Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bryant's second-order observation and the developmental holarchy

Updated below:

In Bryant's blog post "Critique as second-order observation" he once again brings up Spencer-Brown's law of form. Distinction is the condition for the possibility of observation, and with every distinction there is an unmarked space that is not visible to the distinction so made. And yet we can and do use second-order observation to "observe the observer" in this process of drawing distinctions, thus gaining a more comprehensive observation when we make visible the heretofore invisible assumptions upon which the first-order observation was made. While true that even the second-order observation also had to draw a distinction and thereby has its own invisible unmarked space, it nevertheless broadened the view of the previously hidden first-order invisible unmarked space.

So while there is no end in sight we still make progress in this process. And it it here that we need the spiral dynamics of evolving worldviews, both individual and collective, via developmental psychology. And it seems this sort of observational developmental process is missing from the likes of Bryant, even though it is incipiently implicit in this post. He grants a mereological progression of scale with his machines, but he is not familiar with Edwards' 3 types of holarchies. Bryant's might fit more into the ecological holarchy but the developmental holarchy is necessary to understand this re-iterative progression of second (and third, fourth etc.) observation, which only comes with human consciousness.

This is also missing in the work of Luhmann, on whom Bryant draws heavily. And the likes of Thompson and Varela, which point I was making in the last few posts in the Thompson thread. This sort of interative observational loop is the hallmark of reflective or narrative self consciousness, which is not the suobject of study with Thompson. He focuses on the present-centered core self and its benefits, not the benefits of the reflective observations of that developmental process which indeed provides the kind of 'integral' worldview context he intuits but does not explicitly state sans this modeling.

This interative process of differance is, as I noted, the heart of the Borromean diagram. It is in the interplay of objet a with the 3 methodologies that produces not only change but progress through a spiral dynamical process. No, we never fully arrive at full consciousness of this unmarked,  withdrawn or virtual ‘space’ (khora), for it too, being immanent and constructed, also develops and grows given development in the actually manifest domains. In a sense one expression of it is the cognitive unconscious of humans. We can never know it fully and yet we do make inroads and open it just a bit more with each advance. Hence I take Flanagan’s criticism of ‘consciousness’ (in the Thompson thread) as sometimes too focused on the marked space of what we are aware, and how we often mistake this for the unmarked space beyond its reach and thus confuse it with an ultimate and transcendent realm.

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