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Nonrelativistic pragmatism and systems thinking

The ties between systems thinking and pragmatism are apparently strong, but the breadth in the philosophy of pragmatism can be confusing.  Within the tradition, one of the threads is called nonrelativistic pragmatism, proposed by systems luminaries C. West Churchman with Russell L. Ackoff, descending from the work of philosopher Edgar A. Singer, Jr.

A concise description of nonrelativistic pragmatism might be as a branch that centers on the entanglement of facts and values, within philosophy of science.  This centering surfaces in an interview of Hilary Putnam, expanded from the two into a “triple entanglement of theory, value, and fact”.

My alma mater was the University of Pennsylvania. The first teacher who really influenced me there was a pragmatist. His is an interesting story. His name was C. West Churchman. (I do not know what his first name was, because he obviously did not like it.) He was a philosopher of science for a while, but then he eventually left the field of philosophy, and became Professor of Operations Research at the University of California. He was a pragmatist, and he was a student – which makes me a “grandstudent” – of a philosopher named E. A. Singer Jr., who was in turn a student of William James. Singer created a pragmatist tradition at the University of Pennsylvania. The other pragmatist at that point – she did not even have tenure, she was just an assistant professor but later she became a full professor – was Elizabeth Flower.

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The ties between systems thinking and pragmatism are apparently strong, but the breadth in the philosophy of pragmatism can be confusing.  Within the tradition, one of the threads is called nonrelativistic pragmatism, proposed by systems luminaries C. West Churchman with Russell L. Ackoff, descending from the work of philosopher Edgar A. Singer, Jr.

A concise description of nonrelativistic pragmatism might be as a branch that centers on the entanglement of facts and values, within philosophy of science.  This centering surfaces in an interview of Hilary Putnam, expanded from the two into a “triple entanglement of theory, value, and fact”.

My alma mater was the University of Pennsylvania. The first teacher who really influenced me there was a pragmatist. His is an interesting story. His name was C. West Churchman. (I do not know what his first name was, because he obviously did not like it.) He was a philosopher of science for a while, but then he eventually left the field of philosophy, and became Professor of Operations Research at the University of California. He was a pragmatist, and he was a student – which makes me a “grandstudent” – of a philosopher named E. A. Singer Jr., who was in turn a student of William James. Singer created a pragmatist tradition at the University of Pennsylvania. The other pragmatist at that point – she did not even have tenure, she was just an assistant professor but later she became a full professor – was Elizabeth Flower.

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Inquiring systems and asking the right question | Mitroff and Linstone (1993)

Inputs, Operator, Outputs, Guarantor

Fit the people around an organization; or an organization around the people? Working backwards, say @MitroffCrisis + #HaroldLinstone, from current concrete choices to uncertain futures, surfaces strategic assumptions in a collective decision, better than starting with an abstract scorecard to rank candidates. The Unbounded Mind is an easier-reading follow-on to The Design of Inquiry Systems by C. West Churchman.

This scorecard metaphor shows up in the second of five ways of knowing (i.e. inquiring systems)

Chapter 3 is “The World as a Formula: The Second Way of Knowing”. A case study commonly used in business school education is described.

To illustrate the use and meaning of the Analytic-Deductive IS in a social realm, we’ll apply it to a situation that on the surface at least is as “simple” as the question that occupied us in the last chapter. There is a somewhat dated yet classic case in the Harvard Business Review that provides a perfect depiction of the Analytic-Deductive IS. [5] Four men are running for the presidency of a fictitious life insurance company, Zenith Life. Background information on their strengths and weaknesses, families, career history, skills, and so on, is given for all four, although we do not receive the same information for each of them. Thus, we know more about one candidate in one category than we do about another. Also, the history and current nature of Zenith Life itself, its prospects and problems, its opportunities as well as threats, are described.

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Fit the people around an organization; or an organization around the people? Working backwards, say @MitroffCrisis + #HaroldLinstone, from current concrete choices to uncertain futures, surfaces strategic assumptions in a collective decision, better than starting with an abstract scorecard to rank candidates. The Unbounded Mind is an easier-reading follow-on to The Design of Inquiry Systems by C. West Churchman.

This scorecard metaphor shows up in the second of five ways of knowing (i.e. inquiring systems)

Chapter 3 is “The World as a Formula: The Second Way of Knowing”. A case study commonly used in business school education is described.

To illustrate the use and meaning of the Analytic-Deductive IS in a social realm, we’ll apply it to a situation that on the surface at least is as “simple” as the question that occupied us in the last chapter. There is a somewhat dated yet classic case in the Harvard Business Review that provides a perfect depiction of the Analytic-Deductive IS. [5] Four men are running for the presidency of a fictitious life insurance company, Zenith Life. Background information on their strengths and weaknesses, families, career history, skills, and so on, is given for all four, although we do not receive the same information for each of them. Thus, we know more about one candidate in one category than we do about another. Also, the history and current nature of Zenith Life itself, its prospects and problems, its opportunities as well as threats, are described.

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The Meta-design of Dialogues as Inquiring Systems

Dialogic design and systems thinking can be closely related, although not everyone appreciates the ties.  For the Design with Dialogue community, at the invitation of Peter Jones, we jointly organized a workshop based on some ideas that I had previously brought together in teaching in Finland.  I’ve posted the slides — both with builds and as printable — over on the Coevolving Commons.  For people who weren’t there, I can provide an outline of the activities of the three hours.

After introducing ourselves in the circle, and speaking about dialogues that each of us might be interested in pursuing, I provided an explanation of the Map of Ignorance, as described in the Curriculum on Medical Ignorance by Witte, Kerwin and Witte in the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  We walked through the interpretation of Unknown Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Errors.

Unknown unknowns raise questions about what might or might not be knowable.

Taboos and denials typically don’t enter a dialogue unless the facilitator ensures that they do.

Dialogic design and systems thinking can be closely related, although not everyone appreciates the ties.  For the Design with Dialogue community, at the invitation of Peter Jones, we jointly organized a workshop based on some ideas that I had previously brought together in teaching in Finland.  I’ve posted the slides — both with builds and as printable — over on the Coevolving Commons.  For people who weren’t there, I can provide an outline of the activities of the three hours.

After introducing ourselves in the circle, and speaking about dialogues that each of us might be interested in pursuing, I provided an explanation of the Map of Ignorance, as described in the Curriculum on Medical Ignorance by Witte, Kerwin and Witte in the University of Arizona College of Medicine.  We walked through the interpretation of Unknown Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Errors.

Unknown unknowns raise questions about what might or might not be knowable.

Taboos and denials typically don’t enter a dialogue unless the facilitator ensures that they do.

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    • daviding: “"Climate change has no map that we know of. Each time a new…” February 15, 2024
      "Climate change has no map that we know of. Each time a new scientific study returns something we studied before, it's always going to arrive faster and be worse than we thought before". Episode 5, #DavidLHawk "What to do When It's too Late" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPruvIsDRDk #SystemsThinking "Instead of cause-effect thinking, effects coming from prior effects, not […]
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      In the third episode of "What to Do When It's Too Late", #DavidLHawk explains his #systemsthinking with humans in #climatechange, dealing with hopelessness. Live weekly broadcast on #BoldBraveTv with video recordings and podcasts. Text digest at https://daviding.wordpress.com/2024/02/02/what-to-do-when-its-too-late-david-l-hawk-2024/
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      Published "Reframing #SystemsThinking for Systems Changes: Sciencing and Philosophizing from Pragmatism towards Processes as Rhythms" with #GarySMetcalf in Journal of the #InternationalSocietyForTheSystemsSciences following 2023 Kruger Park, revised after peer review. https://coevolving.com/blogs/index.php/archive/sciencing-philosophizing-jisss/
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    • daviding: “With the release of General Systems Yearbook 2023, a full-te…” November 25, 2023
      With the release of General Systems Yearbook 2023, a full-text, read-only version of "Appreciating Systems Changes via Multiparadigm Inquiry", SRBS v40 n5 is available for colleagues of the author on Article Sharehttps://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/share/author/YEVWGPGURZ5IVE7AWQRM?target=10.1002/sres.2973 https://coevolving.com/commons/2023-09-appreciating-systems-changes-via-multiparadigm-inquiry-srbs #SystemsThinking
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    • Introduction, “Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, volume 2”, edited by F. E. Emery (1981)
      The selection of readings in the “Introduction” to Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, volume 2, Penguin (1981), edited by Fred E. Emery, reflects a turn from 1969 when a general systems theory was more fully entertained, towards an urgency towards changes in the world that were present in 1981. Systems thinking was again emphasized in contrast […]
    • Introduction, “Systems Thinking: Selected Readings”, edited by F. E. Emery (1969)
      In reviewing the original introduction for Systems Thinking: Selected Readings in the 1969 Penguin paperback, there’s a few threads that I only recognize, many years later. The tables of contents (disambiguating various editions) were previously listed as 1969, 1981 Emery, System Thinking: Selected Readings. — begin paste — Introduction In the selection of papers for this […]
    • Concerns with the way systems thinking is used in evaluation | Michael C. Jackson, OBE | 2023-02-27
      In a recording of the debate between Michael Quinn Patton and Michael C. Jackson on “Systems Concepts in Evaluation”, Patton referenced four concepts published in the “Principles for effective use of systems thinking in evaluation” (2018) by the Systems in Evaluation Topical Interest Group (SETIG) of the American Evaluation Society. The four concepts are: (i) […]
    • Quality Criteria for Action Research | Herr, Anderson (2015)
      How might the quality of an action research initiative be evaluated? — begin paste — We have linked our five validity criteria (outcome, process, democratic, catalytic, and dialogic) to the goals of action research. Most traditions of action research agree on the following goals: (a) the generation of new knowledge, (b) the achievement of action-oriented […]
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    • Aesthetics | Encyclopaedia Britannica | 15 edition
      Stephen C. Pepper was a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, on the entry for Aesthetics.
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      Chinese New Year celebrations, both public and family, extended over two weekends, due to busy social schedules.
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      Hibernated with work for most of January, with more activity towards the end of month with warmer termperatures.
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    • What to Do When It’s Too Late | David L. Hawk | 2024
      David L. Hawk (American management theorist, architect, and systems scientist) has been hosting a weekly television show broadcast on Bold Brave Tv from the New York area on Wednesdays 6pm ET, remotely from his home in Iowa. Live, callers can join…Read more ›
    • 2021/06/17 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 2
      Following the first day lecture on Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1 for the Global University for Sustainability, Keekok Lee continued on a second day on some topics: * Anatomy as structure; physiology as function (and process); * Process ontology, and thing ontology; * Qi ju as qi-in-concentrating mode, and qi san as qi-in-dissipsating mode; and […]
    • 2021/06/16 Keekok Lee | Philosophy of Chinese Medicine 1
      The philosophy of science underlying Classical Chinese Medicine, in this lecture by Keekok Lee, provides insights into ways in which systems change may be approached, in a process ontology in contrast to the thing ontology underlying Western BioMedicine. Read more ›
    • 2021/02/02 To Understand This Era, You Need to Think in Systems | Zeynep Tufekci with Ezra Klein | New York Times
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