C-85. Theoretical explication

The four stages of consequentiality (App. XIX) are invaluable as a procedural tool (App. VII) for transforming behavioral concepts to theoretical constructs (C-81). When we examine concepts such as engagement, participation, involvement, freedom – and many, many others – from the perspective of these four stages, it becomes obvious that we have been employing concepts derived from observing Stage 4 events. These concepts gather and summarize similar instances, such that we typically come to define these concepts by noting one or another of these instances – producing, as Kaplan notes, problematic vagueness re both their center (e.g., “essence”) and boundary.

What of concepts and consequentiality? Concepts derive primarily from using cognition’s inside-outside relation (X) – hence their summary feature. Consequentiality, however, wants to make use of cognition’s before-after relation. It wants to produce, not just find, consequentiality. It is defeated by such formulations as independent variable => dependent variable, which essentially asserts one concept to be dependent on another concept … and which, we see all too clearly on the record, has yielded a bounty of plausible explanation and a dearth of explanation helpful in and to problem solving. Concepts are not helping us get closer to (useful) theory. Worse, they are affecting our quality of life (0). Theory needs to get rid of them by transforming them to theoretical constructs. And we need this transformation even more than theory does. Concepts embody three of the problem types we face: O:Sp, because we invest hugely in repeatedly establishing some degree of agreement as to their definition; O:S-P, because they furnish a limited, biased perspective on what needs to be talked about and said; O:Ps, because, bloated with summary and pretentious of explanation, they pollute our messages — in and out of the academic literature. (See App. XX: Message theory.) They vitiate what little capability we have for the solution, individually and collectively, of still vexing problems (0:P), blocking our way forward (IV; App. XII).

How troublesome are concepts? How many times have we waded through words, while reading or listening, waiting and hoping for some thematic assets to identify what is being talked about or said? How many times have we given up that reading or listening?

If we distinguish B-concepts from S-concepts (III), according to whether they represent body/entity or step/behavioral conditions – although both are seriously troubling, concepts addressing behavioral conditions seem more critical, if only because we have not, to now, given behavior the minding attention it deserves and needs (III). And within behavior we have not given minding the attention it deserves and needs either. Recall, for example, our coining the term thingk (X; C-27) to represent the answer to a pointed question, thereby elucidating the consequentiality of the communication cognition symbiotic development (App. III) … and not just to sort out “imagined thing.”

Further, take “engagement” for example: Engagement is not explicated, nor completely defined, by referral to or the adoption of this or that (Stage 4) particular behavior, such as campaigning on behalf of a political candidate. Engagement is not fully explicated if we lack a Stages 1-3 (as well as Stage 4) realization of what we are talking about.

“Freedom” offers another telling example. From Stage 4 we can distinguish kinds of freedom, creating even more concepts, given the variety of instances with some, but not universally, shared characteristics: freedoms OF, FROM, FOR and – crucially – TO (C-40). Freedom TO, it turns out, is but empty promise without the capability to take advantage of opportunities in the Nature of Things’ World of Possibility (Stages 1-3).

Then, of course, there is BFPS’s transformation from concept to theoretical construct of the crucial minding capabilities of cognition, communication, composition … together with community as a behavioral entity (C-84). Cognition, for instance, as “to know” misses the point of its involvement in how we come to know. BFPS rescues cognition from simple (immaculate?) representation of a relationship between bodies to an essential functional party to compositional behavior. Communication, we have seen, comprises a raft of functionalities – of which the “informative” message transfer from sender to receiver is but one.

Among the intellectual infrastructural investments we could and should make, the concept-to-theoretical construct transformation project would stand tall. Whatever summary value we find in the scholarly sifting and winnowing of concepts and their utilization would be enhanced, and accompanied as well, by explanatory value. Indeed: it would be worth our effort to cultivate new concepts just for the productivity that could be occasioned by our then transforming them into theoretical constructs! For example, how about “The recentered university”? Which would lead us to deconstruct, and then reconstruct, the university establishment to bring it more in accord with CEM-history (App. XI) by centering it on development of the cognition, communication, composition and community capabilities needed on history’s frontier.

How much better to have an encompassing and explanatory theory than a burdensome parcel of categories. Just as the emaciated, bloated child is the poster child, the expression of needed support and help, for the impoverished body, so should concepts be seen as the poster child for the step: scars of sensory deprivation, of the binding of our minding capability.

The potential here could be far-reaching. We might well consider whether reality as concept should cede its prestigious position to realization as theoretical construct. (This is what CEM-pragmatism suggests [App. XIX].) The point here is that realization covers all four stages of consequentiality while reality speaks mostly of – and from — Stage 4. Isn’t there more of consequentiality, the general as well as the particular, to be grasped? Isn’t consequentiality better served by realization, the theoretical construct, than by reality, the concept?

All this is not to belittle the contributions that concepts can make. Concepts can make useful territorial markings (e.g., as citation-worthy for scholarly recognition, as organizing themes for collective interests), but we should see them as provisional even in this functionality. More scaffolding than building.

(c) 2013 R.F. Carter