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The Analytical Aspect

(Also called the Logical Aspect.)

Defining the Aspect x

Kernel: x

and, related to this:

rather than (though involving):

Note: This distinguishing or abstraction is a human act (possibly also found in some animals) not something that is bound to what is 'out there'. It is in no way causally determined. (This lies at the root of Dooyeweerd's rejection of logical positivism.) In particular it is not bound to the data that comes from our sensory experience nor to the signals involved functioning of the brain, as some schools in psychology would assume - though it usually makes use of these data. This is one indicator that this aspect cannot be reduced to the sensory-psychic aspect.

Note: 'Distinction' here differs from the 'discreteness' referred to in the quantitative aspect whose kernel is 'discrete quantity'. Discreteness refers to something being discrete independent of human attention, while analytical distinction is a human activity.

Some central themes x

First, we have things related to making distinctions, such as:

But then we have things that derive from distinction-making, such as:

See 'Inside the Aspect' below for more working out of some of these themes.

Common Misconceptions x


The Aspect Itself

Inside the Aspect x

We have identified the kernel as covering two things: distinction and abstraction; how are these related? And how are they related to the various themes? Here are some brief notes to help us explore these questions:

Non-Absoluteness of the Analytical Aspect x

Limits of Concepts

There is limits to conceptualization. Intuition goes beyond it.

Bergson was one who especially explored this. Bergson's picture is knowing a city: by a collection of photographs of every part of it, and by walking through it. Concepts are like the photographs; walking through it is beyond that, and is equivalent to what Bergson called intuition.

Dooyeweerd went further, though.

Russell

Russell noticed a flaw right at the end of Frege's great work on logic, namely that one cannot have a set of things that do not belong to any set. That is an inherent contradiction, a contradiction in the very system of logic, rather than in the content of logic. Thus logic itself is inherently illogical, when one explores its extremes. What that means is that logic can never form the absolute firm foundation that people hoped it would. Russell tried to overcome the problem by introducing 'types', but it was merely an ad-hoc kluge, and even Russell did not think it really solved the problem.

However, does this invalidate logic? Not at all. As Dooyeweerd maintained, even though the aspects are never absolute or complete in their own right, nevertheless, they are designed for use and the human heart can grasp them intuitively and employ them. That is, one does not have to completely prove something before it can be used reliably.

Wittgenstein took Russell's challenge, trying to solve it by shifting to another aspect, basing logic on the lingual, but in the end, though he could 'ground' logic, he found he could not 'ground' lingual functioning.

Gödel's Theorem

Gödel's Theorem states that within mathematics and logic there are true statements that cannot be proved true. In this sense, logic is admitting its own limitations, in that it admits that it cannot cover everything, even everything that is within its sphere.

Special Science x

Logic. Analysis.

Science itself is analytically focused.

Institutions x

Shalom x

The analytical aspect is a law-framework within and upon which we live. It enables us:

Harm x

Contributions from the Field x

That Distinction is Important

The meaning of "It is raining" is much sharpened up when we continue with what we want to differentiate it from, such as ".. rather than snowing" or ".. rather than sunny". That is, the meaning of "X" is sharpened by when we make a differantiation, "X, rather than Y".

There is a whole analytical technique based on this - Personal Construct Theory and Repertory Grids, I believe it is. Colin Eden's SODA (COPE) mind-mapping technique is based on this "X rather than Y" construct.


The Aspect Among Others

Law-dependencies x

Dependency on Sensitive Aspect

The analytical aspect depends on its neighbour, the sensitive aspect. For example, neuronal activity, which is associated with our sensitive functioning, forms the substrate by which human beings (and some animals?) engage in analytical functioning, and in this way the analytic aspect depends on the sensitive. Whenever we make a distinction, abstract something, etc. neurons in our nervous system undertake some activity that can be described from within the sensitive aspect.

But there is this striking difference between them: analytical distinction is discrete (digital, on-off) whereas neurons are not fully 'on' or 'off' but are usually activated to a greater or lesser degree; for example the light-sensitive neurons in our eyes. Sensitive functioning has this character, of being to a certain degree, whereas analytic functioning has the character of being distinctly on or off, yes or no, true or false. This is one indication that the analytical aspect cannot be reduced to its neighbour, the sensitive.

We might see these two aspects as accounting for two types of psychology:

These constitute two distinct paradigms of psychological thought, though links between them are plentiful. The marked, sudden paradigm shift from behaviourist to cognitive psychology in the 1970s is suggestive of a shift from one aspect to another rather than a mere development of scientific thought within a single aspect. (Note: sciences as centred on aspects.)

Is Language Necessary for Thought?

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis from the 1950s suggests that all thought requires, and thus depends upon, language. So analytical functioning would depend upon our lingual functioning. However that view is not now held, and Dooyeweerd might be correct is separating the two aspects. See discussion of this.

Analogies x

Antinomies x

Common Reductions x

Rationalism

Probably the arch-reductionism of our times, rationalism is both an explanatory reductionism and a teleological reductionism - and a third type, dissecting reductionism.

Rationalism as explanatory

Rationalism is disliked by its detractors on two accounts. One is its tendency to isolate things; the opposite of a rationalistic view is an holistic one. The other is the elevation of reason as a way of obtaining knowledge.

As an explanatory reductionism, we explain everything by reference to reason. As explained below, the way we do science is to isolate an aspect in order to study its laws, and the to employ reasoning, which, as shown below, are the two parts of this aspect. If we take the common view that scientific knowledge is the 'true' and most reliable kind of knowledge we can obtain, then this means that this aspect is the key to all true knowledge. In this way, nothing can be known (at least scientifically), and hence explained, without this aspect.

Hence, all our knowledge of laws of physics, life, mathematics, sociology, jurisprudence, ethics, and even of God, are 'filtered' through the operation of this aspect. Hence the explanation of everything reduces to this aspect.

Rationalism as teleological

Teleological reductionism means that we elevate the importance of this aspect over all others and, in the extreme, ignore all others. "Reason is all that matters" and "Clarity is all that matters" are two statements that encompass this - though few would actually say those.

But it really comes out in the pejorative phrases we use to damn the views or suggestions of others that we don't like. We call them "irrational" or "confused" and, in many situations, that is enough to turn the general opinion against them. In using such words pejoratively we are succumbing to the assumption that the main or only thing that matters is reason and clarity - the two parts of this aspect.

Rationalism Dissects

To understand things over the last few hundred years we have taken to dissecting them, breaking the whole down into smaller parts. When we understand the working of each part then, we believe, we understand the working of the whole. How a car runs is explained by how its engine, its wheels, its body, etc. behaves.

As is now widely recognised, such an approach is damaging and misleading, especially when applied to human beings and ecosystems and societies. This type of reductionism is often thought to be the reductionism par excellence; its opposite is holism, which maintains that the whole cannot be fully explained by the parts. (In this sense, Dooyeweerd's idea of aspects that cannot be explained in terms of each other, is holism par excellence.)

This dissecting reductionism, this assumption that we understand something by breaking it into its parts, relies on this analytical aspect. First, the breaking into parts is an act of distinction, then the attempt to re-assemble (the workings of) the parts back into the whole relies on reason.


Notes x

Reasoning and Distinction

The analytical aspect includes both making distinctions and reasoning. So the laws of this aspect includes both laws governing the making of distinctions and those governing reasoning. But, we must ask, are the laws of reasoning and those of making distinctions of the same aspect, or do they really belong to two separate aspects?

If we consider law-dependency it seems they are of the same aspect. Because true distinction-making requires the ability to reason, and reasoning requires the ability to distinguish those objects about which we reason. Each part of the aspect seems thus to require the other, so they must, under Dooyeweerd's scheme, be the same aspect.

I conclude that the laws that govern reasoning processes are a subset of the laws of this aspect.

Deduction

However, I am now not so happy with that. How do we account for deductions, deducible facts or propositions, within this scheme? For example, take the small set of formal predicates:

       grandparent (x,y):-
           parent (x,z),
           parent (z,y).
       parent (Jill, John).
       parent (John, Derek).

We can deduce that Jill is the grandparent of Derek. But that does not seem to me to fit snugly into the analytical aspect of distinction. There seems to be something more than distinction going on here; the processes of deduction. Whether these are actual or just potential processes does not matter; what matters is: into which aspect do they fit, if any?

Can anyone say? Or maybe the analytical aspect is a wee bit more than mere distinction? (AB. 29 January 2003).

Science and Theory

Roy Clouser, in his (1992) book, The Myth of Religious Neutrality, elaborates Dooyeweerd's thought that each aspect offers a special science. There are, according to Clouser, three types of thinking (click there for longer explanation): This higher abstraction is, of course, science. The beauty of this view of science is that it allows each special science - physics or social science - to take on a different form. The common activity between them is not one of so-called 'scientific method' but rather of isolation of an aspect in order to study its laws. The methods appropriate in each science must be determined by those involved.

Isolation of the aspect is necessary for science (higher abstraction) because if we don't isolate it then our findings become contaminated by the effects of other laws. So, for instance, when studying chemicals in a test tube, the cost of the chemicals or test tube do not come into our theory. Neither does (or should) the personality or social standing or religious commitment of the experimentor. We have isolated the physical laws from those of economics, feeling, social interaction or commitment.

(Actually, Dooyeweerd was at pains to point out that the whole process of doing science is multi-aspectual, and these other aspects do have an impact on theories we produce. Argyris also alludes to this issue when he says that the conditions researchers try to create are similar to those created in everyday life. But that is another issue.)

Briefly, note three things that come from this view:

Reason is Fallible

For long it has been assumed that reason is the final key to discovering the truth about things. It seems to sound. But, according to Dooyeweerd's framework, rationality is only one of fifteen aspects, and in each we function as responsible subjects rather than as slavish robot objects. Reason is not something that happens to us; it is something we do. That means that reason - and all analytical activity - is inherently fallible.

The analytical aspect has no priviledged position among the others. To think that it has is to 'absolutize' the aspect, and only God is Absolute. Nothing in all creation can stand being absolutized in this way. That is why reductionism is so harmful and ultimately damaging. It always will be - and always should be - mixed with interpretations and other forms of thinking when used in real life.

Note Argyris' discussion of this fallibility and limitation in his book Inner Contradictions of Rigorous Research (Academic Press, 1980).

Distinguishing the Aspects

As mentioned above, in everyday living we function in all aspects without being aware of any of them. They are integrated within and around us. But here you and I are trying to distinguish the aspects, one from another. This is a form of making distinction - between the aspects. So this analytical aspect allows us to apply itself recursively to the suite of aspects and tease out one from another.

So, the set of aspects that have been distinguished by Dooyeweerd are the result of a person's analytical functioning. What this means is that - because no aspect-functioning is absolute and even reason is fallible - we can never hope to arrive at 'the truth' about the aspects. We might get near the truth, but can never rely upon it. So Dooyeweerd's suite should be taken as a near-guess at what reality is like, rather than as an absolute ontology.

It seems to be a natural yearning in the human heart to forge ontologies. Many have proposed taxonomies, systems of levels, factors, etc. For instance, Checkland, in his Soft Systems Methodology, states that we must take five things into account when building information systems: efficiency, efficacy, effectiveness, ethics and (a)esthetics. Ackoff likewise gives us around nine things we should consider. In all these cases the purpose of making such a list is to identify those aspects that cannot be reduced to, or expressed by, others.

For longer discussion, see the page on distinguishing the aspects. It also discusses in particular why I trust Dooyeweerd's ontology more than those of the others.

Comments Received x

Discussion with A.M.

(An email discussion with AM. Some html annotation etc. added, but wording and spelling as given.)

AM:
The logical modality has already been touched upon in relation to the psychic aspect. In Swedish we also term it logical. Its kernel we term as meaningful, or self-evident, and by that pointing towards a more interpretivistic stance than distinction implyes. Situations where the logical modality dominates are characterised by thinking (especially analytical), reasoning, building theories, making plans. However, thinking, reasoning etc is not carried out in a vacuum; contrary, it is always ...
[AB: (Neither is any other functioning carried out in a vacuum; it too is related to specific context.)]
... related to some specific context which makes it meaningful and by that logical. Hence the choice of meaningful rather than distinction. We also touched upon ...

AB:
Interesting. I like the jist of what you are saying. But I wonder whether even 'meaningful' is appropriate. Because our creativity, our language, our social interaction, etc. are "related to some specific context which makes it meaningful and by that logical/formative/lingual/social". The problem in using 'meaningful' is that Meaning is the bedrock on which the whole set of modalities rests. That is why these other aspects also can fit that sentence.
[AM: I see you point]
Also it is dangerous to link one aspect more closely to Meaning than any others. What I think you are trying to get at is the making of meaningful distinction rather than just random distinctions? ...
[AM: Yes, I refer to meaningful as being understandable in terms of thinking, not Meaningful with the capital M (which I refer to the credal modality).]
... If so, we could also distinguish between meaningful utterances from random utterances. etc.

What motivated your choice of 'meaningful'? Was it some deficiency in the word 'distinction'? If so, what were they? ...
[AM: Distinction means to me analysis and I want to illustrate both analysis and synthesis. The word distinction only covers half of the concept. I look for a word where the essence is separating to see what it is and then put together so that it makes sense in some way or another.]
... Maybe a better word can be found in the idea found in Gestalt psychology and art of differentiating figure from ground. What is the Swedish word that Gestalters use?
[AM: Good idea. I will look into that.]

... AM:
... touched upon learning in this modality, that in order to learn the knowledge has to relate to something meaningful to the individual, something that the person understands. However, Donald has defined a
new modality, epistemic, related to knowledge and learning because there are so many different situations in which we learn and which are not pure logic (e.g. the teaching that goes on in a family when bringing up children). I return to the epistemic modality later.

AB:
Yes, learning to ride a bicycle is non-logical learning. But, as discussed before, I am cautious about Donald's empistemic modality.

AM:
Donald has found one more modality, operational, where the kernel is skill or technique. I think this is very interesting and I think it fits nicely. He puts it between the economic and social. Riding a bike would fit in this modality, as would the craft of a carpenter, the methods for programming etc. It makes sense because the epistemic modality more concerns theoretical knowledge while this one concentrates on practical. The link to the economic modality is via management. Managing the operations focuses on sustaining the system, making 'wise' use of resources.

Continuing the above discussion with A.M.

AB:
Ahh. Interesting. This linking of analysis with synthesis, as often happens. Now, (thinking aloud) it seems to me that though they are closely linked in practice, they are of different aspects. If this is true than, in theory, one could perform analysis (as making distinctions) without doing any synthesis, but one could not do synthesis without performing some analysis (making distinctions).

However, what do we mean by 'analysis'? I have used the phrase "analysis (making distinctions)" above in order to clarify that I mean what might be called a simple or primitive part of 'real' analysis, that of bringing out of a conceptual entity from its background.

But there is also a more sophisticated activity that is often also referred to as analysis, and it is this that is linked with synthesis. In this more sophisticated activity ('real' analysis?), we actually do form concepts with some degree of deliberate creativity. Also, we express these things symbolically as part of our sophisticated analysis - e.g. drawing on scraps of paper to help us think, or writing something out in order to clarify thoughts. Also, we will sometimes act socially in this sophisticated analysis. Also economically. And so on.

What this comes to is that the rich, sophisticated form of what we often call 'analysis' is actually multi-aspectual functioning, as is most integrated human living. *That* is why 'analysis' is often paired with 'synthesis'.

But, then how does rich, soph'd analysis relate to simple, primitive analysis (making dist'ns)? I (still thinking aloud) think it might be the idea of the founding function. Rich analysis is founded in simple analysis. That is, whatever form it takes, or whichever higher aspects are involved, there will always be the analytical\distinctino- making aspect involved. ...

AM:
I like your discussion where you separate analysis and synthesis and link them to different modalities. However, I would prefer to see them linked as they often are in practice. The modality make more sense then, is easier to understand and relate to. On the other hand, analytical and formative are close to each other, so what you say make sense, indeed. That brings me to the, perhaps semantic, problem I have with the formative modality, when it is referred to as historical. A better word would actually be formative, but how would the kernel be termed then? ...

[AB: I think that the way to link analysis and synthesis is via multi-aspectual real life rather than qualifying modalities. It is in real life that they are linked, and in real life we function in all modalities. So to *properly* understand any human (or animal or plant etc.) functioning we should *first* try to understand it in its richness in real life rather than in its isolation in a qualifying modality. We employ the modalities in doing the former, of course, in what Clouser calls lower abstraction In lower abstraction we are aware of the difference between the modalities but do not isolate them. It is in higher abstraction, where we isolate the modalities, that we seek to (a) study the laws of a modality (b) seek to identify qualifying modalities. So while I still maintain (tentatively) that analysis is linked with the kernel of the analytical modality and synthesis is linked with that of the formative (I'm doing higher abstraction) I also maintain that they are very much linked in multi-aspectual real life.]

... We then came into discussing the operational modality, whether there is one or whether skill is founded in the formative aspect. I take you point on simple skill - rich skill, and I see the relation to forming. But when one think of the formative modality as something forming *us* (and limiting us), then it becomes a bit confusing to refer to this modality when we are the formers. I think you can word this better than I can (and perhaps also clarify) by using the subject - object distinction.

[AB: As I said in yesterday's email on the formative, I feel it is a confusion to think mainly about what forms us, rather than about us who fdo the forming, shaping. And one of the results of this confusion is that it has led to a desire to split a modality. When in fact, as you suggest, the differentiation is between acting as subject and acting as object in the same modality. ]

... AB:
(... from earlier) Interesting. But it strengthens my caution about his proposing 'epistemic'. It seems to me that, once you start proposing new types then there is not stopping. But maybe he is right?

However, in the particular case of skill, I would say that this is multi- aspectual like rich analysis is. However, it might have a founding aspect, in this case the formative one. So, I could take what I have written about rich analysis and its link with simple analysis (making distinctions) and use almost hte same sentences for rich skill/technique and its link with simple skill/technique (which is pure formativity- creativity). Rich skill often involves some symbolic meaning, some social activity, some economics, some aesthetics, some juridicality, etc. and is present in the human situation in a wide variety of forms and types. Some have less aesthetics, some have less sociality, etc. But all of them must of necessity involve some formativity-creativity- shaping. Thus skill is a multi-aspectual thing but founded in the formative.

Does that make sense? It does to me, as I think aloud.

I have long felt that Donald is much more intent than I am in separating out activities into component aspects, and trying to identify aspects that *fully* encompass a certain human activity. I am more interested in multi-aspectual (multi-modal) integrated rich human activity. In proposing new aspects I wonder if what Donald is doing is what the entomoligists and botanists sometimes do: they see some variation in a genus that they had not accounted for before, and so propose a new species. Then the next generation recombines them again.

AM:
[snip a bit of admin]

By the way, where would you put the university and its mission to teach, to make people knowledgable? Moreover, the project I have studied concernes making young people mature in the sense that they should understand that they have to take responsibility for their life, not wait for others to provide for them. Where would you put such a mission, what is the founding modality?

AB:
I don't like to place institutions very much. But if I have to then I would first recognise that Universities are concerned with Universals, that is Laws of the Aspects and the Aspectual framework itself. Second, to discover the detailed structure and workings of such Universals requires higher abstraction, and this requires isolation of aspects one from another. Theoretical thinking. (But not necessarily postivist thinkging) Third, this is of the analytic modality. And of course Dooy used the word Genenstand especially for when the Analytical aspect stands over against the others to allow us to engage in theoretical thought. Fourth, therefore Universities are institutions of the Analytical aspect.

Note that I focus not just on knowledge-transfer, which I think Donald focuses on, but on a type of knowledge, namely of Universals.

A wider view of knowledge and knowledg,e incorporating Universal (theoretic) knowledge and including all skills, habits, specifics, etc. is trans-aspectual, according to Dooy. And I find his view is useful.

Epistemology? Took me a long time to get to this point but recently I found it helpful to realise that Dooy's view was different from the normal one. We tend to see Epistemology as a single whole, a single approach. But to Dooy each aspect has its own different epistemology. This means, for instance, that each science can have - and should develop - its own 'scientific methods'. So, for instance, while in physics we might use test tubes and laboratories, in social science we must use other methods. But the latter is not thereby any less of a true science for doing so. Just a different science, with a different epistemology.

I like that. It restors dignity to social science. And also, in an interpretivist culture, to physice and maths.

Hope that is understandable; your replies have stimulated me to *very* useful thinking.


This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments would be welcome.

Copyright (c) 2004 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Number of visitors to these pages: Counter. Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: by 28 March 1997. Last updated: 11 March 1998 (removed a mistaken 'never' from 3rd para in Distinguishing Aspects. 30 August 1998 rearranged and tidied; added Non-Absoluteness. 6 October 1998 added a theme. 25 January 1999 added re. Argyris in a couple of places, and also made links with functioning.html. 31 January 1999 added Vollenhoven's 3 distinctions. 19 April 1999 (after CTS'99 Working Conference), added more to kernel about Concept and to themes. 27 June 1999 Goedel, and couple of minor amends. 3 November 1999 link to language and thought. 4 October 2000 links to new.aspects.html. 7 February 2001 mailto and copyright. 27 April 2001 changed links to thinking.html, better ending. 24 October 2002 quote from Ollman. 19 December 2002 updated Themes, adding sameness.
27 December 2002 Major changes: added abstraction to kernel, added 'inside' section, rewrote dependency on sensitive aspect, added analogy. 14 January 2003 dist.imp. 18 January 2003 more on sameness. 29 January 2003 added a problem with deductions. 10 March 2003 .nav, refce to CPMH:55. 17 March 2003 added re personal construct theory. 29 July 2003 the shalom of analytical aspect. 24 August 2005 new .nav,.end. 30 October 2008 symbolic logic. 31 August 2009 clarified about neurons, in response to comment by Ted Warren. 22 September 2010 Dooyeweerd's and Basden's kernel. 14 December 2011 limits of concept. 11 May 2014 boundary judgements.