The Disposition of Information LO29549

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 11/22/02

Replying to LO29544 --

Dear Organlearners,

Benjamin Compton <> writes:

>"As for me, i have written repeatedly that i avoid using
>definitions because it prevents the evolution of my thoughts."
>Which I find interesting, because I've held to a life-long belief
>that all each word -- with the exception of pronouns -- define
>a concept. Therefore the better one can define a word, the
>more clearly one can think.

Greetings dear Ben,

What you claim is to a large extent true of the dedicated terminology of a
science like chemistry or botany. But for a natural language like English
or German in normal use there are many words with even ten or more
different conceptual meanings. Such a word do not define a concept.

Even in chemistry it is dangerous to define a concept because people in
general think that such a definition exclude other possibilities. For
example, and acid A may be defined (in the most general sense) as an atom
with an empty orbital and a high effective nuclear charge so that it can
accept an electron pair from a base B. But that very acid atom can also
act as an oxidiser, depending on what B is, base or reducer!

>You seem to be saying that by avoiding definitions, your
>thoughts are more free to evolve. But if you don't use
>definitions, then how do you know what you're thinking
>at all? How do you conceptualize -- integrate abstractions
>-- without definitions?

I am glad that you have asked this question. When i write "knowledge
dwells within the mind while information exists outside it", i compare two
as elementary as possible descriptions with each other, namely "knowledge
dwells within the mind" and "information exists outside the mind".

(By the way, i used to write that "knowledge lives within the mind", but i
saw that M Polanyi prefered the word "dwell". After a lot of thinking i
decided that "dwell" allows articulating the conditions of knowledge
better than "lives".)

Each on its own may be considered technically as a rudimentary definition,
although we would then write "knowledge is that which dwells within the
mind" and "information is that which exists outside the mind". However, as
in the case for the general definition of an acid given above, there are
other things which also dwell in the mind like character and love.

But when i combine "knowledge dwells within the mind" and "information
exists outside the mind" as "knowledge dwells within the mind while
information exists outside it", it is not a definition anymore in the
strict sense of a definition since any definition refers to one and only
one concept. It is rather a description in which i try to provide to some
extend for the 7Es (seven essentialities of creativity) -- liveness,
sureness, wholeness, fruitfulness, spareness, otherness and openness. For
example, liveness is suggested by comparing "dwells" with "exists".
Wholeness is suggested by making the two descriptions one description
through a comparison.

Most important for me self (it need not to be the same for fellow
learners) is that as soon as i contemplate "knowledge dwells within the
mind", i ask myself where does this knowledge comes from. (The same
apllies to information.) It is in cases such as this one that i rely
heavily on the etymology of the words. The etymology of a word gives an
indication how its speakers of the past articulated their tacit knowing
into information. In the case of knowledge it comes from the Saxon
"cnawlec" where "cnaw"=emergence and "-lec"=like. In other words,
"knowledge dwells within the mind" by way of emergences.

If this is then the case and since emergences are made up from two (or
seldom more) things connecting to form a new whole, what are the two
things which makes up knowledge which i can speak about?

Ben, i hope you can now understand how by avoiding definitions (but not
descriptions) my thoughts take the road of exploration.

>And the statement doesn't seem to hold true entirely,
>as you make a distinction between knowledge and
>information. Such a distinction is made because each
>of these words has a different definition, and therefore
>describes or defines a different concept.

Ben, in terms of analytical thinking you are quite right. Let me also say
that i think there is nothing wrong with analytical thinking as so many
people like to claim presently. What i think is wrong is to exclude other
forms of thinking in favour of analytical thinking. A chemist who knows
chemistry, has to do both analysis and synthesis in succession, not
necessarily in that order. So what about "synthetical" thinking. (Please
do not think of this "synthetical" as "artificial" or "xenobiotical".) I
have explained this "synthetical" thinking earlier in the paragraph where
the 7Es are mentioned.

>Therefore I'm left to assume that I've misunderstood
>what you've said. Can you clarify your assertion on
>this point?

I do not think that you have misunderstood me. It was my mistake not to
have said that i use elementary descriptions in the place of strict
definitions. I am sorry. But that is exactly why a dialogue is so
important -- to exchange thoughts (by way of informayion) so that you can
compare your knowledge with mine and i can do the same.

The "elementary description" is the closest i can get to an EO (Elementary
Organiser). I have written in the past on EOs. They are "becoming-being"
pairs like "painting-pictures" and "proving-theorems". Most human
acitvities can be described in terms of EOs. In the case of "knowledge
dwells within the mind" the EO is "knowledge dwells". It is when we begin
to unite EOs together that we enter the world of complexity thinking. But
i fear that should i unite "knowledge dwells" and "information exists"
into "knowledge dwells while information exists", it would be too cryptic
to get a grip on it.

These EOs may seem to be the result of crazy thinking. But five of
them have become most important to me as the ESCs (Elementary
Sustainers of Creativity). They are
thoughts-exchanging (dialogue).

Thank you Ben for keeping up the dialogue.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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