On a Second-Order Pragmatism

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Could be the next step in formalizing/constructing some kind of theory machine.

What is meant by these terms?

"Second-Order" inherits from second-order cybernetics, which, to my understanding, can more or less be summarized as such: If first-order cybernetics involves an observer of a world comprised of system and environment, second-order cybernetics involves an observer of a world comprised of an "observer of a world comprised of system and environment", a system and an environment. From what I gather, beyond the jump from first to second order cybernetics, any higher nth order is either irrelevant or, perhaps, merely beyond the scope of this project.

By "pragmatism", and my understanding of pragmatism can certainly gain from a thorough audit, I merely mean some kind of agency/ontology operating according to means and ends. Why X? Because it leads to Y, and Y has been deemed a favorable outcome. Perhaps the X and Y should be switched there, seeing as the end seemingly is determined before the means.

Also, by "ideology" I fundamentally mean a system of beliefs, secular or not, pertaining to their world. What they believe is what, what they believe is worth what, etc.

So, a "second-order pragmatism" entails the subject being bifurcated into a first-order subject and a second-order subject. The first order subject (S1) operates, ideologically, according to standard pragmatism (pragmatism = first-order pragmatism), while the second-order subject (S2) operates, ideologically, according to second-order pragmatism. What this gives rise to, if I am looking at this correctly, is meta-ideology. I'm very excited about this, and I am eager to elaborate and perhaps receive feedback.

The "bifurcation" of the subject into S1 and S2 entails a division, a binary compartmentalization of the subject's ideology. Seeing as, in theory, the subject is statistically unlikely to be "purely" of a single ideology, or totally in line with the orthodoxy of their identified ideology, there is an internal agon, an immanent contra-ideological dialectics that drives the ideological development of the subject. If this agon is explicitly formulated into a dialectical format, the odds of the two sides "weighing" the same is one in infinity. Thus, the subject now houses, in the manner of a crucible, both a "minority" and a "Majority" ideology, both combining into the constituency of the subject. The net ideology of the subject is thus more influenced by the Majority ideology than the minority, but the minority is what (ant/prot)agonizes the Majority into dialectical "growth"/evolution.

It seems, in order for this to work, the subject needs to alienate themselves from their identified ideology enough to "weigh" its parts, and enough to identify the threshold/striation/boundary between what will become their minority and Majority ideologies.

But the division into minority and Majority ideologies may not be permitably arbitrary. That is, there may need to be a certain correlation between the two. I can really use some input on the following mechanism - I've been fleshing it out over the last year or so, but this notion of a second-order pragmatism just arrived.

What becomes tricky here is that the subject needs to believe, consciously, in two contradicting ideologies at once. We can draw, conceptually, from superposition and quantum mechanics - but already that is a topos that is, ostensibly, lightyears away. That said, perhaps the distance can be transcended by the right analogy.

The subject, as S1, needs to pursue the first-order end, E1, as if it were the end-all-be-all of ends. S1 does this by, in turn, determining the first order means, M1.

The subject, as S2, needs to "supervise" and even manipulate S1 in such a way that the first order means, M1, veer, unbeknownst to S1, away from E1 and toward E2.

One of the axioms here, should this clarify anything, is that our means will almost necessarily have consequences that do not align with the supposed ends. Perhaps these unintended consequences "better" achieve some "other" ends, but this byproduct can only be generated/achieved if and only if the subject (as S1) "stays true" to their supposed ends (E1).

A certain kind of ideological clinamen, perhaps. A strategic veering off of the track - that is, the apparent track, the first order track, the sequence of first order means that have been determined in the interest of achieving the first order end.

What this may unlock/enable for us is a heterodoxical compounding of seemingly incongruous, even antithetical ideologies. Relatively radical recombination of ideological components/models/strategies that have hitherto never left their home town, their home ideology. Of course, there have been, and will continue to be, somewhat novel amalgamations of ideologies, without the conscious undertaking of a second-order pragmatism. But a second-order pragmatism might allow for a less random/chaotic handling, might allow the subject (schizo-subject) to better steer their para-ideological/meta-ideological framework/system - and let us not forget that "kybernetikos" meant "good at steering."

One of the reasons I am so adamantly faithful in such a project is that it feels doable - because it feels as if I have been doing it. Perhaps the most difficult part is the point of departure: the subject needs to neutralize/raze their ideological operating system - their particular arrangement of land masses, into a sea of infinite contingency (because lets face it, to assume we can predict the ultimate outcome of our actions is hubristic), or, what comes out to the same thing, a sea of noise.

Once all structurations/contrivances have been collapsed, the subject is either left with the tumult of nihilism, or the serenity of a kind of nirvana - in either case, there is an absence of some land mass on which the subject can gain a footing. The difference here is key, because the serenity would much better poise the subject to undertake something as extreme as this, and it will also better sustain their activity. The tumult of nihilism will merely drown the subject, sooner or later.

What do I mean by land masses? I mean (I'm having difficulty here, wording this, so grain of salt) beliefs. One arrangement of landmasses entails a certain arrangement of beliefs, and the reformation/restructuration of land masses entails an alteration in ideological "position", the position being, in a much more discrete way, the ideological label that they operate under. Within Communism, we have communisms, each of which are permitted some margin of variability before they warrant a different label. Similarly, arrangements of land masses, that is arrangements of belief, can only vary within certain parameters before warranting a different ideological category.

Now, in this model, because we have (to my knowledge) been historically confined to the dimension of ideologies, and haven't yet entered into that of meta-ideologies (taking these terms as defined above), all ideologies have been more or less regulatory, ore or less enforcing of their own boundaries. That is, categories of arrangements of land mass inhibit the variation of the alteration of the land masses to a conservative margin. We tend not to open ourselves up to media/sources from ideologies we "oppose". That is the radical aspect of this. In more mundane terms, such a project entails learning how to open yourself up to the complete spectrum of ideology, having faith, ultimately, that your currently dominant ideology will "win out" in the dimension of meta-ideology.

From where I am standing, if (left) accelerationism doesn't already qualify, according to the above terms, as a meta-ideology, as an instantiation of second-order pragmatism (the subject, as identifiably anti-capitalist, provisionally aligning with the ideology they oppose, in a roundabout way of overcoming it) - if this doesn't already qualify as such a project, it can, perhaps, be made more efficient by considering it as such. Calling a spade a spade sharpens the spade - but then again, isn't this whole project about paradox? Perhaps calling a spade a diamond sharpens the spade.

Also, in this framework, "nootopology" would consist, perhaps, of the study/navigation of such land masses, seeing as no topos is exempt from the permeating spread of ideology. Formalizing/systematizing this to a deeper extent might prove problematic, seeing as there is a constitutive and crucial role played by chaos, by some logophobic material. As the hydrophobic petal keeps the droplet outside its domain, so the logophobic object-of-logos repels the logos with a sort of anti-gravity, thus allowing an inexhaustible object-of-logos, one that can never be fully known, discursively rendered/represented - and thus provides a Sisyphus blessing, a constitutive horizon that occasions unlimited progress. Dynamically, it is as if the logos is being drawn from the logophobic core, forming an infinitesimally intricate superstructure that amounts to an ever deepening intellect.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
A potential illustration of second-order pragmatics: The Invisible Hand. Never finished Wealth of Nations, but I have enough of a gist for this example to suffice.

From what I gather, Adam Smith argues that the economy only thrives when its citizens/constituents pursue their own best interest, rather than the best interest of the economy.

It seems that the first-order end corresponds to the agent/specimen, while the second order end corresponds to the swarm/species, each having their own ontology, just as different orders of magnitude abide by different ontologies.

The first order subject, the capitalist, pursues the first order end: self-interest.

The second order subject, the economy, pursues the second order end: (ostensible) societal betterment

The if the first order subject were to pursue the second order end, it would not be tenable/attainable. The second order end is only tenable/attainable if the first order subject pursues the first order end.

Does the second-order emerge from a large enough number of first-order ends being pursued? "Emergent" here is taken to entail irreducibility - a large enough collection of systems-of-a-certain-quality will give rise to a new quality. Quality can emerge from quantity, and the former is seemingly more unplaceable, more difficult to measure, more logophobic, than the latter.

(sidenote, logophobic here means unable to be captured/expressed/colonized by logos. "Phobia" more in the physical sense, as in whether or a material is hydrophilic or hydrophobic. It either lets water in, absorbing it - hydrophilic - or it keeps water outside its membrane/territory, adsorbing it - hydrophobic. In this sense, certain horizons of logos can be said to be logophobic, with logos merely piling up around it, in a way. Perhaps it can be used to describe the Real, as I understand it.)

Another example, perhaps. This one is even less substantiated than the Invisible Hand example.

The neuron, as the first order subject, pursues the first-order end of the firing/activation of the action potential, sending a signal out to be received by whatever other collection of neurons can receive it. The first order means is the reception and collection of... what? charge? Sure. The reception and collection of charge in order to pass the threshold necessary to fire (?) the action potential down the axon terminal.

The neural network, as the second-order subject, pursues the second-order end of activating a higher-order cognitive/motoric/hormonal/etc function. The second order means consists of which series/chain/sequence/bifurcation-web of neurons to activate.

The distinctions are bound to be fuzzy. Perhaps further elaboration will render things a bit more crisp.


The point, I think, is that the first-order pragmatics is algorithmically related, if even irreducibly, to second-order pragmatics. The scope/scale of the first order subject precludes them from acting directly in the interest of the second-order, which can be orders of magnitude beyond them, in complexity and in physical scale.

When I say algorithmically related, that does not necessarily imply that the first-order ontology is deterministically configured/programmed to give rise to the second-order ontology. This emergence can be figured/understood as spontaneous, rather than determined. This matter is largely theological, from what I gather.

Crucial to all of this is that systems can act as components in larger systems, and once these larger systems develop long enough, they begin to behave according to seemingly new rules. This is how, as far as I can tell, we can build up a new politics all the way from atomic physics, if not deeper. I just came across combinatorics, which may shed light on much of this.

As this interplay and evolution of systems progresses (prebiological evolution, biological evolution... postbiological evolution?), what we see is an increasingly complex organization of matter. In other words, matter with an increasing information density. I argue that the force behind this organization is intelligence. As far as I can tell, the human brain is the most complex intelligent matter out there. That is not necessarily to say that it will remain the most complex intelligent matter. A perennial and cosmic chain reaction of material quanta that can, albeit seemingly rarely, ramify into higher orders of organization.

Second-order pragmatics will be the study of the relation between different orders of ontologies, each with their own implicit/explicit methodology/means and their own implicit/explicit teleology/ends. How/when/why does the higher order emerge from the lower? Must each order be subjectivized in order to be understood according to the language of pragmatics? If subjectivity brings too much to the table, how can we extract agency from subjectivity? Can agency be extracted from subjectivity?

As if there wasn't enough to be elaborated/clarified in second-order pragmatics, it seems to only be part of a much larger system of analysis that can effectively subsume all of logos. I mentioned this, nootopology (study (logos) of the organizational patterns/orientations (topos) of intelligence (noos)), in the "new systems, new languages" thread, but it is far from being intelligible. I can hardly get a grasp on it, yet alone articulate it well enough. I'll double back when I have a clearer way of expressing it.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
That we can better understand and predict how higher-order systems will unfold/evolve, by comparing the the teleology/behavior of the system with the teleology/behavior of its components.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
To be sure, this might turn out to be more complicated than it is useful. But it can also, perhaps, be elaborated and clarified so as to make its application clearer.


Well-known member
And what's a higher order system? And why do we want to know how they will evolve? What's in it for me? That's what I want to know.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
It seems "teleology" is most often used to mean an end/purpose towards which something develops/becomes. Not sure how that got to be used that way, as the "-logy" implies that it is the study of "telos", a purpose/end/goal.

Higher order as in a system that is exponentially more complex than the lower order. Cells are an order higher than molecules, from what I gather, and certain organisms are a higher order than cells, and societies/ecosystems a higher order than organisms, and so on. It seems to have to do with how environments scale up and systems scale up, but more along lines of orders of magnitude, like how certain particles are dozens of orders of magnitude "lower" than the human scale meter. Couldn't give precise numbers here, but if a proton is 10^-21 meters, than it is 0.000000000000000000001 of a meter. The environment at that scale seems qualitatively different than the environment at our scale, seemingly. This qualitative difference seems to emerge as scale quantitatively increases - as the units of one scale combine and combine until a new scale is warranted. Like how national economies kept combining and combining until something of a global macroeconomics was warranted.

As this pertains to us, and why we should care: it could, hopefully, have ramifications on how the disciplines centered around different scales can connect. How the environment of particle physics can give rise to atomic physics, to molecular physics, to cellular biology, etc.

Or its a lot of hot air, in which case there is still almost certainly something to salvage and try again. Its primarily in the interest of building bridges.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Why do we want to know how they will evolve? It seems if we wait for systems to combine and combine, problems emerge that we have no choice but to react to... or bury our heads in the sand.

Whats in it for you / someone-like-you / us? Well, the reawakening of ambition, the reopening of worlds of potential, worlds of our childhood that were foreclosed/disenchanted by the kind of dreariness that seems to permeate much of our worlds. Destabilization, to some extent, of the notion that we have no choice but to fall in line with the processes that suck our souls away. Not that that notion ever really goes away, but its chokehold is deactivated.


Well-known member
i supppose what i want to know is how do we apply this to dissensus assuming dissensus counts as a higher order system. how do we make the machine start working again using this programming?


Well-known member
i get the sense that i can leverage your theory into managerial techniques. we need to repair this machine and get it up to max power again.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
It could be possible. It would involve analyzing the individual pragmatics of the members, somehow quantizing them or collapsing them into a common metric, then finding an average.

In fact I do think it's possible.

Imagine some kind of mechanical satellite drifting through space, and there are several dozen thrusters around its perimeter-sphere. Each one, individually, moves in a unique direction, quality, and exerts a certain force, quantity. And yet, these thrusters can be harmoniously programmed to steer the satellite - by having many adjacent thrusters activate simultaneously, their averaged direction is where the satellite moves. By activating a thruster that is aimed against that average direction, we can program for resistance of deceleration.

In our case, each member can be said to exert some force on the forum, moving it in a certain direction, and their direction may closely align with that of others, or it may run counter to others.

What we would have to do, should this be taken further, is determine a common-enough metric with which we can compare different users with different aims (quality - stated beliefs about the ontology of Dissensus) with different "strengths" (quantity - post count?). Then each member could be represented by a vector-thruster working on the larger body that is Dissensus.

Someone here shared a reddit that was bots only. That would be an interesting experiment: trying to guide a thread by programming its members.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
What do you want the machine to produce?
In case you meant this for me, and not for luka.

The theory-machine, as mentioned in the first sentence of the original post, would consist of an algorithmically optimized and unified worldview/ideology/toolbox that would come to supplant one's life, or, depending on how you view it, support one's life. The goal (not sure how much I'm willing to defend this particular articulation) is to optimize the cognition of the subject whilst sparing them a good deal of psychic tension. Pathos would be preserved, but harnessed in a different way. It could involve a dialectics of pathos-yielding-to-system and system-yielding-to-pathos.

The machine, in short, would produce a much more efficient subject-processor, one that would experience, viscerally, the return of the cosmic ambition and, at least to jumpstart the transition, hope. Again, not sure if I will stand by these answers, but there is something to them.

constant escape

winter withered, warm
Perhaps - part of the reason I'm trying to stress my hesitancy in giving some of these answers. It could be despotic - but might it be despotic from the inside, and outwardly radiating despotism instead of an inwardly radiating one? For whatever difference that would make.

Or could it involve hierarchical command structures without being despotic? There is something about it that is totalizing, but perhaps it doesn't have to be. Still very early in blueprint stages, if such stages are ever, even, to be left.

If we take it as a prescribed ideology that someone imposes onto another, then the stench is a bit more palpable. But if it is something that is, more or less, organically fostered within, with different fragments of it coming into being, and these fragments become an increasingly harmonious and functional ecosystem, then, perhaps, the reek disappears.

Actually, much of this isn't geared around certain ideologies and value systems - some certainly is, to be sure. Much of this is geared around building new platforms or petri dishes from which new varieties of ideology can emerge. That is: much of this doesn't take a position as much as it enables new positions to be taken, positions that will oppose one another and combust, hopefully, into something fruitful.

But you do raise a serious concern, and I'm constantly trying to sniff out such things.