DUALISM


My recommendation here is that we dump mind/brain dualism for the sake of synergetics.

Synergetics already proposes to replace Descartes' XYZ co-ordinates, so we needn't be squeamish about replacing his dualism as well.

This would have two main benefits:

  1. Clearing out conceptual clutter.
  2. Connecting synergetics to commensurate theories in contemporary neuropsychology.

For point 1, a good start might be Ryle (1949). A passage from this book relates to Fuller's remarks about "inner and outer".

Ryle discusses "saying that the things and events which belong to the physical world, including [a person's] own body, are external, while the workings of his own mind are internal. This antithesis of outer and inner is of course meant to be construed as a metaphor, since minds, not being in space, could not be described as being spatially inside anything else, or as having things going on spatially inside themselves. But relapses from this good intention are common..."

The book proceeds to dismantle what he calls "the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine".

A recent example of a theory that does not assume that there is such a "thing" as a mind is given by Priest (1991):

"The relation between thinking and the brain is this: thinking is the mental activity of the brain. Crucially, there is no interface problem between things and their activities. There is no ontological or metaphysical problem about what the relation is between something and what it does."

This theory is neither dualist, nor idealist, nor materialist:

"The empiricist theory of the mind is the identification of the brain with that which engages in the activity of thinking. This identification is itself empirical."

As for point 2:

Ideas about how the brain works such as are presented in Churchland (1986) seem much more relevant to synergetics than some of Fuller's own mystical musings about the mind (e.g. Synergetics 2, 326.08).

One example is the Tensor Network Theory of Pellionisz and Llinas:

"Pellionisz observed that from a mathematical standpoint, the connectivity relations between input and output neurons serve as a matrix, such that any input vector is transformed into an output vector. That is, the nature of the regularity in the patterns of activity of the neuronal arrays in the[ir] model invited the hypothesis that the arrays are doing matrix multiplication."

To cut to the chase:

"... the hypothesis is that the connectivity relations between a given input ensemble and its output ensemble are the physical embodiment of a tensor."


"Design Strategy", chapter 11 of "Utopia or Oblivion", includes a list of "self-disciplines". Fuller's comprehensive approach is impressive, and he's still way ahead of the dangerously blinkered specializations we see everywhere. I would suggest, though, that a couple of other items should have been included. In general, there is a big hole where the social sciences should be. The absence may be explicable in terms of the prevailing ideology in the US, which entails a bias against thinking in terms of social structures and in terms of historical complexities. Also relevant is psychology, despite its various rifts and schools.

Fuller had a remarkably fresh approach to design. Look at the way he flouted tradition in livingry design, going for materials nobody was interested in outside aircraft manufacture. Look at his unsentimental attitude towards horse-carriage design in road vehicles.

This invigorating, creative attitude is exactly what is needed in other areas. Fuller was not mindlessly modern, of course. He had great respect for the accumulated experience of mariners, for instance. But he was able to move forward, and where necessary he ditched outmoded understandings.

If we generalize this science-informed creativeness to psychology, then we can liberate ourselves from misplaced notions of "psychic energy". Energy is obviously one of the key terms of synergetics, and the Fuller School should sort out what it means, and what it doesn't mean.

Psychology is the greatest detergent against psychobabble.



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Paul Taylor 2001