered by the unexplained preference for 12-fold strategies (Checklist of 12-fold Principles, Plans, Symbols and Concepts: web resources, 2011).
In that light it can be asked whether there are particular psychosocial and cognitive constraints on the preference for sets of numbers, as is variously explored by some disciplines (Comprehension of Numbers Challenging Global Civilization, 2014; Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978; Patterns of N-foldness: comparison of integrated multi-set concept schemes as forms of presentation, 1980).
The following speculative argument explores some implications for the relation between disciplines and practitioners — ensconced in their respective ivory towers — and the potential relevance for governance which is typically irrelevant to them. The dismissal of such preferences as a coincidence may well be as dangerously simplistic as their deprecations of the aspersions of numerology. The point has been argued with respect to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (Systemic Coherence of the UN’s 17 SDGs as a Global Dream: Rather than merely an arbitrary outcome of political horse-trading, 2021). Given the role of religion as a powerful influence on governance, the point can be argued otherwise (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief — self-reflexive global reframing to enable faith-based governance, 2011).
In “following the numbers”, the biased focus in what follows is on the tendencies in a very wide range of disciplines to recognize patterns in terms of 14-foldness. Given that many of these relate to governance of a kind, the question is how the articulation of such a pattern may be rendered comprehensible and memorable — if only in valuable mnemonic terms, as argued separately (Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity? 2018). The latter exercise notably focused on an issue of current relevance to governance in practice, namely the possibility of reconciling the “headless hearts” to the “heartless heads”. This is strikingly highlighted in what follows by the remarkable disconnect between the logical connectives (so vital to the algorithms of global modelling and the detection of misinformation) and the subtleties of natural language — so readily ignored in dangerously simplistic decision-making.
The possibility of connectivity of a subtler order, consistent with the 14-fold pattern explored here, is the aesthetic role of the world-renowned sonnet form of 14-lines. This is most notably celebrated in the work of William Shakespeare and the poet Petrarch as instigator of Renaissance humanism. In contrast with most other 14-fold patterns, that form is especially remarkable in that it makes aesthetic use of logical connectives to interrelate the details articulated in the succession of lines. This suggests implications for the comprehensibility and memorability of complex strategic initiatives, whether the UN’s SDGs, engagement with the pandemic, or with the challenge of climate change.
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