C-14. Characterization

A familiar argument, and sometimes rationalization, offered by organizations purporting to serve community interests but acting against, or in neglect of, those interests, in defense of those practices is that the organization must survive if it is to serve. Media sensationalism and pandering are cases in point.

Displayed here is a priority and bias that pervades the human condition. Behavioral entities, in light of the collisions endemic to the Nature of things’ partial order, discontinuity and consequentiality, must be aware of, alert to, and attend to their body’s well being, especially in view of potential collision with other bodies, and thereby giving primacy of focal attention to bodies and body-body relationships.

For introduction to or repeated encounters with these other bodies (collisions to be avoided or arranged), identification (a form of differentiation) becomes a paramount concern. So words and language used for identification tend to follow this limited functionality. Nouns (subject and object) and adjectives together with transitive verbs (body-body relationships) reflect this emphasis.

The principle of least effort holds sway here. A proper noun may be preferred for identification if it can be afforded. Otherwise characterization is employed, expressed as object and attribute (O-A), with communication objectifying the focus of attention whatever its empirical condition. This technique uses cognition’s inside-outside relation (I-O) to attribute (v) anything, even a step, as a property – aka as an attribute (n). thereby making a point or points ABOUT sufficient to achieve identification – i.e., the point AT the focus of attention for the situation and its participants. Circumstances may tax sufficiency, requiring more points ABOUT to identify the point AT, such as when a message sender must cope with receiver inexperience. (See C-8)

This mode of characterization (I-O, O-A) is widely popular, so much so that we tend to establish any condition as object, when it is the focus of attention, and then proceed to characterize (e.g., define) it by its observed and/or imputed properties (including steps as properties) – even to the extent of including relationships as properties. (The latter being sometimes called relational terms – to the distress of Hempel’s careful empirical distinction between property terms and relational terms.)

We have seen earlier (X) another reason for the popularity of this I-O, O-A mode of characterization: The I-O relation tolerates the O-A being flipped to A-O, such that the object is now an instance of a category: the attribute has become a concept. And the ladder of abstraction is established. A higher order concept may subsume this and other concepts (and their object instances). And so on until there is one reigning concept for every particular. Maybe. The proceeding does, however, enable the use of logical necessity as a tool for handling particulars.

This mode of characterization may work, after the fact, to identify particular before-after relationships, and particular behaviors qua actions (i.e., behavioral molecules) seen as such, but constructive behavior before the fact is couched primarily in terms of need and ideal realization of that need (an obvious redundancy). Functionality is short-changed.

Sufficiency and necessity are adopted from logic to help describe compositional functionality, but they fall short of being able to specify the behavioral conditions involved in constructive behavior (See C-11: Control foci). The before-after relation (X), the heart of consequentially, must turn to behavioral necessity as a companion tool to logical necessity.

It is in this perspective that we have come to sometimes identify a condition in terms of its behavior qua property. Which is to say, “Is as does.”

Hypostatization thrives. Here function follows structure, but not vice versa – this in the face of achieved and needed invention and in violation of the dynamic interdependence of structure and function (XI).

Behaviors (i.e., particulars conceived of as actions) are accommodated as body properties, via adjectives, if they are not represented by a verb. Tellingly, the intransitive verb is not as common as the transitive (in English), and intransitive forms are more likely to be archaic than the transitive forms of the same verb. Amazingly, “cognize” has no intransitive. “Compose” has an intransitive, but only to take an adverb: e.g., “well” or “poorly,” thereby limited to characterizing the agent. (The several transitives for compose allude to different circumstances, music and printing, in which composing figures.). We can compose well, but not cognize well? The Behavioral manifold [V] suggests that all transitives representing a capability have – or had — a preceding intransitive. Functional need leads to capacity and/or capability before they can be exercised.

In practice then, characterization has treated behavior cavalierly, often calling attention to it in poorly defined units and for the limited purpose and function of body and body-body relationship identification. Such is the bias of body over step in our understanding of, and representation of, humans as behavioral entities. Such is our weak preparedness for constructive behavior.

Characterization has flooded the procedural tools we know as natural languages, to the embarrassment of needed tertiary reads and tells (C-8) These linguistic tools, which are community inventions and conventions, fail to completely and accurately represent consequentiality in both its general and particular aspects. Most tellingly – so to speak – they constitute mind-binding to an extent far beyond the culture-binding envisioned by Whorf and Sapir. (Linguistic relativity is minor compared to the cognitive constraint exercised.)

Characterization for identification works reasonably well for bodies because the latter do not change all that much. Steps, however, are a different story. Behavioral development can change everything about them (V). Step characterizations can easily become dated. (Consider how much more varied and tooled communication is now. Would we have a clear idea of the point AT alluded to in “We have a communication problem”?)

Characterization doesn’t stop with natural languages and the I-O, O-A convention. Metaphors abound for identificatory purposes. And, of course, tertiary tells such as models and theories impose a different kind of structure when the focus of attention is a group of relationships.

Behavior itself, as a focus of attention, has been subjected to the grossest of tertiary characterization – as, for example, in “stimulus-response,” “means-ends,” and “causation.”

(c) 2010 R. F. Carter