Introduction to Metamode
Albert Fiorino, PhD

Metamode Institute on Public Policy was founded in 1997 on the firm belief that there exists an inherent capacity in human rationality to go beyond itself. Support for this belief can be found in several philosophical traditions (e.g., moderate realism and phenomenological existentialism). This view also finds support in the writings of Karl Mannheim and Herbert Simon in their treatment of rationality, and lies implicit in the social action theory of Chris Argyris. Rationality's ability to distance itself from its own constructs is also presupposed in contemporary meta-contingency theories and is demanded for any clear resolution of critical questions dealing with matters relating to social responsibility and public policy.
The movement on the part of rationality from one means-end connection to another presupposes either a programmed response moving the individual to consider the next means-end relationship or an intentional act on the part of rationality in deciphering a new end and the various means by which to attain it. It is this ability to abstract meaning (intelligibility) from reality that, in 1946, Karl Mannheim in his work, Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction, calls substantial rationality, "the capacity of thought which reveals intelligent insight into the interrelations of events in a given situation" (53) and "the capacity for rational judgment" (58).*

It is this meaning-generating capacity of human intelligence that is the basis for the creation of contexts, be they social, cultural, personal, or intellectual. Moreover, it is by way of this same capacity, coupled with rationality's ability to extricate itself from the contexts it creates, that human intelligence is able to seek out, assess, and construct new means-ends relationships. I refer to this new mode of acting on the part of human intelligence as metarationality
, and to the mode itself as metamode. It is through this mode of acting that human intelligence is able to come up with breakthrough ideas, engage in effective conflict resolution, and thus strive to restore order and integration in contexts where disorder and apparent chaos previously prevailed.

Human intelligence is somewhat of an elusive variable and for that reason is either presumed or discounted altogether in scientific theory development. It is always ahead of itself and yet ever present in all of the contexts it creates. Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the basis of contemporary quantum theory, underlines this paradox. As part of the context, human intelligence cannot help but disturb the spatio-temporal dynamics in the subatomic field it is investigating. However, it compensates for this disturbance by factoring itself in its fixes on this reality.

In the case of the principle of uncertainty, this compensation assumes form in the development of the theory of quantum mechanics elaborated in the 1920's by Heisenberg, Paul Dirac, and Erwin Schrodinger. In the theory, its proponents elaborate statistical models for predicting the seemingly random behaviour of subatomic particles/waves. For Herbert Simon, this compensatory phenomenon would simply be an example of the workings of procedural rationality, which he describes as bounded rationality (limited/subjective) "in search of good solutions"(137). It is rationality, aware of its own limitations, in search of contrivances (material and/or intellectual), which will enable it to obtain greater objectivity. That is the best that rationality can ever hope to achieve in a cosmic context in which objects (from the subatomic to the supra-atomic) and their almost infinite configurations (quantum states) are in constant motion and change.

What is most amazing, nevertheless, and that is the point that is being argued here, rationality is forever moving beyond itself, always posing new questions along the way, never at a loss for fresh insights, and continually seeking innovative means by which to overcome its own limitations. As a creature of space-time, it cannot help but proceed in such an algorithmic way. It is not perturbed, however, that it cannot attain a perfectly objective grasp of reality because it intuitively knows that that mode of knowing can only be the prerogative of an absolutely transcendent Being. It is satisfied with its imperfect understanding of reality realizing that what it knows imperfectly, it knows it with a fair degree of precision; otherwise, it would never have been able to accomplish such feats as space travel or create such procedural contrivances as the computer (somewhat of an extension of itself). In the process, it, at times, even glows in glimpses of its own transcendent origins and kinship, and therein lie its driving force and prime motivation.

From a purely secular perspective, therein lies also the hope for any resolution of the many predicaments humanity faces as it approaches the new millennium. It lies in the resilience of human intelligence and its capacity to go beyond itself--its ability to switch into metamode. The shift into this metagear cannot be delayed much longer. As Alvin and Heidi Toffler point out in their book Creating a New Civilization, the process of social reconstruction (on a global scale) must begin now before further disintegration in the socio-cultural systems takes place (108).

This short discussion of rationality is certainly not free of epistemological and theoretical controversy. The main purpose in this inaugural essay has been simply to introduce the notion of metamode. The existence of controversy merely serves to affirm the conception of rationality under discussion.

*See Al Fiorino, "Toward a Holistic Approach to the Study of Organizational Rationality",
metamode release, No. 1 (Fall, 1983), 16p, for an examination of the different "faces of rationality".  In the same paper, Dr. Fiorino advances the view that all human behaviour is purposive, including its irrational outcroppings.  A version of this paper was also submitted to the Macdonald/Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada in1983.  Dr. Fiorino presented an informal version of the same ideas on rationality at the Fifth General Assembly of the World Future Society held in Washinton, D.C. in June, 1984.  Lastly, he went on to elaborate his views further in another paper entitled, "A Meta-Contingency Model of Rational Choice for a Rapidly Changing World," delivered at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations, Learned Societies Conference '87, held at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on May 28th, 1987. It was also in this presentation that he first coined the term metamode, a shifting of gears on the part of rationality enabling it to go beyond itself in search of new means-ends relationships.

Sources and Other Readings

Adler, Mortimer J., Intellect, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1990, 205p.

Argyris, Chris, "Action Science and Intervention", in The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 115-140.

Carlo, William E., The Ultimate Reducibility of Essence to Existence in Existential Metaphysics, The Hague: Matinus Nijhoff, 1966, 150p.

Fiorino, Al, "A Meta-Contingency Model of Rational Choice for a Rapidly Changing World", metamode release, No. 6 (Fall, 1987), 7p.

Fiorino, Al, "Toward a Holistic Approach to the Study of Organizational Rationality", metamode release, No. 1 (Fall, 1983), 16p.

Hawking, Stephen, A Brief History of Time, London: Bantam Books, 1988, 198p.

Mannheim, Karl, Man and Society in an Age of Reconstruction, London: Keegan Paul, Trench, Triebner & Co. Ltd., 1946.

Mascall, Eric L., The Openness of Being, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1971.

Simon, Herbert, "From Substantive to Procedural Rationality", in Method and Appraisal in Economics, ed. by Spiro J. Latsis, London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1976, pp. 129-148.

Tipler, Frank, The Physics of Immortality, New York: Doubleday, 1994, 528p.

Toffler, Alvin and Heidi, Creating a New Civilization, Atlanta: Turner Publishing, Inc., 1995,112p.

© Albert Fiorino, metamode release (online), Toronto, 1997-2012