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Multi-Construct Thinking

Every way of organizing thought is a created system. Our perception of the world is shaped by the cultural norms of our belief system. Our religions, our philosophies, our professions, our role in our family, community, society, all channelize our conceptions of reality to a specific end which is not necessarily correlated with reality. How we define our terms and engage in language(s) shapes what we can and cannot experience or even perceive, invest with meaning. Each of these ‘organizations of ideas’ can be thought of as an artificial construction that can be dangerous to confuse with the real world.


Our constructs guide our vision to what reinforces our belief in the construct. Constructs both illuminate the true nature of the universe and obscure a true picture of the universe, mostly because the universe is just so damn big. We can access literally an infinite amount of information. A true picture is too large to comprehend so we cut it up into pieces. We make maps and guidebooks because there is a lot of room between being able to know something about something, which we obviously and easily are capable of, and knowing everything about everything. A true map of the universe would be as big as the universe, which is preposterous. So we create constructs, formalized systems to organize information to make the infinite universe appear to be knowable. Nothing is wrong with that until we mistake our construct of the universe for the universe. Every construct breaks down at the edges and becomes false and meaningless. That’s why every construct has a critic. To not stray from the truth ask not if a construct is true but how is this construct true? In what ways is this construct false? In what ways is this construct meaningless?


Constructs are a systematic framework of patterns of concepts and sub-organizations of concepts, memes if you will. Memes are words or ideas, but seen as existing independently in an information universe. Memes have many of the qualities of life in that they can be created (born if you will), they reproduce, they grow and evolve, and they disappear (die if you will). Constructs are simply large and complex memes.


 Constructs provide power by directing or harnessing information in a directed fashion. A shared language allows cooperation and all it entails; it allows cultures to arise preserving memes in the cultural members and in their artifacts, increasing the memes chance for survival.


Constructs create meaning and are created with a purpose. Purposeless and meaningless constructs lack survival value from competition from constructs with purpose and meaning. Malicious constructs, or patterns of behavior or belief that have deleterious effect can continue to exist when chained to a larger construct with survival value.


Perhaps you have heard this example; an anthropologist, a physicist, and a mathematician journeyed to Scotland and saw a brown cow. The anthropologist said the cows are brown in Scotland. The physicist corrected her by saying there are cows in Scotland and some of them are brown. The mathematician corrected her with there is at least one cow in Scotland, one of which’s side is brown. This illustrates how our understanding of the world filters the meaning that we attach to our perceptions. Most of us already juggle multiple constructs. Lets say the anthropologist is also a mother, a Buddhist, and a libertarian. All of these constructs will inform the way she perceives Scotland. Multiple constructs may overlap or not. If our mathematician is a father and a vegetarian as well those systems have little overlap. They provide their respective meanings to the individual who is a mathematician largely in their separate spheres of understanding. Having disparate constructs to create meaning in a variety of circumstances enriches the individual.

When multiple constructs overlap they can be in agreement or disagreement. Our Buddhist anthropologist easily sees the connection between the threat of ethnocentrism, judging owns own culture as better or more right than others and the Buddhist idea of seeing the Buddha nature in all people. In fact the anthropologist is informed and enriched by her practice of Buddhism. Both the shared language of the two systems and the extent that each reaches places the other might not have gone makes our anthropologists personal uber-construct of anthrobuddhistmotherism a more robust system in which to place her sense of self.



Categories: philosophy
  1. MrJoe
    October 22, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Nicely written, eloquently put.
    So …in what way does the construct of constructs breakdown and become false?

  2. Mike
    October 22, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the comment Joe. Constructs of constructs can break down into meaninglessness by taking the provisio that everything is true too far. If you believe in everything than you believe in nothing. There is a balance to be struck between relativism and recognizing that there is an absolute truth it is just too big and complex to communicate totally truthfully. Another threat to multi-construct thinking is contradiction. In a way this is the most exciting possibility as it opens the doors to potentially new enlightening syntheses. Sometimes these syntheses are not readily apparent and this is where multi-construct thinking is useful in that it more readily allows the existance of contradictory ideas.

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