Threesology Research Journal
The Quaternary Perspective

(The Study of Threes)

Some readers perceive that a Quaternary ("Four") perspective is superior to a Tertiary ("three") perspective. Numerically speaking, I would agree. While some prefer to adopt a "four" perspective from the vantage point of mathematics, philosophy or some other interest, is beside the point of departure from some other pattern. But if we are to base a superiority linked with quantity, then a "Four" perspective is inferior. In other words, there are patterns which exist with more examples.

Quantitatively speaking, patterns-of-four (Quaternary), are not superior to patterns-of-three. If we are to speak of superiority in terms of quantity or even application, then a pattern such as "64" would be superior to both the three and the four. No less, some might want to claim that the "one" God is superior and therefore the concept of singularity is supreme. But such comments are actually pretty naive because they miss a larger perspective dealing with all number-associated concept patterns.

Clearly, there are concepts that can be aligned with a numerical representation which exceed the value of "three". And likewise for the value of "four". And though we can identify the occasional concept with a larger numerical identification, all of them are few and far between. This fact, coupled with the fact that patterns-of-three appear to be the predominant plurality, significantly suggests that there is something in, around, or about the environment which constrains such a usage of pattern. It's not that genetics is incapable of having a quadruple, quintuplet, etc., coding system, it's just that biology is constrained to utilize a pattern-of-three (triplet) coding system.

It's not that physics may not have more than three basic particles or three families of fundamental particles, it's just that we humans are constrained to conceptualize in such terms. And for those who suggest that there were more than three in terms of our genetics in the very distant past, may mean that that which constrains us at present may have been non-existent or imposistionally very weak, and took time to gather the strength of form making that it has today.

In genetics, for example, some consider the possibility that the underlying triplet code for DNA and RNA might well have been otherwise such has having been a quaternary or double one, and then extrapolating from this to suggest this is how the triplet code arose:

Codon Size Reduction as the Origin of the Triplet Genetic Code

While this might be a step in the sequence for the development of the triplet code, this does not provide us with even an assumption of what initiated the reduction in the first place such as an environmental event.

This then adds fuel to the fires of discussion concerning a presumptive "force(s)" which did and is imposing its "will" to maintain (constrain) a triple coding system. But I am not talking about a God, but the environment... even if you think that a God is the environment. In other words, I don't want to turn this into a 'getting nowhere' theological discussion. If indeed the triplet code is being sustained by the environment, then a change in the environment may well change the code. Additionally, the code may already be changing but we are unable to detect it. In fact, it may signal our species to "beach" itself like whales sometimes do. It may alter us to adopt a greater herd mentality which jumps off a cliff just like everyone else because our leadership sanctions it just as the ancient Mayans and Incans sanctioned human sacrifices.

Then again, viewing the scenario in a positive light, we could be faced with a social circumstance in which a large portion of the population acknowledges the need to make a substantial change but an equal portion clings to a negative perspective. In other words, genetic changes take place for some while others, for whatever reasons, are not similarly affected.

For some readers, they might well have been expecting a numerological exploration into the "four", not realizing its application to a broader perspective yields far more interesting ideas. But, for those whose mind remains stuck in a fourth gear, let me back off the accelerator a bit and provide yet another perspective of the "four" though I have already discussed this on the three -to- one ratio pages: Three -to- One ratios page a.

An example of a simple quaternary is the four-directions concept known as North, South, East and West. But, it is necessary for the reader to recognize that the first three directions are placed in one group set apart from the forth item by the word "and". The word "and" becomes a point of demarcation between the first three elements and the remaining one. Hence, it is a three -to- one ratio.

Let's take another example:

The so-called four bases in baseball are another three -to- one ratio when we take into account that the first three bases are enumerated (1st, 2nd, 3rd, base), while the fourth base is called Home plate, Home base, or simply Home.

Similarly, in the child's counting scheme of Eeny, Meny, Miney, Mo, the first three items can be singularly identified as a group of rhyming words while the fourth item does not rhyme.

While there are other examples, the point to be made is that what we presume to be as a quaternary structure may in fact be more accurately perceived as a three -to- one ratio. Egotistically, we might want to claim that a three -to- one ratio is a superior pattern to that of just a "three" structure, or we might consider that it is an extension thereof.

Let us take a look at a specific list of "fours" (four-patterned references):

Quaternion structure examples by A.I. Stepanov:

  • Four-dimensional physical space; the aggregate states of the matter: solid - liquid - gas - plasma;
  • The fundamental physical interactions: strong - electro-magnetic - weak - gravity;
  • The Golden - the Silver - the Bronze - the Iron Ages;
  • The four elements: earth - water - air - fire;
  • The four of the Gospels (by Matthias, Mark, Lucas, John);
  • The fours by A. Schopenhauer, H. L. Bergson;
  • The four-dimensional time by M. Heidegger;
  • The Ancient history - the Middle Ages - the New Age - the Newest;
  • The social and economic structures by Marxism: slave-owning system - feudalism - capitalism - communism;
  • The fourth type of political movements: bolsheviks;
  • "Les trois mousquetaires" by A. Dumas: Athos - Porthos - Aramis - d'Artagnan;
  • "The Karamazov Brothers" by Dostoyevsky: three legitimate sons and an illegitimate one;
  • "The Golden Calf" by Il'f and Petrov: Kozlevitch - Balaganov - Panikovsky - Bender;
  • The seasons: spring - summer - autumn - winter;
  • The cardinal points: east - west - south - north;
  • The times of the day: morning - afternoon - evening - night;
  • Division of the day in German;
  • The fourth literary genre;
  • Quaternions by K. Jung;
  • Paradise - Purgatory - Inferno - Earth;
  • Studies about Sophia in Russian religious philosophy;
  • Quaternions in the mass culture;
  • "Three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog)" by J. K. Jerome;
  • The Beatles John - Paul - George - Ringo;

If we wanted to, we could take each of the above examples and point out "inclusive" patterns such as a three -to- one structure. For example, in citing the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the word "synoptic" is frequently applied: Presenting or taking the same point of view; used especially with regard to the first three gospels of the New Testament (WordWeb definition).

In the religious example of Paradise - Purgatory - Inferno - Earth, the first three are based on imagination while only the example of "Earth" is factual.

In the example of the Beatles (John, Paul, George, Ringo), the first three are guitarists while Ringo is a drummer.

In the example of the Musketeers, there are three adult original ones with d'Artagnan as a youthful add-on.

The point to be made is that in multiple instances, the "four" structure is due to some extraneous incident of inclusion. Take for example when we cite that proteins have a primary or secondary or tertiary structure, with a composite of these producing a quaternary form. Another example is the "quadricep" muscle. Whereas there are 3 muscle heads: Biceps ~ Triceps ~ Quadriceps, the "quadricep" muscle refers to Musculus Triceps Surae, with the Plantaris counted separately.

I am not saying there aren't actual four-patterned structures, even though I haven't come across one, I should also note that some patterns-of-three examples could be viewed as 2 -to- 1 ratios. Overall, such instances may be referring to "developmental" overlaps due to environmental pressures.

Initial Posting date: Friday, June 06, 2014 Updated Posting: Saturday, June 07, 2014

Your Questions, Comments or Additional Information are welcomed:
Herb O. Buckland