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Ternary Analysis

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Definition of work as justified intervention

This figure summarises the main features of Ternality Theory.


Figure button   The ternary domanial structure


We now turn to the practical technique, called 'Ternary Analysis' that uses this ternary domanial structured paradigm. As an example of this technique, we shall examine how it throws new light on the concept of work.

There is a parallel between the definition of mechanical work, found in Newtonian mechanics, and the generalised definition of work that we use in Ternary Analysis.


Figure button     Work in mechanics and in cybernetics


Newton's First Law states "every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it."

When such a force is applied, so that the state of the body is changed, then we say that "work is done when the point of application of the force moves in the direction of the force".

In Ternary Analysis, everything continues in a state of 'free fall' unless an intervention is made to change that free fall.

In this figure, the intervention is a nudge that causes the ball to fall into basin B rather than basin A. Because cybernetics is partly about gubernation (controlling, managing, or governing), we are especially interested in the fact that the intervention has to be justified, in the sense that the free fall after the intervention has to be in some sense better than it would have been had the intervention not occurred. For the nudge to be justified, it must be better for the ball to be in B rather than A.


Figure button   Free fall and intervention


Work involves a criterion of success

There are many contexts in which a distinction can be made between work and activity that is not work. A common one is between work and play, defining work as that which is undertaken for remuneration of some kind.

For our purposes, work is not necessarily remunerated, and is not to be contrasted with play. But it is contrasted with mere unguided activity. To be work, it must involve a task of some kind, with some criterion of success.

In other words, work has to have an objective, which is not merely a final state but is 'correct' or 'valued' in some way. This is where Ternality Theory comes in, with its concepts of imparity and of terns, and its proposal for a new structured paradigm, that enables us to introduce a valuational order.

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© Copyright D J Stewart 1999, 2003. All rights reserved.

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