Semiotics, Compassion and Value-Centered Design

3. GROUNDLESSNESS AND COEMERGENCE

Algebraic semiotics seems to conflict with the claim that design is groundless.

But this arises from an implicit mathematical Platonism, instead of accepting groundless continual reconstruction by social groups.

This reconstruction is the Buddhist pratityasamutpada, literally ``dependent arising,'' translated codependence or coemergence.

Nothing exists by itself, but everything is interdependent; i.e., arises with other things.

The lack of ground follows from coemergence.

Nishitani says much Western history is a progression of questioning absolutes, and he identifies two extreme responses:

  1. nihilism, absolute relativity, the denial of any meaning; and
  2. absolutism, the denial of the questioning.
Absolutism may be dogmatism, fundamentalism, or extreme reductionism.

Moreover, unstable oscillation between the extremes tends to arise.

Groundlessness is not a stable, fixed state. Nor is it passive.

All living systems constantly rebalance state to achieve equilibrium.

Nishitani says accepting groundlessness avoids nihilism, absolutism, and oscillation between them.

Phrases like ``dark night of the soul'' and ``cloud of unknowing'' have been used to describe this state.

Results of practicing it include openness, compassion, harmony with nature, joy, strength, and peace.

Also for design, avoiding relativism and reductionism, drawing energy and inspiration from silence, make sense.


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