Prologue: Consent and dissent
On Tuesday morning Patricia Clough posed the question about who could be the teacher. She replied with Warren McCulloch in a way that I treasure: the minded mother, where the mind is embodied, where the body is hers but crisscrossed with histories of disciplines; where the body is not mute but sings in multiple voices. This splendid occasion demonstrates that science can be such a fruitful conversation between complementary perspectives, where one feels the relevance of the other's viewpoint and then applies what is termed "reasoning"; where consensus is generated in order that we may dissent, where distinctions are drawn in order that boundaries in turn may be crossed.
This is my theme: The dialogue that I assume to be primary in the individual mind, permitting co-constructions with the other -- actual or virtual -- in a community of minds, and which sometimes also collapse into monological reasoning whereby one submits to a single monolithic perspective -- a model monopoly.
The other day I came across an exhibition of Chinese painting and calligraphy at Harvard. A book was on display, "Images of the Mind". It describes how the pliant brush is used for writing and painting word forms and images that extend and complement each other, not in order to represent nature, but to complete it:
"...the blank...an undifferentiated oneness; the first stroke establishes a primary yin and yang relationship; the second stroke combines with the first and create all kinds of new yin and yang situations until the multitudinous are reconciled and reunited into a harmonious whole"2
This is relevant to my talk -- both in content and form. I shall attempt to indicate by brush strokes on a canvas, as it were, what I term "the third position" (Bråten 1984) concerned with intersubjectivity as generating the subject/object dualism and transcending the concern with objects (the first position) and with monadic subjects (the second position). I shall introduce a new operational concept, the virtual other, which will permit a reply to this basic question:
How may two autonomous subjects, A and B, combine to form an operationally closed intersubjective dyad AB while maintaining their complementary autonomy?:
I postulate a self-creative dyadic constitution of mind that involves the prior participation of a virtual companion, and shall use a star, *, to mark this complement to the self as a virtual other -- distinct from any actual, constructed or re-presented other. Implying a primary dialogic operational closure of the mind in the metaphor of the Yin-Yang wheel of complementary perspectives, this postulate permits an account of how autonomous systems can combine to form a dialogic system without destruction of their respective identifying organization. The dialogic circle is inherent in their constitution, entailing complementary autonomy of the participating perspectives.
On consent and dissent in computer simulated dyads and networks
On virtual entities Bearing in mind the way in which Peirce (in Baldwin's Dictionary) defines a virtual X as something, not X, which has the efficiency (virtus) of an X, I define the virtual other to have the operational efficiency of an actual other. Hence, an actual other may replace the virtual other in felt immediacy without any qualitative jump. The dialogical circle, inherently operative in the mind, recreates itself in the same format.
In another sense and another context, I have had use of the notion of virtual entities offered by Simula in a laboratory and computer simulation study of moral dilemma processing dyads As the first object-oriented programming language, designed by Dahl and Nygaard in 1967, Simula's key concept is the "object" as a self-contained block, with its own local data and actions, defined by a class declaration, which also permitted declaration of virtual entities allowing for more specified processes in actualized sub-class instances. For example, in the Dyad Simulator (Bråten 1971, 1977), persons are declared as subclasses of process class actor, and when generated as participant block instances, the labeled action sequence declared as VIRTUAL in the process class actor are replaced by the subclass procedure specifications in the actual person instances in dialogue. When two generated participant person block instances, referred to as Alpha and Beta, and defined as mutual co-actors, enters into dialogue, the dialogue is being realized by the execution of the procedures constituting the labels PAUSE, PRODUCE and RECEIVE, as declared in the activated ACTOR 'CLASS' PERSON instance, and which replace the contents of the virtual labels in the PROCESS 'CLASS' ACTOR declaration. Thus, the labeled action sequence declared as VIRTUAL are replaced by the subclass procedure specifications in the actual instances in dialogue.
Operating upon inconsistency between normative beliefs, the Dyad Simulator did well for a subset of dyads with respect to judgements, but poorly for some of the dyads released from a high state of intra- and inter-personal inconsistency. Instead of inconsistency resolution, the empirical profiles revealed a continuous dialogue between complementary perspectives within and between the participants.
On feeling Another lesson I learnt concerns the nature of moral sentiments. In retrospect, I would put it bluntly and trivially like this: Moral feelings cannot be observed, recorded or simulated. I would even add, bearing in mind that the moral dilemmas to which the actual dyads were exposed were influenced by Piaget and Kohlberg, perhaps moral feelings cannot be learnt. At least I have come to believe that the potential for moral feelings resides in the primary dialogical constitution of the individual. In that way, feelings are not private and subjective, but somehow an intersubjective relation. Perhaps it sounds strange when I say: I feel with you by virtue of the virtual you in my self.
The affective/cognitive duality In the old days (in the late 60's) when building the Simkom model in Simula (with Kristen Nygaard and others) to simulate consent and dissent in human communication networks in terms of cognitive-affective consistency processes, I distinguished between variables according to the affective content and the cognitive content of messages and between mechanisms of affective adjustments and cognitive adjustments in the participant actors (Bråten 1968; Bråten, Nygaard, Klitizing & Norlen 1968). I am no longer sure that the affective/cognitive duality is a fruitful distinction. I have come to believe that cognitive processes are processes felt. Perspective is gradation of feeling of relevance. As Alfred North Whitehead (1956) puts it, who introduces the notion of conceptual feelings: feeling is the agent which reduces the universe to its perspective for fact. As I see it, the attribution of reason, distinguished from that which is termed irrational, is to strip the original self-creative occasion of its feeling of active enjoyment, of like and dislike, through a post-event attribution. Our daily-life term "rationalization" is to the point: It is a post-event attribution, while the actual conversational occasion is an occasion of feelings involved in the relation of perspectives. As Maturana states it: Reason explains, while like and dislike command, and during our discussion on Tuesday morning he even points to emotions being involved in the genesis of explanations. Feelings are even formative in the generation of what afterwards are labeled "reason", in the excitement of forming a Gestalt against its ground or in the frustration of the figure being disturbed by an intervening ground. Hence, even scientific or philosophical rationalism is generated through a process which the adherents would have to consider "irrational".
Notice how often, even in serious scientific debates, we use the expression "I feel that". This is not merely a mode of speech. Feelings are foundationally involved. It is another distinguishing characteristics of any conversation, be it in the most severe and disciplined context of science. At the turn of this century this was emphasized by Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. Here I feel (sic) that Humberto Maturana is right in his emphasizing feelings of like (or love) as decisive for the occurrence of human interaction.
Conversations, in the sense of dialogue between complementary perspectives, may collapse, however, by our rationalistic quest for the single unifying perspective. Thinking may turn monological in quest of consistency. Communication may become a process of generating a monolithic perspective -- not due to actors with a will to power imposing their reality constructions unto others, but rather as a result of someone acknowledging the distinction made by another as the only valid distinction for himself, and thereby serving to establish a model monopoly through submitting to the wisdom or model power of the other. For example, on the verge of founding mathematical logic, Leibniz found errors in the syllogisms of Aristotle which he out of respect for Aristotle mistakenly supposed to be his own (cf. Russell 1961:173). Abstaining from publishing Leibniz thereby served to sustain the model monopoly of the doctrine of syllogism for another century and a half. Here is an example of how the creative dialogical circle of the mind may collapse into a monologue in terms of one dominant perspective, ruling out any complementary perspective, in this case, by submitting to the model monopoly of Aristotelian logic.4
In western thought, perhaps Socrates shows the way to live in dialogic conversation, albeit not always as presented to us by Plato. For example, in Gorgias, rhetoric modes are being discussed. But is this really a balanced, symmetric discourse allowing for the complementary autonomy of the participant perspectives? I think not. Notice how Socrates steers the conversation through his mode of questioning (thereby defining the horizon of replies), as if he has the recipe somehow pre-calculated. This reflects Plato as the author who knows the direction that the dialogue may take as he sits down to write it out. He makes his Socrates conclude with the advice that you should listen to wise men5 until you can think and speak for yourself. This is consistent with Plato's blueprint for having wise middle-aged men governing his state. Plato should have pointed out that if one listen sufficiently long and exclusively to these wise men, acknowledging them a privileged access to reality, one may learn to think and speak only in their terms, and what is more -- being indirectly governed by them even when they keep their silence. Thereby, a monolithic perspective is generated -- a model monopoly that rules out any rival perspective, created by the participants submitting to it.
As long as there is a belief in an objective reality out there and in the privileged position of the model strong actor to have access to the truth about that reality in terms of the only relevant and valid perspective, then tight communication makes for increased control on part of the model- strong participant through the model-weak participant's accepting that 'truth' as valid for himself with respect to his domain.
The very process that enables us, in virtue of the primary dialogic constitution, to take the perspective of the actual other, opens for such ways of being overtaken by the other's perspective, cancelling the dialogue with any complementary perspective, ruled out as it may be by reason's quest for reduction and enlightenment in terms of the single unifying perspective.
Submittance to the 'model-strong' perspective of the dominant Other has been accounted for in terms of model power mechanisms that may be operative in the board room, in the class room, in the tight communication network, in socioeconomic planning institutions, and even in conditions conforming to what Habermas terms 'the ideal speech situation'.
Resolving a model monopoly The modes of resolving such a model monopoly (Bråten 1973, 1984) involve cancelling one or several of the conditions promoting it (Table P.1), based on the primary dialogical capacity for trans-referential shifts between self- and other-referencing and for boundary crossing.
Examples of such modes are (1) to shift the boundary of the universe of discourse or re-define the domain;6 (2) to offer definitions of terms as alternatives to the only "right" language from competing or complementary perspectives; (3) to develop pertinent knowledge on own premises; (4) to evoke rival knowledge sources or take a boundary position; and (5) more generally, to become aware of one's own tendencies towards conformity promoting a monolithic perspective, preventing a creative meaning horizon in the individual and in the community.
The monadological problem and a proposed solution
In the sciences of man and society, the monadological conception of the mind has enjoyed a model monopoly implying, as I shall indicate, problems of accounting for how autonomous subjects may combine to form an intersubjective union.
Laying out the Laws of Form, Spencer-Brown declares that
(P) a universe comes into being when a space is severed.
This is also the opening statement of one of the joint publications on autopoiesis by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela (1980:73). In the following a monadological interpretation of (P) will be distinguished from this dialogical qualification:
(Q) a universe comes into being when I make a distinction with You, as my actual or virtual other.
This I have seen to be a problem for Leibniz: How could two autonomous individuals ever combine if they were true monads in the leibnizian sense (cf. P.1 (i))?. I believe they never can. This credo has been the point of departure for my theoretical and empirical quest that began fifteen years ago when I wrote in a working paper on The Human Dyad that "if in the beginning there were monads", then monads will be in the ending as well (Bråten 1971). It is consistent with the logical conclusion reached by Leibniz. He had to account for communication between the monads in terms of their creator's mediation, that is, in virtue of the harmony pre-established by God. In modern terms communicative understanding is said to come about in virtue of a common language or a consensual domain. But that begs the question: How does the primary intersubjective understanding in an immediate sense come about that permits the co-genesis of such a mediated understanding? The problem of how two unities, B and A, can combine to form a dyadic union, BA, without loss of their identifying characteristics, can be resolved in this way: (i) Instead of attributing to each unity an a priori monadic constitution, (ii) each is posited to have a primary dyadic constitution with a virtual other (marked by *) that may be replaced by the actual other without loss of identifying perspective or organization (Figure P.1 (ii))
The same organizational form of dialogic closure is maintained, whether it is being realized by the single individual, or by the two individuals, where B's virtual other, *A, is replaced by B's actual other, A.
The new operational notion of the virtual other, which I hereby propose, permits us to speak of processes as immediately felt, complementary to conceptual processes used by Gordon Pask (in Zeleny 1981) to specify conversational closure in terms of conversational P-individuals (Psychological individuals). In this modified sense of felt immediacy, not conceptual mediacy, conversational persons may now be specified in the new term of the virtual other in the manner of coexistent execution of participant processes, respectively, the conversational P-individual (A,*B) in Alpha, and the conversational P-individual (B,*A) in Beta.8(ii(p)) [B(beta); *A(beta)] := [B (beta); A(alpha)] ,
Irrespective of its realization by the single individual, or by the two individuals, where B's virtual other, *A, is replaced by B's actual other, A, the same organizational form of dialogic closure may be attributed to the processes. When they combine as actual others to each other, they form another union, and yet with the same basic organization, forming the conversational P-individual (A,B), distributed over Alpha and Beta, and yet without a radically changing their respective operations: the virtual other is merely passivated as the actual other fills the inner companion space, that is, replaces the virtual other.
On felt immediacy and simulational mediacy
I have specified a primary form of dialogic closure, the identifying operation of which recreates itself whether it is realized in the individual or by individuals in concert. This permits an account of how two autonomous systems can combine to form a union without any qualitative jump or destruction of their respective identifying organizations: The dialogical circle recreates itself in a mode of felt immediacy as the actual other steps into the circle in the virtual other's place without any qualitative jump. The complementary perspective of the actual other is immediately felt by virtue of the complementary perspective of the virtual other felt in oneself. For example, small children in the Kindergarten who have never seen each other before and come from different countries and cultures, immediately understand each other and feel for each other when something goes wrong or is amiss. They are already in dialogue by virtue of their immediate presence in each other.
Or take the case of the 20-month-olds that Hermina Sinclair told us about on Monday morning. One child carried the play boxes to the table, another organized them. They revealed both imitative and complementary behaviour in their interplay. I raised the question then about what would be easiest, imitating or complementing the other. Why is it that the apparently very complex mode of relating to the other in a complementary manner comes more natural than certain other modalities? This is to be expected if my postulate applies. With such a primary dyadic constitution, complementing the other would come quite effortlessly, while imitating the other would entail a more complex process. Neither process would require taking the other's perspective in a generalized re-presentational sense. The children are in immediate contact by virtue of their presence in each other. The dialogical circle is already operative in the constitution of each, and there is no qualitative jump when the actual other replaces the virtual other.
These children's immediate understanding is not the outcome of moral and cognitive development through which they learn to generalize the other (G.H. Mead 1934), to construct the other (von Glasersfeld 1986), and later -- when communication breaks down -- even to simulate the other (Bråten 1973ab, 1974). In the session on semantic machines in the conference on Cybernetics in Namur in 1973, I presented the notion of the simulated other, entailing mental actor-coactor simulation circuits in the individual as a prerequisite for understanding during symbolic interaction. I still consider the simulated other to be operative in language understanding. Such mental simulation, however, is a mediate process. In contrast, the notion of the virtual other, posited here, concerns a prerequisite for complementarity in an immediate sense.
Between the notions of autopoietic closure and of dialogic closure
How does this relate to the conception of cognition in terms of autopoiesis in the Gestalt of the selfproduction of the living cell, proposed by Maturana and Varela (1980)? When autopoiesis is conceived in a monadic manner or interpreted in the Leibnizian spirit, the two conceptions clearly differ, albeit being congenial in their self-organizational emphasis on operational closure. The difference is this: In terms of autopoiesis, two individuals, bounded by their biological boundaries, can only combine through structural coupling, each realizing their autopoiesis in the medium in which they exist. In terms of dialogic closure, however, the inherent dyadic constitution of the participants permits the primary form of the dialogical to recreate itself whether embodied by one or two individual organisms.
Thus, in virtue of the postulated primary dyadic constitution, involving the inherent participation of the virtual other, a way has been indicated of handling the problem of indicating the combinatorial rules according to which two autonomous (organizationally closed) systems may combine to form a conversational dyad. This problem was also posed by von Foerster in an interview with Jean Pierre Dupuis in Paris some years ago.9 A solution may now been offered in the new terms of dialogic closure. According to the postulate the mind is capable of exhibiting dialogic closure, involving the complementary perspective of the virtual other, permitting the dialogue in each of the closed participants to be transformed into the dialogue between them when the actual other fills the space of the virtual other. The form of the dialogical remains the same.
It is constituted by complementary autonomy of the two participant inter-operational foci which generate through their dialoguing, as part of the dyadic network that maintains them, the elliptic boundary that emerges in the space in which they operate, and where this dialogic self-recreative ellipsis maintains itself irrespective of whether the companion is virtual or actual, i.e. involving one or two participant minds. Hence, when actual others fills the space of the virtual other, there is no qualitative shift. The dialogical circle re-creates itself in the same format.
Conclusion: invitations to perform a radical shift
As I have said, the monadic conception of the human mind have enjoyed a certain monopoly. We may or may not specify ourselves as monads. But the very fact that we can communicate in a domain of dissent, and cross boundaries during dialogue, allows us to specify ourselves as dialogically constituted.
This makes a difference for the relation between ethics and epistemology. They cannot be divorced: Explaining ourselves in terms of a single perspective is to reduce the value of ourselves. To be aware of the dialogical circle is to value the complementary autonomy of the participant perspectives, that is, the way in which each maintains itself while complementing the other in order to be itself.
It was Feuerbach who, in 1843, distinguished the autonomous realm of I and Thou. This has been called the "Copernican revolution of modern thought", as rich in its consequences as the I-distinction. The consequences are rich for paradigms of autonomy, whether You are considered to be the autonomous organism that I invent besides me (as stated by Heinz von Foerster10 ), or You are assumed (as I do) to be already involved in any such invention, i.e., I invent with You as my other -- actual or virtual.
Hence, in relation to any monadic act of severance and creation the dialogical organization is assumed as primary. A universe, and others in it, including You, comes into being when I make a distinction with You (as my Actual or Virtual Other).
When Maturana states that 'everything said is said by an observer to another observer who could be himself', I would add in terms of intersubjectivity: 'and is not said unless attended by the other'. This is what I would have said if Maturana had still been here.11 And now I have said it, thanking you for your attention.
1 From an invited talk at the Gordon Research Conference on Cybernetics of Cognition, 13-18 June 1986, organized by Heinz von Foerster and Ernst von Glasersfeld. A revised and extended version has been published with the title 'Between dialogical mind and monological reason: postulating the virtual other' in a reader ed. by M. Campanella on Between Rationality and Cognition, Torino 1988:205-236.
2 Wen C. Fong: Images of the Mind, displayed at the Exhibition of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy (Collection of the Princeton University Art Museum) at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard, June 1986.
3 The simulated participants in the dyad simulations are instances of PROCESS 'CLASS' ACTOR, declared in terms of a class-subclass organization, which includes this usage of virtual entities: PROCESS 'CLASS' ACTOR; 'VIRTUAL': 'PROCEDURE' INITIAL; 'LABEL' PAUSE, PRODUCE, RECEIVE; 'BEGIN' 'INTEGER' PROGRAM; 'REAL' SILENT; 'SWITCH' ACTION := PAUSE, PRODUCE, RECEIVE; INITIAL; 'END' ACTOR; In the simulational system the simulated observer, the conversational dyad, and the conversational individuals, are each declared as subclasses of PROCESS 'CLASS' ACTOR. This means that any of them is able to execute the actions PAUSE, PRODUCE, AND RECEIVE. But since these are declared VIRTUAL, the initial states for and the actual execution of these actions will depend upon the subclass specifications for the different actor classes. For example, person participants are declared ACTOR 'CLASS' PERSON(----) by a declaration that contains a reference to a coactor through 'REF' (PERSON) COACTOR and specify the various procedures called upon during execution of local interaction programs.
4 In the domain of geometry, there is another classical case of model monopoly, generated by those who submitted to Euclid's fifth axiom for some 2000 years before it finally came to be questioned. When the Russian and Hungarian outsiders, Lobachevskij and Bolyai (the latter through his father) reported to Gauss that they had managed to construct an alternative geometry, assuming that through any point in a plane there are two lines parallel to any given line (and not one line, as stated in the fifth postulate), Gauss pointed out that he had realized this as well. But he had not published it.
5 Not all of the Socratic dialogues imply that there need be the a right (male) recipe in advance that points to the one correct way to answer the questions. The dialogue on love and beauty in Symposion is an exception: Diotima, this woman from Mantineia is left with the last word, or rather, abstains from accounting for the ultimate which cannot be described, doubting whether Socrates would be able to ascend the steps leading to it.
6 For example, if Leibniz had permitted himself to re-define the domain of syllogistic principles into a domain concerned with formal logic, not psycho-logic, that is, distinct from, or only intersecting with Aristotle's domain of necessary inferences of thought, he need not have submitted in the way in which Russell reports him to have done.
7 Omitting specifications of embodiments, the transition diagramed in the right part of Figure P.1 may be expressed in this way (where ':=' is a become operator):
8 Thus, the operational notion of the virtual other may be expressed in a modified version of Pask's Conversation Theory. Let beta denote a specific body/brain individual that embodies the dyadic union of B with the virtual other, *A, such that [B(beta); *A(beta)] means that the union of B with *A is realized in the individual body/brain beta. Let alpha denote another body/brain individual that embodies B's actual other, A. Then we may specify a primary form of dialogic closure, the identifying organization of which maintains itself regardless of different embodiments, that is, whether the union [B;*A] is realized by the single beta individual or by dyadic union [B;A] realized by the beta individual and the alpha individual in concert:
9 Heinz von Foerster, J.-P. Dupuis et al., Interview. Genealogies de l'auto-organization, Cahiers du Crea, No.8, Paris 1985:.262.
10 The radical shift to a new center of Thou and I, "as in the heliocentric system", when neither I nor the other can be the center of the universe, is pointed to by von Foerster (1973; 1984:59-60, 308). If I am, as he points out, the center of the universe, my reality are my dreams and my nightmares, my language is monologue, and my logic mono-logic. In contrast, when neither I nor the other can be the center of the universe, then "As in the helio-centric system, there must be a third that is the central reference. It is the relation between Thou and I, and this relation is IDENTITY: Reality = Community."
11 Addendum 1999: Humberto Maturana had to leave earlier in the conference, so we missed this opportunity for debate. Two years later, however, we got another chance (the first of several to ensue), and which involved an amusing incident. The year is 1988. The site: Sulitjelma in Northern Norway. The name of the conference: 'The Greek Kitchen in the Arctic'. The organizers: Tom Andersen and his team in family therapy. The set up: Successful therapists from USA and Europe present their approaches, followed by comments on epistemology by a handful of systems thinkers and cyberneticians, with Heinz von Foerster as our senior. During a verbal duel between me and Maturana on the last day, von Foerster gives a helping hand in holding the mike in front of me when I speak. Having just made a point about Lifeworld (Lebenswelt) in the metaphor of the water in which we are swimming qua participants, not observers, I exclaim: 'You cannot lay out that water on the table and point to it as an observer!' At that moment our table is flooded by water (the hand holding the mike had accidentally overturned a glass of water), and Lynne Hoffman, sitting besides me, stands up and points at the water.