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Systems Ethics Thinking (5) : Naoki MORISHITA
Activities | 2020.07.25

5. Thinking method of <four-dimensional correlation>

Systems Ethics is a highly abstract general theory, but at the same time, it is also a tool (analyzer) for concretely analyzing problems that cause conflict situations. For non-philosophers, the tool story may be far more interesting than the confusing theory story. What distinguishes systems ethics from conventional ethics is the analytical power of this tool. What makes this possible is the thinking method of <four-dimensional correlation>.

Typology of Actions

Let’s take human actions as an example. Various types of actions have been proposed so far. For example, M. Weber’s four types of “zweckrational,” ” emotional,” “traditional,” and “wert-rational ” are famous (“The basic concept of sociology”). However, neither Weber nor other theorists have been able to provide rational explanations for why it should be of this type. Only the correlation of four-dimension thinking can do that.

As will be explained in detail in Chapters 1 and 3, there are four phases of “performance,” “sentiment,” “negotiation,” and “reflection” inside the human mind, and these work as a set. The action-intentional purpose arises from the fact that one phase of them becomes the center. For example, if the focus is on the performance phase, actions that aim at survival and utility occur. This is Weber’s “zweckrational” action. Or, when the sentiment phase becomes the center, actions that aim for empathy and conformity occur. This is an “emotional” act. In other words, the act, which is the expression of the mind, can be regarded as the expression of the bias of the balance of the four phases working inside the mind. In this way, existing typologies can be flexibly accepted and recombined.

Ethical theory

Bias in typology of actions is also seen in existing ethical theories*. Ethical theories include utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, and liberalism, all of which are caused by emphasizing only one of the four aspects of the thought, which is the practical idea system. The four aspects in this case are “rational will of the individual”, “attribution to the community”, “universal public agreement”, and “transcendental ideal”, as described later in Chapter 5. By tracing the origins of these four aspects, we come to the four phases of mutual communication, namely, “utility,” “mutual help,” “integration,” and “idea.” Unless we can see that these four phases are corelated, the situation in which the ethical theories that are only one type are confronted will not end.

* There are three levels in ethical theory: descriptive, normative (“should be”) and meta levels. Normative level is the center of the theory and its content is actions, policies and ideals of individuals and groups. There are two main viewpoints classifying normative ethics.

One is the basis for making the norm “correct”. This includes “purpose”, “intention”, “result”, “procedure”, “person”, and so on. The other is the basis for the “goodness” of the normative content. This includes, for example, “harmonious cosmos,” “God’s will,” “logos or reason,” “heart and honesty,” “personality and virtue,” “desire for self-preservation,” “pleasure (happiness),” “mutual trust,” “community-survival” and “nature or life”. However, the basis for distinction between good and bad is neither good nor bad.

Based on the above, when characterizing existing ethics, Bentham’s utilitarian ethics is composed of pleasure, results, maximization, etc., and Kantian deontological ethics is represented by reason, motivation, virtue, etc. On the other hand, liberalistic ethics originating from Locke is self-preservation desire, respect for others, contracts, etc., and virtue ethics dating to Aristotle consists of community attribution, ethos, and practical wisdom. Religious ethics follows the will and divine order of God, and existentialism ethics emphasizes individual decisions.

Correlation of four dimensions

Unlike existing ethics, Systems Ethics does not stick to a specific “typology” that arises from the bias of the four-sided correlation, but returns to the presumed four-sided “correlation” and constantly considers the balance between the four sides. By paying attention to this four-sided correlation, it is possible to change the situation in which ethics conflict with each other and move that conflict. The expression four-sided correlation does not mean that the four sides are simply arranged, but that the four different sides are linked in a fixed order. Therefore, in order to emphasize “difference” and “order,” we use the term “dimension” instead of “side”*. The thinking method that always considers the four-dimensional correlation, that is, the balance of the four-dimensional correlation, makes Systems Ethics an effective tool for reality analysis.

*”Dimension” comes from the Latin “measurement”, from which the meanings of “size” and “extension” or “sides” and “elements” were derived. It has become a “dimension” of mathematics, and generally refers to the “level” or the “world.” On the other hand, a word similar to “dimension” has “hierarchy.” This is familiar since it was used by philosopher Aristotle and psychologist Maslow, but it has a strong spatial meaning such as buildings and strata compared to “dimension”. This book uses “dimension” rather than “hierarchy” because it focuses on the functional order of the different aspects.

When analyzing problems that cause conflict situations, visualizing the four-dimensional correlations and arranging them in a plane such as coordinate axes may be useful for providing an analytical overview of the problem event. That is the “four-dimensional correlation” diagram introduced in Chapter 1. I would like to leave detailed explanations to the relevant section. A basic diagram of four-dimensional correlation (including the system) is attached to the Foreword (Fig. 1). This figure is often used in this book to intuitively understand the textual explanation. 

As will be described later in Chapter 2, the thinking method of four-dimensional correlation is not a convenient tool (2×2 matrix) that simply divides things into four to organize them neatly. The selected four dimensions make up the basic structure (structuring) of the human semantic world, and each has a special function. Therefore, all the events that are meant by humans are captured by their four-dimensional correlation. Conversely, the four-dimensional correlation does not apply to an external environment that does not communicate meanings. The basis for this four-dimensional correlation is sought by “person” as an integrated being of four-dimensional communication systems. This point will be explained in detail in Chapter 2.

6.  Four pillars of the basic framework

In light of the above, I would like to present the basic framework of Systems Ethics that confronts conflict situations. This framework is supported by the following four pillars.

The first pillar concerns how to grasp the ethical world. Introducing the general viewpoint of the structuring of communication system, multiple levels of the ethical world, from the human mind to groups and organizations, or from the whole society to history and thought, can be comprehensively included and also distinguished from each other, without limiting human ethics to face-to-face mutual relationships. We have already mentioned this pillar.

The second pillar concerns the ethical goals of confronting conflict. In communication, the meaning-interpretations that both parties have made do not basically match because of the different perspectives of the parties. If so, rather than aiming at the resolution of the conflict on the premise of mutual agreement, we should aim at the transformation or movement or shift of conflicting situations, thinking that the conflict will continue forever. Systems Ethics provides the two-sided parallel model that aims at the conflict-movement itself. The key to this model is the self-transformation of each parties*.

*The system is generally unchanged only by external stimuli. The change would be by re-defining external stimuli internally. This is called “self-transformation.” For example, assuming that a teacher instructs a student, if the student is passive, he/she will not listen with bright eyes, and no knowledge will take root. However, when the student himself/herself listens to the teacher’s story with some interest, the student’s eyes shine and he/she starts to study. As mentioned in Chapter 5, self-transformation is a characteristic of general systems, including personal system.

The third pillar concerns the approach to conflict situations. In order to promote self-transformation smoothly, it is necessary not only to prepare a table for discussion, but also to provide a foundation for mutual understanding of the interpretations and positions of the parties. Systems Ethics sets the foundation for specific problems by the four-dimensional correlation approach. That is the correlation of the issues involved in the confrontation situation and the correlation of the perspectives that enable a relative view of the differences in positions.

*It is not easy for opposing parties to reach the same table. Furthermore, it must be said that it is extremely difficult to continue remaining. It is “trust” to the counter party that overcomes the difficulty. 

For example, this was the relation between a leader of local farmers who returned from evacuation after the Great East Japan Earthquake and a local manager of electric power company. No matter how many times the manager went to the farmer’s house, he faced the anger of the leader and couldn’t be listened to his story at all. The situation changed because the farmer acknowledged the sincerity and consistency of the manager and trusted him as a person.

Although this approach pushes rationality to the forefront, it never forgets that the emotional dimension is the most powerful in human communication. It is a rational way of thinking on the basis of emotionality. In this regard, Chapter 5 refers to the relation between the “Open Dialogue” and the approach of this book.

The fourth pillar involves a practical policy for moving conflict situations. First, we will grasp the differences in mutual interpretations while making concrete correlations of problem points. Next, in light of the correlation of viewpoints, the positions are made relative to each other. Then, a practical goal is to be set. This is not a general ultimate end, but a special goal inherent in the problem itself. Whether or not this practical goal can be set is the key to promoting the movement of conflict through self-transformation. Only by setting the practical goals, it becomes possible to practically propose some normative policy suitable for the problem.

*For the system, “ultimate end” is the continuation of the system itself. The ultimate end is of fundamental value, from which all the normative, and thus the general norms of “should,” are drawn. On the other hand, “practical goal” differs for each problem that creates conflicts among systems. In the case of infertility treatment, for example, the practical goal is not the child’s centered welfare or the priority of the parent’s way of life, but “succession of the broader parent-child connectedness.” This is a realizable and desirable future situation from which the normative policy is specifically derived. This point will be explained in detail in Chapters 5 and 6 with specific examples.

As seen above, Systems Ethics is a general theory that elucidates the ethical world, and is also an effective tool for analyzing the reality, which is the basis of ethics. Rather than those, it practically proposes normative policies based on theory and analysis. Systems Ethics has the power of theory, analysis of reality, power of normative, and power of practice.

7. Constitution of this book

I will show readers the entire development of this book beforehand.

Chapter 1 deals with face-to-face communication and illustrates that the logic of four-dimensional correlation runs through it. In response to it, Chapter 2 seeks the basis of four-dimensional correlation in “human” as the four-dimensional integrated body of the communication system. Here, since it is filled with philosophical content, it would be something that non-specialists would want to avoid, but consideration of “what is a human” is indispensable for ethics. This chapter will also serve as the basis for comparing humans with animals, AI robots in Chapter 9.

In Chapters 3 and 4, we reconstruct the human meaning(semantic) world, and hence the ethical world, by the thinking method of <four-dimensional correlation>. Since mind and society, history and ideas are comprehensively regarded as ethics here, readers will witness a completely new form of ethics. The thinking method of four-dimensional correlation is the basis of Systems Ethics.

Chapter 5 uses the thinking method of <four-dimensional correlation> to concretely show how conflict situations move. From a practical point of view, this chapter is the apex of the book, which is the first to depict the full picture of methods of Systems Ethics. In the following Chapter 6, the method presented in the previous chapter is applied to a concrete example. This includes “surrogate mother birth” in assisted reproductive medicine (fertility treatment), and “euthanasia” related to terminal care. Behind these two problems is the transformation of the family community responsible for child care and nursing care.

In Chapters 7 and 8, the thinking method of <four-dimensional correlation> is applied to “happiness”, and the reconstruction is focused on the concept of QOL, which is a scientific version of happiness. Behind conflicts among people is the different interpretation of “happiness.” Therefore, these two chapters are extremely important. The efforts here should not only promote the “self-transformation” that is essential for the movement of confrontational situations, but should also enable collaborative work with a wide range of psychological and social science researchers beyond the fields of medical care and nursing care. 

In Chapter 9, the concept of humans in Chapter 2 is applied to comparison with animals and AI robots, and on the extension of that, the reality of the “soul” is positioned, so that we can make the “competitive symbiosis” among heterogeneous systems possible.

In the closing chapter, first, we will analyze the entire digital age based on the thinking method of four-dimensional correlation, clarify the problems of the 21st century, and then guide practical goals not only to this problem but to general problems, emphasizing the perspective of “connectedness,” and looking ahead to a wide range of applications of Systems Ethics*.

*In this book, many examples are taken from the field of medical ethics for explanation. Originally, System Ethics was conceived with the theme of medical ethics and advanced medical technology, and has been refined mainly through medical and nursing lectures. Many of the cases were taken up in it. However, Systems Ethics can generally deal with conflict situations in all areas, not just medical care, nursing care, or welfare.

So far, I have explained why Systems Ethics is required and what is the theoretical basis of Systems Ethics. From now on, I will enter the world of “Systems Ethics”. This world begins with communication and ends with communication. What is human communication in the first place? Unraveling this is a prerequisite for reconstructing the relation between ethics and reality.

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