Twoish, Threeish or Fourfoldish Thinking
So, the other day while surfing Google I see the word, anagogical. At first I thought it was a misspelling of analogical, but I clicked on it anyway … and several hours and 24 simultaneously opened browser tabs later, I found myself totally immersed in the fascinating world of dialectics, trialectics and quadralectics! More words I’d never used before!
Words, as it turns out, used to refer to increasingly complex frameworks for analysing, assessing, interrogating and finding meaning in stuff – originally Biblical stuff, but subsequently art, architecture, literature, mathematics, lived experiences and real world problems (and now maybe, CCS topics). My newly discovered word, anagogical, comes from the Latin Anagogia and is used in quadralectics, or fourfold analysis and refers to the “higher meaning” or “spiritual interpretation” of something.
Now, even though I didn’t know the words or the fine details, it is clear that the principles of these forms of interpretation are a familiar part of our daily lives and describe the way we divide up problems and make decisions:
- Dialectics: or twofold interpretation, is very common. We use it all the time when we divide something into one of two options such as right/wrong or this/that or guilty/not guilty.
- Trialectics: threefold thinking adds a third option – people love to do things in threes! Try searching these: thesis, antithesis, synthesis; supply, demand, equilibrium; lived, conceived, perceived; too hot, too cold, just right!
- Quadralectics: fourfold interpretation is a veritable mindstorm of information, research and academia – with lots of lovely Latin words eg: Historia, Allegoria, Tropologia, Anagogia – meaning (more or less – and you would need a phD to know how much more or less!) the historical – the facts, the metaphorical, the moral and the higher or spiritual meaning. Or fire, air, earth, water. Or simply North, South, East, West.
Anyway, I am not for a moment suggesting that after a few Wiki hours and some web surfing that I have grasped what all this stuff means – hence the “ishes” in the title of this article and the examples below. But as a CCS developer I couldn’t help but be inspired to start experimenting with this kind of structured interpretative approach with CCS topics. Sure we regularly ask participants to pick 2 or 3 cards for something, but these frameworks may be able to provide revealing structures for CCS topics.
Twofoldish is simple and obvious enough — pick a card for this and a card for that — and we use this commonly. Eg, consider someone trying to solve a conflict,
“Go through your pack and pick one card that for you, describes what’s working and one for what’s not working.”
The twofoldish form is useful as a quick way to reveal contrast in a situation.
Threefoldish adds a deeper opportunity – the chance to give participants a way to discover solutions built on fusion between two extremes. It could also be an extension to a twofold activity. We could use the following format:
thesis – a description of what is
antithesis – the opposite of the thesis
synthesis – a new option based on a combination of the thesis and antithesis — a reconciliation.
As a CCS topic:
“Go through your pack and find 3 cards. One card to describe the situation you are in, one to describe how you might like it to be and a third card to describe a possible way to bring these two closer together.”
Of course you need not limit choices to just one card for each corner of the triad. In many cases, especially the synthesis, lots of cards will likely help to improve the tacit discoveries.
What about Fourfoldish? This is another step again. And one that appears to breed plenty of healthy academic argument over the exact nature of what each of the quadrants specifically address. But the overrider for me is that the fourfold process provides a dimension of understanding and meaning to critical reflection activities. It will likely take a participant considerably longer to do and lead to more open-ended thoughts, but it will likely be worth it.
Here’s something I am experimenting with:
Historical: The facts, the story, the event (similar to the thesis in threefold)
Allegorical: What does this mean for me?
Tropological: What lesson or moral might I take from this?
Anagogical: What might be a ‘higher’ (originally: spiritual or mystical) meaning?
If you are thinking that the allegorical and anagogical dimensions seem a little similar, I agree with you. But I think it can still work — “What it means for me” covers what I am feeling, what I am experiencing and the affects of the event. The “higher” meaning is a chance for a helicopter view, a chance to step out of yourself and consider what it might mean looking in from the outside. It’s not exactly spiritual, but you can think of yourself floating above!
As a CCS topic (perhaps with a card template):
“I want you to go through your pack 4 times to pick 4 cards that for you, describe:
— the situation as it is
— what it means for you
— a lesson you can take from what has happened
— a possible spiritual or ‘higher’ meaning.”
So, next time you are planning a CCS activity, maybe ask yourself: is this a good time for a twoish, threeish or fourfoldish topic? And let me know how it goes!