Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reflexivity, Reciprocity & Causality

One of the big differences between Apollonian and Dionysian intellectual patterns is the emphasis each gives to certain types of relationships between variables.

Apollonians, due to their need for simplicity and linear constructs, focus on causality, the time relationship that states “A causes B”.  In the twentieth century Modernists considered cause and effect to be the most important thing in the world.  All other types of relations were ignored as much as possible.  In Modernist science, studying anything other than cause and effect relations was taboo.

The phrase “correlation is not causation” was widely used after 1960 as the early new Romanticism began creeping into various research agendas.   The Romantics began by pointing out relationships that were not causative (i.e. reciprocal and/or reflexive) but were certainly interesting enough to be studied.  The Modernist backlash against such a radical view was to say “correlation is not causation” and thus attempting to shut down expanding intellectual thought.  The certainty that A causes B was sacred to most Modernists.

Dionysian new Romantics understand causality but it just isn’t interesting.  Thus, Romantic (aka Post Modernist) science emphasizes reflexive and reciprocal relations, or a combination of all three.  Dionysian thought is always more holistic than Apollonian.

Reciprocity is the synchronic relation that A and B are related, and that, diachronically, A and B change each other.   A married couple can grow closer together, or apart.  The relationship can be between equals, between dominant and subservient, between primary and secondary, etc.   Also, over time, these patterns can change.   If the husband kills the wife then to an Apollonian that event is a simple case of cause and effect.  One can further ask what was the motive, and maybe some other recent event is viewed as a triggering event (she cheated on him).  The Dionysian wants to know the whole marital history because the killing event is viewed as the conclusion of long reflexive and reciprocal processes.  And, the story is not over for many more years as the husband and both extended families resolve the emotions of the event.  The recent cable series on the Hatfield and McCoy feud showed this very well.  It is always important to tell the audience what happened to the people later in life.

Reflexive thought is self aware and sometimes critical.  A evaluates A, and change may occur due to the evaluation (if they can do it then I/we can do it).  Additionally, reflexive knowledge usually needs to be aggregated to come up with bigger answers.  You all know the old story about ten blindfolded people touching and describing a portion of an elephant.  Each observation is different but the object of study is the same for each.  This tells us that by aggregating unique observations we can get a more complete story.  It also points out that reflexivity, A evaluates A, is a social cultural matrix and not some autonomous relation in a vacuum.

Reflexivity is the glue that keeps causality and reciprocity together.   All science and history should create research projects that address these three perspectives.  Causality is the least important of the three.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Context as Post Modernism

One difference between Apollonian and Dionysian viewpoints is the way each focuses on a pair of concepts or metaphors.  For example, the time/space pair is always linked together.  Objects moving in space create Time.
Apollonian ethoses emphasize time as bounded segments that are recursive but also separate.  Seconds, minutes, hours, and days are each given a separate reality.  They can be counted.  The emphasis is on the linear progression, the “Arrow of Time” was a Modernist phrase.  Space is viewed in the same way; chop it up into manageable little pieces.

Dionysian ethoses view time in non-linear ways.  Time can be still: timelessness, eternity, the past is the present and future, etc.  The cycles of nature are often emphasized: days, months, winter, spring, summer, fall, and years.  Space is viewed as places where strong emotions have played out or continue to do so.

For the Dionysian space is special.  Moreover, just as social relations influence the Dionysian more so than the Apollonian, spatial relations also affect Dionysians more strongly.   In any place, the people, objects, animals, plants, the wind, the memories and stories associated with it, all combine to into a Context that can influence outcomes, feelings, decisions, or one’s contentment. 

Americans have been talking about context for a many years now but it was not something that Old Modernists cared to discuss.   In their abstract worldview, context was not relevant.

Yes, American has become a high context culture.

American scientists have been studying context much more seriously lately.  In archeology, for example, the study of context has become its own trend line, often under the name reflexive archaeology.

In psychology, a new topic is called Ambient Belonging.  The main thesis is

  1. Environment can determine who enters a group.
  2. People infer stereotypes of a group upon exposure to that group's environment
  3. (a) The inference of group stereotypes incompatible with one's identity leads to avoidance of that group, and (b) this process is mediated by feelings of ambient belonging.
  4. A lack of ambient belonging predicts lack of interest in a domain and explains why some populations express less interest in a domain than do others. From here.
I like this concept because it points us back to a central issue for the Dionysian—the purpose of life is to enjoy it.  And, this means one constantly feels their way through each situation.  If the situation changes, so too can feelings.  And, we can avoid the tainted sterotypes about feng shui and the harmony of qi. Here is Sapna Cheryan summarizing her study.  At 6 min in she starts the change environment to change stereotypes message.

Modernists would ignore such claptrap because feelings were irrelevant.