- Watzlawick’s request for a pragmatic calculus of communication up to now was never appropriately answered. W. Barnett Pearce and Vernon E. Cronen (Communication, Action, and Meaning : The Creation of Social Realities, 1980) did important studies on this as did Anthony Wilden (System and Structure : Essays in Communication and Exchange, 1972), but we still lack it.
Watzlawick’s request for a pragmatic calculus of communication recalls McCulloch’s earlier question whether the human capacity for insightful learning and reasoning demands a grasp of trans-dyadic relations, or not.
But the problem of insight, or intuition, or invention — call it what you will — we do not understand, although many of us are having a go at it. […] Tarski thinks that what we lack is a fertile calculus of relations of more than two relata. I am inclined to agree with him, and if I were now the age I was in 1917, that is the problem I would tackle.
That process of insight by which a child learns at least one logical particle, neither or not both, when it is given only ostensively — and one must be so learned — is still a little beyond us. It may perhaps have to wait for a potent logic of triadic relations, but I now doubt it. (McCulloch, p. 15).
The way I see things today, my motto would be Context Precedes Calculus if I had to sum it up as briefly as possible. In other words, the first order of business is finding the right context for understanding the phenomena and problems at hand. As far as the human capacity for conversing with nature and our fellows goes, pragmatic thinkers informed by Peirce would no doubt point to the context of triadic sign relations and declare, “Eureka! This Must Be The Place.”
- McCulloch, Warren S. (1961), “What Is a Number that a Man May Know It, and a Man, that He May Know a Number?”, Ninth Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, General Semantics Bulletin, Numbers 26 and 27, pp. 7–18, Institute of General Semantics, Lakeville, CT. Reprinted in Embodiments of Mind, pp. 1–18. Online (1) (2).
- McCulloch, Warren S. (1965), Embodiments of Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.