Notes on metapattern and enneadic semiosis, part 2

Pieter Wisse

From a conversation by electronic mail, conducted with numerous messages from December 2005 to January 2006, I’ve selected passages to inform a wider audience, too. Here, they (re)appear in the order I’ve written them.



I agree with an emphasis on the theme of sameness and difference. For that is precisely what I developed metapattern for to deal with (as a method for information modeling). However, metapattern is oriented at practitioners. Therefore I left out foundations, where instead I try to offer (more) practically oriented explanation. Elsewhere, though, I did present foundations.

What I designed as the semiotic ennead, I apply as an engineer. An engineer's attitude toward thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis is always somewhat more like Popper explained. The engineer tries to come up with a design, as up front as (s)he possibly can. For there's constructive work to do, and the design is just a means to that end. In my case, this is the semiotic ennead. Look at it as a hypothesis, too. Next, an engineer will try to break it (falsification). Her/his experiments should of course be sufficiently representative. Again, in my case I hold my design up against — a few — previous theories. I remain confident about my design when I can show that another theory may be included in mine as 'a special case.' In a mathematical sense, at least what I make of it, a special case applies when one or more of the design's variables can be put at a constant value.

You might consider approaching it with an engineer's attitude (as I see it). So, there is a design problem (which in my case was the need for unambiguously modeling identity and difference at every scale imaginable; I strongly recommend it as the central theme for synthesis). Next, there is a design as the prescription of a possible solution. Then, the possible solution is tested (with some due diligence as the reasonable limit to your efforts).

My own experience is that the academic establishment in majority still doesn't have a clue; it lacks the sensitivity for a new paradigm. What I already find 'logical,' habitually meets there with the response "That's just not logic!"

My inclination is to consider multiplicity. I am myself quite comfortable with such open-ended variety, for that is the  engineer's way of optimizing reuse. What if ...? It is where abstraction meets being highly practical. Through recursion, unambiguous control of — navigating between — levels is established.

That is where I've brought in semiotics. Why? Because, as far as I know, semiotics represents the highest level of emergence. It, i.e. a semiotic framework, therefore is theoretically all-encompassing (given current limits to human knowledge). It allows us to deal with all relevant phenomena. This is where my extension of Peirce's triad comes in. I wanted to secure a mechanism for recursion. One level 'down' from full-blown semiotics is cybernetics (reducible by keeping some variables constant), and another level down is raw physics (reducible by keeping yet more variables constant). Precisely, these levels correspond to a classification of cause types (which, by the way, Schopenhauer — also — favored).

I recognize a(nother) strong argument in favor of multiplicity in, say, self-reflexivity. I'm not sure whether I myself actually understand what I'm writing here. I like to indulge in playful (de)sign, i.e. see what comes out.
Anyway, the concept of level as you, or I, or ... uses it, is also ... an artifact. It therefore is also subject to ... design. This raises the problem that an assumption for a theory of design is only available ... on the basis of such a theory. This implies, not that we cannot have theory, but that newton-like, strictly linear reasoning doesn't help anymore. We cannot escape circularity. We therefore have to face it. Indeed, multiplicity is the beginning of our admissi onofhumanlimitations.Isn'tthisjustrephrasing Kant?

The metamodel of enneadic semiosis could very well be instrumental to bringing additional order to currently divergent theories.

Referring to different attitudes, Deleuze and so on did not see themselves as involved in engineering. So, yes, I seem to recognize strains of relevant ideas all over philosophical writings. But those ideas are always far removed from supplying specifications in an engineering sense. For example, Wittgenstein talks about language games. But how do we develop and maintain a single infrastructure (now read: the Internet etc.) for all language games? I made up metapattern precisely for answering this infrastructural need, a need that Wittgenstein wasn't of course aware of yet. By the way, Wittgenstein is an especially interesting example as he was — partly — trained as an engineer. I venture the hypothesis that that's why he already recognized differences in language use as relevant.

So, I find rhizome an apt metaphor for metapattern. But how Deleuze applies the metaphor of the rhizome is actually detracting from an engineering perspective. He uses it to suggest a sense of pervasive ambiguity, whereas an engineer needs a conceptual framework that helps her/him to disambiguate.

I am content with pragmatism.

An engineer's 'professional' speculation, I believe, stops when 'it' works. So, I believe that I went as deeply as required (which turned out a lot deeper than conceptual modeling was previously 'grounded').

Of one thing I am confident: there's always a next step.

My inclination is to push synthesis. That is, models could be merged through additional variables. As a simple example, with y and z non-overlapping, a x,y-space and a x,z-space can be integrated into a single x,y,z-space.

In my short paper Dia-enneadic framework for information concepts I have changed some of the labels for the elements of the ennead. The ennead is now more directly in line with Schopenhauer, too, as what was formerly called background interpretant is now 'motive' (also read: interest, or will).

I myself find a serious critique extremely useful. It 'forces' me to become acquainted with a particular text. But I do tend to set my own critical texts somewhat apart, as with separate chapters in Semiosis & Sign Exchange.

What I propose is all about behavioral ecology, i.e. situated behavior.

Yes, reaching yet another level of ground occurs through shifting. Something is both gained and lost by every shift. Gain/loss are always relative to a point of view, i.e. a node in a model. A loss may be regained by a shift, and so can a gain be lost.

What you may take as a personal communication by the author of Metapattern is that context and time are treated as separate concepts because the book (see also the paper The pattern of metapattern) is primarily oriented at practitioners. More generally, time may be included in context, too. This amounts to the notion of spacetime.

Inclusion of context facilitates precision in differentiation. It turns out that for example Foucault's concept of episteme is too coarse. Or Wittgenstein's concept of language game, for that matter. A particular episteme can now be recognized as internally structured. When compared to — the structure of — another episteme, some contexts will be seen to be similar, others to differ. It only goes to show that contextual differentiation plays at that level, too. Etcetera.

A practical demonstration of such structural variation is included in our working prototype software for metapattern. Not just information values may vary over time, but also how information is structured. Many long-standing problems in information management simply dissolve.

I was fully aware of coming up with an open-ended mechanism for shifting levels.

Metapattern considered as method for decomposition, from any node there are two directions for decomposition: upwards and downwards (see figures 2 and 3 in Metapattern for converging knowledge management with artificial intelligence). The nil element 'only' sets the practical limit to upward decomposition. I would therefore identify my concept of the nil element with what lies beyond the model. So, all levels considered higher at some moment implicitly lie beyond. As yet another hierarchical level is 'included' by way of contextual specification, the what-lies-beyond gets 'thinner,' but it can never be completely resolved. Of course I am aware that I am once again 'relativizing' a concept, but that's precisely why metapattern-as-method is open-ended in both hierarchical directions (not to mention its lateral potential).

In Semiosis & Sign Exchange, I was just trying to be consistent, and challenging, by introducing the label 'sign engineer.' I wanted to express how the concept of engineering should be taken as behaviorally fundamental. So, engineering is not 'just' about bridges, railroads, etcetera. It is already part and parcel of semiotic behavior, i.e. behavior where the sign dimension is irreducible.
At the time, I toyed with the idea of using the label 'sign designer,' but found that too much. And design is an aspect of engineering, that is, sign engineer implies sign designer, anyway.

Should I feel that you are falsifying my hypothesis, then of course as a designer I have to go back and attempt improvements. However, so far I have not noticed any contradiction.

I would emphasize that what I supply is a powerful tool. Yes, I am fully aware that every tool implies an ontology, and so on. But it is the very nature of 'my' tool — see more about multicontextualism, below — that it should escape being nailed down by any too specific an ontology. By referring to metaontology, I merely argue that it supplies room for juxtaposing different traditional, i.e. more specific ontologies. As I wrote in the opening sentences of chapter 3 in Semiosis & Sign Exchange:

Attention to grounds is necessary because the metapattern is not built upon a particular established, already familiar, ontology. Communicating it is far more problematic as the metapattern itself incorporates a different ontological configuration of concepts. The foundation that largely is the metapattern is a metaontology, even. It follows when being and behaving are taken to only sensibly occur in particular situations.

I refrain from extended articulation, because I stick to my tooling business. Of course I cannot help be aware of innovative applications outside my original field of application.

From my perspective, it is only normal to wonder about more general application of a method etc. that was derived for a particular task.

The potential for inversion is even fundamental to metapattern. Shifts are bi-directional. Hierarchical movement in both directions can be balanced with lateral movements. That is, contexts may be juxtaposed, too. I believe it is this combination that makes the 'tool' so powerful.

Controlled shifts are possible both vertically (hierarchy) en horizontally (lateral). As I don't see any limit to such shifts, I find it apt to call it a general method/tool. There's really nothing else 'behind' it.

So, there's this general tool and it is up to whoever is interested to apply it for whatever particular shifts.

Of course, I also have more philosophical interests.

My own foothold is to consider the tool as expressing a metaontology (in the sense of a higher level of abstraction).

What lies beyond context, for me, that is, is the model where context has become both variable and multiple. So, from the perspective of all sorts of previously isolated patterns, i.e. each pattern with a single context implicit: metapattern.

Now I should add that the very concept of context implies its multiplicity. If only a single context would be relevant, it would be ... singularity!

With the potential for shifting in all directions, I now believe to have set the — new — limit for sign engineering. For I believe the same 'method' or tool can be applied to model the metapattern for metapattern, that is the metametapattern, and so on. Agreed, I didn't properly 'test' that hypothesis. It is more that I cannot imagine how any shift can take a ‘scientific intellect’ beyond semiosis; it is where man meets the limit already indicated by Kant.

Of course, man desires to include ultimate determination in semiosis. As far as engineering is concerned, I favor a down-to-earth attitude: forget it. Accept wonder, but don't seek to manipulate it. That's hubris. It simply doesn't work.

The idea of including multiple, especially juxtaposed contexts in a single model is to engineer for their dynamics. So, a powerful feature is metapattern's support for contextual multiplicity in a lateral sense.

I don't care what anyone chooses to call a domain. It probably is what (s)he takes as a relevant selection of contexts (here, I would rather say: situations). So, I consider domain as variable, extending from a single situation to ... world.

Please note that on the basis of my concepts, widening domain 'only' involves — primarily — lateral extension of the model. Again, this is possible because supporting multiple contexts is basic to metapattern.

I believe that metapattern/semiotic (dia-)ennead offers a framework for helping to explain principles applied more implicitly elsewhere. And, now given such an explicit method/tool, order may be established in an even more rigorous fashion. For you can rely on an experience-relevant formalism.

For example, previously separate levels may converge. See above, for how the level of multiple contexts equals domain, and even world.

Every 'binding' is variable. It can be changed. So, the upward 'binding,' too, can be 'opened' and specifications added. That might be necessary when we choose to widen the domain for engineering. It may then happen that how we've modeled situations so far, becomes ambiguous within the widened horizon. Maintaining precision may require more elaboration for contexts, adding contexts, and the like.

In my experience a practical example will help. I suggest taking an information problem with which you are intimately familiar. In your work, are you involved with system integration? If so, what are the originally separate information systems? How do you plan their actual synthesis?

What I can understand only too well, is how metapattern/semiotic ennead somehow unsettles more traditional frameworks.

I deal with fragments. My concept of situationism limits itself to fragments of beings, i.e. ‘being’ without a capital B. Whereas ‘entity’ seems to suggest unification, only, I right away from basic assumptions include dynamics of identity and differentiation. So, whatever ‘entity’ is assumed, it may exhibit different behaviors. What counts as the 'logical atom' therefore shifts down to an entity's situated behavior. (See my paper The ontological atom of behavior)

Please note that 'situated behavior' implies juxtaposing such behaviors (perspective of difference) for one and the same ´entity’ (perspective of identity). So, it is not only contexts that are explicitly expressed inside the model, but as a consequence a reconciliation between difference and identity also finds expression inside (!) the model.

Explicit expression of situatedness offers a full degree of extra freedom in modeling. As I argued earlier, it essentially unburdens hierarchical relationships. With an additional dimension/degree of freedom, order can be expressed so much, much more efficiently.

I find reference to Bateson (and Alexander, for that matter) relevant. What I remember myself about Bateson’s ordering is that he keeps it open-ended. What I also do, like Bateson, I believe, is suggest recursion. If you propose a particular hierarchy, that's fine. However, what I believe I share with Bateson is that the mechanisms for behavior at each conceptual level of order all operate at a single material level. As an engineer, I have to assume it. For empirically, we are bound to it. You can assume what you like otherwise, but until you've made a testable case for it, no engineer should bet his work on it, period. My reading of, among others, Bateson (Schopenhauer and Peirce, too, for example) is that he respects the fundamentally material 'conduct' for behavior (including learning, etc.).

I prefer the call the point a boundary concept. As I stated in the prelude to my review of Schopenhauer (chapter 6 in Semiosis & Sign Exchange):

As any designer has learned from experience, it is often an assumption that is at first counterintuitive which proves especially productive. For example, why is the number zero such a powerful invention? Because it is not a number, too. Schopenhauer performs a similarly contradictory design step where it counts most. Cutting through the paradox of what he calls the Weltknoten, he radically turns priorities around. His concept of the will is not intermediary, i.e., it is not what results from an intellect. With Schopenhauer, will is the ultimate ground. Then, a particular body is a unique objectification of the will. And a unique intellect is an irreducible part of a unique body. As such, the intellect is an instrument of the will.
It follows that the Schopenhauerean intellect is not in exhaustive, leave aside rational, control of the body. By definition, the will is in control. And the will is preintellectual. Anyway, it is from the relative and necessarily limited perspective of the intellect (which, at the same time, is all it can develop as perspective).

So, what I mean is that it is really pointless — pun intended — to argue whether or not 'the point' exists. I am not a naive realist, but what you might call a semiotic realist, which is very different. As a concept, 'the point' is an artifact. And as such, it must be included in a semiotic framework, respecting the irreducibility of triadic/enneadic elements.

What I believe follows from recognizing irreducibility is that hierarchies previously taken as separate are essentially interconnected. It just depends from what 'rung' on which 'ladder' you choose to orient yourself. When you start from a realistic perspective (object), you'll necessarily find a particular rung on the sign ladder corresponding to it, vice versa. I would say that such correspondence is a far stronger relationship even than what is often called ‘orthogonal.’ Of course, irreducibility includes the interpretant dimension.

For engineering we should stick to a single temporality, i.e. the one that we can now empirically consense to.

In addition, I have a strong hunch that any additional temporal categories will actually dissolve when separate hierarchies are consolidated in an enneadic fashion, that is, truly 'following' irreducibility. Then, particular temporal behaviors previously indicated through a specific temporal category might reflect emergence as a result of dynamics of the more spatially perceived elements (plus the single remaining temporal category, of course).

Whenever I run into trouble theorizing, I've noticed that it invariably occurs on account of violating Peirce's semiotic principle of irreducibility. I cannot overemphasize how important I find it for remaining consistent.

Now I consider it a pragmatic principle. The impression I get from the work of some modelers is that they are trying to move to a framework beyond. But is that humanly possible? One of the elements in 'my' irreducible ennead is focus. Taking it seriously means that man cannot move beyond limited attention, however broadly experienced. We have of course learned the trick of extrapolating by theory and thus hypothesize infinity, which in my terms should be explained as the dissolution of focus (and all that irreducibly goes with it!).

In a mood of extrapolation, I would say that where those modelers — believe they — are starting from, there is no rule of semiotic irreducibility. For semiotics only appears along their process of reduction. (I refrain from writing 'emerges' for that constitutes, anyway as I see it, a process in the opposite direction.) Then, what I suppose that they should be especially looking for is an even wider, stronger principle of irreducibility. I myself have actually no idea.

I am the first to understand — well, I hope that I am — that the ennead is not at all a statement of Truth, or of Absolute, Definitive, or whatever. That would even be a contradiction in terms (as terms/signs are all we have, enneadically 'speaking').

However, upon designing the ennead I did right away realize — if only 'sensing' it — that it has far-reaching potential as a tool. As such, i.e. a tool, it can always be improved upon, though. Again, I am the first to acknowledge room for improvement, as I myself already moved from, say, version 0.5 (the hexad in chapter 2 of Semiosis & Sign Exchange) to version 1.0 (the first full-blown ennead, in chapter 4 of Semiosis & Sign Exchange) to version 2.0 (as documented in my paper Dia-enneadic framework for information concepts, renaming an element into 'motive' and thereby more directly referring to Schopenhauer's Will).

What the ennead does, is also provide threesomes/triads as windows. Will flows into cognition through the boundary window of the threesome motive-situation-context. And it flows out again through the 'window' of the threesome of concept-behavior-intext. It essentially makes the ennead a model of a funnel, or conduct.

In the 'middle,' identity and difference — is negation essentially difference, i.e. putting it positively? — are reconciled/reduced by the threesome of focus-identity-signature.

However finely grained, multitudinous etc. we engineer our artifacts to accommodate for situations. We can never match the requisite variety of the world, if only because variety is already a lower-level concept, of course.

I admit I never made a comprehensive study for parallels. But I do already realize that the ennead articulates what must be age-old patterns.

There is a down-to-earth remark I'd like to make amidst philosophical excitement. What I believe that I most practically succeeded in solving is the problem of unambiguous information management at whatever scale. Right now, it is of course the Internet posing precisely that problem. So, in principle there is a multi-billion dollar market waiting to be served. However, so far nobody recognizes the elegant, practical solution I've come up with. As with any paradigm shift, it takes time. Talk about the human condition!

Let me elaborate on the difference between subject and object. Yes, on the surface the ennead takes it as an assumption. But then it counteracts/mitigates precisely that particular difference somewhat, at least that's what I find, by claiming for behavior as essentially situated. So, it is not at all the subject acting against the object. In terms of behavior we have to acknowledge that it is impossible to separate the what that is behaving. It certainly is not the subject per se. Neither is it the object per se. That is, let's at least assume an interdependence.

What I set out to create with my dia-enneadic framework is a generalized framework. It supplies the vantage point from which to determine/locate previous concepts of information annex communication. For example, the information concept of Shannon/Weaver should be recognizable as a particular subset of the dia-enneadic set. The most varied information concept, then, corresponds to the complete framework.

Then, is the semiotic ennead the most generalized framework? Clever as the ennead is, the answer is clearly no. I believe it is wise to always leave room for further development.

Perhaps I'm reading something into your work that you have not intended (but that's subjective situationism for you).

With the 'plane' of focus-identity-signature I actually ploughed metapattern back into its ground. For neither Schopenhauer, nor Peirce, suggested this addition, at least I didn't see them do it.

From the original metapattern perspective, what I 'needed' for practical information modeling at 'open' scale was a way to loosely couple what became called context and intext. The engineer's solution is to add a third element, acting as their hinge. My innovation regarding information modeling is to move in the direction that is considered counterintuitive for the modeling tradition so far. Rather than filling up the 'hinge,' that is, stuffing it with attributes, I kept it as empty as possible. As with a physical entrance, a hinge does not at all pretend to be door-like and/or wall-like. Precisely by its intervention, it allows the door ... to remain door, and the wall to remain wall.

In this sense, at least in my view, for example focus is both where the tension between figure (concept) and ground (motive) occurs and where their tension is resolved.

What I needed was especially such a mechanism for resolution (reconciling identity and difference).

The plane of focus-identity-signature is critical for semiosis-as-dynamics, i.e. movement of/in the cognitive mass. I would say that semiotic life entails that any 'node' may become focus etc. and that from any node any other node can be reached. Now, that's the principle. For a sound theory of cognition, it 'only' remains to work out the constraints. :-)

It can be extremely productive to postulate mathematically inspired regularities and then try and make sense only after. For that's precisely how I got from the hexad plus the 'middle' element along the sign dimension (as the metapattern already had the relative hierarchy of three elements) to postulating such middle elements for the other two dimensions (object and interpretant). When the extra two elements were there, too, completing the ennead, of course I also had to label those.

I just seem to feel more comfortable when there are three, rather than two elements.

I also feel drawn to adding a third element because of the three so-called cause types that I've taken from Schopenhauer. I mentioned those in chapter 7, section 1, of Semiosis & Sign Exchange, but afterwards applied them in the paper Multiple axiomatization in information management.

My immediate impression is not to make too much of his dialogue as an explanation of the world, despite the incredible insight displayed by Plato. As any sign, it is essentially metaphorical.

As I 'only' see three cause types, I don't see any reason for additional elements/dimensions. If another cause type would be recognized, then I believe I would prefer jumping 4 and move directly to 5, i.e. the next prime. And so on ...

I took my degree at a university of technology (Delft). There, mathematics is not at all the queen of science, but always a practical tool. Design is about realistic imagination.

The engineer focuses on the experience of a practical problem. I've come to believe that it really is about attitude. Given a problem that I recognize as such, whatever theory is considered useful immediately becomes interesting. Otherwise, I actually find it impossible to bring up motivation. Symbolic logic, for example, I find extremely dull. I just don't get it, because I don't see its relevance for the problems that I have to solve. Those problems require a tool variety that traditional symbolic logic just doesn't support.

I tried to illustrate the engineer's attitude. Well, my own, anyway. Now, probably in traditional philosophy a ‘test’ should be conducted against writings by Plato etc. An engineer wouldn't be impressed, though. Rather, take construction materials from wherever you can. If that's with Plato, fine. But your engineering has to stand the 'real' test of current and future life. What does it bring there?

Of course, who are we to say that studying Plato is irrelevant. Of course it is not. But what does spending a disproportionate amount of time on his works add to the 'solution'?

There is much to discover from careful study of original sources, as I believe I myself have demonstrated by (re)reading part of Peirce's work — just a single sentence by him, really; well, that's not right, but close enough — with metapattern in mind.

At the first opportunity, most modelers, logicians, etcetera, seem to move away from grounds and subsequently proceed with what they feel they're good at which apparently is good-old and 'respected' symbolic logic (a logic which, in turn, I just cannot understand). What's the use of rigor for something that's irrelevant?

Well, that’s how difficult, if not impossible, at least during your own lifetime, it is to get a novel idea accepted, especially by the academic establishment.

From Popper we should take the idea that any serious attempt at falsification must always be welcomed. I find that is the only (!?) responsible attitude for the professional engineer. For when a piece of engineering breaks sooner than it should, it's simply worthless, if not outright dangerous. And should it break during an experiment, it's a vital lesson learned still at the right time.

Dependent on how you look at it, you 'see' emergence, respectively reduction. Anyway, that's why I consider the three elements 'relative' along a particular dimension of the ennead.

What Peirce's constraint of irreducibility for semiosis suggests, at least it does to me, is that it says more about interpretation than about reality as such (whatever that may be).

The concept of language that I developed in Semiosis & Sign Exchange implies the hypothesis 'Every sign is a request for compliance.' Yes, "Trust me!" is a request and its very utterance should already install a healthy mistrust.

What engineering attitude I might have is, as I myself believe, that I never lose sight of the real problem. And I have the capacity to recognize that abstraction can make solutions simpler by qualitative orders, so not at all more complex. And that's where pragmatism is indistinguishable from philosophy. So, I usually end up with a solution for a host of other problems, too. Yes, that creates another problem, which is that nobody 'buys' it, yet.

I believe this attitude also explains why I'm sometimes harsh with criticism. When you look at Semiosis & Sign Exchange, you'll find that I'm harsh on Eco, for example. I find that he is dealing irresponsibly with Peirce's legacy, from some splendid isolation. Likewise, Austin, Searle and — to a lesser extent — Habermas are too smug without sufficient ground. On the other hand, and though I disagree with him on intersubjectivity, I find Mead sympathetic for he is making a sincere effort to connect to the world.

We're at the point — space? — where of course it doesn't matter anymore where we start from. It's all connected, anyway.

Did I already mention that I find 'middle-ism' an apt label for my outlook? The obvious association with 'muddle-ism' is intentional. It is the 'mystery' of the human condition. A (wo)man is always her/his own middle from where (s)he muddles. What the ennead’s dimensions allow is that man can recognize it as middle. For that's his (disad)vantage point in an — experience of — encompassing structure. When I speak for myself, I feel inevitably both caught in my middle/muddle and freed by dynamics (as I can move from one middle to the next, and so on).

Only a problem motivates. It's just, I believe, that we often don't realize what 'problem' we're actually working on. That's not necessarily bad. On the contrary, semiosis as flow takes the person somewhere which he subsequently (of course, semiosis once again) tries to justify ... sometimes.

Ultimately, motive is beyond mathematics, philosophy, or whatever lies within the human condition to specify.

Genuine philosophy is not for spectators, but for practitioners. Otherwise it is at best sterile and at worst dangerously misleading.

I would say that Peirce took from Kant that worldview doesn't stand on its own. It must be irreducibly tied up with the worldviewer. So, the structure of the worldview becomes part of the structure of the worldviewer, vice versa. I am content to remain in awe of the 'mystery' beyond.

There's just no escape. And if you cannot beat it, please join it.

It's making life more difficult for those who attempt to build a bridge, that's for sure. Once, I believed that such a bridge would be welcomed. But from static middle-ism, hardly anyone has the integrity ... to integrate. Both so-called academics and practitioners are mostly happy to remain at, and maintain, their own side of the chasm.

It fits my perspective on mathematics, philosophy etc. that only what remains structurally connected to practice is of interest. The word ‘interest’ provides a strong indication. At least, I see it as synonymous with motive. So, interest/motive is related to behavior/practice, as the ennead suggests.

As you cannot step in the same river twice, semiosis is always different.

But why postulate 'independent' problems when there might be a one-size solution that fits all?

As I'm self-employed and also financing r&d in software engineering based on metapattern, I cannot afford to study full-time. Then again, I don't want to, for it is always an experienced problem that motivates further development.

As might be expected on the basis of the ennead, I cannot help but include motive in my interpretation. Here, I mean the motive of the 'other.' I am extremely impatient, for example, with academic irrelevance, often clouded in pretense at rigor. On the other hand, I will always express sympathy for someone with — what I experience as — a sincere orientation at interdependence. That's where especially differences become productive, for they promote dynamics of middle-ism, that is, considering different perspectives. It's the egoism of altruism ...

Rather than being paralyzed by the mystery, we 'create' ground somewhere. How any ground works out, I would say depends on our purpose(s) which once again makes clear how inescapable circularity is, at least in argument.

As an engineer I feel comfortable with methodological individualism. Now that's of course derived from a particular engineering paradigm. There we go again ...

Anyway, as engineering — as I know it — is concerned with recognizing individual elements to participate in structure, structure-as-such is no element. For necessary ground, such a difference must be established (cf. Russell’s theory of types).

It follows that the performance of the structure emerges from how elements interact. So, every element is inherently 'wired' for interaction. My assumptions therefore include:

The provision of empathy ‘controls’ to what extent individual behavior is social. (See chapter 1, section 2, of Semiosis & Sign Exchange; there, see also chapter 6, on Schopenhauer.)

I'm fully aware that there is something beyond the individual. Situationism is 'only' meant to convey how the individual exists. The other existences, i.e. at different 'levels' cannot be expressed in terms of the individual. So, a 'locality' surrounds the subject-object difference.

Respectful differences are especially productive. They help to agree on essential similarities.

And while we still disagree, my case for subjective situationism is especially strong ... :-)

Respecting differences optimizes similarities.

I 'only' see emergence from a ground level of materiality. And that's why I support the idea of three cause types.

I'm tolerant to differences. It's always interesting to see new relationships suggested.

Calling something ‘rational’ is always a request for compliance and often aimed at dominance. Respect implies being open to the irreducible rationality of the other in exchange.

A discipline where I would like to see the semiotic ennead applied is cognitive science/evolutionary psychology. With any neural node potentially a 'focus,' and a mechanism for focal shifts, motivational annex conceptual variety 'naturally' follows.

I like to practice nesting, recursiveness, or whatever. It usually even adds flexibility and greatly increases sign compactness. Enneadic dynamics is a prime example.

First of all, I'd like to emphasize that I am keeping situation formally distinct from context. Let's say that so-called analytical philosophers stick to naive realism which is where they right away lack requisite variety for modeling.
What I also see everybody still do when they deal with situation/context, is to consider it an absolute concept. Then, situation is assumed as 'something' different from an object. So questions arise how to model situation, what to do when situations overlap etc.
All such questions are resolved through my assumptions. I'm not so much concerned with modeling situation. Instead, I concentrate on modeling an object's behavior. Next, I recognize that a particular object may exhibit several behaviors. This raises the question of how a particular behavior is determined. My answer: situation. So, my concept of situation has evolved from the requirement for behavior selection. It only follows that I've introduced the constraint that situations are disjunct. Otherwise, behavior could not be unambiguously determined. For any object, there's a 1:1 relationship between a particular situation and a particular behavior. Or, given a situated object, its behavior is accurately determined. In order to qualify as criterion for selection of behavior — and now we're moving to the sign dimension — context need only consist of a unique label. Combined with the object's unique label, its so-called signature, intext can be retrieved.
Now that would already be enough when 'levels' were fixed. My analysis of variety is that such levels are better assumed relative. In terms of hierarchy, it means that you can move upwards and downwards. Upwards, what was first taken as a situation as a whole, may turn out to be a next-higher level object in a next-higher level situation. You can repeat the procedure until you feel that you've reached a practical limit, i.e. the behavioral horizon for, say, the ecosystem that you're modeling. Downwards, the same principle applies. Now, what was first taken as a behavior as a whole, may turn out to be a next-lower level object with next-lower level behavior. Again, you can repeat the procedure until you feel that you've reached a practical limit. In this case, that is, downwards, what results are primitive chunks of behavior. Please note that both the upward and downward limits of decomposition remain relative. The structure is also variable at both extremes. So, the horizon may be lifted and/or additional behavioral detail added as primitive.

I simply avoid the issue of 'what is a situation'? At least, I refuse to answer it in any absolutist sense. Situation takes its structural position/value. It gives operational meaning to what behavior is, vice versa. And as for its meaning, it irreducibly requires even all the ennead's elements and their relationships.

Such structuralism also undermines traditional logic's paradigm which is why I don't waste time studying such ill-directed proposals. As I cannot recognize any relevance, my reader's block sets in.

When aspects, whatever they’re called, are relevant for determining behavior, one way or another they'll be reflected in context (because they are assumed to exist in the behaviorally relevant situation for an object).

And ennead dynamics are not only recursive (allowing up- and downward movements), but also reflexive. This I took directly from Peirce. See chapter 2 of Semiosis & Sign Exchange for cycles in semiosis; the interpretant of one cycle 'acts' as the sign for the next.
And then there's the mechanism of lateral movement. Please note that every single node immediately implies a full ennead.

There are corresponding semiotic factors along the sign dimension. And they would be the factors necessary and sufficient for determining a particular intext as appended to a particular signature.
Please note that, at least according to the semiotic ennead, what we are calling context/signature/intext, just as we do situation/identity/behavior, are 'all in a man's imagination,' that is, his interpretation (motive/focus/concept).

Of course I see that it is often practical to assume that, for example, an institution exists independently. More fundamentally, though, it is constituted by actors' behaviors. At least, I find that a more productive assumption concerning the kind of 'work' I'm applying my conceptual instrument for.

As any expression is always a sign, there's no circumventing metapattern and subsequently the semiotic ennead.

When you look at the ennead's visual presentation, indeed, it seems just static. That's why I add emphasis on enneadic dynamics. And I especially designed metapattern to be able to present with precision an overview of signatures, etcetera.

From the perspective of social psychology (methodological individualism), there's a continuum, not an opposition. Then, traditional sociological concepts are abstractions from social psychological concepts. Please note that the semiotic ennead is already outright social in its understanding of semiosis; I refer to my use of Schopenhauer's concept of empathy.

A framework to mediate between previously distinct sociological and psychological approaches, respectively, does have great value, period. When you closely read my commentary on the semiotic ennead, that's precisely what I've — also — tried to ground.

The germ of interdisciplinary mediation is present in Peirce's triad. It becomes — more — explicit by turning Peirce's original elements into dimensions (where I have even made the 'new' elements relative).

As a pragmatist, of course I find the whole ennead a heuristic device (cf. Vaihinger, the philosophy of As If).

In my view, each dimension has a ‘center.’ At the same time, they are not absolute centers. First of all, the relationships between the ennead's elements are irreducible. That includes the relationships between signature, focus and identity. Secondly, how elements along the dimensions are determined is always relative.

I'm not an expert but I would argue that Levi-Strauss 'limits' himself to two explicit dimensions for mediating structural correspondences. Indeed, that fits how De Saussure conceives of the sign in his semiology.
Perhaps it is a good idea to refer to Levi-Strauss' work as two-dimensional structuralism. Then, through Peirce I've made the extension to a three-dimensional structuralism.

There's certainly something — or even a lot — seductively archetypical about the ennead. But then, what is an archetype other than a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I don't  distinguish information from knowledge. Instead, I throw all terms such as information, data, communication, knowledge ... together. It just depends on which subset of the dia-enneadic framework seems to be implied to suggest which of those terms is most apt. As I myself 'believe' in irreducibility, my own orientation is from the full framework.

Enneadic dynamics involves randomness, too.

I prefer to start arguing from problems as experienced (see John Dewey's pragmatism). The absence of problems maintains situations: tradition. No problem? Then there's also no design to speak of. A real problem implies solution-oriented behavior. The solution necessarily is a difference, thus undermining tradition.
Socially speaking, one person may find that the solution-oriented behavior by another person presents ... a problem. Given sufficient power, that one person's solution is what on the surface looks like maintaining a tradition. In that case, though, tradition has a paradoxical character. Only power dictates. Or, if you like, the worldview of the powerful does. Is there a better explanation for the marginal existence, at best, of new proposals for paradigms?

A sign never 'means' something just like that. To a large extent, we even have to learn what we'd better take as signs in order to survive. Of course, what it takes to survive partially changes.

It depends very much on a person's previous 'conditioning' (see Wittgenstein on training). Because I am by now so familiar with the ennead, it provides me with an understanding that I cannot otherwise experience. Yet I do realize that the enneadic 'sign' is meaningless for almost everybody else. So, I need to invent other ways to communicate at least some of the need for their compliance with my perspective ... and that's where it gets really difficult ...

I haven't bothered to check Foucault on this, but I would actually be surprised if he didn't argue that myths are instruments for wielding power. We are conditioned to behave accordingly. After some generations, even the elite doesn't make that connection, making their power 'natural' to themselves.

The ennead is extremely writerly (cf. Barthes) ..., if you insist, it is the proverbial writerly sign ...

We are performing at the level of semiosis, with the irreducible subjectivity it entails, period. We cannot 'do' semiosis outside ... semiosis. Call it the semiotic imperative.

As a metaphor, the concept of 'center of gravity' might help. The mass (gravity) may rotate over time while the center (identity) remains stable. The center 'supports' the body's variable behavior precisely because it is itself considered mass-less.

Likewise, the main 'purpose' of the subtriad of focus/signature/identity is to provide for semiotic variation (also read: enneadic dynamics). Along each dimension, the ennead already dynamically mediates between background and foreground.

I'd like to refer to recent insight into rationalization. It appears that most of the time we just 'do' something, making up an explanation only after the (f)act. The ennead, for example, resulted from some 'flow' (that I could subsequently refer to as enneadic dynamics).

My view is that there are no other explanations than subjectively conceptual explanations. I find that corroborated by experience; I find it completely natural that we should disagree; that doesn't mean that we should end our discussion; on the contrary, given necessary differences in conceptual explanations, discussion stimulates further development all around.

It is in the nature of semiosis that you never encounter the same sign twice. Every application of the ennead changes the cognitive mass from which it is brought to bear the next time around.

My hypothesis is that understanding is secondary, at best. First always comes politics. A sign is a request for compliance. It can inform us first and foremost, therefore, on the political order in the ‘situation’ it originated from.

I don't want to remove explanations from empirically reasonable grounds before I've really exhausted them.

My precursors are Schopenhauer and Peirce. Of course they also have precursors, and so on. There's a practical limit to how far I am prepared to retrace origins. In fact, I already went farther back than usual nowadays. But it certainly paid off.

I don't believe it helps to reason from superiority or inferiority. It's about situational adaptation, with individual subjects as agents. We are now challenged in ways unimaginable to the ancients (as they were challenged, for that matter, in ways that should baffle us).

For the semiotic ennead I claim general, i.e. cross-cultural, or supra-situational, validity. Of course, it also explains the sign life of other animals and plants. However, I don't see a possible generalization for positive ethics. Practically, I mean, not 'just' theoretically.

The semiotic ennead has a highly heuristic quality. Many 'things' work, even while we're struggling to understand why. But I do have some ideas on the matter. The first is that it is in the nature of the cause type of the sign that it is essentially triadic (Peirce). The second is that Peirce's triadic elements are too static; they don’t permit dynamics. As the example of the center of gravity shows (see above), it is precisely at such a center that a body can be 'pinned down' in order to 'move around' in the world. So, differences with continued entity also minimally require a division into three (in this case: body, center and world).
Taken together, threefold division 'appears' as both necessary and sufficient in those two steps, yielding the ennead. It doesn't work with less, and more elements only clutter.

Anysign — pun intended — can be made to fit a semiotic ennead. That's obvious, for otherwise it wouldn't be a sign!

Every sign is involved with semiosis and therefore irreducibly implicated in an ennead.

There's no objective measure to decide on an interpretation's value. Here I see the opportunity to connect interpretation to design and engineering. How useful is a particular interpretation from a design perspective? It might help to distinguish between design theory in general and some particular design problem.

With poetry, it's also always down-to-earth, banal. For example, the poet was given a meal for a song. Or the poet sings a baby to sleep, because he's also a father, an uncle, or whatever. When a power-that-is recognizes that it catches on, solidifying her/his position, he may invest in extensions, and so on.
A poem is action of the sign, too, and is therefore essentially enneadic, that's all. Because what we now call poems, myths, etcetera invariably deal with questions of life, it already is a closed issue what they are about. It's like arguing that before people only built churches because they are the only old buildings around. Their survival has nothing to do with their churchness, and everything with the durable material they've been erected from.

Please don't take your conclusion as your assumption.

I'm sure that several ancient poets have reflected on their own craft, resulting in some, say, proto-semiotic analyses woven in whatever myth they were tinkering with at some particular moment. But that's far from making myths about design in principle. Of course, myth is essentially about social structure. As structuralist interpretations by Levi-Strauss show, natural structure is set off against cultural structure. Culture ... artificial ... design ... so, of course, there's always a possibility to somehow connect to the issue of design. In most cases, though, I believe it is too far fetched.

First of all, there was metapattern. I only called it metapattern when I undertook writing a book explaining it (which became Metapattern: context and time in information models). The book was published in the fall of 2000 (with the Publisher, Addison-Wesley, already dating it at 2001; that seems to be customary, as with cars). I documented, in 1991, my initial development of the proto-metapattern. Later I made an English translation, titled Multicontextual paradigm for object orientation. Around 1977 I read the then recently published book Information where Ronald Stamper introduces semiotics to information scientists. It left me with the intention to come back to semiotics more seriously. I did, starting from Peirce. How I got to the ennead is fairly well documented in the first chapters of Semiosis & Sign Exchange.
Especially the paper on multicontextual paradigm should emphasize that a particular design problem was thrown up, for which I apparently was 'ready.' Also see Innovation dynamics across theory, technology and tool.

A designer will often just redesign, coming up with the same solution. It's faster than consulting incomplete documentation. So, too, if one person has experienced some particular problem, and another person, too, there's a good chance their solutions are similar. They don't have to be, of course. See natural evolution for both converging and diverging 'solutions.'

Explanations are usually straightforward, if only you know enough about the relevant situation.

I associate emergence with crossing to a level of greater variety, much as Prigogine's concept of order out of chaos. I limit emergences to the order of cause types (which I've already mentioned several times). Later I found that Nicolai Hartmann holds a similar view on ontology, of course developed much earlier. A difference between Hartmann's view and mine is that he assumes four levels. His fourth, indeed, is Geist. There, I don’t follow him.

How ‘old’ is semiosis? At some point, I suppose, out of impulse developed sign (of course, after out of force developed impulse). My hypothesis is that signs and all they entail only make 'sense' under conditions where self-contained selection of behavior provides an evolutionary advantage.
So, for me semiosis is a fact of natural history, as I've recently sketched in section 2.6 in Semiotics of identity management.

I see the enneadic model as part of development of empirical sciences. Never before was there the 'problem' of unambiguous control of informational variety. As long as man himself was always the, say, context-switcher, indeed, it was if we were the fish not realizing what water is. But now we're increasingly leaving the context-switching to machines, requiring explicit design considerations for context. Presto, the formal ennead.

Attention for context is nothing new. There just hasn't been anyone around before me to include in a formal model of semiosis.

As mathematician Brouwer argued, our theories are actually theories about our instruments. He has a point. To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Use a lens, and everything appears lens-like, of course.

Semiosis is part of nature.

Given man's capacity for reflection, there must have been views of semiosis — under whatever label — almost from the origin of man. Wouldn't that be a spectacular archeological find, i.e. a stone from a prehistorical tomb, engraved with an ennead!

With the semiotic ennead, I created something that just wasn't there before. Or actually it may turn out that it’s not really original, but as far as I am concerned it certainly emerged. My own experience was that of a practical problem. Nothing mysterious about it, really.

Peirce is known for being inconsistent. The self-contradictory nature of his work, taken as a whole, makes selection necessary.
I've focused on his triadic sign model, emphasizing his point of irreducibility. On irreducibility, please notice, I find that I'm succeeding in being more consistent than Peirce was. Mixing in metapattern and Schopenhauer's will, as far as semiotics is concerned I've moved beyond Peirce.

Design, from my perspective, is a moving-on. It is essentially progressive.

A designer is someone who knows when to choose her/his 'progressive moments.'

A designer/engineer doesn't mind at all being 'right' for the 'wrong' reasons. Rationalization always comes after recognition.

Any reconfiguration essentially abuses its constituents. Otherwise, it wouldn't be significant ... as a reconfiguration, innovation, etcetera.

I find it useful to divorce Peirce's formal logic from his semiotics. Indeed, and as I referred to in Semiosis & Sign Exchange, one strand in Peirce is naturalism/realism, the other transcendentalism (cf. Goudge). Please notice that I avoid terminology such as right or wrong.



December 2005 – January 2006, web edition 2006 © Pieter Wisse