Looking at the Wall...

Implications--Set Four

  1. We know we see/know of patterns within patterns. I see a person; I recognize a face, and a smile, and a gesture, and a way of walking, and a body shape, and a scar, etc. Some patterns are sub-sets of other patterns, but they still cannot 'span' the two levels. The fact that I can recognize a lip configuration as a smile does NOT necessarily allow me to recognize it as Hannah's smile. But sometimes a Hannah-like smile, might tip me off to look for other Hannah-like features, so that I can come up with observations like 'wow, look at her... she has eyes and a smile JUST LIKE Hannah, but her jaw and hair look just like Clinton'...

  2. This leads me to ponder the question of the relationship between the pattern known as 'personal' and the pattern known as 'complexity'--is one of them more primary than the other? Can they be related as set/superset, via some variable maybe? Let's play with it some...

  3. Could complexity be a subset of 'personal'? What would this even mean? Complex is generally contrasted with simple; and personal with impersonal. Can we build complexity out of sheer VOLUME of simplicity? If an equation is simple if it only has one/two variables, can we make a complex one by adding 10,000 extra variables to it? At some level, 'yes', but the complexity is 'different' between a 10k-variable linear equation and a 10k variable equation with exponentials, logs, hyperbolics, sequences, differentials, etc. in it. Indeed, we know from all that torturously weird (but fun!) work of Cantor that the 'levels of infinities' are not merely extrapolations of the finite. In other words, complexity is NOT simply 'bundles of simplicities' or 'bundles of simple relationships'. This may be another case of not being able to construct the WHOLE from the parts.

  4. Complexity, rather, seems related to relationships AMONG relationships (?), but we will have to come back to this in a minute.

  5. Let's consider "personal". I am convinced that it is SERIOUSLY indefinable(!), difficult to describe and delineate, but so OBVIOUS to us, as to its content. I am beginning to believe it is MORE foundational that the primitives we discussed at the beginning of this mass of rambling.

  6. Consider our life as a newborn. There is no language, almost no cultural structuring of our experience, no presuppositions (that WE can detect leastwise), and yet the VERY FIRST patterns we recognize as "knowers" are 1) our primary caregiver's facial structure and 2) the human voice--both of which are foundational notions of 'person' . [One completely irrelevant piece of trivia here--the Greek word for 'person' derived from the word for 'face'.] We interpret the REST of our experience against this grid--our first experience of the personal. [This is NOT to discount pre-natal experience of the personal. We know that the fetus recognizes the tone of voice and mood of the mother and reacts accordingly, in fear or calmness, for example.] As noted above, we build our notion of causality against this personal context. There is also considerable data to show that we decide--within 6 weeks of birth--whether the universe is a 'friendly and responsive' place ON THE BASIS of whether our caregivers met our needs. These primal experiences build quickly a 'personalistic' view of our experience; one that I am convinced we never abandon.

  7. Consider the base metaphors of the cosmic dimensions of our lives--we personalize everything, and have to work hard at de-personalizing those notions. "Fate" is kind or unkind; "evolution" is wise and frugal; "nature" is both maternal and cruel; "the world" is against us or 'on our side', our lives have 'purpose' etc. Although we are often taught that these metaphors are derivative upon the literal use of the 'borrowed' words and concepts (and I basically agree with this position); that these metaphors COME SO NATURALLY and STICK SO EASILY (instead of equally possible, but impersonal versions) argues that these metaphors match some pre-built correlation between us (seeing all in the context of personality) and the universe (demonstrating characteristics of personality?).

  8. And, it should be pointed out that one MAIN difference between 'complexity' and 'personality' is that the latter HAS AN INTEGRATIVE 'center', something about it that gives it 'unity' or 'identity' that WOULD NOT be present in just a 'bowl of complexity'.

  9. This is, by the way, the way I approach the 'starting point' problem in semantic processing. What seems to be the case to me is that when we pick up a new book we form initial hypotheses about what it contains--before we read it. We read the title, the flyleaf; we consider the section it is in, the fonts, the layout, etc.--we factor in a multitude of datapoints as to what the book "is about". We decide to read it, based upon these and other variables. But we form some initial hypothesis about a plotline or thesis BEFORE we start. For example, if it is a mystery, we form a genre statement ("someone killed someone else; an investigation occurs; they find the killer") and each word we read is INTERPRETED in this context...The word-meanings are 'selected' from the dictionary meanings on the BASIS OF our expectations for this plot. As we get farther into the book, we may have to re-interpret scenes from earlier in the book. But it will take a great deal of contrary data for us to conclude: "Hey! This isn't a mystery! It's a documentary on mysteries!".

  10. Or consider a history or documentary. We build a 'model' of the author and his personal orientation toward the subject BEFORE we get into the book. We can 'sense' this from the word choices in the title, table of contents, etc. And we process the linear stream of sentences in the book in THAT interpretive model. It may later overturn our initial 'guess', but it takes much more data to overturn it, than to confirm it...because we formed a view of the author's position initially.

  11. I also am convinced that this initial 'model' of the author's position on the subject is not simply (or even primarily) ONE of her cognitive positions on the subject/thesis, but rather is a 'personal' orientation to the position--does she LIKE the Clinton administration, does she feel castles in 14th-century Germany were wonderful or oppressive, does she think God is an ogre? In many cases, we understand their emotional and volitional stance toward the subject matter LONG BEFORE (and often MUCH BETTER THAN) their cognitive positions.

  12. IF THIS IS THE CASE...If we interpret life as a personal expression of something, if we interpret all literary messages with a pre-built (however vague) 'guess' as to the author's intent, meaning, and attitude...then it is tempting to conclude that the notion of 'person' (and perhaps more specifically, personal 'acts' and/or 'orientations') is the BASAL PARADIGM of LIFE and UNDERSTANDING. It may well be that we presume, at the deepest of subconscious levels, that "God" is behind all that we encounter in the stream of experiences--the above observations and arguments at least support a generic view of this: that we interpret our stream of experiences in the context of / against the backdrop of, "personality".

Go to the next in the series.


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