playing with questions about analysis, universals, intricacy, and the responsive order

a dialoge between Gene Gendlin and Kye Nelson

What spot shall we do this from? Where are we now? How do you ask, 'What spot am I working from?' How many ways do you mean the word 'how'?

What I correlate are the functions of statements, not the statements themselves. I think with (listen for, keep, hang on to, ...) two unresolved contradictions. I think with all of these viewpoints and spots. I think with contractions.

Of couse I don't. I really think 'two true things don't contradict, only the statements do'. I think with the function of a point of view, not the statement. Functions don't contradict.

How come the situation exceeds what we can analyze? What is analysis anyway, that that should be true? Is it an attempt to make something hold still, when nothing does hold still? If that is all it is, then it doesn't seem like it would really work at all. But it does work. So how come it works? And what makes me think it works, anyway?

Analysis likes to bite into stuff. It likes more.

Aristotle thinks we think in universals. But the universals don't exist.

It's like squares, there aren't any. So how come we think in them? How can we think with something that doesn't exist?

'We think with universals' is said in one position. "Universals don't exist" is said in another position. We have two positions, and we have an analysis combine-harvester that likes to get put down in positions and bite into them and move along. So first I want to know, where are these two places?

In a sense we're talking about 'x', and in a sense we're not. If we say a tree is twelve feet tall, in a sense we're talking about the tree, and in a sense not--'twelve feet' isn't in a tree. When you're climbing the tree, that's the tree, but when you're trying to understand it, none of the things actually exist.

But [when we measure the area of the yard and go buy grass] the grass really does cover. But that's a different kind of really from trees. I'm not sure every kind of comparing is a ratio kind. In one sense, ratios order the trees. In another sense, there are only the trees. You don't split between our knowledge and the things. You talk about that, in the thing, that our knowledge is about.

So what is that in-the-thing thing that it's about? I don't think it's ratios, or only ratios--maybe ratios are one kind of it? That's not right. I mean something more like, ratios maybe are a facet of it, but then what else is it besides ratios? What else besides the ratios is left of the cake when the cake is gone? Or was the cake before the cake was? I think the ratios help the cake before the cake was, become the cake that gets baked. I have the cake in me somehow, before I make it. I know how to put things together to make that.

Between the cake and us there's a process of smellability. But smellability needs a nose. But if you have ounces etc., then comes the cake you're smelling, so that there is an understandable in the cake: feet, and smellability. If you have a sense organ like a nose, then air with funny cake-stuff in it hits nose and nose-proportion-process says 'ah!'

If you have a nose, then you can discover the smellability of as-yet-undiscovered cakes, so the smellability helps you to the ratios. Smellability is the basis of ratios.

In one sense trees are ratios, in another sense there are only trees. And there is a third sense in which the trees order the ratios. Smellability determines ratios, ratios order cakes, and there really are only cakes.

Without the intricacy it's dead and stupid. The intricacy is phenomenological--the only way to get it is to do something that phenomenologists do. Experience is whatever you get to, when you get to intricacy.

If we take our tree cake thing here, I see that some people would want to pick one or the other of those three things over the others, for very excellent reasons. When I do it I take all three and then I get all the excellent reasons. I could maybe go and collect all the advantages and disadvantages of thinking with contradictions.

What is a thing like this trio we have?

The reality is this endlessly and variously explicable kind of order, endless undiscovered avenues. Why is that not a discouraging sort of relativism? Why is it not useless to say that?... It's the order that I'm after... the order in the endlessness.

It's something like [Chardin's] plums with light around them.

You don't really have two things until you cut it--me, and my situation. Somethow the situation and I are one thing.

But how are they one thing?

There's no situation without 'you'... There's something wrong with this whole thing, I say 'three things' like they're separate.

We have to cut but know that we're not really cutting.

Or cut and get corrected... The order appears in response to...

What does Aristotle mean by order? What is order? And what does it have to do with smellability? Is it the same? Or the same sort of thing? If it were the same, using TAE to hold onto here, that would mean a person could say, 'smellability appears in response to'... and a person could say 'endlessly and variously explicable smellability'... and a person could say, 'between the cake (the situation) and us there is a process of order'. But order needs a nose (a me, a you, a person, a ?) otherwise your cake burns.

And in the thing would be smellability.

But ratios order trees, so ratios and order aren't the same. What else orders trees? Trees do.

Are we after the right thing, or not? And is 'we' a function of 'after', or a third thing? As long as you don't know what's bothering you, all these things are possible so it's very circular.

There's not enough cake in this. If you have a little kid and a cake-possibility, then you know what you want. And the ratio will help you get it.

And the tree thing will help you correct it. But what if you question whether that's a good thing to want?

Then the little kid will get very mad at you.

Where it eats its tail, is there is some kind of inherent truthness here that we mustn't skip. You're going deeper and and deeper into the intricacy to fix it.

I told you there wasn't enough cake.

We have to differentiate between the two kinds of 'wrong to eat cake'. What you have can't be wrong... First, anything the kid says has to be right. Then, there's a sugar craving. And third, there is how the sugar craving is right.

How can I stand in this kind of truth?

If you get a direct referent there is always something... It talks back, and what you get can't not be true. If somebody says we shouldn't want cake, then we say 'you're wrong'.

Gene Gendlin is a noted philosopher and psychologist, and recipient of numerous awards for fundamental contributions in psychology. Find out more about his work at

Kye Nelson is a watcher, thinker, and collaborative consultant. Find out more about her work at or contact her at 210/413-4339,

This material © 2000 by Kye Nelson. All rights reserved.

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