What is Structure? LO25507

From: dpdash@ximb.ac.in
Date: 10/22/00

Replying to LO25499 --

On 20 Oct 00, at 8:08, David Wilkinson wrote:

> My question is - What is structure in a system? Is it visible, invisible
> or both? Is it formal or informal or both? What is it?
> I appreciate your willingness to help me think this through. I will
> organize the responses I receive and make them available to the list.

Dear David, Richard, and others,

[Many thanks David for offering to organise the responses and making them
available to the List. That would be an invaluable service to the List.]

Thanks Richard, I have read your very helpful article at
http://world.std.com/~rkarash/structure/ on the notion of structure. I think
the article gives a good grasp of the notion. However, there are some subtle
points which, although mentioned in the article already, perhaps can be
emphasised for the purpose of discussion. I would like to make two such
points here:

(i) Levels of Structure ( ...--patterns--structure--deep structure--...)

(ii) Stability of Descriptions

Taken together, these two points suggest what is involved in looking for
structures and when to stop looking for structures.

*Levels of Structure*

As Richard's article suggests, one may find patterns within a set of
events, but one may still look for patterns within the patterns. The
second type of patterns is referred to in the article as structure. One
may say that patterns themselves are an indication of some structure in
the events. Likewise, one may also say that structures themselves are an
indication of some deeper structure. This kind of chain can be imagined
even longer, at least in principle:

events::patterns::structures::deeper structures::even deeper structures::

In different disciplines of enquiry, one comes across chains of different
lengths. Consider for example evolutionary psychology, a branch of
psychology which seeks to research the structure of the human mind from a
particular (i.e., evolutionary) point of view:





Typically, the (explanatory) chain in this area goes somewhat like this:

Individual behaviour::patterns of individual behaviour::deeper patterns of
behaviour over a species::underlying conditions of living::underlying
principles of adaptation, variation, and selection:... etc.

*Stability of Descriptions*

There is a question of where to stop in the search for underlying
structures. For a pure scientist, the criterion (i.e., the stopping rule)
can be found within science. To put it simply, such a scientist would stop
when the scientific community cannot find any more deeper levels. It
seems, in the real practice of science, this condition is never reached in
any permanent (or conclusive) sense. The search for 'even deeper
structures' seem to go on for ever.

However, in specific scientific projects, more practical criteria are
adopted in order to define clear end-points for the inquiry. A common
criterion is the 'stability of descriptions', e.g., stop when you can
publish your results in a scientific journal.

This has a special meaning for me. From the time you submit a paper to a
scientific journal it takes a while to get published finally, say about 1
year (could be longer). The statements an author makes should continue to
be true during this period! Therefore, the inquirer should stop at that
level of structure which is likely to persist (not change, not melt away)
for a period of at least one year! However, those who want their papers to
be referred even after 10 years, will have to go much deeper!

[In this mail, I am not elaborating the issues of intervention, action,
etc., mentioned in Richard's article. These lead to even more intricate
aspects of structure.]

Thanks for your time!



Dr. D. P. Dash Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar 751013 India <http://www.ximb.ac.in> <dpdash@ximb.ac.in>

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