Using form in the sense of abstract structure, the focus of my interest in this investigation is limited to the formal properties of the inquiry process. Among its chief constituents are numbered all the thinking and unthinking processes supporting the ability to learn and to reason. This formal apology, the apologetics of declaring a decidedly formal intent, will be used on numerous occasions to beg off a host of material difficulties and thus avoid the perceived necessity of meeting a multitude of conventional controversies.
The first use of the formal apology is to rehabilitate certain classes of associations between concepts otherwise marked as category mistakes. The conversion is achieved by flipping from one side of the concept’s dual aspect to the other as the context demands. Thus it is possible in selected cases to reform the characters of category mistakes in the manner of categorical retakes or double-takes.
The second use of the formal apology is to permit the tentative extension of concepts to novel areas, giving them experimental trial beyond the cases and domains where their use is already established in the precedents of accustomed habit and successful application.
This works to dispel the “in principle” objection that any category distinction puts a prior constraint on the recognition of similar structure between materially dissimilar domains. It leaves the issue a matter to be settled by post hoc judgment, a matter of what fits best “in practice”.
Another obstacle to inquiry is posed by the combinatorial explosion of questions arising in complex cases. The embarrassment of riches found here is deceptively deadly to the ends of inquiry in the very measure it appears so productive at first. An eye to form provides a way to manage the wealth of material diversity by identifying formal similarities among materially distinct domains. It allows the same formal answer to unify a host of concrete questions under a single roof, overall reducing the number of distinct topics that need to be covered.
Iterations of the recombinatorial process generate alternative hierarchies of categories for controlling the explosion of parts in the domain under inquiry. If by some piece of luck an alternative framework is uniquely suited to the natural ontology of the domain in question, it becomes advisable to reorganize the inquiry along the lines of the new topic headings.
But a complex domain seldom falls out that neatly. The new interpretive framework will not preserve all the information in the object domain but typically capture only another aspect of it. To take the maximal advantage of all the different frameworks that might be devised it is best to quit depending on any one of them exclusively. Thus, a rigid reliance on a single hierarchy to define the ontology of a given domain passes over into a flexible application of interpretive frameworks to make contact with particular aspects of one’s object domain.