John N. Warfield
George Mason University
Mail Stop 1B2
Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4444
>April 30, 1997

© John N. Warfield, 1997

Bureaucrats (in government, industry, and education) are essential, pivotal actors in today's intricate world. Frequently they are overworked, and lack the time to read or study much beyond the immediate or anticipated needs of their daily work. Because they are vital players in affairs affecting many people, the potential benefits of their increased understanding are high. But the volume of material to choose from is overwhelming.

The author has been studying complexity for almost 30 years. During this period, a great deal of literature has been read. Now it is possible to select from that very large literature those readings which are believed to be the most valuable available. In what follows, I identify these readings, and I give a short description of why I think each is valuable.

The reader who reads only one of these will probably not gain a lot. The greatest value will come in thinking about how these readings reinforce each other: how the ideas from one merge readily with ideas from others; and how the total vision can provide a degree of coherence and a level of depth not likely to be gained in any other way. It is not a short-term adventure.

In what follows, the various key authors are listed in alphabetical order, and a brief discussion of the nature of their work is given. In a few instances, "Supportive References" are identified for a particular author. These support and, sometimes, extend the thinking of the key author. After the total listing concludes, a second section presents briefly a perspective on how these authors reinforce each other to yield a picture having some contemporary policy relevance.

The central message is this. There now exists a scientific basis and an implementable process, thoroughly documented and tested, for enhancing greatly the ability of people and organizations to cope with the complexity of today’s society. But this basis and this process are relatively submerged by a plethora of ill-based panaceas that have much greater visibility. The steady diet of massive social waste somehow does not get connected to the use of poor processes. Perhaps if bureaucrats can be challenged to dig deeper into the fruits of history, this situation could change.


Aristotle (384 B. C.-322 B. C.)

Aristotle I. The Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics (1938 + reprints later)

Translated by H. Cooke and H. Tredennick (1983)

London: William Heinemann, Ltd.

ISBN: 0 434 99325 5 (British Edition)

In ancient times, few of the concepts that we have come to take for granted had even been identified. Here in this classical volume we see the birth of the revolutionary idea of categories. Also we see the birth of the syllogism: a 3-component bit of literary magic, showing how we can articulate a small piece of deduction;  how, with two given ideas, we can infer a third.

While resting on his breaks from serving as adviser to Alexander the Great, Aristotle spent much of his time in thought, and provided the beginnings of a line of thinking about thought that are now heavily embedded in our Western ways.

With the presentation of the syllogism, scholars were engaged for well over a thousand years in examining variations of this triadic form.

Graham Wallis offered the following view of the syllogism:

"To understand what the invention of the syllogism gave to mankind we must compare it with that world of thought which it helped to supersede, the incalculable divinities, the contradictory maxims and proverbs, the disconnected fragments of observation and experience which make the apparatus of the primitive mind."

Graham Wallas (1858-1932)

The idea of categories is now so commonplace that we view categories as though they had the same kind of existence as a toothbrush, a nail, an automobile, etc. Yet, in most or perhaps all instances, categories do not exist as observable entities. You cannot photograph them, you cannot touch them, and you cannot put them on the scales. To the extent that they are thought to be real, one must begin to recognize now that there is likely to be a heavy penalty for choosing poor categories or for misusing those in common practice (see Hayek below).

I have been told that Bertrand Russell talked about "hardening of the categories" in the same way we talk about "hardening of the arteries"; i.e., a situation presaging severe difficulties, or perhaps death.

Ashby, W. Ross

Ross Ashby (1958) "Requisite Variety and its Implications for the Control of Complex Systems," Cybernetica 1(2), 1-17.

Supportive References:

a) J. N. Warfield (1986) "Dimensionality", Proc. 1986 International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics 2, New York: IEEE, 1118-1121.

b) J. N. Warfield and A. N. Christakis (1987) "Dimensionality", Systems Research 4(2), 127-137.

A scholar of systems and cybernetics, Ross Ashby conceived the concept of "requisite variety". This concept seems to be very fundamental to the resolution of problematic situations. The basic idea is possibly best seen by imagining that if we want to correct reliably some undesirable situation, we have to have access to just as much variety in designing a course of action as there is in the situation we are trying to resolve.

If you think of the situation as your enemy, having a number of different lethal weapons at its disposal in trying to outwit you, you then require precisely as many countermeasures as your enemy has weapons. Imagine that the situation can defeat you even if you can overcome all but one of the weapons available to it. That one remaining can defeat you.

A real-world example of this is described by the contemporary author, Peter Senge, who talks about the advent of commercial air transportation. Several organizations were trying to come up with an airplane that had the necessary capabilities to be adequate for commercial air transportation. Imagine that the problematic situation was the enemy, and that it had four ways to prevent the achievement of a suitable aircraft. One well-known firm was able to overcome three of these, but that was not enough. Finally the Douglas company discovered how to resolve the situation by incorporating the requisite four factors in its design. What was the result? The legendary DC-3.

Staying with airplanes, suppose that you were designing a control system for an aircraft. Typically what designers do is to design for each of three possible types of motion (degrees of freedom). If you designed for control of two of them, but not for three, the airplane would probably crash. If you tried to control four or more, your aircraft design business would probably crash.

Bales, R. F.

R. F. Bales (1951) Interaction Process Analysis, Cambridge: Addison-Wesley.

Robert F. Bales was a pioneer in observing the behavior of people in groups. He found that he could create categories of behavior and, by observing groups in action, he could categorize for each member, the type of behavior exhibited in each observable act of communication arising from each member of the group. Then he could portray the behaviors in profiles.

It was then found possible for the individual to articulate and learn about his or her own behavior, and make a conscious judgment as to whether the individual wanted to continue that type of behavior. In other words, a powerful cognitive aid to self-management came into view. While the Bales work also provided much grist for the educational mill, its potential value could be greatest in self-modification of behavior by individual persons, if only they knew how to become aware of, and interpret, their own behavior.

It would also be possible, if enough studies were done, to develop benchmark profiles (distinct from Myers-Briggs profiles) of particular kinds of people; e.g., professionals, and to judge what kinds of profiles seem to accompany various types of success or failure. In this way, broader benchmarks suitable for making educational practice decisions could evolve.

Black, J. G.

J. G. Black ( 1968), The Theory of Committees and Elections, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Many things are taken for granted in this world. Yet there have been times when some of the most basic practices were questioned. In the era of the French Revolution, Condorcet studied ways of voting. Over a century later, Lewis Carroll, famous for Alice in Wonderland, examined many different voting schemes, and showed that every one of them could be covertly and/or conspiratorially misused by skillful manipulators.

Black studied various aspects of committees and elections and, in an appendix to his book, showed the various analyses that Lewis Carroll (a professor writing under a pen name) had constructed to show the vulnerability of the voting schemes, suggesting that these vulnerabilities could be and (on some occasions) had been exploited to circumvent the intent of the use of the voting plan.

At the very least, questions are raised here about what kinds of voting procedures should be used whenever participation is appropriate, to help assure that processes are above-board.

Bochenski, I. M.

I. M. Bochenski (1970), A History of Formal Logic, New York: Chelsea

(Published originally by the University of Notre Dame Press.).

A Polish priest spent many years of his life writing a history of formal logic. This history traces mankind's efforts to learn more about how to become effective in articulating and polishing thought and reasoning, and how to make it more transparent. Beginning with writings stemming from around 400 B. C., Bochenski traces the history of developments in logic up until around 1930. To make his writing more authentic, Bochenski regularly provides quotations directly from the numerous authors that came into his purview.

It would be very hard to find a more scholarly, trustworthy book. It is truly rare to be able to get, in one book, an evolutionary overview of more than 2,000 years of history of work in a field.

Because thought is so vital in the human enterprise, it is a tragedy that so little is done in our educational system to operationalize the wisdom found in this work. It is likewise somewhat tragic to observe how little attention is given to the study of ways to enhance communication and reasoning in our educational system, based on two millennia of scholarly work.

Boulding, K. F.

Kenneth Boulding (1966) The Impact of the Social Sciences, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

The word "beloved" is probably the most appropriate one to describe the late Kenneth Boulding. A shrewd observer of human activities, a poet, too kind to do more than hint at human frailties, Boulding was honored by repeated election to high offices in scholarly societies. Educated as an economist, he quickly rose well above that disciplinary status to be a broad thinker, and remain a good scholar. In this little book, he explains the nature of social science. He hints at its weaknesses, and makes a plea for tolerance of the practitioners of and products of social science.

Braybrooke, D. and Charles E. Lindblom

D. Braybrooke and C. E. Lindblom (1963), A Strategy of Decision, New York: The Free Press.

Put a philosopher and a political scientist together to talk about decisionmaking and what do you get? You get a scholarly justification for "muddling through", elevated by giving it the name of "disjointed incrementalism".

For people who work in a field loosely described as "systems science", and who advocate holistic approaches to issues, this book is anathema. It is the most tightly reasoned argument against systems thinking that is available in the literature. It is so overwhelming in its criticism that the systemists have essentially ignored the book; never responding to it, and pretending that it does not exist. Similar criticism has been offered by the constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe at Harvard University.

While the criticism is very much warranted, the work does suffer at the extremes of its depth. By looking at matters too shallowly, it appears to be much more authoritative than it deserves to be. But its arguments are too strong to be ignored.

Conant, J. B.

J. B. Conant (1964), Two Modes of Thought, New York: Trident.

The jury is out on whether a chemist and one-time president of Harvard University, Conant's warning to America of dire consequences of continuing to confuse science with technology will bring about those consequences. Conant not only stresses the importance of seeing the clear distinction (hopefully with the idea of strengthening each of these two key areas so important to American culture and to the rest of the world), but also presents eye-catching examples of how these distinctions are reflected in human behavior. For example, the extremely different points of view of Clerk Maxwell (the British scientist of electromagnetic theory and other areas of physics) and of Thomas A. Edison (the famous American inventor and close friend of Henry Ford) dramatically demonstrate the kind of negative impact that occurs due to friction between the two groups. A similar point of view has been enunciated by Vickers (below).

But more important than the friction is the insensitivity of large sponsors of inquiry who not only confuse science and technology in the allocation of their monies, but nowadays give much more weight to visibly productive technology, threatening to eradicate by neglect the weak and overly-politicized, bureaucratic, scientific establishment of America. By supposing that the rapid advance of the great American inventions is matched by advances in American science, allocators of resources not only slight science, but they display an indifference to the lessons of history of just our own twentieth century.

It has not been many years since refugees from Hitler and Mussolini came to our shores and created the inventions that helped shorten the war and save the world from further tyranny. Yet the generation of Einstein, Fermi (a major contributor to understanding the transistor), von Neumann, and others is no longer available on the American scene. The one great American scientific research institution, Bell Laboratories, has been effectively defanged by court decisions; ironically decisions that allow competitors to use the great, older products of the Bell Laboratories to gang up on AT&T in the communications business.

This is not an argument to say that the court decision was wrong. Rather it is an argument that, because of the unique nature of the Bell Laboratories, the impact of that decision might extend far beyond what Judge Greene imagined.

It may become part of the history of the ultimate decline in American science-dependent technology, just as the many bad decisions made in the past caused declines in the American steel and automotive industries.

Delbecq, A. L.; A. H. Van De Ven; and D. H. Gustafson

Group Techniques for Program Planning: A Guide to Nominal Group and DELPHI Processes (1975). Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.

In the last half of the twentieth century, we have seen many "gurus" emerge from our business schools or from the management consulting arena. These typically relate to ways to improve the performance of organizations (one of those "categories"). It is rare to see coming from a business school a process (NGT) that is so well-designed as that one, taking account of a deep knowledge of human behavior at the individual level, and at the group level; with such strong awareness of the importance of in-depth communication and thoughtful attention to individual psyches.

The Nominal Group Technique (NGT) is the best available process for getting ideas from groups, improving the comprehension and articulation of these ideas, and making a set of ideas available for further development.

The one flaw in the process lies in its final step. The last step requires that people vote on priorities involving a large list of possible options. Other research establishes that step as flawed. If it is omitted from NGT in deference to cognitively-sensitive ways of prioritizing, all will be well with this process.

Many people who work as group facilitators do not understand this process. They think that parts of it can be changed to make it more efficient. They mistakenly believe that computerization of the process will add value to it.

Downs, Anthony

Anthony Downs (1967), Inside Bureaucracy, Boston: Little, Brown.

The behavior of bureaucrats as bureaucrats is predictable. This is the thesis of this book, and the author demonstrates clearly why their behavior is predictable. It is a pity that the late

W. Edwards Deming did not emphasize the value of reading this book as a precursor to comprehending his valuable assertions about organizations and about quality.

As is true with Bales’ work, the student of this book will find in it a number of ideas for how to modify his or her own behavior, to make the individual bureaucrat a better contributor to the effectiveness of bureaucratic organizations. The lawmaker may also find in its pages keys to how to change legislative processes; or at least to find reasons to decide that the processes should be changed, to reflect a more comprehensive view of human behavior.

Etzioni, Amatai (1977-78)

Amatai Etzioni (1977-78), "Societal Overload: Sources, Components, and Corrections", Political Science Quarterly 92(4), 607-631.

In our study of complexity, we have developed a set of four categories that is called "The Work Program of Complexity". This program consists of the following:

Description of the problematic situation

Diagnosis of the problematic situation

Design of a corrective system


Description requires awareness. The strength of Etzioni's paper is that it awakens the reader to the impact of societal overload. The diagnosis is not as good as the description, but it is not bad. The weakness of the paper lies in its assumption that the social scientist is capable of singly designing the corrective system. The very factors that Etzioni’s description identify are, ironically, among those that preclude a successful individually-produced design.

This paper can be read for its power to awaken.

Foucault, Michel

Michel Foucault (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Translator from the French)(1993), The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language, New York: Barnes & Noble (earlier publication in 1969 and 1971).

The French have had a lot more influence on the world than the world is prepared to recognize.

(See Hayek and LeMoigne below.)

A couple of decades ago a "movement" arose in France which is now popularly called the "deconstruction" movement in America. The name of Jacques Derrida is often prominent in discussions of this movement. Another name popularly associated with it is that of Michel Foucault. Foucault, who chaired at the Collège de France the program in the history of thought, is often said to be part of this group as well.

The American academic liberal arts community deserves a thorough spanking for its allegiance to this movement, at least in part because of its misrepresentation of the movement.

Basically the movement says that most written knowledge is severely deficient, and it is time to "deconstruct" this knowledge. Going a little further, it is time to stop favoring some knowledge over other knowledge, since all of it is deficient.

Let us pose the following:

a) (Awareness.) All knowledge is deficient.

b) (Dump Mathematics and Science; Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom.) Because all knowledge is deficient, we should in our universities teach all of it and favor none of it, and, in certain areas that are more or less single-minded, such as mathematics, we should stop favoring those subjects entirely; and dispense with, or downgrade substantially, attention given in higher education to a lot of what has been enshrined, such as physics and other physical sciences.

c) (Go for High-Quality, Integrated Reconstruction). Because all knowledge is deficient, we should integrate competing clusters and upgrade the entire mix, thereby not presenting the isolated and numerous components for the poor student to cope with, but rather should structure the best from each into a newly-developed set of presentations for study and improvement. To do this, a high-quality, scientifically-based, integrative process is indispensible.

I find it easy to accept a), but only along the lines clearly laid out by Charles Sanders Peirce (see below). To me b) and c) are polar opposites. I strongly favor c), and I believe that where b) is accepted it is for bureaucratic reasons that cannot be tolerated.

Foucault himself, in this reference, presents beautifully the arguments for a); and gives many hints that the best course to pursue is c), although he does not know how to do it.

Goudge, T. A.

Thomas A. Goudge (1969) The Thought of C. S. Peirce, New York: Dover.

Some scholars are not adequately recognized during their lifetime. But sometimes, long after their demise, others begin to write profusely about their work.

The American philosopher, scientist, logician, polymath, Charles Sanders Peirce is one of those people. One of the first to write with comprehension about Peirce's work was Professor Goudge of the University of Toronto. His book offers a good initial overview. Others will be mentioned below (see Peirce).

Harary, Frank

Frank Harary, R. F. Norman, and D. Cartwright (1965), Structural Models: An Introduction to the Theory of Directed Graphs, New York: Wiley.

This book is a milestone in the history of thought. It brings together in one integrated work several branches of mathematics whose value, individually, is much less than that created when these branches are integrated. What is integrated here is the formal logic developed over 2,000 years along with the graphical representation of patterns created from that logic. Moreover this work provides a test for the consistency of the logic displayed in the patterns.

The analytical scheme presented here laid the mathematical basis for the later development of Interpretive Structural Modeling. The latter provided the theory and algorithms needed to make possible the construction of the logic patterns described by Harary, et al.


Hayek, Friedrich A.

F. A. Hayek, (1955), The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason, New York: The Free Press.

Ask American academics and business leaders this question: "Who was Hayek?"

Most American academics will probably say: "Never heard of him." Many American economists will probably say "Oh, he is that darling of the conservatives, a member of the Austrian School, whose products are mostly taught at the University of Chicago and at Auburn."

Several business leaders will have heard of him, and may even honor him.

But most of them will not know about this book, because most of Hayek's work was in economics, where he was a contemporary of the much-better-known, charismatic, and much-less-scholarly Maynard Keynes, whose views dominated American governmental economic thinking for many years (American executives like fashion accessories).

In this book, Hayek writes, with his usual in-depth documentation of sources, about the advent of the field of sociology (in France), under the impact of Henri Saint-Simon and the even greater impact of Saint-Simon’s student, Auguste Comte. The views of Comte, according to Hayek, provided the conceptual basis for the rise of both communism and to a lesser extent of other totalitarian forms; and strongly influenced those better-known individuals who are usually mentioned in those arenas, such as Marx, Hegel, Hitler, etc..

Comte’s intense views also greatly affected the way social scientists chose to study human organizations and individual human behaviors, and continue to do so at this late date.

This book is so well-written, and packed with so many heavy insights, that it is probably not a good idea to offer any quotations here, because they would emphasize inadequately the total importance of the work.

While Hayek was a friend of Karl Popper, the European philosopher, it appears that Hayek was not aware of the work of Charles Sanders Peirce. If he had known about Peirce's works, he could have strengthened his work even more. (Popper himself eventually spoke highly of Peirce.)

Hedberg, B. L. T.

B. L. T. Hedberg, P. C. Nystrom, and W. H. Starbuck, "Camping on Seesaws: Prescriptions for a Self-Designing Organization", Administrative Science Quarterly 21, March, 41-65.

While it is rare to find a scholarly work in business-oriented journals, it is not impossible. Here we see a work that is both interesting and accurate in its diagnostic. The authors argue that the best way to improve organizations is to install in them processes that are sufficiently high in quality that they enable the organization to redesign itself periodically or perhaps continuously.

The prescription seems to have found a partial allegiance today. The part that was not taken

seriously had to do with installing in organizations high-quality enabling processes. In place of that, we find the big accounting companies providing "reengineering" services. The idea of facilitating the internal redesign of organizations is too threatening for selfish high-level executives, who do not understand the nature of the role today’s executives should be playing; as Deming has repeatedly stated.

Janis, I. L.

I. L. Janis (1982), Groupthink--Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascos, Boston: Mifflin.

This work establishes firmly the concept of bad decision-making through the use of poor group processes. Even a very small component of the "Groupthink" concept, known as the "Abilene Paradox" has now become a part of the repertoire of the management consulting practitioners.

(1982) Stress, Attitudes, and Decisions, New York: Praeger.

Janis presents here in more detail the concepts of Groupthink, in relation to the general positioning of managers in organizations.

Supportive References.

G. T. Allison (1971) Essence of Decision, Boston: Little, Brown.

J. N. Warfield (1994) A Science of Generic Design: Managing Complexity Through

Systems Design, Second Edition, Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press (first edition,

Salinas, CA: Intersystems, 1990).

John N. Warfield and Carol Tiegen (1993) Groupthink, Clanthink, Spreadthink, and Linkthink (1993), Fairfax: IASIS.

Lala, R. M.

R. M. Lala (1981) The Creation of Wealth: The Tata Story, Bombay: IBH Publishing Company.

This book is an inspirational story of how a large corporation can be built from the ground up, in the combined spirit of entreneurship and humanistic capitalism; and how its strengths go beyond the grasp of socialist government. The title portrays its emphasis.


Lasswell, Harold

Harold B. Lasswell (1971) A Pre-View of the Policy Sciences, New York: American Elsevier.

Supportive Reference:

John N. Warfield, "The Corporate Observatorium: Sustaining Management Communication and

Continuity in an Age of Complexity", in Tanik, M. M., et al (Eds.), Integrated Design

and Process Technology, IDPT-Vol. 2, 1996. (Proc. Society for Design and Process Science, Austin, TX), 169-172.

The possibility of broad-based learning about very large systems becomes more realistic when what is called here "The Lasswell Triad" is understood.

Harold Lasswell (1902-1978) was a political scientist, one of the foremost authorities in that field. As a faculty member, he taught law and political science at the University of Chicago, Yale, and elsewhere. Author of many books and papers, he originated key ideas relevant to the effective design and understanding of public policy, which remain essentially dormant today.

He expressed one of his key views as follows:

"Our traditional patterns of problem-solving are flagrantly defective in presenting the future in ways that contribute insight and understanding"

The Lasswell Triad is responsive to this view, in part. It consists of these three concepts:

The decision seminar (taking place in a specially-designed facility) (Lasswell, 1960, 1971)

The social planetarium (Lasswell, 1963)

The prelegislature, or pre-congress (Lasswell, 1963)

In brief, here are the key ideas involved in this Triad, adapted to correlate with material in the supportive reference.

The Situation Room. First, a special facility needs to be put in place, where people can work together on design of complex policy (or other) issues, and where the display facilities have been carefully designed into the facility, so that they provide prominent ways for the participants to work with the future "in ways that contribute insight and understanding".

The Prelegislature. Second, this special facility should be used extensively to develop high-quality designs long before legislatures or corporate bodies ever meet to try to resolve some complex issue facing them by designing a new system (e.g., this is a sensible way to go about designing a health-care system to which the political establishment can repair for insights and such modifications as seem essential).

The Observatorium. Once a good system design has been accepted, the observatorium is designed and established so that people can walk through a sequential learning experience, in which they gain both an overview and an in-depth understanding of the system that has been designed and which, most likely, will be prominent in their own lives.

The observatorium is a piece of real estate, whose building interior can be loosely compared with that of the Louvre, in that it contains a variety of rooms, and facilitates rapid familiarization with their contents by the persons who walk through that property. Further analogy comes from the recognition of the importance of wall displays (with electronic adjuncts), large enough in size to preclude any necessity to truncate communications; and tailored to help eradicate or minimize complexity in understanding, both broadly and in depth, the nature of the large organization, its problems, its vision, and its ongoing efforts to resolve its difficulties. Comparison with the planetarium for envisaging a broad swatch of the sky may be self-evident.

LeMoigne, J. L.

Jacques Louis LeMoigne, (1981), "The Paradoxes of the Contemporary Engineer", European Journal of Engineering Education 6, 105-115.

LeMoigne traces the foundations of education in engineering to decisions made in France when the first civil engineering department was created. LeMoigne explains that the choice of direction was between Da Vinci’s direction and the direction of Auguste Comte. Comte, he who initiated a philosophy that led to totalitarianism (see Hayek above), also won the day when it came to instruction in engineering. LeMoigne says that this same approach was exported to the United States, where it had major impact on how engineering education grew and is conducted, even today. As Hayek states, this approach got its start in the Ecole Polytechnique, (where positivism dug in and erected its as yet unbreached "Maginot Line"). So we analyze and quantify, but do not do creative designs in our engineering schools.

March, J. G. and H. A. Simon

J. G. March and H. A. Simon (1958), Organizations, New York: Wiley.

Described as the first book on organizations, this is a classic work which contains glimmers of the possibility of using structure-based thinking and graphics to portray the complexity of organizations.

Miller, George

G. A. Miller (1956), "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limitations on Our Capacity for Processing Information", Psychology Review 63(2), 81-97.

Supportive References::

H. A. Simon (1974), "How Big is a Chunk?", Science 183, 482-488.

J. N. Warfield (1988), "The Magical Number Three--Plus or Minus Zero", Cybernetics and Systems

19, 339-358.

I suppose that the beginning of self-enlightenment is to learn about what limits our behavior. We can learn our physical limitations by watching ourselves. We can learn by watching others that the whole species shares these, with modest gradation from one person to another, and in that way we can accept our limitations as species-related; rather than idiosyncratic.

With mental limitations, it is not so simple. Miller has told us of experiments that reveal our inability to bring into our short-term memory (our mental "scratch-pad" or analysis pad) more than about seven items. A supportive author, H. A. Simon, repeated Miller’s experiments, and suggested that the number of items may be closer to five. Another supportive author, Warfield, mentioned that if you count interactions among base items in the counted set of ideas, the number of base ideas is probably three, and you use up the rest of your credit in thinking about the four possible interaction combinations.

With this contribution, Miller started a train of thought that seems to render this message: possibly groups and organizations also have verifiable limitations that ought to be considered in establishing behavioral patterns for getting high-quality work done.

National Society of Scholars [see the next bullet entry]

The New York Academy of Sciences

Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, and Martin W. Lewis (Eds.) (1996), The Flight from Science and Reason, New York: The New York Academy of Sciences, V. 775.

This book offers a collection of papers written by a variety of authors. The book describes what is seen as a dramatic deterioration in higher education, accompanied by the kind of behavior that one would expect from those who believe a) and b) under Foucault (above).

A similar argument has begun to appear in many places. To mention only one, the National Society of Scholars, Princeton, New Jersey, has published a report comparing the changes in American higher education from the base year of 1914 to the present, emphasizing the gradual reduction or elimination of subjects such as logic, history, mathematics, and physical science in deference to political correctness or driver training.


Peirce, Charles Sanders

C. S. Peirce, Reasoning and the Logic of Things (Kenneth Laine Ketner, Ed.)(1992), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

(1877) "The Fixation of Belief", Popular Science Monthly.

(1878) "How to Make Our Ideas Clear", Popular Science Monthly.

Supportive References:

Thomas A. Goudge (1969) The Thought of C. S. Peirce, New York: Dover.

James Hoopes (Ed.) (1991), Peirce on Signs, Chapel Hill, NC: University of N. Carolina Press.

Karl-Otto Apel (1981), Charles S. Peirce: From Pragmatism to Pragmaticism, Amherst: University

of Massachusetts Press.

J. Brent (1993) Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life, Bloomington, IN: Indiana U. Press.

R. W. Burch (1991) A Peircean Reduction Thesis, Lubbock, TX, Texas Tech U. Press.

I know of no author whose work was so vast and so comprehensive that a set of 30 volumes of rather large books appears to be about the right size to encompass half of it. The Indiana University Press has, so far, produced around 6 volumes, enroute to the goal to be attained quite a few years from now.

There is probably more foundational thinking in his writings than in all the rest of the western literature combined. John Dewey, who was not that skilled in the formalisms, described his work as "a gold mine for future generations".

Polanyi, Michael

Michael Polanyi (1958), Personal Knowledge, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Polanyi talks about the nature of knowledge and how it might be regarded as personalized to the individual, rather than as more-or-less-enshrined as the property of the collective. The widely-acclaimed concept of objectivity and the presumed capacity of the individual to put it on and take it off like a coat are both questioned here in a thoughtful way. The ascendency of the collective and the concept of objectivity are both key parts of the philosophy of Comte (see above, Hayek, LeMoigne).

Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)

Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Criticism". The Poems of Alexander Pope, (John Butt, Ed.),

New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963.

As a young man with health problems, Pope spent a lot of time studying the classics, including his time in translating Homer. In this poem he aggregates much of the wisdom of the ancients, wisdom that is still very relevant today.

Supportive Reference:

Warfield, J. N. (1995), "SPREADTHINK: Explaining Ineffective Groups", Systems Research 12(1), 5-14.

Rukeyser, Muriel

Muriel Rukeyser (1942, 1988 reprint), Willard Gibbs, Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow.

Scholars might agree that the two greatest native-born American scientists were J. Willard Gibbs and Charles Sanders Peirce; at least among those born in the 19th century. With one studying at Harvard, the other at Yale, much of the reputation that these institutions have today might be attributed to work that they produced.

This book is a valuable biography, partly because of the insight it yields into the state of American science.

Salk, Jonas

Jonas Salk (1985), Anatomy of Reality: Merging of Intuition and Reason, New York: Praeger

(originally published by Columbia University Press).

The late Jonas Salk, known for his work on polio vaccine, argues that major changes in society will be necessary for its survival. His proposal involves moving away from intuition only or reason only and relying, instead, on a well-arranged synergistic coupling of intuition and reason.

Schelling, Thomas C.

Thomas C. Schelling (1971), "On the Ecology of Micromotives", Public Interest 25, 61-98.

Schelling has produced a down-to-earth paper, in which he illustrates how a wide variety of minuscule actions, motivated by self-interest, regularly frustrate and impose externalized burdens on the general public.

Senge, Peter

Peter Senge (1990), The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Doubleday Doran.

In taking a step toward the incorporation of systems thinking into organizational practice, Senge has, to some extent, violated the "code of the hills", which reflects a desire to keep anything that even sounds like it might have some scientific base, out of the in-group business school literature; at least anything that might affect education in organizations and management.

At the same time, the amount of science reflected in the book is minimal, as the title itself suggests.

Senge has succeeded, where almost all other authors who write about systems have failed, in getting the attention of a large audience. The book is to deep knowledge much like surfing is to exploring sunken vessels holding buried treasure, but at least it gets people off the land and into the water. Wherever metaphors are sufficient to stir interest, this book is valuable.

Suppes, Patrick

Patrick Suppes (1960), Axiomatic Set Theory, New York: Dover.

Set theory is sometimes described as one of the three top products of mathematics. In this book, Suppes not only gives the foundations of the subject, but makes it clear that there is not a single set theory, but rather several set theories founded in different sets of assumptions.

Thompson, J. D.

J. D. Thompson (1967), Organizations in Action, New York: McGraw-Hill.

It is often said that it is not possible to predict behavior. Yet Thompson’s description of organizations in action provides a strong base for making predictions about the behavior of large business organizations; much in the same vein as Anthony Downs has done (see above) with respect to bureaucratic organizations (and especially "service" organizations, like government).

Vickers, Sir Geoffrey

Geoffrey Vickers (1983) Human Systems are Different, London: Harper and Rowe.

(1965, 1983) The Art of Judgment: A Study of Policy Making, London: Harper and Row

(original 1965, Chapman and Hall).

(1980) Responsibility--Its Sources and Limits, Seaside, CA: Intersystems.

Just as Kenneth Boulding was beloved, especially in America, Geoffrey Vickers was beloved and respected in England. The breadth and insights of Vickers, like those of several other authors noted in this paper, furnish a resource that is largely untapped in today’s society, but which has much to offer for extending the thought processes of readers.



Forward Motion. The early views of Aristotle on the categories and the syllogism flow forward in time, arising in various instances under various guises. The aspects of Aristotle’s thinking on the syllogism that provided the impetus for hundreds of years of exploration in logic are seen in chronological variety in Bochenski’s scholarly work.

Science as a Category. The evolution of the concept of categories retained primarily the basic idea, but did not sustain the particular set of categories set forth by Aristotle. The idea of categorizing human behavioral actions in a group setting could hardly have occurred to Aristotle. According to Boulding, even the idea of social system is relatively new. The social system, itself a category, arises in thought as a unique concern in the 18th and 19th centuries. Arising contemporaneously with the enhanced concept of science, and the beginnings of sociology as set forth by Comte, the intense technological emphasis of the last half of the twentieth century is lacking in earlier centuries. It is probably for this reason that when we focus on science (a category) as distinct from technology we find not only the best treatises on science (a la C. S. Peirce), but also some of the worst (a la Comte), coming from authors born in bygone centuries.

Distinctions Among Categories. When Conant finds it desirable to raise a caution flag about the failure to comprehend the deep-seated distinctions between science and technology in the 1960's, his timing seems to coincide with the rising tide of technology. Ironically his book appeared almost at the same time as the rapid ascendence of applications of the transistor--a device that has rapidly revolutionized communication and computer systems. It is ironic that this should occur, since the transistor is one of the first major inventions that could not have been created except for the microscopic level of scientific analysis that preceded its debut. (To appreciate that this is so, we can realize that the understanding of the junction in the transistor is based on the so-called Fermi-Dirac statistics; and that the diffusion equations from physics provide the essential analysis of the behavior. The technological contributions are largely related to manufacturing controls related to the distribution of minuscule amounts of impurities in a technologically-purified chemical element, and to advances in manufacturing technique at very small scale.) Still, on the technological side, the inventive ingenuity has made it possible to work with and design systems having transistors as circuit elements without being highly aware of or applying directly the underlying physics; at least in circuit applications.

The Loss of Visibility of Foundations. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of what went on in physical chemistry, related to the work of Willard Gibbs, as described by Rukeyser. When asked to comment on Gibbs work, two high-level representatives of the AT&T company were quoted as follows:

"The difficulty in describing the work of Gibbs lies precisely in the fact that it is fundamental. It is like a ponderous foundation on which so great a superstructure has been built that no one notices the foundation any more unless it is specifically pointed out. We do not describe Newton’s work in mechanics by citing a few phenomena of motion and saying that Newton explained them; rather, we speak of ‘Newtonian mechanics’ and imply that it extends to all such phenomena. It would be equally justifiable to speak of ‘Gibbsian thermodynamical chemistry.’ Many a famous chemist has gladly made public announcement that his own fame rests on his verifications of the predictions of Gibbs. If I were asked to indicate how the work of Gibbs has influenced the arts of communication, I might indicate our chemical laboratories, which are staffed by chemists every one of which was partially formed by Gibbs, even though it is probable that no one of them ever saw the master."

---F. B. Jewett, of the American Telephone & Telegraph company...with Karl K. Darrow, in Muriel Rukeyser: Willard Gibbs (full citation above), p. 422.

Missing Categories in System Design. Boulding and Ashby, both pioneers of the "systems movement", come at the modern concerns with systems (yet another category), one from the viewpoint of a social scientist, the other from the viewpoint of an enlightened engineer. Boulding is intensely aware of the shortcomings of the human side of matters, while Ashby sees clearly the shortcomings on the technological side of systems thinking. Ashby wishes to generalize his thinking about control systems to larger arenas, but without the excesses of other American engineers who, unlike Ashby, are buttoned down by Comte’s legacy, laid on them by their education. While the quantitative bent in engineering has been a great boon when it comes to creating modern technological artifacts, the price has been paid on the social side. Today’s software is still incredibly user-insensitive, although pressure for change has brought some improvements.

Influence of Constraints on Behavior. Braybrooke and Lindblom, Miller, Downs, Polanyi, Etzioni, and Janis, each with a somewhat different slant on things, contribute strongly to the social science literature; where the distinctions among individual psychology; individual, group, or collective behavior; validity of conceptualizing; and the impact of overbearing constraint-filled environments all enter into play.

As the defective human performance in working with large systems, especially sociotechnical systems come into view, we see four significant contributions toward learning how to do things better:

We have Miller telling us about constraints on the individual, Janis telling us about constraints on the group; Thompson and Downs telling us about institutionally-related constraints which can appear as organizational constraints

On the one hand, we have Hayek telling us how we reached our current state, what evils accompanied the journey, and what points of view need to be continually attacked and overcome

From another direction, Foucault tells us that we must do a lot better in the past, not leaving so much unsaid, and not giving so much exaggeration to ideas not adequately structured

And from still another direction, we see the beginnings of a recognition that it is possible, in the light of what has been learned from scholars like Bales and Boulding, to take specific steps to improve human processes, by shifting the emphasis from individual performance of the "lone wolf" type, to group activity, using a process designed to be relatively inoffensive and user friendly, along the lines illustrated by Delbecq, Van de Ven, and Gustafson.

With Delbecq, et al, looking at group collaborative work, we also approach the concept of organizational behavior. With Hedberg, et al; March and Simon; Downs; Lasswell, and Thompson raising our awareness of the behavior of people in large organizations, as often reflected in the behavior of the organization itself (a category, to which attributes now begin to be attached), as earlier was raised the awareness of individual behavior in a group setting as something that can be articulated, now we see the awakening of the idea that group and organizational behavior can be subjected to similarly careful scrutiny and, perhaps, enhanced significantly with the aid of well-designed group processes.

But Hayek and LeMoigne both raise in our awareness a consciousness of the history of the development of thought about the collective, and about education conditioned by the positivist paradigm, and its malevolent consequences. And Schelling gives us numerous illustrative examples of how individual behavior in the society often continues to be self-serving along lines that defeat concerns for the "commons". So in the same context with a growing evolutionary concern for more participative and creative work of collaborating groups, we are brought up short in recognition that the positivists are still at work, trying to take advantage of every trend that permits an opening for the quantification of all of the artifacts of society; and all in the name of "science and technology".

Vickers, recognizing the tendency to ignore the human dimensions of systems, also sets forth the theme of Conant, that science and technology are different, and that human systems are different from technological systems: themes that seem still to be far too muffled as we approach a new century (one which the computers seem to be having a hard time with).

A Few Themes for Thought. Five themes, interrelated, now begin to appear before us. These themes are as follows:

The Reconciliation of Economic and Social Change with Complexity in Modern Life

The Importance of Making the Organization More Effective

The Flawed Educational System and its Possible Remedies

The Rediscovery of Underused Legacy

The Indistinct Image of Science

Concerning the first of these, entrepreneurs and capitalists everywhere can probably benefit by reading Lala’s description of the evolution of the Tata Company in India. As to the merits or demerits of capitalism itself, no star shines brighter than that of Hayek, probably because Hayek both looked deeper, and questioned origins; something that is out of fashion in many quarters today, deconstructionism notwithstanding.

Much has been written about the second theme, and many consultants are making a living doing work with the aim cited. Often they do produce improvements but, in the light of how poorly some organizations have been managed, it is not a totally startling result that performance can be enhanced with new processes that lack a scientific basis.

My intention here is not to denigrate what the management gurus do; but one must say that if they could take the time to see not only what is being promoted, but also what is possible and what is not and why, orders of magnitude of improvement could be achieved.

Researchers Miller and Janis, from those cited above, have made clear that certain pathological conditions can, and do (much more frequently than imagined) severely limit and channel human decision-making behavior, both as individuals and in groups. Given that constraints are very likely to bound achievements, the superior ways to get improvement will be those that first identify the bounding constraints, and then find ways around them.

Concerning the flawed educational system, lately it has developed some of the same exaggerated commercial instincts that animate corporate entrepreneurs. One can value such activity, while still understanding how limiting it can be in terms of tradeoffs between short-term- and long-term improvement. The recent publication of the New York Academy of Science cites the severe decline, and some of the reasons behind it; which frequently relate to using the baleful (if subconscious) impact of positivism as an excuse for valueless deconstruction; avoiding the hard work and rewards that can accompany scientifically-based reconstruction.

The rediscovery of underused legacy is the only inexpensive key to resolving many of the issues of current concern. Seven milestones in the history of thought can be reviewed to see the long-term pattern of development that goes largely unused. Much of the pattern flows from Bochenski’s work cited above, beginning with Aristotle, on to Pierre Abélard, on to Gottfried Leibniz, continuing with Augustus De Morgan, finding a pinnacle in Charles Sanders Peirce, and moving into the work of Harary. Our own contributions to the computer-assisted, group-facilitated discovery and restructuring of knowledge provide the closing link to implementation of radical improvements in the issues dealt with here.

Hand in hand with the un-blurring of the presently indistinct image of science, goes the development of understanding of the philosophy and thoughts of Charles Sanders Peirce. Here is the person to whom Gibbs turned to review Gibbs’ development of vector analysis; probably because Gibbs knew that Peirce, possibly alone among the rest of the native scientific establishment, comprehended what was going on in science and; more importantly, understood deeply the nature of science. This legacy has been forgotten or possibly not learned, but it is readily available to those who will look for it. In the modern era, a few writers, such as Suppes, have understood the importance of the legacy, and contributed to its integrative articulation.

A Poetic Vision. In closing this essay, I note that almost 300 years ago the British poet, Alexander Pope, encompassed in parsimonious language, and in an integrated way, many of the ideas mentioned here in his famous "An Essay on Criticism". I leave a challenge to the reader to muse on that literary masterpiece, and take on the task of correlating what is said here and in the references with the contents of that work.