The (arguably) Necessary Implications

Of Knowing That One is One and All Alone

And (or so it seems, but then?) Ever More Shall Be So

Copyright 2005 by Barnabas D. Johnson


The First Trinity of the Western World was the Mythos, the Logos, and the Nomos. Ontology (what is?), epistemology (how do we know what is?), and teleology (so what?), were a triune "growth" out of the Logos element. They, and especially teleology, played a crucial role in creating the Nomos element, thereby converting the Mythos-Logos dyad into the Mythos-Logos-Nomos Triad, the First Trinity. These fundamental "seed-ideas" remain co-creative, coevolving … changing us still, making us wiser, our world better. An early product of this "ecology of ideas at work" was the development of isonomia (iso, equal; nomos, law). It was and remains equal liberty's corollary: equal justice. If we are to be equal in our liberties we must be equal in the restrictions on our liberties.

This isonomia was the parent of demokratia. If we are equal under the law, then we must be equal in our making of laws, equal in our civil and political rights.

Weaving a tapestry of history, philosophy, science, personal experience, and bold speculations regarding our world's future, this essay seeks to enhance appreciation for liberty bounded and secured by isonomia and demokratia, thereby advancing the cause of constitutional democracy worldwide.

This essay is composed of three parts, each of which provides hotlinks to other Jurlandia essays without regard to whether those hotlinks are supplied in other parts of the essay. This is a "heuristic effort" — a carefully-crafted "rough draft" to help structure further Jurlandia writings which, in due course, can feed back and help compose a better rendering, an improved heuristic. Illuminating constitutional democracy is a journey, not a destination.

(Go to Part One)   (Go to Part Three)

Part Two


This subject of the First Trinity of Mythos, Logos, and Nomos is explored here especially with reference to Spencer-Brown's illuminating assertion:

"It may be helpful … to realize that the primary form of mathematical communication is not description but injunction. In this respect it is comparable with practical art forms like cookery, in which the taste of a cake, although literally indescribable, can be conveyed to a reader in the form of a set of instructions called a recipe."

A good constitution is not a description but a recipe. Follow it, and you can (with further thoughtful effort) enjoy its blessings.


In 1990-91, when Lowry Wyman and I were working with Lithuania's Constitutional Drafting Committee on writing a new Constitution of Lithuania — which we insisted was a necessary part of Lithuania's effort to escape the USSR, as this would show the world that Lithuania's quest to become a constitutional democracy had to be taken seriously — the Committee, week after week, remained exasperatingly preoccupied with "constitutional conceptions" that were merely descriptive. We kept insisting that what was needed was "actual law" which, if adopted, would not describe but prescribe and proscribe and thereby ordain and establish a constitutional democracy, a government under law which balances majority and coalition rule with minority and individual rights.

We shared with the Committee what Spencer-Brown says (above) about how to "describe" a cake, urging the Committee to start drafting a recipe, but progress was too slow and time was running out.

It ran out at 2:09 a.m. on "Bloody Sunday", 13 January 1991, when the Soviet Union took over the media and the government, or so Bill Keller of The New York Times reported. But hundreds of thousands of singing, chanting, courageous Lithuanians defended their media and government with their bodies, nonviolently, asserting their unconquerable determination to have a "normal life" (the phrase we so often heard), and the USSR could not impose its will upon their country. Who might have guessed that before the end of 1991 the Soviet Union would cease to be?

Two days after Bloody Sunday, Lithuania's leader, Vytautas Landsbergis, phoned our hotel room around 2 a.m. He said he shared our exasperation that his Committee had failed to produce any text that looked like a recipe: who, what, when, where, how, etc. He agreed that his Committee seemed unable to move beyond descriptions to "law-making". He knew that Lithuania needed far better. Accordingly, he asked us to demonstrate what we were trying to convey to his Committee by producing a draft constitution that, from start to finish, ordained enforceable law which, if adopted, would establish the foundations of a constitutional democracy.

Working day and night using our (then-modern) laptop computer, perhaps the only functioning computer in Lithuania (all government computers had been hidden in anticipation of the Soviet assault), we produced a draft in about 72 hours. It was eventually rejected, due partly to objections from the Lithuanian-American Diaspora (see below).

That draft became the basis of the Constitution of Jurlandia.


    A.   On examination, we see that by "distinction" we mean an "info-bit" (whether large or small) which has relevance, which (as the saying goes) illuminates something — "a difference that makes a difference" (that is, makes a "significance") or "a similarity that (likewise) makes a significance" — illuminates with reference to a specific context or question that is provided by the distinguisher, the investigator, the seeker of information and wisdom … and, especially, the seeker after that which is wisdom's most salient focus … virtuous choice and action.

Where virtue is the focus, things get especially interesting. See C.

    B.    Any distinction which in context supplies relevance would appear to create three aspects or elements — a trinity — which constitute the basic "unit" of what we call (for lack of a better term) information.

Whether that information is reliable, or whether the context is well-considered, etc., must remain subject to further inquiry, of course, probably "calling forth" further distinctions and penumbras of meaning.

Such follow-on inquiry is of the essence to the Ecology of Mind.

    C.   Where the "investigation" seeks wisdom leading to virtuous choice and impeccable action, the context is especially complex: In effect, this quest requires positing a metaphorical "future judge" — whose robe we must presently wear — who judges each of us in light of information and wisdom derived from the Rule of Law based on the Rule of Reason … reflecting "understandings" that dwarf what any individual is capable of knowing or comprehending, although the Enterprise of Integrative Jurisprudence … and actual as distinct from metaphorical judges … must seek, in fact, to comprehend nothing less.

This website has been "nibbling round the edges" of that topic for some while. See "Orders of Consciousness" in Freedom of Contract. In due course this website will delve far deeper.

This delving asks, ultimately: Why is "reputation" so important? Why do we care what history records of us? Why do we strive to earn a "good name" that lives on after biological death? What of significance can we learn from our concern with "post-death" reputation? What lies behind human progress? What draws it forward?

What is the nature of that "happiness" which Aristotle, summarizing Greek philosophy so far, said is the "greatest good" each individual strives for … and for which society, civilization, therefore also strives? This is not the happiness of a drunk smashing pottery at 2 a.m., it is the happiness we find, especially, when looking back at a job well done: the happiness of areté, excellence in action, in everything.

Aristotle said this striving is rooted in … justice: justice as a societal or cultural creation aimed at maximizing each person's opportunity to choose, and achieve, areté.

Supposing he had a point worth pondering, what does it require of us?


Whether this triune Structure of Mind is "the way of our world" or "the way of our comprehension of all worlds" — or neither, or both, or (more likely) "both and" — is a deep question. I will hazard a guess: As the ratio of a diameter to its circle, pi, would be known by any advanced intelligence, anywhere, so too the "fundamental grammar" of distinction-making and knowledge-generating — the fundamental Structure of Mind — might be deduced as a universal constant. Mind is immanent in highest complexity, and any creature of sufficient complexity to perceive a circle and contemplate pi is sufficiently complex to ponder how differences and similarities call forth contexts that supply relevance.

What is information, and what is that "human nature" which makes us ask? We have no satisfactory answers to these dual questions, but over the long haul of humanity's "thinking about thinking" — actually, "thinking about thinking about the good" — various world-transforming insights have arguably emerged, including (above all?) the supernal value of enlightened argument among independent thinkers. That is the subject of James Surowiecki's recent book, The Wisdom of Crowds (2004), but the general proposition has a long history.

The concept of "independent thinking" should not imply independence from logic or science or the accumulated wisdoms of the past. Rather, it implies that whatever "dependence" we have is due to genuine persuasion, to uncoerced acceptance of facts and values, etc. It also implies that there is no worse sin than to knowingly inject "bad information" and "toxic ideas" into the Ecology of Mind. Not all lies are unjustified, but those that are justified must be so due to compelling moral imperatives — such as protecting innocent victims from (for example) the Gestapo's efforts to harm them.

Let us seek to integrate competing and complementary wisdoms:

    A.     Ideas matter. They change us. The fact that they have been arrived at voluntarily, based on enlightened argument among independent thinkers, matters most, changes us most, for only when the self-correctives of a truly free marketplace of information and ideas are vigorous and healthy can we have confidence in our conclusions. That confidence is based on the "competence" (competition-dependence) of our epistemology. Confidence based on competence allows us to proceed with genuine hope. Free societies are "enthused" and energized by such hope.

Furthermore, these cybernetic, confidence-generating processes allow us to operate comfortably — with adequate confidence — within a world in which much is unclear, where many "truths" and "values" are subject to further debate, etc. In that sense, freedom of inquiry among independent intellects changes subjects and objects, intertwining us and our ideas and institutions in ever-more-thought-provoking ways. Free people are not afraid of this, despite the risks that "bad ideas and information" will triumph. Free people are free precisely because (1) the best antidote for bad ideas and information is better ideas and information, and (2) the bad idea of "intellectual enslavement" is slowly but steadily being overwhelmed by the much better idea of free inquiry and all that it implies. Or … so we have reason to hope.

    B.   It is often said that knowledge is power, and so it is. The implication is that such "knowledge" provides an accurate representation of something. Yet "false knowledge" or inaccurate information is also powerful, often (but not always) leading us and society powerfully astray. Wars based on lousy information and poor reasoning are especially persuasive reminders of the "power" of faulty knowledge. Obviously the most precious kinds of "true knowledge" are those wisdoms that can help us develop the above-referenced self-corrective processes which increase the likelihood that the Ecology of Mind will continuously favor accurate and reliable information over "bad" information.

It is also true that "correct mental constructs" can be used for evil purposes. Thus, developing accurate feedback processes to winnow out faulty information must be supplemented by ethical self-correctives. As suggested at the start of this essay, the Ecology of Mind must be supplemented by an Ecology of Values which stands in dialectical (mutually-enlightening) relationship to it. This requires establishing a hierarchy of values necessarily imbedded within the Ecology of Values.

Highest in that hierarchy — I believe — is the necessity to uphold the inescapable interdependence between "the examined life" and "the blessings of liberty". You cannot have either without both.

I say, above, "I believe"; I could have said, "I conclude"; but there is an ancient tradition of some things being known by both "faith" (or "revealed truth" … as then understood) and "reason" (in some languages this is restricted to "logic" … a dangerous error that needs deepest examination); and, while I will suggest below that "experience" should trump what are often called "reason" and "faith", on this point regarding the highest value of the examined life and the blessings of liberty, it seems, experience and reason and faith naturally (second-naturedly?) combine to form a "Pretty Good Revelation" whose sources are in agreement … and suffice to give us hope.

The map is not the territory. The name is not the thing or relationship named. If experience (as discussed below) "reveals" knowledge — and who would claim otherwise? — then the word "revelation" (even capitalized) ought not to cause worry or insult. By the same token, of course, the mere fact that a book or pamphlet or sacred screed is labeled "Revelation" does not necessarily make it worthy of our respect.

The unexamined life is not worthy of humankind.

Those who believe otherwise (if I may be blunt) insult what they claim to sanctify, namely, that "Mind in Nature" which is most honored by our commitment to free inquiry, natural skepticism, open-ended debates about the True and the Good, thereby composing something that transcends Nature: Regenerative Intelligence "Second-Nature" Intelligence.

    C.     As suggested, mental constructs which are "used for good" often take the form of instructions or injunctions, not mere descriptions. Thus: Do not drive on the map from Carbondale to Springfield; drive on the road "illuminated" by that map, assuming you have the goal of actually getting there, or getting actually there … safe and sound, if you see what I'm saying.

One — When we say "the map is not the territory" or "the blueprint is not the mansion" or "the recipe is not the cake" we are (among other things) creating mental constructs that are not about "real" maps or blueprints or recipes but are metaphors, illuminators, tools of thought and communication. These tools are often best "defined" with reference to what they are not (see Framustans) — that is, defined in terms of something familiar and then distinguished from it. Thus, there is much "information content" in knowing what something is not.

Two — Elaborating point A, above, and thereby (1) providing needed context for point B, above, while (2) providing a "mini-example" of the Structure of Mind that Spencer-Brown's Laws of Form posits, while (3) delving further into the implications of the "maxi-example" of how Mythos, Logos, and Nomos developed as the First Trinity, let us be clear: Because humans are "thinking and choosing animals" — as individuals and as societies — illuminating our tools of thought and communication changes us, changes societies, changes the choices we make regarding our emerging global civilization.

Three — Ideas matter even when they are only "pretty-good ideas" that fall far short of certainty. Among other changes wrought by the Ecology of Mind checked and balanced by the Ecology of Values, this illumination frees humanity from the incapacitating "double-bind" of the self-referential paradox: "I know nothing" or, most strongly, "I am certain that I can never be certain and must therefore choose not to act."

"Not choosing" and "not acting" are themselves choices and actions.

The illumination that gives "pretty good ideas" their rightful place in human affairs frees us by allowing a "double take" leading to the conclusion: We know enough in order to choose sufficiently at this point, so let's choose … and then proceed to learn more so that we might later choose even more wisely, as occasion arises. This is the quintessential "cybernetic perspective" that enhances open-ended evolution by upholding Open Civilization values.

The first step towards wisdom is an acknowledgement of ignorance; yet, after many further steps, we see that we cannot afford the luxury of supposing that the opposite of ignorance is perfect certainty.

The perfect must not become the enemy of the good-enough.

End of Part Two of First Trinity

(Go to Part One)   (Go to Part Three)

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