Emeritus Professor - Université Paris-Nord
President of the WOSC


Plato's Cave Metaphor



Epistemo-praxiology and Inverse Transfer

Kybernetes, vol. 35, n.7/8, pp. 1232-1235

by Robert Vallée


 The concept of "inverse transfer" of the internal structures of a dynamic system to the perception it has of its environment and itself, clarifies many aspects of the subjectivity of perception (epistemological and praxeological). The decisions taken according to this perception modifies both the environment and the system, generating a feedback loop and showing that the co-evolution of the system an its environment is a fixed point of an adequate operator. This shows the importance of an observation and decision synthesis giving rise to an epistemo-praxiology.

Plato’s cave and inverse transfer

 With his metaphor of the cave, Plato has introduced an idea which clarifies the nature of the limitations of a perceiving and acting system. In the case of an individual, necessarily self-centred or of a nation situated in the middle of a continent, as the prisoners of the cave, they all impose, by an « inverse transfer » (1,2) on a reality imperfectly perceived, their own mental or cultural structures. When they intend to act, these individuals and also these nations, blind to themselves as to the rest of the world, adopt behaviours whose consequences, at short or long term, they are unable to guess. This sort of difficulty is unavoidable but it could be attenuated if it could become conscious. As well as the historian cannot completely avoid to project the social and mental structures of his time on the period he studies , the political deciders ought to take into account the possibility of a subjectivity which they must try to to eliminate. 

1   - Vallée R., 1955, Cognition et système. Essai d’épistémo-praxéologie,
        L’Interdisciplinaire, Limonest.

2   -  Vallée R., 1998, « An introduction to ‘epistemo-praxiology’ », Cybernetics and
         Human Knowing
, vol.5, n.1, 47-55.




  © Robert VALLÉE - r.vallee@afscet.asso.fr

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