C-27. The thing about a thingk

A thingk is a special kind of word just because it is an answer to a question and especially because it is the answer to a pointed question (X). Taking note of this specialness is in the spirit of word coinage, where a difference that makes a difference is to be marked as well as remarked. A thingk is that kind of a (word) marker.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones but words won’t hurt a bit.” That can more truthfully – and safely – be said of words re things than of words re thingks.

A thingk differs from a name kind of word (e.g., a label) that constitutes an identification relationship (and an identity relation of sorts) between word and thing. What make a thingk distinctive and of tremendous importance is its origin in human history and its critical functional significance in light of the Nature of Things. Familiar and as important as communication is to us as transferrable informative content and as a means of social contact, its thingks may be the most important contribution it makes to humanity.

Historically, thingks came on the scene with the emergence of the cognition-communication symbiosis. A thingk is laden with cognitive content, by virtue of its composing relation and the rest of the pointed question (i.e., the more familiar communication content). Emphasis on just the latter as symbol accounts for the common notion that an image intervenes between word and thing. But words can, and sometimes should, convey more, such as an impression, when that is appropriate. When is it appropriate?

The Nature of Things imposes the condition of incomplete instruction on behavioral entities (III). This is why the cognition-communication (C&C) symbiosis figures so strongly in recent human history, because the relation between things is not now limited to mere identity or association. Implicative cognitive relations, varieties of the inside-outside and before-after relations, help us to produce, not just receive, instructive information. When such a relation is used in a pointed question, then the answer (as word) becomes invested with that relation in addition to its anchor — i.e., other ideational element (whether thing or another thingk).

Several very useful consequences ensue with the emergence of thingks. They can be coined and used arbitrarily by the individual in order to use ideational capability to cope with the behavioral problem (I:Pbeh), as, for example, in interpreting the past or imagining a future. This solution, however, yields a problem (0, I) when it comes to sharing information (“interobserver agreement”) with respect to a situational problem (I:Psit). For then the thingk becomes a conceptual term, subject to definition – with all the difficulties thereby imposed.

It has also proved useful that the thingk’s implicative relation (the before-after relation especially) lends itself via a string of similarly related thingks to explanatory narratives (e.g., myths).

Creationism (as storied accounting), for example, appears to hold an explanatory advantage over evolution (as fact) in appealing to public opinion. Implicative chains as simple as A begat B; B begat C; et al are easily grasped. Note too the explanatory accessibility of the Norse, Roman and Greek gods.

Communication’s symbol usage is said to make humans distinctive. But thingks’ aid, in the employment of cognition and communication together, can help us realize the goals of humanism. But that only if we develop this capability further. There are some problems.

The major problem seems to be the thingk’s loss of anchoring. It readily becomes a free-floating conceptual term or name, indistinguishable in appearance from other names or words. Missing then are two pertinent questions:
  • What is the question for which this is the answer?
  • What is the problem for which this is a question?
Absolutely crucial here is that questions asked stand in relationship to problems in the same way that available behavioral solutions (I:Sbeh) do to problems, which is that they are an incomplete set. Other questions, like other solutions, are possible. But will they be predicated on other questions in accepted questioning modes, to the neglect of the problems that originally occasioned them?

In this case where the tendency has been to indulge in the pursuit of questions deemed pertinent to thingks as concepts, as though puzzles were to be solved instead of problems, where research has been dedicated to discovering the order of things, to the neglect of the Nature of Things … in this case the initial leverage afforded by thingks has been thwarted by the vocations pursued.

For it is the case that the same malady afflicts the potential relevance of asked questions to problems as that bugging available behavioral solutions. To wit: They do not focus enough on the behavioral problem (I:Pbeh) and its antecedents in the Nature of Things.

For a comprehensive pragmatism (C-21) inattention to the second question above about thingks is devastating. It also neglects the (problem => solution) x (question => answer) dynamics (XI). For some researchers it has meant operating in a tradition of research questions that rests on a literature of such questioning, in neglect of the pertinent problems – i.e., a less than applicable kind of research, whether deemed “basic” or “applied” XII). And, it should be pointed out, inattention to the second question is at odds with the pragmatism inherent with the universal concern for effective problem solving that underlies daily life.

“Give me an example.” Too often that may be all we ask of a thingk. We place our cognitive focus on the inside-outside relation – perhaps because we tend to see identification as our first, if not primary, minding task. (Note the corresponding tendency among formulaic researchers, using the independent – dependent variable approach, to focus on operational definitions of the thingks they are trying to grasp and involve [VII].)

The inside-outside relation can be a weak C&C tool. Too much of the implication resides in the outside element(s). Thus a category can stipulate similarity among its instances solely on the basis of one attribute serving as the outside element. A class, as a hypothetical entity (X), can improve on that by establishing a set of attributes as the outside element. Still, when it comes to realizing consequentiality, the inside-outside relation is not as potentially strong a tool as the before-after relation.

A big trouble though is that familiar tool varieties of the before-after relation are not all that strong either. (Causation, the most “powerful” so to speak, expresses a rigid, not just rigorous, identity relationship – which appeals to logical necessity but is not all that responsive to behavioral necessity because the relation is redundant to the relationship.) We speak, not without merit, of how one condition can and/or does contribute effectively to another as the effect. But this lacks the specificity – and probably the completeness (e.g., “multiple causation,” “multiple factors”) – of all that it takes (II: ATIT) for effectiveness. Too much of the potential value of C&C is not being realized by the underrealized view we have of them and by the weak languages we have invented to develop their strength.

“Thingk” is a step in the direction of an expanded language capability. Its emergence in human history is an event which should be celebrated. It is no ordinary neologism to add to our living language – not, say, like “ughly” (awful ugly).

Perhaps we should be thinking about further linguistic invention, to bring out more of the structure of C&C processes implicit in the imagining and configuring sectors of ATIT, the needed pragmatic analysis of our effectiveness efforts in problem solving. (See C-11 and C-21.)

Even more importantly, perhaps we should more avidly pursue the plethora of thingks now being employed back through their eliciting questions toward the problems which occasioned those questions. As they stand now, many thingks exemplify both tangents in minding (0, S-P)and impediments arising from minding products (0, Ps). On the latter (0, Ps) score, pollution from word profusion pales in comparison with the damage done by carrying along the thingks produced through the course of human history … this when problems that generated the questions and thingks as answers remain unsolved, and now multiplied.

And the behavioral problem remains unsolved. Meanwhile, dysfunctional behaviors, in and of consequence, proliferate. To be sure, employment and profit are thus to be had then for individuals and institutions. But this is a “death system” approach rather than a “life system” approach (App. V).

“Thing” is a thingk. And a most useful universal surrogate for any condition. Also note: something, anything, nothing, everything … and, of course, Everything –i.e., that which is a general condition and complement to, not redundant to, the particulars of everything (III).

(c) 2011 R. F. Carter