Contents What's New Glossary Contact
The Modern Generalist
  What Is a Modern Generalist?

Welcome. This article describes the core concepts of the modern generalist mode.

Terms and Notes
Structural Logic
Realist Philosophy
Biological Epistemology
Coherent Universal Worldview


Modern generalists are characterized not by how much they know, but by what they know, not by quantity of knowledge, but by type of knowledge. The goal is not to know everything, but to achieve the ability to understand everything. The scientific method of investigation produced an ongoing flood of new knowledge, making it impossible to be a generalist in the traditional sense of knowing almost everything about most subjects. That same flood of knowledge, however, has now made it possible to become a generalist in a different manner. Such a generalist focuses on two types of knowledge, (a) that concerning various forms of development, especially the integrative or connective factors that play roles in the transition from one stage to another in any developing situation, and (b) that concerning factors that occur again and again in different kinds of situations, particular factors that play roles in many distinct forms of development, at multiple stages of those developments, and at different levels of the hierarchic organization of reality.

Besides development and general factors, there are four other significant aspects of the generalist mode of analysis and understanding, (a) the identification and use of structural logic, (b) the use of a realist philosophy, (c) the use of a biological epistemology, and (d) a coherent universal world view that melds the sciences into one developmental and hierarchical body of knowledge that matches the inherent nature of reality. Structural logic, realist philosophy, and the biological epistemology are required to put the developmental and general factors aspects into practice, and the coherent world view is a consequence of the method.

The modern generalist mode requires the direct description in ordinary language of its subject matter. Inadequate understanding is easily hidden, intentionally or not, behind inappropriate teleological language, symbolic representation, models, metaphor, and analogy. There is no better way to force the mind to full accurate understanding than the requirement of full direct description.

Following are introductions to these six features of the generalist approach. Sometimes in the sidebar there are words or notes indicating significant points contained in the adjacent paragraph, links to glossary items, and links to further discussions or related topics.



Generalists use development as a core feature of their methods of analysis and understanding because it is one of the most universal features of reality. Each and every thing that exists, every aspect or quality of reality, is developmentally related to some other thing, aspect, or quality. There are two foundational forms, extensional development and change development. Extensional development occurs in relation to space, while change development occurs in relation to time. With extensional development, there are differences in factors and their relations depending on the quantity of distance involved, while with change development, there are differences depending on the quantity of time that has occurred.



extensional development and change development

  Both space and time are continuous, space extensionally so and time as continuous change. Anything that exists in a continuous manner has parts, sequentially adjacent parts. The developmental differences that occur from one part of space to another, and from one part of time to another, occur in a continuously sequential manner. There is, then, an aspect of continuity to each of these foundational forms of development.

  continuity of foundational development
  With any particular part of space, the continuous, sequentially adjacent part is right there with it. The parts of space are coexistent. The adjacent parts of space, the locationally distinct parts of space, have different individual identities. The coexistent, sequentially continuous, locationally individually distinct parts of space occur as coexistent-sequential-difference.

  With time, however, with the occurrence of any particular part of time, the continuous, sequentially prior and following adjacent parts are not-there. Only the present exists. Neither the immediate past nor the immediate future are-there—they do not presently exist. The one did, and the other will, but not now. The parts of time are not coexistent, and are in that manner sequentially distinct, with sequentially different individual identities. The noncoexistent, sequentially continuous, sequentially individually distinct parts of time occur as noncoexistent-sequential-difference.

  A generalist pays attention to the distinction between these two forms of sequential-difference not only because they are the two foundational types of development, but also because this distinction clarifies the intrinsic nature of change. With the coexistent aspect that goes with the extensional case, there is no actual change occurring intrinsically with the sequential-difference. All the parts are there together with no individual part undergoing any form of change. The extensional situation is just there, without any form of change occurring anywhere within it. With the noncoexistent form, the whole situation exists as only one part at a time. The entire situation changes from part to part. Change is the intrinsic nature of noncoexistent-sequential-difference. While change does not occur with development in the coexistent form, the development of the noncoexistent form is change.

  change is noncoexistent-sequential-difference
  Spatial extensional development occurs as coexistent-sequential-difference, while temporal change development occurs as noncoexistent-sequential-difference. Each, as it is-there, as it occurs, is continuous. Each is a form of continuous existence. You can travel, in one manner or another, along the coexistent sequential continuity of extensional development. In doing so, you follow the pathway of the development. You can also continue to exist along with the continuous change that is time, along with the noncoexistent sequential continuity of this foundational form of change development. In doing so, you follow the pathway of the change that is this form of development.

  In both these basic forms of development, there is an aspect of continuous existence to the sequential-difference, an aspect of continuous existence to the pathway of development—existential-pathway-development. This is the progressive difference or transformation of a situation by way of sequentially connected development. For example, in the developed form of change development that is cellular metabolism, there are specific sequences of chemical change, metabolic pathways. That which developmentally follows is directly related to or existentially-dependent on what was developmentally prior, and the connection is one of structural logic. Reality is that which exists, that which is-there, and everything that exists is developmentally connected to something else. Generalists explore reality by following existential-pathway-development, and it is this factor that gives coherence and universality to the generalist world-view.

  There are three other basic forms of development that are important to the generalist method, all of which, in one way or another, are consequences of extensional and change developments. Two of them, situation development and one form of factor development, are cases of existential-pathway-development. The third, a second form of factor development, is not based on continuous sequentially connected development.


Two or more factors existing in some form of actual relation to one another is a situation. Change in the relations of a situation is situation development. The process of emergence is the most significant and universal form of this type of development. It consists of changes in the relations between units of matter such that new patterns of material organization come into existence.



situation development


Existential-pathway factor development generally occurs as a form of situation development in which a complex factor develops in some manner. Growth is a common way in which this occurs. A simple example is a crystal, a complex factor, becoming larger as additional atoms or molecules join the orderly structure. A complex example, both the factor and its development, is a fertilized egg and its subsequent ontogeny. All forms and cases of existential-pathway factor development involve continuous sequentially connected development.

  existential-pathway factor development
  The second form of factor development is nonpathway factor development. It is distinct from the other forms in that there is no role for continuous sequentially connected development. Many general factors that play roles in the existence, organization, and development of reality occur in simple form in simple situations and in more complex form in situations where greater numbers of factors are playing roles. This is of particular interest and utility to generalists because the intrinsic nature of any particular factor determines its structural logic relations with other factors. When a factor, whose role in one situation is well understood, is then found in a different situation, knowledge of the structural logic of the one situation helps with the analysis of the second situation. This allows the understanding of simpler cases to aid the understanding of complex cases. In the more complex case, there will be the basic structural logic of the factor as a starting point to see how it interrelates with the additional factors.

  nonpathway factor development

With nonpathway factor development the more advanced stage does not develop directly from the simpler stage, nor is it directly existentially-dependent on the simpler stage. In this form of factor development, the stages occur in separate existential-pathway-developments, and are entirely existentially independent of each other.



A factor is anything that exists and plays a role. Space is a factor because it provides a place in which other factors can exist. Matter is a factor because it plays roles in motion, cause, pattern of material organization, and structure, all of which are themselves factors. Processes such as emergence, self-organization, and evolution are factors because they play roles in the creation of material pattern. Thoughts are factors because they influence the motions of our bodies and thereby events in the world at large. Straightness, roundness, quantity, complexity are factors. Objects are factors, as are each of their qualities. Parts and wholes are factors.

Possibilities and probabilities are not factors in that they do not have intrinsic being. They do not actually exist in and of themselves. They are not actually there. The same goes for Platonic forms and such like. They are not-there. They do not exist. They do not play roles. They are not factors.

Space and matter are foundational forms of existence, and thereby are foundational factors. Time is a consequence of the existence of space, and as such is also a foundational form of existence, and a foundational factor. Motion, as a foundational source of change, is another foundational factor. All else exists as, or is emergent from, patterns of relation and organization of these four—space, time, matter, and motion. All else that exists, all other factors, are compound in nature, composed of two or more factors.

To follow the pathways of development, a generalist uses the structural logic inherent in those pathways. To follow the structural logic relations, it is necessary to have an accurate knowledge of the components of a situation, to know what is there. It is necessary to identify the factors that are there and the roles they are playing.


Structural Logic

Structural logic is the manner in which the intrinsic qualities of a factor determine the ways in which that factor can interrelate with other factors. The intrinsic qualities play these determining roles because they are what is-there to do so. They do so in concert with the qualities of the manner in which they exist together or the manner in which they come together. In many cases the orientation of factors that exist in relation to one another has a determining role in what relations occur. In almost all cases of coming together the rate makes a significant difference. High speeds can overwhelm factors of structure and orientation, while in many cases a certain impact or pressure is required for some qualities to interrelate to the full extent possible.

Development occurs by way of structural logic. To understand and accurately describe development it is necessary to identify and understand structural logic. Structural logic provides the details to the universal developmental roadmap of the structure and process of reality. Development goes where structural logic dictates. Structural logic determines development.

  It is the existence and qualities of a factor that make it possible for there to be relations between that factor and others. If the factor exists, it can have interrelations with other factors. If the factor does not exist, it cannot play a relational role. Nonexistence is not a factor. If the factor has certain specific qualities, there can be certain specific relations that require those qualities. If those qualities are not aspects of the factor, then those specific relations cannot occur.

  nonexistence is not a factor

There is an important difference between the structural logic of the spatial foundations of extensional development and that of any situation involving change development. With spatial extensional development the interrelating components (spatial places) and their relations (distances and directions) are all there together, coexistently. All the parts and relations are aspects of coexistent-sequential-difference. Noncoexistent-sequential-difference, change, plays no role.

In space, any three point locations, whose direction relations with one another do not constitute a straight linear directional relation, will constitute the corners of a relational triangle. The isosceles triangles of increasing leg length away from a base of a particular size will have a continuously different angle at their vertices. All the point locations in space that constitute the corners of these triangles, and all the distance and direction relations that constitute their sides, are all there together, coexistent. All the components and relations along this extensional development are just there, and stay that way, without anything changing in any way as the situation continues to exist. Along the coexistent-sequential-difference of spatial extensional development there is nothing existentially new—the components and relations are already there no matter how far out on the development.

  Change development is different. With noncoexistence-sequential-difference, new factors come into existence. Factors that play roles in change development have consequences the existence and nature of which are mediated by structural logic. With change development the existence and nature of what follows is a consequence of the existence and nature of what went before. The factors of the existence of what went before determine the factors of the existence of what follows. The factors of the organization of what went before determine the factors of the organization of what follows. Each prior factor is what it is—it has its own individual nature, its own particular set of intrinsic qualities. The consequences that follow are derived from and appropriate to the set of qualities that are there playing roles in the development.   The Origin and Foundational Development of Structural Logic

Realist Philosophy

The generalist mode is a way to get a grip on the vast complexity of that which exists. As such, it is a technique for dealing with reality. The underlying philosophy, the philosophy that sets the ground rules for the generalist mode, must be that which has reality, that which exists, as its subject matter. This is the philosophy that asks the questions, What exists?, Why?, and With what consequences?. Observation and science answer the first question, what exists, and in part discover consequences. Structural logic provides understanding of why, and anticipates, in part, consequences from what exists.

Modern generalists are not scientists. They do not have time for the discovery of original data or for conducting experiments. Their attention is extended too far—too wide and too deep. The work of generalists is based on the work of scientists. Without scientists, there could be no generalists.

Science is a method for discovering accurate knowledge about that which exists. Science is about discovering the nature of reality. Because both generalist and scientific methods are aimed at knowing reality, they share the same foundational philosophy. The philosophy of science, to be relevant, must be a realist philosophy.

The philosophy of reality, in its foundational role for scientific and generalist methodology and validity, is concerned also with the philosophy of knowing and the philosophy of the discovery of knowledge. Science is aimed at the discovery of accurate knowledge, knowledge that matches the intrinsic nature of reality. Everything about the generalist mode requires accurate knowledge. How can accurate knowledge be found and guaranteed? Part of the answer is in discovering what knowledge is and how it comes into being. The role of realist philosophy here is to choose between epistemologies, to choose which theory of knowing matches reality—that is, to figure out which theory of knowing is itself accurate.

The generalist mode, science, observation, and the philosophies of reality, science, and knowing are all intricately interdependent. As the generalist mode, science, and their foundational philosophies progress, there is a continuous round of mutual corrections and enhancements. The result is a clear understanding of where knowing occurs and why it exists. Knowing is a biological factor, a subsystem of the neurological system, that has evolved because it enhances the survival and reproductive capacity of the organisms that have come to possess it. By showing that knowing is an evolved factor occurring within a larger context from which it emerged, the biological sciences have totally eliminated the relevance of all forms of solipsism. Humans are biological entities, their knowing a biological process. The only accurate theory of knowing possible, as an intrinsic feature of humans, is a biological epistemology.


Biological Epistemology

A biological epistemology gives one confidence in the efficacy and accuracy of the human sensory systems, the primary source of data for knowing, and in the mind’s sensory data processing system. The primary roles of these systems are in the interrelations of the organism with its environment. They have evolved to be very effective in these roles. Humans have become the dominate life form on the planet because of the accuracy of their data acquisition and processing systems.

There are minor optical illusions and limitations. We lack the infrared talent of rattlesnakes and the ultraviolet vision of bees. However, the accuracy of human intelligence has allowed the species to discover and to overcome many limitations through technological means.

Human knowing is up to the task of detailed analysis of the intrinsic nature of that which exists. Just examine for a minute the astounding detail of a normal human visual field, and think then about how it allows a wide range of suitable action in relation to that witnessed environment. The human mind has evolved to be good at observing components and their interrelations in the ecological and social contexts in which a person lives. It is well suited for analyzing organization in space and structure, and in time and process. It is well suited for analyzing structural logic and development. And structural logic and development are general, universal, aspects of reality.


Coherent Universal Worldview

Because material reality is hierarchically organized, the higher levels being composed of units from lower levels, and because the current organization of reality originates by way of development from what has gone before to what follows, including the origin of material hierarchic organization, a generalist achieves a unified world view by using those aspects of reality that developmentally connect one part with another, through space and time, through structure and process, from foundational simplicity all the way up to the most complex cases of material organization. They do so by following pathways of connection, by tracking these factors: (1) structural logic, (2) coexistent-sequential-difference, (3) factor development, (4) sequential enhancement, (5) determinate consequent-existence, (6) continuing-existence, (7) noncoexistent-sequential-difference—change, (8) self-organization, (9) existential-dependency, (10) situation development, (11) motion, (12) combinatorial enhancement, (13) emergence, (14) cause, and (15) the ongoing interrelation of diverse situation developments. This is an approach that looks at why complexity develops from simplicity, that elucidates, for example, why higher levels emerge from lower levels, why life emerges from nonliving matter, and why there can occur a form of free will, functional free will, in a wholly determinate universe.

The generalist’s coherent universal world view has an orientation of progressive development up the emergent hierarchies of material organization. The various scientific disciplines tend to have somewhat hierarchically horizontal viewpoints matching the levels of their subject matters. Physics is concerned primarily with elementary particles and atoms. Chemistry studies the realms of molecules. Neurologists deal with neurons and nervous systems. Sociologists study groups of organisms. And ecologists delve into the interrelations of organisms and their environments.

Researchers at each level from chemistry on up must have some understanding of the disciplines of lower levels. The reason is that, in the existential-pathway-development of the hierarchic organization of material reality, patterns of organization that originate at earlier stages and lower levels are often persistent, continuing to play their roles as the situation continues to develop with additional levels progressively emerging one from another. In complex hierarchic organization, the higher levels are existentially-dependent on the continuing roles of the tiers of lower level components. A social system is existentially-dependent on multiple tiers of organization from organisms down to elementary particles. This knowledge of lower levels, though, is usually quite limited, with the primary focus still hierarchically horizontal. There is little or no understanding of why the levels emerge one from another. The modern generalist, by focusing on that why at each of the transitions from level to level, rather than the multitude of detail at the various levels, builds a coherent understanding of the whole in which the boundaries of the disciplines fade into the background.



Contents What's New Glossary Contact

©2004 Vincent Vesterby