Namesake discussion: Gestalt/Flow//System/Process

May 06 2011



It is pretty complex. But I suggest you search for the terms I mentioned, it is somewhere toward the front, and it has to do with gestalt/flow and the other permutations I mentioned. Basically it says that Ideas and Emotions are reifications of thoughts and feelings that can be transmitted culturally, and it gives a criteria for distinguish what you call sentiment from the memes. I don’t subscribe to the concept of Meme actually but that is another discussion. 



Ok. Here we go.y Hope you are prepared for some complexity in the argument. I will try to keep it as glib as possible. With these short posts it is going to be a challenge.

Trying to be as succinct as possible, and probably ending up being cryptic . . . Systems are Gestalts. Gestalts are made of figure and ground. The dual of the gestalt is the flow. A flow is made up of a reference and a stream. The duality of the figure and ground within the gestalt inverts the stream and the reference. So the figure is like the reference and the stream is like the background. Difference is that the stream flows in front of the reference and the figure is in front of the background. This duality is not generally recognized in the literature. I have only found one or two references to temporal gestalts in the literature. But the idea at least goes back to G.H. Mead and his idea that each thing has its own amount of time it takes to be what it is. This is the cycle time of the eventity.


Now, this is at the perceptual level, but at the conceptual level this difference is the difference between Process and System. Rescher has called for the revitalization of Process Philosophy, and its connection to Systems Theory, which has not happened in the literature as yet. J. Seibt his student has made a start on this project. I suggest this disconnect is a blindspot in our academic (logos) and industrial (physis) culture.


Gestalt=flow and system=process are duals at the percept and concept levels.


Once we understand this duality at the percept and concept levels then we can go to the next step which is to recognize that there is a further duality between the the System and the Meta-system (OpenScape) schemas. I have explained this in detail in various papers at my websites. But basically this is the difference between the Turing Machine and the Universal Turing Machine from the point of view of computability. There is the application and the operating (meta-)system. In other words the environment is not a plenum but has its own organization which is the reciprocal or inverse dual of the system. See my “Meta-system Primer” briefing for more details as to the nature of this organization. The way we talk about this duality is by using the term “proto” to signify the meta-system. Thus the opposite of the Gestalt is the proto-gestalt, and the opposite of the flow is the proto-flow. These correspond to the meta-system and the meta-process. Meta means beyond in the sense of outside of in this case not above or any of is other meanings.


Now that we have established this deeper duality which we will not explain here except to say that the reason it is called the proto-gestalt is that it is what controls the glance that forms a single gestalt. When we look around the square in a foreign city we take it all in with a glance which contains within it actual looks at various gestalts on within the scene. Thus gestalts always have the context of the glance which is constantly moving and has is own implicate order (Bohm) and tacit knowledge (Polanyi)  of the surroundings that it uses to gage the situation in the square as we step into it from a sides treet. This context or situation, or ecosystem, or environment, or media, etc (OpenScape) comes before the actual gestalt or flow. This is why we use the word proto-gestalt or proto-flow at the level of percepts to indicate the difference that at the conceptual level is between the Meta-system and the Meta-process.


Now we get to the crux of the matter. There is another determination that we need to explore, which is the relation between Gestalt and Flow to Diachronic and Synchronic. Diachronic means in the flow of time and Synchronic means a slice across time in a moment. A diachronic gestalt is a temporal gestalt as we have said, while a normal gestalt is taken in at a single moment. Of course a moment takes time as Wm. James points out in his argument about the Specious Present. So Gestalts can occur across time in a larger interval as we see in a piece of music which takes the entire time of hearing to get the whole picture of its “movements”. Now if there are temporal gestalts or diachronic as well as synchronic gestalts, then there must be synchronic flows that are the inverse dual of the diachronic gestalts. We are familiar with these from photography. They are the pictures where the water is flowing during a “timelapse” so we see all the water flowing as a whole mass, which looks blurry in the photograph. Synchronic Flows are like “stop motion” pictures where the individual raindrops are frozen in midair. A normal motion picture is the case of the temporal flow that is diachronic  So there is also the case also of the  synchronic flow, and a photograph is the analog of the gestalt. So our main media are photographs and videos these days digital. But there are the corner cases of diachronic gestalt (timelapse) and synchronic flow (stop-motion) that set the limits for the inversion of these two duals into each other.


These corner cases I now propose can be compared to what goes on in consciousness a opposed to what goes on in culture as a social construction. To we know that we have thoughts and feelings. I suggest that thoughts as concepts are like gestalts and that feelings are like flows. But when we attempt to see that the corner cases are I suggest that they are Ideas and Emotions. In other words Ideas are diachronic gestalts (illusory continuities) and Emotions are synchronic flows (frozen energies, stored up energies, i.e trauma). So the difference between our consciousness which is alive with all kinds of thoughts and feelings, and externalized culture (See Berger and Luckmann) is that it is made up of intersubjectively (Socially) transferable “MEMES” of Ideas and Emotions. And these are especially powerful when they are combined as they are in say Greek Drama or Comedy. The Spectacle of Ideas intertwined with Emotions in drama has held us spellbound from the beginnings of Western culture which we trace to Greece, forgetting about Egypt and Mesopotamia which is the deep background or meta-system beyond the Semite and Indo-European nomads and served as slaves for these older civilizations. In the creation of culture we are trying to produce from our fleeting and ephemeral thoughts (including concepts) and feelings (including sensations) both Ideas as Illusory Continuities (Abstractions) and Emotions as pent up and distorted feelings

that are normally distorted by trauma.


The ideas and emotions are externalizations that we use to produce culture, because thoughts and feelings are two ephemeral for that work. They are reifications, and limits of human reason and the very stuff of appearances that fit into Plato’s divided line.

Now we return to the question:

Do conversations inhibit meme propagation because they aggregate sentiment rather than catalyze it’s movement? Is that why there are so few cute cat photos shared on Namesake?


Now I am not sure what you mean by “aggregate sentiment” and “catalyze movement” but this reminded me of the difference between Emotion and feelings. Emotions are aggregated feelings, and feelings are catalyzed by portrayals of emotion say in drama.


As to the cute photos on Quora, and many other sites, see my Quora post which has been censored to the question


What does it say about us as human animals that we can ask “What is the coolest looking animal on earth?” in a time of global species devastation due to human interventions in the environment? where I make the case that our fascination with cute little animals or strange ones says more about us than it does about them. But we can say that each of us is trying one way or the other to portray ideas and emotions that reflect our thoughts and feelings to some level of fidelity unless we are sociopaths. Some are better than others at this process, and the best are novelists, playwrights, directors of film, painters, and other artists, i.e. manufacturers of culture.


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