What Is Ideonomy?
About the Name
Ultimate Purview of Science
Idea of An Idea
Nature of Science
Relations To Other Fields
Historical Anticipations
Personal Origins
History of the Ideonomy Project
Back to Homepage

What Is Ideonomy?

The short but most exact definition of ideonomy is the science of ideas. By a longer definition, it is the pure and applied science of ideas and their laws, and of the use of same to describe, generate, investigate, or otherwise treat all possible ideas related to any subject, problem, thing, or other idea. 

The reference to 'all possible ideas' might seem pretentious, but to some extent it really speaks of an ideal goal of ideonomy, rather to a thoroughness that is practically or directly attainable. On the other hand, there are mechanisms and means in ideonomy for very often achieving, or drawing surprisingly dose to accomplishing, this goal on a finite basis. This will become apparent as one's picture of the new science grows. 

The 'laws' of ideas may simply be general patterns or significant regularities that, as such, have a somewhat law-like nature. 

When a science is young or newly born, its scientific status is necessarily weak. Such laws as it might lay claim to will be crude, approximate, and tentative, and perhaps more nearly of the character of principles, rules, or speculative postulates. The exception will be more finished laws imported from sciences already existing. 

This juvenile status will apply, not just to the laws of the science, but to the subject as a whole. Sciences are born from something rather less than science. They are the unappealing product of unorganized facts, of a turgid and amorphous cloud of voiceless intuitions and half-formed ideas. Their entrance into the world may be guided and superintended by a bright vision, and encouraged by conditions in the general environment that are favorable and timely. 

It is a wise world that does not judge too harshly of its young. It is well to wait a bit to see what will develop, and even to assist a new arrival in its trial steps. This is especially true where the infant is so unusual that it promises to be something altogether different. 

About the Name

Supposedly the word ideonomy was first coined by the French Encyclopedists, and they, too, are said to have used it to designate a science of ideas. What is unclear is whether these men made any actual contribution to the building of ideonomy, especially in the present sense. Perhaps they simply employed the word as a synonym for logic, pantology, philosophy in general, or philosophy applied to creative or social purposes. 

Ideology, in its original meaning, was the science of ideas; and the first definition of it given by Webster's Third is, 'a branch of knowledge concerned with the origin and nature of ideas". 

But tragically, from the present standpoint, the word eventually came to be used mainly in quite different ways, to refer to generic or particular doctrines or world views, and especially to sociopolitical programs, often of an extremist character. These things are virtually antithetical to what is meant by ideonomy, and, in fact, one hope in founding ideonomy is that it will sooner or later function as something of an antidote to the many petty, obnoxious, irrational, idiosyncratic, and heinous ideologies that flourish in and pollute contemporary civilization. Whereas ideologies typically offer simplistic pictures of reality whose main effect is to shut the human mind down, ideonomy by contrast represents a perpetual search for ever more universal, fundamental, and transcendent laws of ideas, the effect of which is to progressively divest the mind of all prejudices. 

Perhaps if ideonomy develops into an accepted and successful science, the ideonomic community-with the ease of future telecommunicational technology-will one day vote to rename the field by restoring the much-to-be-preferred word ideology to its original meaning. The word ideonomy could then continue to be used within the science of ideas, but in the more narrow sense of referring simply to laws of ideas or to the study thereof. 

The Purview of Sciece

That which can be treated scientifically is not fixed, but rather expands continuously over time. Things that previously were always beyond the reach of scientific method, or that no one had thought to treat scientifically, have either abruptly or gradually, but at the right historical moment, become the subject matter of a new science, or of an old science given added power. 

The set of remaining things not amenable to the methods of any scientific specialty has at the same time always shrunk proportionately. The overall process could easily be extrapolated, causing one to arrive at the qualitative conclusion that eventually, and at a point not so distant in our future, all (at least all known or familiar) categories of things and phenomena will at last succumb to the evolving engine of science. 

Someone sufficiently clever might even find it to be possible to make the great extrapolation not merely qualitative but also quantitative, by affixing some actual date to the time in the future when this expansion and engulfment is apt to have been essentially completed. Probably this universal milestone will be attained somewhere in the second half of the twenty-first century. 

Let it be emphasized that what is being predicted here is not in any sense the final end of scientific discovery (indeed, the concept of such an end may even be meaningless for the sort of infinite process that the scientific adventure is likely to represent); but rather a day and age when there will no longer be major exceptions to the universality of scientific inquiry and capability. 

The last great category of natural phenomena to surrender itself to the rigorous investigatory methods, tools, and goals of the scientific endeavor may turn out to be ideas. 

This is a prediction that cannot help but puzzle many people. "Ideas! Which ideas?' they will wonder. "Ideas about what? Do not the various sciences already treat ideas? Is that not simply what is meant by theory? Or by the construction of hypotheses? Or by the pioneering speculations of the most imaginative scientists?' 

The ideas that are being referred to, however, are all ideas. Especially ones that are independent of any single discipline or set of disciplines, and yet that are simultaneously illustrated by and applicable to the treatment of all possible categories of things. 

I am afraid that saying this will do little to ease the perplexity of these people. "Either there are no such absolutely universal ideas,' they will protest, 'or they are few! And even if there are any ideas of this sort, then surely they can have almost no abstract or practical importance.' 

Of course between ideas that would be 'absolutely universal' (whatever that might mean) and ideas possessed of the range of generality that is exhibited by the various concepts of today's specialized sciences, there might be any number of intermediate levels of generality of ideas- populated by an unknown number of ideas-and these might be of arbitrarily great importance. Up until now we may have lacked the necessary means, or perhaps the interest or will, to penetrate into and develop this intervening conceptual and cognitive realm, and in its undeveloped state it may give the illusion of being ordinary, unimportant, and incapable of any special degree or form of development. 

What may conceivably be of supreme intellectual importance is the discovery or progressive description of a single unified continuum that extends from whatever concepts are of the greatest possible universality to whatever notions are of the least; in other words, the working out of the finite or infinite manner in which ideas of every degree of generality are continuously derived from one another. 

Idea of an Idea

Yet what does it mean to speak of an 'idea'?

Oddly enough, even though ideas are obviously the central theme, or operational 'atom', of ideonomy, the problem of what the fundamental nature and deftion of 'idea' is-or of what the generic concept or thing 'idea' represents-may lie outside the scope of ideonomy itself. The matter might more properly be addressed by such fields as noology, neurology, artificial intelligence, and even philosophy. 

Or perhaps the issue really belongs to meta-ideonomy, much as the ultimate nature of number, and of mathematics itself, are the natural concern of metamathematics. (When the prefix 'meta' is added to the name of a subject, it entitles inquiry into the subject's foundations.) 

These questions not only touch on deep, unresolved issues in philosophy, but also suggest an empirical need for the future planning and execution of certain scientific experiments aimed at clarifying the nature of mental phenomena and the mutual relationship of the physical and mental orders. 

At the present time it would be as pretentious to ask ideonomy for, as for ideonomy to attempt to furnish, any final or profound definition of 'idea'. 

Of course, an ideonomist whose life was threatened would no doubt say many impressive things. 'Ideas,' he might announce, 'are simply [significant and irredundant] rational [cognitive as opposed to essentially psychic] states [either discrete or quasi-discrete]', 'are generic things', "are patterns of patterns', 'are all that is higher', 'are patterns that regulate thought, or 'are transitive mental states." 

Ennoia is an Ancient Greek feminine noun meaning idea, concept, or thought. Or etymologically, 'a thing within the mind - which probably is still the most honest definition of 'idea'! 

A source of confusion here is no doubt a fallacious concern over the assertion that ideonomy is to be the science of ideas. All sciences are sciences both of ideas and things, and they investigate the nature and possibilities of general ideas. 

Ideonomy differs from other sciences only in the degree of universality of its ideas and interests, or in their irreducibility to any field or finite set of fields. A science such as biology is not regarded as less plausible because of the fact that, despite its use of concepts, it is unable to give a rigorous and essential definition of 'concept. 

Once again, although ideonomy is the science of ideas in general, it is particularly interested in discovering, developing, and using ideas that are possessed of the greatest possible generality. In other words, the more general given ideas are, the more interest they are apt to have to ideonomy. 

At least this is true as a first approximation, since other properties condition the ideonomic interest and importance of different ideas, including the fundamentality, the simplicity and complexity, and the generative and explanatory power of ideas. 

Nature of Science

Perhaps the most meaningful procedure to define ideonomy would be to say first what science in general is, and then to specialize this definition. 

Science is organized knowledge and systematized inquiry. 

It is the rigorous separation of truth from speculation, the methodical distillation of massive appearances and possibilities into the least and simplest realities. 

It is the progressive discovery and employment of the most powerful principles of reasoning applicable in general or effective in specific cases. 

It is the classification of things into analogous and derived types. 

It is the discovery of the practical uses of knowledge. 

It is the identification, and fitting together, of the continuities and discontinuities of things. 

It is the having of all possible ideas, and their subsequent winnowing on the basis of experimental validation, explanatory power, and practical value. 

It is the comprehensive exploration of all of the possible symmetries, combinations, permutations, transformations, evolutions, generalizations, and specializations of things, and the subsequent development of theories representing same in the most compatible, unified, synergistic, necessary, and predictive ways. 

Is the ability to make reliable and accurate predictions about things in general. 

Although many other things can and should be said in an effort to fully characterize the nature of science, these partial de@tions will do for the moment. 

To understand what is meant by ideonomy, then, imagine how each of these remarks might apply to any particular science, and especially to a science centered on the nature and uses of universal concepts. 

By way of illustration, just as chemistry includes organized knowledge about molecules, and biology involves systematic inquiry into the nature of organisms, so ideonomy encompasses organized knowledge of and systematic 'mqiury regarding, ideas. 

Suffice it to say that ideonomy embraces any mean, method, concept, or research that might illustrate @or contribute. to a science of ideas; and therefore whatever enables ideas to be: discovered, described, compared, categorized, criticized tested, improved, combined, manipulated, changed, boiled down into their essence, diffracted into their multitudinous possibilities, investigated, communicated, taught, predicted or used predictively, or exploited. 

Relation to Other Fields

It is easier to understand ideonomy in the context of other fields, both old and new, to which it bears some analogy. 

It should be stressed, however, that although ideonomy is similar to, and in fact often complements and overlaps, these subjects, it is not to be confused with them, for it is easily shown to be a quite distinct and special discipline. 

Ideonomy is intimately related to, and yet in many ways the opposite of, mathematics. There are powerful analogies, as well as homologies, between mathematics and ideonomy in terms of their structure, concepts, techniques, and purposes. The parallel is especially striking if the central theme of mathematics is considered to be order rather than number. 

Indeed, if mathematics is a superscience of the quantitative laws of Nature, then ideonomy may ultimately lead to the emergence of a sister superscience of the qualitative laws of the universe or of physico-mental reality. 

Philosophy and ideonomy might be thought synonymous, since both could be defined as universal inquiry into the nature and possibilities of ideas. Yet the word philosophy evokes very different pictures in the mind than ideonomy should. 

Few philosophers would describe themselves as scientists, and few scientists would credit philosophy with practicing the scientific method. 

Philosophy is really a maternal or miscellaneous discipline from which all other subjects originally spring. Ideonomy is itself a child of philosophy. 

Logic, ideally the science of reasoning, is more concerned with the processes and products, than with the ideonomic elements, of reasoning. Moreover, the course of its development from Aristotle to the present day has been more idiosyncratic and specialized than what the concept of a science of reason would suggest. Its most advanced branch, formal logic, has been sterile, abstract, and largely useless, at least until very recently. 

Noology, or what is currently termed cognitive science, is ideally the science treating all the possible forms and laws of intelligence. It is essentially concerned with modeling human and other minds and with fashioning a valid, fundamental, and universal theory of mind and cognitive phenomena. It is to be distinguished from psychology, the science of all actual and possible psyches and psychological phenomena, and the laws and behavioral manifestations thereof. 

The related field of artiflcial intelligence is the branch of computer science that endeavors to invest machines with mind and reason, or, ideally, that would create all possible types and degrees of intelligence. 

One of the natural subfields of noology should be modeling ideation, and of artificial intelligence the automation of ideation, but for some mysterious reason mere traces of these subfields are all that can so far be found in those disciplines. Yet for this very reason the future emergence of ideonomy as an independent science should have high interest to cognitive and computer scientists. 

Conversely, the methods 'and discoveries of noology and artificial intelligence will always be of enormous interest to ideonomy. 

A field related to both ideonomy and artificial intelligence, but which is now (or in 1990) only a few years old, momentarily calls itself artificial life, or artificial evolution. Its concern is with modeling and mechanizing, not just mind, but life as a whole or in its essence. The principle that underlies this day-old science is the realization that the fundamental properties of 'life' are by no means confined to, but rather are merely illustrated by, natural biology-that in fact or probability they are universal properties of all natural phenomena (transcendental as well as physical), and profoundly applicable to the future design and operation of all technology. 

Artificial life is using processes of competition, mutation, recombination, natural selection, and massively parallel computation to enable things such as art, aircraft engines, ant behavior, software, societies, and ideas to evolve-to emerge, change, and become better- inside a computer. 

The field of systems science deals, as does ideonomy, with the organization of large patterns and dynamic processes in a universal and abstract way. But naturally the unit upon which it focuses is essentially just that of a 'system', which clearly is a far less general thing than the 'idea' of ideonomy. Although systems science at present remains largely systems engineering, which is a branch of technology and a servant of industry, it is starting to become the tool of all the sciences that is its natural destiny. 

The subfield, or superfield, of Lieneral systems theory is closer to ideonomy, but has yet to develop beyond philosophy and dilettantism. 

Back to Homepage