Responsa Clamata in Deserto:
Reply to Berezin on the Struggle for Creativity in AcademiaLand, and a
Reply to Robertson on the Struggle for Creativity in ChaoLand, and a
Reply from Protagoras Concerning Creativity in LogosLand

By & © Frederick David Abraham
July, 1996, for Dialogue (This is the original unabridged version; an editorially abridged version appears as Commentary: On Alexander A. Berezin's "Interdisciplinarity Challenges the Myth of 'experts,'" in: Dialogue, 1996, vol. 1, (3&4), 14. Thanks to LS for a nice job.)

The issue Berezin poses (1996) is the extent to which communal-cultural conservatism (his focus is on the academic community) stifles creativity (his focus is on scientific creativity). In chaos theory, we are engaged in our own struggle as a linguistic community (Abraham, 1995; Gilgen, 1995; Goldstein, 1995; Leibniz-Abraham, 1666-1695/1995; Robertson, 1996; Tryon, 1995). Chaos theory was borne into contemporary science as a free spirit, a sea on which to surf in creativity and freedom. But as our enterprise matures, it is beginning to rigidify as it tries to justify itself to its academic critics. Part of our struggle revolves around a false schism between the more metaphoric and imaginative uses of chaos concepts as applied to art, culture, literature, and therapy (occasionally without much familiarity with the fundamental concepts of dynamics), and the more technical scientific enterprise (occasionally without much imagination with regards to the cultural embodiments of that knowledge). (My parenthetical caveats are not meant to detract from the positive contributions of these approaches.) Thus there is a similar struggle for creativity within our own community. The issue Berezin raises is not trivial, not just a matter of our survival in an academic/funding community (for those of us still wandering its hallowed halls), but is a matter of the discovery and creation of knowledge and reality. These are things precious to many of us. Foucault (1970) called them "The will to knowledge" and "The will to truth".

My own definition of creativity (1996), "Creativity is self-organizational bifurcation to novel attractors of being", by context, emphasizes chaos also, which brings it close to the intention of the Gardnerian-Csikzentmihalyan-Gruberian-Feldmanian systems approach to creativity, a requirement for which is what Gardner (1993) calls "fruitful asynchrony", a condition often quashed by the academic conditions indicted by Berezin (see Abraham, 1995; Zausner, 1996). A chaotic mixing of existential angst (convergent forces) and joy (divergent forces), so requisite to creativity, might appreciate some of the hardships of the academic marketplace, but who could deny that the excesses Berezin highlights exceed and negate those useful to creativity. When Nachmanovich (1990) talks of "unblocking the obstacles to its [creativity's] natural flow", he is talking about the inner landscape, but this inner landscape is inextricably interactive with the external landscape.

I consider hermeneutics and post-modernism a sort of yin-yang dual-perspective dyad. Hermeneutics seeks the creation of truth through interpretation and understanding, emphasized in the famous hermeneutic circle. The hermeneutic circle of understanding the relationships between whole and parts rests on Humboldt's "vorgängige Grundlage des Begreifens" a "prexisting basis of understanding", a rapport or wholeness between the interpreter and subject of investigation. Humboldt thus anticipated Droysen, Dilthey, Husserl, Heidegger, and Gadamer (Mueller-Vollmer, 1992, p. 15).

Post-modernism has often been criticized as nihilistic, on the dark side, especially in the French deconstructionism of the post-structuralists such as Derrida (1967), and the reductio's of the Frankfurt school, such as in Horkheimer and Adorno's critique of the Enlightenment (1947/1973). But I interpret nihilistic extremes by Nietzsche's observation (1883), "I love those that that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers. I love the despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore." I see the Judaic "peeling of the onion" as a deconstruction aimed at unpeeling and hermeneutically reconstructing and creating the truth. Greeley (1995) has found this also in her search for meaning in the pauses and silent moments in dialogue. Greeley is similar to Zausner in seeing the dynamics of creativity in the "void" of the "bifurcation transformation" (also emphasized by Abraham, 1996, and Paar, 1992).

The struggle between enlightment and social forces of repression are far from new. As an example of an early stuggle of this nature, I recently received a letter from Protagoras, in response to my inquiry concerning his difficulties. It was delivered to me during an address at the recent Conference of our Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences, and read to those assembled for Robertson's address on the struggles for meaning within our society.


Athens, June CDXV, BCE

Dear Fred,

You ask for advice about the search for wisdom. I am not sure that I am the best person to answer that. We certainly tried out best to pursue sophia, which means wisdom and skill, to learn and understand. But there are those who have taken advantage of some ambiguity there, and have given our efforts a pejorative connotation of deception by skillful false reasoning. So our efforts to provide a path to the pursuit of truth may not have been entirely successful. We applied reasoning and humanitarian concerns as an alternative path to enlightenment to that offered by the mythic-poetic-theistic traditions which were beginning to give way in our culture. Our efforts were honorably received in our day, but have been tainted in time, largely due to the efforts of that rascal, Plato, who felt that our professionalization of these skills in the pursuit of truth in everyday social life emphasized the skill as a path to success over the search for truth. In teaching rhetoric and law using the adversarial technique of having students argue both sides of an issue, we sought to place the search for truth above all else, not the pretense to truth by a better argument at the expense of truth.

It is a pity that only fragments of my writing remain. When Diogenes Laertes (9.51) quoted me fairly accurately in the two-logoi fragment as saying:

kai prwtos efh duo logouz einai peri pantos pragmatos antikeimenouz allhloiz

I was following the lead of Heraclitus who made much of oppositions as you well know. And in fact, the interpretations of this fragment have been either Heraclitan or subjective. Subjective ones consider this fragment to mean such things as "On every issue there are two arguments opposed to each other" (O'Brien, 1969) or reduce my statement to the absurd 'proposition that a debate is possible on any topic' (paraphrase of Schiappa, 1991). This subjective interpretation is founded on a misunderstanding to the term logoi as an artifice created by the adversarial agents, as only rhetoric (Plato's term, not mine), not by the aspects of truth inherent in the phenomena being debated.

Heraclitean interpretations are more like Untersteiner's (1949/1954) "In every experience there are two logoi in opposition to each other" or Kerford's (1981) "There are two logoi concerning everything, these being opposed to each other". Both, in leaving logoi untranslated, emphasized the closeness of my logos to the realities sought by Heraclitus, and to a true understanding of the term pragmata, things, the real nature of things and experience. I was concerned with all things, from `reality and divinity, to political, social, and ethical life and their theoretical and practical' aspects (paraphrase Schiappa, 1991, as is most of my letter, for I speak not your language).

As Robinson (1979) notes, I considered pragma to mean `reality' in a general sense. That would include what you would now recognize as subjectively or Hermeneutically created (as Greeley, 1991, points out in her chaoanalysis of the early Socratic Dialogs after my time) as well as the objectively created. Thus you can see that `pragma, reality, is such that there are two opposing ways, logoi, to describe, account for, or explain any given experience.

Thus my two-logoi fragment was meant be an extension of Heraclitus' theory of flux and Unity-of-Opposites doctrines. Many of you have taken these theories to heart, literally in the case of Sabelli who has written a book on the Union of Opposites, and has applied it to study of the heart and psychology (Sabelli, 1989, 1995). It could also be observed from the time of the early preSocratics like Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras (a favorite of Rössler's), Empedocles, Alcmaeon, and Melissus, all of whom used concepts of opposition and all of whom were rationalizing mythic and theistic interpretations, that the history of the development of these ideas followed bifurcation sequences into greater and more explicit theorizing that you modern chaoticians would find fascinating.

So were sophists pursuing the truth. One can say the same of the chaostitians. And, as you can see, Chaos Theory is not the first arena of discourse to have difficulty in finding its philosophical foundations, or to suffer discredit for attempts to promote and professionalize its program. We sophists who built on the foundations established by the earlier Presocratics and who revolutionized the teaching and practice of reasoning and understanding had similar difficulties. I particularly was motivated by a preference for a humanistic logos over traditional mythoi, or mytho-poetic traditions, in trying to understand logos. My teaching was transitional between written prose and oratorical aphorism, and the fragments left in your day need careful study to know our way, and to use it in your work. It may be that the attempt to institutionalize any house of wonder and awe will suffer the same self-organized demise without vigorous attempts to keep it vital. You should thank Robin, Michael, Bill, Hector, Sally, Allan, Rick, Tobi, Lillian, the late Tom Gentry, Marianne, Louise, and the rest of the Society for keeping it so. And thanks to Alexander for pointing to the dangers in academia. Thank you all for keeping our traditions alive.

Your sophistic instructor,



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Created: 11/2/96 Updated: 1/1/97; 1/25/2010