|Verstand's illusion about life: make wholes from parts.|
Verstand thinking is mechanistic, abstracting, and rules-based, so it performs analysis by breaking things into parts and rules, and it performs synthesis by following the rules for assembling the parts into "wholes" that are mechanisms. Verstand thinking is motivated by the profound belief that the truth is found in the building blocks of things - that all things are built out of building blocks - and that he who can identify these blocks and the rules for putting them together acquires God-like control over the realm of things those blocks are used to build. At its core, Verstand is a form of reductionism - the belief that truth and power are found by reducing things to irreducible components. Verstand is thus a form of atomism, a kind of logic, a kind of mathematical thinking, a mindset of scalpels and puzzles.
|Monsters, not people, are made of parts.|
Living systems are not made of parts. A living organism is not made of parts. Although our language and thinking are so deeply contaminated that we think of our arm as a part that is connected to the rest of the body, that is thoroughly, profoundly false. Our arm did not begin separate for us - we were not assembled by adding arms to an armless torso - and it would do terrible violence to us to remove it. It is not a part. Nor is it connected to us - one connects parts to create a mechanical whole. Its relationship to us cannot be explained in terms of parts and connections - yet that is how we talk and think about even our own body.
|Life's true structure: integrated centers.|
As Christopher Alexander writes in The Nature of Order, Volume One: The Phenomenon of Life, rather than being made up of parts, living systems are made up of centers. In a living system, although these centers are distinguishable and therefore nameable, they are not truly separable from each other. They cannot be separated because they are integrated into a whole - not in the way Verstand thinking would have it, in which they would begin as separate parts and then be snapped or woven together, but rather in a way that only living systems are capable of.
|Life unfolds new centers, one after another.|
The clearest example of this is the way an acorn grows into an oak tree. The acorn does not contain a miniature oak that merely increases in size, nor does it contain the parts of an adult oak waiting to be assembled. It contains three things instead: (1) it is itself a center, (2) it contains rules for how new centers can be unfolded around the existing center to expand the strength of this initial center, and (3) it is alive, so that it interacts with the other centers around it in ways that permit both them and itself to thrive, so it can gain strength from the presence of the other centers it needs to live. The seed weaves itself into the ecosystem around it, draws upon its resources, and uses them to develop itself into a new center within the larger center. As it increases its own strength, so at the same time it contributes to the larger center around it.
|Our arms and legs form as buds, new centers unfolding.|
|Not a machine, but an ecosystem.|
So, in truth, your arm is not a part connected to the rest of you. It is a living center integrated with the whole of you. Verstand cannot comprehend this, but Begriff can. Here's why.
Where Verstand trusts in parts and the rules for manipulating them, Begriff deals in wholes, in complete living systems and their behavior. This is why Begriff only accumulates around topics we have immersed ourselves in for long periods of time, to give the subjects time to re-form our minds to fit the complex truths about them. When you have a Begriff understanding of a subject, you don't need rules or parts most of the time to figure out what the subject will do; you just know, because you have experienced it in all its details for so long. How does this work?
|All the world's a stage - to us. Mimesis powers Begriff.|
|In his mind, Einstein role-played light.|
I'm one of the three experts in the world (along with Wally Fort and Dr. Dave Wilson) on VISTA's Task Manager module. Part of what makes me great at troubleshooting Taskman is that I anthropomorphize him. I know what he will do, how he acts, what he wants, so equally strongly I know - in my gut - when his behavior is off-kilter, because that's not what he would do. But of course, I'm not really anthropomorphizing him - I've become him. In my mind, when I'm troubleshooting Taskman, I am Taskman. I know what I would do in his shoes, which is why my intuitive response is so visceral when he's misbehaving. So it is with most great masters of any subject. Whether they're consciously aware of it or not, in their mind (both thoughts and feelings) they have memorized the role of their subject and can role-play it through all its lines and permutations. They know the role so well, they not only know what would be in character for their subject, they also know what would be out of character.
|Learning through mimesis (age 2).|
Begriff is the basis for much of the rapid learning and maturation by which the infant mind becomes the adult mind, physiological transformations aside. As we learn through education to shift from Begriff thinking to Verstand thinking, we lose our ability to learn rapidly and become increasingly rigid and brittle in our thinking. It is because of this abstractivizing mindset that we lose the ability to see past our own prejudices, because Verstand prefers abstract theories about things over the actual, concrete experience of them. This is why a generation of scientists had to die off before the theory of continental drift - which is so obvious that any child with a globe could see it in the shapes of the continents - could overcome the abstract prejudices against it. Rationalism - an overreliance on the power of reason alone, too independent of concrete, empirical evidence - is a dangerous faculty equally at home leading us away from the truth as toward it; Verstand is the thought process most involved in the pure exercise of reason unrestrained by concrete evidence.
|Verstand sees parts. Begriff sees life.|
Complex living systems of the kind Dr. Alexander writes about can only be created through living processes. Planning for such development processes cannot be done in the mechanistic ways that dominate modern architecture and project-management theory. And the organic planning methods needed will only ever be conceived and executed by those capable of informed Begriff thinking, by those capable of seeing the world in terms of complex organic systems rather than reductionist tinkertoy machines.