Threesology Research Journal: Binary Structuralism

Binary Structuralism

Why no recognition of Trinary Structuralism?

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Progressive Thinkers as of 1/28/2023

I must admit that when I came across the idea of "Binary Opposition" in relation to... what amounts to be the identification of an underlying cognitive structure acting as a Major premise from which a Conclusion in the form of social constructs appear to be operating along lines of reasoning in concert with a similarly attendant linguistic entourage of influence; I couldn't keep from laughing! Are you kidding me? But let me provide some referential material before I start ripping those Structuralist idiots apart for their naiveté'. But please, don't misinterpret my intention. I am not at all on the offensive against the authors of the information. I am grateful to them. Please afford them their due respect and credit.

A roost of Philosophers being mentioned herein

Rachel Briggs and Janelle Meyer

Basic Premises

Structuralism was predominately influenced by the schools of phenomenology and of Gestalt psychology, both of which were fostered in Germany between 1910 and the 1930s (Sturrock 2003: 47). Phenomenology was a school of philosophical thought that attempted to give philosophy a rational, scientific basis. Principally, it was concerned with accurately describing consciousness and abolishing the gulf that had traditionally existed between subject and object of human thought. Consciousness, as they perceived, was always conscious of something, and that picture, that whole, cannot be separated from the object or the subject but is the relationship between them (Sturrock 2003: 50-51). Phenomenology was made manifest in the works of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre among others.

Gestalt psychology maintained that all human conscious experience is patterned, emphasizing that the whole is always greater than the parts, making it a holistic view (Sturrock 2003: 52). It fosters the view that the human mind functions by recognizing or, if none are available, imposing structures. Structuralism developed as a theoretical framework in linguistics by Ferdinand de Saussure in the late 1920s, early 1930s. De Saussure proposed that languages were constructed of hidden rules that practitioners 'know' but are unable to articulate. In other words, although we may all speak the same language, we are not all able to fully articulate the grammatical rules that govern why we arrange words in the order we do. However, we understand these rules at an implicit (as opposed to explicit) level, and we are aware that we correctly use these rules when we are able to successfully decode what another person is saying to us (Johnson 2007: 91).

Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 – 2009) is widely regarded as the father of structural anthropology. In the 1940s, he proposed that the proper focus of anthropological investigations is on the underlying patterns of human thought that produce the cultural categories that organize worldviews hitherto studied (McGee and Warms, 2004: 345). He believed these processes did not determine culture, but instead, operated within culture. His work was heavily influenced by Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss as well as the Prague School of structural linguistics (organized in 1926) which include Roman Jakobson (1896 – 1982), and Nikolai Troubetzkoy (1890 – 1938). From the latter, he derived the concept of binary contrasts, later referred to in his work as binary oppositions, which became fundamental in his theory.

In 1972, his book Structuralism and Ecology detailed the tenets of what would become structural anthropology. In it, he proposed that culture, like language, is composed of hidden rules that govern the behavior of its practitioners. What makes cultures unique and different from one another are the hidden rules participants understand but are unable to articulate; thus, the goal of structural anthropology is to identify these rules. Levi-Strauss proposed a methodological means of discovering these rules—through the identification of binary oppositions. The structuralist paradigm in anthropology suggests that the structure of human thought processes is the same in all cultures, and that these mental processes exist in the form of binary oppositions (Winthrop 1991). Some of these oppositions include hot-cold, male-female, culture-nature, and raw-cooked. Structuralists argue that binary oppositions are reflected in various cultural institutions (Lett 1987:80). Anthropologists may discover underlying thought processes by examining such things as kinship, myth, and language. It is proposed, then, that a hidden reality exists beneath all cultural expressions. Structuralists aim to understand the underlying meaning involved in human thought as expressed in cultural expressions.

Further, the theoretical approach offered by structuralism emphasizes that elements of culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to the entire system (Rubel and Rosman 1996:1263). This notion, that the whole is greater than the parts, draws upon the Gestalt school of psychology. Essentially, elements of culture are not explanatory in and of themselves, but rather form part of a meaningful system. As an analytical model, structuralism assumes the universality of human thought processes in an effort to explain the "deep structure" or underlying meaning existing in cultural phenomena. "…[S]tructuralism is a set of principles for studying the mental superstructure" (Harris 1979:166, from Lett 1987:101). (Structuralism)

I can just see the Chinese reviewers of this page shaking their heads in disbelief when they encounter the view that someone in the Western culture formally recognized the very perspective which the Chinese have had for thousands of years called the Yin and Yang. Duh!!! The Binary Opposition theory is not only described a Euro-centricity, but an Ethno-centricity and Subject-centricity. Talk about an Anthropological bias! Oh my gosh, the Chinese once again prove that their culture has provided yet another idea (like gunpowder) and used it to create yet another explosive... this time in creating both a vacuum and hole in the type of analysis being undertaken by those trying to assimilate Phenomenology with Linguistics and Cognitive research. Let's now take another example of explaining Structuralism so that the reader can see how it swings in an out of a "binary" orientation:

Structuralism: in cultural anthropology, the school of thought developed by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, in which cultures, viewed as systems, are analyzed in terms of the structural relations among their elements. According to Lévi-Strauss's theories, universal patterns in cultural systems are products of the invariant structure of the human mind. Structure, for Lévi-Strauss, referred exclusively to mental structure, although he found evidence of such structure in his far-ranging analyses of kinship, patterns in mythology, art, religion, ritual, and culinary traditions.

The basic framework of Lévi-Strauss's theories was derived from the work of structural linguistics. From N.S. Trubetzkoy, the founder of structural linguistics, Lévi-Strauss developed his focus on unconscious infrastructure as well as an emphasis on the relationship between terms, rather than on terms as entities in themselves. From the work of Roman Jakobson, of the same school of linguistic thought, Lévi-Strauss adopted the so-called distinctive feature method of analysis, which postulates that an unconscious "metastructure" emerges through the human mental process of pairing opposites. In Lévi-Strauss's system the human mind is viewed as a repository of a great variety of natural material, from which it selects pairs of elements that can be combined to form diverse structures. Pairs of oppositions can be separated into singular elements for use in forming new oppositions.

In analyzing kinship terminology and kinship systems, the accomplishment that first brought him to preeminence in anthropology, Lévi-Strauss suggested that the elementary structure, or unit of kinship, on which all systems are built is a set of four types of organically linked relationships: brother/sister, husband/wife, father/son, and mother's brother/sister's son. Lévi-Strauss stressed that the emphasis in structural analysis of kinship must be on human consciousness, not on objective ties of descent or consanguinity. For him, all forms of social life represent the operation of universal laws regulating the activities of the mind. His detractors argued that his theory could be neither tested nor proved and that his lack of interest in historical processes represented a fundamental oversight. Lévi-Strauss, however, believed that structural similarities underlie all cultures and that an analysis of the relationships among cultural units could provide insight into innate and universal principles of human thought. ("structuralism." Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.)

So what's lacking in the two foregoing excerpts? A clear and unambiguous respectful recognition of the Chinese Yin/Yang model that is, by way of different perceptual interpretations, cast as opposites, dichotomies, dualities, complimentarities, complementarities, binary oppositions, binary partners, etc... Now let's look at a 3rd synopsis of Structuralism:

Structuralist- as exemplified by Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 - ) One of the leading and most respected intellectuals of our age, extensively published: Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949), Totemism (1963), The Savage Mind (1966) The Raw and the Cooked (1969), The Story of Lynx (1995). For Levi-Strauss, his basic questions revolved around: what are the human patterns of thought that bring order to world? And how does man deal with chaos? Main points:

  • Mental structures of classification, i.e., our mind takes our varied and potentially chaotic experiences and attempts to logically structures them along binary configurations, utilizing and incorporating the dominant images and symbols that we observe in our world.
  • The configurations emanate out of the deep structures of the mind - an unconscious process - not consciously developed and articulated.
  • All peoples, all cultures, utilize a binary principles to organize and structure their experiences. Specifically, in order to comprehend and given meaning to any given quality, must have its antithesis and opposite: right-left, moon-sun, female-male, life-death, virtue-sin, strength-weakness, God-Devil, and good-evil. So that in human societies, we observe a series of symbolic polarities running through all segments of society: sacred-profane, culture-nature, republican-democrat, upper class-lower class, winners-losers, etc.
  • The only difference between "Euro-American" classification and Tribal classification is in the tools of observing the world and thus the types of images we place in the structures.
    • The Euro-American is "engineer," predicated on tools that are empirical, precise and measurable, resulting in an "expanding" universe of infinite possibilities, models and images, and what is discarded models becoming "history." New information, new data, new theories of mathematics, science and technology are constantly being added and also becoming more abstract.
    • The Tribal is "bricoleur," "handyman," and relies on limited inventor of tools to access finite number of images and models. So Tribal peoples recycle existing images, not discarding anything, i.e., there is no history, but simply rearranges the pieces and materials at hand, like a handyman. The past and present emerged into one, and incorporates mystical elements along side empirical.
      • Bricoleur: one who creates using whatever materials are available.
    • But both engineer and bricoleur utilize logical processes. "Primitive" man is not illogical, ignorant, or feeble minded, but just as rational and logical as you and I. He just has different tools at his disposal to observe world, and thus amount of images at disposal differs.
  • Levi-Strauss' major contribution focuses on the study of myth and thinking. A logical body of knowledge, organized along binary structures, to communicate a significant message about how things are organized and specifically, mediate or lessen experiential contradictions (give order to chaos). And lessens contradictions by introducing an anomalous element - something abnormal to mediate, e.g., virgin mothers, incarnated gods. Example of the Garden of Eden.
  • Problem:
    1. A non-empirical approach (as argued by the positivists).
  • Contributes:
    1. Structures of thinking are based upon binary principles.
    2. Those structures, as in case of religion and myth, are key to how people see the world and organize their experiences.
    3. All forms of thinking, be they engineer or "bricoleur," are "logical." The tribal "bricoleur is not somehow pre-logical and irrational, not fantasy or illusion, not less significant than other modes of thinking.

Anthropological Theories by Frey

So, let me ask a stupid question: Why haven't the Structuralists and those who reference the Structuralists, given credit to the Chinese for having developed the first formalized ideological realization of Binarianism? And let me ask another stupid question: With all the examples provided by the histories of religion and mythology, not to mention Nature; why wasn't and hasn't a Structuralist Model concerning Trinaries been established? Well... it sounds and looks and smells like another bias. And for those in Anthropology, it's not that the recurring presence of "threes" hasn't been mentioned (for example, by Alan Dundez in his Book "Everyman his way" within a chapter entitled "The Number Three in the American Culture"... which you can read the chapter here: Allen Dundez: The Number Three in the American Culture page A); it's that Anthropologists, Linguists, and Cognitive scientists don't know how to think about basic underlying patterns of thought in relation to recurring patterns in Nature. Clearly, the Mathematician's suggestion that if you seek a certain number pattern you will find it, applies equally to all numbers... or does it?

Duh, wasn't the Sun the third planet from the Sun in every single person's life... including all Philosophers, Linguists, and Anthropologists, Cognitive scientists, etc? Is not being in the third position have some enormous influence on thought... and in fact is responsible for the development of a physiology from which thought emerges? Come on people. Pull your heads out of your artificially created Academic sand boxes. While you are telling everyone to smell the roses with respect to your believed-in ideology, you need to reference your whole life in reference to the Sun's position in the Solar system.

For those who want to claim that patterns-of-two are seen because they are extant, so are threes... for example, in the form of triangles. And so are circles as well as the linear form. Yet, we don't have a structuralist theory discussing basic geometry figures as an underlying basic mental or linguistic formula even though there have been such things as arrow and spearheads created with triangular tips, linear sticks used even by monkeys to probe for food, and the use of a circle for sitting around a fire. Oh no, let us not include such observations as triangular-shaped migrations of birds or the Native American tepee or other triangular structures because we apply terms like pyramid, or temple to such triangular forms. And heaven forbid we discuss the taboo of looking at someone's triangular-shaped crotch region, or triangular breasts. No less, let us not discuss societal hierarchies as representing an underlying triangular configuration of human conceptualization. And shame on those who would view a skull flattening or shaping technique as an attempted means of creating a triangular shaped head or the use of incrementally place rings on one's neck in a triangular fashion or the use of a pyramidal hair style. And how dare anyone to suggest that women are trying to express an underlying triangular configuration by how they are contouring their obsessive care of their nails, not to mention those who want pointed ears and pointed teeth or carry a triangular knife, sword or bullets.. much less keep-at-the-ready triangular-shaped rockets and missiles.

And should I mention the triangle shape of V-shaped engine blocks? Oh no. Let us not talk about basic structures of the mind unless some person connected with an institution comes up with the idea. Heaven forbid that any person in the public sector could ever come up with an idea worthy of being esteemed by the illustrious echelons of academia. If someone in academia were to say that the creation of the Frisbee or hula hoop or yo-yo or skate boards, or flip-flops were all linked to a global tribal mentality, that is what will be taught to thousands of students... because "one of their own" says so and presents it in an academic format and setting with all the characteristic bells and whistles of writing a thesis.

While those originating early philosophical, psychological, linguistic, sociological, anthropological, mathematical, physics, etc., theories can be forgiven in their lack of knowledge concerning those ideas which can be identified with a definitive three-part structural orientation and can be understood as wanting to utilize an established binary or pattern-of-two perspective (such as the binomial theory used in biology) since the Chinese had provided a list of examples with this pattern in mind and thus supply a theorist with a supportive argument; today's theorists have no excuse when there is ample enough pattern-of-three examples for them to consider not keeping the same intellectual tempo as their Academic brethren who persist in thinking that cultural activities are so set in stone, that the two-patterned ideas used by former (and all too many present day) researchers does and will continue to repeat itself for ever... particularly if it is a numerical reference found in the religious ideas they have been subjected to.

Hence, for example, while one can reject the religion(s) they were brought up with (culture, family), it is difficult to escape linguistic patterns one is subjected to at an early age. Hence, such as in the case of Kant and Hegel, we might describe their usage of three-patterned ideas as being reflective of an impressed-upon-them orientation of the Trinity. It's absence from the work of others may indicate that such an influential pattern has a more basic origination than any religion but that in recognizing its repetition in days of yore; those seeking power found they could use religion as a vehicle, and thus created for themselves ideological traditions with such patterns that have, through multiple cultural biases, become transformed into a make-believe reality connected with a supreme being whose enumeration as "1" disposes the vulnerabilities of the human psyche to what amounts to be a primitive tally stick of counting. From this "oneness" comes the "twoness" of duality often set in the pattern of a conflict such as heaven and hell but cast as a complementary pair coinciding with the underlying mental paradigm being espoused by binary oppositionalist Structuralist thinking Anthropologists. And then from this "twoness" is structured one or another "threeness" such as the Trinity or several events in the Life of a religio-social reformer and leader such as Jesus or Mohammed and various others; but that from this point afterwards, we have points of enumeration such as the four in a directions concept and the seven in relation to the seven stars of ancient observations involving the Big dipper and Pleiades; whereas further counts only give way to the idea of multiplicity or the many... but no one is speaking of the easily recognizable Conservation of Number.

In as much as one might want to pursue a further study of the religious and Eastern-philosophy types of "cognitive tally sticks" being used as prods, punishments and pointers for vulnerable cognitive activities in and out of Academia; the point I wanted to make before the foregoing digression was that early theorists could be forgiven for a lack of having a similar level of a "threes" perspective as they did when thinking about their binary rationale (for example, the triplet code of DNA did not reliably surface until 1961 by Frances Crick and the combined effort of James Watson and the 3-quarks idea for atomic particles did not arrive till 1964 by Murry Gell-mann, though George Zweig was an independent co-discoverer who called the particles "Aces").

Far too many examples of "threes" from multiple subjects have come to light to easily dispense with them as products of myth, legend, religion, superstition, fairy tales and cultural favorites. No less, the presence of "twos" in different subjects has also got to influence a massive restructuring of the Structuralist's model. To continue to think in terms primarily or predominantly or solely with a "binary-opposition" formula is a failure to recognize the presence of other recurring number (and geometric) patterns, revealing that some patterns are used more often than others and that overall, there is a decisive limitation... or conservation of number (pattern) being used... suggesting that the environment may be at the fountain-head of influence which oppresses human cognition to keep inline with a survival rationale in accord with an incrementally deteriorating environment. In other words, the small number of number and other patterns being used by the human mind is reflective of a survival mechanism aligned with a reality that is deteriorating. This may be why we have not yet see, and may not see, the evolution of a 4-code system or a 4-dominant atomic particle system, unless these will be allowed at some future time just before the collapse of reality as we know it.... unless humanity severs the umbilical cord from Mother earth (like all living forms do from their mothers), because it, like all parental figures, has a shelf life... that is, an expiration date... and any ideology which emphasizes a philosophy based on preserving "Mother Earth" or "Father sky" (etc.,), are ideas out of step with the reality of nature.

While many people realize that the old Structuralist point of view emphasizing a "Binary opposition" formula has its short-comings, they are not looking at it from a broader perspective, and instead regurgitate different terms for the old ideas such as:

  • The philosophical traditions of arguing in terms of Nature/ Nurture, Body/ Mind, gods/ men, .
  • The two-patterned phenomenology of Husserl (with his noema/ noesis).
  • The linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure with his principle "that a language is a self-contained relational structure, the elements of which derive their existence and their value from their distribution and oppositions in texts or discourse." [He also introduced two terms that have become common currency in linguistics—"parole," or the speech of the individual person, and "langue," the system underlying speech activity. His distinctions proved to be mainsprings to productive linguistic research and can be regarded as starting points on the avenue of linguistics known as structuralism.] ("Saussure, Ferdinand de." Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.)
  • The Persistent Dichotomies in Psychology.

Let me also add two descriptions of dualities which might be used to reinforce the idea that a "Binary Opposition" theory is sacrosanct, but are examples that need to be held up next to the very real existence of trichotomies, but theorists are staying away from expressing as a dominant cognitive theme, because they are fearful of being called a Numerologist, or triadist, or some other less than flattering term for their pursuit of some original thesis... all the while using either/and a pattern of 1, 2, three... many, or 3-to-1 formulation, but don't recognize these enough to profess them as a recurring cognitive pattern applicable to establishing a research/investigative, cataloguing, and analytical tool:

Examples of yin and yang patterns-of-two List of Dualites in Mathematics
Examples of duality ideas

Source: Mesologue

Date of Origination: Saturday, 28th January 2023... 3:31 AM
Date of Initial posting: Saturday, 28th January 2023... 9:54 AM