Although ideonomy is ordinarily meant to work with high-level concepts and fundamental dimensions of things-and to function in a sober, systematic, and directed way-it can also produce interesting results by using crude methods, concrete things or low-level concepts, and chance.
What annoys me is that this sort of vulgar ideonomy, as I call it, is sometimes spectacularly successful, if just in the sense that its products may be more sensational and popular than those of what by distinction could be termed scientific ideonomy.
Yet the ideonomist is not alone in having reason to complain about this phenomenon. The possible extinction of dinosaurs by asteroids deflected into the Earth by an invisible Death or Nemesis Star or of the human race by a future Nuclear Winter, or the sexual mutability of certain lizards and fish, or the speculative lurking of immense black holes in quasars, are all examples of the susceptibility of any science to popular fads, or of the incomparable thrills of vulgar science.
As for chance, it would be more honest to admit that even in the highest and most sophisticated forms of ideonomy, stochastic methods and serendipitous discoveries play a major role.
Thus the particular sets of terms or organons, and structures of ideogenetic formulas, that produce by combinations of concepts, modifiers, and relationships the most fascinating, useful, surprising, fundamental, and important ideonomic propositions, exercises, and idea spaces are often stumbled upon quite by accident, by casual experimentation, or by mindless dalliance. Even an occasional weakness for the surreal or absurd may help.
One of the most interesting examples to date of vulgar ideonomy discovered
serendipitously is as follows.
Reproduced here are two tables that were prepared within the ideonomic division Psychic Things and Psychology. "145 Emotions" was, in 1984, the first of these organons to be constructed.
It had been meant to function independently by self-intersection. Two versions of the list were created, one with the emotions in nounal form and the other with the same emotions and same basic words in adjectival form. The 145 squared or 21,025 dyads (dyadic virtual propositions) generated in this 'two-dimensional' way - e.g. "suspicious guilt" and "sad amusement" (both dyads being combinations of familiar feelings) - turned out to be at once puzzling, entertaining, and informative.
Although many of the 21,025 dyads seemed illogical and meaningless on first inspection, closer study over a period of time revealed a wholly unexpected tendency of these dubious dyads to prove meaningful after all. Often they turned out to be among the most interesting dyads.- Moreover, even when careful consideration failed to validate, or at least to precise or explain the meaning, of these questionable dyads, they frequently seemed to confront the mind with stimulating problems and possibilities or to be possessed of anomalous worth.
In fact the 21,025-dyad Emotional Space defined by these rudimentary propositions awakened in my mind the image of a great crystal with 21,025 largely or wholly irredundant cells. It almost seemed as if the totality of the dyads would have to exist through simple necessity, in order to accommodate the full actual or potential range of man's emotional life; or in fulfillment of some transcendental structure.
I was taught another lesson while exploring this finite space. Although the space was explicitly comprised of 150 primary emotions and 21,025 emotional dyads, prolonged experience with these finite elements had the effect of revolutionizing the way in which one saw these discrete elements. In fact, paradoxically, they seemed to progressively fade away, to surrender their specialness and individuality, their very finitude and importance. They suddenly appeared in a different and rather bizarre light, that of temporarily necessary fictions by means of which the mind can ultimately arrive at the more fundamental insight: that although the emotions seem discrete, divisible, and denumerable, in reality they are merely protean nuances of continuous and holistic processes.
Put simply, all (named) emotions are functions of all other (named) emotions. Only by examining the totality of mutual combinatorial possibilities of these (named) emotions can the arbitrariness of such emotional categories be recognized and transcended by the mind. It is a rite of passage.
Perhaps every human being should experience this particular ideonomic exercise for the bit of psychological enlightenment, or human wisdom, it alone may be able to afford.
One thing more should be touched on in passing from the topic of the self-intersection of the list of 145 emotions.
By rendering either the first, adjectival term, or else the second, nounal term, of the dyadic ideogenetic formula invariant-in other words, by choosing and installing in either adjectival or nounal form a single emotion-a set of 144 (or 145, should an apparent tautology be illusory) variations upon that emotion can be created. In the second case one might define (or tend to define) all of the 144-5 seemingly canonical forms or modifications of love, say, or of fear; and in the first case, all of the 144-5 different emotions that can be modified by love or fear. (Please see the two tables "145 Canonical Forms Or Modifications of 'Love'" and "145 Emotions As Modified By 'Love"'.)
Even if one did the last pair of exercises just once, one would thereafter view any emotion in a more complex, subtle, embracive, and holistic way.
The second primary list I alluded to earlier was "638 Personality Traits".
My original reason for creating this enormous list (or set) was to learn whether the methods of combinatorial ideonomy could prove helpful in opening up, specifying, nominating, distinguishing, ordering, legislating, indexing, communicating, reducing, and otherwise investigating the universe of all actual and possible traits, types, and processes of human character and behavior.
I was interested in gaining insight into such questions as: Can the universe of personality traits be circumscribed? Has it some sort of characterizable and consequential boundary? Are there limits or no limits to human variability, diversity, and psychogenesis? Are there polar tendencies or attractors?
Do character traits have analogical, hierarchical, or even homological sets, subsets, and supersets; or to what extent do they reduce to general or independent series, trees, hierarchies, clusters, mosaics, matrixes, networks, cycles, recursions, groups, or other so-called meta-structures and meta-processes?
Is-or to what extent is-existing language adequate to analyze and express
man's character or psychology?
How redundant are names, concepts, and manifestations of character traits? How similar, different, overlapping, orthogonal, inconsistent, etc?
To what extent does our knowledge of such traits -or of human nature-obstruct
further knowledge of same?
What are the essences, internal structures, descriptive and ontic coordinates, compositions, dynamics, ambiguities and other misleading aspects, ecological relationships, corollaries, causes, combinations, permutations, transformations, evolutions, symmetries and asymmetries, incompatibilities and synergisms, etc of the traits?
Are traits well or poorly defined or well or poorly known?
How correlated and interdependent are traits? Does knowledge, description, or investigation of individual traits presuppose such knowledge et cetera of certain or all other traits; and are traits fundamentally divisible or indivisible? Are traits of character field-like or insular; molar or atomic; continuous or discrete; structural or functional; primary or secondary (derivative); etc?
If traits (or their names) are combined with other traits: do novel arise, are old(primary) traits simply reidentified, are lesser-order or instead higher-order traits identified, do the old traits take on new meaning, are certain relationships conserved, are old traits interlinked or mutually derived, are possible variants and properties exhausted, etc?
And more specifically, I wanted to see whether the exponentially enlarging sets of characterological dyads (l0^5.6), triads (10^8.4), tetrads (10^11), pentads (10^14), etc would: degenerate, remain meaningful, stay comprehensible, continue to be useful, etc.
I wished to learn whether the bare combinations of character traits would be sufficient to describe the possibilities, or whether instead the addition of one or more modifying or grammatical elements would be necessary to make the combinations (ideonomic propositions) meaningful, precise, univocal, useful, optimal, universal, interrelatable, etc.
Would the order (permutation) of the terms matter? What types of orders would produce what different and disparate meanings and opportunities? What would be the causes and implications of these ordinal sensitivities (or sensitivities to either temporal or intrinsic order)?
My investigations of these questions, though perforce severely limited because of the much wider scope of the ideonomy project, certainly did produce many relevant insights and discoveries, and the great potential value of combinatorial ideonomy was clearly demonstrated.
One day I became curious to see what might result if the separate lists of emotions and personality traits were intersected, or their different but related types of items were combined.
I could have combined the emotions as antecedent adjectives with the personality traits as postcedent nouns, which would have generated such clearly meaningful and often interesting dyads as "defensive eloquence", "wondering loyalty", and "happy brutality".
But I decided to focus my attention instead upon dyads having the two
sets of terms in the reverse order.
When I programmed a computer to assemble and display these character trait-emotion dyads in a swift and seemingly interminable stream, and then commanded it to begin, I suddenly found myself introduced into a fantastic and fascinating world of psychological possibilities. In a way it was as if I had gained direct access to the zoo of the human psyche, or been given a prism for diffracting the iridescent light of the soul.
Hyperbole? Judge for yourself. See "A Kaleidoscope of Human Emotions, Emotional Situations, Reactions, and Attitudes: 168-Dyad (0.2%) Sample of 92,510-Dyad Idea Space : '638 Personality Traits' x 1145 Emotions"'. The table is basically a random and unwinnowed 1/500th sample of the giant master space, but within it the items have been partitioned into five subsets to illustrate the heterogeneity of the table's interests and potential uses.
A sensation of gazing upon the face of a new world, I should mention, is a frequent experience in ideonomy. It happens so often, in fact, that the familiar world ultimately itself comes to seem peculiar, new, unlikely, and as yet unexplored. Perhaps that is its nature sub specie aeternitatis.
The complexity of the table's title evinces my persisting uncertainty about what the dyads mean exactly or may mean in full. ldeonomy takes one down some strange corridors and into strange rooms, and makes one think at times that one has been led, purposefully and mischievously, into a house of mirrors, or that the world has been made to stand on its head.
The full impact of the idea space that we are sampling cannot possibly be gotten by viewing the tiny piece of it that was all that could be fitted into this chapter. Readers can easily program their microcomputers to create, in a printout or upon a spreadsheet that can be traveled over electronically at will, the entire 92,510-dyad space.
(Ed: We have written a program designed to generate such dyads in the web. Click here to run the program to generate emotion-emotion dyads. Click here to run the program to generate Personality Traits-emotions dyads.).
The real importance of confronting the whole of this space does not lie in the grandeur of the experience, however. For - and here we touch on a principle of general ideonomic importance - when an ideonomic space, list, or set is "essentially everywhere rich or self-irredundant" (to use without explaining some of the jargon of the field), the meaning of each part of the space, list, or set grows or is amplified (sometimes even exponentially) as more and more of the whole is examined. The whole provides a magnifying context. (The same remark could be made about ideonomy in its totality.)
The five partitions of the 168-dyad sample, and the percentages of the total sample they represented, were (in order of size): "Funny" (44%). Dyads such as "placid self-pity", "bland love", "glamorous acceptance", "sarcastic desire", "innovative submissiveness", and "sage despair" struck me as being humorous or especially amusing, often through paradox or absurdity. Naturally these represented my own personal reactions-or my own reactions at the time. No doubt other persons would disagree with my reactions and have their own favorites. But I would predict that statistical studies would reveal that people in general fall into certain groups, clusters, distributions, and meta-structures. Once these statistical patterns were identified, moreover, I am certain that they could be used to predict, not only preferences of these and other people within the sample, but reactions throughout the entire 92,510-dyad space; and indeed, the sense of humor and personality of people in general, or beyond the space. Actually I have already found that my choice of items as supposedly humorous roughly fits what others see as funny, though of course they may laugh at the items for reasons supposedly or in reality somewhat different from my own.
Studies of such subsets of humorous reactions, and of their raisons d'etre, could serve to clarify the nature of humor and of its processes, types, dimensions, relationships, etc.
Let me speculate, in a necessarily brief and superficial way, about
why I may find those six dyads amusing.
"Placid self-pity" speaks to the fact that even self-pity can be refined into a condition of some tranquillity and complacency; the tearful soul may find it more comfortable to recline on his arms even in his puddle of woe.
"Bland love" tickles me because it sticks a pin in the pretension that love must always be keen and earnest, that to speak of love of a marginal nature must be a contradiction. The reality is that love can be perfectly prosaic, as well as entirely hypocritical, and that even where love is tiny it may remain sincere.
"Glamorous acceptance" probably reminds us of how apt we are to exaggerate the importance of the acts of persons whom we see as glamorous, and also that even something as simple as acceptance can be made glamorous or can be done glamorously. Moreover, perhaps the glamour of a film star accepting the reward of an academy has bathetic echoes (humorous direct or metaphoric analogies) in our own ordinary, day-to-day lives.
The charm of "sarcastic desire" could lodge in the fact that acid wit often masks bitter frustration over being denied some pleasure, or even simple envy. It may affect to ridicule an advantage that it secretely covets, being a form of sublimation. The humorist may seek to diminish what looms largest on his orectic horizon.
The ludicrous extremes to which servility and meekness may go are invoked by "innovative submissiveness". We are reminded that one can be flexible without being pliant, and that even when it is necessary to yield to the inevitable one can do so with dignity.
Finally, "sage despair" may give words to what cant would hide: that on occasion it is wise to despair. Some situations are irrecoverably bad, and their immediate abandonment may be called for. The phrase also points to the psychological independence of wisdom and temperament: a sage may be by nature either a pessimist or an optimist; a man may be uncommonly wise and yet prone to irrational fits of despair.
"Well-Said But Semantically Ordinary" (22%). The next-largest subjective
partition includes dyads that I felt to be unusually expressive, even eloquent,
and yet rather ordinary in their meaning; of an interest, in other words,
more literary than philosophic or psychological. Examples are "emotional
hurry", "gallant rejection", "suave disbelief", "crazy gaiety", "cold caution",
and even "mellow combativeness" and "purposeful courage".
The percentages of the sample represented by the five partitions have been found to closely correspond to the percentages of the full idea space that equivalent partitions would represent. It is therefore implied that about 20,000 eloquent dyads-equivalent to these-obtain in the space. Both litterateurs and people in general might spend time examining this huge set of 143 x 143 dyads for the ideas it might give for the polishing or modification of their style of writing or speech, or for the light it could throw upon the style of other writers and writings.
"Interesting, Often Paradoxical" (19%). Dyads in this partition, equivalent to 17,577 items in the total space, may variously be any of the following: especially interesting; often productive of an important insight, clue, paradox, new idea, or chain of thoughts; appealing as metaphor, figure, analog, synecdoche, half-truth, ellipsis, oxymoron or antiphrasis, hypallage, phrase, meiosis, or metonymy; instructively catachrestic, provocative, iconoclastic, or suggestive of a new taxon (of feeling or attitude, say); queerly, absurdly meaningful; or simply tentatively interesting.
The scientist might be drawn to this subset. In it he might find revelations about human nature-, or hints of important new research to pursue-or of ways of pursuing it.
Inspecting and pondering these dyads, one may gain insights into oneself. Old thoughts and interests may be revived. The actual complexity of the world may suddenly be brought home to one. Assumptions about what is impossible or nonexistent may be shed. Queer relationships among people may come to mind. Rich and illuminating images of what people are and say and do may parade before one. Human motivations, motives, and feelings that one had never before considered-or been able to consider-may occur to one. Imaginary stories of lives may flood the mind. The sources and meaning of virtue and vice may be clarified.
Examples of dyads in this partition are: "chummy wonder", "sane loneliness", "warm gravity", "skeptical respect", "devious ferocity", and "amoral devotion".
Among the things that one might learn from these few dyads are: that some feelings of wonder may not spring from objective observation of the intrinsic properties of external phenomena but rather from the intersubjective dynamics of a human relationship; that sometimes aloneness may be born of a greater sanity, or solitude may be healthy; that a subtle and special warmth may be discoverable in a grave person, and that warmth and gravity are by no means incompatible emotions; that one may respect a person about whom one is skeptical, or be skeptical about a person one respects; that ferocity can paradoxically express itself slowly, disguisedly, and cunningly; and that it is possible to be devout about the amoral, or amorally religious, or a virtuous servant of an abomination.
What one learns about some of the dyads can enhance or combine with what one learns about the other dyads. Dyads that have already been examined may be worth examining again.
"Possessed Of Little Or No Meaning Or Merit, Or Tautologous" (10%).
What is meant by a tautologous dyad here is a dyad whose first and second
terms are more or less synonymous, so that the dyad is malformed and nugatory:
"upright honor" being an example. Of course such a dyad may still have
Dyads such as "progressive wonder" and "modern deceit" fail (in my eyes) because they lack interest and specificity.
"Trite" (5%). "Old-fashioned anger", "solid affection", and "preoccupied anxiety" are both semantically and literarily ordinary, even though they are clearly meaningful. This and the foregoing subset are so similar or poorly distinguished that they should probably be united.
Obviously the five partitions or subsets intergrade. Many of the dyads are such that they could be assigned to two or more of the subsets. This is especially true of some of the "funny" and "interesting" dyads, many of which are both humorous and interesting in a more general way. Moreover, the partitioning of the 168 dyads was done quickly, and in retrospect I would say that a number of errors were made. The original assignments have however been retained, for no other reason than that there has been insufficient time to correct all known and unknown, or arguable, errors, at least in the first edition of this book.
The 92,510 dyads are interesting in part simply because of the fact that, having been generated mechanically, they are guaranteed to be fresh. They did not originate in-they were not-fashioned and they have not been winnowed or reshaped by-any human mind. They do not come to us thanks to great chains of human beings that have passed them along with continual changes and numberless errors. They have not as yet been analyzed, categorized, and interpreted by anyone. They do not represent anyone's experiences, theories, preferences, or prejudices. Hence they more nearly partake of the character of natural phenomena, and to this extent are like primary entities.
Some crucial questions are:
Granted that the dyads created by our 'human kaleidoscope' are thrilling the first time one encounters them. But do they go on being thrilling? Do such dyads lose much of their excitement when the kaleidoscope is experienced again the next day? And the day after that?
The answer is that new dyads produced by the human kaleidoscope, or encountered for the first time, show no tendency to have diminished interest. New dyads have new interest or impress the mind as being genuinely novel. They do not seem to lose interest through some essential and cumulative redundancy, or because the initial interest of the kaleidoscope was that of a novelty, or owing to mental fatigue, or because mental generalization leads to virtual convergence or exhausts possibilities, or because of the relatively small size and constant reuse of the two primary lists (organons), or because in effect there is only so much that the human mind wishes to know (about human psychology).
If anything, on the contrary, successive encounters with the kaleidoscope,
or experience with more and more dyads, leads to a growing interest in
the dyads and greater curiosity about those dyads that remain.
Another question has to do with the graph or curve representing the total number of dyads, in the set of all dyads, possessed of different degrees of interest. - Are there dyads of ever greater interest? If one took the 10% (9,251) most interesting dyads, then the 1% (925) most interesting dyads, then the 0.1% (93) most interesting, followed by the 10^-4 (9) most interesting, and finally the 10^-5 or single most interesting dyad: would the degree of interest of the successive subsets grow in inverse proportion to their diminishing size?
Again the answer seems to be yes, at least as a first approximation. The longer one searches the 92,510-dyad idea space, the more interesting are the most interesting dyads that come to light. Although of course the process will end once the finite space has been exhausted.
There are several different ways of locating the best dyads in the full space. Here "best" can mean indefinitely many alternative things, depending on the criterion or combined criteria that interest one or that may operate in a given instance or with respect to some purpose. It might, for example, mean highest-ranking in personally or 'universally' perceived comicality, meaningfulness, expressive power or elegance, archetypal human meaning, ideogenetic effect, inexplicable fascination, revelatory quality, familiarity, unusualness, semantic complexity, absurdity, or even ugliness.
Obviously the simplest way to locate the best dyads is to peruse the entire 92,510-item list. In a general sense, this could also be described as the best possible approach. Certainly it is the one method that insures direct inspection of every candidate, or of every named locus in the space. But it has its defects, including the long and hard mental task it imposes, the strains it places upon human memory, and the errors it must result in owing to the diachronic instability of the perusing mind. Moreover, its executional inelegance will-given human nature-diminish the inspiration and profitable excitement of the user. The absolute need for such thoroughness might also be questioned.
Yet the examination of almost 100,000 items is not necessarily as big a chore as it might seem on first consideration. In an eight-hour workday there are 28,800 work-seconds, and so, if the big list could be read at 120 words per minute, say, or about the speed the average person reads a book, then 25.7 work-hours-or a bit over 3 workdays -would suffice to acquaint one with the total set of dyads. Of course this is ideal, and it makes no allowance for the time required to winnow any favored item, for backtracking, or for periodically 'clearing the mind' or reminding oneself of the basic task and criteria. Let us say therefore that the task of perusing and winnowing a 92,510-dyad (or 185,020-word) list might demand something in the range of 1-3 work-weeks to be done properly.
The initial winnow or 'skimming of the scream' might cull the 10% (or 9,251) of the dyads judged best. Successive 10% winnows could yield the diminishing series of 925 (or 1%) overall best, 93 (or 0.1%) overall best, 9 (or 1/10,000) overall best, and 1 supremely best dyads. This would enlarge the total worktime required (to perform 102,788 dyadic winnowings) by a factor of 1.1. The result would be the scaling of the 92,510 dyads on a 6-point logarithmic scale of degrees of 'goodness' (by some criterion).
Of course 6 degrees can hardly be compared with the 92,510-degree scale that would, in effect, be produced by the superhumanly laborious complete linear ordering of the entire set of kaleidoscopic dyads.
Another way to locate the best dyads would cause one to initially sample a small portion of the full idea space. One would winnow the best dyads in this sample and then use a computer to rank the terms that figured in the best dyads according to their relative frequency of occurrence (with separate rankings for the first and second dyadic terms). An alternative approach here would be to directly rank (or, say, to scale cardinally) the perceived individual or universal (combinatorial) goodness of the first and second terms. In either case, the resultant rankings would then to used to predict the best dyads, or the goodness of dyads, not just in the small sample subset but throughout the entire 92,510-dyad space (or table).
This method has been demonstrated to work by experiments with other idea spaces, but, despite its economies, it has its drawbacks. The gravest defect of the method is that it tends to be insensitive to dyads whose source of interest is sui generis or poorly characterized by the criteria that operated in the sample or that distinguished the sample's dyads. The particular type and degree of problems the method has will depend upon which of its sub-methods are actually used.
A third way to locate the best dyads in the full space is by employing some form of multidimensional scaling. This might mean that one would rank all the first and second terms of all the dyads in a sample of the space for their perceived degree of similarity or analogy to a few (say 5%-10%) of those first or second terms (once again with the first and second terms being treated separately, or ranked only with respect to other first and second terms). As has been shown repeatedly elsewhere, these very fractional rankings or weightings can be used by a computer to predict scaling (say for 'goodness') in the larger set of ideonomic propositions. Such multidimensional scaling, moreover, can also predict multiple types of 'goodness', or complex locational clustering of propositions in a multidimensional 'goodness' space (convolvedly implicit in one's-naive or nonmetric-intuitive rankings beforehand).
Without looking at the total space I can nonetheless scan a part of it a few times larger than the 168-dyad sample we have already considered for the sake of identifying one or two dyads correspondingly 'better' than the best dyads apt to occur in the lesser sample and for enabling readers to understand the predicted growth in goodness of dyads of higher and higher rank. Two such higher dyads might be "busy boredom" and "suave adoration".
That predicted by the second method that was discussed above can easily be tested by taking "busy" as the first term of the first dyad and "adoration" as the second term of the second dyad and checking to see the breadth of interest possessed by those new dyads that can be formed by substituting these floating first and second terms for the existing first or second terms, respectively, of the dyads that happen to be represented in the 168-dyad sample.
My own impression when doing this is that the dyads that are produced
by this indicated transformation are indeed generally superior and rather
in the proportion, and measure, that one would expect. Thus the substitution
of "busy" as a first term yields such interesting dyads as "busy innocence",
"busy defensiveness", "busy playfulness", "busy remorse", "busy terror",
and "busy adoration". And the substitution of "adoration" as a universal
second term fills our arms at once with such felicitous dyads as "artful
adoration", "big-thinking adoration", "captivating adoration", "cerebral
adoration", "desperate adoration", "dirty adoration", "forgetful adoration",
"grand adoration", "helpful adoration", "inert adoration", and "painstaking
What is the value or interest, or the possible use, of the dyads that the Human Kaleidoscope creates? I will touch on a few of the possibilities.
I have found over the past several years that dyads like these, and
sometimes these very dyads, occur in the writings of the great: in Shakespeare,
Dickens, and others. Often it is the great metaphors of the latter that
reduce to such dyads. And often it is precisely the most striking elements
of the text of these individuals that are these dyads. Even the absurdity
and unexpectedness that is so typical of the dyads of the Human Kaleidoscope
will be found in the like dyads of great literature as a frequent and explanatory
Do the dyads there act as nuclei upon which, and from which, the crystallization of the whole masterpiece occurs? Or do the dyads precipitate out of the great work as crystallizations of its essence - or perhaps symbols for the memory? Or possibly as seeds from which other great literature may subsequently arise, or as nodes interconnecting all great works in synoptic networks? Do monads, dyads, triads, and other simplest elements capture the fundamental, orthogonal, and universal combinatorial, permutational, transformational, and evolutionary dimensions of a work, reflect and re-reflect them throughout a work, and define its living architecture? Are they the most powerful alchemical agents, in a psychological sense? Are they the simplest (most compact or intermediate' means) for the intertransformation of remote or general things? Again, is there any sense in which they might be said to be cellular automata from which a literary work - in the measure to which it is artistic - develops by recursion?
Are there hints here that creative genius is in essence ideonomic?
Might art be ideonomic propositions rendered fractally?