Russ Shurig: Categories

Systematic ideology posits an ideological system in constant change. Different parts of it change at different rates, and for most social purposes its overall form can be taken as stable, but no part of it is permanently fixed and neither is the whole. Studies of particular parts of the system often assume a static condition, saying for example that a movement exhibits this or that feature (rather than that it is coming or ceasing to exhibit it); this requires abstraction for the purpose of study, and results obtained in this way remain subject to the universal flux. Studies of other fields sometimes give greater prominence to the static assumption, and morphology is one of these. The approach permits a definiteness not often found in ideological studies. – GW

Morphology is the study of form and structure within any or across all levels of existence. In addition to the customary three orthogonal space dimensions of standard physics, mechanics, etc. a ‘morphology of mind’ requires two additional dimensions; one more for the lifeworld and still another for the noosphere (the world of mind). This framework postulates that mind is not reducible to life; nor is life reducible to matter, energy etc. A morphology of mind provides a dimensional analysis of the categories of existence, and links physics to metaphysics via the lifeworld. The following chart, entitled Alternative Paradigms, depicts the morphological approach of analyzing reality in terms of ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ along with alternative viewpoints.

Categories are a special class of universals; they are fundamental (ie, generic) constructs necessary for clear and consistent thinking in science, philosophy, etc. and for the interchange of ideas. Kant, Hegel, and Whitehead, to mention the three major modern systematic thinkers, preferred to stress the categorical foundations of their philosophical systems. The chart entitled Morphology of Mind constitutes a general theory of categories unifying the primary concepts necessary for analyzing inorganic nature, the lifeworld, and the noosphere. Pure Being (or ‘space,’ ‘extension’) and Pure Becoming (or ‘time,’ ‘duration’) operate upon each other in the context of change (ie, integration and derivation). The philosopher Samuel Alexander proposed the interesting metaphor: ‘space is the body of time, and time is the mind of space.’ The physicist John Wheeler went much further: ‘Space tells matter how to move, and matter tells space how to curve.’ (That is to say, geometry and matter are inseparable, as are space and time.)

The Morphology of Mind chart depicts the relationship between space, time, and change, these being the meta-categories of existence. As one proceeds out from its center one is integrating with respect to Space (‘being’); as one proceeds clockwise about the chart, one is differentiating with respect to time (‘becoming’). The morphology of mind as here presented is analogous to the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, the morphological ground of chemistry, and the Quark model, the currently accepted morphological ground of physical particle theory. The lifeworld (with its categories medium, product, process, and capability) is the link between inorganic nature (categorized by the categories of physics) and the noosphere (characterized by the categories information, feeling, knowledge & intention). The phenomena of each of the three realms are expressible in terms of the categories of that realm, always keeping in mind that all categories are derivable from all other categories (or they would not be related at all) but not reducible to one another (in which case they would cease to be categories of existence.) Living organisms enjoy a degree of freedom beyond the entities of inorganic nature; mind entails still another degree of freedom; the spiritually alive. Although higher levels subsume all lower levels, nevertheless, generally speaking, categorical explanations at one level shed little if any light on phenomena at lower levels. This is inherent in the way language evolves. Perceived ‘laws of nature at one level thus have little direct bearing on higher levels.

In the noosphere, the distinction between information (ie, signals, symbols, data) and knowledge (ie, insight, understanding, wisdom) is absolute; they should not be confused with one another or considered to be reducible to one another. Needless to say, they usually are confused, even by the otherwise astute. The popular notion that ‘knowledge is power‘ is another category error. The distinction between feeling and intention also should be kept in mind at all times, though it is the function of advertising and politics to erase such distinctions.

Process (Whitehead’s ‘actual entity,’ his main category of existence) is considered to be a generalization of the concept of energy (the nature of which was investigated by Einstein and others), which is in turn a generalization of the notion of force (described by Newton). An ‘energy’ view of reality is inadequate, and including ‘action’ (a la quantum mechanics) for good measure still does not suffice.

Process over-rides action, energy and power as first principles; life evolves from process, or in fact is process. To paraphrase Rogers and Hammerstein: the world is alive with the sound of music, a step beyond energy. And gravity, properly understood, is not a force (a la Newton) or simply a form of energy; it is a process. [The ‘gravitational constant’ has the dimensions ‘process per unit mass,’ ie ‘process density’.]

Capacity is a generalization of power, which is a generalization of control; medium (described by Harold Adams Innis) is a generalization of inertia, which is a generalization of moment and product is a generalization of action (ref. Planck) which is a generalization of momentum. Einstein’s dictum that light has no medium of propagation is not valid at the level of process and media. In the study of inorganic nature, it seems likely that Quantum Theory (the study of the very small, which emphasizes action) and Relativity Theory (the study of the very huge or very fast, which emphasizes energy and gravitation) will be incomplete theories until they come to grips with process and product (Whitehead’s ‘prehension’ as discussed by Whitehead (ref. Process and Reality).

In the study of organic nature (the lifeworld), evolution theory is currently concerned with product (ie reproduction and survival) but ignores the equally relevant noosphere categories feeling and intention. Harold Adams Innis (ref. Empire & Communications) points out that empires collapse due to an over-emphasis (ie chronic imbalance) of time-biased or space-biased media. Similarly, grand theories which neglect to balance being and becoming do so naively. (Reprinted from RAM, the Journal of Reality and Meaning, edited by Russ Shurig and published quarterly by the Morphology Institute, [address]).

Morphology of Mind

from Ideological Commentary 60, May 1993.