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System Ethics Thinking (7): Naoki MORISHITA
Activities | 2020.09.28

3.  Establishment of Common Sense

Pattern of meaning-interpretation

When the process of the four phases is repeated, each other expects that the partner will behave in prospected way, and hopes that a desirable behavior will be there. Then, through the realization of expectations and hopes, a certain <pattern of meaning-interpretation> is established within each other side.

Once the pattern of meaning-interpretation is established, the process from ⑴ perception of information through ⑷ comprehensive evaluation to ⑸ reaction (equal ⑴ perception of information) will be stably maintained in response to this direction.

  When the internal communication on both sides runs side by side like a mirror and the patterns of meaning-interpretation are shared through the act of expression, one mutual communication that includes both appears. In the second example above, if both sides were serious about love, then “love communication” was born (although it wasn’t), where the two hearts in love echoed.

Common sense and General common sense

When mutual communication is established, the pattern of meaning-interpretation believed to be shared by both sides is the “common sense.” However, the common sense here is limited to the two parties. When it is believed to be shared in the collective communication among many people, it is called “general common sense.”

As long as human communication is the interpretation of meaning, the “common sense” should be subtly different depending on the viewpoints and interests of the interpreting people. For example, there are discrepancies among people even in the interpretation of dress codes. Needless to say, no one can confirm the “coincidence”. Nevertheless, people believe that it is there. This is because there is a mechanism to guarantee a rough coincidence.

As M. Scheler pointed out, the basis for the rough coincidence is, of course, required for sharing physical experiences (“Essence and Form of Sympathy“). Sharing physical experiences means that people share emotional communication and imaginary communication, as will be described later in Chapter 2. The basis of this sharing is the living system mentioned in Chapters 7 and 9. However, both emotional and imaginary communication does not go beyond the reach of the body. Beyond this limit is the communication of signs called written words (letters). The belief that the meanings of the signs coincide is supporting the general coincidence of common sense.


It is the pattern of meaning-interpretation that forms the process of the four phases of communication. This pattern of meaning-interpretation corresponds to a constant relation, that is, “structure” in mathematics. However, it is different from the static object of mathematics in that it functions to orient, maintain and control the process of communication from the inside.

I would like to introduce the terminology unique to this book here. As explained in the opening chapter, paying attention to the difference of the structure between static and dynamic, we mean pattern of meaning-interpretation by ‘structuring’. Similarly, communication controlled by ‘structuring’ is called ‘system’. Also, the movement of the parts that are connected inside the communication system is called ‘function’.

The expressions “structuring”, “system” and “function” are quite difficult to understand. I should avoid them in popular books if possible. Why I utilize such expressions?  This is also explained in the opening chapter, but if the reason is repeated again, it is indispensable for repositioning the daily mutual communication system from a general viewpoint.

4. Logic of four-dimensional correlation

So far, I have tried to grasp the structuring of the communication system through mutual communication where people face each other. However, face-to-face mutual communication is important but only a part of human communication as a whole. If so, there is no guarantee that the four-phase process found in special cases will generally apply. In order for the four phases to be universal, it is necessary to gain insight into general “logic” in special cases. Only then can mutual communication be repositioned as a special case of general logic.

Two division principles

Then, what is the logic that is generally accepted in human communication systems? Analyzing the four phases reveals two divisional principles: “direct-indirect” and “outside-inside.” Here, “direct” means that the system directly contacts the external environment to obtain information, and “indirect” means that the system interprets the information obtained by contacting within the system. In other words, this division principle is related to the way information is processed in the system. On the other hand, “outside” refers to the relationship between the system itself and its outside, and “inside” refers to the relationship with itself inside the system. In other words, this division principle is related to the system relationship (Fig. 4).

Basic four dimensions

Combining the above two division principles yields the following four dimensions. The expression “dimension” has already been explained in the introduction. Let’s display the four dimensions with Roman numerals I, II, III and IV, respectively.

External dimension I

This arises from the combination of direct and outside. Here, the system comes into contact with the external environment, converts the visible shape into an internal one, takes it in, and re-expresses it as a shape. This dimension corresponds to the phase of perception of information and reaction in face-to-face communication.

Internal dimension II

This arises from the combination of direct and inside. The meaning of the information captured in I is interpreted here. It is the imagination that supports the interpretation, and the source of the imagination is the consciousness of time, that is, the intelligence that makes predictions. This dimension is the phase of interpretation of intention.

Other-directed dimension III

This arises from the combination of indirect and outside. The interpretations envisioned in II are compared here with possible interpretations with reference to context and past information. Underpinning this comparison is the reason for manipulating and inferring concepts. This dimension is the phase of comparison of interpretation.

Self-directed dimension IV

This arises from the combination of indirect and inside. The interpretations compared and examined in III is finally narrowed down to one, and the direction of the response is determined after being evaluated in the light of the internal criteria. It is reflection that creates the inner standards. This dimension is the phase of comprehensive evaluation and decision making.

The above four dimensions are the basic divisions that form the basis of this book. The analytical power of system ethics depends solely on this basic four-dimensional correlation. When analyzing various phenomena and concrete scenes in the world of ethics, the four basic dimensions are transformed for each object and problem, and their names also have various variations.

For example, in the communication system of the mind, it is converted into four dimensions of “performative”, “sentimental”, “negotiating”, and “reflective”. Similarly, in mutual communication, in the four dimensions of “practical,” “mutual assistant,” “integrated,” and “transcendental,” and in the region of social systems, in the four dimensions of “economic,” “communal,” “public,” and “cultural.” In the ideological communication, it is transformed into four dimensions of “individual”, “solidary”, “holistic”, and “ideal”. The above will be described in detail in Chapters 3 and 4.

Order of four-dimensional correlation

There is a certain order in the four-dimensional correlation. That is, the movement from the external dimension I to the internal dimension II is reproduced and repeated in the movement from the other-directed dimension III to the self-directed dimension IV. After that, the movement from the self-directed dimension IV to the other-directed dimension III folds back to the movement from the internal dimension II to the external dimension I.

This is the basic order of four-dimensional correlation, but once it is established, the four dimensions are connected vertically and horizontally, and each dimension moves relatively autonomously. At that time, it is the self-directed dimension IV that controls the overall movement. This dimension corresponds to the pattern of meaning-interpretation in mutual communication. For example, in mind-communication, it is a belief, and in organizational communication, it is the purpose of establishment. This position does not change under any circumstances.

When the above four-dimensional correlation is converted to the same plane so that it is easy to see, as foretold in the introduction, a figure similar to the coordinate axes in which the double lines are orthogonal can be obtained (Fig. 5). The double line delimiter represents four-dimensional relative autonomy. Note that Fig. 1 in the “Preface” shows that the system has a four-dimensional correlation.

The actuality of four-dimensional correlation

There are various ways of four-dimensional correlation. In the extreme case, if the movements of the four dimensions are smoothly connected, on the surface, communication can be performed only by a shortcut, that is, a reflexive oscillation between the external dimension I and the self-dimensional dimension IV. Most of the daily communication goes on with this kind of shortcut.

Let’s give an example of personal experience. There is a patient interview in the examinations of the sixth year-student of Japanese medical school, and at that time, a simulated patient called SP deals with the medical student. It was when I happened to be an SP.

The task on the day was appendicitis. Some students treated me as a patient and asked me a doctor-like interview. Eventually it was one student’s turn. The student who listened to my explanation suddenly decided, “It is Appendicitis.” No matter who listens to it, he must think so. That is what the pathology textbook says. However, in this situation, it is necessary to avoid assertions and consider all possibilities as a doctor. Unfortunately, we cannot expect a high score on him. After the end, when I told the teachers about this story, everyone laughed a lot.

What has been clarified through the discussion so far is that the mutual communication that people face each other is logically constructed as a four-dimensional correlation. But why is it a four-dimensional correlation? Even if four-dimensional correlation is the logic of mutual communication, does it hold universally for humankind? And if the logic of four-dimensional correlation applies not only to mutual communication, but to all human communication systems, what is the rationale? In the next chapter, let’s consider the necessity and basis of <four-dimensional correlation>. That is to answer “what is human being” within the scope of this book.

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