Glossary of Middle Way Philosophy Terms

The following brief glossary of key terms is provided as a ready reference, for anyone who needs a reminder during reading of some of my distinctive uses of terminology. The glossary here consolidates those in all four volumes. Any frequently used terms not in it can reasonably be assumed to follow a standard English dictionary definition.

This glossary does not include terms for cognitive biases and fallacies (except when they are coinages of mine), because these are largely shared with a wider intellectual tradition. Instead, these have been given in a separate glossary.

Warning: Brief definitions have a value in initial learning and orientation. They are never absolutely adequate when closely analysed.

Absolutisation The interpretation of incremental experience in absolute (i.e. non-incremental) terms

Adaptiveness Ability to address a wide range of conditions (not merely to survive or reproduce in different conditions)

Aesthetic objectivity The aspect of objectivity (q.v.) applied to judgements of beauty (not a distinct type of objectivity, but a way that objectivity in general can be applied).

Agnosticism The deliberate avoidance of either accepting or rejecting a claim, particularly a metaphysical claim. In Middle Way Philosophy this term is roughly equivalent to hard agnosticism used elsewhere. It does not imply either indecisiveness or an expectation of further evidence.

Agnostic foundationalism The requirement that a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for justification is the recognition that one may be wrong, either in positive or negative claims.

Alienation An extreme conflict of desires created by repression (q.v.) of some desires by other dominant and socially supported desires.

Antifragility (from Taleb) Tendency to be strengthened by unexpected and extreme conditions

Archetype A common psychological function that tends to be associated universally with certain general types of symbol (e.g. the Shadow is the psychological function of rejecting what lies beyond current ego-identifications)

Asymmetrical integration The achievement of integration of one type or in one area to a greater extent than in another.

Autonomy of facts (fallacy) Assumption of the autonomy of facts from values, regardless of their practical interdependence

Basic-level categories Types of object habitually encountered in early experience that then provide the basic model from which more complex categorisation can be developed (e.g. tree as basic level, turkish oak as more complex)

Belief A habitual motive combining meaningful symbols in a pattern of response that can be interpreted as a representation

Cognitive bias A habitual distortion of judgement or delusion found to some extent in all human beings. Although the use of this term creates a helpful connection with the psychological research on cognition, I do not consider cognitive biases to be solely cognitive, nor a defect of ‘rationality’.

Cognitive meaning The aspect of meaning that consists of recognising a representational equivalent of an object or symbol

Cognitive model A coherent set of representations (q.v.), dependent on linked beliefs and specific metaphorical extensions (q.v.), and creating a specific and limited context for some aspects of meaning (e.g. ‘Tuesday’ given meaning by a cognitive model of time including a seven-day week)

Coherentism The requirement that a condition for justification is the logical or explanatory coherence of a new belief with our existing beliefs. In Middle Way Philosophy this is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for justification.

Compassion The aspect of objectivity (q.v.) applied to the extension of identifications with ourselves or others. Objectivity, including compassion, can be developed, whilst empathy (an emotional capacity) may be a result of conditions.

Conditions The way things appear to be as they impact on us from the outside (or inside) world. Many writers use the terms ‘reality’ and ‘nature’ for this concept, both of which I prefer to avoid because of their metaphysical connotations.

Confidence Faith (q.v.) that is justified on experiential rather than metaphysical grounds

Creativity The attachment of new desires to symbols (q.v.)

Defeasibility The possibility that the use of a linguistic symbol could be wrong within the terms of a specific cognitive model (q.v.)

Defeasibility context The sphere within which a linguistic symbol can be defeasible – another term for a cognitive model (q.v.)

Dialectic A process of uniting or synthesising apparently opposed entities, where both are assumed to address conditions to some degree but to be limited by unnecessary opposed assumptions. In Middle Way Philosophy this is an epistemological process rather than a historical one.

Dispositional objectivity Objectivity (q.v.) seen as the characteristic of a person and their habits.

Dogmatism The psychological expression of metaphysics, where beliefs are held strongly because they are thought to be intrinsically true, regardless of experience. Hence Dogma, a metaphysical belief considered psychologically.

Doubt Narrowly focused and fragile faith based on metaphysical assumptions, which may thus move discontinuously between brittle assertion and denial

Dualism The belief (or implicit assumption) that a metaphysical understanding of experience is unavoidable, or even to be welcomed.

Ego Our experience of having wishes and identifications (with both ourselves and others), including our desire to continue existing as a self

Embodied meaning An understanding of meaning based on a recognition of how the physical body creates meaningfulness.

Emotional (or emotive) meaning That aspect of meaning that consists in the capacity to focus energy on a symbol through attention

Evil Morally negative experience of dogmatism and absolutisation

Experiential adequacy The extent to which our experience is able to understand conditions without interference from dogmatic assumptions

Explicit belief A habitual judgement that is consciously held as a representation

Expressivism The belief that language only has expressive meaning derived from a relationship with a fixed self

Factual objectivity The aspect of objectivity (q.v.) applied by an individual to reach a degree of understanding of facts – that is, of how things are as far as we can ascertain.

Faith The emotional dimension of belief (q.v.), which is functionally inseparable from belief

Fallacy Unjustified assumption (q.v. justification) made in reasoning. Functionally equivalent to cognitive bias (q.v.).

Falsifiability The potentiality for falsification (q.v.) of a theory in a coherently imaginable scenario.

Falsification The justifiable (but not certain) conclusion that a theory is wrong because of its incompatibility with evidence. In Middle Way Philosophy falsification can be undertaken by individuals, not just by scientists using strict research methods.

Fragility Tendency to be weakened by unexpected and extreme conditions

Fragmentation of meaning The separation of meanings (i.e. symbol-attachments) so that one fails to recognise the other, whether within the individual or between individuals

Fulfilment The state of a desire when it has achieved the state of affairs represented in association with it, achievable only incrementally

Group An association involving shared identifications between two or more people.

Heron’s Beard The principle that meaning should be allowed to limitlessly proliferate, by our learning more symbols and/or appreciating them more fully

Identification The sense of possessiveness towards oneself, a person or an object, making them in some sense “me” or “mine”.

Ideology Beliefs shared by a group

Image schema Basic pattern in embodied experience that can be associated with symbols to make them meaningful. E.g. the ‘source-path-goal’ schema makes the word ‘path’ meaningful.

Implicit belief A habitual judgement that can be inferred from a pattern of response but is not consciously held as a representation

Incrementality The conceptualisation of qualities as a matter of degree on a spectrum, rather than as absolutes that are either existent or non-existent.

Incrementalisation The process of re-conceiving absolutes as a spectrum of qualities that are a matter of degree.

Integration The progressive uniting of apparently opposed entities by incrementalising (q.v.) them and adopting the qualities of each to the extent that they address conditions. This is a dialectical process (q.v.).

Judgement The forming of a representation or response that ‘freeze frames’ our experience and commits us to assuming a particular state of affairs. This then enables us to act according to that assumed state of affairs.

Justification The finding of adequate (though not certain) reasons to believe or disbelieve a claim. In Middle Way Philosophy this requires both coherentism (q.v.) and agnostic foundationalism (q.v.).

Meaning The habitual attachment of desire to a symbol through the neural networks, physical associations, and cognitive models we have developed.

Metaphorical extension Pattern of association between one a new symbol and a more basic image schema (q.v.) that makes the new symbol meaningful in embodied experience

Metaphysics Positive or negative claims that are asserted without any possible justification (q.v.) from experience, using absolute claims or absolute sources of justification (or their denial), and a lack of any possibility of incrementalisation (q.v.). The identification of metaphysical claims is always dependent on context and use rather than just wording, and is not independent of the psychology of the person believing them.

Middle Way A philosophical and practical approach that avoids both positive and negative metaphysical claims, seeking to address conditions by adopting beliefs that go beyond the assumptions of both sides.

Moral objectivity The aspect of objectivity (q.v.) that is applied to moral judgements as to how to live and act (not a distinct type of objectivity, but a way that objectivity in general can be applied).

Negative feedback loop The process by which awareness of fallibility can create increasing objectivity (q.v.) of belief

Negative metaphysics Claims about the non-existence of a metaphysical (q.v.) entity beyond experience.

Non-dualism A philosophical and practical approach which avoids the assumption of absolute metaphysical entities or their denial.

Objectivity The incremental (q.v.) quality of the judgement of a person or group of persons that enables them to understand and address conditions (q.v.). In Middle Way Philosophy this term does not mean ‘a God’s eye view of the universe’.

Optionality A state of judgement in which possible alternatives are offered by additional neural links in addition to the stronger ones that form current beliefs

Positive feedback loop The process by which metaphysical beliefs are reinforced by the effects of the narrowing of judgement that they create

Positive Metaphysics Claims in support of the existence of a metaphysical (q.v.) entity beyond experience.

Pragmatism A philosophical approach that emphasises practical usefulness rather than adherence to an absolute view of how things are. In Middle Way Philosophy this practical usefulness is understood in a long-term sense.

Projection The process by which an object is assumed to have the meaning of an archetype, despite the fact that the psychological function is in the viewer, not the object

Prototype Typical representative of a wider category in symbolic association that creates the meaning of that category (e.g. ‘robin’ as prototype that springs to mind for ‘bird’)

Provisionality The psychological state of holding beliefs flexibly enough to enable them to be changed in the light of new evidence. This also requires the avoidance of metaphysical beliefs because they cannot be held in this way.

Psyche The total potential identifications of a given ego, into which current identifications may be integrated.

Representation A mental image which is believed to be equivalent to a state of affairs of some kind beyond the mind

Representationalism The belief that language has only cognitive meaning gained from its representative relationship with the world (for example through truth-conditions).

Repression The denial of one desire by another, in which the dominant desire attempts unsuccessfully to completely eliminate the subordinate one.

Revelatory metaphysics The type of metaphysical claim that appeals to an absolute (usually religious) source for its justification.

Scepticism The belief that no claims (or their denials) can be certain.

Scientific Objectivity The aspect of objectivity (q.v.) which is applied to theoretical judgements about the universe using scientific method (not a distinct type of objectivity, but a way that objectivity in general may be applied). Some of this objectivity may be individual, some the quality of scientists as a group.

Sublimity A strong temporary experience of meaningfulness in which previously separated energies are joined in relation to a symbol

Suppression The aware and temporary adoption of one desire as dominant over another, and denial of immediate expression to the subordinate desire. This is distinguished from repression (q.v.) by continuing recognition of the subordinate desire.

Symbol Any object that is experienced as meaningful, e.g. words, pictures, sounds, other significant objects

Synthesis Combining of beliefs through critical and mutual engagement, when those beliefs would otherwise be separated (for example, because they are in different cognitive models)

Temporary integration A state of integration entirely dependent only on immediate conditions, and thus likely to be of short duration – e.g. a state of inspiration or meditative absorption.

Total responsibility fallacy The absolutising assumption that we have complete responsibility in a given context of judgement

Trust Faith (i.e. emotive dimension of belief) in relation to persons

Truth on the edge The regulative idea of an ultimate state of affairs, which is meaningful but cannot be the object of justified assertions.

Value foundations (from Haidt) Types of shared value (whether experiential or absolutised) applied to politics

Zero responsibility fallacy The absolutising assumption that we have no responsibility in a given context of judgement 0