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Humanism, the Anthropocene, and Enemies of the Systems Approach | David Ing + David L. Hawk | ST-ON 2022-04-11

Many who espouse systems thinking call themselves humanists, placing human beings and human social systems at the forefront of their efforts.  In the early 21st century, the anthropocene was introduced as a new geological epoch, in recognition that the most significant impacts shaping the Earth’s atmosphere comes from human activity. Can human beings share our world more equitably with other living beings, or will our nature lead to a tragic outcomes of our own making?

For the April 2022 session of Systems Thinking Ontario, David Ing reviewed some prereadings for a shared foundational context.  David L. Hawk was then invited to lead a discussion on the Systems Approach and its Enemies.

The conversation amongst participants was recorded, as an open discussion across a variety of perspectives.

This video available on Youtube has also been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
April 11
(1h37m)
[20220411_ST-ON HumanismAnthropoceneEnemiesSystemsApproach Ing_Hawk.m4v]
(HDPlus 726kbps 627MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
April 11
(1h37m)
[20220411_ST-ON HumanismAnthropoceneEnemiesSystemsApproach Ing_Hawk.mp3]
(92.9MB)

Social systems thinking is part of systems thinking. However, systems thinking could have a stronger appreciation of more than just human systems.

Here is the original Systems Thinking Ontario session description.


Humanism is “most generally, any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and either optimistic about the powers of human reason, or at least insistent that we have no alternative but to use it as best we can” (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy).… Read more (in a new tab)

Many who espouse systems thinking call themselves humanists, placing human beings and human social systems at the forefront of their efforts.  In the early 21st century, the anthropocene was introduced as a new geological epoch, in recognition that the most significant impacts shaping the Earth’s atmosphere comes from human activity. Can human beings share our world more equitably with other living beings, or will our nature lead to a tragic outcomes of our own making?

For the April 2022 session of Systems Thinking Ontario, David Ing reviewed some prereadings for a shared foundational context.  David L. Hawk was then invited to lead a discussion on the Systems Approach and its Enemies.

The conversation amongst participants was recorded, as an open discussion across a variety of perspectives.

This video available on Youtube has also been archived on the Internet Archive .

Video H.264 MP4
April 11
(1h37m)
[20220411_ST-ON HumanismAnthropoceneEnemiesSystemsApproach Ing_Hawk.m4v]
(HDPlus 726kbps 627MB)
[on the Internet Archive]

Audio downloadable onto mobile devices was transcoded from the video into MP3.

Audio
April 11
(1h37m)
[20220411_ST-ON HumanismAnthropoceneEnemiesSystemsApproach Ing_Hawk.mp3]
(92.9MB)

Social systems thinking is part of systems thinking. However, systems thinking could have a stronger appreciation of more than just human systems.

Here is the original Systems Thinking Ontario session description.


Humanism is “most generally, any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and either optimistic about the powers of human reason, or at least insistent that we have no alternative but to use it as best we can” (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy).… Read more (in a new tab)

The Systems Approach and Its Enemies | C. West Churchman | 1979

West Churchman (1913-2004) was a Ph.D. supervisor to some luminaries in the systems sciences, including  Russell L. Ackoff, Ian Mitroff, Harold G. Nelson and Werner Ulrich.  Churchman’s 1979 book, The Systems Approach and Its Enemies, is unfortunately out of print, and is only readable on the web if you already have the text to search on.  Here, some excerpts will be surfaced that may encourage readers to seek a copy in a local library.

Preface

[….] This book is just another step in the search for the meaning of generality, in this case a general design of social systems.

There are lots of themes that can be used to describe this search. Perhaps the best one is the discovery that the usual dichotomy of x or not x never seems to display the general, because neither of the above is always so prominent an aspect of the general social system. Thus there is an immense part of social systems reality that is none of the following popular dichotomies in the current literature: rational-irrational, objective-subjective, hierarchical-nonhierarchical, teleological-ateleological, deductive-nondeductive reasoning (for example, inductive or dialectical), ineffable-effable.

In the text I have used the word enemy to connote this immense land of social systems that has remained largely unexplored by “hard” systems analysts, who thereby reveal a distinct softness of living by avoiding the dangers of exploring unmapped lands.  [p. xi]

01 On Systems and Their Design

This first chapter is intended to show that the proper design is not a simple matter of fixing up some messes within the system.… Read more (in a new tab)

West Churchman (1913-2004) was a Ph.D. supervisor to some luminaries in the systems sciences, including  Russell L. Ackoff, Ian Mitroff, Harold G. Nelson and Werner Ulrich.  Churchman’s 1979 book, The Systems Approach and Its Enemies, is unfortunately out of print, and is only readable on the web if you already have the text to search on.  Here, some excerpts will be surfaced that may encourage readers to seek a copy in a local library.

Preface

[….] This book is just another step in the search for the meaning of generality, in this case a general design of social systems.

There are lots of themes that can be used to describe this search. Perhaps the best one is the discovery that the usual dichotomy of x or not x never seems to display the general, because neither of the above is always so prominent an aspect of the general social system. Thus there is an immense part of social systems reality that is none of the following popular dichotomies in the current literature: rational-irrational, objective-subjective, hierarchical-nonhierarchical, teleological-ateleological, deductive-nondeductive reasoning (for example, inductive or dialectical), ineffable-effable.

In the text I have used the word enemy to connote this immense land of social systems that has remained largely unexplored by “hard” systems analysts, who thereby reveal a distinct softness of living by avoiding the dangers of exploring unmapped lands.  [p. xi]

01 On Systems and Their Design

This first chapter is intended to show that the proper design is not a simple matter of fixing up some messes within the system.… Read more (in a new tab)

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    • daviding: “Pre-announcing April 30 Dialogic Drinks session I'm leading …” April 23, 2024
      Pre-announcing April 30 Dialogic Drinks session I'm leading on "#Yinyang and Daojia into #SystemsThinking through Changes", online 18:30 Singapore, 11:30 London, 6:30am Toronto. Repeating May 2, 8:00pm ET. Official #EQLab notifications https://www.eqlab.co/newsletter-signup
    • daviding: “Diachrony (or diachronic shifts) resurrects a word from 1857…” April 10, 2024
      Diachrony (or diachronic shifts) resurrects a word from 1857, better expressing *changes through time*. A social practice publication in 1998 contrasts synchronic with diachronic. https://ingbrief.wordpress.com/2024/04/10/diachronic-diachrony/
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    • The Nature and Application of the Daodejing | Ames and Hall (2003)
      Ames and Hall (2003) provide some tips for those studyng the DaoDeJing.
    • Diachronic, diachrony
      Finding proper words to express system(s) change(s) can be a challenge. One alternative could be diachrony. The Oxford English dictionary provides two definitions for diachronic, the first one most generally related to time. (The second is linguistic method) diachronic ADJECTIVE Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “diachronic (adj.), sense 1,” July 2023, https://doi.org/10.1093/OED/3691792233. For completeness, prochronic relates “to […]
    • 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) […]
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      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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