Thursday, June 15, 2006


Very few readers would bother to wander at length through the pages of Synergetics, a hard book to read, unless paid to do so.

That's why I've always figured philosophy professors might be among those to pick up the ball and run with it, if anyone. Doctors of philosophy are paid to read the hard stuff (Hegel, Kaufmann, Rorty, Quine, Popper...) and then discuss it knowledgeably.

However, given how specialized academic philosophers have become, what're the chances they'd ever have the patience for such as the following? Slim to none?
326.08 So long as humans progressively employ and develop their syntropic, energetic, metaphysical mind's capability to locally abet cosmic integrity, just so long will that metaphysical capability continue to operate in this particular local Universe's ecologically regenerative, planetary team aboard spaceship Earth. If, however, the entropic, energetically exploiting, antisynergetic, exclusively partisan profit motive -- political or financial -- continues to dominate and rule humans by force of arms, then the Earthian ecology team will become self-disqualifying for further continuance as a potentially effective local sustainer of cosmic-regeneration integrity. This is the net of what has now become metaphysically evidenced regarding the potential significance of humans aboard planet Earth. It is the nature of the contest between brain and mind. Brain is selfishly exclusive; mind is cosmically inclusive. Brain now commands the physical power to overwhelm humanity. But it is also the nature of mind’s design science capability to render all humanity physically successful, thus eliminating human preoccupation with the struggle and thereby freeing all humanity to become metaphysically preoccupied with fulfilling its cosmic-regeneration functioning.
So is this really not philosophy then?

The subtitle of the work is "explorations in the geometry of thinking" (so psychology then?), and section 251.50 provides some official hype: "[t]he integration of geometry and philosophy in a single conceptual system providing a common language and accounting for both the physical and metaphysical."

Sounds like a philosophy to me.

Those who'd worked closely with Bucky over the years knew that he'd been effective, in both hot and cold wars. The guy had a track record, which included working closely with the military. By the late 1970s, he was pointing to Synergetics as a place where he'd distilled a lot of his best thinking.

So a small clique within the intelligence community, anchored by E. J. Applewhite, continued exploring his writings for clues and views, as well as promising policy directions. Ed had been Fuller's chief collaborator on the two volumes, as chronicled in his whimsical Cosmic Fishing. He was an effective recruiter.

This Applewhite-managed "A team" operated outside the established academy for the most part, as a sort of elite counter-culture. Ed enjoyed dropping in on working scientists especially. He had business cards printed up giving "Layman" as his profession. He also helped with the relocation of the Fuller Archive from BFI to Stanford, and with the founding of SNEC, later renamed to The Synergetics Collaborative.

When I eventually joined this clique, having majored in philosophy at Princeton, I didn't cross paths with Applewhite right away, even though I was living in Georgetown in 1984, in a spare room provided by Brenda Brush (then an EEOC employee) and filled with spy novels. I even wondered at first if Ed really existed, until I ran across some article in The Futurist magazine, to which my dad had subscribed.

In one of our first meetings, Ed gifted me with his recently published Synergetics Dictionary, to help me interpret Fuller's unusual language (his vocabulary was deliberately remote -- gobbledygook some called it). That was the time my friend Matt and I were driving my sister's car from Montclair, New Jersey (she'd been in the Philosophy for Children program), to her new digs in Whittier, California. We drove the four volumes cross country.

Later, Ed and his wife June flew out to Portland to hang out for a couple of days (they stayed at the Arlington Club), which visit included a quick visit to Matt's office (he was still in the Portland Building back then). Ed was really into architecture and marveled at Portland's eclectic skyline.

Some years later, in a high-level multi-hour meeting with Jay Baldwin in San Jose at Rick Sonnenfeld's (my roommate in college, then with IBM @ Almaden), I talked about the chasm-spanning bridge I was building between Fuller's writings and Wittgenstein's later philosophy. I had a video camera that day, and got some clips of Jay talking about Tefzel, a barrel of which Rick just happened to have (good prop!).

is a case study in how words derive their spin from usage patterns, language games, more or less deliberately engineered. As a self-discipline and as a grammar (i.e. as a wittgenstein.grammar), synergetics suggests a form of life, a lifestyle, a sense of ethics and aesthetics. There's a moral dimension to Fuller's writings, even if Critical Path claims to be beyond good and evil.


We think we know what "gravity" means, but meanings really depend on the namespace don't they? Using dot notation, we could say that synergetics.gravity is not the same as physics.gravity, even if they partially overlap through Newton.

A philosopher might counter: so why not use "shmavity" then, if your "gravity" isn't the same as mine? But conceding every good word to an alien system isn't necessarily the most promising strategy for making headway in philosophy. Bucky had a greater will to power than that (250.30), as do strong writers more generally.