Make your own free website on Tripod.com


8. THE DIFFERENCE: HIERARCHY AND OPEN-ENDEDNESS

In supporting as far as possible the argument that footprints literacy is the most probable generative source of art, so far only those aspects and attributes have been highlighted that are similar or identical in the two domains. However, now that this matter has been sufficiently established, the most important differences should be pointed out between these two types of literacy, which constitute two stages in the evolution of human culture. As we shall see, the main attributes that distinguish these two types of literacy, are to a large extent the attributes, which distinguish a proto-symbolic phenomenon from a true symbol system. This difference is evidenced in two very basic attributes that are strongly connected: the one is the very great gap between the levels of connectivity of these two stages, the clearest indication of which is the extent of stratification of the class of signs or symbols in each of the two domains. The other attribute is the measure of open-endedness of each of these two classes of signs. We shall briefly detail these differences. As already mentioned, the complementarity of connectivity–disconnectivity or briefly codis, is one of the most basic attributes of being and becoming and also of noetic reality at all levels. Codis has an evolutionary dimension but there are two opposed but complementary trends within it: one has a negentropic or synthetic character, while the other has an entropic or analytic character. On the one hand connectivity develops by means of the recycling in time of previous connections to new and ever higher levels of connectivity. That is to say, throughout evolution connectivity is in a certain sense recursive or turned upon itself. The result of this process is that reality in all its manifestations has many strata or deep nesting, which generates a hierarchical structure. On the other hand, a simultaneous and opposite process of recursive disconnectivity is present, which at a certain limit generates random or chaotic states of affairs. Hierarchic order and random order are then two complementary orders. They are the two poles of the same process, and they arise from the special dynamic of the evolution of codis. The dynamic dimension of this evolution arises from two mindprints, which are also oxymorons: recursiveness–singularity; and open-endedness–closed-endedness, in both of which the tendencies of connectivity and openness are stronger than the tendencies of separation and stagnation. And indeed, already in prehistoric art, as in the physical, biological and noetic world, we find the dialectic of hierarchy and randomness, or a dialectic of order and disorder.

Every figurative picture is a hierarchical system of symbols that are systemic entities or pictorial holons, but at the same time there are present in such a picture very many elements that are arbitrary, and others that are completely random. However, the connective aspect of the picture is far more dominant than the separative, otherwise it would have no symbolic function whatsoever. Every symbol in such a picture is at the same time a pictorial holon or organization sub-symbols of lower levels of order, and in most cases is itself also a sub-symbol of another symbol from a higher level. The systemic structure of figurative symbols is what makes possible the construction of high level symbols by the synthesis, recurrence or nesting of different symbols. By means of the combination of symbols of different levels it is possible to construct pictorial texts, and thereby to broaden and heighten the system of connections we wish to describe. The limits of combinations of figurative symbols are determined only by the limits of our imagination and visualization. Because of the inter-relatedness of figurative symbols, their meaning is conditioned by the nature of their connection with other symbols. That is, as with verbal symbols, the meaning of pictorial symbols too is a systemic meaning. Thus for example, a picture of a bull contains sub-symbols for head, legs, tail, etc. The sub-symbol for an eye contains a sub-symbol for the pupil and so on, in accordance with the degree of detail in the picture. In other words, a figurative painting may comprise a very deep nesting of pictorial symbols of various levels of complexity. It is also possible to draw a man throwing a spear at a bull, and we then have a pictorial text which describes a hunting scene. On the other hand, we can also draw a symbol comprised of the synthesis of the symbol for a man holding a spear who has from his waist downward the body of a bull, and we then have a metaphorical use of the former symbols. We may summarize, then: a picture can be 'written' and also read, and pictorial systems can be constructed on different levels of complexity and stratification. We also recall that the artist constructs the symbols by choosing or creating the symmetry by which he depicts the animal. Moreover, by means of these symbols pictorial metaphors can also be constructed and this is the creative, developmental and open-ended foundation of art. In what follows, we shall see that these attributes are almost entirely absent in footprints literacy.

As opposed to pictorial symbols, footprints are not invented and not written; they can only be read as signs when they are created as a by-product of animal and human walking. Footprints are to a great extent of an intermediary nature: they possess certain characteristics of objects, and some characteristics of visual signs, but only at an elementary level. On the one hand, each footprint as a sign is totally independent of other footprints, and cannot be combined with other footprints. The class of all footprints, therefore, like all object-classes, is a class of discrete signs and not a system of symbols. On the other hand, for the hunter-tracker footprints serve as pictorial representations of the feet of animals, and indirectly as a representation of the whole animal as well. However, this mode of representation has two great shortcomings.

The first great shortcoming of footprints as signs is the impossibility of forming any combination. In those cases in which there are more than one type of footprint in the same place, the proximity of one type of footprint to another type does not itself generate a new sign that contains or unifies the significance of the two, and they always remain discrete signs rather than nested signs. That is to say that like traffic signs, different footprints cannot be combined in order to create a new sign or statement on a higher level that includes the different footprints. It is thus not possible to create a hierarchy of signs by the combination of signs of this sort. At the most, it is a very shallow unstratified system like a polymer chain; this is a class of signs all of whose members are of the same level of order, although each sign has minimal stratification. Thus for example, the footprint of a deer includes two similar sub-signs, and the footprint of a tiger includes five sub-signs four of which are very similar; but it is not possible to combine the footprint of a deer with the footprint of a tiger in order to generate a new sign. In footprints literacy there is no recursiveness of old connections to higher levels of connectivity, and thus no accumulation of knowledge likely to generate meta-concepts. There is no meaning to a synthesis or a dividing up of footprints, and therefore there can also be no syntax or connective principle between footprints. Hence there is no stratification of all possible footprints, and no hierarchy of footprints as signs.

The second great shortcoming of footprints as signs is that no metaphorization of them is possible: the use of a particular footprint cannot be extended in order to indicate something else. The footprint of a deer of a particular kind indicates deer of that kind alone, in all places and at all times so long as deer of that kind exist. The vocabulary of footprints literacy is of course limited only to animals that leave footprints, so that we have only footprints of animals that walk on the surface of the earth. We have no footprints of fish, nor of most birds, and there are certainly no footprints of fictitious or hypothetical creatures. Every type of footprint is closed-ended, and therefore no creativity is possible in footprints literacy, and as a type of knowledge it is almost completely lacking in any degree of open-endedness. It is thus clear why for so many ages knowledge in this domain was completely static and lacking any possibility of development. Moreover, with the passing of time the domain dwindled, since many kinds of animal became extinct, and the existential need for footprints literacy decreased. Since human intelligence is open-ended, the way to overcome the shortcomings of footprints literacy was only through the radical transformation of footprints into pictures of hands and feet! Prehistoric art is the superior metaphorization of footprints literacy. Image making solved completely the shortcomings of footprints literacy, and the way was thereby opened to the continued evolution of culture. Art had its shortcomings too, and these were solved by writing. For that is the rule: in all types of evolution, later stages tend to be more sophisticated than those stages from which they developed, since they represent solutions to at least some of the shortcomings of the preceding stages. Here lies the profound connection between knowledge and survival.



NEXT

VisMath HOME