A Tutorial

Part Four

Kent Palmer, Ph.D.

copyright 1996 Kent Palmer, all rights reserved

published on the email list on 960117

1. Dynamism

One might say that we knew the world was dynamic all along, so what is the big discovery that Husserl and his school made that we did not all ready know? Trying to make that clear we might look at the difference between a film and a growing thing. In a film we see dynamism. But that dynamism is made up of separate slides that are frozen pictures of the dynamic thing. If that thing is a tree growing then we contrast the tree itself and its genetic development with the succession of frozen slides that capture the externality of its dynamic. Similarly philosophy always before produced frozen abstracted snapshots called ideas and projected them on an illusory continuity in order to represent the world. What Husserl managed to see through his rigorous introspection technique was that this was only one way we construed the world, there was actually another completely different way we construe the world which is inherently dynamic. This inherent dynamism may be used just like the series of frozen snapshots flashed on the screen in rapid succession to imitate the world. We use it when ever we look at the whole temporal gestalt of something from its arising to its passing away. The moment of completion when it reaches the height of its development is only a moment which the snapshots attempt to hold onto. One of the best examples of this way of looking at things is the studies of Piaget [Cf STRUCTURALISM] who really tried to find out how children reasoned, or experienced time, or thought of the world. He found that it was very different from adults and that they were definitely not little adults. This line of investigation has revealed many interesting things about development and its relation to behavior and the child's construction of its world. In this view the essence of the human changes as it goes through various stages of its development. This essencing was never really noticed before. In Husserl the essencing was seen as the process of the grasping of the essence of things which was independent of induction and deduction. As Husserl says if you never saw a Lion before and did not know what it was and one jumped out at you, you would immediately perceive the essence of "lion-ness". This ability to grasp what a lions essence is despite never seeing one before nor having the abstraction to work from is a faculty that is different from the reasoning between known individuals and known abstractions. Peirce called it abduction.

Peirce made a fundamental contribution when he connected the abduction that gives us hypotheses with sign making. He invented thereby the discipline of semiotics. Saussure was the co-founder of this discipline. It is a discipline that is made possible by the understanding of the process that underlies all formalisms. In fact, we can see from the point of view of semiotics that all forms are made up entirely of signs. The signs appear as diacritical marks. These marks show us the difference in repetitions of individuals of the same kind. The changes of the forms through discontinuous transformations may be explained by structuralist semi-formalisms. These kinds of formalisms have become prevalent within the Western tradition. A good example of such formalism appears in the General Systems Problem Solver of George Klir as appears in ARCHITECTURE OF SYSTEMS PROBLEM SOLVING. In such a formal-structural system the discontinuous changes in forms are understood by creating a micro-formalism of content (signs) which manages the transformation from one form to the other. Thus we see that sturcturalism and semiotics are closely related and are dependent on the positing of the Process Being meta-level. Structuralism studies the meta-constraints on the evolution of essences. Semiotics looks at the pointing that occurs at the level of pure presence which cannot be seen until the level of process being has been revealed. Signs indicate. The fundamental psychological motif of the present-at-hand is indication. But until the Process Being level has been identified all we see is the forms on the background of illusory continuity. What we do not realize is that those forms are composed of a content of signs, or indicators. The flow of the signs, and the discontinuous transformation of the forms only appears when the process substrata is identified. By the identification of the process substrata it became clear that we could talk about the transformation of essences through time and the embedding of eventities in timespace without resorting to frozen forms and illusory continuities that repressed the natural flowing and transforming of things.

2. Next Step Up -- Segmentation

Once it was clearly seen that there was a natural flow beneath the filmstrip produced by ideation, the next step was to realize that this flow was segmented. The realization that this segmentation indicated another kind of Being was not as straight forward. In our tradition we are used to moving back and forth between nouns and verbs. We have in our language words like Pattern, Form, Shape, Trace which can be used as either nouns or verbs. So the realization of a verbal substrata to the formalized nouns was not a big step. Within our history there were always philosophers such as Heraclitus and Hegel that pointed back toward the undertow of action beneath the facade of stable forms. But stepping beyond this to the next meta-level of Being was a difficult and tortuous advance. Now we can look back and see that it is clear that if you divide your approach to things into nouns and verbs that the next meta-level up must look at the site of the discontinuous distinction between them. Thus it is clear now that the discontinuity between Verb and Noun is itself "no-thing" that must have a different ontological basis from the things that it divides. In the provision of an ontological basis for this discontinuity and those that appear in the flowing stream of transformations of essences that show up as segmentations arises what is now called Hyper Being.

The way that ontologists approached Hyper Being had more circumlocutions. What occurred is that Sartre posited Nothingness as the opposite of Process Being and reasoning from Hegel posited the association of Process Being with the existent. Thus ensued a fight over what existentialism meant. Heidegger disclaimed any relation to the existentialism of Sartre. For him existence could be traced back to ex-stasis or ecstasy of the projection of the world by Dasein. In other words existence was just a moment in the cycle of the self projection of Being by humans reduced to their ontological roots. Sartre on the other hand used the more traditional understanding of existence as other than Being. This allowed him to posit that there was an opposite to Process Being in existence which was called nothingness. This reproduced the split between physus and logos that is a traditional dualism. By devaluing existence Heidegger was attempting to do away with this split in his philosophy just as he had also done away with the spit between subject and object. However, the split between logos and physus was more difficult to discard. Sartre's brilliant move was to place Nothingness at the center of consciousness while Process Being was given external reality. This meant that existence and essence intertransformed producing a closed loop like a Klienian Bottle. Existence appeared at the center of consciousness (logos) and essencing at the center of the what there is externally (physus).

It was quickly realized that Process Being and Nothingness were antinomic opposites and so they canceled. This cancellation was called by Heidegger -B-e-i-n-g- (crossed out) [pretend the lines go through the letters]. By writing under erasure then cancellation of Process Being and Nothingness was indicated. This went hand in had with Michael Henry's critique of Heidegger in THE ESSENCE OF MANIFESTATION in which the underlying assumption of his philosophy was called Ontological Monism. That is the idea that Being as a process Grounds itself as a Formal Residue. In other words the Verbal nature of things grounds the Noun-like nature of things. To counter this basic assumption Henry pointed out that there must be something that does not ever appear which he called the Essence of Manifestation. This was the ontological equivalent to the Unconscious of Freud, Jung, Adler, and others. It was a moment of the process of manifestation that never appeared but effected everything that did appear. One could only see it through circumspection in the distortions and displacements of what did appear. Derrida capitalized on the definition of Hyper Being and called it DifferAnce which he defined as differing and deferring. One could think of it this way. There is not just a verb and a noun but also an anti-verb. The verb relates to logos and the anti-verb relates to physus. These two cancel producing the discontinuity "|" between the noun|verb. But the very existence of an anti-verb signals the existence of something prior to both the verb and the anti-verb. That "something" never actually appears in the showing and hiding relationships of presencing that underlies what is made present. That "something" Henry calls the essence! And so we find that suddenly the term essence has a different meaning. It is something that is always hidden behind the scenes controlling the unfolding of the essencing of eventities and segmenting that flow.

Another way to look at this is through the theory proposed in physics by David Boehm who talks about the implicate order. The implicate order is an underlying order that never appears but that controls the ordering of what does appear. It is based on this theory that Boehm proposed the concept of hidden variables to explain quantum phenomena. If we think of the forms as figures on a ground that appears as a gestalt then the implicate order must be a kind of proto-gestalt which lies behind the apparent ordering but which occasionally shows through by changing that apparent ordering. Similarly the essence behind manifestation controls the discontinuities that fragment the essencing of evenities in the flows of development. It appears just as the human psychological unconscious as something behind the scenes that orders things on a basis we do not understand, that we never see but whose presence we cannot deny as it appears everywhere.

Derrida's early philosophy is an exploration of this Hyper Being level. The name actually comes from Merleau Ponty in THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE who summarized the development of Western Continental ontology that led to the positing of this third meta-level of Being. Derrida talks about writing under erasure, and talks about writing crossed out, and generally realizes that within our tradition this kind of Being has been symbolized from the beginning by writing as opposed to the flow of speech. He characterizes our tradition as Logocentric and as one that has denied and suppressed writing since Plato in spite of the fact that the tradition itself needs writing to be passed down. Derrida points to the substrata of the sign as being made up of traces. He posits that just as the content of forms are signs so to the content of the sign is traces. A trace is an indention or impression left upon the writing surface by the writing instrument. If you write with a pencil on a tablet and then tear off the top sheet of the tablet and then shade in the surface with the side of the pencil then one sees the trace. This level of traces beneath the sign is very significant and it's isolation is a major achievement. It allows us a fundamentally different view of our cultural heritage. This is why deconstuction has been so popular in spite of its degeneration into nihilism. Derrida calls the study of traces Gramatology. These are the distortions and deferrals that are left by the process of writing that underlies the process of speech that in turn underlies the illusory continuities that support forms. With each meta-level of Being that opens out we are exploring the substrata of ideation and out projection and construction of the world.

In my series of papers on SOFTWARE ENGINEERING FOUNDATIONS I show that software is one of the few objects that exists almost wholly at the level of traces and thus is a cultural artifact that embodies Hyper Being. I posit that software represents a meta-technology as it ties together and integrates other technological systems. And I look at the points in Fandozi's NIHILISM AND TECHNOLOGY and contrast the attributes of a meta-technology with those of a technology. Once we realize that software embodies almost all the attributes of Hyper Being traces then it is possible to see its profound effects on our culture as software becomes more prevalent. The characteristics of software are that it is a kind of writing that is animated. The type of process of animated writing is very different from the kind of process that governs speech. Speech is the ultimate embodiment of essencing forth of the eventity. In other words in speech grammar controls transformations of words (forms) according to a fixed grammar. The words depend on their context for their meaning. Thus as sentences put the words in different contexts their essence continually changes. But when we get to the next meta-level we realize that the grammar and the words are themselves emerging within the conversational process and are not themselves fixed. The process by which the grammar and words emerge are different from the process by which words change their essential meaning within speech. These two processes identified by Derrida with speech and writing form the warp and woof upon which all cultural objects are formed. So we can look at anything and see the traces and signs of these two processes at work beneath the surface of the illusory continuity and the forms that float upon that surface.

3. Back to Biology

In Biology we have the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution. It has become clear that species appear in spurts and that evolution is not a smooth continuous process by which the essences of species are forged but instead a fragmented process that is difficult to understand. But in order to try to understand it we must look at the traces in the form of fossils of long gone species. What is strange is that there seems to be a regularity in the renewal of the species over the vast periods of evolutionary development. Some have tried to say that this occurs like the death of the Dinosaurs by the destructive appearance of comets and some have gone so far as to posit that there is a dwarf star that intersects with the Ort cloud to free these comets causing the landfall and subsequent destruction of all manner of forms of life, and thus giving others a chance in the next period of evolution. But no such twin Sun has been found. But the concept of Nemesis is a precise analog to the Essence of Manifestation. There is something that is causing the periods of destruction of species and their regeneration which is hidden and never seen like the Essence of Manifestation. If it is not a twin sun then it is some other phenomena that lurks behind the scenes and causes manifestation to be segmented and creating the traces left in the fossil record. This seems to have little to do with the organism itself except when the die off occurs. We see the effects in the traces in the fossil record not in the species except by the fact that this species is present and the others have become extinct.

But similar segmentation occurs in the development of the organism. The organism during it's development goes through a series of stages that gives us the phrase "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." In other words the actual development of the species does leave its imprint on the developing embryo in the series of stages it goes through as it develops. These traces of the earlier stages of the development of life appear as discontinuous steps or stages. The stages itself are controlled by the DNA strand that exists in every cell. Those DNA strands act like software controlling the development process. They are written trances that produce discontinuous changes in the flow of development. The life processes of the organism by which it maintains its viability are like level of Process Being, but Hyper Being is instead like the discontinuous changes of the essence of the organism in the process of development. The forms of the animals stuffed on the walls of natural history museums capture the frozen likeness. When we place them in Zoos then we have the living process instead of a frozen likeness. When we create habitats in which the animals are free to roam and interact with other animals such as at the wild animal parks then we begin to see the behavior similar to those of wild animals. Animals that are in such habitats mate on the basis of the traces that they naturally produce rather than on the basis of being caged together. The only thing better than that is if we observe and study the animals in their actual habitat after we have controlled ourselves and resisted destroying it. So the stages by which Zoos have developed back toward the direct encounter with the wild are similar to the stages of the unfolding of the meta-levels of Being. That stage has a point where we allow the animals enough room to produce their natural traces and roam landscapes the size of their natural territories. This stage allows the natural discontinuities in the herds of animals behavior to appear. This is similar to the discontinuities in the development of the organism as it recapitulates evolution, and it is also similar to the discontinuities that appear in evolution itself.

The basis of Hyper Being is the discontinuities that pattern the flows. These discontinuities have a different kind of Being than the flows themselves. Derrida has gone the furthest in the direction of defining this level of culture though his psychotherapy of philosophy. But others have also explored it like Martin Heidegger, Michael Henry, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. From those pioneers many other cultural analyses based on the level of traces have emerged. In fact, most of post-modern deconstructionist analysis attempts to elucidate this level of cultural artifacts. Once this level has been exposed then essence and existence takes on yet another meaning. Essence becomes the hidden, never appearing enigma that distorts what does appear. Existence becomes the trace itself rather than the signs and forms that are built up from the trace. Also we find that we no longer think of the essencing of the eventity but instead our attention is drawn to the epochs within which the patterning of the essence remains fairly constant in its essencing. Then out of the discontinuities between these essences there is the sudden appearance of the emergent eventity that changes everything. I call this sudden appearance of the emergent eventity out of the discontinuity between epochs the novum. Now we see how the arising of the novum creates the epochs in terms of the phenomena of emergence, the arising of the genuinely new that transforms the tradition. This subject was first adequately framed by G.H. Mead who describes the phenomena of emergence and relates it to the social.