Publication 5055

Scott B. (2000) Organizational closure and conceptual coherence. In: Chandler J. & Van de Vijver G. (eds.) Closure: Emergent organizations and their dynamics. New York Academy of Sciences, New York: 301–310. Fulltext at
This paper reviews ideas developed by the late Gordon Pask as part of his conversation theory (CT). CT uses theories of the dynamics of complex, self-organizing systems, in conjunction with models of conceptual structures, in order to give an account of conceptual coherence (for example, of a theory or a belief system) as a form of organizational closure. In Pask’s own terms, CT is concerned both with the kinematics of knowledge structures and the kinetics of knowing and coming to know. The main features of modelling conceptual structures and processes used by Pask are presented. We continue by presenting a summary two-cycle model of learning, aimed to capture some of Pask’s key insights with respect to conceptual coherence and the organizational closure of conceptual systems. Parallels are drawn with other work in epistemology, classic cybernetic studies of self-organization, and the concept of autopoiesis. The two-cycle model is then applied recursively to generate learning cycles and conceptual structures at different levels of abstraction, as a contribution to the work of Pask on the topology of thought. Finally, the model is applied reflexively. That is, its own form is considered as a topic for conversation and conceptualization. Carrying out such a reflection provides a coherent way of characterizing epistemological limits, while retaining a clear sense of there being an (in principle) unlimited praxeology of awareness.

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