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Systems Ethics Thinking Chapter 3 : Naoki MORISHITA
Activities | 2021.10.12

Systems Ethics Thinking

Chapter 3 

Reconstructing the Ethical World


1. World of meaning

What is “meaning”? Within the scope of this book, as already explained, it refers to the invisible intentions and motivations within the mind that are interpreted through expression. In other words, the meaning is what is interpreted on the visible <form> *.

Of course, it is the person who interprets it. If so, the meaning is the thoughts and ideas inside the mind. In this regard, whether it is common sense or linguistics represented by Saussure, there is basically the same *. But if you take it one step further, where is the idea inside your mind?

* Takaaki Yoshimoto’s “What is beauty for language” is extremely excellent in that it develops the “semantics” theory of linguistic expression itself, if evaluated without the historical context (criticism of Marxist art theory). Among them, Yoshimoto analyzes artistic expressions and works from a two-dimensional perspective of “indication expression” and “self-expression.” It’s clear, but from the point of view of this book, it should be four-dimensional, not two-dimensional. That is, the indication expression includes the external dimension and the other-directed dimension, and the self-expression includes the internal dimension and the self-directed dimension. However, this book does not discuss the aesthetic meaning.

Meaning in self-referential communication

According to neuroscience, ideas (that is, relationships between types) are accumulated in the hippocampus and cerebellum of the brain as patterns of communication between neurons (nerve cells). In other words, it is a part of the neural communication system that constitutes the body. However, a person has not only a body, but also a “mind” that is based on the body. And as we saw in Chapter 2, the human mind is the integration of four-dimensional communication systems such as emotion, imagination, reasoning, and self-reference, and it is the dimension of self-reference that governs the whole. Therefore, the pattern between neurons is recalled in self-referential communication, where it becomes an idea only when it is connected to other ideas. In short, ideas are part of the mind’s self-referential communication system.

The ​​”meaning” as an idea is in the self-referential communication system. <Meaning> occurs where self-referential communication refers to self-referential communication itself, or to communication systems other than self, such as emotion, imagination, and reasoning. In Chapter 2, I explained that the <pattern>, <type>, and <concept> that make up the visible <form> are <meaning>. To rephrase it one step further, it requires reference by self-referential communication in order for them to become <meaning>.

Position of the communication system of the mind

The meaning world is a communication system of the mind. However, the communication system of the mind is not the whole of the meaning world, nor is it confined within the “individual mind.” Instead, the mental communication system interacts with another mental communication system through expressions in the mutual communication between people, and further leads to collective communication through mutual communication. In that sense, the communication system of the mind supports all human communication from the inside. As long as people are involved, all relationships are communication systems of the mind and the world of meaning.

2. The world of ethics

The world of meaning includes a multi-level communication system. As mentioned in the Opening chapter, the list is as follows.

Self-dialogue of the mind ⇔ Communication system of self-reference

Face-to-face relationship ⇔ Mutual communication system

Society ⇔ Communication system with differentiated functions

Overall society ⇔ Mutual relationships between functional systems

Group of people ⇔ Collective communication system

History ⇔ Sustainable communication system between generations

Thoughts ⇔ Communication system of ideals

Ethics as the structuring of communication systems

The controlling each level of communication system from the inside is <structuring> as explained repeatedly. On the other hand, so-called “ethics” is originally rooted in the habits of herds of animals, and can be said to be a working of maintaining stable relationships and groups of people through magic and religion. And at the core of this working are, for example, conscience, common sense, and organizational culture. If so, functionally speaking, “ethics (especially its core)” is equal to <structuring>.

In short, the world of human communication is the world of ethics as it is. Corresponding the <structuring> of each level of communication system to the core of ethics (morality) is as follows.

Mind (self-questioning self-answer) ⇔ Structuring
⇔ Conscience/creed⇔ Ethics (morality)

Face-to-face relationship ⇔ Structuring ⇔ Trust/Common sense
⇔ Ethics (morality)

Society ⇔ Structuring ⇔ Functional purpose ⇔ Ethics

Group ⇔ Structuring ⇔ Practice/Organizational climate ⇔ Ethics

Overall society ⇔Structuring ⇔ Ideology/Public opinion ⇔ Ethics

History ⇔ Structuring ⇔ Cultural tradition/Civilization ⇔ Ethics

Thoughts ⇔ Structuring ⇔ Ideals/ World-views ⇔ Ethics

Conversion of the ethical perspective

The perspective of structuring of the communication system will significantly change the conventional view of ethics. This is because each level contained in the world of ethics is not taken up separately, but is comprehensively grasped, and the perspective of distinction and association is introduced there. Ethics are not just about the mind and relationships. It covers everything from the human heart to the social system, from groups of people to history and thoughts. This is the first pillar of system ethics pointed out in the Opening Chapter.

3. Scheme of the four-dimensional correlation

As we saw in Chapter 1, the process of face-to-face communication takes four phases. When a certain meaning- interpretation pattern is created while these four phases are repeated, the communication controlled by this becomes a “system”. The function of the <meaning- interpretation pattern> that establishes the system is <structuring>. If this is grasped logically, it becomes <four-dimensional correlation>. Then, in the following Chapter 2, the basis of the logic of four-dimensional correlation was sought in that the human mind is the four-dimensional integration of communication systems. Here again, let’s confirm the order of the four-dimensional “correlation”.

The order of four-dimensional correlation

First, there is a dimension in which the system directly contacts the outside and receives information. This is the external dimension I. Next, there is a dimension in which the information received in I is interpreted and meaningful inside the system. This is the internal dimension II. Furthermore, there is a dimension to compare and examine the interpretation of II with other interpretations as much as possible. This is the other- directed dimension III. And finally, there is a dimension that comprehensively evaluates the results of the comparative examination in III within itself and decides how to respond. This is the self-directed dimension IV. On the contrary, when the decision of IV is received, III sets the priority order, II motivates, and I responds to the outside. The order between the four dimensions is basically this.

External dimension I ⇆ Internal dimension II
⇆ Other-directed dimension III⇆ Self-directed dimension IV

Once this correlation is established, the four dimensions are connected vertically and horizontally. In some cases, there are shortcuts only between the external dimension I and the self-directed dimension IV. Even in that case, the order in which the preceding dimension supplies the energy of the external environment and the body, and the succeeding dimension, especially the self-directed dimension, controls and directs is consistent.

A tool for reconstruction

If the above four-dimensional correlation order is represented by a figure, a three-dimensional scheme in which four planes are connected can be obtained. However, it is difficult to draw a three-dimensional scheme and to use it as a tool for analyzing reality. Therefore, the <four-dimensional correlation> scheme is a projection of the three-dimensional view on a plane (Fig. 1). If four-dimensional correlation is the structuring that makes up the ethical world, the <four-dimensional correlation> scheme is a tool for “reconstructing” such an ethical world.

in addition, the reason for expressing it as “reconstruction” is that it rationally reproduces the world of ethics that is actually constructed by structuring. At that time, it goes without saying that the simplification associated with the division is unavoidable.

4 . The four dimensions of the mind

In this chapter and the next chapter, a part of the ethical world will be reconstructed using the <four-dimensional correlation> scheme. Let’s start with the mental communication system that supports all human communication.

Already in Chapter 2, we have presented the viewpoint of “mind” as an integrated body of four-dimensional communication systems. However, the way of understanding the four dimensions (emotional instinct, imaginary intelligence, logical reasoning, self-referential insight) is at the prototype level. On the other hand, the mind to be reconstructed from now on is the mind that works by integrating the four dimensions in mutual communication. The four-dimensional names also have variations accordingly.

People are constantly talking to themselves and asking themselves, “Is that good?”, “It’s troublesome”, “What should I do?”, “Why am I so tired?”, “It’s funny”, “I don’t like it”. Based on the previous chapter, such self-dialogue (self-questioning and self-answering) is a state in which self-referential communication is connected not only to self-referential communication itself, but also to communication systems of emotions, imagination, and thoughts.

The reality of the mind is the connection of such four-dimensional communication systems. And mutual communication is established when the mind of oneself (“me”) faces another mind. Mental communication is with mutual communication.

In Chapter 1, it was clarified that the internal communication of the mind that constitutes mutual communication has four phases. The four dimensions of the mind correspond to these four phases. Let’s call each dimension “performance,” “sentiment,” “negotiation,” and “reflection.” The correspondence is summarized as follows.

Perception of information & reaction… External dimension I … Performance

Interpretation pf intention… Internal dimension II … Sentiment

Comparison of interpretation…Other-directed dimension III … Negotiation

Comprehensive evaluation & decision-making …Reflection

5 . Personality and motivation

Let’s apply the four-dimensional framework of the mind widely. Here, we will focus on the psychology of mental habits or habits, that is, “personality,” and the teaching method “ARCS model” for eliciting “motivation” from the field of education.

Big five hypothesis

In psychology, there is the “Big Five Hypothesis” as the standard model of “personality”. The “five factors” of this hypothesis are as follows.

Extraversion factor E

These characteristics include “activity,” “control,” “group living,” “pursuit of excitement,” and “acquisition of attention.” The opposition factor is “introversion”. Both are derived from Jungian psychology. 

Agreeableness factor A

As alternative translation, there is “harmony” or “synchronization”. This characteristic is said to be “gentleness,” “cooperation,” “trust,” “empathy,” and “respect for others.” The opposite concept is “separation”, which may mean isolation-oriented.

Conscientiousness Factor C

Alternative translations include “control,” “diligence,” and “conscience.” This characteristic is said to be “strictness”, “attachment”, “sense of responsibility”, “self-control”, “planned”, etc. The concept of opposition is “naturalness”. This would mean freedom, carefreeness, and laziness.

Neuroticism factor N

This alternative translation is “sentimentallinstability”, or “emotionality”, etc. These characteristics include “anxiety,” “tension,” “depression,” “self-criticism,” and “mood swings.” The concept of opposition is called “non-emotionality”.

Openness to expression factor O

This is also translated as “intelligence,” “intellectual curiosity,” or “playability.” This characteristic is “advancement”, “fantasy”, “artistic interest”, “freewheeling”, “internal experience”, etc. The concept of opposition is called “reality,” which can be interpreted as practical or pragmatic.

At first glance, the “five factors” do not match the four-dimensional correlation. It is important that if the four-dimensional correlation does not hold, it is a counterexample to the assertion in this book. However, careful examination reveals that the “Big Five Hypothesis” is inconsistent.

First, looking at the entire group of factors, all of them are empirical listings, and the correlation between the meanings of the factors is unknown. Next, focusing on “neuroticism (emotional instability / emotionality) N” among the factor groups, only this is negatively defined, and the contradictory concept (“non-emotionality”) is unclear. Taking a step back, each of the E, A, C, and O factors should have both negative and positive sides, and N is positioned as the negative side. Then, N can be excluded from the positive regulation of the five factors.

Considering the above, the “Big Five Hypothesis” is reconstructed as follows. Here we replace the factor with the dimension.

C Diligence / Naturalness (Negative regulation N Emotional anxiety) … External performance dimension

A Harmony / Separability (Negative regulation N Emotional anxiety) … Internal  sentiment dimension

E Extraversion / Introversion (Negative Equivalent N Emotional Anxiety) … Other-directed negotiation dimension

O Playfulness / reality (negative regulation N emotional anxiety) … Self-directed reflection dimension

In the “Big Five Hypothesis”, the distinction between the four-factor level and the type (cluster) level resulting from the bias of the four-factor correlation is ambiguous. Moreover, the details of the listed properties are not very strict. It is possible to sort out the details by four-dimensional correlation, but I would like to refrain from forcibly applying them here.

ARCS model

Another, let’s apply the four-dimensional framework of the mind to the field of education. Here, we will discuss the teaching method “ARCS model” to elicit “motivation”. The breakdown, including the features of the details, is as follows (Katsuaki Suzuki, Teaching Material Design Manual: A Collection of Tips Based on the ARCS Model, Kitaooji Shobo Publishing Co., Ltd., 2002).

Attention: Perceptual arousal / inquiry arousal / changeability

Relevance: Familiarity / Purpose Orientation / Matching with Motivation

Confidence: Learning Demand / Opportunity for Success / Personalization of Control

Satisfaction: Natural effect / Positive effect/ Fairness

Suzuki uses simple words such as A “it looks interesting”, R “it looks worth doing”, C “it looks like it can be done”, and S “it’s good to do it”. However, the necessity and correlation of the four factors remain unclear.

So we reconstruct the “four-dimensional motivation” using the four-dimensional correlation scheme. At that time, it is necessary to devise and change the ambiguity of the name and the enumeration of details. Here, for example, “importance” is changed to “interest”.

A Notice → “It looks interesting”
… Performance of the External dimension

R interest → “It looks  worth doing”
… Sentiment  of Internal dimension

C Confidence → “It looks like can be done”
Negotiation of Other-directed dimension

S Satisfaction → “it’s good to do it”
…Reflection of Self-directed dimension

Significance of reconstruction

So far, I have reconsidered the two theories. It should be noted here that reconstruction using the four-dimensional correlation scheme is by no means a mere classification play. Reconstruction leads to suggestions for rationally modifying and improving existing models and hypotheses. By gaining insight into the inevitability of why this happens, it will be possible to devise more accurate expressions and discover new indicators. Chapters 7 and 8 attempt extensive applications to QOL scales.

6. Four types of actions

It is the act to express communications inside the mind. The act of responding to the other person in mutual communication has a “purpose”. In Chapter 1, I regarded it as “true intention” including motivation and intention in the context of interpretation, but I would like to paraphrase it as “intentional purpose” in the context of action.

Action-oriented goal

The “oriented purpose” is a part of mental communication and is realized through acts as means. In reality, even if actions are different, they may be indistinguishable as a series of acts, as seen in the example of the gesture of “raising the hand”. However, it is still regarded as a different action because the “oriented purpose” corresponding to each situation is different.

Of course, there are many different “oriented purposes”, but nonetheless, they can be classified. This book proposes four categories. Why four classifications? The answer lies in the difference in where the center of the four-dimensional correlation of the mind is placed. There is a bias in the four-dimensional correlation depending on which of the dimensions of performance, sentiment, negotiation, and reflection that make up the mind is brought to the center. This bias brings about four types of oriented goals. 

These are the four types of intentional purposes. When the performance dimension is placed at the center, it becomes the purpose of “survival / utility”. Similarly, in the case of sentiment-centered, it is “empathy / conformity”, in the case of negotiation-centered, it is “compromise / coordination”, and in the case of reflection-centered, it is “value / ideal”.

Performance center … Survival / Utility-oriented goal

Sentiment center … Sympathy /Conformity-oriented goal

Negotiation center …Coordination / Compromise-oriented goal 

Reflection center …  Value / Ideal-oriented goal

Action is the expression of intentional purpose. The bias of the four-dimensional correlation of the mind gives rise to four types of oriented goals. Therefore, there are four types of actions as expressions for intentional purposes. The four types of action are actions oriented toward practical use / utility, actions oriented toward empathy / synchronization, actions oriented toward coordination / compromise, and actions oriented toward value / ideal. This will be shown in the figure.

Weber and Buber

I would like to compare the four types of actions derived above with the two existing theories. The first is M. Weber’s theory of “social action” mentioned in the introduction (“Basic Concept of Verstehen Sociology”). This breakdown consists of four types: “purpose-rational action,” “emotional action” “traditional action,” and “value-rational action.”

Weber himself does not explain why these four types occur. The reason why it corresponds to four dimensions unexpectedly is that, from the point of view of this book, the logic of four-dimensional correlation worked unknowingly behind interpretation by this theorist. If the logic of four-dimensional correlation is used consciously, the necessity and interrelationship of the four types can be explained as follows.

Purpose-rational action … Action-oriented survival and utility

Emotional action … Actions-oriented sympathy and conformity

Traditional action…Action-oriented coordination and compromise

Value-rational action … Action-oriented value ​​and ideal

The second example is taken from the Jewish philosopher Buber. It was “I and Thou” (1920) that made him famous. According to Buber, people have two attitudes when dealing with the world. One is “I and it”, which is the objective things, and the other is “I and you,” who respond sympathetically as the same person as me.

Buber’s framework is simple and attractive. However, from the perspective of four-dimensional correlation, it is too narrow as the attitude toward the world. Two more dimensions should be replenished and reconstructed as follows.

I and it … External dimension I

I and you … Internal dimension II

I and them … Other-directed dimension III

I and me… Self-directed dimension IV

As can be seen from the above two examples, even special terms of a specific era and society can be read and compared at a general level if they are reconsidered from the perspective of four-dimensional correlation.

The communication system of the mind has been reconstructed so far. At that time, the application of the logic of four-dimensional correlation was limited to the related fields of psychology. But, of course, the communication system is not limited to mind and action. The logic of four-dimensional correlation can also be applied to all communication systems contained in the human meaning-world, and thus in the ethical world, such as social institutions, groups of people, or ideas. In the next chapter, we will work on the reconstruction of “society”, but for that purpose, it is necessary to understand the mutual communication system in advance.

7 . Mutual communication system

It is the mutual communication that people face each other that mediates between the communication system of the individual’s mind and the communication system of the group. The communication system of the individual’s mind supports mutual communication, and mutual communication supports the collective communication system. Mutual communication is at the heart of every human communication system.

This mutual communication system is not just an action, but a series of actions. Therefore, the human name “activity” would be appropriate for this. From now on, mutual communication and human activities will be used interchangeably. The point that human activity constitutes “life” in a broad sense among human “life” will be explained in Chapter 7.

In Chapter 1, we took up and analyzed mutual communication, but it was just the prototype of communication. Actual mutual communication is different in all aspects such as gender, age, cultural background, habitat, etc., with different parties and different interests and perspectives. Therefore, in reality, there are innumerable special mutual communications, and these occur and disappear.

Matching the intentional goal of action

In mutual communication, when actions with the same intentional goal are connected, communication proceeds smoothly and the system is established. However, on the contrary, when actions with different intentional goal are connected, communication becomes jerky, and even if it continues as communication, it does not become a system.

For example, if both parties recognize conflicts of interest and aim for a compromise, communication of negotiations will be established there, but if the intentional goal of the other side changes and aims for empathy or impression, communication will be lost immediately and can’t continue.

In other words, the key to the establishment of a mutual communication system (that is, human activity) is to obtain a rough agreement between the two sides, that is, to form a common sense *.

* The explanation of the generation of the four types of mutual communication occupies a crucial position in the framework of this book, which grasps the human mind and social groups by the same four types. This explanation is the most difficult part in this book, along with the explanation of the basis of the four-dimensional connection.

Initially, I relied on Luhmann’s explanation of the combination of “active (movement) / passive (state)” (“Social Systems Theory”), but thought that it would be sufficient to modify this slightly (“” Ethics of Life and Science-Technology”). For example, “art appreciation” is a mutual communication system in which an emotional state (passive) follows an  emotional state (passive), and a “market exchange” is a mutual communication system in which a payment (active) follows a payment (active). 

The period when I thought that my explanation was more persuasive than the explanation of Luhmann himself and Parsons (“Generation and conversion of social system theory”) did not last so long. It is impossible to separate mutual communication between the action side and the state side. After a lot of trial and error, I finally arrived at the current explanation, which focuses on the consensus and disagreement of the intentional goal of the action.

Four types of mutual communication systems

As seen in the previous chapter, the four types of actions are: I action of survival / utility, II action of empathy / conformity, III action of coordination / compromise, and IV action of value / ideal. When the intentional goals of these four types of actions roughly match each other and a common sense is formed, the four patterns emerge.

Various mutual communication systems (that is, human activities) are considered to be of the following four types corresponding to the four patterns. That is, if they are named, they are “Practice type”, “Assistance type”, “Integration type”, and “Transcendence type”. By associating these with the four types of actions, the following four-dimensional correlation scheme can be obtained.

Ⅰ Matching between actions intending Survival and Utility … Practice type activities

Ⅱ Matching between actions intending Sympathy and Conformity … Assistance type activities

Ⅲ Matching between actions intending Coordination and Compromise … Integration type activities

Ⅳ Matching actions intending Values ​​and Ideals … Transcendence type activities

Representative examples of type

Let us give four representative examples of each of the four types of human activity (mutual communication system).

Ⅰ Practical activity group that collaborates for survival and utility
ⅰ) Activities to procure and process supplies from the environment
ⅱ )Activities to ingenuity for procurement and processing
ⅲ) Activities to exchange procured and processed products
ⅳ) Activities to consume procured and processed products (origin)

Ⅱ Assistant type activities that help each other with the aim of sympathy and conformity
ⅰ) Activities to help those in need in terms of life
ⅱ) Activities to help people suffering from injuries and illnesses
ⅲ) Activities to care for people who are vulnerable and unable to become independent (origin)
ⅳ) Activities to support immature human beings

Ⅲ Integrated activities aiming at coordination and compromise of interests
ⅰ)Activities to comply with and carry out the rules
ⅱ) Activities for approval and superior position (origin)
ⅲ) Activities to participate in overall decision-making
ⅳ) Activities that accept and obey arbitrage and order

Ⅳ Transcendental activities aiming to realize values ​​and ideals
ⅰ)Activities to play freely by imagination (origin)
ⅱ) Activities to create moving works
ⅲ) Activities to explore the relationships between things
ⅳ)Activities to reflect on the meaning of activities

As may already be clear to careful readers, the four examples of each of the four types of activity groups listed here are selected according to the way of thinking of four-dimensional correlation. For example, the practical activity group itself is in the external dimension I, but the procurement and processing inside it is in the external dimension i, various ideas are in the internal dimension ii, the exchange is in the other-directed dimension iii, and the consumption is the self-directed dimension ⅳ. In other words, the four-dimensional correlation I II III IV is repeated fractally (nested). The same applies to other activity groups. This point is indicated by Roman numerals (i ⅱ ⅲ ⅳ). In this way, the four-dimensional correlation thinking method is suitable for systematically grasping events.

Origin of activity

Inside each of the four types of activity groups, there are activities that serve as the starting point. The origin means that other activities are derived and developed from it. Practical activity I is ⅳ consumption (living), Assistant activity Ⅱ is iii care, Integrated activity Ⅲ is ii approval / superiority, and Transcendental activity Ⅳ is ii play.

And by connecting these origins, it is thought that the original image of human life based on a herd of family animals, that is, the correlation of consumption, care, superiority, and play emerges, but this point will be discussed again in Chapter 7.

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