THE ROSETTA STONE OF MEANING
Arthur M. Young
The method developed in the foregoing chapters has shown the interrelationship underlying the complete basic vocabulary of science. Since we have already found that some of these scientific measures (in the cycle of action) have equivalents in human terms, we may likewise expect to find that the others have equivalents in human terms.
This is an area to which the specialist, philosopher, mathematician, or even psychologist, has no better access than the unskilled human being.
I should point out that the diagram we are evolving - which I call the "Rosetta Stone" because of its similarity to that famous tablet which bears inscriptions in three languages, providing the key for the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics - is not just a translation of meaning, but is a generation of meaning. It is the relationships between the words we must use, not their definitions, that give them their meaning. With this in mind, we will now attempt to uncover the relationships underlying the basic human vocabulary.
The learning cycle has given us four basic categories of act:
1. Spontaneous Act
2. Change (reaction)
Considering the threefold cycle, we may expect each kind of act to have a preceding stimulus and an ensuing result or, as we generalized, an appropriate relationship and state. But in Chapter I, we already disclosed four categories of relationship, so now we need only reexamine these four and see to which acts they properly correspond. We may then find states corresponding to the four acts.
Our analysis of the four relationships is best done through the two dichotomies of objective-projective and particular-general. By considering the permutations of these dichotomies, we can explore the meaning of each kind of relationship, and then look for an appropriate word to describe it.
I. Objective general. General information which is objective, definitions, scientific laws, etc., we will simply call KNOWLEDGE, in the sense of a "body of knowledge."
2. Objective particular. Particular objective information, on the other hand, such as "This triangle is dented," is factual. We will call this category FACT.
3. Projective general. Knowledge which is projective and general, such as "All redheads are talkative," might be called belief. Since "belief' suggests a particular situation, however, we would use the more generalized word FAITH, remembering that the projection can be correct or incorrect.
4. Projective particular. This category is inherently subtle and difficult, containing relationships within the person himself. For the moment, we will leave it unnamed, but later we will find that it is possible to name it.
We must now decide which of the four acts corresponds to each of these relationship categories, and what would be the state resulting from each act.
1. KNOWLEDGE. The act immediately appropriate to knowledge (as it is meant here-a body of knowledge) is OBSERVATION. By observation we mean not only "looking," but other kinds of consideration as well. A body of general knowledge is useless until it is considered.
The state immediately resulting from the consideration of knowledge is SIGNIFICANCE.
2. FACT. The act appropriate to a particular fact is CONTROL. Upon encounter with fact - the traffic light is red - one controls the situation by stopping the car. Recall that control cannot become manifest without certain objective facts at its disposal.
The word I have tentatively chosen for the state resulting from control is ESTABLISHMENT. It could also be called "accomplishment" or "consolidation."
3. FAITH. Because faith is a presumption or an expectation, it is likely to produce CHANGE (reaction) upon confrontation with actuality: I meet a redhead who isn't talkative. (Change here is in the passive sense of being changed, the active sense, producing change, would be "control.")
The state immediately resulting from change is the TRANSFORMATION of one's original faith.
4. IMPULSE. This is the name which, in deference to our method, we refrained from assigning to the "projective particular" relationship. Now we can see the difficulty: what is the antecedent to a "spontaneous act"? Here we must think of spontaneity as being in the relationship category, where we will call it "impulse." Other possibilities would be "insight" or "intuition." Since a spontaneous act is projective, directed toward the future, its stimulus is not apparent. It is equivalent to purpose (within the person himself).
The state which results from the spontaneous act, for instance, a playful act, is very simply BEING.
The foregoing is summarized thus:
Relationship Act State
Impulse (purpose) Spontaneous act Being
Faith Change (reaction) Transformation
Knowledge (form) Observation Significance
Fact Control Establishment
To complete the "Rosetta Stone," we must show the correspondence of these twelve human categories to the twelve measure formulae. We shall use the cross axis as a format for analysis to bring out the meaning implicit in the angular relationship between the terms. Recall that factors at opposite ends of an axis are mutually opposed, that those at right angles to one another are independent, and that rotation signifies change in time.
The four relationships
Impulse/Action : In physics, the quantum of action exists in its pure state as a quantum (discrete particle) of radiation, having an undividedness which makes it unique among physical measures. These "quanta of action" are the origin of matter, and in having the power to alter the state of an atom, they are the origin of change.
Impulse, like the quantum, is the initiating factor in a process. Also like the quantum, it is instantaneous and quantized - occurring in discrete units. Two of its forms, decision and recognition, emphasize this - you cannot recognize somebody, nor make a decision, one and a half times.
Impulse and action are particular, potential, unknown, projecting into the future.
Faith/Moment of inertia : In science, the moment of inertia is the tendency of a thing to continue in a given state of rest or motion. In mechanical systems, it serves the function of maintaining steady motion and canceling out fluctuations, as with the flywheel of an engine.
Its human equivalent, faith, is the tendency to maintain a given credo without examination. Like the flywheel, it serves to maintain steady motion, carrying us through the vicissitudes of life.
Faith and inertia are in the present. Faith is the projection we put upon the present situation.
Fact/Work Work is energy - the amount of energy expended to perform a task. It is opposite to inertia.
For the mind, work is the readjustment of its implicit beliefs when confronted with fact. Like work, it is a physical exchange of energy, as when a scientist tests his theory on physical objects.
Work and fact are in the present - they are the impingements of the physical world upon the person. Fact is equivalent to work because the word is derived from factus, past participle of facere, "to make," as in "factory."
Knowledge/Power Knowledge, or data, is objective descriptive information which sits in the library or in our minds until it is used.
Power is an objective measure - the description of the dimensions of an engine, for example. By itself it is nothing; power has no actuality until it operates for a time to produce work. Power x time = work.
Knowledge and power manifest through application.
The four relationships
The foregoing diagram should be compared with the four types of relationships outlined earlier. It is worthwhile to play around with the interrelationships involved in order to get a sense of how together they constitute the totality of the object.
Note that faith and fact are opposite. This does not imply that all belief is false, but that the element that operates in faith is a projection of what has gone before. Like inertia, faith is the continuation of the state of rest or motion that has held before, whereas fact is the confrontation with what is particular to the present.
Similarly, function and form are opposite. Function is the purpose which the self projects for the object (I use a stone for a hammer). Form is the definition that would limit this freedom (I ask for bread and you give me a stone). Again, we may note that either form or function may mediate to determine whether something is or is not what it is called. Are these your glasses? No, mine are bifocal (form or definition decides). No, but they will do (function decides).
A difference between vertical and horizontal is that the horizontal is bound to time. It concerns what is immediate or phenomenal. The vertical axis is not bound to time. It concerns the ideal, either the definition, which is ideal in the sense of a standard for manufacture; or the function, which is ideal in the sense of the cause that gives the object its value.
The four acts
Control/Control Control is the final stage of the learning cycle, and in a moving body it is the rate of change of acceleration. Control is free; it is at the disposition of an operator and correlates with will.
As the reaction to observation, it is conscious action.
Spontaneous act/Acceleration The spontaneous act is primary and simple, without antecedent. In motion, the initiating factor is acceleration, as in starting a car from rest.
Both the spontaneous act and acceleration are unconscious action.
Observation/Position (L): The midpoint in the learning cycle is observation - the consideration of what has taken place. For the scientific term, we may equate it with the thing observed: position.
All the other measures ultimately involve a measure of observable position, such as a needle on a dial.
The observation of position is a conscious reaction.
Change/Velocity Velocity is the change of position, and we may generalize it as the change of any observable property. In the learning cycle, it is the point of reaction to the initial act.
Velocity and change (passive) are unconscious reaction.
The four acts
Here too there is value in drawing out the implications of opposite and of complementary aspects. It is clear that observation on the right is opposite spontaneous act on the left, and it is also clear that control at the top is the opposite of the passive change at the bottom of the chart.
This oppositeness is confirmed by the literal oppositeness, in the case of the pendulum, of acceleration and position. When the pendulum is at the extreme position, acceleration is at a maximum and is pulling in the opposite direction.
If one experiments with a pendulum hung from the hand, it will be found that one can control the pendulum by timing the motion which produces control so that it is exactly opposite to the velocity. In other words, control is most effective at the midpoint of the swing. Here a control motion in the direction
of the pendulum will stop it, and a motion in the opposite direction will increase its swing.
Such control motions, which do not have to lift the pendulum, can be effected with a minimal energy reduceable in theory without limit. This, of course, confirms the independence of the control aspect and the motion aspect, because were the control not independent of the motion, it would not be possible to induce motion in either direction.
The four states
Because they are not conceptual, the human states must be apprehended through feelings. While each physical state is the rate of change of the one before. it would appear that the human states do not change into one another except through the appropriate relationships and acts; and we are reminded that the fourfold is essentially secondary to the threefold.
Significance/Moment (ML): These two terms come together when we refer to "matters of great moment." meaning significance. In a broader sense, it is the extent to which things come into focus on an issue. In science, moment is leverage - the "state" of a mass at a distance - as when a man uses a crowbar to move a stone many times his own weight.
Establishment/Mass control (): Recent aeronautical practice refers to this product of mass times control as "power control," but strictly it is "force control" or "mass control." One can recognize the difference between controlling a small mass, say, a pencil, and bringing a ship into dock. The control of a greater mass is a greater accomplishment. "Establishment" is a tentative general name for this product. We could also use "accomplishment" or "consolidation."
Transformation/Momentum (): By "transformation," we mean the state resulting from a change - a certain condition within an overall "state of flux." It is distinct from "establishment," which is a final state of control, usually changeless. Thus the woman admiring her new hairdo is celebrating a transformation, rather than the possession of beauty. In science, this "state of changing" is called "momentum," as the momentum of the hammer drives the nail, or the momentum of the car breaks the telephone pole.
Being/Force (): Like "impulse" and "spontaneous act," "being" is elusive as a concept. Insofar as it can be objectively described, it is the result (within the actor) of a spontaneous act - the incorporation of spontaneous action. It is helpful to contrast it with "having." It may be more easily understood in its scientific guise as force, a condition which is caused simply by the presence of something - as the force of gravity is caused by the presence of the earth. So "being" is like the force of personality.
The four states
The four states can be seen most simply as the dichotomies of being and nonbeing and of having and not having.
Establishment, or mass control, is easily correlated to having, but many things that one may have are not desirable, for example, sickness, impediments, flaws. Transformation is the state in which such undesirable limitation has been
removed (not having). Transformation includes the destruction necessary to construction; in addition, it includes the breakdown of waste products, making them available for new growth.
Nonbeing is consciousness of being because it is opposite to being. But to be conscious of being is to realize the significance of being; hence, nonbeing is significance.
This use of negation (as in giving importance to nonbeing) is perhaps awkward in comparison with the usual words, but it is a technique that can handle meaning and can reduce two words to one or even four words to one, if we could find word pairs as we did for relationships and action.
The four states are difficult because they are, as noted, not conceptual, nor are they apparent in the sense that actions are. It is especially important to recognize that states are represented in the measure formulae, and hence have status in science coequal with the relationships and actions. So great is their importance in current science, in fact, that it is sometimes stated that science consists solely in the observation of states.
We have had examples of actions and of relationships, so we should have one of states. We can think of the four stages of an internal combustion engine as bringing about four different conditions, or states, of the contained gases.
First there is the compression stroke in which the mixture of fuel and air is compressed, second the firing stroke in which the gases explode and push the cylinder to do work, third the exhaust stroke in which the waste products are discharged, and fourth the intake stroke in which new fuel and air is drawn in. These follow the sequence in counterclockwise order:
Compression Gases compressed (Establishment)
Ignition Explosion and expansion (Being)
Exhaust Wastes discharged (Transformation)
Intake Gas is drawn in (Non-being)
The diagram above is the same as that at the end of Chapter IV, except that to it have been added the words that we have been dealing with in this chapter. As with the measure formulae, we can move around the circle in threefold or fourfold manner.
We have now completed the diagram by adding the four stimuli and the four results (or relations and states).
We should also realize - a point which will be discussed in more detail later - that there are two directions in which to go around, counterclockwise and clockwise. The motion is counterclockwise for the learning cycle, moving from blind action (acceleration) through reaction to control. It is clockwise in the operation of a machine because the operator anticipates what happens.
The learning cycle is natural or naive, but teaches control; the other is informed and applies the knowledge gained.
Illustration from Peirce
I will close this chapter with an analysis by the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (referred to in the Introduction). In his essay "How To Make Our Ideas Clear,"* Peirce describes four steps which lead to action. We begin with sensations, of which we are immediately conscious. These, he maintains, occur in succession and create a thought, just as the succession of musical notes creates a melody. The goal of thought is belief; we continue the activity of thought until we reach a belief, the "demi-cadence which closes a musical phrase in the symphony of our intellectual life." He goes on to say that belief establishes a rule for action, so that the final upshot of thinking is the exercise of volition.
*Philosophical Writings of Peirce (p. 314). Justus Buchler, ed. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1955.
Thus we have the sequence: sensation --» thought --» belief --» action.
This is precisely the sequence we would have on a diagram of the four relationship categories if we were to proceed clockwise from "fact":
Here, as with the aspects of motion, each right-angle shift is the slope or trend in the previous category. With relationship, we have, first, awareness of isolated facts; then, with repetition of fact, knowledge of generalities; then, confidence in such knowledge; and finally, we decide on action based on this confidence.
This succession moves in the direction of a conscious search for valid principles of action (clockwise); it is opposite to the learning cycle (counterclockwise), which advances by trial and error.
Piaget has found this sequence in children. Over a period of years, they become able to (1) move from observation to recognition of law, (2) act on the assumption that law holds despite counterfactual evidence.
The Geometry of Meaning