Category Archives: architectonics

Richard McKeon’s Aspects of Knowing, Part 3

Previously on this blog:

Each method can be associated with a discursive process: operational with debate, dialectical with dialogue, logistic with proof, and problematic with inquiry. Each method is also associated with a mode of thought which in turn has two moments and one dependency or assumption: the operational method is debate by discrimination and postulation dependent on chosen theses, the dialectical method is dialogue by assimilation and exemplification dependent on changeless models, the logistic method is proof by construction and decomposition dependent on indivisible constituents, and the problematic method is inquiry by resolution and question dependent on discoverable causes.

For this diagram, the four dependencies or assumptions are in the center, and the associated methods are adjacent to them. Filling out the outer edge are the four pairs of moments. Listed, these facets are:

  • Methods (associated discursive process): Operational (Debate), Dialectical (Dialogue), Logistic (Proof), Problematic (Inquiry)
  • Assumptions: Chosen Theses, Changeless Models, Indivisible Constituents, Discoverable Causes
  • Modes of Thought: discrimination and postulation, assimilation and exemplification, construction and decomposition, resolution and question

The second diagram comes from a chart in McKeon’s “Philosophic Semantics and Philosophic Inquiry”. Here, the four methods are in the upper left corner (Universal) and lower right corner (Particular), and four principles are in the lower left corner (Meroscopic) and upper right corner (Holoscopic). Four interpretations are in the center (the vertical pair is Ontic, and the horizontal pair is Phenomenal), and four selections are adjacent to them. Listed, these facets are:

  • Methods: Operational, Dialectical, Logistic, Problematic
  • Principles: Simple, Actional, Comprehensive, Reflexive
  • Interpretations: Existentialist, Entitative, Ontological, Essentialist
  • Selections: Knower (Types), Knowable (Matters), Knowledge (Hierarchies), Known (Kinds)

Note that the Archic Matrix of Watson and Dilworth is essentially derived from this, and even has many of the same terms. However and obviously, the sixteen-fold arrangements of the two diagrams are different.

Further Reading:

[*5.184, *5.185, *6.20, *11.102, *11.106]




The Archic Matrix

Now that I am presenting sixteen-folds, let me briefly return to a subject I’ve mentioned previously. The Archic Matrix of Walter Watson and David Dilworth is a four-by-four matrix representing different aspects of the “personalities” of philosophers, determined by their writings. It is adapted from the Philosophical Semantics of philosopher Richard McKeon.

The four aspects of the Archic Matrix (also called Archic Variables) in this diagram are Perspective (upper left), Reality (lower left), Method (upper right), and Principle (lower right). The archic variable Perspective can have values Personal, Agonistic, Existential, and Creative, and similarly for the other three variables.

Each of the values of each of the variables is conditioned by one of the variables. For example, Personal is only conditioned by the Archic Variable Perspective, even though it is already a value of that variable. The value Agonistic is conditioned by the Archic Variable Method, Existential by Reality, and Creative by Principle.

Whereas the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a two-by-four matrix giving sixteen different combinations for its four personality “variables”, each having two values, the four-by-four Archic Matrix has four values for each of four variables and so gives 256 different combinations. It would be interesting if someone mapped the larger scheme into the smaller.

Further Reading:

Archic Matrix: Perspectives

Archic Matrix: Realities

Archic Matrix: Methods

Archic Matrix: Principles


The only work that seems to mention both the Archic Matrix and Myers-Briggs is as follows:

Mondo Secter / The Architectonics of Culture: A Critique, Modification, and Extension of Hofstede’s Study of Societal Culture with a Chinese-Based Typology, Ph.D. Dissertation, Simon Fraser University, August 2003

Secter is elsewhere mentioned to be completing an adaption of this dissertation (albeit long ago), called “The Architectonics of Culture and Personality: Six Core Dimensions of Who We Are”. It would useful to know anything else about this work. Updates, anyone?

[* 10.151]





Richard McKeon’s Aspects of Knowing, Part 2, V3

The duals in Richard McKeon’s system of Philosophical Semantics can also be arranged in a three-dimensional tetrahedron, where the dual pairs are on opposing edges. The universal and particular methods, the phenomenal and ontic interpretations, and the meroscopic and holoscopic principles are shown above.

Universal methods, between knower and knowledge, are applicable to all problems and all subject matters. Particular methods, between the knowable and the known, require distinct methodological procedures for different problems or subject matters.

Holoscopic principles, looking at the parts from the perspective of the whole, provide a coincidence of knowledge and known. Meroscopic principles, looking at the whole from the perspective of the parts, separate the knower and the knowable from each other and from influence between each other.

Ontic interpretations, between the knowable and knowledge, derive their character from a reality assumed to transcend or to underlie phenomena and statements. Phenomenal interpretations, between knower and the known, may reduce reality and values to aspects or consequences of phenomena.

Alternatively, the four vertices of  knower, knowledge, known, and knowable can be labeled by their method, principle, and interpretation as shown at right.

Further Reading:


As McKeon said in his lecture of  October 23, 1972 (the “Topics course”, unpublished): “You can either look at things from the point of view of the whole — then the principles are holoscopic (holos means whole, skopein means to look). Or, you can take the same set of facts, and view them from the part: then you have meroscopic principles. (Meros means part, skopein still means to look at).”


The Philosopher’s Wheel

Eric A. Meece’s web site has been in existence for a while, and it claims there is a forthcoming book called “The Philosopher’s Wheel”. This seems like an interesting project and it’s a shame that the book is still “in process”.

Meece has certainly been working on these ideas for a few years. Starting with a Master’s thesis in 1979, and a presentation in 2001, he also has a collection of articles available to the reader that are related to his theme.

The philosopher’s wheel is essentially composed of three polarities:

  • Materialism vs. Spiritualism
  • Rationalism vs. Empiricism
  • Essentialism vs. Existentialism

Two polarities are related to Jung’s Psychological Types:

  • Rationalism (Thinking)
  • Empiricism (Sensing)
  • Existentialism (Feeling)
  • Essentialism (Intuiting)

I’ve tried to represent these dualities a little differently than Meece. Note in the above diagram that Materialism mediates Rationalism and Empiricism, and Spiritualism mediates Essentialism and Existentialism, similar to the wheel representation.

At right is an attempt at eliminating the “isms”. Perhaps I should have read some more of his writings before making these efforts.

Further Reading:


The more I think about it, the more I like to compare this with

Images of the Philosopher’s Wheel:



The Archic Philosophers

In a word, the Sophist begins from man, the Democritean from matter, the Platonist from form, and the Aristotelian from functioning.

— From The Architectonics of Meaning, by Walter Watson

Inspired by philosopher Richard McKeon, I believe that philosophy as a whole is encompassed by four main philosophical stances, exemplified by four ancient philosophers: the Sophists (as a group), Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Their four systems of thought lay out principal philosophical directions, much like the compass directions east, south, north, and west lay out a complete set of primary directions.

Of course the compass directions can be subdivided into north-east, or south-south-west, and so on, and similarly each of these philosophical systems can be divided into four parts. This division into a four-by-four matrix is called the Archic Matrix and was written about at length in the separate but complementary works of Walter Watson and David Dilworth.

Watson and Dilworth described the four main philosophical directions to be perspective, reality, method, and principle: perspective for the Sophists, reality for Democritus, method for Plato, and principle for Aristotle. I have written about these philosophical perspectives previously in several ways.

Thus philosophy as a practice goes around and around and revisits the same ideas over and over. Perhaps McKeon thought his philosophical system followed in the footsteps of Aristotle, and probably Watson and Dilworth had a similar view.

Likewise, I believe that my fourfold of Structure-Function represents these four philosophical directions in the following way: Action(s) for the Sophists, Part(s) for Democritus, Structure for Plato, and Function for Aristotle.



Walter Watson and David Dilworth’s Archic Matrix

Throughout the history of philosophy, there have been many conflicting stances both towards claiming what exists (ontology), and how we can know our claims are valid (epistemology). There are the oppositions between idealism and realism, between rationalism and empiricism, between thinking all is change and all is changeless, between all is many and all is one, and so on. One approach to overcome these oppositions is to combine them to form their Hegelian synthesis. Another is to deconstruct them à la Derrida. Another pluralistic approach is to consider that there is a germ of truth on each side of the conflicting stance, an aspect of reality for which that stance is valid. Some might think that pluralism is the same as relativism, but it is not. Relativism and pluralism form yet another philosophical opposition like others mentioned above.

Regardless of the validity of pluralism, it can be very useful to analyze what philosophical stances are possible and how they relate to one another. The philosopher Richard McKeon created a rich schema for philosophical semantics that deserves greater recognition. This schema was both simplified and elaborated on by Walter Watson and David Dilworth in their books about the Archic Matrix. There are four main aspects, all exemplified by ancient philosophers: the Sophists, Democritus, Plato, and Aristotle. Everything else is a combination of these original aspects, or essentially a rehashing of them. The main aspects are perspective from the Sophists, reality from Democritus, method from Plato, and principle from Aristotle. These partition “what is”, however it is conceived, into four aspects, each of which can be interpreted in four different ways.

Considering Whitehead’s Criteria, note that perspective has consistency, method has coherency, reality has applicability, and principle has adequacy.

Walter Watson / The Architectonics of Meaning: foundations of the new pluralism

David A. Dilworth / Philosophy in World Perspective: a comparative hermeneutic of the major theories



Archic Matrix: Principles

Creative cause functioning by virtue of (indeterminate) potentiality transcend what is given, functioning caused is without limit different for different things, indeterminate in kind of functioning caused
Elemental cause functioning by virtue of (determinate) potentiality immanent in what is given, from which the functioning emerges same for all things, all things are the same in their being
Comprehensive cause functioning by virtue of actuality (of totality) transcend what is given, functioning of all things transcends any given thing same for all things, all things are differentiated parts of same whole
Reflexive cause functioning by virtue of actuality (of functionality) immanent in what is given, as the functioning itself different for different things, determinate in kind of functioning caused

Since the Archic Matrix can be thought of as the union of four separate fourfolds, each of the fourfolds of perspective, reality, method, principle can be considered on its own. Here is the fourfold of principles consisting of creative, elemental, comprehensive, and reflexive principles. The content of the table and the bottom figure is derived from Walter Watson’s Architectonics of Meaning.