A philosophy for EA

Idealising realities in system descriptions

Copyright 2017 Graham Berrisford. One of about 300 papers at http://avancier.website. Last updated 15/11/2017 10:41

 

Enterprise architecture is about business system planning.

It can be seen as applying the principles of general system theory – which we’ll get to later.

This paper is one in a family of related papers - listed at the end.

The aim here is not to present a new philosophy.

It is to present a coherent and consistent philosophy, compatible with Darwin (biology), Ashby (systems) and modern science.

Contents

Questions to be answered. 1

What is the nature of description?. 2

What is the role of a describer?. 4

How accurately do describers describe things?. 6

What does it mean to exist?. 7

Science as a kind of idealism.. 9

Mental models. 10

Conclusions and remarks. 11

 

Questions to be answered

Generally speaking, one description can be realised in many realities.

And one reality can be idealised in many descriptions.

But there is more to the relationship of description to reality that.

Countless philosophers have proposed countless philosophies – both overlapping and contrary.

 

This triangular view is introduced in earlier papers.

Description theory

Descriptions (private & public)

<create and use>                   <idealise>

Describers     <observe & envisage>     Realities

 

The process of observing reality starts in perception and results in the creation of descriptive/mental models.

The process of envisaging reality starts in dream-like or consciously-directed brain activity and results in the creation of descriptive/mental models.

Describers translate descriptions from private to public forms, and back again.

 

Today, there is little debate about the existence of material realities.

Most presume that there is physical matter/energy out there.

The questions to be answered are rather the ones listed below.

 

What is the nature of description?

What is the role of a describer?

How to test things match their descriptions?

How accurately do describers describe or measure things?

What does it mean to exist?

 

Glossary (edited from the preceding paper ”A description and type theory”)

While reading this paper, it is best to put aside any other meanings you might bring to the terms below.

·         Describer: a thing (organism or machine) that can create and use a description.

·         Description: a thing that idealises another thing by recording or expressing some of its properties.

·         Thing: a discrete structure, object, behavior, event or description.

·         Instance: an embodiment, by one thing, of the properties of a type.

·         Type: an intensional definition of a thing; a description of the property type(s) that things of that type embody or give values to.

What is the nature of description?

A Darwinian explanation of description must start before mathematics and before words.

It starts from the notion that organisms can recognise family resemblances between things.

A family resemblance occurs when the same properties appear in several things, or when a new thing resembles a past thing.

 

The evolution of description outlined steps leading to the increasingly sophisticated creation and use of “types” to describe things.

This triangle represents relationships between describers, types and things.

 

Type theory

General Types

<create and use>         <idealise>

Describers <observe and envisage> Particular things

 

It is presumed here that we describe the structures and behaviors of a system by using words to typify particular things in that system.

You can read A description and type theory if you want to know more about the use of types to describe things.

 

What is the nature of description?

A particular thing is described with reference to general qualities.

What is the role of a describer?

To name a thing is merely to register its existence and identify it.

To describe a thing is not merely to register its existence, it is to typify it.

 

“In describing a situation, one is not merely registering a [perception], one is classifying it in some way, and this means going beyond what is immediately given.”

Chapter 5 of “Language, truth and logic” A J Ayer.

 

We describe particular things by relating them to general qualities.

We may describe a two-dimensional shape in terms of qualities such as “circular” or “rectangular”.

We describe other things with reference to qualities such as “beautiful”, “yellow”, “planet-like”, “dangerous” and “friendly”.

Such qualities are also known as types, concepts, properties or universals.

 

“The problem of universals”

The existence of universals has been debated by realist and idealist philosophers since Plato.

One popular source distils the debate thus.

“Taking "beauty" as example, three positions are:

·         Platonic realism: beauty is a property that exists in an ideal form independently of any mind or description.

·         Aristotelian realism: beauty is a property that exists only when beautiful things exist.

·         Idealism: beauty is a property constructed in the mind, so exists only in descriptions of things.” (“The Problem of Universals” Wikipedia 2017.)

 

Carving colours out of light

Consider the observable reality commonly called “colours”.

The sun emits radiation across a wide range of the electro-magnetic spectrum..

A tiny part of that spectrum is visible to humans in the form of a rainbow.

There were no colours in the rainbow until organisms could perceive and distinguish them.

 

Rainbow colours

7 colours of the rainbow

<defined>            <abstracted from>

Newton     <observed>  The visible spectrum

 

Different describers have divided the rainbow into differently-named colours.

And other animals see a different rainbow.

“It was natural for scientists to assume that bird vision is like human vision… after all, birds and humans are both active by day, we use bright colors as cues.”

But… systematic testing of bird vision revealed something unexpected: Many bird species can see UV light.”

http://www.nwf.org/news-and-magazines/national-wildlife/birds/archives/2012/bird-vision.aspx

 

Describing roles in natural realities

Consider the observable reality commonly called “the solar system”.

Before life on earth, it did not have a description, awaiting discovery.

Rather, astronomers created a description to help them understand and predict the reality.

 

Our solar system

“Planet”

<define & refer to>                <idealises>

Astronomers <observe and predict> Orbital motion

of bodies in space

 

Our “solar system” has changed: astronomers have added/subtracted bodies to/from the set of planets.

Meanwhile, those bodies have carried on as they did before – uninfluenced by any typification of them as planets.

 

Describers cannot describe every potentially describable feature of a reality.

E.g. to define a planet’s role in the solar system is to say little about any individual planet, and nothing about life on earth.

 

Defining roles in designed realities

Similarly, employers cannot – in business role definitions – describe much about the human actors employed to play those roles.

They can describe only very limited aspects of a person’s behavior.

Thankfully, regardless of their role descriptions; employees will carry on breathing, eating and drinking.

 

Business systems

Roles

<create and use>             <idealise>

Employers     <observe and envisage>   Activities

of actors

 

Human describers define roles - of planets in the solar system - of actors in a business.

They create an abstract description of activities performed.

One or more entities realise that description in concrete matter and motion.

 

What is the role of a describer?

To select and study those qualities relevant to some given aims(s) and/or concern(s).

 

Remember: the systems of one enterprise may be inconsistent, unrelated, or even in competition with each other.

To study all the behaviors of an enterprise is impossible, and the attempt is never made.

To apply system theory is to select and study those behaviors of an entity that are relevant to some given aims(s) and/or concern(s).

 

How accurately do describers describe things?

To navigate the world and predict its behavior, describers name and describe things they observe and envisage.

They describe a particular thing (say, a rose), by referring to abstract types (say, thorny) previously learnt or created.

This triangle expresses some essential relationships between describers, descriptions and realities.

 

Description theory

Descriptions

<create and use>         <idealise>

Describers <observe and envisage> Realities

 

Given one description, several realities can match it

At least, we can conceive of several realities that match one description (cosmologists now talk even of parallel universes).

How accurately does the match of reality to description have to be?

 

We test the truth of a description by either:

a)      pure logic – starting from some presumed axioms – as in mathematics

b)      measuring that the properties/qualities of a thing match its typifcation(s) – which is necessary in most practical situations.

 

Strict instantiation of types in pure mathematics

In pure mathematics, types are perfect, incontrovertible, immutable forms.

Consider these types: number, prime number, ratio, triangle, quadrilateral, rhombus, parallelogram, rectangle, square.

Mathematicians often treat types as strict - or monothetic.

They presume a thing conforms to a type if and only if it instantiates (gives a value to) every property type of that type.

 

Discussion of types tends to be dominated by mathematicians and philosophers who live in a world of abstract description.

They devise logical rules for manipulating abstract types and things.

Given the diameter of a circle, we can derive its circumference, and vice-versa, using the ratio called pi.

Even that purely logical calculation is only as accurate as the given measurement and the value used for pi (3.1? or 3.14159265?)

 

Fuzzy instantiation of types in applied mathematics

There are no perfect circles in the natural matter and energy of universe.

There are only countless shapes that are measurable as approximating to the "circle" type.

 

As soon as the "circle" type was first conceived, many things were measurable as approximating to it.

Suppose you try to calculate the value of the C, the total number of circles in the universe today?

The answer will depend on how accurately the radius of each shape from its central point is measured, and is required to be measured.

Moreover, the number will change during the measurement and counting process.

So, the value of C could only ever be an approximation – a fuzzy truth.

 

The fuzziness of types in the natural biological world

How would Charles Darwin have looked at “the problem of universals"?

He would see the process of typifying things (e.g. into food, friends and enemies) as a natural biological process.

The survival of biological entities is enhanced if they can remember types and recognize things that conform to them.

 

So, types are descriptive tools that evolved because they help organisms to survive.

However, animals do not naturally classify things into types in a strict or perfect way.

Rather, the types important to them are fuzzy and their pattern matching process is fuzzy.

E.g. birds peck at things that look to match the food type, and sometimes mistakenly swallow inedible items

 

Although animals do make such errors, it seems likely that fuzziness in their descriptions of the world is essential to life.

They cannot adapt to their experience unless their mental models are flexible, and can evolve.

 

How to test things match their descriptions?

By observation and measurement of quality values.

How accurately do describers describe or measure things?

Imperfectly, with a degree of truth.

What does it mean to exist?

Today, there is little debate about the existence of material realities.

Most presume that there is physical matter/energy out there.

And there is a straightforward answer to the question.

 

What does it mean to exist?

To be found in physical matter/energy.

 

What about our descriptive tools: what we call qualities, properties, concepts, universals or types?

 

Things were fuzzily typified by organisms long before humans (let alone mathematicians) came along.

The types we call “predator” and “prey” must somehow be encoded in the biology of an animal’s brain or body.

However, the discussion here focuses on types that are defined using verbal language.

 

Obviously, type names and definitions (which may be called tokens of types) exist in physical forms and in multiple copies.

Each documented score of a Beethoven symphony is a token of that type, and each may be realised in many instances, many symphony performances.

Suppose all tokens of one Beethoven symphony were erased; surely, it would be lost forever?

 

Consider “Yellow” and “Unicorn”; these are names of types observed or envisaged by mankind.

The type names and their descriptions are created and maintained in physical forms (in the mind, on paper, wherever) by living entities.

Suppose all those tokens of these types were erased from the physical world; surely, they would be lost, at least for a while?

Being dramatically simpler than a Beethoven symphony, they might soon be reinvented.

 

Consider the laws of physics; take Newton’s second law of motion (f = ma) as an example.

·         Do you side with Plato: The law exists in an ideal or ethereal form independently of any mind or description?

·         Do you side with Aristotle: The law exists only when measured in the motion of a thing?

·         Do you side with Idealists: The law is constructed in the mind, and so exists only in description?

·         Or adopt some other position?

 

You might argue Plato was right, because Newton’s laws are universally true.

Since Einstein however, we know these laws are not universally true.

 

Consider purely mathematical types like “circle” and “ratio”.

·         Do you side with Plato: The “ratio” type exists in an ideal or ethereal form independently of any mind or description?

·         Do you side with Aristotle: The “ratio” type exists only when perceived by a person?

·         Do you side with Idealists: The “ratio” type is constructed in the mind, and so exists only in description?

·         Or adopt some other position?

 

Is there any good reason to suppose the type “ratio” existed before life?

Must we suppose types exist in an eternal, ethereal or Platonic form outside of physical matter and energy?

Science as a kind of idealism

Reality is out there – describers can observe and envisage at least some of it.

However, most scientists believe the universe is not fully understandable by us.

Describers can only know reality to the extent they can perceive, describe and measure it.

 

The three positions quoted above are edited below in terms of a descriptive type.

·         Platonic realism: a descriptive type exists in an ideal form independently of any mind or description.

·         Aristotelian realism: a descriptive type exists only when things of that type exist.

·         Idealism: a descriptive type is a property constructed in the mind, so exists only in descriptions of things.

 

Some define the philosophy of science as a variety of realism (perhaps “critical realism”) or materialism.

This paper makes a case for saying that science is a kind of idealism - which is not necessarily to contradict those other views.

 

The relational interpretation of quantum mechanics

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle says we cannot accurately measure both the position and speed of a particle, since any measurement affects its properties.

In this connection, the famous double slit experiment produces counter intuitive results.

If the position of one particle (at one or other slit) is measured, it goes through only one slit, and does not produce an interference pattern.

If the position of one particle is not measured, it must have gone through both slits, since an interference pattern appears on the screen

In the latter case, the particle’s path is not so much uncertain as certain – it has travelled two paths and been in two places at once.

The largest entities for which the double-slit experiment has been performed were molecules that each comprised 810 atoms.

 

According to the relational interpretation of quantum mechanics, first proposed by Carlo Rovelli,

“Observations such as those in the double-slit experiment result specifically from the interaction

between the observer (measuring device) and the object being observed (physically interacted with), not any absolute property possessed by the object.”

 

In other words, a description arises from the interaction between the describer and the thing observed.

A description is not any absolute property possessed by the thing itself.

 

Science mapped to description theory

The word science is rooted in an old word for knowledge.

Scientific hypotheses describe the universe - the behaviors of entities that are presumed to exist in reality.

When hypotheses successfully predict real-world behaviors that are observed and measured, those hypotheses are regarded as knowledge.

 

Science might be simplified to three propositions that can be mapped to our description theory triangle.

1.      Scientists <observe and predict> the universe

2.      Scientists <create and use> hypotheses and knowledge

3.      Hypotheses and knowledge <conceptualise> the universe.

 

Science

Hypotheses & Knowledge

<create and use>               <conceptualise>

Scientists      <observe and predict>    The universe

 

This view of science is “idealist” rather than realist in either Platonic or Aristotlean senses

It matches how idealism is defined in quote above.

It matches how the terms idealisation and realisation are used in enterprise architecture frameworks.

If you are still inclined to call it realism, then read Realism or Idealism?

Mental models

Answers have emerged to the five questions at the start.

 

What is the nature of description?

A particular thing is described with reference to general qualities.

What is the role of a describer?

To select and study those qualities relevant to some given aims(s) and/or concern(s).

How to test things match their descriptions?

By observation and measurement of quality values.

How accurately do describers describe or measure things?

Imperfectly, with a degree of truth.

What does it mean to exist?

To be found in physical matter/energy.

 

That last is counter intuitive to people who believe their thoughts are immaterial.

However, the view taken today in cognitive science and psychology is that the mind has a physical biological basis.

Nobody knows exactly how brains work or how memories are stored.

Or understands the processes by which animals idealise, or abstract concepts from, realities.

One may speculate the brain has a communication stack from chemistry to consciousness, with different processes at every level.

But none of those things matter here.

 

All that matters is that we can prove the existence of a “mental model”.

Can an animal maintain a mental model that is accurate enough, for long enough, to recognise things it perceived before?

Can it find food, avoid danger, find a mate and reproduce?

Can it recognise similar events and respond to them by acting appropriately - to achieve a desired effect?

Tests show yes - it can.

 

Presumably, none of us inherits a mental model of pink roses, since they are not critical to human existence.

We have two other ways to form a mental model of pink roses, which may be used separately or together:

·         By perception: remembering perceptions of pink things and rose-like things.

·         By description: hearing or reading descriptions that associate “pink” and “rose with other type names we already have mental models of.

 

Descriptions appear in physical forms, in mental, oral and written models, and can be translated between those models.

Physically, descriptions need not even faintly resemble the realities they describe – they are instead encoded representations of them.

Conclusions and remarks

The universe includes planets and plants, memories and messages, tractors and tennis matches, symphony scores and performances, brains and computers.

We know these things as we describe them - in mental, documented and other kinds of model.

We cannot know them in any other way.

Descriptions are physical: whether organic or inorganic, internal or external, mental or documented.

Descriptions of one kind are translatable into descriptions of another kind.

The distinction between description and objective knowledge is fuzzy and/or ephemeral.

 

Realising abstract descriptions as concrete systems

This table draws correspondences between different views of description and reality.

Viewpoint

Description

Realities

Philosophy

A universal concept

helps people to understand and describe

particular things

Science

A scientific theory

helps people to understand and predict

real world events

System architecture

An abstract system description

helps people to understand and build

concrete systems

Software architecture

A software program

enables computers to make

run-time systems

 

When system theory ideas were aired by von Bertalanffy, Boulding and Ashby in the 1940s and 50s, computers were not in the picture.

The subsequent birth of computer science can be seen as a vindication of the idea that there is a cross-science general system theory.

Perhaps the pinnacle of our descriptive ability is the ability to write a description so precise that a computer can read it and realise it in an operational system.

Today, artificial intelligence software is marked by its ability to abstract types from things to help in dealing with future things.

 

A philosophy for EA

In short: every system description abstract facts important to the describer, from the infinite describable facts that could be found in the reality of the system that runs.

The view of science above can be generalised beyond science as follows.

1.      Describers observe and envisage realities (which they perceive as composed of discrete entities and events).

2.      Describers create and use descriptions (stored in memories and conveyed in messages using brains, speech, writing, pictures and other forms).

3.      Descriptions idealise realities (either mimic selected features of things, or represent them in some encoded form).

 

This is both our description theory and our philosophy of system theory.

It can be expressed more graphically in our triangle.

Scientific Idealism

Descriptions

<create and use>                <idealise>

Describers     <observe & envisage>     Realities

 

I am wary of giving this philosophy a name already used by others, and don't have a better term for it.

And whatever it is called - I believe the paper presents a rational argument for this triangular philosophy as a platform for system theory and EA.

 

Other triangular philosophies

Many people’s instinct is to divide the universe into mental and physical worlds.

However, the two-way mental/physical dichotomy of Cartesian dualism (after Descartes) has long been rejected by philosophers and scientists.

Others have proposed various three-cornered views of description and reality.

Read other triangular philosophies for notes on:

·         Saussure’s dyadic sign relation

·         Ogden and Richards semiotic triangle in “The Meaning of Meaning”

·         Peirce’s triadic sign relation

·         Karl Popper’s three worlds view

·         The ISO 42010 standard

 

This paper is one in a family of related papers.

1.      The nub of our philosophy

2.      Introduction (which leads to How the brain works)

3.      A communication theory.

4.      A language theory.

5.      A description and type theory (which leads to Realism or Idealism?)

6.      A philosophy (which leads to Other triangular philosophies)

7.      Knowledge and truth

 

 

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