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Quadravism and Quadravisms as Foundations for Society

August 15, 2011

I’m just watching Peter Hitchens and some ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ guy arguing on News 24, and I thought I’d write some thoughts down.  It starts with a further explanation of what I mean by Quadravism.  Quadravism, from ‘quad’ and ‘quadrivium’ implies a fourness.  The average human can hold seven mental objects in mind at once, and so a natural maximum number of foundational objects you have in mind at any one time is four: five or more means you can only have two or fewer objects to play with, and this is too little.  Equally, fewer than four foundational objects and you are confining your thinking to a plane or a line, or just letting things spin or drift aimlessly.

Foundational Mental Objects

I shall call the things which you are thinking about now ‘mental objects’.  Without using structural techniques, our short term memories are very limited, typically only being able to hold seven objects at once.  I shall, for the sake of simplicity, assume that all humans for which Quadravism is a sensible option have a capacity of exactly seven objects and that at any one moment in time, the mind has one thought and seven objects in mind at that time.

You need to know how your thoughts fit in your ‘mind-space’.  To do this you need to reckon the position of some with respect to others.  Now, four points span a three-dimensional or smaller space: smaller if the points are dependent, three if not.  You reckon the position of the other mental objects based on how they relate to your foundational objects.

Thus, we can write the mind’s mental objects at time t as
O[t] = {a,b,c,d;x,y,z}
where a, b, c and d are the foundational objects and x, y and z are the relative objects.  We assume that time is discrete so that O[t+1] is the set of objects for the thought at time t+1, and that no recognisable thought happens between time t and time t+1.  We now proceed to look at my personal philosophy as a source of examples.

My Quadravistic Philosophy

For me there are four independent mindsets from the ancient world that have survived sufficiently well to consider relying upon.  One is free to choose their foundations, but these four are the four that are most relevant to me.  These are:

  1. Ancient Hebraic Thought, beginning with the events of the book of Genesis;
  2. Ancient Greek Thought, such as The Elements
  3. Ancient Chinese Thought, in particular including the Art of War, the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching; and
  4. Ancient Indian Thought, in particular the three classics the Upanishads, the Dhammapada and the Bhagavad Gita.

Set in the 3D space spanned by these four philosophies, we can find the following.

  1. Christian Thought, being mainly drawn from AHT with a little AGT;
  2. Buddhist Thought, being built within AIT based on the experiences of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni;
  3. Mathematical Thought, drawing on sources in AGT and AIT; and
  4. Internal Martial Arts deriving from ACT, and Martial Arts in general that come from ACT and AIT.

Obviously this is eight items, so you don’t want to hold all of these in mind at once.  Thus you select the relevant foundations and areas to explore.  For example, you may choose ACT, AGT, Taiji and Mathematics.  Then you have your x, y and z free to play.  Now, the first four: AIT, ACT, AGT and AHT are my penultimate philosophical foundations, and these are ultimately rooted on the humanistic assumptions of my own existence and certain natural assumptions that ensure we get something realistic.  I can see each of these four, AIT, ACT, AGT and AHT as natural, sensible and fruitful lines of thought, so they are most certainly not be rejected: temporarily ignored for the purposes of manageability, but ultimately all necessary: to deny one of these bodies of thoughts is to reduce the natural concepts of that area into a complicated expression of abstract concepts in any of the others.  For example try explaining the old testament LORD in terms of Taoist concepts: possible for sure, but not in a way that is practical.  Thus we have these four areas so that we are not prevented from thinking efficiently by inherent complexities involved in translating a concept from one mindset to another.  So, my philosophical stack can look a little like:

  1. {“I exist”, “Others exist”, “Things are interdependent”, “Some relationships are asymmetric”; Supreme, Absolute, Infinite}
  2. I name the thought corresponding to Supreme+Absolute+Infinite in this context God and Dao, the name being chosen based on context.
  3. {Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Mathematics: x, y, z} is then my natural resting thought space.
  4. {Buddhism, Vajrayana, Tetrahedron, Cycle; Mantra, Meditation, z} is then a practical Buddhist mindeset, while
  5. {Christianity, God, Jesus, Holy Spirit; Prayer, y, z} is a typical Christian mindset.

I have learned, and trained myself, to move easily and fluidly between these mindsets with the minimum of effort.  Though I must say that it is exactly this which makes some of my thinking hard to follow and I am still learning to confine my thinking to the vicinity of the common ground between my mindsets and those of someone with whom I am communicating.  Essentially I proceed in thinking by selecting those points in mind-space that are relevant, useful and interesting with respect to what is in front of me (I can fix three aspects of a problem and then vary the foundational objects until I find what feels right).  This then makes solutions either clear, intuitive and natural or else unclear, uncertain and unreliable.  I trust the former and let the latter just drift by, not giving it energy, nor taking energy from it.  This is how I think, and it is both tolerant and discriminating, so is a good approach to providing common foundations (emphasis on the plural here) for building a better society.  We do not have a single singular foundation stone we all share (such as Christ or the Buddha) but multiple foundations and the freedom to move between foundations so that we can go where we want with the minimum of fuss.  I aim to help communicate this philosophy so that others may explore it.

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