Queering McLuhan's Tetrads with Peirce's Forgotten Thirds


In your time zone: postponed
Video conference:

Please RSVP below if you wish to participate. We will have a limit of 3 active participants in the roles described below.

As our civilization is currently ripped apart by war, pandemic, and fake news, what is a community of organic intellectuals supposed to do? And as we are a community of storytellers and mythmakers, is it possible that we might transform the crucifixion into an acupuncture treatment?

In our previous Cafe events, we have brought our attention to the complex nature of double binds, drama triangles, viscious cycles, master-slave dynamics and kleinforms. This workshop, which intersects with Hofstader’s I am a Strange Loop, will be drawing upon those previous explorations, as we learn to practice Peirce’s Triads in a duet with McLuhan’s Tetrads.

In Peirce’s pragmatic understanding, the purpose of thinking is to establish effective habits. He works with a triadic model which teaches us how to cultivate and protect differences. Marshall McLuhan’s Tetrads, as we explored in Poetics of Media, offers a way of investigating the resonant structure of human artefacts. Combining the practices of these two major thinkers will be the focus of this workshop.

In the first half, we will develop skills in using Peirce’s Triad by rotating three roles. The Intuiting role ( a Poetic Response), The Reacting role( a Devil’s Advocate) and the Mediating role ( a Big Picture Response). A fourth role will be played by the facilitator ( J.D.) who will keep track of the ensemble and offer feedback. After becoming familiar with these roles, during the second half of the workshop we will tune into the deeper structure of the Triad by using the Tetrad.

And when we have integrated Triads with Tetrads, what happens next?

Imagine possibilities…
Use what we have…
Invent new designs…
Create new Kleinforms…
Criticize creatively…
Structure feedback effectively…

Reading / Watching / Listening

Required reading for the workshop Principles of Phenomenology Chapter 6, p. 74-97, from Philosophical Writings of Peirce . The volume can be downloaded here.https://z-lib.org/

Please contemplate King Lear Act 1, Scene 1. In this first scene, Shakespeare sets up a classic family fued. This is one of the most tragic sliding triads in western literature. Thinking through Peirce, how could the tensions between the three sisters have been transformed? Consider your experiences of the pattern of the two against the one.King Lear creates a contest, and as father and a head of State, his strategy backfires. Reflect upon Shakespeare’s transitioning into the Early Modern Age and our own transitioning out of the Late Modern into the Digital Age.

The Gutenberg Galaxy | Marshall McLuhan | download In the first nine pages of The Gutenberg Galaxy Mcluhan performs a gloss upon King Lear using the Tetrad. This is how a Master Teacher works with poetic history

Seed Questions

As a dreamer about utopia, what mood do you want to enhance your social dreaming?
As a sceptic about utopia , what stance would you take towards the dreamer?
As an activist demanding social justice, what are the patterns that connect to your projects?

Context, Backstory, and Related topics

One of Wilber’s references to Peirce comes in note 12 in ch. 5, “Integral Art and Literary Theory: Part 2,” in The Eye of Spirit.

Susanne Cook-Greuter’s work on ego-development, which goes up to a “5th-person perspective,” beyond which is the “Cosmic, ego-transcendent or witnessing perspective.

Cybernetics of the Sacred. Enviornmentalist, Paul Ryan, worked directly with McLuhan and Bateson. We will draw upon Ryan’s pioneering efforts in our workshop.


Thanks for creating this invitation, @johnnydavis54. I look forward to doing something interesting with these ideas.

Going from 3 to 4 suggests a shift in dimensionality, from the third (dialectic) to the fourth (transformation)—while multiplying them gives us 12, which is also divisible by 2 and 6.

Here is my “intuitive” schema for the dimensions which may come into play with a queer logic:

pp = “position-perspective”

  • 1pp = singularity
  • 2pp = relationship
  • 3pp = dialectic
  • 4pp = transformation
  • 5pp = planetary
  • 6pp = cosmic
  • npp = ineffable/isness

I could maybe say more about each of the above (except the last one) when we get together. I am also curious about how these roles come about:

  • The Intuiting role (a Poetic Response)
  • The Reacting role (a Devil’s Advocate)
  • Mediating role (a Big Picture Response)

These seem similar the Visionary-Critic-Realist role structure we’ve explored before. I imagine that there are other similar triads, trios, and trinities that would map similarly, with some subtle differences.


Sorry, folks, the timing seems to be off for this event so I have decided to postpone. Thanks!


I’d love to participate, whenever it decides to happen :wink:


Somewhere over the rainbow. And if we don’t get around to it this life time there is always the next.