What is "Culture"? LO20129

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Tue, 8 Dec 1998 14:30:24 +0200

Replying to LO20099 --

Dear Organlearners,

Fred Nickols <nickols@worldnet.att.net> writes:

>At, you are such a deep thinker that I'm never quite
>sure I've understood what you've said let alone whether
>or not I agree with it. :-)

Greetings Fred,

Yes, sometimes I also get the "bubble illness" by diving so deep :-)

>That said, if what you mean above is that I'm of the
>opinion that there is no OBJECT called culture, only our
>perceptions, some portion of which we call culture and thus
>create a SUBJECT called culture, I agree with you. That
>is what I am saying. There is a SUBJECT (or, more precisely,
>a subject matter of culture) but there is no OBJECT. Said
>a little differently, in my view, culture is an example of

Wow, I think that we need some dialogue here to paint a rich picture.

Perhaps I must first describe how I understand perception. I distinguish
between the "world inside me" (WIM) and the "world outside me" (WOM)
because I experience these two worlds differently. At first I merely
become aware (conscious) of the WOM through my senses - a raw experience.
As soon as this happens I try to make tacitly some sense out of that raw
experience by connecting it to something in the WIM. Then the third phase
follows in which I try to express this sense in a way which is sensible to
some other people. It ends in the the fourth phase when I succeed in
making it sensible to most other people. All four these phases together,
originally initiated by the WOM, I consider as perception. In other words,
perception is for me externally initiated learning and knowledge as its

But I also grow in knowledge (all four phases) which is internally
initiated. I become aware of things happening in the WIM. Nobody else can
have such internal experiences because I am a unique person. This, I
believe, is also the case for every other human, although some humans
insist on cloning. I am very hesitant to call this internally initiated
knowledge by the name perception. In fact, my experience is that once I
communicate such internally initiated knowledge to the WOM, (in other
words, when I reificate such knowledge or make it concrete), it frequently
creates perception problems for others.

In terms of my internally initiated knowledge, there is not such a thing
as the object culture. I wonder if this is what you have had in mind.

But in terms of externally initiated knowledge, there is such a thing as
the object culture, unless my senses are playing tricks on me. A very
valuable lesson which many people are now learning in the New South
Africa, is that the object culture is not the subject culture which a
person perceives it to be. In other words, they are learning to perceive
the object culture as something unknown, something which they can make
anly a few assumptions about.

One assumption is that the object is unknown (it is a "black box"). It is
so different to the Old South Africa in which hundreds of assumptions has
been made about culture. But, as I have warned, assuming that that there
is nothing essential in culture creates its own pandora box of problems.

A second assumption is that the object culture has to be observed through
the senses. Again it is so different to the Old South Africa in which
people rather relied by way of commentaries on the perceptions of other
people what culture is about. However, can everything be observed through
the senses? Is the only knowledge externally initiated knowledge? What
about the innate dimension of culture, caused by internally initiated

Fred, when you say "there is no OBJECT called culture", do you mean
1 that there is no OBJECT which can trigger my senses,
or do you mean
2 that the object which triggers my senses, cannot be
called culture?

As I have tried to explain in my previous contribution, I will answer to
question 2. Yes, there is an object which trigger my senses, namely the
"world outside me". This "world outside me" I perceive as the
complementary duality "nature&culture". In other words, even when I merely
give to a certain part of "the world outside" me the name "culture" and to
the rest of it the name "nature", I am already functioning in the "world
inside me" and hence in terms of perceptions. In this sense I will use the
words "there is no OBJECT called culture".

I eagerly await your response to see whether we think harmoniously.
You have written:

>If you agree with what I've written above we are, as they
>say, "On the same wavelength."

Wavelengths need not be the same to harmonise! It is the dissonance of a
cacaphony which we have to try and resolve.

Now for something different. You said that culture is an example of
reification. This sentence really had me thinking very deeply, making
contact with much of my thoughts the past ten years. As I understand
reification it means the transformation of any abstract entity into a
concrete (material) entity. The complementary dual of reification is
abstraction. Mathematicians, for example, relies heavily on abstraction,
using reification merely to communicate their ideas. Since mathematics is
an important part of the subject culture, I cannot agree with you should
you exclude abstraction from culture.

Let us not talk too much on this disagreement. I am much more interested
in reification as part of the complementary dual "Reification &
Abstraction". I would welcome a dialogue on the subject "Reification &
Abstraction" any day. I think that too much "abstraction" and too little
"reification" occur in Systems Thinking. I am of opinion that one of the
major reasons why it is so diffcult to develop a Learning Organisation, is
that so little reification is sought.

>The associated paradigm shift was from casual interactions
>to holistic interactions -- a shift to wholeness.

>A question of clarification here. In your last sentence, did
>you mean "casual" or "causal"? I am assuming "causal"
>but it could well be "casual." Please clarify.

I meant casual. At first I wrote the word "stochastical", but then
replaced it with "casual".

>Finally, regarding your notion of a "creativity praetor," I think
>I understand what you're driving at At (I couldn't pass that one
>by :-)), but I will have to give it much more thought before
>responding. Why? Because my initial reaction is to disagree
>and that is a signal to me that I need to give the matter more

Fred, I would like it very much for you to respond!

The job of the praetor was to make laws. This is the VERY last thing which
I want -- creativity driven by laws.

But laws were most important to the Romans. Thus the Praetor had the most
important job next to the Caesar. This is what I want to see -- a top
level "manager" which has to care and promote creativity as the most
important function in the organisation. But I do not want to use the word
"manager" because this person's job will be far more than managing. He/she
also will have to function as leader and follower, as teacher and as
learner, as thinker and as joker, as caretaker and as demolisher, as
artist and as devil's advocate, depending on each situation. How about
suggesting a striking name for this job, something better than "creativity

I have written that creating is the process which results into culture
just as learning is the process which results into knowledge. It just
struck me that when we say "there is no culture", we also have to say
"there is no creating". In other words, we also have to distinguish
between creating which happens objectively and our rendering of it which
happens subjectively. This distinction will help fellow learners to
understand my concept of "deep creativity" based on "entropy production".

Thanks again for this challenging dialog. It reminds me very mcuh of the
early days in Quantum Mechanics when physicists realised that they have to
think anew about their physical reality.

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> 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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