Mono / Poly



Mono                        -                    Poly
One                           -                    Many
Efficiency                 -                    Redundancy
Narrow                      -                    Wide
Specialist                   -                    Generalist
Objects                       -                    Relations




We like it when a thing is only one thing. But society is always two things: it’s the thing that alienates you, and its the benevolent father; always.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Joe Rogan Experience #958 - Jordan Peterson'




It's not Christian love that's conquered the world; it's not its sophisticated interpretations, sophisticated theology.

It's successful because it mobilizes the will, and the will needs fundamentalism or it doesn't know what to do.

Fundamentalism serves the hero myth. It gives you fundamental principles - words, truths, directions. It builds a strong ego. It is American psychology. No Hermes, no Dionysus, no Aphrodite in it at all.

Utterly monotheistic because there is only one meaning, one reading of the text - like, for instance, the one meaning of Christ's suffering.

[...] anything that doesn't fit within that unity is split, or schizoid, a hysterical complex or autonomous or whatever else, and you have lost the fact that you are a bundle of many levels, people, noises, impulses, trends, personalities, possibilities and no two days are the same and no two voices are the same and one is a loose structure of many beings - Jung called them complexes.

But as long as one lives in the myth of unity one is forced into commanding the psyche to obey the principle of unity and the unifier, the ego, creating this monstrous Western ego, which then has to be subdued by all kinds of Christian virtues: tolerance, self-control, patience, humility, charity, obedience, poverty ... all this huge ascetic structure to deal with the Monster which is created by its own dogma!

So that the repression which Freud placed at the basis of our relation with the unconscious is nothing more than the Christian myth at work in us each, cutting us off from our innate polytheistic imagination and renaming it, the unconscious.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.81-2




It is conventionally held that ancient polytheistic humanism collapsed because it was unrealistic, a highly artificial system.

But there is a sense in which it was realistic, as we should expect in any religion springing from Greek origins.

The gods on Olympus at least represented actual human attributes, or varying and often conflicting archetypal human tendencies; while the Hebraic system - the uniting of desirable (moralistic) human attributes into one god - was a highly artificial procedure.

In many ways the Greek system is the more rational and intelligent; which perhaps explains why it has been the less appealing.

The Hebrew god is a creation of man; and the Greek gods are a reflection of him.

Nonetheless, periods of history come when it seems clear which serves the general need best. Monotheism saw man through the dark ages that followed the collapse of the Roman empire; but today the benevolent scepticism of humanism seems better suited to our situation.

[John Fowles]
The Aristos, p.114-15




Whether something is monolithic, binary, dialectical, or meaninglessly plural is a function of your distance from it.

When you're very close to something, all you can see is oneness, pure dominance by the thing of all others. For a baby, Mother's breast is the entire universe. For a fundamentalist, it's God.

When you're a bit further away, a tidy binary replaces oneness. There are men and there are women. There's East and there's West. This is the distance journalists live at. The world of journalism is always seeing small fluctuations in the relative positions of big, established binaries like these.

[Momus]
'Binary hopping' 




In psychological inflation, as Jung developed the idea, the personality is ‘taken over’ by a single archetypal pattern. 

A person’s perceptions, values, and behaviour are driven by an image which has its source outside the individual, in the collective or objective psyche. Personal identity is engulfed by the archetype. One’s perceptions of the world, one’s thoughts about it, one’s values, are shaped by a single image.

Ancient cultures explained it as coming under the power of a god. Where we see someone as having a “power complex” or a “mother complex” or just as “falling in love”, the classical Greeks would have seen an individual driven by Zeus, Demeter or Eros.

Analogously we can talk about cultural inflation, in which a nation or society, or at least a substantial part of the population, is taken over by an archetype, so that the group’s perceptions, self-image and behaviour are formed by a single archetypal pattern and driven by a single archetypal energy.

Domination by a single pattern to the detail of everything else can be considered a form of pathology (personal or societal), though some pathologies (e.g. falling in love) are obviously more benign than others.

[Bernie Neville]
‘The Charm of Hermes: Hillman, Lyotard, and the Postmodern Condition’, Journal of Analytical Psychology (1992), p. 347




According to the research, three key bodily systems - the neurological system, the endocrine system, and the immune system - function independently yet work harmoniously together.

There is no central system which integrates these three systems. Each of these functions within its own integration, and, in addition, they function well as a whole though not integrated by a central control.

Taking a hint from the above, I think that the human psyche also should be seen as a "supersystem."

I have repeatedly discussed different levels of consciousness while also indicating that even logically conflicting things will coexist in the mind of a human being. Indeed, that coexistence has value.

I am inclined to think that our human mind maintains integration in each of the different levels of consciousness. In addition, as a whole it functions as a supersystem without a center. In short, I think that the psyche as a whole, when it is healthy and functioning well, does not need to have an integrative center.

Some might say that, if a system as a whole is functioning well, you call it "integration." For integration, we tend to think that a principle or rule exists which should be central and controlling. I think that things - including human beings - work well beyond the center or principle which man creates.

I described my great trouble being caught between Eastern and Western cultures. While in such suffering, I believed in the integration of the two and talked about it easily. But, after trying hard many times, I gradually came to know that it is, in fact, impossible to "integrate" them.

It even seems dangerous to attempt quick integration, as I have realized that people who attempt it tend to ignore things which are "inconvenient."

So it seems likely that a new science would not try to develop a system of knowledge featuring simple, logical integration [...]

If we are to develop this new science of the whole, we must open ourselves to imaginative ways of thinking and perceiving and summon up our most determined efforts.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.140-1




With all such control phenomena, a critical issue is robustness: how well can a system withstand small jolts. Equally critical in biological systems is flexibility: how well can a system function over a range of frequencies.

A locking-in to a single mode can be enslavement, preventing a system from adapting to change.

Organisms must respond to circumstances that vary rapidly and unpredictably; no heartbeat or respiratory rhythm can be locked into the strict periodicities of the simplest physical models, and the same is true of the subtler rhythms of the rest of the body.

Some researchers [...] proposed that healthy dynamics were marked by fractal physical structures, like the branching networks of bronchial tubes in the lung and conducting fibers in the heart, that allow a wide range of rhythms.

Fractal processes associated with scaled, broad-band spectra are 'information rich.' Periodic states, in contrast, reflect narrow-band spectra and are defined by monotonous, repetitive sequences, depleted of information content.

Treating such disorders [...] may depend on broadening a system's spectral reserve, its ability to range over many different frequencies without falling back into a locked periodic channel.

[James Gleick]
Chaos, p. 293




'Wittgenstein develops a style of writing which is radically errant, which unlids all the accidence concealed by "normal" uses of words in order to show how many different routes it would be possible to take from any given point in their discourse - routes which we had simply not thought of because we were bemused by normality.'

Once 'ordinary language' is shorn of its residual metaphysics - the idea that ultimate truths are somehow vested in our normal, everyday habits of usage - linguistic philosophy takes on a very different aspect.

Rather than reinforce existing conventions or naturalized 'forms of life', it works to reveal the unlooked-for possibilities latent in all communication.

Plato is the prototype of all those unfortunate philosophers who must resort to writing in order to communicate their thoughts, but who lay themselves open, in the process, to all manner of unauthorized reading and interpretation.

[...] language is subject to a generalized 'iterability' - or readiness to be grafted into new and unforeseeable contexts - such that no appeal to performative intent can serve to delimit the range of possible meaning.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p.  178, 187, 191




Jim Rutt: Another theme that I […] took out of what I read of your work is that you certainly encourage dissent and diversity […] but at the same time, if one’s trying to make an organization work you have to manage the signal to the noise. Not all opinions are equal. How do you encourage dissent and diversity without being overwhelmed by crankery?

Dave Snowden: […] First of all, I say we need to shift from homogeneity […] I disbelieve everybody should have the same values, the same goals, and the same objectives, because that destroys. That makes systems non-resilient.

[We need to shift] into what I call coherent heterogeneity. 

You have to have differences which can come together in different ways. For example, I’m Welsh. If you meet anybody from Wales, the first thing they’ll ask you is where’d you come from, because we have to establish some way in which we can have a fight with you […] but when the English come we’re Welsh.

That’s an example of coherent heterogeneity. Now what we can do with the attitude map that I mentioned earlier is we can measure the level of cognitive and behavioral diversity in your organization, and we can identify outlier groups that you should pay attention to, rather than them getting drowned out by middle management.

That’s the key thing that comes out of the attitudinal mapping. You have to maintain diversity in the system, but you have to maintain diversity which isn’t freakish […] You actually need to get around those sort of problems by providing interactions between dissonant groups.

I present a situation, I’ll get everybody in the workforce to interpret it. I’ll then get dominant views, but I’ll get 15 or 16 clusters of outlier views. I let the clusters run a small safe-to-fail experiment and we see what works. That’s a key conflict resolution device. Effectively I do what’s called a shallow dive into chaos. I move into an unconstrained system to actually statistically map onto a landscape, and I know which ideas are coherent enough to explore even though they’re different, and which are actually nonsense.

A lot of our work has been to produce objective quantifiable measures of coherence within an organization, so you know which dissonants are worth talking to and which aren’t. That’s actually a relatively simple process.

[Jim Rutt & Dave Snowden]
'EP11 Dave Snowden and Systems Thinking'




Freedom of the will so construed is not the absence of causal determination but a harmony among all of a person’s preference schemes. It is a state in which desire follows thought, and action follows desire, without tension or struggle, and in which the distinction between choice and constraint may well be thought to disappear.

Nietzsche is very clear about the extraordinary difficulty with which this state of harmony of thought and action can be reached […] success consists in having the minimum level of discord among the maximum possible number of diverse tendencies. 

“The highest human being would have the highest multiplicity of drives, in the relatively greatest strength that can be endured. Indeed, where the plant ‘human being’ shows itself strongest one finds instincts that conflict powerfully (e.g. in Shakespeare) but are controlled.”

The creation of the self therefore appears to be the creation, or imposition, of a higher-order accord among our lower-level thoughts, desires, and actions. 

It is the development of the ability, or the willingness, to accept responsibility for everything that we have done and to admit what is in any case true: that everything we have done actually constitutes which each one of us is.

[…] we are always finding ourselves in new and unforeseen situations; we constantly have new thoughts and desires, we continue to perform new actions. In their light we may at any point come to face the need to reinterpret, to reorganise, or even to abandon earlier ones.

To desire to remain who I am in this context is not so much to want any specific character traits to remain constant: the very same passage speaks of “multiplicity of character considered and exploited as an advantage.” Rather, it is to desire to appropriate and to organise as my own all that I have done, or at least that I know I have done, into a coherent whole.

It is simply to become able to accept all such things, good and evil, as things I have done. It is not to cultivate stable character traits that make my reactions predictable and unsurprising. 

[…] it is to become flexible enough to use whatever I have done, do, or will do as elements within a constantly changing, never finally completed whole.

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 187-190




For Aristotle, an object had a clear purpose set by its designer. An eye was there to see, a nose to smell. This is a rationalistic argument, another manifestation of what I call Platonicity.

Objects seem to have invisible but significant auxiliary functions that we are not aware of consciously, but that allow them to thrive - and on occasion [...] the auxiliary function becomes the principal one.

[...] anything that has a secondary use, and one you did not pay for, will present an extra opportunity should a heretofore unknown application emerge or a new environment appear.

The organism with the largest number of secondary uses is the one that will gain the most from environmental randomness and epistemic opacity!

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 318-9




Brian Arthur in a brilliant book, shows the degree to which technology innovation depends on exaption rather than adaption.

Exaption is more important than adaption; traits that evolve for one context accidentally get used in a different one and we get true innovation. Most of human development including language is the result of exaptive processes. There are some related techniques here, the use of metaphor for example can allow association or linkage of ideas in new ways.

[...] we need to create the conditions for innovation. Now critically that means that we need to focus on a degree of inefficiency [...] Managing for exaption requires a degree of mess [...] You can’t determine in advance what innovation is needed, you have to create an ecology in which novel solutions can emerge. 

Innovation never happens within a formal highly efficient system. Yes, when the informal system makes the bureaucracy work despite itself you get considerable innovation. However this is generally invisible to the formal system.

[Dave Snowden]
'A grain of sand: Innovation diffusion', '… forever blunt and merciless'




In an accurate language, meaning would be a one-one relation; no word would have two meanings, and no two words would have the same meaning. 

In actual languages, as we have seen, meaning is one-many. (It happens often that two words have the same meaning, but this is easily avoided, and can be assumed not to happen without injuring the argument.) That is to say, there is not only one object that a word means, and not only one possible fact that will verify a proposition.

The fact that meaning is a one-many relation is the precise statement of the fact that all language is more or less vague.

[Bertrand Russell]
'Vagueness', The Australasian Journal of Psychology and Philosophy, 1:2, p. 90