Development of an Initial Classification of Viewpoints
Functional Synthesis of Viewpoints (Part I)
- / -
Short Summary: A conceptual model is described to supply a context
within which the increasingly isolated fields of knowledge and experience
can be related without jeopardizing their autonomy. This is achieved by defining
a space such that every viewpoint held in society is uniquely determined and
related within that space in terms of its purpose and its ability to organize
its subject matter. The properties of the space are such that developmental,
directional, unitary and convergent features are emphasized with regard to
society as a whole, groups and individuals.
The final model effectively constitutes a map of functions or modes of
experience by which individuals or groups can relate themselves to other
viewpoints. An audio-visual display is described which could illustrate the
model and an experiment to validate it is discussed. [NB (0.5mb
This paper was one basis for the much later Functional
Classification in an Integrative Matrix of Human Preoccupations
as the basis for the subject classification of the Yearbook
of International Organizations
and the Encyclopedia
of World Problems and Human Potential
Part I: Development of an initial classification of viewpoints
Part II: Development of model
* Viewpoint Model
* Noosphere Model
* Combined Model
* Nature of Space in Model
Part III: Application of model
* Mental Experience
** (a) Society
** (b) Individual in Society
** (c) Change of Discipline
** (d) Individual and Noosphere
* Physical and Emotional Experience
* Audio-Visual Facility to Clarify the Conceptual Model
* Experiment to Validate the Conceptual Model
Appendix I: Typology of Explanations
We each take up individually during the course of a day a
large number of unrelated viewpoints. Some viewpoints seem to embrace a whole
range of activities, whilst others deal only with particular details and are
not consciously linked to viewpoints subsequently held. For example, to assess
the pain in ray feet I bold one viewpoint, to get petrol for the car I hold
another, to consider the implications of the Russian landing on Venus I hold
a third, and so on. From holding one viewpoint such as the consideration of
a scientific problem, my attention may be drawn to the movement of a fly on
the window. I seem to hold unrelated viewpoints in sequence during some periods,
whilst during others I am proceeding according to a definite program, e.g.
when I explore means of solving an equation. Every action in the latter case
is reviewed, ordered and related as a means of obtaining a solution. Now,
in order to order my life so that it is not a meaningless succession of related
and unrelated viewpoints, I must attempt to obtain a viewpoint which will
supply a context for these many attitudes and thus provide me with an integrated
but flexible approach to experience. I do not want to lose any of the advantages
of my present viewpoints, which are reasonably well suited to handling the
detail of my life, but I wish to ensure that my scientific viewpoint is related
to ray artistic viewpoint, etc. I want to be able to continually evaluate
the functional value of each viewpoint to me and the reason for which I an
involved in the particular activities.
We find a similar problem in society in general. Different groups in society
hold views whose functional value for society as a whole is difficult to establish
in one and the same context. Each occupies itself with some details or groups
of details, e.g. religions, palaeontologists, trade associations, the IMF,
the John Birch Society, radio astronomers, the Olympic Committee, etc., but
it is not easy to understand what relationship they bear to one another. Each
apparently operates in an isolated field. It seems easier to consider then
as dealing with isolated topics because of the difficulty of visualizing a
more comprehensive functional viewpoint, which would be apparently less adapted
to detail and therefore less useful. It is however by deliberately not attempting
to recognize or define any such relationship that we prevent ourselves from
sensing any direction in society. This attitude as applied by the individual
to himself also tends to prevent him recognizing a personal sense of direction
and leads to difficulty in integrating himself into society to obtain an optimum
sense of fulfillment.
The words 'viewpoint', 'purpose', and 'discipline' have already
been used in connection with the concept of direction. These words will now
be defined more clearly for later use.
(a) viewpoint (point of view / standpoint / point of reference)
These terms are considered synonymous. They describe a position
taken up on the basis of certain assumptions, in particular the assumption
pf what is 'objective' and what is 'subjective'. From such a position, roving
elements of experience can be evaluated or compared. In order to take up such
a position, a fixed method of looking at the environment must be adopted.
If it is not fixed then successive elements of experience cannot be
linked and viewpoints follow, end are conditioned by the environmental flux.
A fixed viewpoint is analogous in its use to the Paris standard metre. The
assumption must be made that the length of the standard metre does not change
over tine for it to be useful as a means of relating secondary standards.
It is useful to think of such a viewpoint as being at the origin of a polar
coordinate system. When we consciously evaluate in terms of a particular standpoint
we are at the origin of the coordinate system. When we evaluate in terms of
this system without being conscious of the assumptions made, we have reified
the system and use its matric as a Batter of habit without being in a position
to change it. It is suggested that we can only occupy one viewpoint consciously
at a particular instant, but that we can be operating in terms of more general
viewpoints some of which have been reified temporarily. So that, for example,
I can take up a scientific viewpoint and assume its validity and then plunge
into the details of an experiment. I have reified the scientific viewpoint
and am operating in terms of it, but I amusing a particular experimental viewpoint,
and it is in terms of that that I am conscious. If a viewpoint is held
consciously, then it is possible to choose to change to another viewpoint.
If it is held as a matter of habit, then this is not possible, and
the change itself will be based on habit. In this manner, it is suggested
that we order our experience within a hierarchy of such viewpoint systems.
This hierarchy is discussed later in this part.
(b) purpose (as related to direction and motive)
The model attempts objectively to place the person using
it in relation to other viewpoints in terms of his currently, subjectively
sensed purpose. It is therefore important that the subjective, directly conscious,
galvanizing aspect of purpose be distinguished from the sense in which
it is inferred indirectly from objective observation, often as motive.
Whilst it nay be easy to take up a particular viewpoint consciously,
it is necessary to act in terms of that viewpoint to be able to maintain it.
and at the same time to minimize the effects of extraneous distracting influences.
Basically, purpose is this ability to arrive at, hold, and act consciously
in terms of, a viewpoint despite the distracting effect of unrelated environmental
factors. Purpose is the only constant element of conscious experience when
the switch from one viewpoint to another is made. This definition allows for
the fact that the viewpoint may envisage the completion of a certain task,
e.g. the experimental verification of an hypothesis. Purpose here represents
the continuing ability to maintain the viewpoint which envisages this end.
But the definition also allows for the case where no definite end can be consciously
identified, i.e. when the goal is not clearly defined and only the immediate
next step is known, even where the latter is restricted to maintaining the
status quo in face of environmental opposition.
It is possible to have a very clear purpose in the sense of recognizing
the succession of acts required to achieve the end, without having
the will to carry them to completion. These three features are here combined
into the definition of purpose, so that to be purposeful carries the significance
of having the will to stick to the acts required to achieve the envisaged
The definition does not cover the questions of 'unconscious purpose' and
evolutionary directional development. From the viewpoint definition it is
clear that if one is not conscious that one is holding a particular viewpoint,
one has either forgotten why one consciously took it up, or else was unconsciously
forced into it by the necessity to integrate environmental experiences. In
these cases the ability to maintain the viewpoint is a question of habit which
is in harmony with and reinforced by its environment and therefore not purpose
which operates to change the environment and fit it to the individual, in
the face of immediate environmental opposition. Habit is a feature of the
evolutionary process, and the latter has direction - society is
evolving in an ill-defined direction, but the end state of this process,
if any, is not known. By becoming consciously purposeful, however, man gathers
up his habits, evaluates and modifies them, and initiates new courses of action,
and thus increasingly defines the direction of development of himself during
his life and of society as a whole in the long-term. Man is therefore gradually
becoming conscious of the directional trends in his environment and is replacing
them, or recognizing his responsibility for then, by consciously established
It could be said of 'unconscious purpose' that it is explicitly
defined by, or embedded in, the act and is therefore identical with direction
in the overall evolutionary sense. It is only when the act is carried out
reflectively, that is to say when it is evaluated as it is being performed,
that there is any conscious detachment from it. The viewpoint from which this
is done could be said to be temporally equidistant from all moments of the
act and acts as a time-binder, as opposed to the former case where there,
is just action in response to the environment without any link between the
elements of the act other than their cause and effect relationship. To hold
this viewpoint, detached from the act, requires purpose.
Purpose is not currently an academically popular term. This is compensated
by its increasingly frequent use in daily speech, politics and business management.
People are increasingly concerned with criteria for decisions. The detail
that appears to be forgotten when a philosopher or a psychologist, who is
forced to be objective, cannot find 'purpose' is that in looking for purpose
- if he does look - he has a purpose, and he has the only purpose that he
could detect whilst holding his current viewpoint. He will not find purposes
somewhere else. If he looks he has a purpose, as his purpose is to look. Purpose
cannot be isolated from the act, since it is the ability to hold, to be conscious
of and perhaps even to define explicitly, the relation among the clerrants
relevant to the conscious act. The philosopher looking in Ron the outside
at an act which is not his own, or which he is not in the process of performing,
is not relevant to that act and therefore the purpose relation does not touch
him, so he cannot detect it. What both he and the psychologist can and do
detect is motive and causality, or even evolutionary direction, as
mentioned above. The reason that these are detectable is that a socially agreed
frame of reference is supplied (in terms of a particular viewpoint)
and it is within this matrix that the act is placed and viewed externally.
The act is reified and not considered internally through the momentary dynamics
of its execution. Thus by the design of the approach, only elements external
to the act are detectable. We are not suggesting that this approach is in
any way incorrect, since it is the purpose of both the psychologist and the
philosopher, in most cases, to explain experience in this way. Such an approach
is the basis of communication.
Where an individual is not conscious of what he is doing and is merely responding
through habit to his environment, the external approach is the only
relevant one, since in this case the individual is not conscious of the internality
of the act. As was discussed in connection with direction, purpose is not
yet a factor. It could be said that purpose only exists when it is defined
conceptually in relation to the particular act. It is this act of definition
that raises the act from the status fo a habit. In the same way, the standard
unit of measure only exists by definition and supported by some very powerful
assumptions (c.f. H. Reichenback, ref. 18). This paper will attempt to show
that when purpose is a factor, even if it is only defined as a first approximation
to a 'real'purpose', it can be used as a basis for the construction
of a model with the properties listed in the Introduction.
(It is interesting to note that when purpose is a factor, 'purpose'
is used in speech rather than 'motive'. For example, 'the national purpose'
is used rather than 'the national motive', but we can speak of the 'motives'
of another country, since we do not participate in its acts. In the same way
I speak of 'my purpose in writing this paper' rather than 'my motive...',
although again the reader could speak of 'his motives...' (referring to mine),
since he is looking in from outside. Speaking in terms of 'my motives', however,
is tantamount to defining and conceiving myself 'from outside' as a thing
in terms of an external frame of reference. My recognition of myself
'from inside', which is the basis of any sense of individuality and personal
unity, is thus excluded and lost - for it lies in the internality of
the act of taking up the viewpoint and related frame of reference. By speaking
of 'my motives...' I therefore actively prevent myself from experiencing any
sense of unity - except in the sense of the totality of external features
which I view impersonally in common with other observers.
This distinction may be illustrated by considering a mirror as analogous
to the external frame of reference. It is correct for me to evaluate ray motives
in terms of measurable data concerning ray observed actions in the
mirror, but I lose the possibility of recognizing that I had a certain purpose
in looking into the mirror, i.e. in taking up that viewpoint. I chose to
use that particular mirror. Here one is ordering experience in or through
the mirror and not recognizing that one has a three-dimensional body independent
of the mirror, of which the mirror image is only a two-dimensional projection
(cf. Plato's cave). It is only as the three-dimensional body that one can
recognise purpose and choose to change to another mirror.)
The strength of the holding power of purpose increases with the
degree of consciousness and explicitness of purpose. If our governing purposes
are not defined consciously, then we are ruled by environmental factors and
habit. The purposes we do have are then embedded in a contest of habit. The
greater the extent to which our purposes can be made explicit, the greater
our ability to act in terms of our chosen ends. Once a purpose has been explicitly
defined, its validity can be tested by whether one accepts the sacrifices
or priorities it demands. It is only by. having an explicit purpose that a
conclusion can be reached, and only by reaching a conclusion is it possible
to evaluate the whole act in terns of the overall purpose that gave rise to
it, in order to be relatively free to formulate the next subsidiary purpose.
(c) discipline (as related to function)
Discipline is used to refer loosely to any organized, non-habitual
response to the environment. Each viewpoint, if it is held often enough by
enough people, results in a discipline. It is used here to cover organized
response in the most consciously, private sense through to modes of experience
as organized in the most universal psycho-social functions, e.g. art, religion,
The viewpoints we hold vary in degree of comprehensiveness. The viewpoint
I hold when fixing my shoelace now, is not as comprehensive as that from which
I consider ray family life. In the latter case, the many viewpoints I hold
during time spent with my family are linked by the viewpoint I hold when I
consider family life. Clearly, if I wish to establish what I am doing each
action for, all the time, to determine its relevance to my purposes, I must
try to work back to the most comprehensive viewpoint(s) I can hold. It is
important that I do so as can be seen from Fig. 1.
|Fig. 1 - Illustration of the need for a hierarchy of
viewpoints to properly coordinate experience
Unless I recognize viewpoint 'A' whilst, or between, holding
successively viewpoints 'a' and 'b', these two viewpoints and their related
subject natter will be unrelated. Similarly, unless I hold viewpoint 'P'
whilst holding successively viewpoints 'b' and 'c', experience from
these two viewpoints will be unrelated. Achieving viewpoint 'A' from
'a' and 'b' ; a process of integration the first time it is done,
and a process of generalization thereafter.
On the above basis there are clearly many levels of viewpoint, from chat
required to consider the flicker of a speck of dust to the most comprehensive.
But since each viewpoint represents a definite degree of integration of experience,
it should be possible to isolate major transitions in viewpoint, as a first
approximation to the characteristics of different types of viewpoint.
Such transitions should be reflected in the historical development of ideas
in society and also in the growth of individuals within society. A first stage
could therefore lead from a mythical moment by moment involvement in the environment
to the point where the elements of the environment have been objectified.
The individual gradually separates himself conceptually from his environment
and evaluates his immediate experience in terms of his current position, a
first viewpoint level. A second stage might lead through involvement in the
many cycles of habits and other rhythmic activity required to ensure an ordered
life, to the point where experience is evaluated in terms of this cyclical
life experience, namely a second viewpoint level. And finally, since a progression
in this ordered life results from attempts to achieve certain life objectives,
a directional element is introduced which can only be evaluated with
respect to a third viewpoint level.
Each such viewpoint may be held with respect to physical, emotional or mental
experience. The distinction made between emotional and mental is the commonly
accepted one, namely, an emotion is that experience which may be represented
by such phrases as 'I like him' or 'I fear his ideas'. Mental is
that experience which may be represented by such phrases as 'I think he is
likeable' or he is mentally unstable'.
The three viewpoints are considered in the next sections for each of the
three types of experience, for both the individual and for society as a whole.
This approach is used as a means of introducing an approximation to a satisfactory
model which is then generalized to avoid the suspect rigidity of this viewpoint
I Individual: Physical Viewpoints
If my body position is fixed, or I am only moving slightly, such as when
I an seated, or in my bath, then my environment is constellated into stationary
patterns around me. These patterns, such as tables, trees, etc., are fixed
in relation to my body position. In taking up this body position, I have
taken up a certain viewpoint and have effectively set to a coordinate system
by which I will assess the positions of the elements of ray environment.
This nay be considered as a first physical viewpoint.
A second physical viewpoint is required, once the body is moved,
to integrate experience between succeeding locations and set up a framework
to relate them. It is suggested that in our daily life we have a limited
number of kay points which act as centres for a coordinate network by which
we can assess our position. Examples of such points are home, office, and
club. For example, I always gauge ray position in terms of how far I am
from home or office. Note that we continue to evaluate our moment by moment
experience with respect to our immediate body position, the first viewpoint
level, but we integrate this into a framework constituted by our second
level viewpoints. If they were not so integrated, we would not be able to
find our way from one place to another.
Now, to further clarify the meaning of 'viewpoint', note that 1 do
not need to be conscious of holding the viewpoint in this case. I do not
have to recognize it or consciously gauge where I am in relation to the
house. But in this case my experience merely becomes a succession of occasions
governed by habit and the first viewpoints I successively hold. It is only
when I recognize my viewpoint - generally because I have a particular purpose
- that I introduce any long-term unity into my experience. For (example,
when I go shopping, it is only this 'going shopping' viewpoint that
gives cleaning to and links the succession of activities involved.
If one moves one's home from one town to another, a third physical
viewpoint is required to integrate the physical life experienced at
the two locations. This can best be described as the viewpoint of the experienced
traveller, since only through repeating such transitions can one arrive
at this viewpoint and not relate all intervening experience in terms of
distance from home. Note that at each location, as a home, a set of second
and first level viewpoints is set up.
II Individual: Emotional Viewpoints
Emotions represented by the phrases 'I am attracted to this', 'I an repulsed
by that', which fluctuate in response to the immediately present environment,
represent changes which occur with respect to a new type ox viewpoint. These
are emotions which are felt against the background of the current mood,
which may last an hour or a day. It is the mood which supplies them with
a context and governs their scope. Emotions are positive or negative with
respect to the standard set by the mood. The mood may therefore be termed
the first emotional viewpoint.
Moods are however evaluated against the background of the emotional tone
of one's life. Moods are positive or negative with respect to the tone.
The tone is the resultant of the emotional life and contacts in one's home,
club, office, etc. It is to some extent represented by such generalizations
as 'he is a cheeful (gloomy, etc.) fellow'. This may be termed the second
Over a period of years a change from one second viewpoint to another
may take place, say from 'cheerful' to 'gloomy'. This change,
if it is controlled,' must be a change with respect to some criterion -
otherwise one's emotional experience in the two states cannot be related
and there is no overall continuity. A third emotional viewpoint is
required to integrate the experience at and between the two different states.
III Individual: Mental Viewpoints
I may ponder on the subject of what time it is or bow to solve an equation.
The thoughts which I have as I ponder one of these subjecta are only connected
and made relevant by the context into which I place them and by their reference
to the problem I an facing. To tackle such a problem, I adopt what
nay be termed the first mental viewpoint - it confines itself
to the subject at hand and represents an ordering and application of scattered
thoughts. Note that if I have 'forgotten what I was doing', then I
have momentarily lost this viewpoint.
Now, I may change from a theoretical problem to an experimental one.
This change occurs within the context of one of my particular discipline
or 'ways of looking at things', which is only mine by virtue of my ability
to hold the viewpoint required in terms of that discipline. This may be
termed the second mental viewpoint - it integrates my mental
experience within my science or discipline.
Finally, I may change my mode of looking at things over a period
of years from, say, scientific to artistic (in the critical sense) or some
other disciplined approach. Such a change, to ensure continuity, should
occur with respect to a third mental viewpoint. If it does not, then
my cental experience in these two areas is unrelated. The contexts are not
connected and they are completely isolated sets of experience, without any
common meaning. This is the problem which many people face today. How does
one arrive at this third mental viewpoint and link one's experience in these
IV Individual: Overall Viewpoints
We have seen that it is possible to arrive at a position where one's physical;
emotional and mental experiences are each individually integrated. But we
have not mentioned any viewpoint or context which could link these three areas
of experience. Such a viewpoint would however exist if the three 'third'
viewpoints were identical as in the case where there was an overall purpose
in life. For in such a case every type of experience is evaluated in terms
of its value as a means to that end.
Having considered the major types of individual viewpoint, we find a parallel
set of viewpoints held by society as a whole.
I Society: Physical Viewpoints
Up until a few centuries ago society's view of the universe was strictly
geocentric. The heavens were assumed to move about the Earth. This is the
first physical viewpoint and corresponds to the pre-Copernican era.
It is still used however in daily life as a first approximation and therefore
the sun still 'rises'.
The development from this point of view was the work of Copernicus and
Kepler. They introduced a new view of the Earth's relationship to the solar
system by determining that the Earth moved, and it moved around the sun.
This may be termed the second physical viewpoint.
Having determined how it does move, we are just beginning to assess how
long-term changes in this movement will affect us and what we should do
about it. For example there has been speculative consideration on whether
the Earth should be moved into a different orbit when the sun temperature
starts changing. This corresponds to a third physical viewpoint-
with respect to what criteria should we plan and control our environment,
and into what is it developing.
II Society - Emotional Viewpoints
The first emotional viewpoint is best represented by the background
to the day to day fluctuation in the content of newspaper headlines and
scandals. This background is the current mood of society as conveyed in
such expressions 'the roaring twenties', 'life in the sixties', etc.
Since the Earth is not integrated physically yet, these expressions apply
principally to Western society.
These social moods have to be viewed against the background of the tone
of the era. This tone, the second emotional viewpoint, is indicated
by 'such expressions as the present 'permissive era', 'the Victorian
The change from era to era is such a slow process that it is difficult
to speculate on the significance of the criteria with respect to which such
a change would be made. Perhaps in time to come society will plan to cultivate
certain emotions for certain periods, but the third emotional viewpoint,
in terms of which this would be done, is a long way off.
III Society: Mental Viewpoints
Society is currently concerned with ideas related to certain topics.
For example, we have the space race, the population explosion, drugs, etc.
Each of the latter represents a first mental viewpoint with respect
to which ideas bearing on these topics are ordered.
These topics are discussed in terms of the set of categories currently
approved by society. This intellectual framework represents the second
Over time the set of categories changes as we have seen recently with
the introduction of the scientific method which largely replaced the scholastic
approach. Again such changes occur over such long periods that we do not
register with respect to what third mental viewpoint such changes
are taking place.
IV Society: Overall Viewpoints
Where is society going at the moment? What does the human race want to achieve?
What sort of social standards do we want? These questions would be answered
in terras of an overall purpose which might exist if the three 'third' viewpoints
above were identical. So far we have only made tentative moves toward taking
up this viewpoint and planning for our- long-tern future.