[From Dag Forssell (920504)]

Bill Powers (920429.0900), Ed Ford (920430.11:44)

The religious thing seems to be coming up again,....Perhaps what we
might more profitably do is examine belief as a phenomenon.

Bill is suggesting that we go up a level.

This phenomenon of belief isn't confined to biology. People arrive at
firmly fixed belief systems about electron flow, quarks, continental
drift, natural selection, grammar, etiquette, construction practices,
and proper forms of music, art, poetry, and dancing. If you challenge
their beliefs they will defend them. In most cases having to do with
less material beliefs, the ultimate defense is "I was raised to think
that ........". And of course that is true, although it doesn't make the
belief true.

I agree, there is NO difference between BELIEF in what we label religious
areas and UNDERSTANDING in what we label secular areas.

I find Bill's post lucid and indisputable. - It hooks nicely into my
system of understanding, that is. It is one of those jewels that merits
saving. I must get a good indexing system going!

I can only recommend that others who want to see belief systems as
objects of study try to see them that way, ..... To see them this way
is not to accept or reject them, or to make them seem less than what
they are. It is only to see them FOR what they are.

Ed Ford says:

The problem for me is that to be properly studied, understood, and
fully tested, a belief system has to be checked out through experience.

Ed, as I interpret your comment, you do not mean to object to Bill's
statement as such, but to emphasize the practical difficulty of passing
judgement on some specific systems concept.

In your post, you clearly recognize that both PCT and Roman Catholicism
are systems concepts. You appear to me to support Bill's post, but you
also appear to go beyond it.

You bring up issues of testing and validation of a set of systems
concepts. In this you express a point of view that I think is a good
subject for discussion. This systems concept debate will not go away,
because it is of great interest to many. We are all attached to our
individual set of systems concepts. It illustrates the upper reaches of
HPCT, which is of great concern to you and me and any others who try to
learn from HPCT how to better teach or lead or counsel people.

I think the standards I've set based on my systems concept, the choices
I've have made which reflected those standards, and, most important of
all, the satisfaction that comes from achieving the various things for
which I have controlled are the real test of a systems of belief.

In my first reading of this I understand you to say that:

            Systems Concept =====> Standards

and since the standards work and yield a satisfying life, this validates
the systems concept:

            Systems Concept <==== Standards.

However, I believe this last part to be a mistake.

You may not mean the second part the way I interpreted you at first,
since you also say:

...When people are functioning effectively, then what ever they're using
to drive their system should be given respect.

I do think that the interpretation:

            Systems Concept <==== Standards.

or: "My Standards work, therefore my Systems Concepts must be TRUE"

is an unexamined assumption behind most of the Systems Concepts strife
we see in the world around us.

I want to focus this post on the standards. Perhaps in that I am "going
down a level."

I would argue that the notion of validating or testing the Systems
Concept itself is a mistake in the first place. It is not necessary, as
you indicate in your last quote above. I respect you as a thoroughly
decent human being. I can never study, understand and check out your
belief system without living your life from its beginning. (Is this the
difficulty you meant)? I do not want to, and it is not necessary.

To think that the standards validate the Systems Concept implies that
those STANDARDS that do the validation are UNIQUE to that SYSTEM CONCEPT
PACKAGE (read religion). This is the implication I perceive and am
debating. Perhaps I am punching a big hole in the air. That's OK too.

I sincerely believe that if there are five billion people on this earth,
there are also five billion Systems Concepts (of God and everything
else). To a PCT'er it is obvious that the Systems Concepts are
individually designed by each person.

Just like we in PCT recognize that a diverse set of objects can with some
advantage be categorized as "chairs," so a diverse set of umpteen million
individual systems concepts with some common, perhaps even superficial
characteristic are called "Roman Catholicism." Other sets are called
"Mormonism," "Islam," "Hinduism," "Secular Humanism," "Atheism" etcetera.
This is good enough for wars.

It seems impossible to understand another individuals Systems Concepts
in anything more than the most cursory categorization, and then we know
that we really don't understand very much.

The point I want to make is that many Systems Concepts packages support
the SAME standards. Therefore It does NOT follow that your Systems
Concept package is validated by the success of your standards.

I would be content to say (I think) that your Systems Concepts are
validated by the simple fact that they are yours. Your Systems Concepts
are YOURS and that is ENOUGH.

It DOES make sense to advocate religious freedom, and declare that any
religious notion is acceptable, as long as it does not violate important
standards that have been agreed upon after more or less public debate
over tens of thousands of years (often in the form of wars).

(A personal note: The Thomas Jefferson Research Center in Pasadena, Ca,
(818) 792-8130, led me indirectly to CSG. My references in this post and
some other neat stuff is available from them).


Here I will insert an excerpt from THE CASE FOR CHARACTER EDUCATION by
Frank G. Goble and B. David Brooks. I shall transcribe two pages from

                   Chapter 7: WHOSE VALUES SHOULD BE TAUGHT?

We sow a thought and reap an act;
We sow an act and reap a habit;
We sow a habit and reap a character;
We sow a character and reap a destiny.

                                    William Makepeace Thackeray

      Whose values, people frequently ask, do you propose to teach? Those
who ask this question, although they may not realize it, have been
influenced by ethical relativism - the idea that there are no enduring
ethical values.
      When the subject to be taught is chemistry, physics, or astronomy,
no one asks whose chemistry? Whose physics? Whose astronomy? It is
assumed that the teacher will simply present the available information
to the best of his or her ability. Everyone assumes that there is an
objective reality about these subjects, in spite of the fact that our
understanding of the physical sciences is neither complete nor exact.
      The question, whose ethics, implies that there is no objective
reality about ethics and this is exactly what the ethical relativists
      "Such a position of normalness," writes Professor Philip H. Phenix, a denial that there are really any standards of right or
      wrong, of better or worse, because the whole human endeavor appears
      to be meaningless and without purpose... If life is essentially
      meaningless, there is no point in trying to promote or to improve
      it. An anomic theory of values is fatal to education, as it is to
      any sustained cultural pursuit. Unfortunately, it is a theory all
      too widely held, either explicitly or tacitly, and it should be
      recognized as an enemy of human morale and of educational

      The influence of this relativistic, value-free point of view is
illustrated by this statement of Dr. Lewis Mayhew in an address given
when he became president of the Association of Higher Education:
"Colleges are not churches, clinics or even parents. Whether or not a
student burns a draft card, participates in a civil rights march, engages
in premarital sexual activity, becomes pregnant, attends church, sleeps
all day or drinks all night, is not really the concern of an educational
      The problem with this point of view is that it is not realistic and
leads to increasing crime and violence and other costly manifestations
of social disintegration. There ARE basic ethical principles that are
necessary to social progress, and these principles must be identified and
      American Viewpoint, whose Good American Program was described in
chapter 4, based its program on an empirical code of ethics. The code was
developed by writing to hundreds of outstanding citizens and asking their
opinions. From this was developed a list of values which had been
"hammered out in the anvil of practical experience." The Good American
list includes such concepts as conservation, courage, personal health,
honesty, initiative, perseverance, reliability, self-mastery,
cooperation, courtesy, fairness, respect, tolerance, duty, independence,
patriotism, responsibility and understanding.
      The American Institute for Character Education, which developed the
Character Education Curriculum also described in detail in Chapter 4,
based its program on a worldwide study of value systems. This study
identified fifteen basic values shared by all major cultures and world
religions. These values are courage, conviction, generosity, kindness,
helpfulness, honesty, honor, justice, tolerance, the sound use of time
and talents, freedom of choice, good citizenship, the right to be an
individual, and the right of equal opportunity.
      This code of personal values, now taught in thousands of classrooms,
has not proved to be controversial.

If indeed the Principles/Standards/Values are what count, and most people
on reflection and discussion will arrive at a similar set, it will not
be surprising that there is a great uniformity in that area between all
religions. In the course of history many creative thinkers / founders of
religions have postulated different Systems Concept packages on top of

I find it interesting to look at the HPCT hierarchy, which may confirm
this suggestion:

          Systems Concept: "The Way it Is" / Understanding / Belief
                  /\ I
                   I \/
              Principle (Also ->) Principle
      (Morals & Laws of Nature) (Morals & Laws of Nature)
         (Standards & Values) (Standards & Values)
                  /\ I
                   I \/
               Programs (Also ->) Programs
                  /\ I
                   I \/
               Sequences Sequences

Notice that the (SAME) Principles/Standards/Values used to create a
particular Systems Concept structure logically could be expected to be
derived from it.

It is also possible that a principle taught or experienced "on the way
up" is remembered and used "on the way down" without being explicitly
recognized as part of a system of concepts. We experience a lot as we
grow up in our families, which stays with us as principles/ values/
standards without deliberate connection with, reflection on, or support
by our religious beliefs. The idea that

            Systems Concept =====> Standards

does require a deliberate effort to think things through. This should not
be taken for granted!

It seems to me that the common inclination (if there is one) to validate
your own particular Systems Concept package by the effectiveness of the
(common) standards leads to some very unfortunate side effects.

The idea that the Systems Concept package is validated to be (rigid,
objective) TRUTH sets the stage for fruitless discussion, fights and
wars, since anyone who looks can see that the OTHER GUY'S Systems
Concepts package is FALSE. (Heretic is the word, I guess. Death to

Religions as Systems Concepts packages typically include a whole super
structure of baggage in the form of miracles and explanations which at
one time probably were designed to sell the package to illiterate,
ignorant people and keep them in check. Some of this creates unfortunate
standards which prevent people from functioning well.

I have my Systems Concepts which flavor my interpretations. If a God
created the Big Bang (today's news), fine with me. I do not recognize a
God that can hear me. I think a pastor who tells people from the pulpit
that if they pray together in HIS name to put Jello gelatin "salad" to
good use in their bodies - and they BELIEVE it - is doing these ignorant
people a great disservice. Of course they can pray for healing on Sunday.
I have heard enough of this as our family attended church regularly a few
years back. We no longer attend.

To me this is part of the baggage that I personally object to as creating
misleading and damaging standards. But then, as Ed says:

It would be hard for my own view or systems of beliefs not to get in the
way of those systems I'm trying to study.

These packages may include some principles/values/standards that are not
only misleading but deny people rights we as westerners take for granted.
As Ed puts it:

Does it respect the rights and beliefs of other living control systems?

Consider women's rights under Islam.

Since Islam is TRUE, validated by the satisfaction of Muslim men, how can
you question those things?

By going "down a level" and recognize that the Systems Concept is nothing
more than a construct in your mind. It is not TRUTH. There is no TRUTH
to be had anywhere. It is ALL subjective systems concepts. In a post not
too long ago, (which I would like to relocate and re-read, date anyone?)
Bill ended a discussion of the levels with the statement: "It is ALL

I have bared a little of my prejudices here. Everyone has their own. The
point is that as I see it, the debate on creation has NOTHING to do with
standards; miracles don't matter. A lot of the things we fight over in
religion, between religions, against religion and for religion do not
matter; they are not essential to justify the PRINCIPLES/VALUES/STANDARDS

While I looked at my bookshelf of Thomas Jefferson materials, I was
reminded of: THE FIVE THOUSAND YEAR LEAP by W. Cleon Skousen. This book
by a constitutional lawyer and scholar spells out the twenty-eight
PRINCIPLES which the American founding fathers considered as they formed
our government (a Systems Concept!!!). It is very clear from this book
that the American constitution is based in large measure on the political
writings of Marcus Cicero, which were well known to our founding fathers,
NOT on the Judeo-Christian tradition, as we are told often by some
religion salesmen.

A nasty thought crosses my mind in regard to some of these salesmen. To
paraphrase Hitler's information minister Goebbels: "A point of view
repeated often enough becomes the truth." Perhaps Goebbels is another
historic figure who clearly anticipated William T. Powers. But then
Salomon said: "There is nothing new under the sun."

Happy Principles/Values/Standards everybody!

Dag Forssell
23903 Via Flamenco
Valencia, Ca 91355-2808
Phone (805) 254-1195 Fax (805) 254-7956
Internet: 0004742580@MCIMAIL.COM

[From Bill Powers (920514b)]

An added comment to back up Rick Marken's excellent comments (920513) about
standards in relation to Dag Forssell's list of desirable standards
(920513b). Rick points out that these are not reference levels, but
variables. It's easy to show that they are variables just by finding words
to indicate other states than the states one automatically assumes for them
(the ones you like best). Here's Dag's capitalized list with some side-

COURAGE, Bravado, foolhardiness
CONVICTION, Stubbornness, prejudice
GENEROSITY, profligacy, gullibility
KINDNESS, bleedinghearted sentimentality
HELPFULNESS, nosy do-goodism
HONESTY, bluntness, cruel candor
HONOR, hubris, egotism, bushido
JUSTICE, revenge, brutality, litigiousness
TOLERANCE, naivete, permissiveness
THE SOUND USE OF TIME AND TALENTS, working for someone else
FREEDOM OF CHOICE, abortion as belated contraception
GOOD CITIZENSHIP, supporting the war
THE RIGHT TO BE AN INDIVIDUAL, offending everyone
THE RIGHT OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITY. the right to sleep under a bridge

The problem with lists like these is that they define only dimensions of
perception, variables, but by implication they specify some particular
state of the variables that is "best." The right level for one person is
too much for a second and not enough for a third. The right level for today
and this person is the wrong level for tomorrow and someone else.

Even the perceptions that go with the words are different in different
people. When a manufacturer supports the "Right to Work" act, a labor union
opposes it, because the words mean one thing to the manufacturer and
another to the union. When an inhabitant of South Los Angeles asks for the
right of equal opportunity to work at rebuilding the wreckage, a white
construction worker objects because it will deny him or her equal
opportunity to make a buck doing the job at a higher wage. Freedom of
choice is an empty promise for a person without the means of implementing
any choices; for others, it's an excuse for maintaining segregation and
shielding themselves from contamination by the rabble. A "sound" use of
time and talent means, to some people, not wasting your time on fripperies
like music and art and theorizing, but devoting your efforts to maximizing
(somebody else's) profits. To a lot of people, honesty means that it's OK
to cheat the IRS or a business rival, but not to cheat me.

The names of standards refer to things that are not words, but are shifty
attitudes that vary with circumstances. All that makes sense of any kind of
standard set to any momentary level is the system concept under which it is
adopted. I thought that Ed Ford's recent discussion of standards hit a lot
of nails on the head.

I also thought that Rick's statement hit a nail on the head: you can't set
a reference signal to a constant value and expect the higher systems to go
on working properly. They work by VARYING lower reference signals, not by
picking one setting and sticking to it. This isn't "moral relativism;" it's
simply recognition that the system concepts that organize and use
principles are more important than any particular principle, or any
particular state in which to maintain a given kind of principle. Moral
rules followed blindly and implacably can generate the cruelest of all
human aberrations. Bruce Nevin and Greg Williams came up with some nice
examples of general rules (snatch the child out of the street) that don't
make sense in different situations (a motorcycle gang riding down the

The only reference signals (and perceptions) that can't be changed freely
as required by higher levels are system concepts. And the only reason we
can't vary our reference signals and perceptions at that level with
complete freedom is that there seems to be no place to stand except another
system concept -- if there is a higher viewpoint, it's impossible to put
into words or systematize. If there's free will, the only place it can work
is at the top, because everything else is dependent and interconnected. And
even at the top, we're free only to be human.


Bill P.

[From: Bruce Nevin (Mon 92048 12:49:17)]

(Martin Taylor 920607 1710) --

Welcome back, Martin.

The discussion of "standards" substituted that term for "principle" as
in level 10. Standards meaning "norms" or "conventions" can be on any
level. Modelling others to facilitate cooperative action with them
involves perceptions on many levels.

The convergence of your discussion with the prior one is perhaps this:
that people are aware of norms, conventions, and models of others mostly
on the principle level, the level at which they attribute motivations
and make moral judgments.


[From Bill Powers (920614)]

Martin Taylor, Rick Marken, Ed Ford, whoever else is into standards --

Just a few ideas to add to the standards discussion.

Any given standard, such as "helping the poor," has at least five aspects:

1. The verbal description or name of the standard ("Helping the poor").

2. The perceptual meaning of the description or name of the standard:
   that is, how you can tell when a poor person is being "helped."

3. The reference level for the standard: that is, what degree of the
   helping is the desireable degree.

4. The program of actions used to achieve the standard: that is, what
   actions will help the poor to the desired degree.

5. The system concepts exemplified by the standards: that is, the
   concept of human nature and of society that defines the goal achieved
   by helping the poor.

Most discourses on standards focus on the verbal description or name of the
standard, under the (incorrect) assumption that it indicates the same
principle to everyone. So when old-style Democrats speak of helping the
poor, they mean giving them money, advice, and services that the poor
people can't obtain for themselves. When Republicans speak of the same
thing, they mean doing something that will eliminate the need for giving
things to poor people -- enabling them to get what they need for
themselves, teaching "self-reliance."

The Republicans quite rightly claim that simply giving things to poor
people will keep them dependent and poor (they don't learn how to control
their own lives). The Democrats quite rightly point out that simply
demanding self-reliance ends up punishing people for being poor and creates
callousness toward human suffering. Republicans assume that people work in
order to maintain a viable economic system that's essential to everyone,
and because of financial rewards and incentives. They assume that the
healthy society is one in which the members compete for wealth and
predominant positions or power. Democrats assume that people work to
improve the quality of their lives outside the economic framework, and that
the healthy society is one in which nobody has to labor overly long, under
unpleasant or dangerous conditions, or in a state of social inferiority. At
least that is my view of the "canonical" positions of the two parties. I
speak, of course, as a time traveler from a different era.

It's impossible to agree on standards without agreeing on system concepts:
the kind of society we live in and our own human natures. Simply hurling
the names of standards back and forth and claiming that they are good gets
us nowhere. Even agreeing on the means of achieving standards requires a
shared concept of human nature. Those who enjoy power and wealth quite
rightly appreciate the advantages of these things; they advocate principles
based on the assumption that everyone would be better off with power and
wealth, and principles that will help those who already have power and
wealth to keep them. Those who value other goals assume correctly that
nobody is permanently better off with power and wealth unless everybody has
them, and favor principles that spread the wealth even at the expense of
those who lose out by accepting the principles.

When we speak of standards as shared principles, we tend to forget how
little of this sharing there really is. The story of standards in human
societies is a story of conflict, not sharing. This is true is all sizes of
groups from the dating couple through the family through a whole country.
Even when people say, in words, that they agree on a standard, they
perceive it differently; even when they perceive it in more or less the
same way, they differ on the reference level. We can agree that many poor
people need immediate financial aid. Which people? How much? To be spent
how? In whose Congressional district?


The other comment I have is more general. We tend to speak of standards in
terms of their effects when they are shared, in terms of their roles as
characteristics of a society, or in terms of what they do for social
interaction. From the theoretical point of view, however, the questions are
not just WHAT standards are adopted and WHY they are adopted, but what a
standard IS, and HOW it can have any effect.

How does a standard influence the behavior of any individual? How does it
get communicated? What has to happen inside an individual before the words
describing a standard come to have meaning to that person? And what has to
happen inside the person in order for any particular interpretation of such
a description to attain the force of a reference condition? Without these
processes internal to the individual, no standard can have either meaning
or effect. We have to understand standards as they exist in and operate in
a single person before we can understand how they work in a world populated
by many such persons.
Finally, we often speak of the advantages or influences that standards have
in a society. I think that very often, these advantages or influences are
hypothetical -- they're what SHOULD occur. But I doubt that such things
very often DO occur.


Bill P.