Application VIII: Humanism and HAS

Humanism has to be more than sentiment. It has to be about more than good decisions between and among available alternatives. It has to be about principled human development, the continuing development of capabilities to help one’s self, one’s communities – and needy others — with problem solving. Properly seen, it can then be integrated with art and science (HAS) to deal with life, given the Nature of Things.

More developed peoples, viewing themselves in relation to less developed peoples, often drop the “more” in favor of further distinguishing themselves from the “underdeveloped,” this although in truth all of us deserve to wear forever the label of “under development.” And in the face of a sorry record by the more developed in offering help when and where they try to be helpful. Technology’s tools, procedures, procedural tools and tool-using procedures are not all that impressive for handling situational problems – and most assuredly not for handling the behavioral problem.

In this last respect, much more emphasis needs to be made on the effected step, the step brought about, the step we construct in order to enable a more productive step to be taken. So let’s bring out this emphasis be distinguishing M-effectiveness, re the step’s construction, from T-effectiveness, the taken step’s consequences.

Performance can bring out some of this distinction. Stereotyped performance, rote learning and purely reactive responses over-emphasize T-effectiveness. Improvisation and style are more characteristic of M-effectiveness. Pointed questions are more likely to demonstrate M-effectiveness, and thereby a preparedness to think critically and constructively, more productively than, say, the unpointed “Huh?”

And aren’t composed individuals and justifiably proud communities those who have developed M-effectiveness? Those who can build and not just choose, those who can organize and not just mobilize? If we are ever to construct a balanced dynamic relationship between individual and community will it not have to be via M-effectiveness?

(In line with this distinction, we might also distinguish M-purpose, which is this crucial development of potential human capability, by which to strengthen ourselves in response to the behavioral problem in accord with the Nature of Things, from T-purposes, which are the many ends served by steps, taken or not, made or not, to afford solutions to situational problems. No teleology required: Everything’s general persisting conditions of partial order, consequentiality and discontinuity provide motive enough taken in conjunction with particular local circumstances – collisions to be avoided or arranged)

Given the proximate grounding of the Nature of Things in our continuing behavioral problem, we also need to speak of behavioral art, of behavioral science and of behavioral humanism. For it is in the two-problem-two-solution behavioral aspect of problem solving that art, science and humanism need to come together. Da Vinci, Pasteur and Morse exemplify a productive embodiment of the HAS triad.

Consider the case of the Wright brothers and their work in developing a flying machine. In the wind tunnel that they invented (M-effectiveness): They observed the behavior (T-effectiveness) of constructions (M-effectiveness) intended as flying machines; then they scaled up the models (M-effectiveness) and took them out to Kitty Hook to fly (T-effectiveness) – for purposes, we assume, beyond ascertaining what “flying like a bird” feels like. A continuing cyclic program of development and research, of research and development …..

Our relative neglect of behavioral structure, the essential components of step construction, leaves little doubt that the attention we have given to steps up to now has been unbalanced. We depend far too much on (measures of) T-effectiveness to guide us forward, with relatively little contribution coming from (measures of) M-effectiveness.

Thus in communication by messages, for example, we may assess – often vaguely, as with “attitude change” – an outcome of the message without ever having studied any of the outcomes incurred in and by the construction of the message, some of which may have as much to do with what the message did not bring about as with what it did. There is further opportunity here for a more positive pragmatism (see .), when we bring artistic resources and humanistic needs into play, where more offerings and outcomes can be made available for observation within this special constructive context. In this sense, “writing” and “reading” are far more important matters than linguistic familiarization. The latter may take us no further than acquaintance with accepted models of expression. Think of messages as wind tunnels for potential communication development. English composition was hard because it was never just about English. (Recall the business letter writing study, in which the thinking took four times as much time as the typing.)

But back to developing capabilities: An important capability is behavioral balance, in response to the Behavioral Requisite. Not only are there many capabilities in need of development, there is the challenge of keeping them in balance, of not pushing one to the neglect of the other(s). Thus we see in some persons, past and present, an imbalance of emphasis on, say, circumstantial change over compositional change, of learning over knowing, of elementary over basic, of ADAPT and/or ADOPT over ADEPT, of decision making over problem solving, of consumer over citizen, etc. Lines of development are pursued that bind the mind as surely as the body’s feet, waist and head have in the past been corseted. Thus it has not been apparent, evidently, that behavior’s imbalances are functional equivalents of the body’s metaphoric “open vs. closed mind” as curbs on exposure, focal attention and cognition. Recognition and measurement of these imbalances should spark specific remedial initiatives – well beyond the well-intentioned but typically unproductive plea for an open mind.

Behavioral imbalance courts dysfunction beyond the neglect of other capabilities. When, say, two capabilities are imbalanced, other dynamic aspects are impacted. Because so many behavioral duos and trios exhibit the potential dynamic characteristics of complementarity (joint contributions to effectiveness) and interdependence (each giving to and receiving from the other[s]), when their ratio is skewed further and further away from one (equal emphasis) the result is an increasingly weaker total contribution to effectiveness.

We might also note the significance of behavioral imbalances – there being so many of them – for the overall picture we have of our behavioral problem. That this picture is incomplete seems obvious in light of the steps we have been taking in the course of human history. It would be folly to assume that the pieces of the picture we possess now are randomly distributed in regard to a complete, accurate picture. (In humanism as in art and science we have followed the “jigsaw puzzle” pattern of doing the easier, ordered parts first.) That the pieces we have now are severely biased imbalanced (see : impediments) as well as not a random assortment … this does not augur well for developing a better picture of our all-too-human problem and its solution.

What of the other requisites and imperatives? How is human development doing there? “All that it takes” reminds us that some of the steps we take may lack a necessary contribution (or more) for successful problem solving. That bears on T-effectiveness. For M-effectiveness, however, and ultimately for T-effectiveness we need to pursue the implications for change agents of behavioral necessity, of the behavioral problem, to heed the guidance of all the behavioral requisites and imperatives.

The control imperative tells us that all of our control entities and control structures (e.g., words and languages; constitutions and governments) are experiments, subject to revision and replacement according to the outcomes of their use in light of our needs.

The behavioral requisite alerts us to minding capabilities necessitated by the Nature of Things that the sensory capacities have only begun to furnish, and to the special need for a grasp x involve dynamic capability for minding that extends beyond body capacities (e.g., thumb—fingers) and becomes available to make steps that we might take.

The singularity requisite urges us to improve our recognition of non-singularities as they appear so as to better manage our stopping and starting of the steps we take – or shouldn’t take. These antecedent reasons for stopping or staying stopped (elicited criterion, uncertainty, ignorance, cybernetic discrepancy) offer control opportunities in and of themselves, but also for consequent reasons for stopping to come into play (e.g., to question, to agree or disagree, to reconsider, to think). Capability here is a mark of (literally) composure.

The evaluation imperative wants us to make the most of consequentiality, to make use of outcomes, this knowing process, as an informational resource. Once we free this process of knowing from contamination with the process of learning we strengthen both. We also strengthen knowing by distinguishing its feeling aspect (Kb/w) from emotion (a body state). We can further strengthen knowing by producing more composed outcomes, which is what our concern with M-effectiveness impels us to do. (See .) And, of course, we strengthen knowing by subjecting its other aspects (Kg/b and Kr/w) to inter-observer agreement.

The construction imperative should be pushing us all toward more and better composing, bringing much more into the present than just that which is predictable about the future given the (partial, hence limited) order of things. We need far more attention to developing composing capabilities like imagination and configuring. Few of us are gifted composers in one or several media. But all of us could become better at making steps. To be sure, the language of curiosity is not yet well crafted. (We do behavior no favor by such questioning practices as determining body position and/or movement, by assigning particulars of behavioral into categories, and by treating behavioral conditions as though they were all just circumstances.) Pointed questions suggest a framework for developing this needed language of curiosity. The simple (cognitive) relations of inside-outside and before-after do provide implication (unlike mere association), a source of instruction for compositional change, but our vocabulary for the before-after relation is inadequate. Sequence and/or logical necessity’s antecedent and consequent necessities do not meet the needs of behavioral necessity.

When we already know how, questions of what, when, where and who take center stage for the steps we take. But what we have inherited as capacity and learned from others does not always tell us what steps to take … or when or where or by whom … in order to be T-effective. And when it comes to M-effectiveness the question of how takes center stage. We may be schooled to compose in one or another way, with varying degrees of productivity. However this is also the source of the many intellectual impediments (:S-P; IV) that now frustrate our development. Composition per se is neglected.

So again we are back to matters of imbalance, this time of the general and the particular. Universals were supposed to take care of this, for the general would be redundant to the particulars from which it derived. But that is a trap — and one of the worst of our impediments.

Collisions make this point dramatically. These particulars are very much with us, so much so that we employ a principle of sorts, a priority of the closest collision, to acknowledge the relevance of the principle of less action at a distance (in physical space and time – i.e., in body relationship terms). Little wonder then that our attention is directed toward situational problems, toward collision particulars. But the fact of collisions per se tells us of three generalities in the Nature of Things: the persisting general conditions of partial order, consequentiality and discontinuity. And it is these generalities that bear most significantly on our fundamental behavioral problem and the need for continuing development.

Our quotidian attention to particulars in light of collisions is understandable, and so are the vocational opportunities to work with them that they afford. Each particular can be seen as a circumstance to engage with, handled as a variable and framed via labeling concepts. Research can be conducted on their relationships as though the problematic basis for human behavior – especially that of the ever-present behavioral problem – were irrelevant. (See .) Issues like “qualitative vs. quantitative” are not really to the point here when particulars are the focus of attention — aggregated or not.

The point here is that a serious imbalance, that of the particular over the general, obtains in our behavior, critically in the case of how we think about behavior (as though it were nothing more than the category of particular behaviors). The guiding principles for behavior that our incompletely instructed condition demands are poorly served by generalizations derived from and redundant to particulars seen after the fact (as via induction and deduction) to be the order of things. The evidence is clear that such principles, whether actuarial, normative or nomic (e.g., those of physics, chemistry and biology), have limited generality – and, most critically, limited applicability to solving situational problems, let alone the behavioral problem that is the essence of humanity.

All that considered, however, balance is our concern here. By bringing the generality of the Nature of Things into the picture with the behavioral principles attendant (requisites and imperatives, relevant before the fact), we can strengthen our future capability with this more balanced foundation. (Not least because we shall have a better understanding of those orders of things we thought we fully and accurately understood.)

We humans have lived out many stories, strewn with dysfunctional behavior, all too often following unproductive plot lines. Perhaps it is time to write a new script, one more in accord with the Nature of Things. The effect can only be salubrious, adding coverage as it does – and promising a more productive path ahead, displacing or reinterpreting only that which has been less productive.

(c) 2011 R. F. Carter