RE: Encoding and Decoding - Reductionism/Gestalt

Aaron Agassi (
Tue, 7 Sep 1999 11:43:21 -0400

From: "Aaron Agassi" <>
To: <>
Subject: RE: Encoding and Decoding - Reductionism/Gestalt
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 1999 11:43:21 -0400
In-Reply-To: <003a01bef909$5c607600$47126ccb@ddiamond>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Chris Lofting
> Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 1999 3:08 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Encoding and Decoding - Reductionism/Gestalt
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Aaron Agassi <>
> To: <>
> Date: Tuesday, 7 September 1999 6:54
> Subject: RE: Encoding and Decoding
> >
> >
> >Gestalt Anti-Reductionism, however, has a different view of truth. That
> real
> >truth that is more than trivial is more and even less than point by point
> >correspondence of elements and events to a statement describing
> them. More
> >in that it requires comprehension of the complex interrelationships and
> >their ramifications. Less, in that lengthy itemization every
> detail is not
> >the be all and end all, and less important than gaining understanding.
> >
> >According to Reductionism, the whole is no more than the sum of
> it's part.
> >According to Gestalt anti-Reductionism, the complex whole is,
> indeed, more
> >than the sum of it's parts.
> >
> You are making the distinction here between quantitative truth
> (correct/incorrect and you do not go beyond this point) and qualitative
> truth where the realisation of a truth includes a flood of feedback data,
> linked associations.
Um, yes. And?

> The 'whole is equal-to/greater than' concept depends on whether
> you include
> context as part of the whole,
Perhaps it would best be stated that the disagreement between Reductionism
and Gestalt is in thge argument over the role of context.

>thus a fish is a whole, it is the sum of its
> parts, but shift focus and a fish is not a whole until you see it swimming
> in water aka primary context. In a object-oriented perspective,
> this latter
> 'whole' reflects a state that is unbounded, contextually
> hierarchic in that
> the water is not whole until you see it as a river/sea etc and
> the river/sea
> is not whole until you see it in relation to land/this planet etc etc
This strays a bit from the point. We can, if arbitrarily, focus upon the
fish, exclusively. The Reductionist sees the atoms comprising the fish. the
Reductionist is content there. The Reductionist deconstructs the fish.
Gestalt, by contrast, builds the fish back up again.

To make illustration simpler, consider a very rudimentary computer of only a
few bits. That's all the Reductionism sees. But even out of a few bits,
there can be millions of settings, for complex operations. The relationship
of parts can be exponential. And the system even of a fish, can be orders
more complex even than some molecular description of the fish alone. That is
why Gestalt holds that Reductionism misses the point. Reductionism ignores
the complex interrelationship of the parts, and thus fails to explain or
even to see. The fish is more than a collection of atoms, or even molecular
structures, the fish is a system of complex operations and
interrelationships. More than the sum of it's parts.

> Qualitative truth comes with dependencies. Quantitative truth is seen as
> dependence-free, quantitative truth is that sensation
No. The sensation is associated with a neurological tag. The tag may fail,
and one may miss something important, as often happen. Or the tag may
misfire, giving one the sensation that something was important, that one
cannot identify, when in fact there was only a failure of the tagging
mechanism. Truth, literal and pointless, or context dependant and
comprehending, is the quality for a statement of correspondence to reality.

Something does not cease to be true simply because one does not know about
it. Nor does it become true simply because it feels right. It may be error.

> 'correct' that goes
> with syntax analysis.
This may pertain to Neuro-Methodology. Ontology, however, remains another

> Using this perspective there are two forms of reductionism rather
> than your
> given reduction/anti-reduction perspective. Quantitative reductionism
> reduces things to a point and deems that point correct or
> incorrect, end of
> story. Qualitative reductionism reduces things to a point of clarity and
> then follows with dependencies analysis.
I'm not familiar with the destination. But I assumed that even Reductionism
comes in degrees.

> Quantitative/qualitative reductionisms cooperate with each other
> rather than
> oppose each other (the oppositional interpretation is in the form of
> quantitative/NOT quantitative)
> Using this same perspective, so there are two forms of information, data
> that is seen as correct/incorrect and data that is seen as
> worthless/priceless. The latter has a qualitative bias that includes a
> strong subjective element.
Incorrect. It's not subjectivity, necessarily. It can be impact upon
whatever question at hand, or even explanatory power, that makes a discovery
either worthless or priceless, or, to put it more precisely, pertinent or

>For example, I hold in my hand a 50 cent coin.
> The concept of 'coin' and '50c' is of the correct/incorrect type of
> information. The VALUE attributed to the coin is determined by the current
> value of the currency as a whole, if the US dollar is 'down' so 50c is
> closer to worthless, if the US dollar goes over the top then it takes the
> 50c with it and the 50c is closer to priceless. This latter emphasis on a
> dependency brings out the concept of 'qualitative truth'.
> The subjective element of qualitative truth can be shown where I have a
> stick given to me by someone famous and so I put value into that stick
> through the link to the famous person, there is a dependency
> present. If you
> come along and find that stick and are not aware of the value dependency
> then you would be willing to throw the stick away.
Now you are far off my point, as I have already explained.

> The stick is quantitative -- 'stick' and 'one of them'. This is
> syntactic in
> form; object oriented.
> The value is qualitative -- worthless in your eyes, priceless in
> mine. This
> is semantic in form. relationships oriented.
> Information free of human determination is always quantitative in form and
> can exist 'free' of us.
But that is not my issue, as I hope that by now you will understand.

> >From the above I think we can state that the
> reductionism/gestalt dichotomy
> is false when interpreted as made up of elements that oppose each other;
> that contradict each other re the whole/parts determinations.
I hope that I have succeeded in clearing up the distinction

>What forces
> this 'illusion' is not recognising the crossing of context
> boundaries where
> reductionism reduces things to a single context, or better still, NO
> context.
I am having trouble with your phraseology:
What is the crossing of a context boundary? Is it a change from one question
to another one entirely? As for reduction to no context, that is precisely
the issue. Reductionism advocates the endeavor, Gestalt opposes it, on the
ground already explicated.

>When we discuss genotype we are being reductionist, when
> we discuss
> phenotypes we are into multi context considerations and so have shifted
> levels of analysis, we have moved from considering the 'one' to
> considering
> the 'many'.
No. Reductionism does not recognize the shift to how the genotype unfolds
into the phenotype. More over, depending upon the question at hand, in
analysis of the working of the gene, even prior to phenotypic expression,
Reductionism will still fall short of understanding.

>This does not negate a reductionist perspective it
> just adds an
> element to the analysis where single context is replaced by multiple
> contexts; the reductionism thus gets more complex.
Reductionism rejects this element. Gestalt embraces it.

> If you can restrict the inclusion of context change to a quantitative
> interpretation then you can have information that is multi-dimensional
Reductionism is "one dimensional". Gestalt is "pan-dimensional".

> (where each context adds a dimension) and still be declared 'free' of us.
Huh? Free of us? External? Can you possibly mean, (*gasp*) Ontological,
objectively real?

> Single dimension thinking is of the correct/incorrect form.
> Two dimensional thinking, retaining only the correct/incorrect distinction
> has four states.
> Three dimensional thinking has eight states.
> Four dimensional thinking has sixteen states
> and so on.
> At each level 'novel' states emerge that are made-up of the
> entanglement
I still am not cllear how you use the word 'entanglement'

> the original elements of the dichotomy such that by the time you get to
> three dimensional thinking you have six states that reflect entanglements
> plus the original two 'pure' states of correct or incorrect.
> These novel states, when considered only within their immediate context,
> take on 'meaning' that is as certain as the meaning of the
> original states,
> these novel states are experienced in an absolute, fundamentalist way just
> as the original states are experienced but the process of increasing
> contextal considerations causes us to label contexts so we can
> differentiate
> one from the other and this labeling follows the same patterns in
> that I can
> use quantitative labels (i.e. first, second, third etc) or qualitative
> labels (colour codes, scaling of the worthless/priceless dichotomy etc)
> This methodology, using the qualitative/quantitative distinctions can be
> applied at any level of analysis such that I can zoom-in to 'four
> dimensional thinking' and see it in a single dimensional frame of mind and
> in doing so see this 4D as 'objective' and 'free' from us; thus my intent
> determines what I see.
> Quantitative reductionism aims to establish the identity of
> objects where an
> object is something (!) we can bound and so distinguish 'this'
> from 'that'.
> Qualitative reductionism aims to determine all of the aspects of an object
> and this has to include object-to-context relationships and in
> doing so this
> method of reductionism can lead to the experience of dependencies
I don't know what you mean by 'dependencies'. Nor how they are
"experienced". You often seem to refuse to distinguish Methodological
questions from their corresponding Phenomenological phenomena, just as you
are uncomfortable with Ontology.

>that the
> quantitative method wishes to avoid; in qualitative reductionism we
> experience what seems to be a sense of 'wholeness' greater than in
> quantitative reductionism. This experience is an illusion in that we have
> crossed contextual boundaries but in doing so try to cling to the 'whole'
> concept that comes with the object oriented quantitative methods of
> analysis.
> In the so-called Gestalt state we are in fact NOT experiencing a
> particular
> wholeness but more all of the dependencies of a whole with all possible
> contexts and those context's dependencies on other contexts and
> so on -- we
> are experiencing relationships which have a sense of the infinite about
> them.
If not infinite, then certainly vast and exponential.

> This sense of the infinite, which is qualitative, when entangled with the
> quantitative sense of a whole in the form of 'one' can elicit a sense of
> 'oneness' that can be perceived as being 'greater than the sum of
> parts' of
> the original whole. This perception is false in that it disregards the
> context-related boundary crossings.
Certainly, is important to remember which question is which. Perhaps the
best Anti-Reductionist statement might be that a useful truth needs to
answer several different questions. I take it that your issue with Gestalt
is that it may seem to be overwhelmed, rather than redoubling effort to keep
proper track of things. That the experience of Gestalt is only an
experience. That the more useful truth still sorts things sequentially. I'd
expect that you'd say that this is a brain hemisphere question, of the
application linearity Vs Spatial orientation metaphors. That Gestalt
struggles with a spatial orientation metaphor, making things needlessly
difficult, when linearity may still be applicable and make already difficult
things a little plainer and more easily malleable.

> best,
> Chris.
> ===============================================================
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For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)