Complemetarity LO19996

AM de Lange (
Wed, 25 Nov 1998 15:09:43 +0200

Replying to LO19974 --

Dear Organlearners,

The subject was: Continuous vs continual improvement

Jon Krispin <> writes:

>Thank you At, for your return post. This has helped me in 2 ways:


>Secondly, I want to thank you for clarifying the concept
>of complements for me. As you have defined it, you are
>correct. I was trying to articulate a complementary
>relationship between the 2. My original statement would be
>more appropriately written, "...continual improvement
>speaks to the PROCESS of improvement (always and forever
>ongoing, in all of forms and in all places) rather than the
>STRUCTURE of the improvements (continuous vs discontinuous)...".

Greetings Jon,

I am happy that I could be of help. Let us take the issue of
"complementarity" a little bit further.

The property of "complementarity" is essential to the understanding of
modern physics and chemistry. (I will come back to physica and chemistry a
little bit later.) By essential I mean that should we in the spirit of
phenomenology try to deny this property and see what the result will lead
to, it will lead to immense confusion -- a radical breakup of
organisation. In other words, "complementarity" play a decisive role in
self-organistion. But how?

Complementarity refers to all the parts needed to make up a complete
whole. In other words, complementarity is another way to look at wholeness
("associativity-monadicity"), one of the seven essentialities of
creativity. When a whole (unit) is made up of two parts, we speak of a
"complementary dual" or a "complementary duality". For example,
"structure" and "process" form a complementary duality.

But when the whole is made up of three or even more parts, our languages
have not yet caught up with these possibilities. For example, we do not
yet speak of a "complementary trials" or a "complementary triality". In
fact, we use the word "trial" for something else, namely examination.

However. there is a way out. We can speak of a "twofold complementarity",
or a "threefold complementarity" or a "manifold complementarity". Note
that the words "twofold", "threefold" and "manifold" are of Germanic
origin (Old English "manig"=many, "fald"=enclosure) while the word
"complementarity" is of Romanic (Latin) origin. Thus, if we want to pursue
the Germanic etymology, we could use the suffix "-hood" (OE
"-had"=property_of_whole) rather than "complementarity". Consequently we
may speak of a "complementary duality" as a "twofoldhood". Words like
"threefoldhood", "fourfoldhood" and even "sevenfoldhood" then suggest
themselves. Unfortunately, not even the word "twofoldhood" exists in

I have used the problem in the previous paragraph to illustrate that our
languages are not ready to handle the "complementarity" facet of
wholeness. Have they ever been ready before? I cannot speak for other
languages. But in my own mothertongue Afrikaans I have experienced in my
lifetime how it lost its creative power. Afrikaans is the youngest fully
fledged language in the world. Its oldest dictionaries are less than a
century old. When I was a boy, (I am now 54), nobody would have lifted an
eyelid if somebody would have used the word "tweevoudheid" ("twee"=two,
"voud"=fold, "heid"=hood), provided its meaning was explained in a
sentence or two. Why not? Afrikaans speaking people were very much aware
that Afrikaans had to accomodate the articulation of their tacit knowledge
into formal (objective) knowledge. Thus they created new words with ease
and others followed such words with ease. Unfortunately, this awareness
itself was also only tacit. Since nobody articulated this tacit awareness,
Afrikaans speaking people began to accomodate that which had already been
articulated and made available, namely dictionaries.

In my own Systems Thinking the four levels (experential, tacit formal and
sapient) of knowledge is an example of a "fourfoldhood" (four
complementary parts). Your summary of behaviour psychology in terms of its
ABC is an example of a "threefoldhood".

The ancient Hebrews were were very sensitive to complementarities. So were
also the anceint Greeks. For example, the four "elements" (air, fire,
water and soil) formed a fourfoldhood. Probably the most famous of all
twofoldhoods (complementary dualities) was their "golden ratio", a number
which they built into their art and architecture.

The development of "complementarity" is a very interesting theme in the
history of physics since the Middle Ages. The first twofoldhood
(complementary duality) known, was that among magnetic poles
(north/south). The second twofoldhood (complementary duality) to be
encountered, was mechanics/dynamics. In mechanics all forces were in
equilibrium so that no change in motion happened. (Newton's first and
third laws.) Motionless objects were usually studied. However, in dynamics
at least one force was unbalanced, causing a change in motion. (Newton's
second law.) The study of dynamics soon lead to a new twofoldhood, namely
potential/kinetic energy.

For more than a century these were the only three twofoldhoods known. One
manifoldhood was also known since Newton, namely the rainbow colours which
together form white light. But no physicist to my knowledge articulated an
awareness to them as complementarities. The first clear awareness to
complementarity came with the formulation of the two laws of
thermodynamics (the first Law of Energy Conservation and the second Law of
Entropy Production). Few were ready to accept this complementarity (as I
will discuss in the Primer on Entropy). The second great advancement
towards an awareness of complementarity was when Maxwell formluted his
four laws of electromagnetism. Suddenly many physicists were beginning to
appreciate complementarity, trying to articulate it. But the third
advancement really pushed complementarity out of the closet into the
formal level of knowledge when Einstein formulated his Special Theory of
Relativity. With this theory he showed that space and time are
complementary to each other so that they together form a 4D space-time
continuum. Soon afterwards with the formulation of Quantum Mechanics,
complementarity was no issue anymore. Suddenly phsyicists realised that
quantities occur in complementary duals (position/time, position/momentum,
time/energy, etc.). However, another fifty years had to pass before next
jump in understanding complementarity came with the development of
irreversible thermodynamics.

The development of "complementarity" is a also a very interesting theme in
the history of chemistry since the Middle Ages. The first clear
complementarity was probably substance/mixtures while the second was
"elements/compounds". The Periodic Table of Mendeleev did for chemistry
what Maxwell's four equations for electromagnetism did for physics.
Suddenly the chemists became aware of an eightfoldhood among the elements.
This eightfoldhood helped the organisation of chemsitry tremendously. The
occurrance of "complementarities" in modern chemistry exceed that in
modern physics by far. However, the formal (objective) use of the concept
"complementarity" is less than in physics.

Likewise interesting is the development of "complementarity" as a theme in
the history of the biological sciences. Again the development is of
explosive nature like in phsyics and chemistry. But even more than in
chemistry, very little formal use is made of "complementarity" as an
organising concept. One noteworthy exception is the complex discipline

The concept "complementarity" is a facet of wholeness. (It can be
developed from the "associativity" pattern of wholeness.) Since wholeness
(or holism) is becoming increasingly important in Systems Thinking (ST),
the concept "complementarity" will also become increasingly important in
ST. I am confident that "complementarity" will become a household concept
in the 21st century. Whether people will accept the word "manifoldhood" as
a synonym for "complementarity", is a different issue because it involves
all the users of the language from all walks of life and not the small
minority of systems thinkers.

When speaking of "all the users of the language from all walks of life",
we think of an extremely complex complementarity. In fact, we think of an
"unfinished" complementarity. It is not possible to express this type of
"complementarity" because of newcomers to the "complementarity" -- new
parts to the whole. In other words, it is not possible to finish the job
because of the evolution involved! A fine example of an "unfinished
complementarity" is a dictionary of a language. A "finished
complementarity" is a mechanical sort of thing whereas an "unfinished
complementarity" is a dynamical sort of thing. One of the arts of
creativity is to be extremely sensitive to "unfinished complementarity".
In terms of the seven essentialities it means a sensitivity to both the
essentialities "wholeness" and "openness".

In my summary of the relationship between the seven "essentialities" and
Senge's eleven "essences" of the five disciplines, namely SYSTEMS THINKING
holism => wholeness (monadicity?)
interconnectedness => wholeness (associativity)
being => liveness (being)
generativeness => liveness (becoming)
connectedness => fruitfulness (connect)
love of truth => sureness (categoricity)
openness => openness (open)
commonality of purpose => otherness (quality)
partnership => wholeness (associativity
collective intelligence => sparseness (limit)
allignment => fruitfulness (connect)

you will notice that nowhere do "wholeness" and "openness" occur together.
In other words, in none of these five disciplines is "unfinished
complementarity" a main facet. But is really the case? Is Senge sensitive
to openness in Systems Thinking? Should he not have listed "openness" as
an "essence" also of Systems Thinking?

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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