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Traditional western science and technology is strongly influenced by rationalism and logical empiricism that can be traced back to Plato. A good summary of this paradigm can be found in [#!winograd85!#]. When faced with the problem of trying to understand a system, the rationalistic tradition indicates that three basic steps are taken:

The rationalist approach requires complete knowledge of sub-components and their actions and interactions. Decomposition of complex systems into simpler parts is a natural scientific paradigm in the rationalist approach.

The rationalist approach is in contrast to hermeneutics [#!heidegger68!#]. Here the components of a whole system are defined as an interpretation in the context of the whole and the environment. There is no full and explicit understanding of neither the components nor the whole system. The understanding is never complete.

The whole system defines to exists a hermeneutic circle where there are no absolute facts but only interpretations of content within a context.

For example, try looking up a word in the dictionary. A word is defined in terms of other words which eventually have definitions which circle back to the original word. From Webster, the verb ``to move'' is defined as ``to go from one place to another with a continuous motion'' while the verb ``to go'' is defined as ``to move on a course.'' Each word is defined in a circular fashion having each other's word used in each other's definition. The two words together form a noemic concept associated with motion. Of course, there are many meanings of these two words, each dependent on a context. These two words participate in many noemic concepts.

Hermeneutic circles are like fast spinning toy tops. An external observer, one outside the toy top, is given the tasks of riding, or understanding, the toy top. His first attempt is to step onto the toy top and is immediately thrown off. To be successful, first the observer must gain momentum, and match the motion of the toy top, and then, step onto the toy top. One can't understand the hermeneutic circle without first understanding the whole.

Edmund Husserl called the Hermeneutic circle paradigm a Noema [#!dreyfus79!#]. Noema is an antiquated Greek word for an intellect.

A Noema has the following characteristics:

The traditional hard sciences have carved a very small domain out of the universal Noema. The actions of one component affects the whole and cannot be taken in isolation.

next up previous
Next: Traditional Engineering Up: The Noemic Paradigm Previous: The Noemic Paradigm
Ronald LeRoi Burback