7.1. The Roots of Understanding

Preconstruction is a term derived from the building and construction world, indicating the administrative and logistical requirements before the actual building takes place. It includes the estimation of construction costs, plan revisions and modifications or the building of models (one company used the slogan: find problems before they find you!).

The word preconstruction is used here (for the first time?) in a more philosophical setting, pointing to the conceptual requirements before an immanent construction is carried out. It is – in the ‘dualistic’ triplet of past – present and future – the First Past, an age of preparation.

Preconstruction, in a quadralectic sense, is an intelligible stage in the formation of a communication. The preparation can be seen, from a linear point of view, as the beginning of a process, but in a cyclic vision, there is no beginning. The preparatory phase is with us all the time, not only at the first dawn of awareness, but far before that stage. And it will continue to influence the communication long after the moment of first visibility.

The theme of the circle was already persistent in the thoughts of Hegel as he wrote (in: SCHMIDT, 1988; p. 115):

‘every part of philosophy is a philosophic whole, a circle which closes in upon itself … the solitary circle breaks through … and founds a further sphere; the whole presents itself therefore as a circle of circles of which each is a necessary moment, so that the system of its proper elements constitutes the whole Idea which equally appears in every particular’ (Enzyklopädie der Philosophischen Wissenschaften (1969; par. 15).

The preconstruction phase requires a deep understand of the fundamental differences between a beginning in a linear and a circular environment. Our past is not as unambiguous as it seems.

The difference is between a static starting point with a succession of facts and a dynamic beginning which ‘spins new possibilities into the present, shifting the locus of the present.’ Martin Heidegger (who was earlier in this book encountered as touching the four-fold way of thinking; p. 151/152) has understood the latter situation, when he said that ‘the beginning con-cealedly contains the end’. Heidegger regarded the circle not as a symbol of the unity of thought (and its inherent infinity), but rather as a metaphor of limitation and originality of the ontological difference.

The poet T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) has expressed the same idea in his quadrilogue ‘The Four Quartets’. ‘Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future and time future contained in time past’ is the opening phrase of ‘Burnt Norton’, the ‘First Quadrant’. And the poem ‘East Cooker’, as a representation of the Second Quadrant, starts with the sentence ’in my beginning is my end’. SCHMIDT (1988) reckoned that Heidegger would have liked to change these words into a more congenial: ‘in my end is my beginning’ (p. 232).

The preconstruction phase can be compared with the inventio, or the first handling of a relict as described earlier. The term inventio is derived from the rhetorical literature, where it points to a search for arguments in order to convince the communication partner(s). A speaker’s first concern is an analysis of the audience and an evaluation of their reactions. The inventio is a preview of the communication process to come.

The closely related term dispositio or arrangement (placement) aims at the same target, but in a slightly wider (theoretical) setting. Three basic actions characterise the preparation of an oration, as already indicated by Cicero:

  1. Selecting. The selection is an important preparatory act of inventio and implies the choice of the arguments to convince the audience;
  1. Arranging. This mental process is also partially completed during the inventio. The strategic planning of an argument implies a good position in the communication in order to convince the audience. Mark KNAPP and James McCROSKEY (1966), in their article on the subject of the ‘Siamese twins’ of inventio and dispositio,placed the communication process in construction terms: ‘This rhetorical process is similar to that of an engineer building a bridge over a river. The engineer must know the nature of both banks and then plan a bridge, which will lead from one to the other. Similarly, the speaker must know what his audience’s present position is on the issue to be considered and what he wants it to be. Then he builds a speech that will lead to that end.’
  1. Apportioning. The act of judging the audience implies the taking of a decision with respect to the number of arguments to be used. The question how far to go into the inquiry has to be answered somewhere in the process. Apportioning is about drawing lines and facing the consequences of division.

The ‘difference’ between inventio and dispositio can be found in the mental positions in a division environment. The former operates in the realm where discussions on boundaries (apportioning) are not yet taken or realized (First Quadrant and first part of Second Quadrant), while the latter operates both in the area of uncertainty, and in an environment where decisions are consciously taken (the rest of the Second Quadrant).

A rhetoric communication is, according to Cicero, a matter of organizing (dispositio) at an early stage. However, he stated clearly that the process of inventio had to be completed first:

‘When the point for decision and the arguments which must be devised for the purpose of reaching a decision have been diligently discovered by the rules of art, and studied with careful thought, then, and not until then, the other parts of the oration are to be arranged in proper order.’

The unanswered question in this citation (Book I, De Inventione) is Cicero’s meaning of ‘discovered by the rules of art’. He might refer here, in a somewhat cryptic way, to the classical topoi or ‘positions’ in a communication (and consequently, to the number of divisions). Aristotle, as the creator of the rhetorical topoi, used the term (in his book ‘Topics’, written 350 BC) to describe the place or region of an argument.

The particular setting (of an argument) is important for the effectiveness of responses in a communication. Opposites, altered choices, attributed motives, conflicting facts, decisions, consequences, ambiguous terms and division are some items on a long list of common arguments, utilized to make a point more believable and let the audience participate in the debate. The same prominence of position is found in the quadralectic communication: an argument in a Fourth Quadrant setting, arranged by conscious subjectivity, might fail to convince a purely rational listener in the Third Quadrant.

The development of a discourse (communication) takes place essentially through tropes, which are basic strategies for organizing all kinds of texts. A trope is, in a rhetorical context, a figure of speech. In quadralectic terms, it is the creative mechanism, which enables an observer to cross the boundaries of a quadrant. The American thinker Kenneth BURKE (1945/1969) gave, in his book ‘A Grammar of Motives’, the four ‘master’ tropes:

1. metaphor – expressing the familiar in terms of the unfamiliar;

2. metonymy – substituting a word for another word closely associated with it;

3. synecdoche – mentioning of a part when the whole is to be understood or vice versa;

4. irony – use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning

This sequence reflects, by and large, the positions in a quadralectic field. The metaphor has been placed in a ‘First Quadrant’ or ‘protocommunication’ setting (in the Second Quadrant (II, 1); see p. 87). The other tropes (2 – 4) seem to be a further subdivision of this particular position.

Frank d’ANGELO (1990) proposed to use the four ‘master’ tropes as a conceptual framework to build a theoretical model (of organizing texts). He pointed to Giambattista Vico (see p. 53; fig. 19), who used the four tropes to represent the stages through which all societies must pass from primitivism to high civilization. Vico (1668 – 1744) – living just after the pinnacle of Cartesian (or critical) thinking in Europe (1650) – aimed to overcome the dualism of pathos (form) and logos (content) (GRASSI, 1980/2001; 1990). Vico sought a solution in the ‘humanistic’ tradition, with its strong rhetorical component. By doing so, he opened up a classical road to higher (tetradic) division thinking.

Hayden WHITE (1978) suggested that the four (master) tropes underlie and inform every historical text. History does not consist of given facts, but has to be ‘constituted’ by the historian. ‘In the writing of history, there is interpretation from the very beginning’.

The (master) tropes, acting as a dynamic mechanism of creativity (in the multiple sense), bear the stamp of their origin. There is a connection between the type of ‘story’ and the trope, which is responsible for its constitution. The Canadian literary critic Northrop FRYE (1957/2006) recognized the following pregeneric plot structures, which were connected (by D’Angelo, 1990) with the tropes:

Romance   –    Metaphorical identification

Tragedy      –   Metonymic displacement

Comedy      –   Synecdochic integration

Satire          –   Ironic detachment

The rhetorical topoi and tropes can be identified as the representatives of the elementary communication qualities of Division (A) and Movement (B) (see also p. 15). Both entities are strategies of interpretation in a given invisible invisibility. The former provides the boundaries and the latter the mechanism to structure a communication.

The roots of understanding are found in these basic qualities of communication. The first question in any observation has to be: in which division frame do I perceive this impression? And the second question will be: what sort of movement takes place to valuate this impression. These two queries – posed at the same time – are the cornerstone of any logical conclusion.

Often, the language offers the key to the answer of these basic questions. The invisible language of intuition, the partly visible language of ideas (logos), the clearly visible language of the material (science) and the partly visible language of feelings (pathos) have their own matter of speech. The quadrants (in a quadralectic frame of mind) provide the operational base for the various means of expression.

The primary, preconstruction phase may look, for that very reason, like a chaos or Babel-like confusion of tongues. The discovery (or inventio) causes initially an awe-inspiring feeling of wonder and confusion: this is communication, but what is it all about? What is going on?

Information comes from all directions and there is, for the time being, no other response possible then to look and to think (because that is what intuition is all about). There is no visible expression of the interaction at this stage in a communication, but the signs of preparations are everywhere.


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