Introductory Comments on Programme on Human Values and Wisdom
for the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential
- / -
Introduction / Rationale
The importance of values is frequently cited in relation to the global problematique,
whether it be in debates in international assemblies, in studies criticizing
"value-free" approaches to research, or in discussion of quality of life and
individual fulfilment. Values are deemed especially important in questions of
cultural development and are central to concern for the preservation of cultural
(a) Problems and values
Problems tend to be recognized and dealt with as concrete, practical matters.
They can be defined in terms which allow them to be the subject of well-managed
programmes -- indeed they may be the integrative focus of those programmes,
uniting together groups that would otherwise be competing. Even the term "problem"
is recognizable in many languages and is an early part of any vocabulary concerned
with practical matters. The term is applied to every level of obstacle or hindrance
from the most personally intimate to the global level.
The case of human values contrasts sharply with that of world problems. Where
it is common and meaningful to ask "do you have a problem", it is unusual and
generally unacceptable to ask "do you have a value". The term is not common
across languages and is not an early part of any vocabulary. It is far from
being an immediate concern in any normal programme of action. And yet there
is an intimate relationship between problems and values. Basically no problem
is recognizable except in the light of a value. If "justice" is not a recognized
"value", then "injustice" cannot be recognized as a problem.
Human values come to the fore as the driving force in many campaigns, where
people's commitment is engaged through appeals to "freedom", "equality" and
the like. As such they too can unite opposing groups under the same banner but
with much less ability to focus on the concrete remedial action required. Much
cultural endeavour is associated with articulating the interplay of values.
Values are of increasing concern to the marketing of commercial products because
of the way in which markets are segmented in terms of the value profiles of
consumers. Values are of course an increasingly explicit question in the debate
on "green" issues and options.
Problems tend to be explicit, whereas values tend to be implicit. But both
are artefacts of the human mind. Despite being treated as concrete, problems
as such (like values) cannot be photographed. People interpret certain (photographable)
conditions as problematic. But the future will recognize other problems in photographs
of conditions today which may now appear problem-free. It may be argued that
awareness of a problem-value polarity is borne of exposure to certain conditions
that cause some form of suffering. In different ways this suffering engenders
learning through which sensitivity to a (new) value allows the suffered conditions
to be constellated into a problem.
In summary, whilst problems tend to be concrete, relatively unambiguous, detailed
features of normal organized activity, values are much more ambiguously defined
and less easily related to specific programmatic steps. Problems provide focus
through their concreteness and specificity in dealing with the present through
established channels. Values provide focus through their inspirational value
and their prescriptive potential in creating a more desirable future irrespective
of established views.
By juxtaposing information on world problems with that on human values it becomes
possible to explore more systematically the relationships between them. Understanding
of any system of values leads to greater understanding of the system of problems.
In fact exercises in ordering the system of values may contribute to new ways
of ordering the system of problems. Relating them may clarify the nature of
the societal learning process through which problem-value polarities come to
be recognized. A specific challenge is to identify more clearly the values associated
with particular problems and to determine whether there are unrecognized problems
following from acknowledgement of certain values.
(b) Human development and values
Human development can be seen as the process of giving more effective expression
to human values. Many of the advocated approaches to human development are quite
explicit concerning the values in terms of which they are conceived or which
they are desired to enhance. The more sophisticated approaches to policy-making
and management are quite deliberate in their efforts to identify the values
on which any action is to be grounded.
Through some processes of human development, providing access to more subtle
modes of awareness, new value insights emerge. In such cases there may be a
very intimate relationship between the state of awareness and comprehension
of the value. Emerging awareness of certain states may even lead to the articulation
of more subtle understanding of commonly identified values. Certain modes of
awareness can be understood as the embodiment of specific values or configurations
Perhaps of most importance is the manner in which certain processes of human
development integrate together previously disparate insights. Values can easily
decay into empty, "bloodless" categories unless they are sustained by appropriate
levels of awareness. Human development may thus build a subtle connecting
pattern between values. Such integration provides a new foundation from which
action may be undertaken in a sustainable manner.
Again it is ironic that there is less and less in modern society that people
are prepared to die for, or to allow others to die for. Whole societies can
now be held to ransom for a single known hostage. Millions can be spent to maintain
a comatose, brain-damaged patient on life-support for decades. Euthanasia is
illegal, no matter what the desire of the person concerned. Exposure to risk
is progressively designed out of society, to be replaced by vicarious experiences
of risk through videos or with the protection of required safety devices. The
paradox is that unknown numbers are however sacrificed through carcinogenic
products, abortion, structural violence, massacres, gang murders, cult rituals,
"snuff" movies and associated perversions, or a failure of food and medical
The attitude to life has become as immature as that to death. Millions are
spent on efforts to maintain youthfulness, whether through cosmetics, cosmetic
surgery or attempts to reverse the ageing process. Every other value is sacrificed
to save lives in industrialized societies, whilst allowing others to die elsewhere.
Individuals in industrialized societies are prosecuted for life-endangering
neglect. But these same societies fail to apply the same standards in their
policies towards other societies. Reproduction is tacitly encouraged without
any provision for the resulting population growth or for the effects on the
environment. Society evokes problems to provide solutions for its own irresponsibility
-- a control mechanism for the immature lacking the insight for a healthy relationship
The challenge of the times would seem to involve a call for personal transformation
through which social and conceptual frameworks can be viewed anew. Willingness
to sacrifice inherited perspectives is an indication of the dimension of the
challenge -- most dramatically illustrated by willingness to risk death. However
physical death is not the issue, and may easily be a simplistic, deluded impulse
lending itself to manipulation. Destruction of frameworks valued by others is
equally suspect. Such dramatics provide rewards within the very frameworks whose
nature the individual needs to question, but by which he may need to choose
to be constrained.
(c) Value confusion
It could be said that there are various kinds of confusion about human values:
What are values? There are many definitions and innumerable studies.
No definition has attracted widespread consensus. One would be hard put to locate
a useful definition of values within the international community that is not
challenged by some alternative definition that is valued by others. This does
not of course prevent frequent reference to the "fundamental importance" of
values by major organizations and other authorities. In an important sense it
might be concluded that values do not lend themselves to ready definition (for
which politicians may be more than thankful). They may even be valued precisely
because they readily escape the facile definitions and labels with which they
are associated. Indeed important conflicts arise over differing interpretations
of values, however defined.
How many values are there? This question raises the issue of whether
it is even appropriate to conceive of values as in some way discrete. There
are a few checklists of values but they have attracted little attention. The
international community has no checklist of values. What tends to happen is
that values are buried in texts of declarations and resolutions in such a way
that it becomes impossible to register them effectively or to deduce how many
values are recognized by UNESCO, for example -- despite the importance attached
to values by that body. Some academic studies of prime interest to commercial
market research have given rise to a limited number of value clusters. Such
clusters are however more descriptive of individual behaviour patterns of consumers
than they are of values such as peace, justice, etc. There would indeed be many
who would not regret the difficulty in enumerating values.
Values and language: To what extent is the nature of values conditioned
by the language used to refer to them? Whether from a deconstructionist or a
constructionist persepective, any traditionally straightforward approach to
values fails to account for significant advances in understanding over past
decades. And what of the plethora of words through which values are labelled
-- many of them synonyms or overlapping in connotation to different degrees,
with many others carrying nuances which the arts cherish in articulating sensitivity
to value variants ?
Consensus on fundamental values: There have been many initiatives over
the past decades to identify a core set of universal values on which "everyone
should agree". It is safe to say that those constituencies who have been convinced
by this perspective have each generated sets of 5 to 10 values that have significantly
failed to convince others -- as religious initiatives failed before them in
imposing their respective versions of the "Ten Commandments".
Whilst token acknowledgement may be given to such forms of value consensus,
initiatives of this kind tend to be based on an extreme form of naivety in expecting
that such consensus will be of any operational significance across cultures.
The Asian preparatory meeting for the UN Human Rights Conference of 1993 offered
a warning signal. It could be argued that this approach has been less than successful
in part because of the almost pathological fear of any form of disagreement
exhibited by its proponents. As a result any consensus is conceptually simplistic
and fails to explore richer patterns of coherence that allow for (and may even
depend upon) a high degree of disagreement (Judge, 1992).
Value relativism: There is an increasing need to deal with value relativism
and to be able to relate to those holding different values. Value relativism
is even advocated as a valuable advance over the constraints of traditional
value patterns. For some "anything goes".
Value creation: The emergence of a high degree of value relativism,
however much it is regretted in some quarters, has favoured educational programmes
emphasizing "value creation". By this is meant that individuals should develop
whatever values they themselves consider appropriate to their circumstances.
Thus Walter Truett Anderson in an analysis of the collapse of belief in the
-- "A home economics book...had the following statement: 'Values are subjective.
They vary from person to person. You will be able to understand and get
along with other people better if you keep an open mind about the value
judgements they make'. Another text said that 'one cannot go to an encyclopedia
or a textbook for values,' that they 'come out of the flux of life itself'.
A handbook for values clarification activities told teachers that such learning
could not even be graded...: 'There are no wrong answezrs, and grading would
only serve to stifle trust, honesty and a willingness to self-disclose.'"
(Reality Isn't What It Used to Be. San Francisco, Harper, 1990)
Such views are of course strongly opposed by fundamentalists of different persuasions.
Research programme explanation
This research work on values builds on work undertaken since 1972 in connection
with the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, of which
a fourth edition will be published in 1994. This long-term programme of the
Union of International Associations complements that of its Yearbook of International
Organizations. Together these databases cover the networks of some 20,000
internationally active organizations and the networks of 13,000 problems they
choose to recognize and with which their members choose to identify.
The first edition of this publication appeared in 1976 under the title Yearbook
of World Problems and Human Potential. It was produced as an experiment
arising from a joint project initiated in 1972 between the Union of International
Associations (UIA) and the group Mankind 2000 which was an early catalyst of
the international futures research movement.
Work on the second edition was initiated in 1983 and was completed in 1986.
This third edition work was initiated in 1988 and completed in December 1990.
The second edition was published under the present title. As with the present
edition, the publication was jointly funded by the UIA and K G Saur Verlag,
current publisher of the UIA's 3-volume Yearbook. The second edition
was originally conceived as constituting a fourth volume within the Yearbook
series, because of the degree of potential cross-referencing between the four
volumes. It was subsequently decided to treat it as a separate publication under
the current title rather than tie it to the established annual Yearbook.
Originally founded in Brussels in 1907, partly on the initiative of two Nobel
Peace Laureates (Henri La Fontaine, 1913; Auguste Beernaert, 1909), the UIA
as an international nongovernmental organization had activities prior to 1939
which illustrate its long-term interest in relation to the Encyclopedia project.
These include publication of the Annuaire de la Vie Internationale, Vol
I (1908-1909, 1370 pages), Vol II (1910-1911, 2652 pages) which included information
on problems with which international organizations were concerned at that time.
Also published was a Code des Voeux Internationaux; codification générale
des voeux et résolutions des organismes internationaux (1923, 940
pages, under the auspices of the League of Nations). This listed those portions
of the texts of international organization resolutions which covered substantive
matters, including what are now regarded as world problems. It covered 1216
resolutions adopted at 151 international meetings. The subject index lists some
The work is above all the fruit of continuing collaboration with a considerable
number of the 25,000 international governmental and nongovernmental organizations
listed in the Yearbook of International Organizations. Such bodies make
available a wide range of material on the areas of their concern.
This Encyclopedia is therefore intended for those who question whether they
are receiving information from a sufficiently broad range of perspectives. It
is for those who believe that much might be learnt from the variety of perspectives
on what constitute significant problems and significant responses to them. In
particular it is for those who recognize the possible dangers and limitations
of attempting to filter this variety down to a handful of "essential" problems
which can be appropriately contained by a single policy, strategy or blueprint
based on a single conceptual framework guided by a single set of values. The
decision that any particular class of information in the Encyclopedia is irrelevant
can be seen as raising valuable questions as to the nature of the assumptions
on which each such judgement is made.
Of more relevance to the specific work on values, is that most such nonprofit
organizations explicitly acknowledge some values as the basis for their initiatives.
Furthermore, social conditions can only be conceived as problematic in the light
of some value, however implicit. Many aspects of human development, notably
those inspired by different spiritual traditions, can be usefully understood
both as achieving realization of new qualitative insights and as giving behavioural
form to them. It is through the conflicting pursuit of such values, and in the
interpretation of rival values as "negative", that the majority of world problems
It is for this reason that the Encyclopedia programme includes an extensive
exploration of "human values". Currently this is based on some 1,500 "positive"
or "constructive" values, and some 1,900 "negative" or "destructive" disvalues.
The disvalue set has been developed in conjunction with the set of problems
to ensure a reciprocal sharpening of focus. Positive and negative values are
interrelated through some 250 value polarities. It is the set of these polarities
which is the subject of experiments in classification to determine the nature
of one (or more) coherent value sets. Hopefully the dimensions of such sets
can be related to those on which so many initiatives towards value coherence
have been based.
The Encyclopedia programme was therefore based on the assumption that it was
appropriate to attempt to bring together and interrelate within one framework
information on: the problems with which humanity perceives itself to be faced;
the organizational, human, and intellectual resources it believes it has at
its disposal; the values by which it is believed any change should be guided;
and the concepts of human development considered to be either the means or the
end of any such social transformation.
Problems, organizations, concepts and human development are usually considered
as though they were unrelated. But it is necessary to have a progressively more
integrated conceptual structure in society before the interrelationships between
the newer problems can be perceived. Both are needed before an attempt can be
made to interrelate organizational units to handle the interlinked problems.
Individual ability to tolerate and comprehend the complexity and dynamism of
these interrelationships is directly related to the individual's own degree
of personal development. Furthermore, a general increase in integration in any
of these four domains will tend to increase integration in the other three.
Equally, progressive fragmentation in any of the domains will provoke disintegrative
tendencies in the others.
Even if the constraints make it impossible to achieve a satisfactory result
through this particular exercise, it is to be hoped that through the process
outlined here it will be possible to learn more about how information from very
diverse sources can be concentrated and structured to the critical level required
to provide the kind of integrative overview necessary for all to develop a sufficiently
complex and strategically sound response to the world problem complex as it
is now emerging.
(b) Values programme
The kind of information available on values is so diffuse and unstructured
that it is fair to say that there are no lists of values with which the international
community identifies, whether partially or completely. There are texts which
reflect values, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but these
do not identify values as such. There are no guidelines for naming values, and
other than obvious values such as "peace", "justice" and "liberty", few appear
to have been named.
For this reason the opposite approach was used, namely an effort was made to
generate a complete set of potential values by identifying a comprehensive set
of value-words which could be assumed to reflect the full range of values. Again
the question arises as to whether these value words do effectively indicate
distinct values. Here the difficulty is extreme because of the fluidity of language
and the variety of connotations associated with any particular word. The procedure
used was however designed to make this confusion explicit without attempting
to resolve the issues which emerge. The procedure has the merit of not discriminating
in favour or against any particular values as a result of emphasis on fashionable
The purpose of this programme is to register a complete range of values with
which people identify, to which they are attracted or which they reject as abhorrent.
The elusive notion of "wisdom" may be useful considered as the art of dealing
with value dilemmas.
The programme resulted in the identification of 2,270 value "complexes" for
the 1991 edition of the Encyclopedia. This information is divided into four
parts: Section VC, Section VD, Section VP, Section VT. Section VC contains 960
constructive value words (e.g. peace, harmony, beauty), whereas Section VD contains
1,040 destructive value words (e.g. conflict, depravity, ugliness). The entries
in these two sections are linked by 6,000 cross-references to 225 entries in
Section VP. These entries are value-polarities (e.g. agreement-disagreement,
freedom-restraint, pleasure-displeasure) derived from the organization of Roget's
Thesaurus. These in turn cross-reference 45 entries in Section VT in an
attempt to identify major value categories. The section as a whole contains
None of the entries contain "descriptions" of the value(s) implied. In most
cases this would be superfluous. The words in Section VC reflect values which
tend to be accepted without questioning. Those in Section VD reflect values
which tend to be rejected without questioning. The emphasis is placed on using
the cross-references to indicate the range of connotations of particular value
words. The entries on value polarities, Section VP, do however list proverbs,
aphorisms or quotations selected to illustrate the dynamic counter-intuitive
relationship between constructive and destructive values.
They endeavour to draw on popular wisdom or insight to demonstrate the negative
consequences and limitations of blind adherence to constructive values or to
demonstrate the positive consequences and creative opportunity of judicious
action in the light of destructive values. They point to the existence of a
more fundamental and challenging dynamic than that implied, for example, by
peace-at-all-costs and total rejection of conflict.
The index also includes an index (see Section VX) of 2,549 entries and a bibliography
(see Section VY) of 398 items. Comments and explanations on the section are
given in a set of Notes (see Section VZ)
Whilst it had been hoped to develop lists of values from documents of international
bodies, no adequate lists of values were located, even within the intergovernmental
agencies (such as UNESCO) specifically concerned with human values, and despite
numerous reports and meetings on "values" in recent years. The values referred
to are very seldom named, although the commonest may be cited as examples. The
list presented here has therefore been elaborated by the editors as an experiment
based on the selection and interrelationship of constructive and destructive
This exploration of values is of special interest in relation to the world
problems in Section P of the Encyclopedia. Many problems are named in international
debate using a destructive value word (e.g. insufficient, unrealistic, unjust,
inappropriate). Problems defined in this way imply the existence of some corresponding
value whose expression is infringed by the problem -- a question under systematic
investigation for the 1994 edition of the Encyclopedia. Such values may or may
not be noted in defining the purposes underlying remedial action in response
to the problem, although often they form part of the wording of any rallying
slogan in support of some international strategy (Section S, 1986). But the
set of constructive and destructive value words does indicate a way of coming
to grips with the range of problems which the existing language renders perceivable
and nameable. They also indicate possible dimensions of human development. This
section is of course limited at this stage by the biases inherent in Roget's
Thesaurus and the English language. It does however create a framework which
could enable these limitations to be transcended.
Values and chaos theory
(a) Values as "attractors"
To what extent does chaos theory offer new insights through which a richer
approach to values can emerge? This should presumably strike a more fruitful
balance between the relativism of individual values and a measure of collective
constraint in a turbulent society.
One of the key insights of chaos theory is that of strange attractors. Is there
a sense in which human values can be usefully understood as strange attractors?
A prime characteristic of a strange attractor is that it is defined as the
focus of a pattern of seemingly chaotic behaviour. But it is the pattern that
signals the presence of that focus which cannot be identified in any other way.
Like strange attractors, human values do not manifest in any tangible manner
but rather through interpretations of the way behaviour is governed. But the
intangible attractor may indeed be a matter of of direct subjective experience
under appropriate conditions of human development -- as practitioners of some
spiritual traditions would claim.
There is certainly a sense in which behaviour can be understood as "meandering
around" in such a way as to define attractor poles. Whilst there may be extremes,
often of the most regrettable kind, behaviour is eventually pulled back into
an orbit around one or more attractors. Some forms of behaviour may thus exhibit
highly eccentric orbits, but the pull towards the attractor remains fundamental
-- even if it may be barely sensed at its most extreme points by those involved.
There is also a sense in which behaviour may be described as trapped by particular
attractors. However it may also drift in such a way as to be temporarily captured
by another. From this perspective behaviour may be seen as swinging between
and around attractors. Chaos theory may offer insights into the laws govering
There are also ways in which behaviour in society appears in some way to be
"pulled forward" as a whole by the value complex and away from the disvalue
complex. There may however be many doubts as to the nature of such "progress"
and whether there is some Omega Point as a kind of psycho-social equivalent
to the ultimate reversal of the cosmic Big Bang. Thus for Rupert Sheldrake:
"The final unified attractor and the primal unified state of the Big Bang
have a symmetrical relationship" (Abraham, et al, p. 11)
(b) "Strangeness" in value-governed behaviour
Maximization of behaviour in response to one value is subject to a well-known
phenomenon of reversal -- named in classical Greek drama as enantiodromia (Thompson,
1985). In this sense no particular value is completely satisfactory to an individual
or a social group -- especially when experienced in its purest form. Paradoxical
attractions to other values emerge quite unexpectedly. Much has been made of
this in romantic literature and many have experienced the communication problems
between the sexes. Equivalent surprises in socio-political systems are also
What in fact makes values valuable? As with dietary variation, it is as though
there was a need to vary the pattern of behaviour by which development is nourished
-- even to the point of pursuing the illusory greeness of more distant fields.
Within this metaphor, there are those who yearn for a single complete foodstuff
(a form of mana from heaven or the ultimate food-pill). Others speak in terms
of a regular diet of certain basic foodstuffs (carbohydrates, protein, etc)
required for human health -- with passionate claims for particular diets. But
when it comes to taste, the preferences pursued vary enormously -- irrespective
of the value to health. As such, the sociology of diet producers and consumers
offers useful insights into the sociology of value producers and consumers.
A number of computer studies of complexity are based on the supply of "foodstuffs"
in ecosystems of artificial lifeforms. These could be adapted as a basis for
The current search for a sustainable pattern of "sustainable development" poses
many dilemmas concerning the balance to be struck between the attractions of
different values -- for many of which there are calls for maximization. For
example, the key figure in the Brundtland Commission, responsible for the concept
of sustainability, has agreed to reopen whaling from Norway in response to the
appeals from local whaling communities whose cultural and economic heritage
is endangered. There is an incredible naivety to the assumption that the values
embodied in the different chapters of Agenda 21, recently approved by
the Earth Summit, can be successfully balanced by treating each in isolation,
or as the subject of bi-sectoral horsetrading deals. Any integrative perspective
is significantly lacking -- especially after exclusion of the overpopulation
issue (Judge, 1992).
Even in the much simpler situations of one-on-one psychotherapy, where integrative
perspectives are assumed by both therapist and client, rationally agreed initiatives
may prove relatively futile and unproductive. As a result one school of psychotheraphy
favours "paradoxical" strategies to trigger more appropriate modes of behaviour.
The client may be encouraged to engage in precisely that form of behaviour that
is recognized to be dysfunctional and opposed to the values that he purportedly
seeks to cultivate.
Many values, which at first sight seem completely positive, can induce behaviour
that is recognized as dysfunctional -- to a degree that compensating behaviours
based on incompatible or opposing values are called for. This paradoxical feature
is well-recognized in oriental cultures, notably Taoist, for which positive
qualities contain negative elements, just as negative qualities contain essential
Conclusion (selected paragraphs)
(a) Experiential phases and modes
The contents of the core sections of the Encyclopedia might be understood as
linked over time in terms of the problems and values encountered under different
challenges to human development. There are many concepts of the phases of human
development (Section H). The possibility of such an ordering might best be illustrated
through one which links such phases to value dilemmas.
It is instructive, for some purposes, to view phases as succeeding each other
in time, possibly over a life cycle. It can also be useful to view such phases
as being possible at any stage of a life cycle, but with different probabilities.
It may therefore be more fruitful to to consider that an individual of any physical
age can be at different experiential ages with respect to each value dilemma.
Different people may thus be faced by different dilemmas at the same stage
of life cycle, or by the same dilemmas when they are at different stages of
a life cycle.
(b) Value crises in a life cycle
In Erik Erikson's scheme (Childhood and Society, 1963), each individual
goes through 8 stages in life. In each stage a value crisis is experienced which
is crucial for continued development. The stages, with their corresponding crises
are as follows:
- -- Infancy (basic trust vs. basic mistrust)
- Early childhood (autonomy vs. doubt)
- Play age (initiative vs. guilt)
- School age (industry vs. inferiority)
- Adolescence (identity vs. role confusion)
- Young adulthood (intimacy vs. isolation)
- Adulthood (generativity vs. stagnation or self-absorption)
- Mature adulthood (integrity vs despair)
Note that each value conflict is not resolved once and for all at the time
the stage is traversed. It arises again at each subsequent stage of development.
In transcending each crisis, it is neither necessary nor desirable to eliminate
the negative portion of the value-polarity. The challenge is to ensure the emergence
of an appropriate balance or dynamic between the two value extremes at each
Resolution of any value dilemma cannot readily be based on any formula or argument.
Whilst there may be logical arguments concerning the nature of the appropriate
balance, these will be challenged by subtleties of experience that will highlight
the existence of degrees of freedom other than those encompassed by any explicable
pattern of concepts.
(c) Moral and ethical dilemmas (virtues and sins)
An effort has been made by Donald Capps (Deadly Sins and Saving Virtues,
1987) to relate the stages in this life-cycle theory to the traditional basic
sins and corresponding virtues of the Christian tradition (taking into account
reservations concerning male bias noted by critics of Erikson's original theory).
This is of interest because of the view that such root sins engender other problems
by a sort of "domino effect". Analogous views can be found in other traditions,
notably the Buddhist.
To make such an inquiry more topical, such root afflictions, or psycho-social
traps, need to be recognized at a group level rather than solely at the
individual level. In this way the link to societal problems is more firmly
Capps associates a "deadly sin" with each stage. Each such sin is appropriate
to the corresponding stage as a prominent factor in the moral or spiritual life
of that period, whose basic psychodynamics it reflects. The sins are not rigidly
tied to particular stages but are linked to them through their common psychodynamics.
Sins may thus emerge earlier or later than the stage with which they are primarily
associated. Capps elaborates an 8-fold set of sins in the following sequence
corresponding to the above stages: gluttony, anger, greed, envy, pride, lust,
apathy, melancholy. There are striking resemblances to the Buddhist equivalents
(see Section PZ).
(d) Group sins or afflictions
With increasing reference in the 1980s to "corporate greed", it is interesting
to explore the possible collective equivalents to these sins. In the light of
Capps analysis, these might run as follows:
- -- Excessive consumption of resources, especially energy
- Collective anger, especially expressed in violence
- Collective greed, especially in the accumulation of resources
- Collective envy, especially for resources controlled by others
- Collective pride, typically as arrogance and triumphalism
- Collective lust for power, typically as expansionism
- Collective apathy, typically in response to emerging problems
- Collective despair, typically in acknowledging current impotence and in
recollecting past failures
(e) Appropriate responses and saving virtues
Traditionally, and as developed by Erikson and Capps, there are characteristic
saving virtues through which people can most effectively respond to the above
sins. Equivalents are to be found in the Buddhist and other traditions. These
too tend to become particularly significant at different stages of the life-cycle.
Using the same sequence, they are as follows, again expressed in terms of
what might be their collective equivalents:
- -- Hope, which is expressed both individually and collectively
- -- Will (or Courage), especially in frequent appeals for the "generation
of the political will to change"
- -- Purpose (or Dedication), increasingly evident in the formulation of
"mission statements" and implicit in "resolutions"
- -- Competence (or Discipline), increasingly stressed as vital for effective
- -- Fidelity or Loyalty, increasingly a concern of corporate human relations
programmes and security procedures
- -- Love, increasingly explicit in "green" approaches to the environment
and traditionally implicit in recognition of the "brotherhood of mankind"
- -- Care, especially evident in relief programmes
- Wisdom, occasionally acknowledged in calls for collective wisdom and statesmanship
In the Buddhist tradition, the equivalents might be considered to be the component
elements of the Eightfold Noble Path:
- -- Right outlook / view;
- Right intention / thought
- -- Right speech;
- Right acts;
- Right livelihood;
- Right endeavour;
- -- Right mindfulness;
- -- Right rapture of concentration.