Toward a Psychology of Synergetics

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Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 08:11:41 -0800
To: "synergetics-l"<>
From: Kirby Urner 
Subject: [synergetics-l] re:unity and bhuddism

The classic concept of "void" in Buddhism is inextricable
from the teaching re "co-dependent origination" aka "no
self nature" -- everything defines everything else and no
entity has independent meaning or sense.  Another way of
saying it is "no thing supplies its own context".

This doctrine is especially evident with regard to words.
If I start using a word according to new rules, e.g. 
say "pass the gravity please" at the breakfast table, 
I'm either "taking leave of my senses" or "inventing 
new language" -- the latter being the more charitable
interpretation (the people around me will just need to
wait and see -- whether to call the men in white coats
or what).

This is where I make the link to Ludwig Wittgenstein's 
later philosophy of course, as his whole schtick was 
about how we actually have to investigate, track usage 
over time, to get a sense of the rules (principles) behind 
the actions.  E.g. you can't just assume you know what 
"mind" means, as per some given text, until you do some 

The link to 'Synergetics' is clear too:  Fuller launches
various signifiers into a namespace of his own invention.
Just because we have a sense of 'gravity' from reading
in some Newtonian field, doesn't necessarily give us 
the whole story with regard to these alternative (i.e.
remote, alien) usages, wherein 'precession' and 'radiation' 
are likewise participating in the void ('isotropic vector 
matrix'), in a way that is mutually co-definitional.

I'm reminded of a quote I not so long ago shared in a 
post to Mr. Ace:

  [T]hat view is out of date which used to say 'define
  your terms before you proceed'. All the laws and 
  theories of physics... have this deep and subtle
  character, that they both define the concepts they
  use.. and make statements about these concepts. 
  Contrariwise, the absence of some body of theory,
  law, and principle deprives one of the means to 
  properly define or even use concepts.  Any forward
  step in human knowledge is truly creative in this 
  sense: that theory, concept, law, and method of 
  measurement -- forever inseparable -- are born 
  into the world in union.[1]

In the case of 'Synergetics', but also in the case of any 
text purporting to 'set in order the facts of experience' 
(or offer some generic language for expressing the 
generalized principles of Universe), you have to ask what 
holds it together.  Do we regard it as a superstructure 
resting on a foundation of axioms?

This metaphor of "axiomatic foundation" with "deduced ediface 
resting atop the foundation" is deeply entrenched of course.  
But 'Synergetics' is self-awarely investing in a different 
metaphor:  that of a star (or high frequency geodesic sphere).  
The explosive potential  (radiation) might be considered a 
tendency for language to "fly apart", to "disintegrate" to 
"lose all meaning". The contrary tendency is gravitational, 
and Fuller suggests "circumferential" in the sense of an 
embracing, inter-attractive network which tenses and pulls 
to "squeeze" the energy back into shape (spherical), 
countering its dissipative, entropic, radiational tendencies.

This is what I'd call a "central metaphor" in 'Synergetics'.  
Excerpting from my short bio of Fuller at my website [2]:

    Synergetics, short for synergetic-energetic geometry, 
    systematizes its concepts around a core polarity 
    variously labeled as: 
    synergy vs. energy 
    growth vs. decay
    tension vs. compression
    syntropy vs. entropy
    gravity vs. radiation.

    These paired tendencies 'always and only co-occur' and 
    do not come across as moral catagories in any primary 
    sense, nor should 'Synergetics' be regarded as a 
    theological work, despite its transcendentalist 

Fuller regarded himself as one more star in the celestial 
theater (out there with Newton and all the others, each a 
metaphysical integrity) and resolved to exercise his inventive 
powers with regard to language (vocabulary) to an extreme, 
making it part of his self-discipline to look for only 
experientially based formulations, with frequent recourse 
to the dictionary (see: Remoteness of Synergetics Vocabulary [3]).

When we go to a dictionary (e.g. the online Webster's) for 
'gravity', we get (in part):

   Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French 
   gravité, from Latin gravitat-, gravitas, from gravis
   Date: 1509
   1 a : dignity or sobriety of bearing b : IMPORTANCE, 
   SIGNIFICANCE; especially : SERIOUSNESS c : a serious 
   situation or problem [4]

Of course I've snipped another meaning, which is the physics
meaning.  But one way to look at Fuller's commitment to 
comprehensivism is to ask oneself to what extent the dictionary
definition of 'gravity' (and the usage patterns this encapsulates)
are incidental, vs. experientially and synergetically entrenched.  
In other words, do we really want to completely differentiate 
(specialize) the 'humanities meaning' of 'gravity' from its 
'scientific meaning', or do we want to capitalize on the 
associations given us by this 'double meaning'?

My sense is that 'Synergetics' is deliberately designed to 
take such 'doubled meanings' to heart -- to even codify around 
this whole notion of 'doubling' in connection with the octa-
hedron, as a model of systematic doubling (in the jitterbug 
transformation, the octahedron's edges are each doubled).  
I think this way because 'Synergetics' is self-consciously 
expressed in terms of semi-metaphorical verities, and the 
essence of metaphor is juxtaposition, the collapse of (at 
least) two meanings into one, are an 'act of creation' in 
Koestler's sense (and Norman O. Brown's).

Consider the following passage from 'Synergetics':

   1005.52  The eternal is omniembracing and permeative; 
   and the temporal is linear. This opens up a very high
   order of generalizations of generalizations. The truth 
   could not be more omni-important, although it is often
   manifestly operative only as a linear identification 
   of a special-case experience on a specialized subject. 
   Verities are semi-special-case. The metaphor is linear. 
   (See Secs. 217.03 and 529.07.)

Metaphors take us on linear trajectories "around" on a "sense-
making surface" (a network, a sphere -- a star).  They're 
superficially special-case in that they have primary content, 
are "about something in particular".  But if we take them as 
metaphoric, our awareness is opened to a greater field, one 
which eternally eludes capture (because all communications are
particular) in which this special-case (whichever) ties back 
to more generalized realizations, and so on.  You might say 
that a kind of "collapse" is taking place, as you "undifferentiate 
the special cases" back to a more primal unity of meaning -- 
what Buddhists might identify as the Void itself (i.e. pure 

   1005.54  Truth is cosmically total: synergetic. Verities 
   are generalized principles stated in semimetaphorical 
   terms. Verities are differentiable. But love is omni-
   embracing, omnicoherent, and omni-inclusive, with no 
   exceptions. Love, like synergetics, is nondifferentiable, 
   i.e., is integral. Differential means locally-discontinuously 
   linear. Integration means omnispherical. And the intereffects 
   are precessional. 

Although I've stated that 'Synergetics' should not be read as
a theological work (which doesn't mean it should be eschewed 
by theologians), I think Fuller's willingness to include terms 
such as 'love' and 'truth' amidst the others, to allow them 
'namespace trajectories' in connection with his other more 
'scientific' key terms such as 'precession', is what necessitates 
categorizing it as a philosophical work.  This is no longer 
physics, even if insights regarding the physical might be 
derived or catalyzed from considerations such as the above 
(physics likewise invests in metaphor, after all).


[1] quoted on page 98 of J.R. Brown's 'Philosophy of 
    Mathematics' (London: Routledge, 1999), but itself 
    excerpted from that thick/dense book 'Gravitation' 
    (Chicago: Freeman, 1973) by Misner, Wheeler and 
    Thorne, page 71.


[3] 'Synergetics' section 250.30


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