ECOLOGY OF VALUES

Copyright 2005 by Barnabas D. Johnson

This essay's main goal is to illuminate necessary checks and balances that keep the Ecology of Mind healthy.

Accordingly, this essay seeks to propose a hierarchy of coevolving values that are even more fundamental than those proposed by Professor Lon L. Fuller, as discussed in my essay Rule of Law.

One of the highest such values consists of that which allows and encourages further exploration and debate regarding the nature and scope of these highest values, including inquiry whether there is a compelling reason to create a hierarchy among them. That is what is behind the following passage:

Among the ancient Arakam, almost everything was arguable. What was not arguable was that which keeps "Makarati" — the Argument — alive. To be a'makarati meant, and still means, to be "with it" — just so, impeccable in presentation — to be a maker of the "!a'Makarani": the best presentation to date. See Arakam to Jurlandia: A Constitutional Odyssey.

For example, the package of values relating to freedom of inquiry, conscience, belief, expression, and association (and all that these imply, including "correctives" — such as libel laws — to curb abuses) are arguably neither higher nor lower than are the values undergirding societal commitment to Due Process of Law: that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, property, or other fundamental rights, privilages, immunities, and entitlements, except by rational, proportional, generally-applicable laws that are enforced equally and fairly. Clearly, these highest values compose a "much of a muchness" whose parts are interdependent, interpenetrative.

On balance, however, I conclude not only that there is (or ought to be) a hierarchy of such highest values, but also that there is (or ought to be) accompanying "highest value" (a) in seeking to explore and articulate what those values are and mean, and (b) in recognizing similar "highest value" in our inevitable failure — despite our best efforts — to identify most of these values with anything approaching linguistic or jurisprudential exactitude.

Note, after all, that Due Process of Law is "defined" (is knowable) only through reference to thousands of specific disputes resolved and reported by thousands of courts over hundreds of years, plus subsequent feedback processes focused on how well or badly those resolutions worked in practice, over time, (probably) necessitating modifications to ameliorate unintended consequences, etc.

Any "highest value" worth consideration within this pantheon of values must be nested within similar layers of history and consequence.

See Note on Feedback.

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Before going further, let us be clear: Not everything has to be clear, and the idea of an Ecology of Mind focused on "the Truth" as distinguished from an Ecology of Values focused on "the Good" is a fuzzy distinction.

There is nothing wrong with fuzzy thinking so long as we identify it, and feel comfortable in according it value despite its limitations. I will address this subject in greater detail in due course.

***

The life of law, and of the ethical values undergirding "law" worthy of this name, is not logic and linguistic prowess (as precious as these generally are) but experience, history — feedback cultivation and harvesting that transcends logic, transcends even science. Nothing that has a history can be defined without reference to its history. Nothing that is worthy of a future can be limited by today's definitions, descriptions, prescriptions, proscriptions, etc. This is a huge subject. This website will address it but, beyond doubt, will not do so adequately. Thank goodness.

Only the "examined life" is worth living, if we would be fully human; yet, on examination, we will discover territories thick with consequences but slim of comprehension. The heart has its reasons, and our capacity for empathy implies knowing what it is like to stand in another's shoes even when we cannot describe this knowledge. Such ineffable territories did not deter Lon L. Fuller, popularizer of those "unarticulated major premises" articulated in Rule of Law.

Only examined truths are worth having and upholding.

To be continued ...

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Note on Feedback:  In general, wherever in these Jurlandia writings I refer to "feedback" I include what I call "feed-forward" in essence, "feedback" based on speculations (presumably responsible and well-grounded) regarding the future, including various alternative futures that might transpire based on past, current, and future choices. This theme is developed in The Cybernetics of Society.

The essence of teleology is that it is based not only on knowledge of the past and present, but also on "knowledge of the future" based on ... whatever we find persuasive. Obviously, what ought to be "persuasive" is a key problem of futuristics. Mere extrapolation from the past cannot suffice. Neither can Ouija inquiries. These essays seek to illuminate the proper approach to "future making" in which, as a starting point, we accept that those who misinterpret the past are likely to doom the future, or at least endanger its healthy unfolding. If the bull attacks every time we venture onto a particular footpath, then we "know" (in terms of probability, not certainty) that taking another route is worth consideration.

Cybernetics is by order and dimension teleological, goal-sensitive. Like Janus, cybernetics and its parent, teleology, face forward and backward, simultaneously. How the "brain" of our Janus-like civilization "thinks" and "plans" should, on principle, change through recursive self-reflection and self-governance. Indeed, arguably the "self" comes into being due to its imbeddedness in choices and actions in the past and the future. See First Trinity. (Go back)

 

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