18th August 2008 | Draft

Topology of Valuing

dynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations

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Associated with Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors (2008), Polyhedral Pattern Language: software facilitation of emergence, representation and transformation of psycho-social organization (2008) and Configuring Global Governance Groups: experimental visualization of possible integrative relationships (2008).
Elusive nature of fundamental values: practice
Elusive nature of fundamental values: comprehension
Varieties of ways of "having" values in practice
Distinguishing varieties of value "hardness" and "softness"
"Carpe valorem": existential engagement with values?
Identification of comprehensive sets of values: Human Values Project
Holders of value configurations -- and their "pillars"
Polarization and its possible dynamic reframing
Eliciting engagement through value "frames of reference"
Cognitive fusion: "Light" of comprehension -- of values?
Sharing value and ethical frameworks
Configuring sets of values and principles as polyhedra
From "value frameworks" to "value vehicles": statics vs dynamics ?
Incompatible value frameworks: "token agreement" vs "bloody disagreement"
Value-based crisis: values as instruments of memetic warfare
Value embodiment: participatory engagement with environmental reality
Value-engendering psychoactive environmental dynamic
Engendering psychoactive resonance through the mnemonic qualities of complex topologies
Re-enchantment of environmental engagement through polyhedral animations
Wisdom -- to be elicited through metaphor?


The 20th century saw a multitude of studies and commentaries on values. It is ranked as one of the bloodiest centuries of all times. Nations continue to engage in extreme violence in the defence of values -- and are prepared to make use of pre-emptive nuclear strikes to that end. Nevertheless, appreciative inquiry into values and discussion of their nature remains a very "safe" and respectable topic. Appealing to values is a standard process in which all authorities engage -- frequently as a means of disguising agendas in conflict with those values and avoding exploration of differences in values labelled by the same words.

The challenge explored here is whether it is possible to break out of the trap of what might be framed as the "values game". This may be especially important in response to the seemingly unmanageable crises of the global knowledge society of the anthropocene era. Given the elusive nature of values, the question addressed here is whether individuals and groups can engage with and embody values more effectively as a means of engaging with these crises -- which strategically are essentially crises of values. This applies especially to those strategic crises relating to the environment.

The initial context for the following exploration was the instigation by the author in 1972 of the Human Values Project that formed part of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (online since 2000). This work, briefly summarized below, highlighted a range of issues -- notably the strategic implications for any transition from a knowledge society to a wisdom society (see Documents relating to Human Values and Wisdom).

Of particular importance now appears to be the recognition of the limitations of the typical descriptive focus on values and their significance -- avoiding consideration of both the challenge of tokenism and the manner in which people might better comprehend and engage with configurations of values in enabling more appropriate navigation of emergent psycho-social complexity. A distinction ios not made here between "ethics", "morals" and "values", the argument focuses more generally on the latter as including the former.

Following clarification of these issues, the question explored is how people and groups can comprehend and engage with configurations of values. The issue of "topology" is highlighted to contrast this approach with the universal tendency to present sets of values as a checklist, organized simplistically and asystemically. There is little consideration for the mnemonic factors that reinforce and sustain engagement with them -- and appropriate use of them as a strategic vehicle appropriate to a global knowledge society challenged by the "political will to change".

The argument is further developed separately (In Quest of Engaging Values: context of the Human Values and Wisdom Project, 2008; Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008; Psychodynamics of Collective Engagement with Polyhedral Value Configurations, 2008). The argument is summarized in a final paper (Embodying Values Dynamically through Alternation: integrating sets of polarized static values through indicative metaphor, 2008). The argument has also been presented in poster form In Quest of a Strategic Pattern Language: a new architecture of values [also available in PDF].

Elusive nature of fundamental values: practice

It is readily assumed that it is obvious what values are and that it is therefore a simple matter to understand them. In engaging in further discussion of values, and despite responsibility over decades for a "values" project (discussed below), a preliminary confession is in order. It is quite unclear to the writer what "values" "are" in "reality".

Despite the extensive literature on what values are, this recognition seems to be in accord with that of others. For example:

  • Behind the misty wall of words, the diverse, even contradictory, interpretations, motivations and utilisations are an indication of fundamental divisions concerning values. In particular, the most basic human rights are more frequently invoked as a weapon of attack or defence against some party, rather than recognized as the royal road to a positive relationship between individuals and groups in an objective form of fraternity. René Maheu, Director-General, UNESCO
  • In contrast with what is commonly assumed, a description, when carefully inspected, reveals the properties of the observer. We, observers, distinguish ourselves precisely by distinguishing what we apparently are not, the world. Francisco Varela

It was in this spirit that it appeared appropriate to explore values as "strange attractors" in psycho-social systems, in the light of the subtler understanding of the complexity sciences (Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993). As such they could be understood as phenomena beyond the typical definitional game-playing with which exploration of values is associated. Values are not conventional conceptual objects. Any asumption that they can be so treated disconnects whatever they are from the manner in which they function in psycho-social systems -- and above from the process whereby people engage with them.

A preface by Chris Mowles (Values in international development organisations: negotiating non-negotiables, Development in Practice, 18, 1 2008, pp. 5 - 16) to an extensive discussion can be fruitfully quoted at some length because of its frankness regarding these matters in practice:

As a consultant to international NGOs (INGOs), I am often asked by staff and managers to work with values. A number of patterns repeat themselves in the interchanges between us, and there are unspoken assumptions about the role of values in organisational life that I am expected to share. The principal of these is that an organisation can 'have' values, and that they should be fully shared by the employees: the way to undertake strategy, then, is to have a strong vision for the organisation, which is a way of realising the organisation's mission and values; and to find ways of airing this vision so that employees can commit themselves to it. Often I am enjoined to help staff and managers to 'close the gap' in practice between what they aspire to do and what they actually find themselves doing....

Over the past ten years I have been struck by how often values, which are supposed to be a source of organisational solidarity and motivation, end up being cited by managers and staff alike as one of the principal causes of their discontent with each other, or indeed for partner organisations' discontent with INGOs.... How is it, then, that the staff of organisations whose values are oriented so explicitly to doing good in the world can end up feeling undervalued, or that organisational value-statements can become a source of frustration and demoralisation? How do staff and managers who work in organisations with an overtly moral mission tend to explain and exercise that morality with regard to each other?

Values are... also frequently a source of demoralisation and destructive conflict. This is because the prevailing perceptions of values as instruments of management or as elements in some inchoate mystical whole render the power relationship between staff and managers undiscussable. Values need not be thought of as an instrument of management, and they are above all idealisations. An alternative theory of values is that they are emergent and intensely social phenomena that arise daily between people engaged in a collective enterprise.

If a world leader, such as Margaret Thatcher (Interview, Women's Own magazine, 31 October 1987) can famously assert ... there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families., what then can be said of "values" -- or of the "organization" or "culture" claiming them? As noted by Martin L.W. Hall (Systems Thinking and Human Values: towards understanding the chaos in organizations, 1999) in a commentary: There is really no such thing as an organizational value. It is really the manifestation of personal values in a larger context. To what extent do they then "exist"? Who has ever seen a value? Which declared "universal" values have not been meaningfully experienced by those expected to subscribe to them?

On the other hand Francisco Parra-Luna (Axiological Systems Theory: a general model of society. tripleC, 2008) argues:

Societal problems can be defined as some kind of axiological disequilibrium since values can be considered to be the raw material, which founds social phenomena. If 'values' is the 'degree of usefulness or suitability of things to satisfy necessities', or to use more sociological terms, if 'value is an element of a shared symbolic system which serves as the criterion for choosing between alternatives for orientation", then, it can be extrapolated that everything, or almost everything in the field of human relations, can be considered as an enormous and complex framework of necessities and interests which can only be satisfied through the achievement of values.

Elusive nature of fundamental values: comprehension

Using the set of arguments in support of atheism, an anonymous blogger has usefully articulated an analogous concept of a a-value-ism, introduced as follows:

It is the cognate of Atheism. In other words just as Atheism is a simple lack of belief in God, avaluism is a lack of belief that things have innate value -- or that value is a fuzzy concept that should be viewed akin to the Logical Positivists, that is a meaningless cipher.... Nobody has ever seen a value -- price tags do not count. They are statements of an existing supposition of value. (No Value, 21st-century Christian Philosopher, 8 November 2004)

In a separate philosophical exchange, Jeremy Pierce (Comment, The Prosblogion, 20 November 2007) argues:

... we might want to distinguish between amoralism and avaluism. The amoralist doesn't think there are any moral truths, but they might think there are truths about what is good. On one plausible interpretation of Nietzsche, that's what he's up to. He doesn't think there are any moral truths, but he denies that he's a nihilist because he thinks it's disastrous to reject the idea of goodness and badness just because you're rejecting morality.

The challenge to comprehension, and the manner in which values are invoked in society, might be highlighted through caricature:

  • the famous western tale by Hans Christian Andersen of the Emperor's New Clothes (1837) suggests that consideration should at least be given to the possibility that those describing and offering "values" to authority (imperial or not) engage in a verbal process of hyperbole (as with the tailors of the tale) purporting to clothe that authority in the finest cloth -- so fine as to be invisible to the unrefined.
  • the famous eastern tale of the Seven Blind Men and the Elephant highlights the manner in which a particular value may be variously described, from a limited superficial perspective, by individuals (or groups) who then dispute the assertions regarding that value made by others
  • the Peter Principle, as formulated by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull (The Peter Principle, 1968), holds that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence" and remain there -- raising the possibility of a cognitive analogue whereby the nature of the most (hierarchically) fundamental values tends to be articulated and employed by those who have reached such a level of incompetence; the principle has since been acknowledged to have real validity

Such arguments raise a variety of "valuable" issues and questions:

  • to what degree are fundamental values appropriately treated like commodities that can indeed be negotiated like other tangibles? (a case argued in Human Values "Stock Market": investing in "shares" in a "value market" of fundamental principles, 2006)
  • are values necessarily to be understood as categories, as substantives in the syntax of discourse, when they may be better understood dynamically as verbs and a feature of process reality -- especially in non-western languages?
  • given the distinction made by Aristotle between apophasis and kataphasis, are specific values, as described, to be considered a problematic consequence of declarative kataphatic discourse when their significance might better be understood through an apophatic mode of "unsaying" -- indicating what they are not (cf Being What You Want problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008; Michael A. Sells, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, 1994)? This is considered especially relevant by apophatic theology, recognizing the inadequacy of declarative descriptions of divinity, however appreciative.
  • to what extent are values indeed "divine" -- especially as this is characteristic critically perceived by atheists and sceptics -- given the role they play and their traditional association to spiritual entities (angels, saints, etc) with specific values? Ironically, the challenge of current debate on values is that the subtle complexity of "deification" of values (however problematic) has been completely lost through their "reification" into essentially meaningless tokens. On the other hand, to what extent are ethical and value charters to be understood as a current form of "pantheon"?

Varieties of ways of "having" values in practice

In such circumstances, and in contrast with valued property, it might be asked how values can be "possessed" -- especially when it is acknowledged that individuals and grouls can be "possessed" by a value. It could then be argued that values are exemplified through embodiment in "exemplars" -- which then enable their verbal articulation in declarations of principles. This suggests the value of interrelating some of the above points in the following table.

. . . . . . . . . , . .
. Possible syntactical form Locus Audience
("other") dependent
Manifestation of values Noun Verb Temporal
Adjective Adverb Injunction
. imposed recommended offered self
Formulaic / Spin . . . . . . . . . . .
Recognition / Awards . . . . . . . . . . .
Aesthetic portrayal . . . . . . . . . . .
Celebration / Enactment . . . . . . . . . . .
Property / Possession . . . . . . . . . . .
Axiology / Explanation . . . . . . . . . . .
Manifesto / Declaration . . . . . . . . . . .
Norm / Obligation . . . . . . . . . . .
Education . . . . . . . . . . .
Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . .
Complaint / Infringement . . . . . . . . . . .
Pledge . . . . . . . . . . .
Style / Way of being . . . . . . . . . . .
Embodiment / Identity . . . . . . . . . . .
Exemplar / Sacrifice . . . . . . . . . . .

see value in something ***

Distinguishing varieties of value "hardness" and "softness"

The rows in the above table highlight the potential value of distinguishing "adherence" to values in some way. Metaphors to assist in this articulation might include adherence (stickiness) itself or classifications of "hardness". The latter might then be fruitfully contrasted with the "flexibility" typically associated with respect for values.

As noted in Wikipedia, in the case of solids, hardness refers to various properties that give it high resistance to various kinds of shape change when force is applied. Macroscopic hardness is generally characterized by strong intermolecular bonds. Such hardness might then be compared with the rigid values associated with ideological fundamentalism that are indeed characterized by mutually reinforcing bonds between a set of principles.

In the case of solid materials (and potentially with values), behaviour under force is complex, resulting in three distinct scientific definitions of what might be called "hardness" in everyday usage.

  • Scratch hardness: Resistance to fracture or plastic (permanent) deformation due to friction from a sharp object. This is indicative of the cognitive response to shorter-term (targetted) impact of contrasting perspectives and initiatives, namely the vulnerability to arguments from another value framework. This might be a way of framing response to a media presentation implying some other value set.
  • Indentation hardness: Resistance to plastic (permanent) deformation due to a constant load from a sharp object. This is indicative of the cognitive response to longer-term susceptibility to contrasting perspectives and initiatives, namely the vulnerability to contextual pressures from another value framework. Again this might be a way of framing cultural pressures challenging a particular value set.
  • Rebound hardness: Height of the bounce of an object dropped on the material, related to elasticity. This is indicative of the cognitive ability to proactively reject contrasting perspectives and initiatives and recover from any destabilization, namely the ability to reflect back contrary value initiatives.

An important scale between "hard" and "soft" -- in the case of values -- might be usefully clarified by exploring the other end of the spectrum in the case of solid materials, namely the varieties of "soft matter". The argument being that the values with which people and groups associate in society might in some cases indeed be "soft" rather than "hard" and be valued precisely for that reason -- hence perhaps the exploration of "soft power" initiatives. "Flexibility" itself is a value under some circumstances, where "rigidity" (and other forms of resistance to deformation) are problematic -- a point relevant to the case below for "robust" value sets. In the physical case, soft matter comprises a variety of physical states (such as liquids, colloids, polymers, foams, gels, granular materials) that are easily deformed by thermal stresses or thermal fluctuations -- as with a number of biological materials. It might be argued that value sets may also be deformed when in "heated" contexts.

The physics of soft matter is of interest because it highlights the range of unpredictable behaviours associated with the looser molecular bonding -- suggesting that this might offer a way of thinking about values "flexibly" held. In the physical case this is due to the propensity of soft matter to self-organize into mesoscopic physical structures that are much larger than the microscopic scale (the arrangement of atoms and molecules), and yet are much smaller than the macroscopic (overall) scale of the material. It is precisely such thinkinbg which could be fruitfully brought to bear on value imbued psycho-social structures, their tendency to self-organize, and the nature of their value-based identity.

Of relevance to further reflection, in exploring this metaphor, is the variety of internationally recognized systems of soil classification. These are of interest because one implication of their variety (despite the extremely tangible nature of soil) is as a basis for understanding why there is so little consensus on the intangibles of value classification. Soil is also of interest because of the manner in which various understandings of values use soil as a metaphor. (rock-like integrity, feet of clay, standing on sand, etc). The behaviour of soils, if only its susceptibility to erosion, is also a rich guide to reflection on values and their propensity for erosion. The value analogues to thixotropic soils and soil liquefaction are especially of interest in reflecting on potential challenges to value foundations considered "solid".

"Carpe valorem": existential engagement with values?

The above table highlights the distinction between values superficially held in some way and those with which identity is intimately and strongly associated. The distinction (and confusion) is also evident in the etymology of "value" in relation to "valour". The question is what is the cognitive and operational significance of values as held courageously and under threat, as opposed to that relating to values which are readily abandoned -- as with the lizard that drops its tail if caught by it? How are values to be "seized" -- carpe valorem, in the spirit of carpe diem?

To the extent that the values of most fundamental significance are those for which an individual or group is prepared to make some sacrifice (distinct from that of the lizard), it is therefore significant to recognize the degree of sacrifice by which such engagement may be put to the test:

  • shorter-term embarassment, humiliation and loss of face
  • financial costs, possibly extending to loss of house and home
  • long-term loss of peer respect and reputation, typically extending to damage or loss of any career prospects
  • loss of friends, possibly extending to rejection by family
  • physical harm, including torture, possibly of family members
  • risk of death (highlighted by the phrase "what are you prepared to die for")

Such degrees of engagement are quite distinct from those conventionally associated with formal expressions of adherence to a set of values, whether or not accompanied by pledges and solemn oaths in some collective setting. Such engagement involves more than words, although they may imply an engagement through words in an extraordinary manner. Obvious examples (and counter examples) include:

  • willingness to engage in nonviolent resistance under life threatening conditions, typically dramatized by media coverage of unarmed isolated individuals standing up to tanks (as exemplified by actions of the International Solidarity Movement and the Nonviolent Peaceforce)
  • willingness to take unusual risks to protect endangered species (as exemplified by Greenpeace and the tree hugging Chipko Movement)
  • the action of United Nations peace-keeping forces, and their superiors, faced with incipient massacres in Srebrenica and Rwanda (for which nobody resigned "on a matter of principle", or in any way jeopardized their future livelihood, as was considered indicative in the prosection of Adolf Eichmann)
  • willingness to engage in suicide missions (recognizing that opponents "are not prepared to die for what they believe in")

This "aconceptual" cognitive engagement with values is especially significant in the case of "valour", its relationship to "honour", and the manner in which these are subject to misrepresentation in furtherance of collective agendas (Varieties of Honour and Dishonour: distinguishing intrinsic honour from honourable externalities, 2005; Honour Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge to the nameless of dishonourable leadership, 2005). Of particular interest is the manner in which military forces are rebranded as "peacekeeping forces", irrespective of their commitments -- following rebranding of certain weapon systems as "peacemakers" (Corvair B-36 strategic bomber, LGM-118 Peacekeeper nuclear missile, and the Colt .45 handgun). Value labels thus function as cognitive fig leaves disguising other agendas.

Such considerations point to the manner in which psycho-social construction of reality may be formed and grounded in the engagement with value frameworks. This process will presumably become of increasing significance in the emergent global knowledge society. As a form of cognitive "making" it is appropriate to bear in mind the associative process that may, through the mnemonics of poiesis, constitute a necessary aesthetic precursor to the autopoiesis of emergent psycho-social systems.

These issues relate in various ways to ongoing debates regarding embodied cognition (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought, 1999; Francisco Varela, et al. The Embodied Mind, 1991)

Identification of comprehensive sets of values: Human Values Project

The above sections raise the issue of how to identify comprehensive sets of values with which individuals and groups might engage in responding to the global problematique through an appropriate resolutique -- to use the Club of Rome terminology. The challenge is that whilst many refer to "values", checklists of "human values" and "family values" are hard to come by, are curiously challenged in their methodology and naming of values, and typically distinguished by what they omit. There is little attention to how values might be appropriately named. Ironically it might be said that for the most popular individual values, "worthy" of the name, there are specific institutes, libraries or comprehensive commentaries.

It was in this context that the Human Values Project was instigated in 1972. The project rationale, methodology and results are extensively documented and the data set created has been available online since 2000 -- integrated with other data sets, including the 56,135 problems of the World Problems Project, the 32,695 strategies of the Global Strategies Project, and the 1,407 profiles from the Human Development Project. The following is therefore a slightly edited summary of the actual work rather than the rationale behind it. It is an extract from Introductory Comments on Programme on Human Values and Wisdom (1993).

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-charged 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, integrating it into the methodology, without attempting to resolve (at that level) 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 values.

The purpose of this programme was 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, especially as a set.

The programme resulted in the identification of 2,270 value "complexes" for the 1991 edition of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (linked by 14,463 cross-references). This information is divided into four parts:

  • Constructive value words (Section VC): containing 960 items (e.g. peace, harmony, beauty)
  • Destructive value words (Section VD): containing 1,040 items (e.g. conflict, depravity, ugliness).
  • Value polarities (Section VP): containing 225 items, interlinking the words in Sections VC and VD sections through 6,000 cross-references. These value-polarities (e.g. agreement-disagreement, freedom-restraint, pleasure-displeasure) derived from the organization of Roget's Thesaurus.
  • Value clusters (Section VT): containing 45 clusters of value polarities in an attempt to identify major value categories.

None of the entries contain "descriptions" of the value(s) implied, although multiple connotations are indicated and cross-referenced. In most cases such descriptions would be superfluous -- or require a treatise, itself controversial. The words in Section VC reflects values which tend to be accepted without questioning. Those in Section VD reflect values which would "notmally" 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.

These aphorisms 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.

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 has therefore been elaborated as an experiment based on the selection and interrelationship of constructive and destructive value words.

This exploration of values is of special interest in relation to the World Problems Project 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 later work on the Encyclopedia (see Problem naming). 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 strategies profiled in the Global Strategies Project (see Strategy naming).

The set of constructive and destructive value words does indicate a way of coming to grips with the range of problems which 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. Further possibilities are discussed below.

Holders of value configurations -- and their "pillars"

A study such as that above can but raise the question of how sets of values -- the "values of civilization" -- are "held" at the global level. They are indeed variously held, and defended, by such as the following:

Especially curious is the manner in which values are widely associated with "rights" and not with "responsibities" -- an exception being the OAS Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Various attempts to establish "declarations of responsibilities" have been essentially unsuccessful (as discussed in Universal Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse, 2007 and in Universal Declaration of Patent Responsibilities, 2007).

The pillar metaphor used by the EU has been used by Sohail Inayatullah (Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming, Foresight, 2008). These pillars are: mapping, anticipating, timing, deepening, creating alternatives, and transforming. As with the "pillars" of the EU, such language raises the question as to the degree to which values are implicit in the categories identified. In his value-based strategic concern with the future, "to help people to recover their agency, and help them to create the world in which they wish to live", Inayatullah also describes six "foundational concepts" (the used future, the disowned future, alternative futures, alignment, models of social change, and uses of the future) and six "questions" (will, fear, missing, alternatives, wish, and next steps as related to the future).

The challenge with respect to any collective articulation of values, whether by religions, in the EU case, or as exemplified by Inayatullah, is how to configure the pillars and how to embody the operational order and dynamic that they imply. Especially problematic is the selectivity represented by pillars isolated in this way, in comparison with the larger set of neglected ("un-pillared") values that may be of significance to others or, in some unforeseen manner, to systemic sustainability. This is the challenge of the values in the Human Values Project above. Which such values should be treated as irrelevant? Which values are systemically related to which other values, directly or indirectly? Should there be concern at the possibility that all values are related "globally" through systemic pathways by analogy to insights from the hypothesis of "six degrees of separation" (see E-mail Study Corroborates Six Degrees of Separation, Scientific American, 2003)?

In previous comment on this challenge (Configuring pillars, 2008), the appropriateness of this metaphor as fundamental to strategic initiatives for the future was questioned by comparison with the array of pillars constituting Stonehenge -- presumably to be understood as a farsighted strategic array for the megalithic period. An earlier study suggested that current technology allowed such "pillars" to be represented as (budget line) "feet" -- as a means of modelling the capacity of the initiative to move forward, retaining both its stability and necessary nimbleness (Animating the Representation of Europe: visualizing the coherence of international institutions using dynamic animal-like structures, 2004).

Curiously, whilst the value-based sets distinguished by such as the EU typically number 4-8 pillars, a more specific relationship to "feet" is evident in the continuing preoccupation in democratic governance betweeen "left" and "right", what ever the factions so clustered. The minority factions might even be understood as rudimentary "feet" in their own right -- hoping to develop. However the tragedy is that the "right" foot evaluates itself as "right" and the "left" as "wrong" or misguided, whereas the "left" foot sees itself as "right" and the other foot as "wrong". Any animal with such motor coordination challenges could only limp -- to its own dangerous disadvantage in a turbulent environment. This is even more problematic in that the situation is framed in terms of the dominant or governing "foot" as being regrettably handicapped by an "opposition", however honourable rather than "irresponsible" (as so often claimed). The resulting "compromises" are far from the fluidity required by walking (as further discussed below) -- where it would clearly be ridiculous for one foot to blame the other for constraints on the ability to progress "forward" or "change".

Ironically such a metaphor is implicit in a well-known study of multinational strategy (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, When Giants Learn To Dance, 1990).

More generally this epitomizes the challenge of any value faced with any "other" -- notably as played out under headings such as "multiculturalism" and "immigration", or "two culture" dynamics. This dysfunctional cumbersomeness might be seen as a characteristic of the unself-reflexiveness of an unconscious civilization as argued by John Ralston Saul (The Unconcious Civilization, 1995).

The later paper on polyhedral global governance explored ways of "building" on the architectural metaphor by configuring the "sides" between the pillars, raising the value question that, if strategic truth is indeed many-sided, should the governance of the future necessarily be "polyhedral"? In developing the insights gained in the above-mentioned set of Encyclopeda projects, strategic dilemmas associated with the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) were configured experimentally as a polyhedral tensegrity (Configuring Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992). The possibility of polyhedral value configurations is explored below.

  • reconcile 6 and 8 -- sohail ***
  • pulling triangle future ***

Polarization and its possible dynamic reframing

In addition to the "pillar" metaphor, globalized society is much challenged by its degree of polarization. As noted by Derek Kelly (Unipolar and Multipolar World Orders Are Unworkable, 2005), some have argued for the complexities of a multipolar world order, whereas the US has argued for unipolarity (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America Report, 17 September 2002) even though it is expected that "multipolarity will come in time" (Charles Krauthammer, An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World, 12 February 2004). Metaphorically the use of "pole" of course reinforces tendencies to "polarization" -- without offering any guidance to resolution of the divisive dynamics evoked thereby. These might even be understood as taking the form of a collective bipolar disorder -- with its alternation between manic and depressive conditions.

Physics offers very useful visualizations of polarization in terms of magnetic fields. These helpfully highlight the contrast between attraction between similarly charged poles and repulsion between differently charged poles. These insights have been fundamental to the development of electric motors and dynamos. There is no question of endeavouring to "eliminate" repulsion in order to achieve universal "attraction" -- as might be said to be the value bias in society.

*** image?

This example is of course highly sinplistic in comparison with related explorations and models in physics and notably within the complexity sciences in dealing with multiple attractors and repulsors. One effort to adapt such understanding to the challenges of the global problematique and resolutique has been articulated in the following image, discussed elsewhere (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). This was notably related to the challenge of a set of 8 "games" between "governor" and "governed", notably as charsacteristic of any ecosystem, whether natural or psychosocial (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005).


Of related interest is the possibility of visualizing the relationship between distinct attractors in terms of dynamics mapped onto the Mobius strip (Psychosocial Work Cycle: beyond the plane of Möbius, 2007). This helpfully holds paradoxical shifts in perspective without loss of continuity. There is the interestinfg possibility that individual or collective identity, and the coherence required of governance determined by contrary or complementary influences, might be associated with cycles most simply represented by such a strip (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007). The descriptive paradox of the one-sided Mobius strip is also indicative of the relationship between the radically contrasting descriptive modes of kataphasis and apophasis potentially relevant to any attempt to "describe" values (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity?, 2008).


Another interesting approach to polarization, developed within the Chinese worldview, is that of the BaGua. In relation to any western set of "pillars", this might be succinctly described as the minimal formal codification of differences (between those pillars) such as to highlight degrees of polarization and complementarity -- avoiding problematic use of words and their confusing connotations 9which are separately articulated through metaphor). As such it constitutes a pattern of associations of requisite systemic complexity. It is especially useful in that it has been articulated in terms of a set of the same order (namely 8) as sets of pillars (4-8) whilst clarifying the relationship between sets of smaller number (3 or 4) and polarization itself (namely 2). However, in contrast with the western case where any form of "polarization" is considered problematic in a psychosocial context, within the BaGua framework, such polarization is essential -- even vitally essential -- to the viability and sustainability of the system represented.

As a traditional system, although widely distributed in symbolic form over centuries, it is necessarily represented statically (notably as a BaGua mirror) with an implied dynamic. However, using web-based technology it is possible to explore a variety of animations (Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements, 2008). One example is shown below.


The particular relevance to the argument here is that it illustrates how the dynamics between distinct "pillars" might be more fruitfully understood as the basis for a coherent, communicable value system. Given its importance to Chinese thinking, it merits further consideration from western perspectives in the light of the powerful arguments of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999). He specifically highlights the possibility that such cultures are likely to develop viable new forms of organization and technology on the basis of metaphors that are a challenge to western mindsets and habitual modes of thought. This could be of considerable significance with respect to skills in correlative thinking (A C Graham, Yin-Yang and the Nature of Correlative Thinking. Singapore, The Institute of East Asian Philosophies, 1986)

The values of "usefulness" and "profitability" of the configuration of BaGua around an empty centre (typically represented with the Tao sysmbol) is perhaps well illustrated for the Chinese by the classic quote from Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching): The names that can be named are not definitive names. Naming engenders ten thousand things... Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub. It is the centre hole that makes it useful... Therefore profit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there. 

The paradoxical importance of such central emptiness and nothingness in relation to values has been explored elsewhere (Import of Nothingness and Emptiness through Happening and Mattering, 2008).

Eliciting engagement through value "frames of reference"

A set of values is typically considered significant as a "frame of reference". Hence the effort to elicit such frames for organizational coherence. But what is such a frame of reference and how is to be understood? How does it work?

A single "pillar" can be used as a kind of pole of reference and is so used for surveying purposes, where orientation to the pole and distance from it are the key. Two poles can be similarly used, although they too cannot be described as a "frame". But the latter case makes clear the essential role of triangulation in the operation of any frame of reference within which action takes place.

A frame of reference, presumably in the case of values, is established and sustained through triangulation between a minimum of three nodes that are "other" in relation to each other. This is a feature of the methodology proposed (above) with respect to "pillars" by Inayatullah -- however such nodes may then usefully be understood as attractors or repulsors to avoid the misplaced concreteness of reification.

Any such triangular frame engenders or elicits:

  • a dynamic (vector), pulling awareness through it ("motor" mode), rather than simply framing a focal central point.
  • awareness by the experience of being pulled through the frame of reference -- through a configuration of otherness ("dynamo" mode)
  • significance and meaning are then to be associated with this dynamic in relation to values

The value of a triangular frame of reference may be contrasted with a bipolar frame of reference -- only too commonly characteristic of unfruitful polarization and strategic dilemmas. In fact the whole exploration of the above-mentioned exercise (Configuring Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992) was the configuration of strategic dilemmas through the triangulation fundamental to the integrity of tensegrity structures.

The criticism of "pillar-ization" of strategic governance pointed to the need for less simplistic metaphors -- hence the exploration of polyhedral global governance as a means of configuring triangulated frames of reference. But the cognitive challenge may call for other considerations as highlighted by the following:

  • implications of the work of Albert Einstein in relation to frames of reference moving relative to one another -- surely to be recognized as a process characteristic of value frames in dynamic psycho-social systems (as implied above by Chris Mowles)
  • implications of the unsuspected formative influences regarding the development of the frame of reference of Ludwig Wittgenstein as explored by Susan G. Sterrett (Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: a story of models of wings and models of the world, 2005)
  • implications, following from the argument relating to Wittgenstein, with regard to the frames of reference explored by Einstein as effectively defining claims to cognitive property, justifying defence of "our values" (Einstein's Implicit Theory of Relativity -- of Cognitive Property? Unexamined influence of patenting procedures, 2007)
  • implications regarding consensus and incommunicability emerging from the exploration of philosophical frameworks by Nicholas Rescher (The Strife of Systems: an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity, 1985) who concludes:
    For centuries, most philosophers who have reflected on the matter have been intimidated by the strife of systems. But the time has come to put this behind us -- not the strife, that is, which is ineliminable, but the felt need to somehow end it rather than simply accept it and take it in stride. To reemphasize the salient point: it would be bizarre to think that philosophy is not of value because philosophical positions are bound to reflect the particular values we hold.

There are several suggestive examples of extensively articulated triadic systems:

  • the triadic paradigm for general system building developed by Paris Arnopoulos (Sociophysics: a general theory of natural and cultural systems, 1992; Sociophysics: cosmos and chaos in nature and culture, 2005)
  • the social process triangles developed through a collective process within the context of the Institute of Cultural Affairs (Jon and Maureen Jenkins, Social Process Triangles, 2001).
  • the classical Chinese BaGua system of trigrams (mentioned above)
  • the archetypal nuclear family system of mother, father and child, notably illustrating the pressures to "make" another values to bring life into the family (and the related challenges of the "eternal triangle"):

*** Lockwood -- ioiu -- knowledge compaction like soil, top soil

*** presumption of comprehension precluding doubt, dialogue and development

*** LER process ???

Cognitive fusion: "Light" of comprehension -- of values?

Light is one of the most frequently used metaphors through which any transition to comprehension is described -- whether for simple creativity or mystical insight. It is presumably just as appropriate to the comprehension of the significance of a value or a set of values -- and their relevance in practice.

In this sense light and learning have long been associated. In some way what is described in terms of light is associated with the transition from a configuration of disparate elements (or one whose order is not especially meaningful) to engagement with the configuration and recognition of its wider implications. In academic discourse and method, aside from use of "brilliant", it would seem to be closely related to the experiece of "clarification".

The process is of course important in different ways in the many traditions of meditation -- each variously concerned with attention and focus as facilitated by some kind of frame of reference. Hence the interest of psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the long tradition of framing offered by mandalas and yantras -- typically polygonal in structure.

Curiously an aspect of this process is central to facilitation of "cognitive fusion" -- for jetfighter pilots (travelling faster than the speed of sound) whose lives depend on the ability to focus much disparate information and arrive at a tactical decision in the shortest time. A less urgent form is important in "situation rooms" and "war rooms". The question for the future is whether this process can be further, and more creatively, enhanced in relation to wider value-based strategic issues by learning from research on nuclear fusion, as explored elsewhere (Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor: Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing (ITER-8), 2006).

As the design of antenna indicates, issues of focus to achieve and enhance some form of cognitive synthesis and fusion may be usefully explored by appropriately configuring an array of frames of reference -- in this case triangulated frames of values differently oriented to each other. It is these differences in orientation that interrelate requisite variety -- effectively patterns of enriching "otherness".

Sharing value and ethical frameworks

Understanding of how values and ethics are shared has long echoed the hierarchical patterns of organization. Ethical frameworks are articulated by the few, on behalf of the many, in the expectation that the many will subscribe without question to the standards structured in this way. This is typical of most declarations of rights, ethics and credos. It is such prefabricated value sets that people and groups may "have" and "uphold". Such undestanding does not accord with the above-mentioned insights of Chris Mowles regarding the dynamics of value emergence and sharing in operational contexts in practice.

It is therefore relevant to note the insights of David Grewal (Network Power: the social dynamics of globalization, 2008) as articulated in an interview for Policy Innovations (May 2008):

I argue that globalization can best be understood as the rise to dominance of shared 'standards' underlying newly transnational and international networks in areas including media, trade, language, and even some forms of culture. These new global networks link people together as never before -- but they also generate problems of insider/outsider dynamics that raise challenging ethical questions, for to become part of a global network often means adopting a dominant standard at the expense of alternative ones that could mediate the same activity. I devote a significant part of the book to examining these ethical issues, including trying to consider what we owe to people left out of new global networks and whether (and how) we should try to destabilize a standard that has become dominant and threatens to eliminate local and less powerful -- but nevertheless deeply valued -- attachments of one kind or another. It is in this ethical assessment of the new power at work in global networks that I try to consider what a "fairer globalization" might look like....

Problematic in this statement is the notion of a "dominant standard" in a context in which many distinct global networks each perceive their own standards as more fundamental, more dominant, or worthy of being so -- through a selective process of self-appreciation quite analogous to the operation of email spam filtering ("white lists" and "black lists"). The peculiar characteristic of global society is that many can hold this view -- hence the violent "clash of civilizations" and the degree of alienation from supposedly global standards that may well not be clearly articulated or unambiguously understood. Ironically significant progress with respect to global civilization may only prove possible when efforts towards a "global standard" are abandoned -- as proved to be the case with the "gold standard".

The interesting question is the extent to which the integrity of triangulated value frameworks is amenable to being shared within a network that is ordered in some compatible manner. Richer networks also function by triangulation and acquire their robustness through triangulation. This suggests that the greater the segree of structural isomorphism between value networks and social networks, then the greater the extent to which values will be shared.

An earlier paper argued that networks achieve higher degrees of robustness and empowerment to the extent that they incorporate a degree of symmetry -- notably as reflected in electronic communication patterns (Polyhedral Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization and global governance, 2008). This suggests that a corresponding argument could be made for configurations of value and ethical frameworks. How would the experience of a "robust" set of values or ethics contrast with one less robust according to such criteria?

What might such a polyhedral configuration of values or ethics look like -- and how might one engage with it meaningfully? Should "ethical charters" benefit from such representations?

The question is whether this is a key to understanding what enables a set of values to "take" in contrast to the very conventional checklists of ethical principles in extant declarations. The need for innovation in the structure of ethical articulations has been argued elsewhere (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2007; (Structuring Mnemonic Encoding of Development Plans and Ethical Charters using Musical Leitmotivs, 2001; Structure of Declarations challenging traditional patterns, 1993; Structure of concluding declarations, 1995; Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980).

Configuring sets of values and principles as polyhedra

As intimated above, the call here is for innovation in the structuring of sets of values and ethical principles beyond the conventional checklist. Reasons may be summarized as ensuring :

  • a greater degree of integrity of such sets
  • interrelating complementary values so that their function in a system of checks and balances becomes evident
  • mnemonic support for insight into a richer system of values that may need to be more complex than is comfortably understood by other means
  • a guiding template for relevant, and possibly vital, communication pathways
  • insight into the manner in which some values may be less evident or relevant from particular perspectives -- namely the challenge of horizon effects and shadow zones
  • a form of articulation more attractive and intriguing for communication (notably through the media) than checklists
  • possibilities for simplifying and complexifying the set in response to communication needs
  • possibilities for reconfiguring the geometry of a value set to relate it to sets of values based on various numbers of values

Given the fundamental nature of such value sets, the challenge might be described as one of "sacred geometry". In other words how are value sets of varying numbers of elements to be related? Examples for consideration include:

  • 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • 59 articles of the European Convention on Human Rights
  • 38 articles of the OAS Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
  • 25 articles of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam
  • 46 articles of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • 16 general principles of the Earth Charter
  • Buddhist 8-fold way
  • Judeo-Christian "10 Commandments" (and their Islamic equivalents in the Qur'an)

Curiously it would seem that few marvel at the variety of understandings of fundamental values and the challenge they pose to ensuring a degree of integrity to their relationship -- especially since many of them may apply together in the same geopolitical region.

Since these are indeed understood to be fundamental, there is a need to understand how they "collapse" into smaller sets, then implying what is explicated in larger sets. The challenge of the articulation as a smaller set is that verbal articulations are variously understood and the subtleties articulated in larger sets are lost. But equally the specific language used in the larger sets for particular audiences may alienate some who prefer implict formulations enabling intepretation "between the lines".

However the technical challenge is to provide a medium in which people can explore for themselves the relationships between values variously articulated. Such a medium should enable people to get a feel for the various possibilities. Ironically this might be compared to the capacity to change gear in a vehicle -- remembering that heavy duty trucks have a large number of gears. This metaphor is potentially relevant to the challenge of ensuring a degree of "transmission" through a cognitive gearbox into strategic movement, as discussed below. An alternative metaphor is that of changing tuning systems in music in order to enable dialogue in different contexts. (*** birdcages)

Such metaphors recall the work of Gareth Morgan (Images of Organization, 1986) in describing the 8 metaphors through which organizations tend to be viewed: Machine, Organism, Brain, Culture, Political System, Psychic Prison, Flux and Transformation, and Instrument of Domination. In this light, operating in any one of these metaphors of course reveals its own truth. What insights emerge from considering a set of values through one or other of these metaphors? What understanding facilitates the art of shifting between metaphors, as with the art of driving a racing car?

But of particular interest here is the vehicle metaphor ("machine") discussed below and the house/home metaphor. With respect to the latter, as implied above, a set of pillars does not make for a sheltered environment -- except in the most clement conditions. Understood as a home, the challenge of designing a set of values is somewhat analogous to that of constructing a shelter. In terms of Christopher Alexander (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979 ), it is the subtle quality of a "good place to be" for which he developed a "pattern language" (A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction, 1977). Elsewhere this has been used experimentally as a template for the elaboration of patterns more relevant to the psycho-social challenge (5-fold Pattern Language, 1984).

It could be argued that to the extent that value sets are articulated in ways other than checklists, their architecture fails significantly to explore geometric possibilities of polyhedra that might better respond to the challenges identified above. With his commitment to design, Alexander himself has gone on to focus on the Nature of Order: an essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe (2003-2004) -- presumably of relevance to future consideration of the structuring of value sets. Such possibilities can indeed be best appreciated through visualization. ***


emphasis on visualization for coherent comprehensive comprehension ***

From "value frameworks" to "value vehicles": statics vs dynamics ?

It is readily argued that value frameworks have been extensively appropriated by those of legalistic disposition. Hence the conventional format of declarations of values by bodies claiming authority and a mandate to do so. In this sense value frameworks are essentially static and designed to be so -- as emblematic of the status quo. The European Convention on Human Rights is, for example, proudly referred to as 'the jewel in the crown' of the Council of Europe. By contrast, in the case of organizations and strategic initiatives, efforts may be made to get "buy in" to any articulation of values from those expected to work together -- often through a process of refinement of the set of values, perhaps as an ethical charter.

This may be understood metaphorically as designing a "home" for the initiative -- perhaps one to reflect its status and standing through appropriate design elements, namely a home of which its inhabitants can be proud. Christopher Alexander has promoted a proces sof participative design. But, to the extent that the challenge of the future is one of complex turbulent and changing conditions, it may be far more appropriate to consider the value structure as a vehicle that can be suitably reconfigured in response to those conditions -- to enable them to be appropriately navigated.

Returning to the formative influence of kites and aerodynamics on the thinking of Wittgenstein (Susan G. Sterrett, Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: a story of models of wings and models of the world, 2005), consideration could be fruitfully given to reversing the direction of influence. Suppose that "conceptual models" and their value equivalents were to be understood as designs for vehicles for the navigation of knowledge space -- through the emerging knowledge society. An intuitive recognition of this is to be found in the phrase "flying a kite" (as with a "launching a trial balloon"). Indeed projects and hypotheses are criticized metaphorically with phrases such as "it wont fly" or "it did not get off the ground". The cultural context in which academics endeavour to design and "fly" an extraordinary variety of models might then be delightfully caricatured by the title of the cult movie Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.

More intriguing even is the possibility that, for some spiritual and religious traditions, the value frameworks that are so fundamental to their disciplines of meditation may indeed be better understood as vehicles. Effectively the associated sets of categories -- exceedingly detailed in the case of Buddhism for example -- are more analogous to the control systems of a multidimensional vehicle, as argued elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002). Buddhism explicitly distinguishes between a greater and a lesser "vehicle", in Mahayana and Hinayana respectively (as discussed in Noonautics Four modes of travelling and navigating the knowledge "universe"? 2006). This recognition has the great merit of establishing the contemporary relevance of traditions (whose insights are often disparaged), as well as offering insights into how value vehicles can be usefully "driven" -- whether or not other driving styles are to be preferred. Sets of value "pillars" might then be understood as crude approximations to (and variants of) the value set of the Eightfold Way -- or its analogues in other traditions (such as the Beatitudes of Christianity) .

The possibility is consistent with the commitment of Arthur Young (designer of the Bell helicopter) to exploring the possibilities of a "psychopter" as the "winged self" (The Bell Notes: a journey from physics to metaphysics, 1979; Geometry of Meaning, 1976/1984). Is there a case for exploring how the so-called "jewel in the crown" of the Council of Europe (namely the European Convention on Human Rights) might be understood as the collective equivalent to the "diamond vehicle" of Vajrayana Buddhism -- a metaphor otherwise explored elsewhere (Patterning Archetypal Templates of Emergent Order: implications of diamond faceting for enlightening dialogue, 2002)?

Curiously prominence is given to the "web" metaphor as fundamental to the networks of knowledge society, and to the use of search engine "spiders" (or web crawlers) to identify what has been caught (as discussed in From Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation, 1996). There is therefore a case for exploring the navigational challenges of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Way in terms of the coordination challenges of arachnid locomotion. This is especially so given the arguments by NASA for spidernaut robotics (Nabil I. Alshurafa and Justin T. Harmon, Artificial spider: eight-legged arachnid and autonomous learning of locomotion, Unmanned Systems Technology, 2006).

This argument extends that above regarding the merit of representing value-based strategic "pillars" as "feet" -- through suitable animations. In the case of the 8-fold BaGua, it is far from irrelevant to this argument that enacting the principles is intimately related to the practice of a distinctive martial art, Baguazhang. More generally it might be argued that the use of katas, choreographed patterns of movement common to both the Japanese performing and martial arts, imply distinct forms of "hold" -- perhaps usefully to be associated with those required for (spider-like) navigation of cognitive reality according to the principles of the Eightfold Way.

Such cognitive possibilities in relation to the use of value frameworks have been explored through other metaphors. As an extension of conventional vehicles, the transition from aeronautics to astronautics might be fruitfully understood as having cognitive implications (as argued with respect to Wittgenstein). Such possibilities have been discussed elsewhere (Entering Alternative Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002; Towards an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe from astronautics to noonautics? 2006). To the extent that website are designed to reflect sets of values, often explicitly so, as distinct features of knowledge society they too might be fruitfully reframed as vehicles (Transforming Static Websites into Mobile "Wizdomes": enabling change through intertwining dynamic and configurative metaphors, 2007).

The possibility that the iPod/iPhone generation, and its successors, may have an entirely different relationship to values follows from the exploration of "wizdomes". The iPod has even been defined in value terms by Steven Levy (The Perfect Thing: how the iPod shuffles commerce, culture, and coolness, 2006). It might then be understood from the users perspective as a kind of "identity pod". Within it is defined the identity of the person as in any good "organizer". Through it the interface with other electronic and social resources is specified -- enabling navigation anywhere in knowledge society.

Typically such devices may contain iconic images defining symbolic relationships with individuals, places and other valued representations. They may provide for access to sacred texts and could well be used as a "prayer wheel" in celebration of some set of values to which access could be offered as a menu item -- or accessed automatically on a value-a-day basis, with mnemonic musical accompaniment. Sets of values, and their representation in music and song, might even be downloaded -- as signature tunes. Especially in their expression in song with which people identify, values may already be more widely understood in a visual or sonified form. As an electronic equivalent to cocooning, their use might be understood as enabling a "value cocoon" -- in a dynamically gated "value community" (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities, 2004). What more might be expected of a value-based vehicle for identity?

Ironically, given the interactive video games that may be played on such devices, any BaGua animation could have dynamic features resembling such games in many respects. As with the older game requiring the coordination to move a ball of mercury within a labyrinth of obstacles, an electronic version could involve control of movement in relation to the attraction/repulsion dynamics of the 8 "pillars" in the BaGua configuration. This could be understood as reflecting the skillset required of cognitive fusion as well as that of attention management and meditation -- echoing the complex challenges of spider locomotion and the Eightfold Way..

This approach to reframing value frameworks through metaphor highlights the unexplored potential role of metaphor in enabling the values we might live by (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 1980). Metaphors, as poets have demonstrated down the centuries, can themselves be understood as vehicles (cf Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991).

Incompatible value frameworks: "token agreement" vs "bloody disagreement"

The most fundamental reality with respect to the universe of values is the degree of disagreement engendered between value frameworks and the manner in which this drives and justifies value-based conflict, especially through the inspiration of faith-based systems of governance. Such intractable disagreements are only feebly addressed in practice. The Global Ethic presented at the Parliament of the World's Religions (Chicago, 1993) remains a "draft" with little indication of the emergence of any articulation responsive to the value-based bloody conflicts since then.

This situation is matched by an obsessively simplisitic quest for "agreement" in international discourse, epitomized by "consensual decision-making". The most evident consequence is the token nature of such agreement and the superficial initiatives to which it leads, avoiding the challenges of incompatibilities between value frameworks. This is most evidet in the manner in which authorities renege on formal pledges -- as is evident in the commitments made by the G8 to developing countries. It is more tragically evident in the cynical promotion of "equality" as a fundamental value -- despite the evident pretence in the face of inequality, epitomized by the emergence of a superclass (David Rothkopf, Superclass: the global power elite and the world they are making, 2008) and the vain pursuit of identity values through luxury (Hari Kunzru, The expensive search for what money can never buy, The Guardian, 14 August 2008).

Given the manner in which philosophy and epistemology underpin the methodology of scientific inquiry, this would suggest the need for more radical explorations of the possibility of structures built on (value) incommensurability (Beyond Method: engaging opposition in psycho-social organization, 1981; Using Disagreements for Superordinate Frame Configuration, 1992). Given the conflicts to which they give rise, the pathetic incapacity of religions to process their disagreements confirms the inadequacy of approaches dependent on "coalescence". A similar point might be made with regard to the natural and social sciences and the manner in which various "sciences" are marginalized, as noted above in the exploration of Paul Feyerabend (Against Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge, 1975).

Understandings of "agreement" vs "disagreement" have become confused with the obsessive pursuit of "positive" and rejection of "negative" -- both polarities being simplistically conflated with that between "good" and "bad", with the latter typically demonized as "evil". This is systemically dysfunctional as argued elsewhere (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005). Problematic consequences include:

  • efforts to occupy the moral and ethical high ground (at the expense of "losers")
  • the "with us or against us" framing of intervention in Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing and subsequent security measures in the "war against terrorism"
  • marginalization and demonization of those who do not share fundamental values (as "unbelievers")
  • inability to frame disagreement using conceptual tools emerging from the subtler insights of new disciplines (complexity sciences) or old "wisdom" traditions, as was only too evident in recent primitive debates in the UN Security Council
  • inherent contradiction in the fact that disagreement, rather than agreement, is what attracts media coverage and audiences
  • problematic inititiatives to "harmonize" different perspectives within a simplistic "universal" framework, eliminating expression of diversity except in token form
  • promotion of "our values" as norms against which the behaviour of "others" is to be judged in terms of their potential threat

There is however a simpler "vehicle" metaphor, widely understood, that merits careful consideration as a means of responding to the seeming incommensurability of value frameworks in practice -- even when they apply in the same geopolitical or cultural context. The metaphor is the process of walking and the alternation of perspective it implies. Rescher (The Strife of Systems,, 1985), as quoted above, concludes

But the time has come to put this behind us -- not the strife, that is, which is ineliminable, but the felt need to somehow end it rather than simply accept it and take it in stride.

This said however, Rescher's argument does not necessarily preclude the possibility of new ways to take the strife "in stride". Indeed it has been argued elsewhere that new forms of transdisciplinarity may effectively emerge from "striding" (Transcending Duality as the Conceptual Equivalent of Learning to Walk, 1994; Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2007). This points to the merit of animating the value "pillars" of institutions as "feet", as noted above and illustrated elsewhere (***).

The cultural historian William Irwin Thompson (From Nation to Emanation; Four Cultural Ecologies of the West, 1985) has approached these issues from a quite different direction and has articulated most intriguing possibilities. For him: "Values are not objects, they are relationships. When you overlay one pattern with another, a third pattern emerges, a moiré pattern" (p. 38). He argues that: "Truth cannot be expressed in an ideology, for Truth is that which overlights the conflict of opposed ideologies....The Truth cannot be known in an ideology, but it can be embodied in an ecology; anything less does violence to human nature and to human culture." (p. 36).

In discussing the possibility of an enantiomorphic polity, Thompson argues:

In a polity that has the shape of opposites, an enantiomorphic polity, the prophetic wisdom of William Blake's 'In opposition is true friendship' will be finally understood and not just poetically....If one does have an appreciation of the phenomenology of opposites, in which we become what we hate, then a politics of compassion, as contrasted with a politics of violent conflict, begins to become a cultural possibility. (p. 37-39)

Thompson quotes an articulation of this enantiomorphic polity from E. F. Shumacher (A Guide for the Perplexed, 1978):

    The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens man's sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding is possible without awareness of these pairs of opposites which permeate everything man does...Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy a denial of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot be solved, but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and private interest, planning and laissez-faire policies, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally both. (p. 127).

Value-based crisis: values as instruments of memetic warfare

Much is made of the "clash of civilizations" (Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1996) which follows from simplistic approaches to "disagreement" and naive expectations that everyone should be in "agreement" -- appropriately "encouraged" if necessary (as exemplified by European responses to the Irish "No" vote in 2008). The situation is increasingly exacerbated by widespread recognition of double standards by those promoting agreement with particular value frameworks. It is however curious that remedies are sought in terms of a single standard at a time when ethically responsible accounting systems are exploring the remedial notion of a value-based "triple bottom line", if not various forms of a "quadruple" one (as discussed in Spherical Accounting: using geometry to embody developmental integrity, 2004).

The crisis is most evident with respect to values variously attached to "environment", "peace", "democracy" and "respect". It is most dramatic with respect to the "land" or its features ("topos"), with which cultures identify, and their related sense of encroachment and threat (cf Varieties of Encroachment, 2004; Darrell Addison Posey, Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999, for the United Nations Environment Programme).

The responses to this value crisis are quite extraordinarily "twisted" in their manipulative use of values:

  • "truth": as was most recently evident in the UN Security Council debates on the Russia-Georgia crisis
  • "agreement": is typically achieved under pressure and through horse-trading divorced from any ethical considerations
  • "harmony": is notably achieved by reducing diversity, epitomized by the elimination of species framed as "pests"
  • "saving human life": has become the standard unquestionable claim in dubious arguments under which highly controversial policies are justified
  • "justice": is increasingly pursued secretively, notably with selective manipulation of evidence; politicization of evidence has now become the norm (Politicization of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era, 2003).
  • "rights": there is a sense in which non-tokenized truth can only be guaranteed through "torture" of people, animals or materials. In the case of animals, it is reported that some 150 million were used for research purposes in 2007 ***
  • "presumption of ethical behaviour": is now used as a value "trump card", by analogy to "innocent until proven guilty", when it is no longer possible to prove that those with the power to conceal unethical behaviour are not in fact enaged in it; incontrovertible proof of problematic behaviour is framed as relating only to exceptional cases rather than being indicative of potentially widespread systemic issues
  • "free speech": under conditions in which there is no longer any means of discovering criteria for censorship or what has been censored by creative interpretation of those criteria
  • "moral equivalence": the validity of any comparison of incidents in terms of moral or ethical values is now contested, as ably articulated in the case of the US by Jeane Kirkpatrick (The Myth of Moral Equivalence, Imprimis, 15, January 1986, 1) following her period as the first woman US Ambassador to the United Nations. This understanding is clearly relevant to any contextual assessment of the Russian intervention in Georgia.
  • "social responsibility": in the case of major multinational corporations, notably those adhering to the principles of the UN's Global Compact, none is taken to task for avoidance of taxation (*****)

As noted above, fundamental human values are now used as a fig leaf to disguise other agendas in a manner that makes it impossible to prove otherwise with any credibility. Some indication of this is evident in the comments of Polly Toynbee (Labour's legacy is a puzzle of moral contradictions, The Guardian, 17 June 2008) to the effect that: "The government's reluctance to challenge culturally destructive forces makes any talk of values meaningless" and "But values or a vision of the good society are meaningless without the confidence to confront cultural attitudes".

It is therefore fruitful to consider how in an emerging global knowledge society "warfare" may well take place "non violently" -- by other means as notably argued by Johan Galtung (Cultural Violence, Journal of Peace Research, 1990) . Beyond the tradition of propaganda, transmogrified into "news management" and "spin" as a basis for "information warfare", lies the as yet ill-defined but already active domain of "memetic warfare". Appropriately arrayed and deployed, values may well be the key elements in the weaponry of memetic warfare (cf Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001; Robert Jensen, The Delusion Revolution: we're on the road to extinction and in denial, AlterNet, 15 August 2008).

Seemingly "ethical warfare" is poorly dissociated in the literature from the "ethics of warfare". "Moral warfare" was notably framed in a much-quoted poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807-1892 (The Moral Warfare), in which the penultimate stanza reads:

Our fathers to their graves have gone;
Their strife is past, their triumph won;
But sterner trials wait the race
Which rises in their honored place;
A moral warfare with the crime
And folly of an evil time.

Whilst the literature focuses mainly on the morality of war, the importance of "moral warfare" has been stressed by the US military strategist John Boyd (Boyd and Military Strategy) who defines it as:

the destruction of the enemy's will to win, via alienation from allies (or potential allies) and internal fragmentation. Ideally resulting in the "dissolution of the moral bonds that permit an organic whole [organization] to exist. (i.e., breaking down the mutual trust and common outlook)

Curiously, but perhaps only too appropriately, "value warfare" (as a form of memetic warfare, in contrast with "valuing warfare") first seems to have been discussed by Robert Cooperstein (Some Notes on the Reproduction of Human Capital, 1974):

Growing up is a gradually increasing and forced addiction to value deformation. 'Forced' because the dictates of simple self-preservation in the familial cold war obligates the child to adopt the weapons of his enemies who have already mastered the techniques of value warfare; "gradually increasing" because as in any cold war, the maintenance of the balance of power requires an armaments race in which each contestant must continually improve his weapons (the family attains the moment of détente when it substitutes the trading of covert hostilities for more open attacks, physical or otherwise); "addiction" since the child must swallow ever-enlarged doses of value in order to remain in the same position vis-à-vis his parents, even as it cumulatively drains away his vitality. Value deformation is a remedy which enables the child to bear the illness while aggravating it. It should be remembered that as he comes of age this war of provocations becomes less and less unilateral, which is to say that the child comes to equally characterize his adult masters.

The term "value warfare" is entirely consistent with the anticipation of faith-based communities and their governments of an ultimate battle between the forces of "good" and "evil" as part of the "end-times" scenarios of the three Abrahamic religions. These preoccupations are however more commonly discussed in the extensive literature on "spiritual warfare". This is readily framed as the basis for the ongoing Christian "crusade" against the Islamic world and the corresponding Islamic jihad against "unbelievers". Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham (advisor to a succession of presidents) and one of the USA's most outspoken critics of Islam, indicated that he had relief workers "poised and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for the population's post-war physical and spiritual needs (Crusaders sending in missionaries after the Blitzkrieg, 2003; Christianizing the Enemy, 2003).

Cooperstein however then notes:

The implements of value warfare, first appropriated in the familial environment, will be found useful later on everywhere, including in the child's relations with his first playmates. Value spreads exponentially.

Values are effectively capable of "bending" knowledge space (as recognized in use of "bent" as a descriptor) and this may even come to characterize any definition of a value in knowledge society. Ironically, the historical association of the value "gravitas" with the phenomenon of "gravity" is perhaps indicative of such an understanding by Isaac Newton (John Noble Wilford, The Man Who Grasped The Heavens' Gravitas, The New York Times, 8 October 2004).

Following Cooperstein, the possible "implements of value warfare" calling for recognition may be readily explored through widely used military metaphors (cf Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998). These highlight analogues of:

  • biochemical weapons, as is already recognized in the terms viral marketing and viral adverstising, specifically recognized to be analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses
  • ammunition of any kind, as already understood in "targetting" potential markets and customers
  • landmines, as already recognized in reference to "minefields" in interpersonal and intergroup relations, with all the capacity to disable people permanently
  • weapons of mass destruction, as possibly to be recognized in the use and operation of "weapons of mass distrsaction" (Destructive Weapons of Mass Distraction vs Distractive Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2003)
  • nuclear weapons, might be fruitfully understood as those capable of destroying bonds of relationship in the community and the "nuclear family", appropriately recognized by cultures resistant to cultural violence and spiritual pollution, possibly by comparison with biochemical warfare (Pico Iyer, Battling "Spiritual Pollution", Time, 28 November 1983; R. Beck, Spiritual Pollution: The dilemma of sociomoral disgust and the ethic of love, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 43, 2006, pp. 53-65)
  • binary weapons, as seemingly innocuous values (held in isolation) which, when combined, are extremely destructive, perhaps already to be recognized in techniques for destabilizing groups through infiltration by two, seemingly innocent, but destructiuvely conflicting tendencies
  • camouflage, smokescreens, decoys, and countermeasures as noted above when honourable values are used to disguise other agendas
  • value tanks, as corresponding to strategic think tanks whose implications are discussed elsewhere (Meta-challenges of the Future for Networking through Think-tanks, 2005; "Tank-thoughts" from "Think-tanks": metaphors constraining development of global governance, 2003); some think tanks may already be understood to be operating as "value tanks", if many intentional communities are not to be considered in this light
  • armour, truth as token -- depleted uranium ***
  • trust certainity >>> values=funding ***
  • strategic engagement ***
  • values fundamental -- wisdom ***
  • anthropomorphic principle / anthropocene -- where else? ***

The non-triviality of the use of such weaponry in "value warfare" is illustrated (at the time of writing) by the assassination as "spies" of unarmed, innocent, western women aid workers seeking to educate girls in rural Afghanistan -- an "unquestionably worthy" initiative by "universal" standards -- against the values upheld in that area by the Taliban, thereby demonstrated to be totally "unworthy", unreasonable, and therefore only "worthy" of elimination.

Value embodiment: participatory engagement with environmental reality

In the curious value context of the 21st century, the values upheld verbally and widely celebrated have an increasingly hollow "ring" to those who assume a degree of engagement in principled action, rather than the token variety. Most problematic is the action taken "in the name of" some value, which increasingly fails to reflect the meaning that it is desired to associate with that value. All these are features of "value warfare".

Value authenticity might now be said to take two forms:

  • as embodied by exemplars recognized to be acting beyond self-interest, traditionally evident as courage on some field of battle under conditions of great risk. Clearly this has ceased to be evident in military action using disproportionate firepower employed indiscriminately from a distance (even in criminals conscripted for the purpose), irrespective of collateral damage or risk to the user of such tactics. As noted above, it may however be evident in action, "standing up for a principle", taken at great risk to reputation and livelihood -- if not to life. One such exemplar is the anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
  • as embodied in personal reframing, unrecognized by others, of cognitive and behavioral engagement with the environment. This has perhaps been best articulated by David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, 1997).

Methodologically there is a fundamental challenge to how the problems of the 21st century are to be framed to elicit appropriate engagement. This has been articulated in various ways by various authors, perhaps most succinctly summarized by Jennifer Gidley (The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: an integration of integral views. Integral Review, 5, 2007) to the effect that:

However, the growing awareness of a potential planetary crisis has highlighted the significance of finding new ways of thinking, if humankind is to move through our current complex challenges. This critical imperative appears to be mobilizing researchers from a wide range of disciplines to broaden the notion of evolution of consciousness beyond its biological bounds.

She points to a range of authors that highlight the need for "new thinking" ands the inadequacy of old methodologies. Another relevant critique is that provided by Steven M. Rosen (Topologies of the Flesh: a multidimensional exploration of the lifeworld, 2006). Especially in an earlier work (Dimensions of Apeiron: a topological phenomenology of space, time, and individuation, Value Inquiry Book Series, 2004) he highlights the manner in which the richness of psychosocial engagement with the world has been completely undermined by formal discourse -- an "eclipse of the lifeworld" in his terms. Ironically, in a period of sensitivity to the challenges of "resources" and "energy", this view is echoed by other authors with respect to a lost sense of "abundance". Others concerned with this topic include:

  • Paul Feyerabend (Conquest of Abundance: a tale of abstraction versus the richness of being. 1999)
  • Sallie McFague (Life Abundant: rethinking theology and economy for a planet in peril, 2000)
  • David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world, 1997) who observes that the concealment of the sensuous realm in pre-Renaissance experience was less lucidly focused than the mode of awareness that succeeded it. The decisive separation of subject and object served the interest of creating sharper understanding, a greater capacity for reflection and intellectual achievement; in that way it helped to fulfill humankind's potential

Other authors have focused on the desirable potential of a participatory encounter with reality (Morris Berman, Re-enchantment of the World, 1981; Henryk Skolimowski, The Participatory Mind: a new theory of knowledge and of the universe, 1995). It has been the focus of a recent gathering of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion (2007). It might be argued that any experience of "values" implies just such a degree of participation in whatever is understood as the "environment". For example, Gordon Graham (The Re-enchantment of the World: art versus religion, 2008) takes as his starting point Max Weber's contention that contemporary Western culture is marked by a "disenchantment of the world", specifically the loss of spiritual value in the wake of religion's decline and the triumph of the physical and biological sciences.

For Rosen:

  • the splitting from nature has progressed to the point where it not only has reduced the quality of our lives but threatens the very life of our planet
  • the more detached we have become from nature, the more insensitive to it we have grown. And the more insensitive, the more we have tended to regard it as nothing but dead matter, there at our disposal, held in reserve for our indiscriminate use
  • the Baconian enterprise of subduing Mother Nature, imposing unity upon Her from afar, needs to be supplanted by an endeavor in which we seek to understand Nature from within, by participating freely in Her flowing diversity.

Rosen offers as example the cytogenetic work of Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock who can risk the suspension of boundaries between subject and object without jeopardy to science precisely because, to her, science is not premised on that division. With such a methodology, in a world of difference, division is relinquished without generating chaos. Self and other, mind and nature survive not in mutual alienation, or in symbiotic fusion, but in structural integrity.

A keyquestion is the degree to which this psychological split (as explored by Isabel Clarke, Madness, Mystery and the Survival of God, 2008) inhibits and undermines a healthy approach to "sustainability" (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).

With respect to the current exploration, such reframing raises fundamental issues regarding the nature and operation of "values" in a postformal mode of discourse.

Value-engendering psychoactive environmental dynamic

Mythical and magical relationships to the environment: Points made above highlight the degree to which current society is both value deadend with respect to many values brandished as tokens and, in some cases, hypersensitive to the implications of particular interpretations of selected values. The first condition is characteristic of alienation for which compensation is typically sought, notably through the use of psychoactive substances. Beyond alcohol and nicotine, of widespread concern is the use of psychoactive drugs.

As an academic interpreter of religious experience, Mircea Eliade held that early peoples considered that the reality and value of any phenomena was associated with its first appearance, especially in the case of the sacred as described in myth regarding that sacred time. No value was therefore attached to subsequent historical events. Modern man, in denying the sacred is therefore obliged to invent values and meaning to define purpose an overcome spiritual aridity. Myths have thus been held by some to be a saving gnosis that offers avenues of eternal return to simpler primordial ages when the values that rule the world were forged.

It is intriguing to contrast the focus on psychoactive drug use with what is undersood of environmental awareness in the so-called pre-modern period of humanity. As documented by Jean Gebser followed by Ken Wilber, and summarized by Jean Houston (Life Force: the psycho-historical recovery of the self, 1993), and more extensively by Jennifer Gidley (The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: an integration of integral views, Integral Review, 5, 2007) who endeavours to integrate the integral theoretic narratives of Rudolf Steiner, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber, who each point to the emergence of new ways of thinking that could address the complex, critical challenges of our planetary moment.

From these perspectives, the current mental stage was preceded by periods of individual and social consciousness characterized by:

  • an archaic (uroboric) stage: pre-individual, ego-less and identified with the environment and embedded therein, namely the sub-conscious ground out of which humanity emerged
  • a magical (or typhonic) stage: group- or clan-identified consciousness involving a participation mystique with no clear demarcation between inner and out realities, the orchestration of the one being undifferentiated from the other -- achieving a magical rapport between the experiential body and the external reality being a preoccupation
  • a mystical stage: in which an imaginal relationship was established and sustained through symbols and myths enabling the development of skills and processes to engage with those imagined spiritual forces

The currently exhausted "mental stage" has notably been characterized by the value and ethical challenges of materialism which Gebser saw as leading to a value and ethical dead end for which there was no remedy through the metaphysical presumptions of the values as conceived. The emergent stage of consciousness (championed by Ken Wilber through other language) he termed the integral stage, characterized by the radical immersion of humanity in the world.

The pre-rational engagement with the environment is well characterized by the Renaissance initiatives of such as Marsilio Ficino and his preoccupation with "natural magic" and the appropriate configuration of its supporting aesthetics. This influence is still to be found in the symbolist understanding of "correspondences" paralleling those of a scientific nature that have sought to displace them (Theories of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007).

It is appropriate to see the status of values in the final throes of the mental stage as bearing a remarkable resemblance to what that stage frames as the "superstition" characterized by earlier stages and their continuing traces. For, whereas "super-stition" involves the superimposition of invisible and scientifically unproven levels of significance on phenomena (omens, etc), values might also be seen as attributing a form of significance to phenomena which is meaningless within a scientific worldview. Values might then be understood as the essence of "superstition". Use of psychoactive drugs may be understood as a "technological" effort to recover (or reactivate) other forms of relationship to the environment.

There is a curious irony in the degree to which misapplicsation of the scientific method has "deadened" the cognitive relationship to the environment such that psychoactive drugs offer greater meaning and "science" is much challenged to attract the young into its ranks by evoking their "curiosity". It is also curious that, despite the implied "double standrds", there are pressures in society to magically evoke (without such drugs) what "science" must necessarily consider menaingless and non-existent -- namely values.

Drug-induced psychoactive relationships to the environment: Although "psychoactive" is most generally defined in trerms of affecting mental processes, almost all the literature focuses exclusively on psychoactive substances, whether understood as drugs or medication (for example James Neill (A Rationale for Psychoactive Gardening: rebuilding our indigenous relationship with plants, 2004; the University of Hawai. The Psychoactive Biotechnology Project: Local Knowledge in a Global Context).

These have been a focus of considerable controversy and their use has been variously made illegal, despite recognition of their value as entheogens facilitative of spiritual practice down the centuries (Thomas B. Roberts, et. al. Psychoactive Sacramentals: essays on entheogens and religion, Council on Spiritual Practices, 2001). Such usage points to the manner in which psychoactive drugs may induced value-enhanced experiences.

The marginalization of use of psychoactive drugs is especially ironic given the increasing interest of the military in enhancing the cognitive capacity of combattants using drugs. Publicity has been widely given to their current use by military pilots on missions (Mark Thompson, America's Medicated Army, Time Magazine, 5 June 2008; Ian Sample, Wired Awake, The Guardian, 29 July 2004; Bruce Falconer, Defense research agency seeks to create supersoldiers, National Journal, 10 November 2003). Little is said of their use by those who command them from "war rooms".

Of major relevance to any relationship with values in the future are current explorations by the US Defense Intelligence Agency of ways of tranforming perceptions of the battlefield environment -- including use of "pharmacological landmines" (Jon Swaine, Future wars 'to be fought with mind drugs', Telegraph, 14 August 2008; Ian Sample, Understanding of the brain could transform battlefield of the future, The Guardian, 14 August 2008). This is clearly relevant to understanding of "value warfare" and any future "battles for hearts and minds" -- including such use by "others" with questionable values, as exp;lored by bioethicist Jonathan D. Moreno (Mind Wars: brain research and national defense, 2006). "Biological warfare" could take on a totally unsuspected dimension as an instrument of "psychological warfare" in "crusades" and "jihads" of the future, purportedly for the furtherance of "universal values" -- potentially even in the anticipated Armageddon (Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon: a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004). Fundamental values may well be induced and manipulated by such means, if only to inhibit social unrest and discontent -- as is the practice in institutuonalized health care.

Non-drug psychoactive processes: The drug focus tends readily to lead to the assumption that the term "psychoactive" is of relevance in no other contexts. This obscures the extent to which aesthetic experience, induced or not, may have a psychoactive dimension as was recognized by Ficino through "natural magic". There is literature on psychoactive music which corresponds to preoccupations with the role of sacred music -- presumably psychoactive -- and antipathy to some forms of dissonant music (eg diabolus in musica). Symbols and text may notably be psychoactive, as discussed elsewhere (Moving Symbols, 2008; Psychoactive Text Warning. 2007). Potentially of greater interest, and of relevance to values, are the following exploratory uses of "psychoactive".

Requirement for strategically significant psychoactive environments: Curiously it could be argued that those mosrt committed to manipulating and enhancing psychoactive relationships are advertisers, image managers and those marketing initiatives on behalf of clients under the heading "public relations". These skills at total concept management and spin may require careful attention to the interface with their audience -- wrapping them in in a management news environment. Such efforts are to be contrasted with the public information programmes of intergovernmental iniaitives, such as those of the United Nations, where the focus is on panel and poster portrayals -- effectively confronting people with billboards. This is to be compared with the many arguments, recognized in museums and exhibitions, for interactive environments to facilitate learning and engsagement.

Of particular interest is the insight of Gamakumara Upali (Psychoactive environment (pSE) is a 'must' for service industry, 2005) of the Sri Lankan Institute of Quality Science Consultants, who argues:

I have coined this word "Psychoactive-Environment" (pSE) to describe the cyclical nature of the phenomenon that individual's behaviour influences the society creating a Psychoactive Environment and the Psychoactive Environment "in-turn" affects individual's behaviour and its effects on productivity....Until the pSE becomes either positive or negative, it remains neutral and in such situations 'productivity', moves into stagnation followed by depression - a slow dying state - just like a crew (productivity) of a sail ship in doldrums (neutral pSE). A distinct feature of pSE is that it takes precedence over all the other elements of productivity because pSE is a result of individual's behaviour and attitudes. Activity levels of pSE vary from culture to culture and time to time.

Of related interest is a form of therapy associated with Neuro-linguistic Programming as articulated by James Lawley (When Where Matters: how psychoactive space is created and utilised. The Model Magazine, January 2006) regarding the creation of psychoactive space and its use in symbolic modelling:

Once a space becomes psychoactive for a person they are effectively "living in their metaphor". Then, when something changes in that perceptual space (often spontaneously), more of their mind-body is involved. This usually produces a more embodied and systemic change than just "talking about" changing. The experience is not necessarily accompanied by a large display of emotion or catharsis -- affect does not equal effect -- but the client knows something has changed, even if they are unable to articulate it at the time.

As noted in earlier documents (Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, Clean Space: modeling human perception through emergence, 2003; Metaphors in Mind: transformation through symbolic modelling, 2002) the creation of such psychoactive space combines the work of David Grove with the latest developments in self-organizing systems theory and cognitive linguistics. The authors regard "clean space" as an extension of symbolic modelling because, it facilitates the client to self-model; it requires "clean" interventions; and it works directly with the metaphoric realm. Would such preoccupations be unfamiliar to any shaman?

  • knowing vs self-reflexive engendering ***
  • "realization" as making real ***
  • tourism as embryonic psychoactive environment
  • values like post-its -- stuck on
  • reflect vs refract
  • wonderful
    • spirit 5%, 13% etc
  • sacred sites
    • pilgrimage
    • power point
    • astrology
    • indigenous enactment -- evocation

Engendering psychoactive resonance through the mnemonic qualities of complex topologies

In a commentary (2005), Martin L.W. Hall frames the challenge as follows:

However, we hear about values: family values, organizational values, societal values, religious, moral values, etc. But many times they are hard to understand because the context is not understood. Values are personal and but they also need to be accessible. They need to be meaningful. The challenge is create meaning for the individual while also providing meaning for others to understand and interact.

In a discussion of Heidegger's analysis of the challenge of abstration in degrading the relationship to the abundance of the lifeworld, Steven Rosen (Topologies of the Flesh: a multidimensional exploration of the lifeworld, 2006) suggests that, despite the paradox, there is but one sort of boundary that will permit us to pass effectively beyond abstraction: the "interior boundary". This is the boundary or limit of limitative thinking itself. As he argues: What we realize instead is an internal harmony of abstraction and concrescence in which the prior meaning of each term changes profoundly.

Rosen introduces a topological method of exploring the lifeworld by using a different understanding of the process of engaging with it in the light of phenomenology, notably the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty -- consistent with ecophenomenology. Merleau-Ponty's key ontological concept of the "flesh" of the world is topologically embodied via a phenomenological reading of the Klein bottle (the three-dimensional counterpart of the Moebius strip):

But a further step is required in making the fleshly lifeworld a concrete reality. However suggestive the topological narrative may be, it is evidently not enough to write about the realm of "wild Being" (Merleau-Ponty, 1968, p. 211) and so assume the customary posture of authorial detachment and anonymity. If Being's actual presence is to be secured in the ontological text, rather than merely predicating Being, signifying it in such a way that it is implicitly projected as exterior to the author's semiotic act,the author must signify Being topologically by signifying himself.

The implications of the Klein bottle, of relevance to disagreement between value-based perspective, has been explored by Melanie Purcell (Imperatives for unbiased holistic education: the Klein bottle, a universal structure: an archetypal image, 1999; What are The Relationships Between Infinity and Zero?: the diagonally woven single joined thread Klein bottle, and the implications of a cyclic universe, 1998; Looking at the Universe through the belly of a Klein bottle, 1999). She argues:

Truth is relative to the perspective of the observer, and the nature of the perception of reality will determine the nature of the truth expressed. In this presentation I want to explore the relationships between opposed world views and how these oppositional perspectives will determine the nature of truths held. Most models used to describe relationships create an exclusive domain that exteriorises that which is outside or marginalised by the structure.

The Klein bottle is one structure that creates no exclusive domain as it is a modality that, through a structural twist, unifies the inside and outside surfaces into a continuous surface. Through the use of such a structure, seemingly opposed perspectives can be illustrated as aspects of the whole where seemingly paradoxical environments necessitate a decisive shift from an 'either / or' critique to a pluralistic 'and / both' scenario. This structure allows for the relativity of truths to be realised as expressions that are inextricably linked to relative world views, and therefore creates a focus for a holistic approach to information generation.

Rosen considers the related question of the self-signification of text, arguing in particular that:

the written text will need to be accompanied by texts of "greater density" i.e., texts mediated not by written words but by palpable images, sounds, and root intuitions.

This is consistent with preoccupation with the "flesh" of the world as architecture, as articulated by Patrick Lynch (Topography, Topology, Type and Architect: on the history, philosophy and praxis of architecture, 2007):

Nature and artifice are cultivated to suggest ambiguous relationships between human imagination and the divine realm of ideas that situate them. Reciprocity is suggested between memory, imagination, reason and sensation.

Such considerations suggest complementary ways of relating to the environment:

  • as an ecosytem that is the focus of the sciences with their conventional abstractions
  • as a configuration of (sacred) places with which value and identity are intimately associated
  • as a configuration of topos to which memory is especially bound through imagination

The subtle relationships between topos, in its different senses, and topology merit careful exploration in the light of:

  • Memory: the classical importance attached to topos as menomic aids (known as the method of loci) as extensively explored by Frances Yates (The Art of Memory, 1966) regarding the classical Ars Memorativa. This used techniques such as the association of emotionally striking memory images within visualized locations (topos), the chaining or association of groups of images, the association of images with schematic graphics or notae, and the association of text with images. For Yates:
    There can be no doubt that these topoi used by persons with a trained memory must be mnemonic loci, and it is indeed probable that the very word 'topics' as used in dialectics arose through the places of mnemonics. Topics are the 'things' or subject matter of dialectic which came to be known as topoi through the places in which they were stored.
  • Learning: there are a number of interfaces between topology and learning, including applications of pattern recognition to artifical intelligence, notably using neural networks. Of particular relevance is the way in which a set of concepts can be represented formally as a topology, notably as a mind map of relationships between topoi. Learning can then be related to the capacity to internalize that network progressively. Communication of content to be learnt can be described in terms of the completeness of the topology successively enunciated, heard, comprehended and remembered. The challengesd to learning and comprhension have been analyzed by Ron Atkin in terms of simplicial complexes, namely topological spaces of a particular kind (Combinatorial Connectivities in Social Systems; an application of simplicial complex structures to the study of large organizations, 1977) as summarized elsewhere (Social organization determined by incommunicability of insights).

  • Design: the design considerations of aesthetic environments intended to support more integrative insights whether to create "an effect". as appropriate to a "sacred space" and/or for mnemonic purposes as in memory theatres, palaces and cathedrals (Jack Dann, The Memory Cathedral: A Secret History of Leonardo da Vinci, 1995). Such appropriately designed configurations have of course been of significance to "magical" settings, with their modern echoes in ritual and placement at negotiating tables.

  • Poiesis: this term, the etymological root of "poetry", was first a verb, an action that transforms and continues the world. Plato described how mortals strive for immortality in relation through poiesis a form of making/creating, a movement beyond the temporal cycle of birth and decay. It was described by Heidegger as a "bringing forth". The structure of poetry and music has been analyzed with the perspective of topology to understand how the relationships amongst their parts and themes (appropriately understood as topoi) engender aesthetic effects -- central to engagement and an integrated sense of the whole. As described by Daniel Belgrad (The Culture of Spontaneity, 1999), the poet Charles Olson adopted topology as an artistic principle. He used topos, in its Greek sense of a place of emotional significance, to encompass topology in both its geographical sense and in its mathematical sense. Topology is then understood as a model for the way a self or a society changes over time as articulated in his Maximus Poems (1983). Of relevance here is the sense in which poetry communicates a larger sense, through the pattern of associations (modelled by topology) between the valued topoi. It is of course significant that poiesis is now the root of autopoiesis, namely the self-organization of the complexity sciences (Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: the Realization of the Living, 1973/1980). Poiesis is specifically related elsewhere to the articulation and engagement with strategy (Poetry-making and Policy-making: arranging a marriage between Beauty and the Beast, 1993; Ensuring Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns: reframing the scope of the "martial arts" in response to strategic threats, 2006).

  • Paradox: the role accorded to topology by Rosen (through such structures as the Mobius strip and the Klein bottle) to order understanding of the paradoxical complexity of cognitive relationship to the environment. This has also been explored from a different perspective (Psychosocial Work Cycle: beyond the plane of Möbius, 2007). Rosen's focus should also be seen within the context of the fundamental significance of topology as a branch of mathematics and the associated concern with topos and the topos theory of sets of categories in a topological space.

  • Self-reflexivity: the implication for articulation of more appropriate understanding through "writing" text on more complex topological surfaces as admirably articulated by Michael Schiltz (Form and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative, 6, 2003) in relation to the calculus of indications of George Spencer-Brown (Laws of Form, 1969/1994). Schiltz notes that form/medium is "the image for systemic connectivity and concatenation", as described by Humberto Maturana and Francesco Varela. Schiltz notes, that the notion of "space" is the key to reflexivity appropriate to any discussion of form and medium, citing Spencer-Brown as follows:

    In all mathematics it becomes apparent, at some stage, that we have for some time been following a rule without being aware of it. This might be described as the use of a covert convention....[Its] use can be considered as the presence of an arrangement in the absence of an agreement. For example, in the statement and theorem.... it is arranged (although not agreed) that we shall write on a plane surface. If we write on the surface of a torus the theorem is not true....The fact that men have for centuries used a plane surface for writing means that, at this point in the text, both author and reader are ready to be conned into the assumption of a plane writing surface without question. But, like any other assumption, it is not unquestionable, and the fact that we can question it here means that we can question it elsewhere.

    This role of the torus has been further discussed elsewhere (Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics: transforming a matrix classification onto intertwined tori, 2006). It raises the question as to whether checklists of values could be more appropriately and engagingly presented on such surfaces.

  • Biological ecosystems: With respect to the living environment, Rainer E. Zimmermann (Topological Aspects of Biosemiotics, tripleC, 2007) argues that:

    According to recent work, there is a close relationship between the conceptualization of biological life and mathematical conceptualization such that both of them co-depend on each other when discussing preliminary conditions for properties of biosystems. More precisely, such properties can be realized only, if the space of orbits of members of some topological space X by the set of functions governing the interactions of these members is compact and complete. This result has important consequences for the maximization of complementarity in habitat occupation as well as for the reciprocal contributions of sub(eco)systems with respect to their structural mutualism.

    Zimmerman shows what this more technical result means in philosophical terms with a view to the biosemiotic consequences. He shows that topology as formal nucleus of spatial modeling is more than relevant for the understanding of representing and co-creating the world as it is cognitively perceived and communicated in its design.

Aside from reframing the human relationship to the environment, these considerations point to other ways of framing the significance variously associated by the different Abrahamic religions with the central symbolic importance of Jerusalem as the epitome of one form of psychoactive environment --- where every wall may "speak" and engage memory in a challenge to "re-member". As such, Jerusalem is a memory-charged topological configuration -- with all the challenges that clearly implies.

Re-enchantment of environmental engagement through polyhedral animations

Whether as "values" or as emotionally-charged "places", the topoi as cognitive themes call for appropriate configuration -- if only to be ably to re-member, deploy, and use them appropriately.

One approach is to explore them as sets of increasing size, where sets of principles typically appear at plus or minus 7 elements:

  • a single value, such as "agreement", "love", etc. But this is obviously challenged, especially to comprehension, unless special account can be taken of parasoxical self-reflexive processes, as notably explored by Steven Rosen (2004, 2006).
  • a polarized or binary value, such as "agreement-disagreement", "male-female", "us-them", "positive-negative", "industry-environment", etc. It is these, notably as strategic dilemmas, by which society is apparently most tortured, despite the emergence of "attraction-repulsion"
  • a triadic system, epitomized by the "eternal triangle" of relationships for which no sustainable solution is immediately accessible, as with the "3-body problem"
  • a quaternary system, typical of many psychological systems offering a degree of both variety and stability (Jungian types, the four ways of Matthew Fox: positiva, negativa, creativa and transformativa).

This approach has been explored experimentally up to a set of 20 (Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980).

Such articulations do not address the challenge of a "user-friendly" dynamic configuration of them for anyone -- or any group -- seeking to navigate cognitive space. It is here that the BaGua system offers important pointers, especially given its significance for relating to any "other" through its adaptation to the "martial arts". In this respect it is important to recall the degree to which such frameworks have been consciously adapted to military strategy (eg Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings) and to business strategy (****).

Taken in its purest form as a binary coding system (of which SETI enthusiasts might be proud), the question is how it can encode and indicate the significance of members of a set of values of increasing size.

  • the challenge of a single-membered set is avoided through the ambiguities considered necessary in reference to what is symbolized by the Tao, as is appropriate in apophatic discourse
  • a two-member set is represented by broken and unbroken lines (yin and yang, respectively), as a focus for all the relevant metaphors; however these may be combined together as pairs to indicate a four-member set
  • the distinct members of an eight-member set (the BaGua) are rpresented by the various combinations of three broken and unbroken lines constituting a trigram

This approach may be taken in order to encode and distinguish a larger range of elements (Discovering Richer Patterns of Comprehension to Reframe Polarization, 1998). It becomes especially interesting when the polarization is understood to be especially focused on "we vs them", "me vs the environment", "agreement vs disagreement", or "norms vs extremists".. As such it offers a powerful means of encoding disagreement with both appropriate clarity and appropriate ambiguity, avoiding closure and exclusion of greater variety. It might be considered the embryonic basis for a periodic table of values (see discussion in Tuning a Periodic Table of Religions, Epistemologies and Spirituality including the sciences and other belief systems, 2007). Perhaps more significant it offers a means of indicating the range of degrees of engagement with any "other", including the environment, epitomized by the classic work of Martin Buber (I and Thou, 1923).

But, as any periodic table metaphor indicates, it is less important to privilege any particular degree of engagement and more significant to swtich between them as appropriate to circumstances. Hence the value of the martial arts insight into the BaGua. The "warrior" in that metaphor has to be vigilant with regard to vulnerability of attack from any sector and hence the need to be able to deploy resources appropriately in defence -- and to be able nimbly to redeploy them appropriately for attack.

Polyhedral animations of sets of different sizes, and transformations between sets of different sizes, support understanding of the cognitive templates required in response to different circumstances. They may also be adapted, changing metaphor, to an understanding of how to focus effort and vision -- deploying the topoi as refractive or reflective facets in an optical or antenna array. This responds to the widespread use of the "vision" metaphor in strategy development.

Success in focusing is closely related to appripriate symmetry -- a property mentioned earlier in connection with the desirable robustness of any value set. It might be understood as intrinsic to understanding of value empowerment. As mentioned earlier, the coherence and integrity of any set of values is intimately related to its mnemonic qualities -- the "poetic echoes" associating the topoi by which engagement is elicited. There is a curious relationship between the capacity to "re-member" in this way and the capacity to "de-cide" thereafter.


conveyor metaphor paper ***

Gidley -- visualizing complexity

pharaohnic construction of pyramids

  • death
  • memory / Alzheimer / social erosion
  • cultural
  • Padi***menhotope
  • mnemonic catalysts
  • reducing extensive (long) to intensive (short) by the configuration of the former
  • from immersive long to immersive short
  • inspiring symbolic architecture???? heavy investme

psychoactive environment -- poet -- auspicious -- astrology -- Posey

Stonehenge: embodied in architecture

Wisdom -- to be elicited through metaphor?

As a psychologist, Isabel Clarke (Madness, Mystery and the Survival of God, 2008) asks a fundamental question, previously framed by Arthur Koestler:

How come human beings are so clever, and at the same time, so stupid? This question is vital to the joint survival of ourselves and our planet as we know it. The question is intimately bound up with the way we realte to our environment as well as to ourselves....What our world urgently needs at this critical juncture is not only analysis of what is wrong, but direction on how to go forward in a more healthy relationship, both with ourselves and with our environment. (Four Ways to Meet the Ecological Challenge (after Matthew Fox) a psychogist's perspective, Network Review, August 2008)

A concluding comment on the above-mentioned Human Values Project (whose title had been extended to Human Values and Wisdom Project) cited the conclusion of a Club of Rome study for UNESCO (In Search of a Wisdom for the World: the role of ethical values in education, 1987) to the effect that:

Successful development is very closely bound up with society's capacity to learn.... The role of communication and the revolution it is bringing about in the transmission of ideas may radically transform the problem of ethical values -- but the whole question needs careful thought and the will to succeed....
Nor is the objective equally obvious to everyone. With the modern world as it is, the search for wisdom will not necessarily strike people as a priority issue and many will be sceptical and ironical. Nevertheless, all are invited to lay the foundations for a new humanism that will enable the peoples of tomorrow to live together harmoniously.

The commentary offered an extensive checklist (Wisdom and requisite variety) of possible sources of "wisdom" together with the reservations that might be associated with each.

The need for a new cognitive mode has been frequently expressed in terms of the need for "new thinking". At the time of writing this is evident in the following examples:

  • the Russia-Goergia crisis and the perception on behalf of the EU by French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Kouchner that: We have to invent a new language with regard to Russia. That is what the Euroopean Union is trying to do. (18 August 2008)
  • what might be recognized as a similar need for the EU to invent a "new language" to respond to the Irish "No" vote on the Lisbon Reform Treaty, and by extension to respond to those peoples in Europe that are less than enchanted by the EU and its bulldozer democracy as epitomized by avoidance of democratic consultation
  • the certitudes with which technical "solutions" to the challenge of climate change (whether warming or calling) are being proposed

For such as Edward de Bono such new thinking implies a different logical mode (I Am Right, You Are Wrong: From This to the New Renaissance: From Rock Logic to Water Logic, 1990). For Magoroh Maruyama it is a question of "polyocular vision" (Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding, Organization Studies, 2004).

The challenge of values is how understanding of them is to be fruitfully related to whatever is to be understood by wisdom appropriate to strategic governance in the 21st century -- at all levels of society.

The argument above suggests that values are best understood through metaphor rather than verbal articulations -- then falsely held to constitute a meaningful description. This is best exemplified in the extreme case of values which science claims to recognize and measure quantitatively, such as "speed", "solidity", "time". For in such cases they are typically valued as participatory experiences. In the case of the set of fundamental "values" indicated by the Chinese BaGua, for example, their elusive nature is carefully alluded to through non-exhaustive metaphor rather than claim closure of a necessarily premature nature. It might then be argued that the more fundamental the value experience, the more multi-facetted the metaphor that can be usefully called upon.

The following insight of Kenneth Boulding (Ecodynamics; a new theory of societal evolution. 1978) with regard to the integrity of an individual might then be seen as equally relevant, if not more so, to the wisdom providing the ethical integrity of a set of values in practice:

Our consciousness of the unity of the self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of a group, organization, department, discipline, or science. If personification is only a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors -- we might be one ourselves. (p. 345)

Sets of values configured to offer a context for wisdom may then be fruitfully understood metaphorically as the "spokes" in the quote above from Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching):

Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub. It is the centre hole that makes it useful...
Therefore profit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there. 

The challenge of any new language, supportive of a greater degree of wisdom, may then be better understood as the challenge of "unsaying" characteristic of apophatic discourse, rather than the declarative mode so characteristic of science -- except at its most fundamental (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity?, 2008). Configurations of values, centred on unknowing, might then offer an appropriately fruitful context for better questions and governance based on negative capability in the sense to which the poet John Keats alluded:

.., it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously -- I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

From such a perspective, the "solutions" to terrorism deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are indicative of the problematic consequences of excessive confidence in "knowing" what might be appropriate -- ignoring the lessons of history, in this case. It would be unfortunate if similar technical confidence was confidently deployed in response to climate change, for example -- ignoring other lessons..

Given the expected complexities and turbulence of the 21st century, it is arguably far too late to seek simplistic consensus. or expect to impose agreement through conventions, with respect to morals, ethics and values. Greater subtley is called for to which aesthetics offers many pointers, if only in the Japanese understanding of the value of "perfection" as being the "harmony of imperfections".

The challenge, as in the case of the World Academy of Art and Science, for example, is the incapacity to dialogue over highly problematic issues on which opinions are deeply divided. Rising to the occasion is then achieved by rising above it and framing it as unworthy of collective attention. In this way those from whom others expect wisdom imply that they have no collective wisdom to contribute of relevance to any ongoing crisis. But it also points to the challenge of what such bodies do perceive as meriting their attention  and to which they believe they can fruitfully contribute -- and of the nature of the dialogue that might  then prove fruitful. The challenge seems to be that worthy people do not engage in dialogue on matters on which they are likely to disagree. This may be appropriate but it then implies that disagreement can only be handled (by others) through rather primitive processes of dialogue. Such circumstances merit the insight of a World Academy of Art and Science (of Disagreement) ! It would seem that worthy people are called upon to improve the modalities of disagreement with which others are frequently obliged to struggle.

Given the number of keynote speakers on vital strategic issues,
why can we not hear the music they elicit?


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