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Ternality Theory

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Ternality—an introductory summary

An exposition is given of the fundamental principles of purpose and directiveness, terms used here to cover both designation (including design, adaptation, and evolution) and gubernation (which includes government, management, and control).

Early teleological theories—here called the 'first paradigm'—about this apparently diverse subject-matter, and mainly based on Aristotle's doctrine of the four causes, have gradually been replaced by the mechanistic conceptions of the Darwinian and Cybernetics schools—here called the 'second paradigm'.

These developments have lead to the proposition that information is as much a physical quantity as are matter and energy, and so have required the augmentation of classical natural science by adding to it a second domain (defined as open to energy but closed to information and control) to accommodate the resulting new concepts. The result was to create the concept of binary (i.e. two-domain) mechanism.

However, this approach still left unresolved many of the original problems raised by mechanistic conceptions of purposiveness—for example, those about the relationship between designed and designoid, and between governed and governoid, entities—and the notion persists that a situation falls outside the scope of natural science if a human (or indeed a divine) designer or governor is involved.

Ternality Theory proposes that, to avoid these difficulties, a third paradigm is required. Physical science again needs to be augmented—by the addition of yet a third domain (split from the second by a discontinuity derived from Hume's Law and defined as open to information but closed to imparity) this time to accommodate concepts relating to preference, value, and justification. The result is to create the concept of ternary (i.e. three-domain) mechanism.

The name 'Ternality Theory' indicates that, in place of the earlier two domains, with their duality of energy and information, three domains are now involved, with a ternality of energy, information, and imparity.

In this way it is possible to go even further beyond mechanism as it was originally understood, and to dissolve the remaining objections to it. A new integration of all this subject-matter is developed, using a proposed principle of ternality, leading to a new structured paradigm for purposiveness and directiveness, and bringing the whole field within the reach of natural science.

An outline of some of the numerous and wide-spread practical applications of these ideas is given, together with an outline of suggested new terminological standards and analytical techniques. There is also a discussion of some of the fundamental implications of the new paradigm.

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© Copyright D J Stewart 1987, 1998, 2003. All rights reserved.

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