Previous Next Title Page Index Contents Site Index

1. Balanced - (Phi-) Trees:
The Hierarchy and Histio-logy of Noo-logy

Andreas Goppold

1.1. Introduction: The Hierarchy and Histio-logy of Noo-logy

"to gar auto noein estin te kai einai"
(verily, knowing and being are the same)
Parmenides (B1, 1,21)

With a paraphrase borrowed from Kant , we can express a core aspect of knowledge thusly: Facts without interconnections are useless, interconnections without facts are hocuspocus (hoc est corpus). (See also: Lippe 1997: 145). It can be said that the theology dominated scholastic intellectual pursuits of the olden times (philosophia ancilla theologiae) had problems of the latter kind, producing elaborate edifices of verbiage, which were entirely logical and consistent, but aloof of any factual connection, culminating in the proverbial dissertation theme: "how many angels can dance on a pinpoint" (Lippe 1997). On the other hand, the copious "publish or perish" productivity of millions of industrious scientific workers worldwide tends to produce a problem of the former kind, leading to an impenetrable and mountainous accumulation of admittedly solid factual knowledge whose useability is seriously diminished by its sheer amount, and non-standard documentation and retrieval methodology. (See also: Dahlberg (1974: 1-6); Goppold (1999a)). In the same vein, one could state that details without perspective and overview are myopic , and consequently of little practical value. Here the necessity for a meta-science, which in earlier times had been philosophy (meta-physics: Heidegger (1970-1977b)), arises, which we could call " Noo-logy". Although it is related to Knowledge Organization , there are some differences. The perspective presented here is strongly influenced by a philosophical anthropological approach, as was developed by Ernst Cassirer in his "Philosophy of Symbolic Forms" (1954-1994). He had worked in Hamburg before he was driven into exile by the Nazis. Further, the present view is strongly influenced by the "pattern that connects" method of Gregory Bateson, from whence we derive the focus on Histio-logy, which is the project to formulate the systematic abstract study (the "-logy") of all sorts and kinds of "patterns that connect". Besides interconnection, the other essential ingredient of Noo-logy is Hierarchy and Categorization (Satija 1998: 32-33). Since Cassirer based his work mainly on Kant's, the present perspective also incorporates these aspects of Kant's "architectonics of pure reason" (Kant 1930, A832/B860)). In order to create a consistent terminology (ethics of terminology: Peirce (1931-1958: CP 2.220); Goppold (1999a)), we will recur as much as possible to the Greek terms: hier-archia takes its roots in the highest ( hiero-) principles ( archai) and histio-logia is the systematics of interconnection ( histio- / histo-: everything connected with (inter-) weaving). Hier-archia and Histio-logia need to be balanced in a consistent manner, and for this we make an allusion to the database engineering term (balanced B-trees). This indicates also that time is a most essential (and most consistently forgotten) factor. A fact not found in time (for a problem to be solved), might as well not exist in the universe of knowledge. The letter ( Phi) abbreviates in our context the combination of the Greek concepts of phrenae (brain), philo-sophia, the sensory impressions: phainomenon, phos, phonae, and the physei-logia for the Nature, which comprises both the living ( phyein) , and the material ( physics). With the phainomenon, and the aisthaesis, via its dominant factors phos (light), and phonae (sound), we gain knowledge ( noos, nous, noesis, noumenon) of the world ( physis). (Aristoteles (1976), (1978); Bröcker (1974); (Heidegger (1970-1977b); Klages (1981, I: 57-60); Meulen (1968); Picht (1987)). A discussion of the ancient mythical understanding of the physis, and its complementary balance factor, the lysis, and the histio-logia, is found in Bachofen (1925).

1.2. Kinds of Knowledge

The old limerick: "I am the dean of this college, and what I don't know, isn't knowledge" describes in a somewhat pointed fashion a possible problem concerning the definition of knowledge by the Academics. Through their practical work, the Academics as a social body and tradition of professional knowledge workers have established a matter-of-fact definition of knowledge, exactly what was generated in their productive history. Academic knowledge production does not happen in a celestial sphere of "pure reason", but is a social enterprise, and is strongly influenced by factors of social dynamics, which can be studied with a cultural anthropology of science, as is explicated in Goppold (1999a), also: (Illich 1978, 1980). Quite understandably, the "academic" kind of knowledge centres around what can be written in books, and be described with a language of sorts (including mathematical, musical, chemical, etc. symbolisms). This kind of knowledge, which may also be called "conceptual knowledge", is consequently the subject of the mainstream of works in the academic discipline of Knowledge Organization, like Dahlberg (1974, 1993), or the majority of contributions to conferences like this one. In the Kantian sense of "what can we know?", let us start therefore with a short overview of the different " kinds of knowledge " and embed them into a general framework .

1.3. Pattern Transmission Classes

Let us coin the term "Pattern Transmission Classes". This is explicated as follows: In the present context, the word "Pattern" designates the most general principle of order, regularity, and structure , which separates the Cosmos from the Chaos, on which not only the sciences, but also human society, and in the wider sense, life, and the lawfulness of the universe, are based. Pattern is the "raw material" of neuronal processing happening in our brains, below, and a few milliseconds before our working consciousness experiences the " phainomena" and " noumena", the Gestalten of discernible impressions and thoughts. ( Barrow (1998: 5-6, 57-58, 89, 190-193); Bateson (1972), (1979); Breidbach (1993-1997); Bresch (1980); Goppold (1999d); Riedl (1980-1990); Schunk (1996); Spengler: Morphologie der Wissenschaften (1980: 548-553)).

Allott (www) quotes a recent re-definition of mathematics:
"A contemporary definition is that mathematics is the science of pattern and deductive structure (replacing an older definition of mathematics as the science of quantity and space)."

Viewed from a thermodynamic perspective, the main characteristic of life is: the activity of self-replicating dissipative structures, to maintain their patterns against the entropic force of dissolution, to propagate them, and to evolve them to greater complexity . This view has in an earlier version already been formulated by Spinoza (Hoffmeyer (1996: 138)). The genetic material transmitted in the organisms of the biosphere can be abstracted as a "Pattern Transmission Class" defined by the laws of the phylogenetic transmission as spelled out in molecular genetics.

The present formulation derives from statements of various workers: Schrödinger (1946: 68-75) ch. VI: "Order, disorder and entropy"; Frei Otto : "Naturverständnis" (1985: 30): "Jede lebende Ordnung ist der Tendenz zur Destruktion abgewonnen."
Gumilev (1990: 198): ... "lightning is energy, in my language anti-entropic impulses that with their rise disrupt the processes of death, the entropy of the Universe. Force, the cause provoking acceleration, saves Cosmos from conversion into Chaos, and the name of this force is Life. But in the eternal war of the protogenic elements, the servants of Kronos, the hundred-handed giants or asura (Sanskrit), lose nothing because they have nothing to lose. Kronos changed their appearance every second, and so deprived them of personal qualities and properties."

Biological organisms don't "know" about knowledge, but in a wider analogy, we can view the genetic transmission of their DNA patterns as the means to preserve the vital memories of their ancestors about the tasks of successfully surviving in the biosphere, to the future generations. This is a kind of "embodied", or somatic, "knowledge" that we humans share with all the organisms in the biosphere. (Hofkirchner (1997); Hoffmeyer (1996-1998); Semiotica (1998); Vernadsky (1930, 1997)).

The special "kind of knowledge" that humans transmit across the generations is the cultural and symbolic material of the semiosphere, the noosphere, and the ethnosphere, as this pattern transmission class has been characterized by various writers. (Lotman (1990); Gumilev (1990); Hoffmeyer (1996-1998); Hofkirchner (1997)). There exist some overlaps and conceptual variations of defining the borders between higher animal behavioral non-genetic transmission and the specifically human cultural domain. (Gumilev (1990); Lock (1996); Callahan (www); Prehist (www)). Especially the higher apes, like Bonobos, show a wide range of transmissions of learned behavior of which we will probably never know the true extent, since they are just now being extinguished in their native habitat Africa. (Waal 1995).

1.4. A Perspective Ordering of Pattern Transmission Classes

"Our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time."
(Shakespeare, Coriolanus, IV, 7.)

If we take the stance of a temporal perspective view, looking back into the past, we can discern the following order of pattern transmission classes which can be arranged, cum grano salis , in a logarithmic scale of factor-ten steps (except the last one):

-50 years:
electronic, automatic, programmed signal processing, computers
-500 years:
book printing, mechanical processing of written materials
-5.000 years:
history of world civilizations, writing, the alphabet is exactly at the middle: 2.500 yrs.
-50.000 years:
pictorial- / artefact- patterns of Homo Sapiens Sapiens
-500.000 years:
tool- / fire- / ritual- / language- / symbolism- patterns of Homo Sapiens
-5.000.000 years:
gestics- / sound- / tool- patterns of anthropoids
-50.000.000 years:
behavioral pattern transmission of mammals and birds since the end of Dinosaurs
-500.000.000 years:
metazoa (multicellular organisms), Eukaryotes since about 1 giga yrs.
- years:
age of the earth, chemical-biological evol., Prokaryotes since 3,5 giga yrs.
- years:
"Big Bang", age of the universe, atomic, stellar, and galactic pattern transmission
Looking at this "Perspective Ordering of Pattern Transmission Classes" we realize that it constitutes a kind of categorization and systematization by an (admittedly) unconventional framework, which is, like all conceptual frameworks, arbitrary (Satija 1998: 32-33). Its useability is governed largely by pragmatic factors. We have constructed a hierarchical ordering scheme based on temporal factors. This differentiates it from the more common classification schemes of the "Arbor Porphyricus" kind as described in Dahlberg (1974) and Eco (1993: 233, 229-298). In terms of the present title, we have a hierarchia and a histio-logia of "kinds of knowledge" whose connectivity ( histio-logia) rests on the fact that the newer (higher) strata are based on and embedded in the older ones, and the ordering principle (the hierarchia) is according to the time axis and speed and variability of transmission. Thus the academic "kind of knowledge" is embedded in the more general class of cultural transmissions of humans, which is furthermore embedded in the behavioral transmission of animals, which is again embedded in the phylogenetic transmission of organisms.

1.5. The geospheric embedding of Pattern Transmission Classes

According to Vernadsky and his Succes sors, we can alternatively picture this embedding in a geospheric projection scheme ( Vernadsky (1997: 26), Vernadsky (1930)). This scheme is, of course, patterned after the old Ptolemäic cosmology. ( Spengler (1980: 621); Spektrum d. Wissenschaft, Jan. 1993, p. 84: Schädelsche Weltchronik von 1493; Lippe (1997: 181, 187)). In Lippe's work, we also find an elaboration of how the ancient conceptual patterns repeat or recur in modern intellectual history. In the following diagram, the parentheses are to be read as circle segments:

(Cosmo- (Iono- (Strato- (Atmo- (Hydro- (Litho- (Geo-sphere)))))))

Since the biosphere is mainly water based, it can be viewed as an extension of the hydrosphere. It contains the following sub-spheres:

(Bio- (Oeko- (Semio- (Anthropo- (Ethno- (Noo- sphere)))))

In this view, the oekosphere is mainly another aspect of the biosphere, what could also be called the "inter-organic" domain, ie. the mainfold of all (energetic, material, chemical...) connections and relations of all organisms with all others. The semiosphere is the mainfold of all sign exchange processes of all organisms. The anthroposphere after (Gumilev (1987: 360)):
"In this perspective mankind is regarded as a certain covering of the planet Earth or as part of the biosphere... the anthroposphere... the biomass of all people together with the products of their activity... domestic animals, cultivated plants... the anthoposphere is ... a mosaic [consisting of] ... collections of persons."
The ethnosphere is the mainfold of all human cultural patterns after Gumilev (1990: 175), and the noosphere is the mainfold of all higher human symbolic activities. ( Vernadsky (1997: 155), Hofkirchner (1997)).

1.6. Noo-logy and Kalypto-logy

A Noo-logy (dealing with the things that can be known) needs to be balanced by a Kalypto-logy (dealing with the things that are presently unknown or that can never be known, and the reasons why they are, or can not be, known) . This, the explication of the not-knowing, especially on the side of the experts , whose power rests on their claim to authority, constitues an important aspect of the " ethics of noology ". In contemporary scientific discourse, Barrow (1998) gives an account of the practical and principal limits of knowledge. The unknowable appears in the most ancient statement of Greek philosophy, by Anaximandros, as the apeiron: " archaen ... eiraeke ton onton to apeiron " (The origin of being things is the unbounded, the apeiron). ( Diels 1954, I:12); (Pleger 1991: 61); ( Heidegger 1976b: 242). The Greek word stem kalyp- ( veil) and kalyx- (seed husk, calyx) denotes the hiding of things by a veil or a cover. The Apo-kalypsis of St. John thus is an account of un-veiling (also revelation) in the Christian mythological record. In the Greek Homeric mythology, the veiling power is personified by the nymph Calypso on the island of Ogygia, the Omphalos of the Thalassaean sea (Dechend 1993: 183-185, 193, 269, 324). This is also the hiding place of the God of Time, Kronos, in Plutarch's account (Dechend 1993: 121). And it is the place where Odysseus spent seven years of captivity before being released to his final homeward journey. In one of the founding accounts of the ancient Greek philosophy, the proimion of Parmenides (1974: 8), the veiling - unveiling polarity is described in : " prolipousai dômata, eis phaos, osamenai kraton apo chersi kalyptras " (leaving behind the house of night, and forcefully removing the veil from the head). Connected with this, we can easily find the mythological connections of the philosophical term alaetheia, and the mythic personification of death-forgetting, the laethae, in Hesiodos (Theogonia, 1978: 60-61) weaving around the "children of the night" the nyx: death, sleep, dreams, and other humanly ills.

The things that cannot be known are dealt with in my-thology, and my-sticism (from mytheomai: to speak, and myein: to close (Gebser (1973: 112); Campbell (1996)). In view of the Christian tradition, the human drive for noesis needs to be counter-balanced by divine revelation without which all human striving is futile, as given in the accounts of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. (Cassirer 1960: 20-25). Key terms for the kalyptic aspect of God are the theologia negativa and the Deus absconditus , as found in the work of Dionysios Areopagita. (Cassirer (1960: 25), Lippe (1997: 46-48, 53, 60-62, 64, 66, 67,...)). The essential "knowledge" factor of the conceptually unnameable appears as focal issue in the work De docta ignorantia of Cusanus (1964), Stadler (1983).

1.7. Time, storage, performance, and the pragmatics of knowledge

"It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious."
Whitehead (1967, 4)

In the gist of Whitehead's statement and Bateson's metalogues (1972: 3-58), (1986), we will make a short enquiry into the question: "What is knowledge about and what is it for?" In the academic world, knowledge is often treated as an "end in itself", as expressed in the principle of academic freedom of research. It is produced in the lab setting or in archive research, written up in a conference paper, such as this one, and then, archived in some library basement, to be duly included in one's vita and publication list for academic advancement, in reverence of the publish-or-perish principle. In the world of day-to-day pragmatic requirements, and of sheer survival, knowledge is that essence of hard-won experience and learning which has been handed down not only through the countless generations of human ancestry, but, as was shown above, also in the organic genetic lineage right from the very start of life, about 3-4 billion years ago. Knowledge is an aspect of the more general phenomenon of memory. Cassirer (1960: 68-69) cites Hering: "Memory is to be considered a general function of all organic matter." Bateson thematizes this in his metalogue on instinct (1972: 38-58).

The kind of knowledge that the academics are concerned with is a subset of the more general class of cultural memory , as described in the works of Assmann&Assmann (1983-1993), Bergson (1919), Connerton (1989), Halbwachs (1985), Harth (1991). It is excarnated knowledge (Assmann 1993), that is, divorced from the human somatic (bodily, incarnated) carrier and inscribed into/onto a carrier material, mostly paper, or, as in computers, on magnetic disks and CD-ROMs. What we find written in books, are (mostly) black marks on white paper, strictly speaking: "data", and it is not really "knowledge proper", until it is converted back into "living knowing" inside a person's head to be used in the processuality of lived life. (Cassirer 1960: 68-69). It is very easy to confuse the data written in books with "living knowing", and a similar, related confusion is currently under way, with grave consequences: the misapprehensions of the "information revolution" which derive from the obscuration of the vital difference between "being informed about something important" and the quantitative measurement of data transmission channel properties defined as "information" by Shannon and Weaver (1971). (Hoffmeyer 1996: 62-67). The pragmatic deficiency of the mathematical concept of "information" has been widely noted and there are many attempts to remedy it. ( FIS94, FIS96; Kornwachs (1984-1997); Stonier (1992, 1994)).

Since the academic "kind of knowledge" is mainly bound to static storage devices, its representation is adequate for the static aspects of our world, mainly the "things", or "objects". On the other hand, static representation is incommensurable with process, the essence of lived life. Conceptual knowledge is incompatible with movement and dynamic patterns. (Radwan 1999). Anyone who doubts this, is cordially invited to try to learn a Tai Chi form from a verbal written description of its movements alone. So, while there are academic departments dealing with dynamic pattern transmissions, like theater, dance, and music, they cannot enshrine their "knowledge" in books in the same way as it is possible in law, history, mathematics, and so on.

1.8. The Bibliosphere, and the crisis of witing

It is universally noted (Dahlberg (1974: 1-6); Kiel (1993: 71); Lévy (1996)) that humanity is presently being inundated with exponentially rising quantities of excarnated data, while the basic human "data processing" speed of reading has remained at the same "biblical" capacity of about 50 alpha-chars/sec for the last 5000 years since the invention of writing. For the purpose of visualizing the immense weight of the written cultural memory of civilized humanity, we will make a quick calculation. The term bibliosphere is introduced here as a comprehensive concept of the whole universe of written productions in books, manuscripts, newspapers, magazines, files, shards, inscriptions, murals, etc., that humanity has produced in the last 5000 years of writing civilizations . The existing material is archived mostly in our libraries, museums, government-, and church archives. A very rough estimate of the amount of this material is several billion (n* 10 9) different books and writings ( Veltman 1997) . We standardize this amount to "normed books" with about one million (one mega) chars, and each occupies a volume of about 1000 cm 3. For an estimated 2.5 billion books, we would need 2,500,000 m 3, and if we look around for a building of comparable volume, the Cheops pyramid would fit in nicely with its 230 m ground width and 147 m apex height amounting to about 2,500,000 m 3 of stone. Let us now consider the average human reading spead of about 50 chars/ sec, which translates into about 1,500,000 years needed to read our amassed human biblio-productions. It would be very helpful if there were a device or a method that would allow us to read (and understand) all that mass in a considerably faster way. No such alternative is in view, because of the limitations of the alphabetic principle and the human cognitive system. With this, we are reminded of the warning of Platon in Phaidros, about the hidden dangers of writing. ( Platon 1988, Phaidros, 274c-275):
"this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality."

The sheer amount of the amassed human biblio-productions brings us into a knowledge problem of a special kind: With the rising disparity between the human reading speed and the amount of written material, the average human has no more the lifetime to search out relevant "information" from the available data sources except for an ever diminishing slice which she may call her field of specialization. The effect is, that a general ignorance about "matters of the world" is rising rapidly, since the cost factor of accessing and mining the mountains of written data approaches the cost of originally generating the knowledge itself. The most serious consequence is the loss of " the patterns that connect " (Bateson), the combination of overview and insight that Leibniz still enjoyed to a large degree, and that Goethe still tried to envision (even though he had lost the mathematical and physical sectors).

1.9. Continuation

Continuation material is in the companion paper: Goppold (1999c)

1.10. Bibliography

is situated in:
Goppold, A.: Hypertext as a practical method for balancing the Hierarchy and Histio-logy of Knowledge, ISKO '99, Hamburg 23.-25.9.1999, (1999c) (URL)

Previous Next Title Page Index Contents Site Index