Panoramic View:

The Stages of Water Trail

Stage One: The Experience of Freedom
Purposeful and spontaneous action
Water Trail begins with an arms-length examination of the experience of freedom, like anticipating a climb by viewing the mountain from the other side of a canyon. Diverse activities involving freedom are described in terms of structured experience and unstructured reality (e.g., card games governed both by rules and the luck of the draw). Subjective aspects of freedom frequently experienced -- e.g., purposefulness, spontaneity and anxiety -- are used to construct a structural form, the cluster, achieving some objectivity thereby.
Stage Two: The Hairy Hypothesis
There's something wild loose in here!
Water Trail descends into the canyon, and faces toward the high country. A marsh of philosophical confusion stands in the way. The trail skirts the edge of the marsh and threads cautiously through areas considered treacherous. It follows a little-used path, guided by the hypothesis that there is always latent in reality -- and often active, too -- a source of disruption and confusion that can only be described as wild. The marsh looks different from this path, but the marsh is not the goal of this trip. This happens to be the place where the author found a way to go up.

Stage 3: Generating Structure
Freedom is doing what one pleases
Wild reality suggests that errors are inherent in experience, created by discrepancies between the nature of experience and that of reality. Water Trail climbs upward, each major leg an exploration of a kind of error. Each error points toward psychological processes that generate it. The processes are refined into forms of notation -- supported by an artificial psychology -- that can be embodied on electronic devices. The first forms of notation serve some simple uses. Their limitations are easily demonstrable, leading to a series of revisions that develop greater scope and power.

Stage 4: Diversifying Structure
Freedom is discovering the world

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From Base Camp, Water Trail branches into a network of trails, generally developing in related ways, but with individual differences. The approach is that diversification arises from adaptations of structural systems to conform to various aspects of reality, giving rise to forms of experience -- including space, time, objects, causation, numbers and logic -- investigated by Piaget and his associates in studies of child development. Actions and relationships between actions, such as causality, have apparent explanatory power and offer many opportunities for invention, but, in dealing with them, we do not have the security enjoyed when dealing with state structures. Ways and constraints are introduced and an enlarged structural system is used to model laws of various kinds and strengths (natural or scientific law, juridical law, interpersonal/communal practice and custom, moral law).

Stage 5: Integrating Structure
Freedom is weaving oneself into reality

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Unlike an ordinary mountain, the mountain of freedom grows outward as the altitude increases. So, a trivially simple system of structure (introduced in Stage 3) expanded by the end of the fourth stage into a collection of diverse systems. These systems sometimes conflict with one another and often require co-ordination. Under the hairy hypothesis, the best we can do is to invent partial solutions. Development has provided tools to construct various possibilities out of fragments of images drawn (explicated) from previous experiences. Using a model based on judicial proceedings, where several adverse parties may present different versions of reality to a judge who then issues a decision, the problem is integration of multiple images into a single image. Attention is drawn to foci of incongruence where images do not fit together. Some foci of incongruence resemble issues of controversy in a trial; more general forms include: contradictions between two images, terms weakly defined, circularities, novel or unexpected features and pervasive structural mismatch (e.g. verbal description of a visual image). Some foci of incongruence can be analyzed and the products of analysis -- ambiguities -- can be related to exercises of freedom involved in various human activities. Practical tools will handle unambiguous aspects of an activity, identify and organize ambiguities, and guide and assist us in our exercise of freedom.

All materials copyright by Robert Kovsky, 1997.