Computer-supported human science or humanistic computing science?

Steps toward the evaluation of a humanistic computing science

by Kristo Ivanov (version 141023-2135)

University of Umeå, Institute of Information Processing, S-901 87 UMEÅ (Sweden).

Phone +46 90 166030, Fax +46 90 166126, Email (Internet):


Ivanov, K. (1991). Computer-supported human science or humanistic computing science? Steps toward the evaluation of a humanistic computing science (UMADP-WPIPCS-41.91:3). Umeå University, Inst. of Information Processing. Rev. ed. of paper presented at the Tenth International Human Science Research Association Conference, August 18-22, 1991, Gothenburg. (

Revised in February 2004 and October 2014 in order to insert the bibliographic data for the paper, including the author's updated e-mail address: (, other departmental data above are obsolete), and in order to insert a linked table of contents. The footnotes that were originally translated automatically into html in an early version of the Word-program do not keep a consistent layout but keep the correct correspondence of note-numbers.

Efforts for improving the development and use of computer systems make use of a social and a humanistic view of computer support. This essay is dedicated to exploring how the term "humanistic" should be understood in this context of systems development. This is done by examining how humanism has been conceived in the history of philosophy, particularly as related to the historicist current of thought and Geisteswissenschaften, the structuralist criticism of historicism, the debates between these currents and their relation to so called constructivism, the study of language, attempts to develop a psychological humanism, and the gap between humanism and the formal sciences as embodied in the computer artifact, as well as the potential of pragmatist thinking and action for bridging this gap. Finally, I consider some political and religious dimensions of humanism, especially the Christian dimension against the background of particular problems in cooperative work. One main conclusion is that the term must be understood in terms of its full complexity and scope in order to assess what is gained by substituting this prestige word for the well established appeal to social science and systems science made by several schools of systems development. To center a project or new schools on the concept of humanism may enhance their political impact. In this respect humanism works the same way as any fortunate tautology that aims at launching a new product, school or leader into the market. The political impact creates an initial impetus and opportunities to discuss matters which are so important and vague as to gather in an eclectic mood disparate interests and world views. The net long run effect will depend upon the extent to which the whole process focuses attention on areas different from scientific and ethical issues which are being raised in better known context of contemporary social computing systems science.

humanism, computing, soft systems, development, participation, action research, constructivism, historicism, critical social theory, discourse, communicative action, linguistics, interpretive, structuralism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, pragmatism, postmodernism, theology, ethics, communication, interaction, hypersystems, dialectics, formal science, mathematics, logic, cooperative work.



Introduction: Social or humanistic
Philosophical and rational humanism
- Introduction and overview
- Historicist humanism
- Structuralistic humanism
- History vs. structure - Liberal ironic humanism
- Constructivism - Biological, pragmatic or cognitive
- Linguistic humanism and semiotics
- Psychological humanism
The gap to formal science and its computer body
Pragmatism - Bridging the gap?
The political and religious dimension
- Pragmatism and religion
- The process of secularization
- Profane critical social theory vs. phenomenology
Cooperative work - Examples of problems
- Eliciting cooperative friendship
- Neutralizing criticism
- Cooperative coping behavior
- Avoidance of conflict
- Concluding remarks
- Humanism and Christianity
Postscript - Glossary

Introduction: Social or humanistic?

The word social has become an adjective which robs of its clear meaning every phrase it qualifies and transforms it into a phrase of unlimited elasticity, the implications of which can always be distorted if they are unacceptable, and the use of which, as a general rule, serves merely to conceal the lack of real agreement between men regarding a formula upon which, in appearance, they are supposed to be agreed. To a large extent it seems to me that it is to the result of this attempt to dress up in political slogans in a guise acceptable to all tastes that phrases like "social market economy" and the like owe their existence. When we all use a word which always confuses and never clarifies the issue, which pretends to give an answer where no answer exists and, even worse, which is so often used as camouflage for aspirations that certainly have nothing to do with the common interest, then the time has obviously come for a radical operation, which will free us from the confusing influence of this magical incantation.

The paragraph above is a quotation which, for the purpose of its surprise effect, I took the liberty of not identifying outright as a quotation. It belongs to the beginning of an article with the title What is "Social"? - What Does it Mean? written by F.A. Hayek (1967, pp. 237-247), and published originally in 1957. [1]

Be this as it may, the present essay takes its impetus from my concern about the use of the adjective "humanistic" as applied to computing science, since here this word often seems to have the same vague meaning as "social". Some conceptions have gone to great pains in trying to anchor their use of the the words social and human. Some state, for instance that "social action systems" - without any closer discussion of the system concept - are seen by "critical social theory" as those the behavior of which is strongly affected by socially determined forces and constraints such as behavior-channeling influences of authority, norms, customs, habits and precedence: "We say 'social' rather than 'human' action in order to emphasize that all human behaviour is influenced by socially determined constraints. Some of these are conscious, such as documented office policies, procedures or public laws; others are sub-conscious, such as customs, habits, learned precedents, beliefs, managerial ideology, charismatic authority, and so forth" (Lyytinen, Klein, & Hirschheim, 1991, pp. 41, 43). Others who work within the tradition of "activity theory", that has sometime has been regarded as an "umbrella" theory for all human and social sciences, see activities as taking into account "essentially human qualities"; among such qualities they count the idea "that humans can control their own behaviour - not 'from the inside', on the basis of biological urges, but 'from the outside', using and creating artifacts" (Kuutti, 1990, pp. 3, 16)[2]. Still others, in the phenomenological hermeneutic tradition, seem to relate humanism or, for instance, "the dignity of the human worker" not mainly to the idea of challenging, stimulating jobs but rather to the idea of a type of "human community" that is characterized by "the fundamental importance of interpersonal dialogue and the search for meaning through language in a human community" (Boland, 1987, p. 377). A recent initiative for launching a "humanistic" alternative information and computer science states shortly that it is "based on the assumption that computer models are constructed by humans, to fulfil desires made up by humans, serving needs for humans and for those who are protected by human interests" (Forsgren, 1991a).

Both words, "social" and "humanistic", seem to an ever increasing degree to have taken the place of the words "moral", "responsible", and "good". In fact, "ethics" and "ethical" are also often used as a kind of pledge, at least as often as "humanism" and "humanistic" are used this way. The fact that these word appear many times in this essay shows, I hope, the seriousness of the author's struggles to clarify their meaning. Therefore I will soon go over to the humanistic issue.

Before that, however, I wish to mention that the general direction I have been trying to impart to our research in information systems at the university of Umeå in the last fifteen years has certainly coincided with, if not contributed to, the rise in our country of the term social and, especially, humanistic in such contexts. About five years ago our particular research direction was explicitly noted in a national newspaper as representative of a humanistic tradition. Social research in the same area was made also at several other - but not too many - places, mainly in terms of action research in social settings and labour union participation. There were certain concerns, however, which could not appropriately fit into those social and socialistic efforts. At that time I did not care if the term "humanistic" was being used as a kind of "ragbag" for concerns without a home. I felt satisfied that they had a home, and that it was my home. The difficulties of academic squabbles about departmental labels and naming or frontiers of disciplines could be overcome, I hoped, in due time, with the proper effort. Today several difficulties persist, and now the time has come to return to the question of humanism in order to evaluate the theoretical and practical development trends in the research efforts. American philosophical pragmatism and empirical idealism had given rise to our dialectical social systems theory (Churchman, 1971). Today they have to contend with a several other directions and "isms" like phenomenology, language action theory, activity theory, hermeneutics, constructivism, etc. that sometimes claim to be consistent with our background, sometimes not. Eclecticism waits at the door; but it is, of course, only one more "ism".

I wish also to mention that in other papers (Ivanov, 1986; Ivanov, 1987; Ivanov, 1990b; Ivanov, 1991b), I have already addressed some problems of particular attempts - including "human scale information systems" "work-oriented design of computer artifacts" and "constructive computer applications" (Ehn, 1988; Forsgren, 1988b; Forsgren, & Ivanov, 1990; Nurminen, 1988) - that aim at developing a new social or human computing science. The "human" issue as related to computers and information has since long appeared in many guises, including democratic participation, creativity and privacy.

But, what does, then, this "sudden" interest for humanism mean? In this context of social or humanistic computing science the following thoughts come easily to mind, (Montgomery, 1991, p. 42):

This language of stereotype - borne upon an endless stream of supporting images, reports, interviews, articles, books, etc. - accumulates a power to weave a spell, to impose a paralysis of expectation. Such a spell becomes utterly ordinary, normalized. Terms like "discovery", "breakthrough", "revolutionary", "genius", "mystery", used over and over again at each new opportunity of expression, like the formula tints of a postcard sunset, act to inject a type of pseudo-spirituality into the scientific; the terms apply to it a certain quality of the sacred.

Yes, I also think that the appeal of words like "humanistic", "social" or "ethical", inject into our context of computing science a type of pseudo-spirituality and of the sacred. Therefore I will try to take into consideration more seriously both the spirit and the sacred in this essay. In doing so I understand that I will have to sail between Scylla and Charybdis, or to walk as if on a knife's edge, between dogmatism and relativism. Paradoxically enough, the seductive attractiveness or pseudo-spirituality of "kitsch-science" apparently draws its power from it being a sociopsychological reaction - an "enantiodromia" as Carl Jung calls it in the tradition of Heraclitus - to the absolutism and dogmatism of scientism and of naïve positivistic science (ibid., pp. 31ff).

In the last twenty years of computing and information science the adjectives "humanistic", like "human centered", "ethical", "cultural", "critical", and "social", have been mentioned with increasing frequency as a kind of prestige words for calling the attention upon things which are supposedly easily forgotten in the context of technology. Many scientists and technician have expressed their irritation at the insinuation that they are supposed not to think about human values and so on, while self-appointed humanists who use and appreciate - or even profit from - technology in their daily lives profess self-confidently their own respect and admiration for the human race and its vague highest values. In fact such an attitude is rather suspicious, like assuming that the limits of morality and ethics must follow the lines of demarcation between different professions or spheres of interest simply labeled by different words.

In order to direct the research efforts for evaluating and developing a better computing science the present essay will start surveying some of the connotations of humanism. The search will be guided in its broad outline by what is suggested in encyclopedic overviews (Enciclopedia di filosofia, 1981; Encyclopaedia of philosophy, 1967).

In this respect this paper will be similar to earlier efforts that have been made toward a conceptual clarification of the meaning of human science. Unfortunately, the latest of them reached me after the completion of the main body of my manuscript (Collen, 1990, and other contributions in the same journal issue; Dahlin, 1989). These efforts include attempts to understand the classification and divisions of sciences as related to philosophy, history, etc., and they even include pluralistic, transdisciplinary, integrative approaches. Such approaches aim especially at the divisions of human sciences as e.g. phenomenology, hermeneutics, interpretive social science, linguistics, humanistic psychology, field theory, social action research, etc. (ibid., p. 27).

In the context of development of computer support we are a group of researchers who have tried to accomplish a much less ambitious and more focused integration by developing a particular pragmatically inspired approach to dialectical social systems science (Churchman, 1971). The clarification of human science in this paper, then, is attempted in view of its application to particular contemporary human problems in the field of computing science, especially in the design and evaluation of practice of systems development. Since all problems by definition may be considered as human I must explain at the outset that I am thinking of particular core concepts that need a place in our theorizing. This includes the core concepts of empirical-analytical hard science, and others which are "softer" but must reach beyond perfunctory references to communication, participation, knowledge, ideals, negotiation, and the like. I am thinking particularly of what in the literature has been called power, justice, ethics, aesthetics, spirituality, intentionality or teleology, etc. but also - in a more detailed mode - freedom, responsibility, duty, obligation, understanding, relationship, integrity, authenticity, and even "further" toward love, hate, trust, despair, resignation, repentance, forgiveness, charity. At the edge of political morality and ethics I will also touch upon religion. While religion today may seem to be irrelevant to an elucidation of the meaning of a human science, I believe, like a few others (Allwood, 1990; Kvale, 1990), that this may be due to a pervasive modern tendency to replace religion with a belief in progress, or at least survival, through "humanistic" enlightenment, rationality, and science.

These values are today often pursued through participatory, client centered, or user driven systems development. By confusing values or ideals as such with values held by a social actor it is easily forgotten that "not only the Church, but the whole free world of pluralistic, tolerant democracy is built on the blood of martyrs and constructive dissidents" (Allwood, 1990, p. 44). Or, referring to a presumedly less religious formulation: "in contrast to the desanctified reality of the Enlightenment, human action is in a fundamental way moral action within a historically constituted human community" (Kvale, 1990, p. 10, referring to Stigliano, 1990).

By transcending purely profane social humanism, I hope to avoid the trap of easy, goody-goody attitudes, and also to avoid the temptation of handing over the responsibility for the issue to the social community, i.e. others. In other words, if anybody asks me what is the meaning of my self-professed humanistic attitude or of my humanistic initiatives, I want to avoid answering by stating that an answer will be provided ultimately by the behavior of those who join me in the endeavour, or by the initiative itself. This is like the traditional "operational" definition of intelligence as the result of applying an intelligence test, or the definition of justice as the judgement of a legal court. As well known, these definitions beg the ethical issue of responsibility, since they are neither helpful as a guide for the designer of the test nor for the member of the court.

If these things are well understood, then we might also in the long run be able to answer, for instance, the question of the difference between talking about humanistic computing science versus talking about computer supported humanism. We might also - before we found some new humanistic enterprise - be able to appreciate and build upon the merits of earlier humanistic attempts in the field of computing science. Such attempts have been made both in what concerns the creation of societies like "Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility"[3], particular interest groups in other societies[4], and in what concerns research or debate, beyond those which are covered in some detail in this paper: (Annerstedt, Forssberg, Henriksson, & Nilsson, 1970; Barrett, 1987; Bolter, 1984; Checkland, 1988; Dreyfus, 1979; Dreyfus, & Dreyfus, 1985; Ehn, 1988; Göranzon, & Josefson, 1988; Heim, 1987; Hirschheim, & Klein, 1989; Ivanov, 1986; Ivanov, 1989; Ivanov, 1990a; Ivanov, 1990c; Ivanov, 1991a; Nissen, 1989; Roszak, 1986; Tengström, 1987; Turkle, 1984; Ulrich, 1987; Weizenbaum, 1976). If the purposes of some of these attempts happen to be political we may hope that they are not mainly political and that they will profit from a better understanding of the meaning of politics and, in particular, of the policy of science (Boffey, 1975; Churchman, 1979; Hahn, 1971; Rouse, 1987).

Some "executive" readers - doers and men of action who like to "build" - may not want to take the risk of suffocating their creativity or entrepreneurial spirit by inquiring into the fundaments of their buildings, be they historical fundaments or others. Nevertheless they may still appreciate the following overview of some problems of humanism as related to computing science, which incidentally may cast some light on what is being done, and why. I ask the reader to keep in mind that the main purpose of my paper is to show the extreme complexity of humanism, the problems of the tendency to reduce it to social terms, and the need of turning the attention to the concrete expressions of the presuppositions that stand behind humanism proper. This is done in this paper in terms of "apperception", i.e. a fostering of the ability of a designer to design a system from many points of view, where the author and the reader are envisaged to be the designers of future humanistic systems or computer supported human systems; another way of formulating the approach of this paper is in terms of a "sweeping-in" process which consists in bringing concepts and variables from various different disciplines into an inquiry in order to both create and overcome inconsistencies (Churchman, 1971, pp. 75, 197).

In this edition of the paper I will take the liberty to refrain from attempting a systematization of detailed conclusions, and from relating to each other those conclusions which are scattered along the text. I feel that this paper has been for me the most difficult that I have ever written, and in an inordinately short time, while I was trying to cope with a volume of material which - because of some interesting reason - was ever growing. I am painfully aware of its shortcomings. (The use of several secondary sources, however, is not the most serious shortcoming since I find that it can be justified, if required.) All this together implies that the paper probably will also be extremely difficult to read. Even so I opt for making it public because I judge that the matter is urgently needed in order to help others - not the least graduate students - to orient their ongoing research.[5]

And one preliminary conclusion which attempts to grasp the essence of this research will correspond to what T.S. Eliot probably meant in "Little Gidding", the third of his Four Quartets.:

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.

Philosophical and rational humanism

Introduction and overview

"Humanism" or "humanistic", like "freedom", "democracy", "reason" or "rationality" can be used as modern universal buzz-words with a universal appeal that during past centuries seems to have been accorded only to such terms as "God", "motherhood", "fatherland", and, in more recent times, "internationalism". What does humanism mean, as we appeal to it for legitimation and inspiration in the quest for better computing or information systems?

"Humanism" is identified in encyclopedic works as a term which apparently was used for the first time by nineteen century historians, and could be related to the term "humanist" already used in the fifteenth century as a name for the literate person who occupied himself with humanæ litteræ, that is, a study of classics[6]. The fundamental character of humanism is seen as being initially that of the Renaissance's break with the supposedly dark Middle Ages and a return to antiquity, to the cult of the classical world. The genuine meaning of the classical world would be rediscovered by means of a philological analysis that would open the way to a development of rhetorics, understood as the art of persuasion in the art of government and of moral sciences. This attitude implied an involvement with the political problems of the time, and a consideration of culture as a part of public life. This led, however, to intellectuals becoming public servants at the service of the powerful.

A reaction followed, in the person of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), a major representative of Renaissance platonism. Being completely withdrawn from public life, he would reinterprete the classical thought in terms of a religious syncretism that aimed at unifying Christianity and Platonism. It would be a religious wisdom or pious philosophy not available to the great masses of people, but rather reserved for the initiated who dedicate their lives to the study of these matters, and who can work as intermediaries and guides for other people.

The celebration of man, for the centrality of his position in the universe, would be found later in most expressions of humanism. And a controversial subsequent issue would be the danger of anthropocentrism and the relation between God and man with respect to claims to such centrality.

In relation to the history of philosophy there are still controversies between those who consider humanism essentially as an artistic and literary movement without further deeper implications, and those who consider it as a new conception of man, a break with particular, traditional ways of philosophizing. In the context of computer- and information science it is interesting to note the two ways in which humanism is usually understood in current philosophical speech. The first is, in a theoretical sense, defining all positions that emphasize the value of man in contrast to God or to nature, and the second is revindicating or countering the menaces against human personality - whatever should be meant by this term - that arise from the economic, social or technical organization. It is probably in this later sense that humanism is more or less consciously adduced in the context of computing science, not having, however any particular relation with the historical meaning of humanism except the theme of the "dignity of man".

In the context of modern thought, humanism is often mentioned in relation to an antitheological and antispeculative position represented by the philosophy of Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872). It is this brand of humanism which inspired Karl Marx (1818-1883) to develop his conception of communism where humanism departs further from the idea of a metaphysical metahistoric "essence" of man. In its place such new humanism proposes the idea that the nature of man is historic, determined essentially by the set of the economic and social relations through which he lives. In this perspective the new humanism seems to recall later currents of evolutionistic pragmatism or social behaviorism as represented by the interactionism of George Herbert Mead (1863-1931), and of pragmatist constructionism as represented by the interactivism of early cybernetically inspired systems theory (Ackoff, 1974, pp. 27ff). The motive of such humanistic interactionism and constructivism also seems to permeate much of later work on relations and interactions on a biological basis, for instance in the context of autopoietic constructive cybernetics (Maturana, & Varela, 1980).

In modern philosophy the question of humanism was revived by existentialism (Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger) and by its critics in the tradition of so called structuralism (Claude Lévi-Strauss and Michel Foucault), touching upon the debates about historicism.

In order to understand modern humanistic philosophy in relation to social philosophy, however, it may be helpful to consider the relations of philosophy to metaphysics and religion. This is important in order to understand what is being attempted nowadays with the help of social, participative and communicative philosophies as implemented in constructive computer supported cooperative work. In this essay some of these relations are discussed in a later section on the political and religious dimension. The time is ripe now, however, to mention a potentially fruitful way of considering the history of philosophy (Spengler, 1981-1983/1918, vol. 1, pp. 364ff).

In every culture there is a metaphysical period in the development of thought. This is a life-creative period which is originally of a religious, and later of a rationalistic cast. It is followed by an ethical period in which the philosophical creative power still remaining is turned on the conduct and maintenance of life. In the one period life reveals itself; the other has life as its object. The one is theoretical or contemplative in the grand sense; the other is practical perforce.

With the decline of metaphysics, ethics has outgrown its status as a subordinate element in abstract theory. Henceforth it is philosophy, the other divisions being absorbed into it and practical living becoming the centre of consideration. The passion of pure thought sinks down. Metaphysics, mistress yesterday, is handmaid now; all it is required to do is to provide a foundation for practical views. And the foundation becomes more and more superfluous. It becomes the custom to despise and mock at the metaphysical, the unpractical, the philosophy of "stone for bread"....

Strict metaphysics has exhausted its possibilities. The world city has definitively overcome the land, and now its spirit fashions a theory proper to itself, directed of necessity outward, soulless. Henceforward, we might with some justice replace the word "soul" by the word "brain". And, since in the Western "brain" the will to power, the tyrannical set towards the future and purpose to organize everybody and everything, demands practical expression, ethics, as it loses touch more and more with its metaphysical past, steadily assumes a social-ethical and social-economic character. The philosophy of the present that starts from Hegel and Schopenhauer is, so far as it represents the spirit of the age (which, e.g. Lotze and Herbart do not), a critique of society (ibid., pp. 366f).

The text goes on to say that F. Nietzsche is in every respect a disciple of the materialistic decades. That which drew him with such passion to Schopenhauer is that element of Schopenhauer's doctrine by which he destroyed the great metaphysic of, and also parodied his master Kant. The world becomes a brain-phenomenon and human consciousness is conditioned by the intellect. This is a mere accident of our being, since it is a function of the brain. And the nervous system is only a product of the rest of the organism inasmuch as it serves a purpose of self-preservation by regulating one's relations with the outer world. This corresponds to the flattest materialism, the intellect as instrument of the will-to-life, as a weapon in the struggle for existence, and sexual love as unconscious selection according to biological interest. In contrast to the philosophies of Hegel and Fichte, this kind of philosophy was one whose metaphysical propositions could be absorbed with ease by intellectual mediocrities.

Without necessarily espousing the whole background for the analysis that was summarized above ("I feel urged to name once more those to whom I owe practically everything: Goethe and Nietzsche", ibid., p. xiv) I feel that we have heard enough in order to recognize the flavour of many arguments in the context of so called artificial intelligence, and in the context of the social-biological basis for both socialistic and individualistic approaches to the study of computer support to human thinking, including autopoiesis (Maturana, et al., 1980). "Socialism is political economy converted into the ethical and, moreover, the imperative mood. So long as a metaphysics existed (that is, till Kant) political economy remained a science. But as soon as 'philosophy' became synonymous with practical ethics, it replaced mathematics as the basis of thought about the world - hence the importance of Cousin, Bentham, Comte, Mill and Spencer" (Spengler, 1981-1983/1918, vol. 1, p. 367). It may turn out that the words political economy and philosophy can be replaced by systems development in the sentences above. It could then also explain the intuitive reason for the goodwilled but misplaced efforts of those who feel that computer systems development should be turned into a pure formal mathematical or logical matter (including recursive "self-referencing" functions), and rescued from sterile philosophies and ideologies of the type that are easily absorbed by intellectual mediocrities. I wonder whether we are misreading Kant and - despite all protestations of "humanism" - abandoning metaphysics for a position of the "flattest materialism". For this purpose it may be fruitful - if not necessary - to consider in a later section which issues of politics and religion appear in the context of computer systems development.

Historicist humanism

In an essay on historicism C.S. Lewis (1988, p. 131ff) gives in my view the most interesting definition of historicism. Eventually it might be extended to cover the abuse of speculations about the meaning of ontogeny and phylogeny[7], but we will soon abandon it in favor of another more philosophical and historical one; but it is worth keeping it in mind in view of the last sections of this paper. Lewis writes:

I give the name Historicism to the belief that men can, by the use of their natural powers, discover an inner meaning in the historical process....What I mean by a Historicist is a man who asks me to accept his account of the inner meaning of history on the grounds of his learning and genius.... I say an inner meaning because I am not classifying as Historicists those who find a "meaning" in history in any sense whatever....The mark of the Historicist, on the other hand, is that he tries to get from historical premises conclusions which are more than historical; conclusions metaphysical or theological or (to coin a word) atheo-logical.[8]

In encyclopedias of philosophy historicism has been defined as a term that designates a current of thought that was born in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century based on some main ideas that are often attributed to Gian Battista Vico (1668-1744). In particular such ideas considered the concrete question of the world of human actions. It was opposed to the world that was not created by man but rather by God and that consequently could not be understood by man with the same depth and detail as the former world of actions that was created by himself.

All this is obviously related to the meaning of "artefact" and "artificial", as in the debate on "artificial intelligence". It is also a background for the meaning of human sciences, as a result of the classification of sciences in as either formal (like logic and mathematics), or empirical or real. The latter could be further subdivided into natural (like physics, chemistry and biology), and human (psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.) which were ultimately differentiated into social and behavioral. There are several ways of telling the story of the genesis of these subdivisions (Collen, 1990). They could, by themselves, be made the object of interesting studies pointing to the need of the "system" concept. It should be noted that philosophical pragmatism questions the meaningfulness of differentiating between so many classes of science. Nevertheless it could barely reject the formulation of the historical methodological problem to be considered below, a problem which is inherent to the "historical" dimension of modern scientific areas like statistical information systems and data bases.

The eighteenth century also was interested in history, but mainly for the illuministic purpose of indicating the course of "progress" (e.g. Voltaire). The later historicism regarded history as an evolution and progressive realization of human essence according to a plan that could be interpreted as being basically divine (G.E. Lessing's intuitions).

In its more restricted and precise meaning, historicism designates a current of thought that is closely related to German historiography of the second half of the nineteenth century. This current of thought followed upon the criticism of the romantic view of history, and is often represented by such names as Dilthey, Windelband, Rickert, Simmel, Weber, Spengler, Troeltsch, Mannheim and Meinecke. A recurrent theme in the discussions was history seen as a theater of human actions where man stands at the center of the scene. The issue was often whether natural science with its stable laws of generalizable behavior and its closeness to mathematics and logic would overlap with the science of history, of man or of the human spirit - Geisteswissenschaften, with their "idiographic" method of the unique, as opposed to the "nomothetic" method of natural science. To the extent that there was no overlapping - an overlapping which would have been made possible e.g. by means of reference to an ultimate divine plan for both these worlds - there was the risk of an opening towards relativism. That was the relativism of the single historical event related to the single man in the context of a particular historical process or historical cycle of a country or of a culture and civilization. Some thinkers like Rickert, Troeltsch, and Meinecke reacted against the dangers of relativism by means of adducing the presence of God or a divine plan in history. By so doing they reconducted the issue paradoxically to its starting point in the tradition of romanticism. It was namely the negation of this romanticism which had provided the initial impetus of historicism (Dilthey).

Some of the claims of an overlapping between natural and historical science, or rather of an inclusion of the latter in the former, were advanced in the name of analytical philosophy and positivism. Even within this current of thought, however, there was a defense of the autonomy of the science of man, like in the work of W. Dray (Laws and Explanation in History, 1957) who, within the tradition of analytical philosophy, revived the position that was introduced earlier in England between the two world wars by the historian and philosopher R.G. Collingwood[9].

Structuralistic humanism

An influential criticism of historicism was launched by the structuralist tradition that started from the field of linguistics, and was later extended into the general field of the human sciences. It returned to metaphysical non-relativistic positions by means of the reality and stability of "structures" in contrast to the phenomenology of temporal manifestations.

For one of the main exponents of structuralism, Claude Lévi-Strauss, the historical event as the essence of a humanistic view of the world is not something simply unique and non-repeatable. It is rather a series of contingent variations within a range of possibilities that is offered by structures that are constant or timeless. True invariances are not represented by apparent or generic similarities but they are rather hidden in the dynamics of the relations between variables. They represent the "structures of the human spirit" or "the unconscious". In this way structuralism recalls some of the features of analytical psychology and of the humanism of C.G. Jung (D'Aquili, 1975; Rauhala, 1973), but it also questions the "ethnocentric" ideal of social evolution and progress.

In contrast with views that at the present time are often accepted as "obvious", Lévi-Strauss claims, in polemics with phenomenology and existentialism, that the lived experience of the subject in his own culture is mainly an obstacle to the discovery of its own hidden structures. The archetypal human scientist in the person of the humanist should rather study men from outside, at a distance, with the help of language as "symbolic systems", and also include non-verbal aspects of culture. In this perspective social anthropology, which can be seen in our context as a "method for systems development", turns into a general science of signs or semiology (cf. Lévi-Strauss, Éloge de l'Antropologie, 1960).

The potential interest of structuralism for applications to the field of computing and information system in our context derives from its extension of the structuralist linguistics of R. Jakobson to symbolic systems. It is tempting to speculate that Lévi-Strauss' studies of the creative and productive reasons for certain prohibitions of marriages between blood relatives (stimulating interfamiliar relations) could possibly apply even to desirable prohibitions of the use of computer communications and electronic mail! This would be consistent with the view of societies as sets of individuals who are communicating with each other by means of various aspects of the culture which constitute as many forms of language. This is a far cry from the belief that certain main forms of verbal and visual communications implemented by computer networks would enable a revolutionary potential of development. It would be naive to believe that this could be achieved through increased communication and pooling of opinions between individuals without regard for the deeper aspects of culture as implicit in the different connotations of humanism.

An important criticism of humanism was also formulated in the work of Michel Foucault who questions the obviousness of the identity and continuity of the "subject". The centrality of the subject or, as one might say in the field of computing science, of the "user", starts to develop at the time of the Renaissance and culminates in the human sciences of our century. It assumes that the subject if conceived as an immediately positive datum, and that history follows a line of continuous development. Foucault proposes to show that the pretended positivity of the subject in the historical process is the outcome of the removal of psychological and physical deviance that is conceived as negative and pathological. This removal, furthermore, does not occur as a linear continuous process but rather as the result of sudden, contradictory fractures. These "epistemological fractures" are studied in Foucault's later works about Les Paroles et les Choses (1966) and L'Archéologie du Savoir (1969).[10]

An intuitive potential interest of these insights in the context of the development of information systems would be the realization that our dogmatic belief in the importance of "user participation" and "communication" is jeopardized by our inability to take care of the contributions of the deviants. Unfortunately, even the supposedly most participative and constructive systems development projects today may be limited to the participation of the few who happen to share a more or less some common view of the world or of the axioms for action. That may indeed be seen as an obvious precondition for being able to act at all within the constraint of limited resources. It is, however, exactly this kind of limitations that historically have made the identity of the "users", as well as their constructive cooperative participation, highly problematic and an object of "epistemological fractures", and other fractures[11].

History vs. structure - Liberal ironic humanism

Other influential criticisms of historicism are summarized in the debate about a recent work by Richard Rorty, a philosopher who labels himself as pragmatist and "liberal ironic" (Heller, 1991; Rorty, 1991a; Rorty, 1991b, which I will follow below, in my retrans.).

Hegel is prized for having definitively ruptured the link between philosophy and theology or metaphysics, abandoning the search for a "human nature" or for the "deepest level of the self", and reducing the matter to a historical process of socialization. This is indeed notable and paradoxical in the context of the search for a meaning for "humanism", and it certainly is the background of the accusation for antihumanism that has been historically directed against Hegel's philosophy. The liberation from theology and metaphysics, and from the temptation to escape from time and chance is supposed to have helped us to substitute freedom for truth, freedom and autonomy becoming the goal of thinking and of progress.

Rorty, however, identifies a remaining tension between the private and the public. Historicists who emphasize self-realization and individual autonomy - like Heidegger and Foucault - tend to regard socialization in the same way as Nietzsche did - as something which is conflicting with something deep inside us. Historicists who emphasize a more just and emancipated society - like the pragmatist Dewey and Habermas - tend to regard such striving for self-realization as contaminated by "irrationalism" and "aestheticism". The suggestion is that the conflict should not be solved through a choice between the two historicisms but rather by means of a pragmatic, or rather eclectic, use of them for different purposes. Authors like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Proust, Heidegger and Nabokov could be used as individuals, or examples of self-realization and autonomy, while others like Marx, Mill, Dewey, Habermas and Rawls should be regarded as co-citizens who try to make our institutions and our activities more "human" in the sense of more just and less cruel.

It is at this point that Rorty uncovers his own implicit and truncated "metaphysics" in that he dogmatically states that there is no possibility that philosophy or any other theoretical discipline (obviously including any "systems theory" and, even more decidedly, theology) will ever create a synthetic vision of self-realization and justice, individuality and solidarity. "We should accept the fact [sic] that no theory of human nature, or society or reason, or whatever will create a synthesis of Nietzsche and Marx, or of Heidegger and Habermas", and then we should consider these poles like two different "tools" who do not need to be synthesized. Rorty finds that there is no possibility of speaking one only metalanguage. We must give up the attempts to gather all aspects of our life in one only vision and describe them in one only language. This is obviously also a denial of the "systems approach" and all monism.

A liberal ironic is somebody who believes that cruelty is the worst thing on earth, who accepts the temporality of his most central convictions and desires, and has given up the hope that they could refer to something transcendent beyond time and chance. Among these convictions and desires he includes his own hope that human suffering and reciprocal humiliation will decrease and eventually cease. Decisions about whether and when to emphasize justice or self-realization, family or society cannot be made referring to theological or metaphysical algorithms. In spite of this, it must be recognized that most people still embrace some form of religious belief or some form of Enlightenment rationalism. As an alternative Rorty proposes a liberal utopia with a universal irony. Such a postmetaphysical culture is deemed to be no less impossible than a post-religious one.

The liberal ironic utopia is supposed to attain humanity - or, rather human solidarity - neither by theoretical inquiries and struggles against prejudices nor by digging into unfathomable depths, but rather through the capability that fantasy and empathy give us to see alien people as suffering people of equal value. Solidarity is not discovered through reflection but it is created by increasing our sensibility for the pain and humiliations that strike alien people. This process through which we succeed in seeing other people more like "one of us" than "they" includes detailed descriptions of others and of ourselves, and it is not a task for theory but rather for ethnography, journalistic reports, documentary dramas and, mainly, for fiction literature like romances and novels. Authors like Dickens, Olive Schreiner, Richard Wright, Choderlos de Laclos, Henry James and Vladimir Nabokov are seen as giving us the details of "universal" sufferings and cruelties and helping to describe ourselves. Romances, films, and TV-programs are substitutes for sermons and treatises, with the function of conveying moral changes and progress. They imply abandonment of theorizing to the advantage of story-telling. Such a historicist and nominalistic culture would be content to link the present to the past and to the utopian future, and it would conceive development as an endless process - an endless branching out towards the implementation of Freedom, rather than a linkage to existing truth.

My rendering above of Rorty's historicist vision of humanism introduces the problematic coupling of humanism to metaphysics and religion. It also introduces the denial of metaphysics at the cost of introducing a new metaphysics of "impossibilities". Furthermore, it presents a striving towards a heightened fantasy, empathy, and moral sensibility coupled to a paradoxical wholesale dismissal - without close argumentation - of religious traditions. It seems to me that it is these very same religious traditions that mainly - through their socializing rituals, holy books, and social Church organization - attempted to develop the fantasy, empathy and moral sensibility that Rorty talks about. They also talk about freedom-from, but always in connection with freedom-to, i.e. moral responsibility. The Bible, for example, is a masterpiece of literature that combines different forms and contents of "romance", having exerted uncomparable influence on the whole of Western culture. To deny the value of the Bible and other holy books and put them at the "truncated" metaphysical altar of pluralism or polytheism (e.g. in the sense of Greek mythology) is to beg the question.

In this respect I find that Agnes Heller's criticism of liberal irony is justified (Heller, 1991). Liberal irony - in the spirit of postmodernism - escapes conflicts and antagonistic activities by identifying ethics with aesthetics - more particularly, by reducing the former to the latter. This is the same process that recently has been identified as constituting the background of the rise of "science as kitsch" (Montgomery, 1991). I think that it is reasonable to suppose that such a process is facilitated by the espousing of a defective, unfortunate conception of ethics, divorced from religion, which is in turn reduced to a purely personal private experience. Furthermore it is difficult to imagine, in such a world of pluralistic and aesthetically apprehended ideas, why a philosopher or whoever would try to convince, or elicit the attention of, other people for anything, including truth or love, or motives for participating in "language games". It seems to me obvious that pluralism - through the belief in each one of the multiple "plural" contributions of individual "perspectives" - still presupposes some kind of metaphysical ultimate grand monistic system synthesis, be it "religious" or not (Churchman, 1971, p. 71ff). Perspectivism precedes and follow negotiation or, rather persuasion (Ivanov, 1972, chap. 4; Ivanov, 1986, pp. 46-52; Ivanov, 1987). If not, why contribute or participate? The matter justifies, in any case, that we return to religion (and politics) in a later section of this paper. In fact, Webster's (Third New International Dictionary) gives for religion the synonym persuasion: "Persuasion may suggest conviction arising from evangelism or exhortation; often it is more or less interchangeable with faith."

In summary: I think that the postmodern escape from metaphysics does not work except, paradoxically, as just that: an escape. Metaphysics has just changed its appearance and shows up in disguise, like, for instance, in K.O. Apel's "transcendental self-reflection" (Stigliano, 1990, p. 91, quoting Apel, 1987, p. 277) . We get, then, a "transcendental language game" (Apel, 1980, pp. 144, 171f, 247, 290, 282ff), a "transcendental self-reflection" (ibid., 268, 273, 275, 282) and a "quasi-naturalistic reflexive self" (ibid., 152, 284)[12]. I personally feel that we would do better in going all the way towards a full acknowledgement of the quasi-metaphysical, metaphysical, and religious aspects of critical social theory (as suggested in ibid., pp. 237, 250, 274, and especially 290).

It is remarkable that such a quasi-religious and quasi-metaphysical language creeps in many other papers in the tradition of both phenomenology, and critical social theory. In a phenomenological discussion of the concept of intelligence as it should be found in the context of artificial intelligence, one refers, for instance, to something to be found in dialogue, through language, as but one historical moment in the "universal hermeneutic of mankind" (Boland, 1987, p. 374); paradoxically, this is done without even mentioning the possibility of having, in particular, to appropriate the message of the Bible which is indeed recognized as the source of hermeneutic science.

We can also read, for instance (Fuenmayor, 1990b, pp. 530f), that "critique can thus be understood as the progressive process of gaining awareness about our own 'state of mind' (scene) which is necessarily hidden in our judging (and acting in general). To put it metaphorically, critique is the attempt to see - not that which as an objective thing we are looking at, but rather - how we are looking at it...In a phrase, critique is the look of look...We can thus represent critique as a process of reaching out (stepping backward) toward new regions of awareness about the necessary concealing in our fundamental living-acting. This 'reaching-out' might be pictured as moving out in concentric circles (within the same plane or transcending to a new plane)".

In reflecting on this last reading, I find that any onlooker who happens to belong to an "outer" circle looking at somebody else in an "inner" circle will feel like a constructive perspectivist who looks down at a descriptive, representational objectivist. But who is looking at the whole process and defining what is outer and inner? And where will this whole process end up: at the most "outer" circle which corresponds to the realm of metaphysics and God, or in a vicious inner circle of reciprocal and inconclusive perspectives? This matter is certainly related to the Kantian question of the choice between a "minimal a-priori" and a "maximal a-priori" but also to the Hegelian-Singerian question of the "search for objectivity: infinite regress or vicious circle" (Churchman, 1971, p. 133ff, 168f). "If the search process 'converges' in some sense, then the 'limit' might be regarded as an objective description of reality...authority and control are pervasive throughout the system and have no location; the system is controlled, but no component is the controller (ibid., pp. 175, 196). But then, what is that which apparently drives scholars to express themselves in a quasi-metaphysical mode? The intriguing question is whether anything is added to the above by stating that "the solution of the problem is not to evade the onto-epistemological question but rather to construct (and always reconstruct) an onto-epistemology which does not become the source of hidden presuppositions, but which becomes the forum for the explicit debate of any kind of presuppositions" (Fuenmayor, 1990a, p. 590, cf also Flood, & Ulrich, 1990) .

Constructivism - Biological, pragmatic or cognitive

Metaphysics comes back in disguise in other contexts as well that cannot be clearly labeled as historicists, but are rather associated with such nouns as constructivism, constructionism, or constructiveness. Some of these constructive approaches stand perhaps not far from the structuralist view of humanism, in close contact with the linguistic tradition to be surveyed in the next section. In the autopoietic cognitive theory associated with the names of H.R. Maturana and F.G. Varela (Mingers, 1990, that I will follow below), structure is seen to be engrained in the biological organism that is living in an environment. The reader should note at the outset that the biology that permeates this account does not seem to refer to others' reflections about the deeper nature of biological science, which are symptomatically ignored (Chargaff, 1971; Portmann, 1954; Portmann, 1969).

Other roots of constructivistic "interactive" thinking (Butts, & Brown, 1989; Lorenzen, & Schwemmer, 1973; Schmidt, 1987) seem to have started with the term constructivism as it was originated in the German philosophical tradition with the operationism of Hugo Dingler (1881-1954). It should be noted that Dingler had among his masters the grand old man of formalist mathematics, David Hilbert, and also Edmund Husserl, the father of modern phenomenology. From the description of his ideas I gather that he may very well have been also influenced by Ernst Mach (1838-1916), whose struggle against depictive science in favour of a constructivist attitude constituted a heritage taken over by neo-positivism[13]. These original ideas were further developed in the so called "Erlanger School".

Constructionism has been made the object of more committed studies in other contexts (Berti, 1987, p. 66; Söderqvist, 1988a; Söderqvist, 1988b). They have not been, to my knowledge, recognized in Scandinavian computing science which, however, is recently showing increasing interest in a "marxist" constructionism (Kuutti, 1990; Nilsson, 1989). It opposes programmatically - as in Lenin's work on "Materialism and Empiriocriticism" - Mach's conceptions of abstract functional dependencies to the advantage of social and historical relations.

Humanism in the biological constructive perspective seems to be associated to a knowledge that is validated by the maintenance of "successful autopoiesis", even if the meaning or evaluation of "success" is not addressed. It comes close to consensual pragmatic truth directed towards survival in a domain that is scientifically characterized by a cultural unity of consensual observers acting in a methodological domain of a universal logic and of socially accepted operational statements (Mingers, 1990, p. 572). This recalls, of course, the embarassing image that was condemned above in the denunciation of the decline of metaphysics and the rise of biological success in terms of objective survival.

Having to choose among the classic categories of philosophies of science, empiricism, idealism, and realism (ibid., p. 573ff), this kind of pragmatic constructivism is placed close to idealism and to the new realism called transcendental or critical realism. Idealistic constructivism (Boyd, 1984; von Glasersfeld, 1979; von Glasersfeld, 1984) refers to the radical idea - common within social theory and phenomenology (Berger, & Luckman, 1967) - that our experiences of the world are essentially constructed by us, and as theories change, so does the world we experience. The new realism, in contrast, accepts the epistemological criticism that observations are theory dependent and that we cannot have pure access to an independent world. "It asserts strongly, however, that such a world does exist and that it is populated by objects and entities, some of which may be, in principle, unobservable, which have causal powers or tendencies. Against empiricism it argues that it is the interaction, in complex ways, of these generative mechanisms which lead to our observations. Science can no longer be seen as creating true theories, but proposing and identifying potential causal objects, the descriptions of which are at least approximately true" (Mingers, 1990, p. 575).

Symptomatically enough, however, the question of validation or determination of the "approximately true" is not discussed except in terms that are quasi-metaphysical (ibid., p. 576ff):

What makes an explanation acceptable? Not, Maturana argues, its intrinsic truth, but simply whether or not it satisfies the listener according to whatever criteria they [sic] find appropriate within their own praxis - whether it makes them content. This very pragmatic view Maturana terms "objectivity-in-parenthesis" in contrast to "objectivity-without-parenthesis". The latter assumes that there is an independent, objective world and therefore a single domain of reality. Explanations can be refuted or negated in terms of this reality without reference to the participation of the observer.

Exploring the former view, Maturana characterises it as follows:

"In the path of objectivity-in-parenthesis, [sic] existence is constituted by what the observer does, and the observer brings forth the objects he or she distinguishes with his or her operations of distinctions as distinctions of distinctions [sic] in language... [This path entails] the recognition that it is the criterion of acceptability that the observer applies...that determines the reformulation of the praxis of living that constitutes explanations in it....Each configuration of operations of distinctions that the observer performs specifies a domain of reality" (Maturana, 1988, p. 30).

We as observers always operate in and through a domain of language, which is a domain of consensual verbal and nonverbal behavior, which intersects with other domains of our experience. In acting within our praxis of living we create or construct distinctions and categories - and thus the objects of language. We do so in many different and nonintersecting domains, and each domain might be poetry, music, games/sports, each of which is a complex edifice of conventions and distinctions erected on its own self-referring foundations. The observer lives in a "multiverse...[of]...many different, equally legitimate, but not equally desirable, explanatory realities" (ibid., p.31).... As such, we construct the world we experience (constructivism). These constructions are not purely individual, but reflect the intersubjective nature of language...."If we ask for the characteristics of the transcendental substratum on which we expect everything to take place, we find...that we cannot say anything about it, not even refer to it as an it, because as soon as we do so we are in language (ibid., pp. 79-80).

We may ask ourselves what are these "domains" and which are the legitimate applications of the concept. Domain is a term originally attributed to the English mathematician and logician Augustus de Morgan (1806-1871), considered by C.S. Peirce as the father of relational logic (Stjazkin, 1980, pp. 179, 184). Does the recurrent and unreflective use of such a term mean an implicit or unconscious reversal to some kind of mathematical thinking? Who establishes that such domains are all legitimate, and according to which theory of ethics or law, since "organized crime" does not stand probably at the same "level" as, say, games/sports or music. Why and how are they not equally desirable, desirable for whom and according to whom? What is that "contentment" that explanations are supposed to bestow upon us, so far away from the careful discussion of contentment in other scientific traditions (Churchman, 1971, p. 199-200)? What are the "self-referring foundations" on which "we" erect the complex edifice of our conventions, which consequently are not only "conventions"? It is the case that even those who appreciate constructivism feel the need to rescue it from idealism over to critical realism. This is done by claiming that "accepting that all beliefs and descriptions are historically and culturally conditioned, epistemic relativism, does not force us to accept that all beliefs are equally valid, judgemental relativism....To reduce ontology to epistemology is mistakenly to make human beings and their experiences the measure of all things" (Mingers, 1990, pp. 581f).

But, which god gave us the two (only?) categories of epistemic and judgemental relativism, and what or who is the measure of all things? Here comes the rescuing metaphysical and monistic god, the World. In fact: "Maturana's espoused position is ultimately inconsistent but it can be successfully reconstructed in the light of critical realism as follows. There is a single, real, materially existing world. This has, through processes of evolution, generated organisms capable of creating distinctions, descriptions, and constructs, subject only to their own internal structure....What can, in any case, be shown is that the fact that our descriptions are always subject dependent does not preclude the existence of a world independent of such descriptions....(Maturana) thus shows in a clear and consistent way how even our most self-conscious philosophy emerges from the roots of our biological organism."[14] (ibid., p. 582, my emphasis).

These are for me a sort of dangerous metaphysical assumptions, and as such they have been clearly identified in other literature (Lewis, 1988, about "the funeral of a great myth" - evolutionism, and "historicism" pp. 110ff, 131ff). How does an ethic - or "natural" law - arise out of such a "world"? Despite all talk about participative constructivism this other literature is not acknowledged in our very limited cultural setting. These metaphysical statements are all questions which are not really addressed, and by far have not been debated so carefully as the denigrated religious dogmas. The same could be said of truth and its "approximation", or of language. How did it happen that language got its so central place in the discussion, including even "nonverbal" behavior, and which are the criteria for the creations of distinctions, etc. Can it be that language, transcending the "purely individual" is being used as a new metaphysical platform - the "transcendental substratum" about which we cannot say anything, just as once upon a time we could not name God?[15] It has been clearly noted that the simple determination of the rules for discourse or for communication is still insufficient for providing a proper real foundation for an ethics that is not reduced to a formal "fair play", but rather contains precise and positive values, capable of giving meaning to the whole human life, both individual and social (Berti, 1987).

Just for the purpose of establishing a concrete example, please compare the above with the discussion of the creation of "distinctions", or of partitioning and refinement with the purpose of teleological scientific measurement and "approximation to truth". That has been done in the context of pragmatically inspired "Singerian inquiring systems" seen as as a development of Hegelian inquiring systems (Churchman, 1971, pp. 175, 192ff; Ivanov, 1987). In contrast, it is remarkable that the bases of constructivism - in spite of its avowed proximity to pragmatism - have been formulated with such a lofty metalanguage which attempts to keep distance from both concrete "everydayness" and from religious language. A reasonable hypothesis is that at least some brands of constructivism - to which pragmatism also can be reduced - are appreciated and sought just because they offer through vague reliance on language and discourse a double escape from both metaphysical requirements and from empirical verifiability. In this sense they are really post-modern and spiritual brothers of those cultural currents that support the development of "science as kitsch" (Montgomery, 1991), and the anti-humanism implied by the unpowering or "Nitzschean" psychic destruction of the subject (Berti, 1987, pp. 176ff).

Pragmatic constructionism has inspired lately some smart attempts to implement "hypersystems" and "co-constructive" prototypes of computer applications (Forsgren, 1988a; Forsgren, 1991b; Forsgren, et al., 1990; Ivanov, 1991b). They are most promising as the only attempts I know to express some of the ideas of social systems science in terms of computer applications. The pragmatism of this pragmatic constructionism was originally conceived in terms of "Singerian inquiring systems" where the construction process was presumed to be modeled along systems categories and their interrelations. It would be further monitored in terms of the criterion of measurable error (Ivanov, 1972; Ivanov, 1987). These ideas were later summarized in the computer oriented version of "hypersystems" (Ivanov, 1991b). As this pragmatic constructive idea has lately evolved in practice, it seems to de-emphasize the particular "Kantian" categorial thinking that constituted the advantage of the late developments of classical pragmatism into a "dialectical social systems theory (Churchman, 1979). It also tends to play down the monitoring of measurement errors and of the quality of information. It therefore tends to follow mainly the instrumentalist pragmatism of John Dewey (1859-1952)[16]. Constructive protoypes of computer applications in this instrumental spirit have up to now utilized simple hypermedia programming languages like HyperCard for organizing and presenting test data. Such data are structured in terms of conventional relational databases in the form of "nodes and links", and "navigation" along their space (Forsgren, et al., 1990). The data are presented in a visual interactive way in order to elicit the opinions, wishes or suggestions of users - leaders, clients, employees - and of designers concerning the possible evolutionary improvement of the interaction and of the initial prototypal "embryonic" system definition. This would include desirable features, alternative options in form and content, etc. In this sense a co-constructive system can be seen as computerized expeditor and editor of data-collections as if from continuous reciprocal interviewing among those involved with - but not necessarily those affected by - the system. The interviews, recursively based on the stored results of earlier interviews are, so to say, made on a par with the operation of the system. As such, a co-constructive system can be regarded as a continuous computerized "statistical survey" where, however, statistical survey theory and interviewing techniques unfortunately are seldom - if ever - invoked. It has been suggested that such interviewing constitutes the core of a humanistic computer science.This presupposes, of course, that statistical survey theory is substituted by a careful application of that kind of systems theory that has the opportunity of subsuming statistical wisdom, including the context in which questions are put or answered (Ivanov, 1972, chap. 5.2; Ivanov, 1976a; Ivanov, 1976b; Ivanov, 1977a).

If this presupposition is not valid, pragmatic constructivism ultimately tends to collapse further from instrumentalism into the positivism that stands at the historical roots of constructivism. Decisions are, then, envisaged as "journeys through space" (Boland, 1987, pp. 368f, 372); individual decision makers are "in-formed" by the data when they conjoin data with a decision premise as a basis for action: "the process of interpersonal dialogue and historically situated language use, as a medium for making sense of organizational actions, events and objects, is replaced with a network of probabilistically determinate relations. The very real and continuous human problem of accomplishing meaning is replaced by a technology of packaging data... Information systems designers believe that they can orchestrate organizational life through intervention in the formal structuring of data".

In general I have the impression that pragmatic constructive prototypes paradoxically will tend to work best when they are least needed, when they do not address conflicts which are so serious as to jeopardize their functioning. They are meaningful in the circumscribed homely milieus of small engineering, to the extent that they tend to disregard historical and organizational dimensions, as well as issues of power, hard money, and emotion (Ivanov, 1991b, chap. 5). For instance, a case has been reported in terms of the task of describing the products of a sawmill industry (Forsgren, 1991b). Instead of attempting the hopeless task of depicting exhaustively or "photographically" the panel boards of the sawmill, a thought experiment suggested that it would be smarter to concentrate selectively on the description of those board attributes which are useful to particular classes of clients with particular uses in mind. If I understand this right, however, in this way one main social point of the whole concept of measurement and measurement system tends to be disregarded: its generality as a social good, with all those political and economic conflicts that this implies. If I want to narrow my allegiance to the local firm to which I act as a consultant, there may be no problems (unless, of course, it wants to sell also on, say, the Chinese market which is populated by unknown potential buyers with unknown preferences that I cannot afford to survey in detail). But in doing so I would be bypassing, for instance, the whole complex problem of scientific standardization (Churchman, 1971, pp. 11, 110, 186ff), including the economics and politics of standardization (Guillet de Monthoux, 1981). This is the issue which reappears today with full impact on the market of information technology. In the last resort this may call into question the difference between consultancy and science[17].

Linguistic humanism and semiotics

In the core of humanism one will find the issue of language, philology or linguistics. It is, however, far from trivial to see how "humanity" is related to language. In the context of a study of "semiotic and linguistics" (Ransdell, 1980, pp. 151, 156), for instance, it is clearly spelled out that this question hangs on difficult metaphysical presuppositions:

So deeply entrenched in contemporary theorizing is the assumption that people - whether individually or socially - somehow give meaning, significance, and the like, to meaningful, significant, and sensical things, particularly as regards linguistically meaningful things, that it may seem strange at first that sign powers are not conceived, from a semiotic point of view, as essentially constituted by their relation to people or other sign users. (Nor, I might add, by relation to a langue, which is a queer sort of group mind, nor by relation to the "linguistic competence of an ideal speaker/hearer," which is a ficticious individual or group mind.) According to the semiotic view, nobody gives meaning to any sign of any sort, if this is supposed to be a transfer of intended meaning from people's minds to objects, as a sort of infusion or transfusion through intentionality, will, stipulation, fiat, or any other sort of direct psychic injection. There is a sense in which people can and do create meaning, particularly as regards linguistic signs, but it is not the sense usually involved in discussions of the "conventional" or "arbitrary" or "unmotivated" character of linguistic meaning. Sign powers are in the signs themselves, and any changes in these powers, or the accruing of such powers to objects not previously having them, are due primarily to the signs themselves, and their actions, not to people's actions (though the action of people is usually contingently instrumental in this respect)....

There is surely a fine irony in the fact that our "advanced" theoreticians of language, who talk so earnestly of their belief in "human universals" proceed ab initio as if from a completely unquestioned assumption that the key to the nature of language is to be found in one version or another of a seventeenth century metaphysical doctrine according to which meaningfulness is something "arbitrarily" bestowed upon or infused into brute matter by the inescrutable will or wish of transcendent individual or group minds. But if any true human universality is to be discovered, perhaps it would be advisable to abandon the idea that the role of human agency in the production of signs is fundamental, without thereby denying that there may be special reasons in special contexts of inquiry for recognizing a relatively basic role for intentionality and will.

So much for the relation of humanity to language, and the question of "conventionalism" that hides important ethical matters (Churchman, 1971, pp. 71f, 114ff, 119, 123, 145, 150). Compare with the Wittgensteinian "language games"! That is certainly a hard blow to much extremely "soft" talk about humanism. The study of information systems and of computer systems development, at least in Anglo-Saxon during the last years, has in any case shown the rise of considerable interest for language. Following the original obvious interest deriving from attempts of computerized language translation and natural language processing, (Winograd, 1972), this interest was pioneered in the middle of the seventies (Nissen, 1976), and rapidly evolved in the direction of some particular schools, closely associated with the names of L. Wittgenstein and J. Austin (Goldkuhl, & Lyytinen, 1982). Today, under the aegis of cognitive science, it reaches the scope of forming a "new foundation of design" (Winograd, & Flores, 1986) and stirs a forceful polemics that is apparently very hard to evaluate (Whitaker, 1991).

This interest for language relates to basic issues in the development of Anglo-Saxon philosophy of this century (Apel, 1967) which stand at the very basis for the interest of our culture for logic and logic-machines themselves. The matter of language-origins, for instance, has been considered basic to the understanding of "humanistic" culture and thought and therefore it is expected to be basic to the design of thought-support as represented by the electronic computer. Most major philosophers and philosophical systems have dealt with the problem in one way or the other. It has been remarked that so universal has this interest been that its absence, as in the work of I. Kant, has been cause for wonder (Aarsleff, 1982, p. 11, 278). An understanding of this matter would probably require a criticism of semiotics, its relationship to language theory, and the possible role such disciplines play in inquiry and in the social milieu [18]. This becomes gradually more important to the extent that "semiotics" is increasingly adduced in the study of computer applications, not the least in the coming age of "visual" programming, and visualization programs .

Since the particular scientific tradition in which I have worked seems to be very influenced by Kant this may explain why in such quarters no need has been perceived for this kind of study. This fact by itself is very interesting and deserves to be investigated, but in any case the language perspective cannot be ignored, if not for other reasons because of the fact that an appreciable number of researchers in the computing and information field relate to theories of language. It has become a two-sided question of semiotics and interaction, or a reciprocal influence between language and systems development (Andersen, 1990a; Andersen, 1990b; Goldkuhl, et al., 1982; Mathiassen, & Andersen, 1986; Nissen, 1976; Whitaker, 1991).

Within the limited scope of this paper I will limit myself to indicate below, on the basis of one particular piece of literature (Aarsleff, 1982), how humanistic issues which will recur also in later sections of this essay appear in the context of language.

In the historical debate on language it was noted that its study tended to be the exterior observation of its forms. "In the description of language we must not forget man, who is at the same time both the foundation and the end, for in language everything proceeds from him and addresses itself to him"; this reintroduced mentalism into linguistics, the study of function as well as of form (ibid., p.13). It was also noted that it was important not to believe that words are as good as things or, as J. Locke (1632-1704) remarked, "as if the name carried with it the knowledge of the species or the essence of it", thus assuming that language is a safe and simple nomenclature to the inventory of the world. Locke notes that this belief is a serious mistake. Words are about ideas, not about things; but the speakers' habitually mistaken belief is tenacious "for without this double conformity of their ideas [to words and to things, my remark] they find they should both think amiss of things themselves, and talk of them unintelligibly to others" (ibid., p. 24).

This, seems to me, indicates that one can be Lockean and even positivist without ever believing that the language of science is a descriptive "mirror of nature". The issue is not one of depiction versus construction of reality but rather whether this reality is only conventional - consensual, in contrast to the ideal of an ultimate metaphysical reality[19]. This implies that, in a sense, the "social construction of reality", as in a constructive computing science, can very well be constructive and positive, in the sense that it is consistent with positivistic metaphysics. It is symptomatic that, for instance, not only various brands of biological and pragmatic constructivism with their unacknowledged or unclear roots, but also Habermas' critical social theory and hermeneutics, in the same way as analytical philosophy, individuate in communication, i.e. in language, the place for the foundation of ethics (Berti, 1987, p. 65). It is also symptomatic that the earlier mentioned origins of European constructivism with the German philosopher H. Dingler seem to be intimately related with the simultaneous development of P.W. Bridgman's operationism in the USA, both sharing an aversion for universal or general concepts, as motivated by the crisis triggered by relativism in physics. It is remarkable that some constructivists do not recognize that their constructivism is an application of relativistic engineering principles to the presumed construction of social reality[20]. It is a social engineering that assumes that everything can be pragmatically changed while disregarding the legitimacy of social and cultural relative inertia. It is an inertia that is summarily denigrated as metaphysical and representational, or dogmatic without ever reflecting on the theological meaning of dogma, and arrogantly presuming that we can have a sufficient pragmatic knowledge of the long-run consequences of alternative human actions (Hayek, 1967, p. 243).

For Locke language was not divine and natural, but made by man and conventional, created by people according to need for the convenience of communication with "ease and dispatch". It was a social institution that reflects the world of its speakers, hence Locke's insistence on linguistic relativism. Locke's analyses identified the supreme importance of signs, and he suggested a three-fold division of knowledge into natural philosophy, ethics or "the skill of rightly applying our own powers and actions for the attainment of things good an useful", and "thirdly, the ways and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and communicated". This last he called "semeiotiké" or "the business whereof is to consider the nature of signs the mind makes use for the understanding of things, or conveying its knowledge to others". Locke's view of language was, then, entirely functional, and, seeing the need for semiotics, he had gone a long way toward saying that all knowledge is about signs, but he never took the final step, attributed to E.B.Condillac (1715-1780), of asserting the global role of language (Aarsleff, 1982, p. 28).

Condillac made all knowledge a function of sings and words. He posited three things. (1) That man is a social creature, (2) that man is endowed with reason and with the capacity for its exercise in reflection, and (3) that all men are by nature endowed with the same gestural and vocal expression of mental states, such as pain, joy, fright, and surprise. Knowledge expands with the help of arbitrary manmade signs which, when attached to the ideas - not to sensations - initially suggested by communal need, put mind in control of knowledge. From the slow beginnings of artificial signs - or words and speech - man's control of the world steadily grew as reflection was offered new material to work on. The fruitfulness of language and reflection worked for the reciprocal benefit of each to produce the "origin and progress of language". This process opened the way for the history of thought. The refinement of language was made both possible and necessary by the inescapable linearity of speech. It was on this basis that Condillac developed the principle that good science is a language well made. The progress of knowledge is advanced by the linearity of discourse. For Condillac, taking a global view of language, there could be no limitation to the certainty and extent of human knowledge. Language was the first social institution and played a role in all human affairs. Condillac provided the philosophical foundation of the concept of the Volkgeist with its emphasis on the culture-bound quality of national languages. It involves the principle of linguistic relativity, and is on a national level a repetition of the principle that each individual has a private language (pp. 28-30).

Condillac's philosophy of language shared one quality with the Adamic language doctrine[21]: both were global. But whereas the Adamicists sought to recapture lost perfection and divine authority, Condillac pointed toward increasing states of perfection [sic] to be achieved by man in the future. More than anyone else he seems to have given life to the progress doctrine, with the concomitant temporalization of the history of thought and knowledge. His philosophy offered a pedagogical program for the perfectibility of man. The completion of this program was what the idéologues set out to attain in their idéologie, so called because it was a science of ideas based on language and words. But their efforts were soon foiled by Napoleon, who reorganized the Institut National to deprive them of their platform. Marx found the word "ideology" in one of Napoleon's contemptuous remarks about the school he had come to see as a threat to his ambitions (p. 31).

By means of the above excerpts from reflections about the study of language I wish to question the difference between their presuppositions and our present ones when applying modern theories of language to systems development. With this purpose in mind I stop short of further discussions about G. Cuvier's "functionalistic" systems theory for comparative anatomy, that reminds me of the present biologically base for theories of self-organizing systems and the like. For the purposes at hand - in the search for humanistic linguistic content of this approaches I see clear parallels between Locke's and Condillac's conceptions, and modern constructivism. Their rejection of the doctrine of double conformity (of words to both ideas and things) indicates that their were not supporters of any naive descriptive or "depictive" philosophy of mirroring of the world. Their concept of the Volkgeist with its emphasis on the culture-bound quality of national languages, involving the principle of linguistic relativity on a national level - and, we could add - at the social group level, recalls the later Wittgenstein's conceptions of "language games". Their emphasis on the social character of man in the context of reciprocal communication of knowledge, on attainement of good and useful things, on the capability of reason, on science as language and communication, on ways and means whereby the knowledge is attained and communicated, on linearity of speech that is analog to linearity of actors' input into computer terminals, etc. could stand as a program for modern constructive "computer-supported cooperative work" - CSCW. In comparison with CSCW that program would even have the advantage of presuming a quite sophisticated repertoire of gestural and vocal expression of mental states that are often ignored in the context of computer-mediated communication.

Modern pragmatic, or rather practical-utilitarian constructivism and semiotic approaches to systems development even share with Locke and Condillac the relative insensitivity to matters of power and politics, which builds the basis for the Marxist denigration of the "ideologues"[22]. Since they do not consider those questions explicitly, their position is further weakened by their disregard of spiritual and religious matters as well which, in my opinion, would allow an alternative way for considering political passions and related economic rationality. In fact, I suggest that this latter aspect and the lack of metaphysics proper is what gives to these language approaches their positivistic and utilitarian flavour and - in spite of their humanitarian claims - distantiates them from Kant, from Kantian philosophical pragmatism and its followers. As it has been remarked again and again, the mere criticism of ideology constitutes an exclusively negative foundation of ethics, and it does not offer a positive justification of values like freedom and emancipation (Berti, 1987, p. 65).

Much remains to be done in the field of linguistics or, rather, philology, and it is evidenced lately by several interesting hermeneutic studies of the relation between dialogue, agreement and truth (Sini, 1990; Tordesillas, 1990), as well as by studies that relate literature to ethics (Pecora, 1991). They are matters that, for all emphasis on constructive collaborative ethical communications, are usually ignored in the context of applying theories of language to the study of computer use and of systems development.


Psychological humanism

It is not commonly recognized that psychological aspects of computing science are not an isolated part of psychology which stand apart from computing science. It is not a historical accident that, for instance, that the Carnegie-Mellon university's professoral chair for Nobel prize winner Herbert Simon was a chair in psychology and computer science. It is not an accident that so called cognitive science, if it is not to be used essentially as a buzz-word, is at any rate difficult to distinguish what has been called cognitive psychology. It is also obvious that those who want to create "computer support" to human thinking should study and make research about human thinking. This should include both about how men think and how they should think, and also learn. Therefore there have been times when the interfaces between psychology, logic and philosophy were recognized as fuzzy, and as a result of such insights serious studies were implemented in matters that probably should interest us even today (Nyman, 1917). It is also interesting to note in this context that E. Husserl (1859-1938), who is considered the father of "soft" phenomenology, was originally a mathematician and was influenced by one of the founding fathers of modern mathematical logic, G. Frege, to join the "logicist" as opposed to the "psychologist" approach to the study of mathematical concepts. They are the concepts that, as noted elsewhere, are embodied in modern computer support.

One of the few psychologists who has explicitly addressed the issue of a humanistic psychology in close contact with the phenomenological approach, including the complex issues of "constructive" psychological learning theory, is Joseph F. Rychlak (1976a; 1976b; 1977; 1981). In one of the works that deal explicitly with the humanistic issue (1977) he prefers, symptomatically enough, the title of "the psychology of rigorous humanism" rather than, say, "humanistic psychology". Humanism is there defined (pp. 497, 502) as a theory of behavior in which - knowingly or unknowingly - the theorist employs telic (goal directed) constructs, espousing the view that events are predicated according to plan, design, or assumption - that is, based upon purposive meanings - and therefore directed to some intended eventuality. Humanitarianism, in contrast, may be used for designating theories of either a mechanistic or a humanistic cast which seek to improve man's lot by raising his level of selfworth in a conceptual sense, or, by raising his level of material satisfaction in some scientifically managed fashion. Many humanitarians in this sense of the word, however, call themselves humanists: the point seems to be that "one can be a humanist without having to bear the weight of sociopolitical or psychotherapeutic advance on one's shoulders". This point can also be the basis for the political buzz-word-appeal of the term.

Rychlak insists (p. 188ff) in that humanism is the desire on the part of a theoretician to employ formal- and final-cause descriptions. We surely do indeed require a scientific revolution in psychology but science means a stand on evidence, not a stand on the human image. If science dictates the human image it is no longer science.

In spite of not being yet sure that I grasp and agree with the details of the whole argument I see that Rychlak's point seems to be very important in an age in which science tends to be completely relativized and reduced to a matter of cozy communications, presumed sharing of information and pooling of opinions. Such reduction is often summarized by the seductive but dubious statement that there are no facts, only opinions. This statement should appropriately be contrasted to the insight that the drawing of a distinction between truth and falsehood belongs to the very essence of thinking (Collingwood, 1940, p. 120). It should also be contrasted to the insight about the distinction between reality and truth: the problem, i.e. the task, is to clarify reality by means of the truth, while truth distantiates itself from reality (Norström, 1912, p. 114)[23].

"To expect a scientist to run after each person's phenomenal reality in hopes of capturing each possibility that might be subjectively concocted is surely unnecessary and a waste of time....Validation is important to science because there can be no science without it" (Rychlak, 1977, p. 201). The point may then turn out to be what is to be considered to be a satisfactory validation, a point that does not seem to be clearly stated by Rychlak but has been considered elsewhere in terms of the "criterion of measurable error" in the context of "quality-control of information" (Ivanov, 1972; Ivanov, 1987), and of computer-based "hypersystems" (Ivanov, 1991b).

Another paradoxical risk of "running after each person's phenomenal reality" is that of being dissuaded from giving serious consideration to a humanistic theory.

Some psychologists who might honestly prefer to give a humanistic theory serious consideration in their work are dissuaded from doing so because of the "goody-goody" connotations of humanism. Humanism has been identified with encounter groups and social reforms of various types - often framed in an emotionalized manner by dewey-eyed advocates.... It therefore appears to a listener when we speak of humanistic psychology that we are asking him to "view thy brother human being as worthy of respect and help" or some such. Desirable as this might be for a general approach to human relations, such ethical [or rather moralistic, my note] pronouncements are unquestionably harmful to an objective assessment of the data we must examine as scientists. They arise as short-cut solutions.... Not understanding that man's dehumanization is due to technical questions in theory construction, this kind of humanistic [sic] advocate thinks he can force his fellow psychologist into presenting mankind teleologically by going to telic pronouncements on how one "ought" to view man as a higher being. This is a misguided effort. Much better to follow the Jungian insight that human beings are no more elevated than they are submerged (Rychlak, 1977, p. 497).

Far from being convinced that man's dehumanization is due to technical questions in theory construction I still support this view of the humanistic problem in the sense that it may be a cultural issue of ethics and religion but not of moralism and easy exhortations. Such dewey-eyed "rhetorical" exhortations include those aimed at convincing people to apply a particular goody-goody method of democratic or participative systems development, perhaps even with the rationale that it may turn out to be the most profitable for all concerned in the long run. After all, what is the difference between ethics and moralism?

That is one important issue that may occasionally appear even in the context of e.g. "the moral element in free enterprise" (Hayek, 1967, pp. 229-236). It is an issue which will not be solved by exhortations to rely on a phenomenological technique of reduction. Such technique claims, as noted by Rychlak (p. 198) in a reference to a leading exponent of the phenomenologically based approach to psychology as human science (Giorgi, 1970, p.162ff), that "we should try to clarify and delineate the presuppositions that define our perspective". In this technique perspective means something akin to the Kantian spectacles that we bring to bear in formulating a precedent slant on things, a slant that in turn will determine sequaciously what we will say about them: "The fact [sic] of perspectivity is the main argument against all theories that posit absolute positions" (Rychlak, 1977, p. 198, quoting Giorgi, p. 163).

Once more objecting, as it were, against "running after each person's phenomenal reality" Rychlak observes (p. 200) that this reductive technique continually seeks an admission that there was a precedent to every meaningful term in the language and that there were - at least possibly - as many precedents as there were individuals thinking and talking and using conceptual language[24]: "Yet the facts of history and even of science suggest to the writer that at some point in our search for precedents - for the slants and subjective meanings of unique persons - we just do find a realm of objective understanding in the terminological meanings confronted. We have objectivities and we have subjectivities in the precedents to which every language ultimately relates. This objective realm - where a term or conception is understood by more individuals than just the single (subjective) person using it - used to be discussed at the most abstract levels as the question of the universals".

I understand that some of these matters have been treated with better detail in the context of the absolute mind in Hegel's philosophy, and in "Hegelian inquiring systems" as method for systems development (Churchman, 1971, chap.7). For our purposes it seems enough to indicate that humanism in information-processing theory is a question of confronting the implications of dialectical reasoning. It is extensively treated in the context of the "psychology of rigorous humanism" and other referenced works of the same author. The edifice of cybernetic theory and related approaches was originally built entirely on the grounds of demonstrative forms of reasoning. This was pointed out clearly at an early stage (Churchman, & Ackoff, 1950), more than thirty years before the matter was recognized by so called second-order cybernetics or co-creative constructivist science (Ravn, 1986). In any case, it is much more than a question of wholesale dismissal of descriptive thinking in favour of well intentioned conceptions of continuous cooperative pooling of computerized "statistical" interviews about subjective perspectivistic thinking.

Referring to the misuses of perspectivistic thinking at the edges of aestheticism and relativism I have never seen a more ardent poetic prose than Maurice Blondel's at the beginning of his famous book on "action" (Blondel, 1973, pp. 9f). It is a piece of work written in 1983 that today could have referred to the postmodern dance of art and science, a misunderstanding or misuse of the Kantian "perspectivistic" spectacles, and of the later Singerian search - for unattainable ideals (Churchman, 1971; Churchman, 1979). It is a piece that I barely dared to translate[25], and which will be appreciated mainly those who understand one great language of humanism, French:

Ardent et sceptique, s'amusant aux moyens sans souci du but, sentant qu'il n'y a que des manières de voir, que chacune d'elles contredit l'autre et que nous pouvons avec un peu d'habileté les avoir toutes sur un même objet, l'essayiste cherche la paix, le repos et le bonheur avec la conviction qu'il ne les trouvera jamais; et "pour échapper au malaise des enfants honorables qui naît d'une disproportion entre l'objet qu'ils rêvaient et celui qu'ils atteignent", il met sa félicité dans les expériences vaines qu'il institue, non dans les résultats qu'elles semblaient promettre...

Aux naïfs qui ont pris au sérieux leur conscience, et qui croient trouver dans leur expérience personnelle du devoir la confirmation certaine du prix infini qu'ils attachent à leur être, à leurs actes et à leurs sacrifices, on objecte, au nom d'une expérience plus pleine et d'une science plus ouverte, que toute certitude absolue naît d'un défaut d'intelligence et d'une ignorance partielle, que toute rigidité pratique est la marque d'un coeur étroit ou d'une obtuse sensibilité. Pour affirmer avec assurance quelque réalité que ce soit, pour poser résolument le problème moral, il faut un degré d'inexpérience et de simplicité dont on s'amuse, entre esprits de bonne compagnie, comme d'une gaucherie de paysan; la politesse des intelligences vit d'aimables fictions, mensonge et vérité tout ensemble: tout est léger et charmant, puisque tout est vide; l'affranchissement de l'esthète semble complet.

The gap to formal science and its computer body

One difficulty which is raised by mentioning humanism in the context of computing science is the sizable gap between what is commonly and intuitively associated to humanism - for instance art and literature - and the fields of logic and mathematics in their alliance to physics and technology that together are embodied in the computers and in their sciences.

I want to suggest one possible way of bridging these apparently disparate fields and concepts by mentioning that the refinement of the Geisteswissenschaften - the sciences of the human spirit - was due, not only to the phenomenology of M. Heidegger and the hermeneutics of H.G. Gadamer, but also to the so called neokantian schools of Baden (associated to the names of W. Windelband and H. Rickert), and particularly to the school of Marburg (associated to the names of H. Cohen, P. Natorp, and E. Cassirer).

The school of Marburg is especially interesting in our context. One of its latest exponents, E. Cassirer (1874-1945), applied to the analysis of culture the Kantian "Copernican revolution" that substituted the conceptual construction of the object for the earlier concept of substance understood as some externally given reality. Cassirer formulated the basis of culture as being a symbolic activity that distantiates itself gradually from the immediacy of the natural and sensible datum, and so leads to the formation of autonomous conceptual frameworks. They are something which we now recognize as typical of the increasing application of computer technology. It is this distantiation from the natural and sensible datum which fosters the problematic easy acceptance of the virtual reality offered by the computer applications. And, further, the acceptance of the computer's virtual reality displays some of the characteristics of a "religious faith" in the capabilities of the computer.

It is therefore interesting also to note that one of Cassirer's forerunners in the school of Marburg, H. Cohen (1842-1918), elaborated some thoughts on the "religion of reason from the sources of Judaism" (postumous, 1919). How about computers and computing science representing a modern variant of the "religion of reason"? While Cohen proposed an elaboration of a general theory of experience in a logical key, in close relation to logic, ethics and aesthetics, the other main representative of the same school, P. Natorp (1854-1924) insisted on that logic cannot be put as unique basis of the philosophical system. It was seen to require other "forms" of knowledge like morality, art and religion, grounded on psychology that, in contrast with I. Kant's view, was thus elevated to the rank of philosophical science.[26]

It is also extremely interesting to note, in the context of Scandinavian socialistic currents of computer systems development, that both Natorp and Cohen worked on the development of a non-materialistic socialism or, in Natorp's title, "social idealism" (1920). We have heard very little about these works and these ideas, and perhaps they have been dismissed by our intellectual elite as being "heretical" in the light of Marxist dialectical materialism. The point, however, is that they were integrated in a body of knowledge regarding the place of logic in human inquiry. It is this kind of integration that could cast some light on the nature of the computer revolution where the computer, beyond many other countless and valuationally neutral "perspectives", is regarded also as a mathematical-logical machine or a physical electromechanical embodiment of mathematical logic. It is, for instance, symptomatic that already the preface of one of the most relevant works of Cassirer (Cassirer, 1962, p. vii, ix) refers to the historical relation between Leibnizian philosophy and the critical system of Kant, and to the relation between mathematics and the problem of reality. This is clearly related to the problem of the application of computer technology to the reality of the "users" (Churchman, 1971, chap. 2). It is remarkable that "humanistic" and, for that matter, even formalistic computing scientists, sometimes paradoxically in the name of anti-reductionism, seem to indulge in speculations about the ultimate destiny of methods of systems development while at the same unreflectively considering mathematics and physics as trivially transparent tools. This seems also to be done without ever needing to consider that mathematical logic and physics are the very substrate without which the very "material" machine, on which they make their living, would never have been built[27]. One is necessarily reminded of the earlier quotation that "As soon as 'philosophy' became synonymous with practical ethics, it replaced mathematics as the basis of thought about the world". Later in this essay I will dwell on what, in turn, has been said about practical ethics.

There are many other ways for exploring the humanistic content of mathematics. They are paralleled by attempts to integrate aesthetics and ethics in methods for development of computer systems that up to now have been mainly "logically" grounded in an engineering tradition (Stolterman, 1989). In limiting myself to up the last paragraph I claim, in summary, that here we have in embryo the fruitful meeting of human science, natural science, and formal science, a meeting that today is again forced upon us by the problems of application of computer technology. This is also the issue of the future development of the formal methodological sciences which traditionally have included mathematics, logic, statistics and hermeneutics, and now would include computer or information sciences. The understanding of this issue will also be the answer to whether we are justified in talking about humanistic computing science or whether we should think in terms of computer-supported human sciences, or something else. Humanistic computing science might simply be an attempt of expand illegitimately the scope of embodied formal science without going deeper in the understanding of what human science should be, in the first place.

Pragmatism - Bridging the gap?

American pragmatism has programmatically had the goal of bridging various various disciplines and schools of thought, in particular empiricism and idealism. To begin with I want to illustrate below the bridging attempts of R.L. Ackoff, the main exponent of one of the most practical and applied forms of late pragmatist constructive-interactive social systems approach (Ackoff, 1974, pp. 18ff, 22ff, 39ff).

Starting from a transdisciplinary systems approach to societal problems, Ackoff defines three central problems that arise in the management and control of purposeful (telic) systems: how to increase the effectiveness with which they serve their own purposes, the purposes of their parts, and the purposes of the systems of which they are part. These are, respectively the self-control, the humanization, and the environmentalization problems.

The problem that at first sight seems to affect us here most closely is the second problem, of humanization. As we will see, however, it is far from being explicitly related to humanism. It consists of finding ways to serve the purposes of the parts of the system more effectively and to do so in such a way as to better serve the purposes of the system itself. The objective of humanization is not to turn all organizations into instruments whose sole purpose is to satisfy their members. This might put them "out of business" because of the interacting environmentalization problem not being considered. Humanization is said to have two aspects: satisfaction and participation. Participation is itself a source of satisfaction, but satisfaction of a participant depends on other things as well: on the amount of conflict he is in, the nature of the activity he engages in, the environment in which he engages in it, the consequences of his activity (output or compensation), and the effect of his current activity on his future.

These insights are taken as a basis for going over to consider the humanization of government - viewed "humanistically" (p. 40) - in terms of representativeness, responsiveness to needs, and competence. Individual government agencies also require humanization, but then in terms that are the same as those of private organizations. "Humanization of an organization requires making its objectives compatible with those of its individual members so that they are mutually reinforcing" (p. 45).

I will drop this line of inquiry into so called humanization reduced to consensus in order to return more explicitly to the matter of humanism that Ackoff actually addresses under the first mentioned label above, of "self-control". The humanism of humanization that was surveyed above seemed to consist of the ideal of democracy. This very same ideal will also be found in the following development of humanism of self-control, an ideal with a Kantian flavour from the Enlightenment.

The issue of self-control is addressed (pp. 22ff) in terms of the following taxonomy of attitudes towards planning: inactive, reactive, preactive, and interactive (the latter being akin to the "constructive" attitude mentioned earlier in this paper). Using as metaphor the traditional political and administrative terms, the inactivist is a conservative, not believing in planning at all or, then, believing in minimum intervention. In contrast, the reactivist is reactionary, and the preactivist is liberal. But, what about the interactivist?

Ackoff describes the interactivists in terms that remind us of those who in other contexts call themselves constructivists. As a reader I get the impression that these interactivists, in this scheme, are a sort of self-appointed self-righteous radicals who compete with the "neohumanistic analyst-as-emancipators" (Hirschheim, et al., 1989) or the "organizational discursivist" (Lyytinen, et al., 1991), for the finest or most humanistic, social, and ethical taxonomic places in the literature. They are the ones who are telling us this paradoxically "objective" story. Ackoff states that they are supposed not to settle for survival and growth, as the previous two types. In a mood that recalls the Kantian Enlightenment ideal, "they seek self-development, self-realization, and self-control: an increased ability to design and control their own destinies: they are neither satisficers nor optimizers; they are idealizers." (Ackoff, 1974, p. 26). Unlike preactivists who are supposed to plan in terms of collective behavior, impersonally rather than individually, interactivists are said to try to induce cooperative changes, where no aspect of a system is precluded from change. They try to change the foundations as well as the superstructure of society and its institutions. They desire neither to resist, ride with it, nor ride ahead of the tide; they try to redirect it. Interactivists consider technology to be neither good or bad in itself, but to have potential for either, depending on how people use it. Thus they view behavior and technology as interrelated aspects of sociotechnical systems. They treat science and the humanities as two aspects of one culture, not as two cultures. Like the head and tail of a coin these aspects can be discussed or viewed separately, but they cannot be separated.

At this point (p. 27) Ackoff obviously addresses the humanistic problem. Let's see how he conceptualizes humanism, beyond apparently equating, in the lines above, technology with science, and humanities with behavior and use of technology:

According to interactivists, science is the search for similarities among things that are apparently different, and the humanities are the search for differences among things that are apparently similar. Scientists seek the general and humanists seek the unique. To deal effectively with a problematic situation one must be able to determine both what is common with previously experienced situations and how it differs from them. Awareness of similarities enables us to use what we already know; awareness of differences enables us to determine what must be learned if the situation is to be dealt effectively. The humanities furnish us with the problems, science and technology with the means for solving them.[28]

Let's stop here summarizing that there seems to be also an equating of humanists with humanities, and scientists with science, implying an unclear "division of labor" that also recalls the classic positivist distinction between fact and value, with all its implications of political power and ethical issues. The most problematic core issue seems to be that the interactivist's universal claim to potential change has no ethical reference platform[29]. The humanities are presumed to address us only to the unique and we will be solving only the unique without any possibility for "scientific" truth of general claims. We risk to remain by definition in a "situational" ethics. No aspect of a system is precluded from change but reason itself - whatever it is - tends to become a good candidate for being the less likely to change in the short run, and, as such, it becomes a sort of new metaphysical platform in an the age of reason. Together with, or equivalent to, reason we have to assume also a relative stability of what constructivists elsewhere have called constructive "design principles" which - metaphorically speaking, like new relative gods of our time - dwell in the heaven of an "incubator" for all future designs.

Apparently there is no need here for a metaphysics or religion. The choices seem to be done from what C.S. Lewis has seen as an ethical vacuum, or a simplified version of Kantian rational ethics deprived of its metaphysics (Ivanov, 1990c; Lewis, 1988, p. 104f). Humanism and ethics are apparently reduced to a social theology of democracy and self-autonomy. The references to similarity versus uniqueness seem, however, to attempt an incorporation of some of the historicist ideas. Nevertheless the critical question of bridging the gap (between people or aspects-disciplines?) is not really addressed.

That means that in spite of all attempts to develop and implement computer supported constructive interactive systems (Forsgren, et al., 1990; Ivanov, 1991b), within the more general wave of computer-supported collaborative communication and interaction (Bond, & Gasser, 1988; Dennis, Tyran, Vogel, & Nunamaker Jr., 1990; Greif, 1988; Lee, Cosh, & Migliarese, 1988), the issue of humanism in relation to computer support seems to have not been seriously considered.

The deepest insights on humanism in the tradition of pragmatist dialectical social systems theory seem to have been offered by Churchman. These insights could be formulated either as a matter of subjectivity-objectivity in the dialectical Hegelian tradition of thought followed by "speculations on systems design" (Churchman, 1971, chap. 7, and part II), or by means of contrasting the systems approach with its "enemies": politics, morality, religion, and aesthetics. (Churchman, 1979, pp. 197ff). "So, yes, there are important values that planning has tended to ignore, and that should be incorporated into our reasoning about change. Even if we can't quantify these important qualities of experience, we should find ways of incorporating them into our design criteria.... " Churchman goes on stating that if humanity is what carries this quality of experience then one may think of Kant's imperative telling us to act as to treat humanity, either in ourselves or another, never as means only, but as an end withal. "But perhaps he himself (Kant) did not realize the profundity of his imperative, for the "humanity" to which he refers is that unique quality each of us has, which makes up the reality of our psyches" (p. 199).[30]

Realizing the profundity of the concept of humanity in this tradition would take us to discuss Kant's conception of the two worlds of human values: virtue and happiness. That vision included the perspective of humanity gradually creating a world in which virtue and happiness begin to coincide - that is, where virtue produces happiness. It should be recalled, however, that Kant's critical conception of ethics may be regarded as having contributed to the split of its content on the one hand in logic, and on the other in psychology, akin to the split between law/duty/justice, and love [31]. It may be regarded as one main reason for the "neo-protestant" resilience, if not outright hostility, of young enlightened people to any talk about law, duty, justice, responsibility or authority, all concepts associated to the stability of truth or "authoritative depiction". They are namely seen as contraries of love, spontaneity and of warmth of personal relationships, and this elicits, in turn, the easy infatuation for superficial humanism, cooperation, participation, etc.[32] I guess that this is the problem which prompt some young researchers to explore the meaning of engagement, commitment and motivation in the development of information systems (cf. also "Thomism" and "Molinism" in the postscript glossary at the end of this paper).

It is this perspective of gradually approaching participative perfection that may have inspired all thoughts about "ideal seeking" behavior. It is also a perspective which stands as a historical and theological core issue at the confluence between protestantism and catholicism. It justifies a last excursion into some religious aspects of humanism, or, perhaps, humanistic formulations of religion that start close to pragmatism. As for evaluating pragmatism itself, ultimately we may have to apply Peirce's formulation of his pragmatic maxim to pragmatism (itself): "Consider what conceivable consequences the object of your conception has in its bearing on human conduct. Then the sum total of all these conceivable consequences constitute the total meaning of your conception". I think that with the passing of time the less we need to depend on "conceivable" consequences since we can experience them. My experience is that unfortunately all too often the bearing on human conduct of modern variants of pragmatism is very difficult to distinguish from utilitarianism's, and therefore they should be evaluated accordingly.

The political and religious dimension

The previous section indicates that pragmatically influenced thinking leaves the humanistic issue at the same point where Kant's rational ethics left it (Ivanov, 1990a, recalls some of the possible problems of Kantian ethics). From that point it is possible to follow such ethics "humanistically" in a philosophical, in a political-economic, or in a religious direction. The interest for critical emancipatory critical social theory (as represented today by J. Habermas) stands for the first and, possibly, also the second direction (Berlin, 1981; Hirschheim, et al., 1989; Miller, 1983; Riley, 1983). The third, religious, direction is difficult to identify at this point of time and it will be the focus in this chapter of the paper. The only approach that I know that touches upon this issue, at the interface with the first two directions, is represented by a work that stands close to the phenomenological tradition (Rothberg, 1986). Let's, however, approach the religious humanism starting from the pragmatist approach of the last section above.

Pragmatism and religion

In the history of pragmatism, as overviewed in the encyclopedic work referred in this paper, appears the interesting contribution of the English-American philosopher F.C.S. Schiller (1864-1937). In a particular work on Pragmatism and Humanism (1909) Schiller defines by means of the term "humanism" his position as very similar to the voluntaristic pragmatism of W. James and the instrumentalism of J. Dewey. He differs from them, however, in that he finds that the subjective and pragmatic character of knowledge and of moral values (modelled after Protagoras) should be conceptualized neither in the spiritualistic sense of James nor in the antimetaphysical sense of Dewey.

Writing on "pragmatism" in the 1911 year's edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica Schiller states that humanism refers itself to the maxim of Protagoras that "man is the measure of all things", and is best conceived as a protest against the assumption that logic can treat thought in abstraction from its psychological context and the personality of the knower, i.e. that knowledge can be dehumanized. It emphasizes the personal aspect of all knowing and its contribution to the "making of reality" which necessarily accompanies the making of truth. Pragmatism, then, "may ultimately lead to a number of metaphysics, each of which will represent a personal guess at a final synthesis of experience, while remaining essentially undogmatic and improvable". The ethical affinities of pragmatism spring from the perception that all knowing is referred to a purpose. This at once renders it "useful", i.e. a means to an end or "good". This relation to a "good" must not, however, be construed as a doctrine of ethics in the narrower sense; nor is its "utilitarianism" to be confused with the hedonism of the British associationists. "Useful" means "good for an (any) end", and the "good" which the "true" claims must be understood as cognitive. But cognitive "good" and moral "good" are brought into close connexion, as species of teleological "good" and contributory to "the Good". Thus only the generic, not the specific, difference between them is abolished. The "true" becomes a sort of value, like the beautiful and the (moral) good.33 Moreover, since the "real" is the object of the "true", and can be distinguished from the "unreal" only by developing superior value in the process of cognition which arrives at it, the notion of "reality" and "fact" also turn out to be disguised forms of value. Thus the dualism between judgements of fact and of value (the "Is-Ought" controversy) disappears. The "making of truth" is conceived as making for greater satisfaction and greater control of experience. It renders the truth of any time relative to the knowledge of the time, and precludes the notion of any rigid, static or incorrigible truth. Thus truth is continually being made and re-made. To this process there is no actual end, but an "absolute" truth (or system of truths) would be a truth which would be adequate to every purpose (ibid., "Pragmatism" in Enc. Brit., 1911).

This is in my view, for all its similarity to Dewey's and Singer's pragmatic "ideals", a dubious development of the relations between truth and ethics, not to mention religion. It seems to me that such absolute truth would make it, by definition, independent upon ethics. The main "father" of pragmatism, C.S. Peirce, argued that logical theory rested utlimately on ethics because logic aims to determine what sort of reasoning we ought to adopt in conducting our inquiries into truth, and ethics is the science of what we ought to do. Peirce, however, goes on understanding that what we ought to do ultimately depends on what goals we desire to achieve [not what we ought to desire, my note], and what is desirable in the end is a question of aesthetic judgement[34]. Peirce, however, cannot offer any criterion of what would constitute a reasonable basis for aesthetic judgement in his hierarchical triad of logic, ethics, and aesthetics (Dictionary of the history of ideas: Studies of selected pivotal ideas, 1973, P. Wiener's article on pragmatism, p. 568). What is at stake, here, is the nature of this "hierarchy"; many people around the world are convinced that ethics and religions, must stand at the top. Ultimately this kind of issue will rest on an understanding of the scope of ethics and of the character of human spiritual - humanistic - activities (Schleiermacher, 1988, pp. 36f, 143f). If these problems are not understood we may find out in due time that we have incurred into "not just a confusion but an actual blending of the ethical and the aesthetic: namely whatever is capable of beauty exists in order to be beautified. Or, put more bluntly: the 'scientific' achieves its highest beauties, its fullest powers of presence and observation, just at the moment where it becomes the incarnation of the banal" (Montgomery, 1991, p. 48f).

In contrast to the "anti-humanism" of positivists and Hegelians, Schiller insists on the psychological-emotional nature of knowledge and on the essentially practical nature of science. He raises therefore a polemics against the classic and modern formal logic, which he sees as an intellectualistic game that is alien to real interest and vital needs of man (Schiller, 1912). On several occasions in other contexts I have called the attention of readers on this particular criticism of formal logic as particularly interesting for its bridging potential towards the formal content of computing science. I realize, however, that the fascination exerted by mathematics and logic on many scientists may be related to their search for the - by now profane - absolute which tends to be interpreted so frivolously in the more superficial branches of the pragmatic tradition. A cultural hypothesis would then be that the motivation for increasing application of computers in society has one of its sources in an understandable but unconscious and probably misplaced religious quest for the absolute. This logical-technological quest for the absolute becomes more exacerbated the more such quest is paradoxically implemented in terms or the relativity of the metaphysics of "personal guesses" and of the pluralism of decentralization, networking or electronic communication[35].

Schiller himself still managed to conceive humanism as an evolutionary metaphysics concerning the world, man and God. Man transforms his environment into a progressive and historical ordered unity according to his feelings and goals ("Faust"). This is done in continuous struggle with chaos and negation ("Mephistopheles") who is doomed, however, to be eventually defeated by the redeeming force of God. God is personal conscience and final cause of the universe who, in cooperation with man, operates towards the ultimate perfection of a pure kingdom of finite and eternal spirits.

It is easy to sense in this rough religious description of evolutionary metaphysics a somewhat more profane interpretation of the Kantian ideal of "kingdom of ends". It is the profanity that was implicit in Hegel's dialectical process and as it was expressed in the context of the ethics of the systems approach: it is the profanity of a statement like the following "We can cut off Kant's metaphysical base and appreciate his idea on its own" (Churchman, 1979, p. 123). The same secularized evolutionary metaphysics would also be expressed as the constructive epic of the trilogy of cooperation, production and progress (Churchman, 1971, pp. 201-204, 254), in the spirit of the "experimental idealism" of E.A. Singer Jr. (1873-1954). It does not take much fantasy to imagine how such a kind of ideal-seeking would in time become progressively more relativistic and profane. Ideals would soon come to mean any wishes, wills, or aesthetic "tastes" about, say, the ideal car or the ideal vacation, on a par with ideal ways of life in the sense of an ideal marriage, an ideal education or ideals of ethics and religion[36]. The metaphysical background of such "ideals", however, can constitute the powerful historical heritage that explains the rhetorical attractiveness of the rougher conceptions of ideal-seeking in the present wave of computer supported constructivism. The difficulties that are revived recall Schiller's unclear matching between different kinds of "good" and "values", including their relation to British hedonistic utilitarianism and to the particular absolute goods of God. That type of questions indicate the problematic coupling of pragmatic ethics to aesthetics and to religion[37].

At the roots of these problems we will find the modern attempt of rehabilitation of practical philosophy by means of a return to Aristotelian ethics (Berti, 1987, pp. 70ff, that I will follow below). Such ethics has been abandoned by constructivists and critical social theorists because of various charges, including that it devaluates human work. Such devaluation, however, can be seen also an expression of the Aristotelian subordination of instrumental activity, such as "work", to finalistic activities such as politics and those performed by emancipators themselves. Aristotle bases ethics on a specific rationality - phronesis - that differs from that of other sciences. It is conceived as habitude or, rather, virtue and excellence of habit [mores], i.e. of praxis i.e. an end in itself, instead of poiesis which has the product as its end. This practical virtue is guided by the exact reason, i.e. by that "part" of reason or logos that is not "scientific" (epistemonikon) or capable of deductive demonstration, but rather is "opinative" (doxastikon) or "computational" (logistikon) in the sense that it discusses opinions and computes the means in relation to the ends. It does not deal with the eternal truths, i.e. with the absolute (which, thus, is presupposed), but rather with what is the work of man, i.e. the transformation or perfectioning of man himself.

In this way, Aristotelian ethics proposes a morals which is fully human, i.e. not oriented towards transcendental values that are not attainable by man by his natural faculties. But it is not relativistic either, because the end of praxis is a determinate good, i.e. the good of man, which is perfection or the full realization of what is specifically human, in which coincide happiness and virtue understood as excellence and perfection, both on the ethical-affective plane, and on the dianetical intellectual plane. Aristotelian ethics, furthermore, offers an interpretation of Western culture in terms of the difference between praxis and poiesis, and between the correspondent phronesis and techne, ends versus means rationality, or dialectic-philosophical rationality vs hypothetical-deductive scientific rationality. In contrast to certain modern philosophy which absolutizes scientific rationality and the ends by posing means before the ends, Aristotle affirms the superiority of phronesis over techne, of praxis over poiesis, i.e., of ends over the means: he identifies happiness with theoresis, which ultimately is the supreme praxis.

In contemporary terms this recalls, of course, the discussion of pragmatic "good" and ideal-seeking, above. But the point, here, is that there is more to it, and it is my impression that here we have the key to the differentiation between pragmatism and utilitarism. The reference to Aristotelian ethics must be completed with the recovery of the whole theoretical framework or "system" of which this ethics is a part, beyond what has been attained by the modern project of "rehabilitation of practical philosophy". This is akin to what has been adduced elsewhere about the rise of the modern confused notion of (constructive) democracy, prepared by the philosophers of the eighteenth century: "Though the word referred to the Athenian ideal, its general use at the beginning of the nineteenth century neglected the psychological conditions on which classical democracy had been based. Then the psyche lived in terms of the Gods; now democracy had become the counting of heads of secular citizens under the reign of quantity" (Hillman, 1972, p. 154).

The point, I said, it is that there was more to it, than secular and uncontrolled ideal-seeking. In Aristotle, in fact, practical philosophy (ethics and politics) are only a part of philosophy, beside which one finds theoretical philosophy, with different but not less important functions. It was articulated as the double physics/prime philosophy, later called "metaphysics". "To ignore the latter, means to consider man, i.e. reality which is human, practical, historical, as being the only existing reality, and this is equivalent to absolutize, and therefore substantially to contradict, the very same finitude, that historicism, for which the exponents of the 'rehabilitation' (particularly Gadamer) care so much" (Berti, 1987, p. 72, my trans.).

Aristotle, then, cannot dispense with metaphysics, and this is evidenced toward the end of his Eudaemonic Ethics (guided by the search of happiness, in contrast to a hedonistic ethics, guided by the search of pleasure). It is not God who commands us to act in view of an end, since God does not command, because He does not need anything[38]. It is the phronesis, i.e. practical reason, which does that. Aristotle, in this way affirms the autonomy - not the eteronomy, as Kant fears - of ethics. Phronesis, however, commands in view of an end, which is not constituted by phronesis itself but, rather, by a different activity which is its own end (as medicine commands in view of health). This activity consists of "serving and contemplating God", i.e. of theoretical activity that pushes toward the search and discovery of the prime causes of the whole reality. The same concept is continued in the Nicomeachean Ethics where it is stated that phronesis commands in view of Sophia , i.e. wisdom, and cannot command to it. Phronesis is not the master of Sophia, as medicine if not the master of health, since it does not use it but, rather, tries to see how it can be produced. This means that phronesis does not create or construct, but discovers. It discovers the teleological ordinance of man toward its end, i.e. toward happiness, because this ordinance fits the general structure of reality, i.e. physis, which ultimately ends in God. All this means that the human good is not the supreme good. It is happiness, it is not God, but it cannot subsist without a maintaining a relation with the supreme good that keeps together (as in a "system") everything, including man. In acknowledging this, ethics does not subordinate itself to metaphysics by deducing from its norms from it. God, as stated earlier, does not command. But ethics takes this metaphysics into account in order to determine more accurately the constitution of the human good, just because metaphysics expresses the acknowledgement that man is neither the only nor the most important reality that exists (ibid. p. 76).

That was my point in indicating that there was something more to practical philosophy, pragmatic communication and construction. We have heard a lot about (auto) poiesis but nothing about phronesis (which, by the way I could not find in Webster's unabridged). Phronesis does not create, but rather discovers. There is something which is not "constructed"[39]. The determination of what that is, and how to take it into account, is the struggle which was suggested on the basis of Aristotelian ethics. It will be noted that the struggle was still described in the "secular" terms which were natural before the advent of Christianity, and are returning after its decline in our days. Secular metaphysics, however, is also being abandoned with the exception of some attempt to revive natural theology that will be mentioned at the end of the paper. Very few intellectuals seem to struggle with these issues today, which would include the struggle to reunite Christianity with that curtailed heritage of the Greek reason that dominates our science (Weil, 1970-1974). The pre-Christian separation of metaphysics from religion can be seen as a step in the process of secularization which would eventually end with the further flight from metaphysics, as in the earlier pragmatic quotation in this paper, the belief that "we can cut off Kant's metaphysical base and appreciate his idea on its own".

The process of secularization

In terms of what has been written earlier in this essay, the process of secularization is represented by Hayek's difficulty in taking the step from a vague liberal metaphysics which senses the shortcoming of pragmatic thinking, over to outright religion:

The tenets of ethical behavior consist of abstract, general rules which we are called upon to obey, regardless of what the consequences may be and very often without even knowing why it is desirable that we should act in one particular way and in no other. These rules have never been invented, and no one, so far, has ever succeeded in producing a rational foundation of the whole of the existing system of ethical behaviour. (Hayek, 1967, p. 243)

But in the same moment when the reader senses an implicit reference to a holy book, Hayek apparently does not dare to take such a profanely "heretical" step and, rather, continues unexpectedly with the anticlimax of an evolutionistic interpretation:

As I see them, these rules are genuine social growths, the result of a process of evolution and selection, the distilled essence of experiences of which we ourselves have no knowledge. They have acquired general authority because the groups in which they held sway have proved themselves to be more effective than other groups. Their claim to be observed is not based upon the fact that the individual is aware of the consequences of disregarding them, but they exemplify a recognition of the fundamental fact that the majority of these concrete consequences are beyond our ken and that our actions will not lead to constant conflict with our fellow men only when they are guided by rules which pay due regard to the circumstances under which we commit them. But it is against the very nature of all these rules of ethical behaviour and justice that this bogus rationalism to which the concept of "social interest" owes its origin, transgresses. (Ibid.)

I think that it is only on the basis of C.S. Lewis "Christian reflections", to be mentioned below in the context of profane critical social theory, that the apparent impasse between the Bible and evolutionism can be properly understood.

For the moment let's consider shortly and fragmentarily the process of secularization, and progressive effacement of metaphysics proper that transforms itself into so called ideal-seeking. Nicholas of Cusa, or Cusano (1401-1464, the Italianized name of the German philosopher and mathematician Nikolaus Krebs), stands at the origins of humanism. He was able to translate the medieval neoplatonic tradition and the German mystical tradition (Meister Eckhart) into the terms of the then rising humanistic culture. His ground in Platonism consisted of the "Socratic" awareness of the limitations of human knowledge. This conscious ignorance is, however, "docta ignorantia" - learned ignorance - in the sense that it opens itself towards an infinite search for approximation to God[40]. The world and natural phenomena are considered to be a living realization of God and a set of signs which includes the supreme harmony of the universe. In its divine unity - which we today could call grand system - it cannot be known by man in terms of concepts that only capture partial relations. Human reason, however, can be stimulated by an infinite progression of knowledge through conjectures, metaphors, and symbols. In particular, this can be done through the images and concepts of mathematics and geometry, that are the ones which most approximate the real harmony of the universe. Along this way Cusano proposes in a new form the logical tradition of R. Lully, who claimed a separation of faith and reason, in association with the subordination of philosophy to theology. Along this way Cusano influences the subsequent work of Leibniz and anticipates the Copernican revolution by asserting the relativity of physical representations of space and movement. This recalls, of course, the present rediscovery and revival of the importance of perspectivistic thinking, where the basis of perspectivism itself is seldom, if ever, reflected upon, beyond more or less cursory references to the Kantian "spectacles"[41].

From the middle of the nineteenth century the philosophy of history has acknowledged Cusano as occupying a central position as a forerunner of modern philosophy. It is in this historiographic context that our century's neo-kantianism - as represented by earlier mentioned E. Cassirer and the Marburg school - has evidenced the vitality and relevance of Cusano's speculations.

I have not studied the process of secularization as related to neo-kantism, but others have done that. It is easy to think that humanism understood as "man at the center of the universe", is a phenomenon that is closely related to the antagonism between the Profane and the Sacred or the "transformation of the divine into the civic" (Buckley, 1987; Riley, 1986, that I follow below). As I see it, it is not so much an issue of harmonious co-existence of the Sacred and the Profane, granted that "it is only in the context of religion that cognitive and moral values can be validated at all" (Kolakowski, 1982a). It is, rather, the question of the transformation of religion into politics or the transformation of politics into a new religion, with the Democratic State as the combined new Church and God. The flavour of this problematic humanism is formulated, for instance, in N. Malebranche's (1638-1715) hostility to T. Hobbes or Hobbism. Malebranche argues (Riley, p. 59) that "the just and the unjust, as well as the true and false, are not at all mere inventions of the human mind, as some corrupt spirits have claimed". Nowadays we could substitute "constructions" or "creations" for "inventions" in the quotation above, but the nucleus of the problem is the same: which are the ethical and religious principles that should structure and direct invention or cooperative construction?

In this context of positive law-making versus discovery or revelation of natural law it may be interesting to see some connections to the mathematics that would have been later embodied in our computers. "Leibniz relates to mathematics his belief that the merely apparent "particularity" of miracles arises from the inability of finite minds to conceive divinely general laws.... A love of eternal mathematical order formed the rapport between Malebranche and Leibniz" (p. 61f). What happened later may be seen in a similar "mathematical" key. J.-J. Rousseau, the germane root-ideologue of coming socialism, would derive the unity of its conception of the "general will" from generality, not seen merely as a civic ideal, but rather as a theological-scientific fact and as a moral-political imperative. This is akin to the Platonism that had been held together by "a mathematics-based kosmos or harmony, writ small in the individual psyche, larger in the well-ordered, consonant polis, largest in the harmony of the spheres that crowns the final book of The Republic" (p. 257).

Profane critical social theory vs phenomenology

A study that was made in recent years by D.J. Rothberg (1986) about the relation between critical theory and the phenomenology of religion will illustrate some of the difficulties raised by the secularization of humanism. In this way I also wish to join in questioning the modern split between humanistic rationality and religion, which is also related to the Kantian split between rational ethics and personal religion. One result of this split seems to have been substituting the new priests of constructive communications for the old priests of the Catholic Church. The need to address these issues has been well noted in certain intellectual quarters (Carpi, 1989; Ferretti, 1989; Filoramo, 1985; Toulmin, 1982) but its difficulties keep it as yet at safe distance from the context of applications to the computer field.

It has been pointed out that the theory of communicative action that stands at the basis of modern critical social theory including its "universal pragmatics", systematically excludes the very possibility of the validity of claims associated with religious experience. Something which would recall Christian love would probably be reduced to "non-purposeful systems such as the evolutionary pattern of friendships"; religious dogmas could be reformulated into a "common background of assumptions and values without which communication is impossible" (Lyytinen, et al., 1991, pp. 43, 54). The theory of communicative action substitutes communicative ethics for religion so turning communicative ethics in a new religion with its own dogmas. One consequence of these dogmas is that the deepest "internal" personal experiences of humans are denied universal validity and - as such - they are denied relevance in influencing the development of social reality. The denial of universal validity to religious experience and the transformation of religion into communicative ethics is probably one aspect of the earlier mentioned decline of metaphysics and of the transformation of philosophy into a socioeconomic ethics or criticism of society. The theme of theological theodicy is symptomatically interpreted, as by Habermas, as "the problem of justifying unequal distribution of life's goods, linked with the ideological needs of societies where the increase in material reproduction is connected with an increase in social inequality" (Rothberg, 1986, p. 223).

From our "humanistic" point of view it is particularly interesting to note that this socialization of metaphysics is performed at the cost of denying the validity of the deepest personal spiritual experiences, or - what amounts to the same thing - to reserve a special type of validity to such experiences. The socialization is also performed at the cost of denying the basic tenets of the systems approach, by maintaining an exterior differentiation that is not redeemed by dialectical integrative possibilities. The differentiation refers to the modern "dogma" of so called universal pragmatics, the process of developmental-logical advance of human knowledge through the separation of three cultural "value spheres" of science, morality, and art, each of them with its own "inner logic", from their undifferentiated unity in religious worldviews. This process would be also a differentiation of three "worlds" (objective, social, and subjective), three "attitudes" (objectivating, norm conformative, and expressive), and, very crucially, three types of "validity claims" (truth, rightness, and truthfulness).

The only hope for some kind of unity is then represented by reduction, by the transition from a religion of revelation to a religion of reason, one in which the central content of earlier structures, including the concept of God, is both transcended and absorbed into a "communicative ethics" (ibid., p. 224). Self-realization in the religious and metaphysical traditions was often understood as a kind of universal journey toward salvation, wisdom and self-knowledge with effects or meaning for one's beloved and the whole world. In contrast, rational self-realization is seen as particular (individual) gaining of insights about one own's life or deceptions. One can again use argumentative means in the areas of self-reflection and therapy, but there can be no universal grounded consensus in these matters; Habermas traces this, following the philosophy and psychology of G. H. Mead, to the dual structure of the self as both universal (as a "Me", as an autonomous subject within the communications community) and particular (as an "I" concerned with individuation). Only the former moment involves universality. Matters of self-realization can not come under universal standpoints; "the answer to the question, who one will be, can't be rational in the sense of moral decision" (ibid., p. 231, quoting Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action, 2, p. 167).

This is, then what I call the new dogmas of a rationality which do not even dwell on the theological meaning of the concept of dogma itself, and "explain away" everything that they cannot encompass. The construction above supports the process by which religions becomes privatized, and their claims relativized. The sacred is "linguistified", and the self-defined uncommitted humanistic rationality - for all its professed emphasis on "reflexivity" and "autonomy" - dogmatically declares unsolvable the ultimate problems of meaning and of self-realization, i.e. the core of humanity itself. For all practical purposes Mead's "I" shrinks to "Me" in the sense that "I" only seems to exist as a subject of manipulative parasitic purposes of supplying content to the formal operations in which the "Me" happens to be involved[42]. This may be what substitutes social theology, social ethics and criticism of society, for religion and metaphysics.

In the tradition of Jungian analytical psychology it is a well known phenomenon that the inflated and disgruntled conscious ego declares as unsolvable those problems that it cannot solve by itself, on the base of his own "root metaphor". It has also been noted that arguably the reason why many persons judge the domain of inner nature to be arbitrary and chaotic is that they are not trained adequately to investigate the inner domain; such a training is both intensive and extensive, often taking years of study and practice (ibid, p.237). A much more disturbing hypothesis is that the ego's reason for not embarking on such a training program is of a religious and ethical character. The tension between the concern for the individual and for other humans or society, in the light of religious teachings, is extremely painful. The maxim of the "equal distribution of life's goods" as well as several other modern "ecological" maxims are often adduced by rational people who claim to stand outside all ethical codes, reconstructing them on the basis of pure rationality. But :

They would never have reached their solitary injunction if they had really begun in an ethical vacuum. They have trusted the general human tradition at least to the extent of taking over from it one maxim. But of course in that tradition this maxim did not stand alone. I found besides it many other injunctions: special duties to parents and elders, special duties to my wife and child, duties of good faith and veracity, duties to the weak, the poor and the desolate.... And for me, again, there is no difficulty. I accept all these commands, all on the same authority. But there is surely a great difficulty for those who retain one and desire to drop the rest?.... The question then arises as to the reasonableness of taking one maxim and rejecting the rest. If the remaining maxims have no authority, what is the authority of the one you have selected to retain?.... New moralities can only be contractions or expansions of something already given. And all the specifically modern attempts at new moralities are contractions. They proceed by retaining some traditional precepts and rejecting others: but the only real authority behind those which they retain is the very same authority which they flout in rejecting others.... Those who urge us to adopt new moralities are only offering us the mutilated or expurgated text of a book which we already possess in the original manuscript. They all wish us to depend on them instead of on that original, and then to deprive us of our full humanity. Their activity is in the long run always directed against our freedom. (Lewis, 1988, "On ethics", pp. 74ff)

So much for the maxim of communicative and constructive action, to the extent that it does rely mainly on humans of "flesh and blood" (Heller, 1991, review of R. Rorty's "Contingency, Irony and Solidarity") . It is also the maxim which does not include "hierarchies" of communications with the sacred books and the "living" word of "dead" authors.

The alternative to the "book which we already possess in the original manuscript" is what Habermas' critical theory is concerned about. Nevertheless, unless there is a "normative structure untouched by politics" or "transhistorical features of our actions", or a "grammar of human actions or human conduct" representing the "idea of an obligation to sustain the institutions which embody a shared way of life", we would have no standards by which we could criticize, if not manage, historical changes (Rothberg, 1986, p. 85f, 89f). Such normative structures or grammar of transhistorical features of human actions would constitute the compelling basis, the objective moral content of our actions intervowen with promises, obligations, etc. They would be akin to L. Wittgenstein's rules of our language that impose themselves on the participants by the bare fact of their participation, if Wittgenstein only knew why they should participate.

I prefer the "book which we already possess in the original manuscript" that was suggested by C.S. Lewis' quotation above, and which is, by the way, the source of our hermeneutic knowledge about exegesis etc. I have, however, one main objection to the Lewis' quotation. There are indeed difficulties for me who accepts all the commands without truncating them down to some solitary injunction: it is very painful and exacting to keep them all in the mind at the cost of decreasing the "efficiency" of communications and action and their obvious pay-offs in economic, political and scientific careers. Furthermore I prefer "the book" because I agree wholeheartedly with those who have argued that rationality itself may obscure its own ideology. I agree that the analysis of the conditions for the ideal speech situation entails an a-priori moral stance, and that consequently rationality and irrationality blur together, with all the dangerous implications that this has for the (post) modern psyche. Arguments can be constructed which can yield pre-determined outcomes, and there are controversial substantive premises guiding the design of practical discourse or the ideal communication community which do not belong among the minimal (trivial) conditions that are supposed to define the argumentation situation. Discourses as a procedural mode of conversation require a reversibility of perspectives by actual listening to all involved or by representing empathically the many perspectives of all those involved, to the point of presupposing appreciable skills of moral imagination - not to say appreciable ethical sophistication. (Stigliano, 1990, pp. 90ff). Also John Rawls' "moral constructivism", as well as Habermas' discourse ethics or theory of communicative action, must recognize that to secure the willing and informed agreement of citizens is not possible unless there is also a commitment to the fairness of such an agreement and its terms. Moreover one would have to assume a theory of free will that would, if true, explain how it would be possible for people to be able to make the kinds of choices they would need to make. "Given all this, then we could understand what would persuade people to give up their own interests in favor of justice. Free, rational agents committed to fairness would link themselves to a social identity of a new sort" (ibid., p. 96)[43].

That would be nothing short of an utopic synthesis of Christian theodicy and Marxist social theory and that is also the reason why I prefer to revert to "the book". The impact of bureaucratic rationality, corporate capitalism, the decline of religion and shared understandings of democracy, among many other factors make the idea of a public discourse about the common good something quite improbable. The difficulty with both Rawls and Habermas, as with the social constructivists, is that their theories are too counterfactual and presuppose their effect including the right "taken-for-granted interpretive structures", in the same way as constructive computer systems tend to rely on counterfactuality (Apel, 1980, pp. 238f; Boland, 1987, p. 364; Ivanov, 1991b, chap. 5 on "some problems and challenges"). Their basic concepts remain abstractions (Stigliano, 1990, p. 98, also quoting A. Heller, 1984). "The book" seems to summarize to me, much better than Habermas or whoever does, what has been described as moral realism (ibid., p. 99, 101), stating that "the cultural understanding of what is moral and immoral, ethical or unethical is a network of communally held and interpreted traditions which may not always be logically coherent", that allow for "exceptions", and "attend to the arrangements people have made for themselves in a community".

I hand over these "pedantic" bibliographic references above to those readers who hopefully wish to pursue and develop this issue further. My point will be that no "solitary injunction" about anything, and in particular about construction and reconstruction, is possible without some more or less stable metaphysical - including ethical - base and structure of communication. This is what religions try to make us more conscious of by means their dogmas and doctrines as triggered and reflected by holy books.

Cooperative work: Examples of problems

Most of this paper up to now has been abstract, theoretical, philosophical, or whatever, but in any case with a scanty content of everyday life concreteness. It is time to try remediate to this by means of something more concrete, something which looks like a "life example" that illustrates some of the points of concern of the whole paper. Concreteness in this context, however will no mean direct application of computer technology but rather an opportunity for the reader to explore by himself whether computer support could be conceived to help in addressing the situation which is described.

It was mentioned above that, according to the liberal ironic utopia, humanity - or, rather, human solidarity - is supposed to be attained through the capability that fantasy and empathy give us to see alien people as suffering people of equal value. Solidarity, in this view, is not discovered through reflection but it is created by increasing our sensibility for the pain and humiliations that strike alien people. This process through which we succeed in seeing other people more like "one of us" than "they" includes detailed descriptions of others and of ourselves, and it is not a task for theory but rather for ethnography, journalistic reports, documentary dramas and, mainly, for fiction literature like romances and novels. For the purposes of this section I would also like to recall the point advanced in an earlier section that "critique understood as the progressive process of gaining awareness about our own 'state of mind' (scene) which is necessarily hidden in our judging (and acting in general). To put it metaphorically, critique is the attempt to see - not that which as an objective thing we are looking at, but rather - how we are looking at it...In a phrase, critique is the look of look...We can thus represent critique as a process of reaching out (stepping backward) toward new regions of awareness about the necessary concealing in our fundamental living-acting. This 'reaching-out' might be pictured as moving out in concentric circles (within the same plane or transcending to a new plane)." (Fuenmayor, 1990b, pp. 530f). Please observe the last sentence with the metaphor of "concentric circles" to which the text below will return.

The text that follows is an experiment in trying to apply the method above, in the context of serious matters of cooperative work which lately have been object of study and structuring in the view of enhancing it by means of computer support. "Computer supported cooperative work" - CSCW - is one of the latest buzz-words in the information society, and in what follows cooperation will be understood as collaboration, beyond a narrow understanding of the meaning of operation. The purpose of the "novel" is to illustrate what may happen, despite all talk about humanism and ethical social discourse, when emotional and ethical understanding is somehow unsatisfactory. The question is to let the reader explore the import of the whole paper by sensing the possible need of computer support and the possibility of incorporating into its development a metaphysics. It may be a question of an appeal to some sort of Christian principles, an appeal to self-reflection, or whatever that parallels the earlier mentioned attempts to integrate aesthetics and ethics in methods for development of computer systems which up to now have been grounded in an engineering tradition. The ultimate purpose is to sharpen the reader's understanding of the limits and possibilities of a "humanistic" attitude to problems which seem to defy such most common attitudes that were mentioned in the previous sections of the paper. I have consequently chosen problems that are neither technical work problems which are supposed to be solved with the help of humanism, nor humanistic problems which are supposed to be solved with the help of technology. I am aware that at least my latter choice offends what seems to be the main dogma of my scientific discipline.

The text is, however, written in a rather uncommon style. In the context of literary traditions it may be probably considered as reminescent of a sort of "machiavellism" (from N. Machiavelli, 1469-1527) and intrigues in the spirit of Choderlos de Laclos' "Les Liasons Dangereuses" (1782). They do not stand far from some modern competitive behavior in business and research. My particular text, however, stands probably closest to the literary idea of the English author, philologist and historian C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) as represented by his book "The screwtape letters" (Lewis, 1942). In order to reveal the dynamics of unrecognized evil, that book is edited in the form of a correspondence going on between a young devil-apprentice and his old devil-master, where only the master's letters with his advices are visible, while the apprentice's answers and further questions to the master are to be inferred in the course of his attempts to learn how to ruin his "client". I have adapted this form, and the main body of the section that follows, with the exception of this introduction and the concluding remarks, is supposed to portray the advice of the devil master to a devilish consultant-apprentice in his dealings with his own customer-clients. The consultant-to-be can also be imagined as running his own consultancy business or being employed in, say, the long run planning staff of an enterprise.

Now let's go over to the master-devil's advices to his consultant-apprentice who could also have been his immediate customer-client in a Faustian bargain situation.

Eliciting cooperative friendship

Dear, consultant-apprentice,

To start with, never forget that your measure of success depends upon what you do with your client. In our job, the client must stand always at the center of our concerns, so long as he can support our projects and ideas[44]. Remember that your client is the one to whom you make promises. Remember further that you only must make promises to two kinds of people: those upon whom you depend because they can bestow privileges, and those who already depend upon you or you will make dependent by means of such promises that can concern promotion, money, or whatever (remember what my brother Mephisto did with Faust). In both cases you must remember that you must seduce them, and that promises are your main tool of seduction. The basic content of the promises must be that you assure the client that he will get from you maximum advantages (the maximum of what he most badly needs or, rather, wants) with minimum effort and risk, i.e. the opposite of what he would get from your competitors. Don't worry about having to keep promises, and about seduction being followed by delusion. By the time people realize their delusion, if they dare to, you will be definitively in business, and you can shed on others the burden of the responsibility and consequences. Instead of keeping your promises you should rather worry about trying to make others keep promises they never made. This is easy if you present them with a fait accompli, i.e. an accomplished fact that is irreversible and implies their commitment, and which they would not have agreed to, if you had asked them in advance. This can be combined with your giving to people advance notifications, but in such vague terms, or with such an antecedence that they cannot envisage the consequences. Their reticence can be assumed later by a third judging party to have been an agreement. If they instead require a written advance agreement, you can accuse them for spoiling your relationship because of their insinuations, formalism, and patent lack of trust.

The client is also the one who can provide your company with money to finance your own collaborators and supporters. It is very hard for any business firm to turn down clients who want to give money for buying products or services suggested by some key strategist like you. The client is the one who will make you less dependent upon cultural or formal organizational constraints, upon irrelevant historical traditions, upon the control of your peers, or upon the authority of higher management, if you have any. At the same time he creates your authority towards your own subordinates and collaborators, i.e. those who will do your main job in the future. So, the client is the key, and he means money: money from and money to!

Whatever you will be trying to do with your client, you must start with a business idea. It must be a kind of niche that you name with a metaphorical and archetypal buzz-word which creates your basic profile - your trade mark, acronym, or logotype that will help to make you well known and remembered. You must appear as unique in relation to your competitors, including those which you resemble and could have collaborated with, but with whom you do not want to share your profits and your fame. Furthermore, since you know that modern salvation is usually expected to come from technology in its alliance with capital you must make sure that your idea can be developed and marketed in these terms. In scientific terms it must be translatable into a product or prototype, and never mind whether it ever gets really developed and implemented - whatever that means. It is as good as money for speaking by itself across national and international barriers of illiteracy. If you, furthermore, can claim that your niche also represents a social or philosophical breakthrough, then in principle you are done, and you can profit maximally from my coming advice.

The fundament of a good business idea is that it appeals to the Zeitgeist, as the Germans call it, to the spirit of the time, while simultaneously, if possible, it should give the impression that you are innovative and are going "against the current". If you do not feel what the Zeitgeist is, you may ask for advice from those who are particularly gifted in this respect, including the sophists of this age - advertising agencies, media men, fashion designers, and the like. You may anyway remember that until further notice today's Zeitgeist requires that you be: social, critical, ethical, technical, industrial, commercial, entrepreneurial, flexible, communicative, developmental, networking, democratic, quaint, plain, luring, expedient. You have to mobilize your fantasy in order to generate a business idea, but remember that fantasy has two faces: a productively imaginative one, and an erroneous, self-deluding one[45]. In our work we must certainly opt for the latter and market it as if it were the former. This will be easy with my help, because which face one sees is only a matter of perspective.

It must be possible to market your idea in terms of journalistic and advertising language. A good hint is that you define your niche in such vague innovative terms that it awakens curiosity but escapes real understanding. This will be facilitated if you emphasize, say, your humanities or philosophical basics when you direct your message to technicians or businessmen, while you emphasize technological or business basics when you direct your message to humanists or philosophically minded clients. You may round-off by referring to your competitors with appropriate denigrating words depending upon whom you are addressing. So, if your are addressing businessmen and technicians you may refer to your competitors as shilly-shally philosophy freaks or Luddites - computer killers (you must avoid difficult "humanistic" words). If you are addressing humanists you may refer to your competitors as gullible dilly-dally computer freaks and smart-aleck culture killers. (More about "neutralizing criticism" follows below.) You yourself - the objective observer of the extremes - obviously will represent the creative, ingenuous and ingenious golden middle way of the facilitating midwife. In this way you will be able to go far without needing more than basics, and you will be admired by all main parties in the play that you are putting on the scene with my help.

Then, you may launch your idea in the market and start developing your business by building up gradually your empire. The main point from now on is that you must not allow yourself, and much less others, to entertain and express any doubt about your idea. In particular, you must make sure that your client does not read, and much less meditate, upon the bible's words about big ideas: "But do not trust any and every spirit, my friends; test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, for among those who have gone out in the world there are many prophets falsely inspired" (1 John 3.4).

The main objective to be aimed at by a prophet who does want to entertain any doubt is to get clients, believers, supporters or collaborators who continuously can assure him that he is right.

One main method for eliciting collaborators is that you initially offer yourself - on your own expense - to help others in implementing their own work to the extent that it is conceivable that later it can be related to, and support your business idea. (An advantage is that help, cooperation, use, usefulness, implementation, and such, are words that can mean lots of different things.) Once you have done this, i.e. helped others or snared them in loyalties by bestowing favours which they even might have not asked for, you can start referring to these people as your collaborators who, furthermore, support and use your idea. In this respect, as in any other future project of yours, it is, of course, better for your advertising statistics to have, say, ten collaborators part time than one full time, in the same way as it is better for you to run ten projects or promises part time than only one well done full time.

From now on, the success of your implementation and the salvation (to me) of your client will depend on single-mindedness and strength of your will in continuing to elicit an ever increasing cooperation. That is the hallmark of a great leader, i.e. a leader who is "Faustian" (in the spirit of my brother Mephisto). Many good ideas do not get implemented in this world because their authors are self-critical, they really listen to others' criticism or to alternative ideas, and they themselves may occasionally doubt whether they are right. That shows once more the serious dangers of a restricted perspective which hangs together with a belief in the existence of right and wrong.

Neutralizing criticism

Dear consultant-apprentice,

I suggested at the end of my previous letter that your success depends on the strength of your conviction and your capability in eliciting the collaboration of those who will prove that you are right. This process is only mirroring the process of neutralizing those competitors and clients who refuse to collaborate, and who might prove that you are wrong. This is only my way of expressing the "fact" that reality, ideals, and truth, are socially constructed, and that everybody has the right of trying to construct his own reality in the same way as he has the right to specify to the seller his own customized capital good, or consumer appliance.

First of all you must express yourself in plain language and you must oversimplify your message by appealing to the earlier defined Zeitgeist. This together with a policy of easy promises will make you widely popular[46]. In contrast, your critics or competitors will most surely have to complicate your original message or present another one which is much less plain than yours, in order to get forth their own point. This is a variant of the "why not?" strategy which has been formulated elsewhere (Ivanov, 1989), and we must adapt it to our purposes: the basic idea is that the easier your questions, the more difficult will be your competitors' answers. You must therefore keep the priority of initiative, and put forth easy and "rhetorical" simple questions or statements, leaving to others the task of criticizing them by means of messages that necessarily will be more complicated and less understood than yours. In the same spirit, if you have to dismiss any extensive criticism or objection that is raised against you or your products, you must shatter its wholeness. If you are served an extensive "system" of critical arguments you should not try to counter it with a whole system of your own. You must rather take the critic's attempt of creating a dialectics of systems, and reduce it to an atomic dialogue of short and simple statements of opinions and marginal remarks, like when answering a long letter by returning it to the sender with some notes on its margins. You have to pick up some single easy marginal point leaving the rest intact, and comment upon it in a fragmentary, superficial or absent-minded way. In this way you shift over to your discussants the time- and energy consuming burden of striving for wholeness and systems thinking in their next argument. This is a good way of shifting people's attention from "systems" over to "discourses", "dialogues" and "language games". In the long run I bet you will blow up your discussants' minds.

In the same way as you shift the intellectual burden of proof on the shoulders of your critics, so you should also shift the economic burden of proof. In other words, you must exploit the "lamentable" fact that "verification of the theory depends as much on the cost of trying to apply it as it does on other empirical evidence" (Churchman, 1961, p.331). Those who cannot afford to compete with you are by definition out of business. The idea is that you get money for your pet project by promising the profitability of your "doing". Whenever you get criticized you can respond by challenging your critics to do something better by themselves without your cooperation and without your money or, rather, the money of your client. Tell them to be constructive on their own economic premises, instead of just criticizing you in a negative way. Such a challenge will put them automatically in the awkward position of having to compete with you without having your resources. If they have not your money, probably they cannot afford to prove you wrong[47]. In this way you may succeed in eliminating all competitors who do not share your own presuppositions and your own profitability ethics, i.e. those who, after all, do not share our own goals. If, against all odds, you don't succeed, don't despair. There are other techniques for dealing in a more general way with all kinds of competitors.

Let's suppose that your conviction or opinion on a key issue is just not shared, or it is made object of competitive criticism by people either in private or in some forum of debate. Let's call all such people, who can be an individual representing a group of friends, by the generic name "Joe". My definite advice is that you do not loose time in attempting a rebuttal of this criticism on its own "intellectual" grounds since there are no facts but only opinions. If you are convinced that you are right and that your success will ultimately benefit a majority of those affected, you can construct truth - not the truth - in the following way. Under the dictum that reality is socially constructed and that there are no distinctions between public and private, or between science, politics and ethics, you can transform the whole into a conflict of opinions where you try to get democratic majority.

First of all you must understand friendship in terms of this basic concept of democratic majority. Remember that in the same way as there is no real reality at all, so there is no real distinction between private and public, as there is no real distinction between friendship and collaboration, ethics and politics, or between dialogue and rhetoric. Many people have the naïve belief that what goes on between two people - like a dialogue or an intercourse - is in some confused sense ethical, while what goes on among many people is political. That is nonsense and I can swear that nobody really understands such nonsensical messy distinctions. Of course you can have a political conversation with a friend, or talk about your mother and your private life at, say, a business meeting. What you must understand is that basically every human relation is socially constructed. The main thing you must understand is that anything, say a wife or a friend, is not "private". It is justified, rather, mainly in terms of the support it can give you in the social construction of your reality which is also the reality of your ever expanding community. The more unconditional or potentially useful is the support which might be given to you, the more stable should be the relationship. Nevertheless, ultimately you should feel free to leave a non-supportive friend like Joe, and to use, say, your private correspondence with him by making it public, if you can assume that you will win sympathies among people who do not share the context and historical background of the correspondence. Look for new friends by looking for your critic's own enemies, and overrun him by means of ignoring him - if he is not powerful - or through gradual marginalization. There is by now an appreciable amount of scientifically based literature on adult "coping behavior" (Boalt Boëthius, 1983; Lazarus, & Folkman, 1984; Leymann, 1986, pp. 20ff, 81ff). It can easily be read as the devil myself reads the bible. (Yes, I do always write godly words with low-case letters.)

In order to look after possible democratic allies try regularly to go around visiting colleagues at your own workplace. You can also mail circular letters to a great number of potential allies asking for comments or advice on your ideas. These letters by themselves will make your name widely known. You should address these letters especially to influential people, and especially abroad if you work for an international business ("No prophet is recognized in his own country", Luk 4.24). You should, further, participate in business meetings, professional societies, gatherings, conferences, or milieus that are frequented by people who are supposed to share your interests, and therefore, unfortunately, to know of Joe's negatively competitive attitude.

Without taking stand on whether the negative attitude or the criticism is justified - e.g. by ignoring its content or by claiming that you yourself do not know it yet in detail, but just browsed or heard of it - ask the people you meet or come in contact with whether they share your critic's - Joe's - views, and what they think of him as a person, whether he has been really supportive towards them, etc. If you can assume that they have some prior sympathy for your cause, try to address them always as "we", creating a polarization between "we", that is you and them, and "him". Then you have two cases: (1) If they do approve your critical competitor Joe, you have to suggest that Joe disapproves and despises their work, and then forget them or, rather, write their name down on your list of enemies for future use. Before you leave and forget them, however, try to elicit their own friendships and sympathies so that you on occasion can tell to the latter that the former disapprove and slander them. (2) If they don't approve Joe and his criticism, you can prize their insight, you can complain openly of him, and write their name down on your list of friends for more immediate democratic use. You can also quote them rather freely in appropriate circumstances, the more freely so the lower the probability that they will know that you have quoted them. In particular, you can quote them as disapproving or even "ridicularizing" Joe. You can feel quite safe that even if they happen to get to know about your quoting them so freely they will not be motivated enough to go public for an official denial.

Finally, you can elicit the future loyalty of an increasing number of people at your workplace by means of the policy of seductive easy promises. You can express your high opinion of their work (often no details are necessary), confirming that you support them, and that you feel that their boss ought to promote them (but, unfortunately, he does not share your insight, etc.). You can do the same outside your workplace, rounding off by promising potential supporters some concrete future professional advantages in terms of what you can do for them in your present and (with their support) future position. If you work for an industrial company, for example, you can gain from a researcher "scientific support" to your cause in your internal business strifes if you promise him in exchange to certify the import of his research for (your) practical business applications. If you organize a business meeting, you can arrange a potential supporter's participation in your meeting by certifying to his manager the extreme importance of his contribution. In exchange he may arranging your own participation in another coming meeting at a foreign exotic place. In this way you can progressively expand your area of recognition, influence and, ultimately, fame, in a series of concentric circles of loyalties. You will construct a truth that is not only yours but also "social", and is immune to disturbing irrelevant opposition.

By anchoring your truth in concentric expanding circles of discourse-communities you will make it into a genuinely critical attitude in the positive, philosophical sense of the word. This is, namely, the way the devil - that is me - conceives critique, as a process of reaching out (stepping backward) toward new regions of awareness about the necessary concealing in our fundamental living-acting. This 'reaching-out' might be pictured as moving out in concentric circles where you always keep yourself at the center, within the same plane or transcending to a new plane, while pushing any deviant opposition towards the margins. Therefore you must eschew to get involved in, or even to allow others to set up, "open", and "uncircled" unstructured debates where you have a stake in the outcome. The debate could get out of hand and you will risk to loose your concentric circle-control when you most need it. Therefore you must prevent such dangerous debates by appealing to the need of preparing the issues through confidential contacts in a grey zone that is intermediate between private and public, i.e through selective professional friendships. In the last resort you can admit debate and criticism, if you structure it in different domains that are taken care of by different debate groups. So, for instance, you can meet your critics alone in special high-level debates dedicated to overall policy issues, and later filter down their message to your supporters in other meetings that are dedicated to more concrete operative matters. In this way you will protect your supporters from lots of irrelevant influences that can disturb their collaborative work for your cause. You can, then, round off by pointing to your supporters that external criticism is inconclusive and it is proving itself to be irrelevant to concrete operative matters.

In any case, remember that in this scheme of things you must try to conquer exclusively for yourself the other people's friends that they share with you, while you avoid to share your own original friends. If you did so, two of more of them could talk with each other outside the range of your control, and in the worst case they could start talking about you, with the risk that they discover and share some common negative opinions about you which unites them in a future action against your person. This could jeopardize your central position in the "circle" of friends. Such position is analog to the role of facilitator in a computer supported cooperative system, which could be jeopardized if unmasked for not being objective and neutral in the middle of all perspectivistic thinking. You must keep in control by seeing to it that all contacts among your friends go through your agency, as if you were the facilitating operating system of the cooperative network.

One effective way of attempting to implement the overall policy is that as soon as some of your friends introduces to you some of his friends you begin to share with the latter some intimacies about the former in order to create an opportunity for further intimacies, and elicit any possible latent criticism of him. Most goodwilled people are not sensitive to the possibility for such manipulations. This is a powerful tool for binding your newly conquered friend by means of a secret link of intimacy that may be a good platform for any future goal-oriented cooperative marginalization process.

Cooperative coping behavior

Dear consultant-apprentice,

Some of the ideas developed for facing scientific criticism and debate by means of political friendship can be developed further in the direction of a direct active persecution of your competitors or enemies, i.e. of whoever - like Joe - does not fully and actively support your own views ("He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters", Matt. 12:30, as I read it). In this way you take the step from a reactive over to a preactive, and further to an interactive view of systems planning. This corresponds to how your master - the devil myself - likes to conceive what has been written about "redesigning the future" (Ackoff, 1974, pp.24ff).

The basic idea is developed out of the fact that everyone of your critic competitors, like Joe, knows that if he takes an ethical stand on any issue, and says something substantial "against the current", he will be hard to understand, and will create some "enemies" or people who dislike him very strongly. He will rightly assume that he may always have some enemy. This figure of enemy of his may actively be used by you to support yourself, even if the enemy does not exist, or does not know, or does not want this. This is done, first of all, by going around at your workplace and spreading rumours about your critic, say, Joe, again. Joe can even be, by the way, your no longer useful or supportive manager whose mere presence clogs the road of your career. You can spread rumours that he is having troubles with his relations with other people, that he does not feel competent for his job, that you feel pity of him because he finds himself so isolated, that he disapproves the ideas of whoever you are talking to, that nobody really understands him and there may be good reasons for that, but... etc. Then you can go and tell Joe that you are his friend and just want to warn him personally, in trust and confidence, that "people" around him - no names mentioned - are loosing their respect for him, that they think he is incompetent, ridiculous, or authoritarian, or isolated, that he should get lost, etc. Tell him that they do not express their opinion freely and openly directly to him because their are afraid of his reprisals and vengeance but you are his real friend, and you try to defend him in the context of such anonymous clandestine conversations going on around him, eventually by conveying such rumours.

In any case, this little piece of work of yours will stir feelings at your workplace and disclose your potential new friends by tapping hostile opinions concerning your critic. If you are fortunate, Joe will overreact against his presumed "critics", by now already former presumed friends, estrange himself from them by means of ridiculous charges, etc. Then you will have already won half the battle. If not, have patience. If Joe is a thoughtful self-critical type who already practices "real" perspectivistic thinking and is ready to question himself, and does not feel like going around to ask all colleagues in his close vicinity about what they really think of him, or if he is so moral that he feels that he should not through his inquiry reveal your name as informer in this context, then you have also already won an appreciable part of the battle. The fact itself that Joe believes that most people around him may think of him in that particular way will, in gratitude, soften his attitude towards you - his only sure friend upon whom he is dependent for getting insider information about the mob's thinking. The best thing, however, is that it will also affect his behavior towards others, making it more touchy or unnatural, amplifying whatever seed of truth there was in the original statement (and you know that there are seeds of almost everything everywhere).

A variant of the strategy above is that you go to Joe and tell him that somebody else - Stan, or no names mentioned if you do not dispose of an appropriate man - has told you that Joe in confidence has told him that he (Joe) strongly disapproves your work, that he does not respect you, and that he thinks that your own work is worth nothing. Then ask Joe whether this is true, and what he thinks of Stan's or of the anonymous fellow's statement. In this way you obtain several advantages at once without ever going into the heart of the matter which is being talked about, and which consists only of opinions: (1) As in any good bluff you may get Joe's confession, in case he really happened to criticize you without you knowing that. (2) You, most probably, get an outright confirmation that the confidential information that you got, if you really got it, is not true - whatever that means in view of the original extreme formulation of the critical judgements. In any case in the future you can quote Joe that he approves and supports wholeheartedly your ideas - without any embarassing reservations. The next time Joe happens to criticize you openly you can rightly accuse him of hypocrisy. (3) Joe may get mad at Stan and go to him with the accusation that he is calumniating him or that he does not keep their conversations confidential, as the case may be. That will probably estrange him definitively from Stan disregarding the truth of the matter, a truth that, as you know, does not exist in the perspective of perspectivistic thinking. You on your part can later always tell Stan - if he comes asking for explanations - that you were obviously misunderstood by Joe, since you had not referred Stan in precise words, or you had not expressed yourself in such an extreme and exaggerate form. You may possibly even refer to the classical sociological experiments on the gradual distortion of "hearsay" (which you, paradoxically, are exploiting in your own strategy). (4) In any case you will increase Joe's feelings of insecurity and his lack of trust in his colleagues. That is a sure investment for creating later difficulties to Joe at his working place.

Further variants are that you tell people that somebody has told you that Stan has said that Joe had told him that he does not approve you, etc. In this way you can stir up unending small conflicts at your working place, and they can be favourable to your cause if you only see that you keep in some way at the center of the gossip network. Most untrained people cannot keep track of information flows in such networks, and the odds are in your favour that your critical enemy - here always represented by poor Joe - will take some false step. You may even be so fortunate that your Joe overreacts and does something unpremeditated like accusing you in a way that exposes his weakness and emotional shortcomings to the democratic gossip community. If, on the other hand, he starts going around and asking people what they think of him the chances are that if they respond positively he may still attribute this to their alleged fear. If they respond negatively or, really, in any case, they will get the message that Joe feels unsure of himself and of his environment, puts strange questions, and more generally he is not the self-confident type of "winner" that most upcomers like to serve.

Avoidance of conflict

Dear consultant-apprentice,

If you want to make friends and win influence over people it is important that you can neutralize your enemies, but a condition that is even more important is that you avoid making enemies, in the first place. "If you can't beat them, join them! Or, rather, make them join you!" You cannot afford enemies before you have won a powerful position. Therefore you must adopt a humble attitude that recalls the image of the good old objective impartial observer but now - with a new terminology - may be called "facilitator". The basic recipe is: ask a lot and say very little, which by no means implies that you have to renounce to your already formed convictions and assertive plans of action. It means, among other things, that you learn about others and win them as friends, in order to be able to make them cooperate with you later, for your own noble purposes.

Whenever you happen to ask or say something try to concentrate on asking for or eliciting the others' opinions. To find their Achille's heel ask also for their justifications unless this may be publicly embarassing for the respondent who likes having only opinions and hates to try to justify anything. Everybody appreciates telling about his own opinions, and the odds are in your favor that you will be considered to be an attentive and respectful positive listener, and that nobody will notice that you say nothing or very little. Whatever little you say must be chosen so that it will be approved by any standards of that particular community which hopefully soon will become your community. Therefore you may freely prize your interlocutor's work, especially considering that in a perspectivistic perspective everybody has something valuable to contribute to the collective wisdom. Nevertheless you must be careful in prizing the work of others, including your own supporters whose popularity may be on the decrease in the headhunting market.

If somebody should notice your reticence and asks where you stand, you may concentrate on expressing with forceful conviction noncontroversial honorable statements like that you are for offensive marketing, openness, reason, communication, collaboration, participation and autonomy, human-friendly technology, positive and constructive criticism, freedom of expression, honesty, humanity, democracy, minorities' and women's rights[48], ethical integrity, respect and tolerance for others' opinions, emancipation of the oppressed, productivity, client-centered business ideals, concrete results, development, growth, creative and stimulating supportive environments, flexibility, critical adaptiveness, learning, wholeness, ecological consciousness, analytical rigour, competence, feedback from practice, experience, critical evaluations, quality, etc. You may then round off by stating that you are suspicious of, or outright against, diffident protectionism, isolationism, envy, disregard of rules of fair play, authoritarian attitudes, formalism for its own sake, censorship, abstract speculative philosophizing, destructive negative criticism, technology for its own sake, boring and oppressive automation, passive contemplation, obscure ideas, reactionary attitudes, oppression of poor and disadvantaged people, disregard of others' opinions, unwilligness to cooperate and communicate, simplistic negative attitudes to technology and business, contempt for possible profitable applications of business ideas, etc. In summary, you must make clear that you are against everything that your enemies or, rather, those who do not understand you, represent. In this way you have also material for many hours or continuous conversation or for many pages of policy statements for your business projects. But remember that you do not really "hate" your competitors, and in this sense you have not real enemies. They are just people that must be bypassed or neutralized in the name of free competition, or because they do not understand your avowedly conscious noble and productive motives. They are the people you cannot afford to convince to pay attention to you, to support you, and to share with you, your own selected perspectives.

There is a safe universal strategy for putting off any sensitive and difficult questions. You can always answer that the question is very good, and you really think that it deserves to be considered and developed further in its long run implications. You can, then, assure the questioner that if he supports your idea or your initiative you will see to it that his question will be ultimately answered. If somebody objects that this reminds him of so called post-modern, nihilistic or relativistic attitudes, you can recursively agree that this may indeed be the case, that this is also a good question that deserves to be discussed in terms of your idea, and so on. When you get close to become a master like me, dear apprentice, you might even be able to tell the questioner that you think that his questions are so interesting that you would like to collaborate with him in analyzing his questions more carefully. The next day you will be entitled to put him on the list of your (passive) collaborators, and there is a chance that he will feel honored for getting such an attentive response to his questions.

In the general noise of cocktail parties and workshops that characterize most cozy presumedly humanistic or "goody-goody" environments the odds are again in your favour that noboby will notice what you are saying or, rather, not saying. In exchange for that, as mentioned above, you will be avoiding creating enemies, but there is more to that. You will namely be able to take the bearing of others' convictions in order to be able later to make use of them, more or less consciously, for your more or less conscious purposes. This would be also the advantage of your having the role of centrally placed "facilitator" or - for that matter - even "system philosopher", in the continuous positive co-operation of continuously changing, dynamic computer-supported collaborative tools of production.

The paradox of self-assertive humility

Dear consultant-apprentice,

Confidence is surely desirable and necessary in order to introduce yourself in society as a winner with whom people like to collaborate, but that must be paradoxically, or rather dialectically, counterbalanced by smart humility. Remember that the heart of cooperation is that you get so much help as possible to implement what you believe is good. This matter of goodness, that you may advertise as your emphasis on "ethics", presupposes, however, that you only cooperate with - or rather insure the cooperation of - those who think that it is good to cooperate with you either because they are naïve "Christians" or because they hope to get some advantage in virtue of your increasing or expected power.

Remember that, in an age of easy democracy, cooperation is a good in itself, as much as learning is. It will be easy to get people to help you if you claim that you work for enhancing cooperation - that is, you operate for cooperation which enhances and constructs "ethical" power. In other words, most people already "know" that learning is good and cooperation is good, and you must make sure that people do not start asking themselves what is good learning, good cooperation or good construction. You must make sure that they believe they know that knowledge is power but you must prevent that they ask themselves what knowledge is or should be, beyond that it must be pluralistic. If they do ask themselves such question your position as facilitator is endangered and it can get out hand by escaping out of our vicious circle.

If, in spite of all precautions this should anyway happen you can always try to create a new positive metaphorical word designating your business, and this will allow you another free period of undisturbed positive productive operation. Who dares to accuse you of smart-aleckism and question a positive, constructive, and caring attitude - if such questioning suggests that the questioner then prefers a negative destructive attitude? It always takes time for people to discover that a new word distracts their attention from an old word that is getting worn-out and begins to be suspected of emptiness.[49]

It may, however, become difficult in the long run to make people to cooperate with you if you do not cooperate with them. A one-sided cooperation, however, is what you most need to promote your career's development, and you will realize that it is not only very profitable for you and your friends, but also very possible in face of the naturally asymmetrical nature of the concept of cooperation The degree of cooperation of A with B is, in fact, the extent to which A's activities improve the effectiveness of B's activities relative to B's goals. Cooperation is thus seen to be asymmetrical: A may cooperate with B, while B does not cooperate with A. You must them remember that the keyword to motivating a fellow - let's call him Joe, too - to continue cooperating with you without your needing to cooperate with him is your apparent self-abasement, clothed in "humility" toward him.

In other words, your self-confidence and assertiveness that makes you to an attractive winner must be mitigated by a sort of paradoxical self-abasing way of diminishing your worth and praising the work of the one whose loyalty - or cooperation - you want to elicit. You must tell Joe that he is, according to the circumstances, your most arriving apprentice and budding talent, or your hero and paradigm in his capability of helping, guiding and inspiring you in the course of your work. You must emphasize that you are in bad need of his support and his unique competence in order to succeed in your difficult and most important task which, in turn, is a unique opportunity which will enhance his own and his friends' success - it would be really a pity if that opportunity would be picked up by his worst competitor, etc. Such statements will be welcomed for promoting his own paradoxically anxious self-confidence. If you repeat them often you may eventually be so fortunate that your helper forgets that he himself needs help. In any case, he may feel ashamed of revealing his weakness and of possibly loosing your enormous admiration. You can then start delegating to him all non glamorous anonymous routine work that is required in order to fulfil the promises you have made to others in your own name. But don't worry about promises: "the moving horizon of promised results keeps the image forever young" (Boland, 1987, p. 374). From this point of view you should never hesitate to accept responsibility for jobs which make you well known and popular in broad milieus. This is still more so in case you can elicit the cooperation of people who - moved by loyalty or a feeling of shame in view of the risk of revealing the group's shortcomings to outsiders - will take over the non-glamorous conflictual anonymous parts of your jobs and bring them to satisfactory accomplishment.

This little piece of work from your side will free you from lots of time consuming chores and responsibilities, including the need of sharing strategic information with Joe and your anonymous helpers. This will promote your own creativity and flexible combinatorial thinking which is so necessary for discovering new opportunities and taking new initiatives. Remember that knowledge is power but there are many people - not the least your closest competitors, your colleagues and your manager - who do not need more power, especially if they trust you[50]. In general, this will further your own development which later may contribute to the wellbeing and democratic loyalty of your friends and supporters to whom you have made strategic promises. Furthermore, you won't need to share, with neither Joe nor anybody else, your newly acquired professional experiences ("information is power"!) and your new supportive cooperative friends. You may rightfully expect that Joe will share his experience, friends and supporters but you can refrain from reciprocating the same service to him since he is supposed to be the powerful, popular and generous guy who therefore can afford to give and share with you indefinitely. You may even be so fortunate that he may be happy to try to believe that himself. If he does'nt, and he comes to ask you for some favour you must be so reticent as to make him feel somewhat humiliated like a beggar who needs charity. This will discourage him from asking for further help or information. He will withdraw but the whole story will entitle you to go around boasting to others that, in his impotence and disorientation, he desperately asked for your competent help. In addition you can justify in front of others your further reticence in sharing your knowledge and your social milieu since you can claim that Joe is probably envious and this is why he has withdrawn and why he does not ask you anything and does not show interest for your work. On the contrary, this attitude hides his critical negative and destructive view of your business ideas. He wants to suffocate your creativity and your enterprises, and therefore you must defend yourself from his destructive envy by persecuting him.

In summary, my dear upcoming buddy, we have now almost closed our vicious circle. If you have followed my hints we are now almost equally skilled, and I can give you my final and most general advice. Remember that the best effect of my advices is obtained if you do not feel that they are objectionable. The best and most sure success is obtained if you yourself are convinced that you only follow your own most noble motives. There is nothing that adds so much to self-confidence, natural charisma and energy like the feeling of self-righteousness which flows from a deep personal conviction. Therefore the last task I give you is that you try to forget me, and work harder than ever in order to neutralize or suffocate definitively any criticism or doubt that endangers the peace of the slumber of your conscience.


Enough with letters. What are we to make of this?

"Mephistophelian" behavior or interpretation of behavior is also in turn interpretable in modern psychological terms. The Freudian psychoanalytic tradition, for example, depicts certain results of masterly successful screwtape-apprenticeship in terms of "neurotic styles" or "pathological narcissism" (Kernberg, 1975; Shapiro, 1965). Analog psychoanalytic insights have characterized the influential Tavistock school of study in the organizational dynamics of small work groups' behavior (Bion, 1961; Boalt Boëthius, 1983; Palazzoli, 1986; Pines, 1985). It seems to have been largely ignored in research on computer-supported cooperative work, in spite of all avowed emphasis on social systems[51]. The reason for such negligence must probably be sought in the anti-humanism that dominates research. It is probably the same "anti-humanism" that has socialized philosophy at the expense of the metaphysical universality in the individual human being.

As usual such things are believed to be too extreme for having any relevance for our own work situation: literature, history and psychology are supposed to have only a "curiosity" value for positive and rational people that are engaged in constructive cooperative work with the help of high-technology. Fortunately it's always others who seem to be striken by apparently extreme situations or by tragedy, and need such a supportive knowledge.

If one wishes to escape from the image of extreme situations and tragedy a more playful literary prototype could be welcome, which I have not the power of imitate. I am thinking of David Lodge's TV-documentary "Big Words - Small Worlds" as well as his books about the game of academic life in its interactions with the so called real world in "Small World" and in "Nice Work" (1984; 1989). A less known work which strongly recalls C.S. Lewis' and my writing idea, and stands closer to the frontiers between the playful and the tragic, and between the sacred and the profane, is L. Kolakowski's "Conversations with the Devil" (1982b). It is symptomatic that Kolakowski's thesis is that a great danger menaces humanity if we do not see or do not acknowledge the reality and the power of evil. Several other writers have noted that such naïvety in the attitude to evil can easily dominate a country which has since long lost contact with the historical reality of international political and military terror. It is easily ignored that Mephisto in praxis does not appear as a stinking animal with tail and horns. It would be altogether too easy to counter evil by recognizing it in such circumstances. It is sufficient to remember Goethe's Faust and the saying that the hell is full of good meanings and wishings, or that "hell is paved with good intentions" (attributed to James Boswell's "Life of Samuel Johnson").

In a somewhat different perspective I myself observed the dynamics of a project for the computerization of certain library services, and reported the results about fifteen years ago (Ivanov, 1977b) in the form of a list of standard explanations of failures. I developed later this image into what I call the "Don Juán syndrome" (Ivanov, 1986, pp. 62, 135, 139, 159). This paper follows a line of presentations that reminds of these types of work, even if unfortunately it lacks literary qualities.

One main point of this section has been to illustrate the challenge of "perspectivistic" positive thinking. An appreciable amount of the behavior patterns observed at a working place may be seen and interpreted in different ways but "the one only way" predominates. It is as if the positive perspectivist said to himself: "My own behaviour is good and my enemy's is bad to the extent that he thinks that I am not good and does not want to support me. He may deserve respect and attention but I am a frail human and I am limited in my resources, and I must try to do something, implementing at least my strongest convictions. I think that I should keep the conversation going with my enemy and try to see things from his point of view, but in practice I have not the time and energy necessary for doing this, and therefore I must limit my ambitions in this respect: I have to concentrate on building relationships with potential friends who entertain "reasonably" different perspectives, i.e. similar to mine. They will make me immune to illwilled attacks by those who do not understand my goodness and smartness", and so on.

By enhancing a problematic interpretation of behaviors that are familiar and are often superficially interpreted in a positive vein, I wished to stimulate fantasy on how to solve the impasse of conflicting interpretations. What can be done about it? The particular writing technique that I chose, without presumptuous claims of literary comparisons between me and other historical authors, has inspired me for the purpose of touching upon delicate issues of cooperative work. This has been my way to put in evidence some of the dynamics of defective cooperativeness. One implicit question is: to what extent, if and how, could computer support or any principles of systems development contribute to enhancing an ethical cooperativeness, assuming that the problems described here are a felt reality in many practical work situations? Another question is: assuming that we have implemented in a workplace a constructive collaborative computer application, what would be the effect of some users' possible Mephistophelian behavior during its operation?

I would like to acknowledge that the very limited material that is heavily edited and "typified" here is obviously a caricature - assuming that there is some sort of reality to be caricatured. It was, however, inspired by my direct and indirect personal experiences through other people's reported vicissitudes. It includes thirty years of work in industry and university, with a clear overrepresentation of university experiences that have dominated the last twenty years. I certainly recognized the milieu described by David Lodge in the literature referred above. I think that such material will be recognized as trivial, both in comparison with Machiavellism and in the sense that many of us will have experienced similar everyday feelings and fantasies which are common in many workplaces. That they sometimes have been genuinely lived through, and sometimes even suffered, is, in a phenomenological spirit, the possible merit of such testimonies. This, however, does not mean that they are more "objective" since it is very possible, in terms of analytical psychology, that they are projections of tendencies in our own minds. I myself, for instance, recognize at least temptations to act in accordance to the advices to the consultant apprentice. At the same time, however, I should state the standard formula that all similarity with so called "real" events or persons must be considered to be "pure coincidence", the more so in a perspectivistic attitude, and with due regard to the complexity of the concept of randomness. In this context I would rather refer to the concept of "types" (Bär, 1976; Hammen, 1981) - and my text may be seen as an attempt to contribute to the description of types of cooperative behavior. Reference to Jungian archetypes, instead, would emphasize the ethical ambiguity of archetypal images, where my Mephistophelian descriptions underscore their negative side as well as the negative "shadow" side of personality.

Concluding remarks

One main question, then, is what kind of principles or features should be built - if that is possible at all - into our pragmatic theories of cooperative action or into cooperative computer support, in order to obviate the difficulties or create positive opportunities in the screwtape-like working milieu typified above. Is it mainly a question of rational principles for ideal communication or is it question of ethical principles, and how could they be implemented in some kind of computer support? Some preliminary suggestions in this context were presented in an earlier paper (Ivanov, 1991b, chap. 4.3). In this paper I would have preferred to focus on the principles that should and could be designed into and around the computer support of design of computer applications, where all such applications are considered to be basically cooperative and constructive, i.e. positive. If this is not possible then it may be the case that the concerns that are being built into most cooperative computer support today are not humanistic in the sense that they do not take into consideration the most basic human difficulties and realities at the level of organizational, social life. My own experience is that I have found the most problematic and tricky (un)cooperative behavior just among those who advertise it most.

I was encouraged to attempt to formulate the types above by the fact many researchers declare themselves avowedly favourable to a perspectivistic, pluralist approach to an interactive, positive, cooperative view of truth. I assume therefore that we all welcome uncommon perspectives that by definition are the real challenges to the idea of cooperativeness.

I do not illude myself, however, that this assumption will be shared by most people, in spite of their vows in this respect. Namely, I do not believe that most of those who profess the perspectivistic pluralistic approach are appreciative of the main message in my own embryonic brand of perspectivism under the aegis of the concept of quality of information and of information systems (Ivanov, 1972). The main point there was that the core of meaningful perspectivism is its attempts to approximate "truth" or maintain goodness was its ability to incorporate or sweep-in the (according to some perspective!) most uncommon, deviant, dangerous, uncomfortable, repulsive or negative perspectives, the deadly enemies of the dominant or emergent Weltanschauung[52]. Today's perspectivism and constructivism is sometimes more akin to goody-goody consensus of the type that turns democracy into the "positive" or constructive equivalent of majority rule. That can also be one reason for the frequent use of the ingratiating buzz-word "consensual domain" in much critical social theory and cybernetic autopoiesis. The basic problem may be also formulated as being the unintended reduction of social agreement to the conventional, and the unconscious incapacity to pass from a Lockean inquiring system over to Hegelian or Singerian inquiring system, including the incapacity to "sweep-in" (Churchman, 1971, pp. 170ff, 197ff). It could be a question, for instance, to sweep-in fiction literature and "international" holy books in the inquiry, something which is seldom, if ever, done in spite of much talk about the importance of internationalism in the evaluation of scientific work. This is so in spite of all avowed enthusiasm and payment of lip service to the Hegelian or Singerian heritage. This is also the background of the possible uneasiness that some people may have felt in taking notice of the present section's formulation in terms of "screwtape" letters, when other formulations might not have succeeded in conveying the feeling-tone. This is also my background for embarking on a research program about the sociopsychological presuppositions of computing science that limit its "self-referring" capabilities.

One point I have, then is that these phenomena are not extreme. They are certainly close to representing the moralistic "counterfactuality" of constructivism and of discourse theory of communicative action. Cooperative understandings and misunderstandings, friendships and enmities, peace and wars or conflicts, sound common sense or passioned psychic disturbances, benevolent reason or evil stupidity, all these appear of the political scene of war politics as they appear in the intimacies of families and working places, even in the headquarters of reason such as universities. The psychic tension generated by these ethically "virus-infected" realities may explain any reader's heavy feelings in reading this section: it is the price of feeling-tone and of emotionally charged concreteness. To ignore this is either just what that is, sheer ignorance or naïvety, or then it is hypocrisy in the name of fun or of profitable earning in the name of science. An antidote against naïvety could be this paper itself. In order to make sure that we are not ignorant hypocrites we could work more on the way computer support could help to deal initially with the dialogue between the consultant-apprentice, his competitors, his master, and their shared customer-client. In particular, we may ask ourselves in which way the issues covered in this paper could have been better framed by means of a particular kind of cooperative computer support. Some hints in that direction are have been suggested in other contexts (Ivanov, 1990a; Ivanov, 1991b). Another important question that has been addressed is: which are the implications of future use of collaborative computer support that is not developed with consideration of the possibility of "Mephistophelian" behavior?

Ultimately I believe that the type of problems suggested in this example are phenomena that can only be reached through approaches like the Socratic "know thyself", or the perhaps equivalent Jungian process of individuation as in analytical psychology. It is certainly not equivalent to perfunctory subscription to constructive perspectivism. Socrates has also been seen as a forerunner of Christ, rather than as the Enlightenment's view of him as the only rational alternative to Christ (O'Flaherty, 1967, p. 6). Perhaps the only approach to these type of problems is through concepts - as we find them in a Bible concordance - like forgiveness, repentance, trust, honesty, love, friendship, charity, hope, respect, obligation, promise, righteousness, testimony, temptation, sin, vanity, reproach, contempt, prayer, worship, wisdom, faith, salvation, death, courage, care, spirit, suffering, and such. This approach includes a truth that is not reached through freedom or free perspectivism - like in modern academic discourse - but rather a freedom that is reached through truth, or "know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8.32)[53]. As I know them, it is only the great religions, and in particular Christianity which has put these concepts together with other more exclusively "philosophical scientific" ones - like desire, mind, body, knowledge, thought, justice, work, world, and understanding - in a systematic discourse, beyond isolated solitary injunctions or categorical imperatives. It motivates a final excursion towards religion and Christianity. While we do this, however, we should not forget that the importance of some of these "Christian" concepts apparently are beginning to become recognized in the "secular" research community, and whole projects are being conceived in terms of, for instance, "trust as an asset in the striving for rationality" (Jönsson, 1990). If, however, faith should substituted for trust, then the secular would again meet the religious, as in the pragmatic classics that deal with the relation between truth and belief (James, 1956).

Humanism and Christianity

On various occasions it has been suggested that the transformation of the divine into the civic is the process of secularization that culminates with an extremely serious cultural crisis of the Western world, including its theology. The gravity of the crisis is, according to certain arguments (Mondin, 1988), evidenced by the chaotic multiplicity and inconsistency of various proposals. They can be seen as travesty of the Christian message that is now and then clothed in the terms of, say, Heidegger, or Gadamer[54], or Wittgenstein, or Bloch, etc. The most serious symptom of the gravity of the crisis, however, seems to be the absence of that indispensible assistant of theology, i.e. metaphysics, which was disposed of by philosophers starting with Kant.

In the religious or theological perspective which we shall follow below (de Lubac, 1983)[55], Western civilization negates its Christian origins and acquires a gradually positive, organic, and constructive character. Constructivism on this plane seems to be related to positivism[56]. This positive constructive character unites a paradoxically mystical immanentism[57] with a clear conscience of human development. It displays three main aspects which can be symbolized by three names: A. Comte, L. Feuerbach (who influenced in turn K. Marx), and F. Nietzsche.

Positivistic humanism, Marxian humanism, and Nietzschean humanism display a common negation which stands at their basis in spite of their patent differences. This negation is an antitheism, and more precisely an anti-Christianity. It is not a question of denying the merits of these types of humanism. It is well recognized that positivism is an immense and productive construction of philosophy of science and of "positive politics". Marxism, as represented by The Capital is a vast and powerful system of political and social economics. Nietzsche offers a rich mine of pedagogical resources in the deepest sense of the word. There are many things contained in these humanisms that fit a Christian view, except for their particular attempts of synthesis and their disregard for certain other matters.

In socialistic cultural atmospheres which are reflected by emphasis on cooperation, construction and participation in the development of computer support, it may be fruitful to concentrate briefly on Feuerbach. He tries to explain the religious illusion in a psychological key, or to find in anthropology the secret of theology. God, for Feuerbach, is nothing but the set of the attributes which make up the greatness of man. God is "the mirror of man", a statement that seems to include the claim of immanence, that God is something inside man and his world which can be reached only through other men. Feuerbach, in contrast with some of his critics, believes that human essence with its delightful prerogatives is not to be found in the isolated individual but only in the community, the collective being (Gattungswesen). To the extent that man participates in the common essence, in this very same measure does he divinize himself instead of artificially divinizing the concept of God[58].

Feuerbach, however, for all his influence on Marx who celebrated him as his master and as the second Luther, did never deepen the study of economic problems, and therefore cannot be counted among the founders of Marxism. He is, however, its spiritual father. Marx has been mentioned by Engels for substituting "the science of real men and their historical development... for the cult of abstract man who constituted the center of the new Feuerbachian religion". In this way Marx divested human essence from the mystical aura in which Feuerbach had dressed it. Soon all this aura would disappear in his thought, in the light of technology, economics, and the struggle of the classes. The religion of the workers is without God, Marx writes in a letter to Hardmann, because it seeks to reinstate the divinity of man. No other philosophical or religious influence would come to modify in depth the thesis of humanistic metaphysics that Marx took over from his master[59].

This is important for us also in the context of new currents of constructive participative systems development because it shows that the spiritual basis of Marxism does not need to be tightly associated with either Marxism itself or with any particular social philosophy of economics and of work. It rather represents a kind of spiritual humanistic metaphysics of community participation that disposes of the need for any metaphysics proper. It has been noted that the confluence of French socialism, English economics and German metaphysics could have generated something quite different from Marxism, if Marx had not met in Feuerbach the master who pushed him decisively along one of the two slopes of the watershed of the Hegelian system. It is very possible, however, that Feuerbach's slope itself need not result only in Marxism; and this is what we may be witnessing in the reduction of pragmatism to the ongoing wave of postmodern constructivism or Dyonysian "dance of science", a late variant of social theology.

Nietzsche's words are recalled as they appear in his Will to Power: We have not to contemplate the real in order to discover its essence, and we are not to yield to any object. "Let's reject this last slavery". "We have abolished the world of truth": "Nothing is true". And in other works like Aurora, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Ecce Homo, and Beyond Good and Evil, we will find Nietzsche stating that it is necessary to live but "to live is to invent". Invention and creation: these are two words which by now define the Faustian task of the true philosopher. He turns upside down the values that were handed over, he destroys them, he fractures them in order to produce the new ones, and form them in his own way. And this task, which must be continuosly renewed, will not be accomplished only in the realm of thought. The philosopher is a "terrible explosive who endangers everything", he is "the violent man, cesarean creator of culture", he has the mission of commanding and imposing the law, his research is creation, his will of truth is the will-to-power.

I suggest that the spiritual content of late constructive participatory systems development, despite its lame professions of allegiance to, say, Marxism, biology, pragmatism or dialectical systems theory, is grounded primarily in a Feuerbachian-Nietzschean kind of humanism. As such it deserves the kind of criticism that has uncovered some of their most problematic shortcomings. I advance the hypothesis that it is often lack of courage that lures the modern system developer to label himself with pale neutral terms such as "facilitator" disclaiming his will-to-power - be it even "emancipatory" - in an area where, by the way, nobody ever dares to mention love[60]. I claim that these are basically the same type of questions about which the philosopher of science Stephen Toulmin in the context of "the return to cosmology" (1982, p. 274) had to say: "Before they can be settled, scientists, theologians, and philosophers will have to sit down together and follow their joint discussion where it leads. We have reached the threshold of some painfully difficult and confusing questions, but answering them is the task for the future". But - it is my question - will the "division of labor" between scientists, theologians, and philosophers be considered to have been "naturally" given? In which way are we all concerned by Toulmin's recalled alternative to "do our best to build up a conception of the 'overall scheme of things' which draws as heavily as it can on the results of scientific study, informed by a piety in all its attitudes toward creatures of other kinds: a piety that goes beyond the consideration of their usefulness to Humanity as instruments for the fulfillment of human ends"?

Yes, beyond human ends... Toulmin tries to revert to natural theology, i.e. theology deriving its knowledge of God from the study of nature independent of special revelation. It seems to me, however, that what Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) is known for having stated in the context of "the self-destruction of humanism" is relevant as one possible description of the import of the present emphasis on humanism: today we are verifying experimentally that where there is no God, there is no man either. Certain kinds of constructivism may very well turn out to stand very close to what has been called "positive nihilism" in the Nietzschean context, and they may draw from it their considerable power of seduction[61], since this context seems very powerful among present societal cultural tendencies.

It has been noted (Berti, 1987, pp. 191, 176) that in today's debate this is the irrationalism that consists in the refusal of not only any absolute principle (the announcement of the "death of God"), but also the refusal of the search itself for a principle, or for a foundation. Therefore it means also a refusal to justify one own's assertions, a refusal of logic and of the principle of non-contradiction itself. All that which is refused is summarized by the expression "foundational thought", an extension of the Heideggerian concept of representational thought. The end of such thought is declared, in favor of a thought that can be only narrative or "discursive"[62]. The latter cannot be negated since no reasons can be accepted, but it can only be opposed by different discourses or perspectives, without the possibility of establishing any truth. It is symptomatic that the Nietzschean declaration of the "death of God" has been followed by the declaration of the "death of man", that is, his decline and transfiguration from super-man into beyond-man or meta-man, a function of wills and relations (cf this paper's earlier chapter on "cooperative work"). This is the dissolution of the subject, of man. The life of the subject is a play of instincts and impulses which, because of ignored reasons, now and then take the supremacy over one another, and interprete from their own specific point of view the "real" events in which the subject gets involved. "The meta-man is not what will be born after this process of dissolution, after this departure from the subject: the meta-man, instead, is this unpowered subject himself, no longer pathetically entrusted to his decisions, but rather capable of living without anxiety an existence in surface. The man without center or, also, the man without qualities - related to the problems celebrated in R. Musil's classical work (1952) - is not an intermediate stage toward the construction of the new man. The destiny of decline is not only the destiny of the man of the tradition, but also the destiny of the meta-man; the man of tradition must decline only in order that the subject may attain his only condition, which is to be somebody who, continually and constitutionally declines" (ibid., 1987, p. 176, quoting G. Vattimo, my trans.)[63].

I mean that this soft or weak thinking (as it has been called in the intellectual debate) and this "continuous decline" is dialectically the same thing as the ideas - very common in systems development today - of continuous rebirth, flexible continuous development, or construction and reconstruction, free from any "dogmatic" metaphysical or religious commitments. In an earlier essay (Ivanov, 1990b), I suggested that the emphasis on creativity in systems design and the "don juanistic" emphasis on continuous ever faster change, "creativity" or reskilling and retraining in the light of ever-increasing competition, etc. may basically be the expression of the same phenomenon of destruction of the subject. I think that this phenomenon is remarkable, not to say paradoxically anti-humanistic, in the context of efforts that professedly aim at the development of humanism and humanistic computing science.

Any cursory reference to "religion" in any encyclopedia of philosophy will point out the poverty of my attempt to introduce the issue in the context of computing science. I believe that this, however, just shows the enormous scale of our responsibility as computing scientists, to keep on evaluating continuously the distinction between computing science, ethics and religion while most of us seem to be busy in deciphering technical presuppositions based on machine specifications of computer manufacturers.


After this short excursion into some of the main meanings of the prestige words humanism and humanistic it is my impression that it is important to avoid perfunctory references to these terms to the detriment of other "-isms" to which the computing community of scientists is avowedly connected historically in its particular currents of - often "socially" oriented - research. It may be the case, after all, that the main use or misuse of humanism is that it works as as escape from both the hard realities of social science and the hard difficulties of ethics or theology, while renouncing also to an anchoring in the presumed human nature of particular psychological theories. In this respect humanism shares the escapist capabilities of empiricism and, in fact, in the computer age it can be reduced to

the empiricism of presumedly concrete human manipulations and communications that go on in computer networks under the label of cooperative work and distributed artificial intelligence (Bond, et al., 1988; Greif, 1988). In this spirit, the more - the better: the greater the number of ("right" and "good"?) humans who happen to be involved with each other in the development and use of a computing system, the better would be its humanistic potential. This will be a technical humanism which easily can be confused with a humanistic technology, whatever that might be. But there can be other motives beyond pure escape.

It is true that appeal to prestige words, like fortunate tautologies, may work politically in the sense of forming a "polis" or a gathering of people around a presumed issue, product, project, school of thought or, at least, around a "leader". It may enhance political impact. The political impact also creates an initial impetus and opportunities to discuss matters which are so important and vague as to gather in an eclectic mood disparate interests and world views. The superficiality of the conceptions, however, is likely to motivate as much fuss and initial activity as it is likely to create later disappointment. That would destroy the social capital of trust and the possible positive potential of the concept in the long run. In this sense the phenomenon recalls what I have called elsewhere the "Don Juán syndrome" (Ivanov, 1986, pp. 135ff). It may be difficult to distinguish from a true entrepreneurial spirit and it may, in a dialectical mode, be in fact its necessary "shadow". A measure of the sobriety and seriousness in the undertaking may be therefore be furnished by the extent to which the conception of "humanistic" or - for that matter, "ethical" or "social" - is made into an object of reflection in the intellectual community of the scientific entrepreneur before he hurls it into the market of intellectual interests or passions of modern academia and research industry.

This essay was written in the spirit of contributing to such reflection. It gives me for the time being the conviction that we could be reasonably satisfied with the references to social science and systems science - aspects of human science that are well established in the current developments of computing science, administrative data processing, and information systems.

By means of the reflections that hopefully are fostered by this paper I hope to prevent that the words humanism and humanistic will work as a rhetorical and metaphorical device that remains empty, deviating the attention of scholars away from genuine ethical issues beyond trivial conflicts of interest. That would mean a wholesale subscription to a goody-goody declaration of vague noble intentions, a straw-man argument against those anonymous people or anonymous currents of thought that are insinuated to not have paid sufficient attention to the unstated highest ethical values of mankind. To the extent that we deal with tautologies, however, ("it is good to be humanistic because humanism is good") it may prove to be worthy to take a look at the legitimate function of tautologies in the context of inquiry (Churchman, 1971, pp. 29ff; Churchman, 1979, pp. 74, 137, 151f).

It can also be the case that recalling the concept of humanism will help us to sharpen our understanding of the meaning of social science in relation to human science and to ethics (Berti, 1987; Rothberg, 1986; Stigliano, 1990). What is at stake here is also the meaning of pragmatism and the presumed need for shifting our attention or our language from pragmatism over to so called constructionism or whatever other words by which we happen to feel inspired in the future. It is, for instance apparent that both constructionism and so called autopoietic theory (Maturana, et al., 1980; Mingers, 1990), have something important in common not only with Aristotelian "poiesis" and positivistic operationism, but also with the emphasis on "relations" in older structuralism. Some well developed studies of these latter may cast some light on the former, preventing the poor reader from getting lost in the maze of fashionable words. Some remarkable suggestions arise in any case from the body of this paper in that some kinds of constructionism - in spite of their avowed claims - may contribute to the "destruction of the subject". Such suggestions, however, do not need to be regarded as so remarkable, after all, if related to the historical charges of "anti-humanism" directed against Hegelian philosophy and its outgrowths.

This short essay may also stimulate some readers to dwell deeper in the humanistic thought (Feuerbach) that stands at the roots of the recent critical social emphasis on studies of relations between information technology, work environment, and on "work-oriented" design of computer support. There is a wealth of authors that are mentioned in the text above and who have developed in detail the argument of the nature of man in its relation to the world and to technology (Gehlen, 1967, is just one example, close to some of the traditions surveyed above).

In general it can be seen that the difficulty of applying humanistic terms and concepts to the field of computing science is enhanced by the gap between what is usually understood as humanistic knowledge and what is identified with formal science and technology. This paper has indicated, however, that this gap might be bridged not by purely relabeling the extremes of the gap and calling them "perspectives", but by recurring to those kinds of humanistic debates that have dealt with matters of logic and mathematics. For instance, the so called Marburg school, as well as other attempts in the Anglo-Saxon and European continental tradition (Davis, & Hersh, 1986; Heidegger, 1978a, pp. 247-282 on "Modern science, metaphysics, and mathematics"; Penrose, 1989; van Stigt, 1979; Weil, 1966; Weil, 1970-1974; Weyl, 1949; Zellini, 1985a; Zellini, 1985b; Zellini, 1988; Zellini, 1990), may be particularly relevant in this context.

It can, finally, also be the case that the rise of the unqualified term humanism indicates the more or less unconscious intention of not adducing the historically closely related terms of God and theology. This hypothesis has already been considered in the pertinent literature (Lewis, 1988, p. 105). It may simply be the case that emphasizing the centrality of man in human inquiry conveys the intention of de-emphasizing the earlier centrality of God to whose similarity - but not identity - man was presumed to have been created (Genesis 1:27). We have in fact seen that the idea of a divine plan for history and progress has been an important and recurrent theme in the history of humanism, and that lately this is seldom, if ever, mentioned in the context of the "ideals" of modern communicative and constructive, action oriented human science. This seems to be a task in the formulation of future education and research in computing science and information systems.

The few exceptions - mentioned at the beginning of this paper - that consider these issues of humanism as related to computing science - call paradoxically the attention upon this phenomenon of disappearance of divine plans and of metaphysics. They indicate that this is a symptom of the shortcomings of our most common conceptions of human science. What may be required is a renewed criticism of the ethical ideals of the Renaissance and of the Enlightenment in the light of the "computer phenomenon". It is not difficult to foresee that this requirement will be frustrating and impopular among those academicians who feel that their main responsibility is the search for practical - if not profitable - applications of computer technology. This leads further to the need of designing and evaluating practice and action in all their problematic connotations (Ackoff, 1988; Blondel, 1973; Checkland, 1986; Lobkowicz, 1967; Lundin, & Wirdenius, 1990)[64]. Nevertheless, that must be left for another occasion, even if this essay may suffer from it just because it can be criticized for not being "practical" - equivalent to computer applied - in terms of a defective conception of practice.

A final overall conclusion that emerges from this study is that the term humanistic computing science must be related to the complexity and scope of humanism in order to explore whether anything is gained by substituting that prestige word for the well established social science and systems science as already implemented in several schools of systems development. The net long run effect will depend upon the extent to which the whole process deviates the attention from, or postpones the study of critical scientific and ethical issues which with great effort and greater precision are being raised in the less glamorous context of the better known contemporary social computing science and systems science.

And, what about the answer to the title's question - "Computer-supported human science or humanistic computing science"? Disregarding the possible legitimacy of "rhetorical", "heuristical", or dialectical questions I dare to attempt to give an "answer". Why not refer to the idea of, say, a humanistic biotechnology, or humanistic chemical industries? My point is that we have taken too easily the "computer" as a "given" in our inquiry. We may be following unconsciously the metaphysics of F. Bacon or R. Descartes, in including into it the determination of formal causes, or the determination of spiritual substances and their essence, i.e thought.

In fact, both humanistic computer science and computer-supported human science take the computer - the dogma of our research and one of the new dogmas of our age - as a "given". Such a given is possibly perceived by most of us an object in a psychological projective test - e.g. like the inkblots of the Rorschach test (Turkle, 1980) - but without having a theory or the knowledge for interpreting it. I have suggested in this paper that we have also presumed too willingly the ignored "humanistic" meaning of mathematics and logic, of which the computer is an embodiment. With that, we have also presumed too willingly the unknown meaning of mathematized science, technology, and industry. At least a part of the answer to this objection might be sought in the history of mathematics and logic as it regards the process of their formalization. That is also the reason for using in this paper the term "computing" instead of "computer" in the context of, for instance, computing science. Computing still elicits the complexities of mathematics as it relates to some kind of cosmology, or, at least, systems thinking (Davis, et al., 1986, pp. 139ff; Dessauer, 1954).

Postscript - Glossary

Having "concluded" in the above way, I want to offer to the reader's reflection the following selection of Webster's definitions (The Third New International Dictionary) that after our discussion may contribute to the ground for continued work. Italic type faced words are intended to help in following the sequence of references.

Humanist or humanistic. Of, relating to, or concerned with the humanities: CULTURAL.

Humanities. The branches of learning regarded as having primarily a cultural character and usually including languages, literature, history, mathematics, and philosophy.

Humanism. The learning or cultural impulse that is characterized by a revival of classical letters, an individualistic and critical spirit, and a shift of emphasis from religious to secular concerns and that flowered during the Renaissance. Devotion to human welfare. A philosophy that rejects supernaturalism, regards man as a natural object, and asserts the essential dignity and worth of man and his capacity to achieve self-realization through the use of reason and scientific method - called also naturalistic humanism, scientific humanism; compare INSTRUMENTALISM, PRAGMATISM. A philosophy advocating the self-fulfilment of man within the framework of Christian principles - called also INTEGRAL HUMANISM. NEW HUMANISM.

Supernatural. Of, belonging to, having reference to, or proceeding from an order of existence beyond the physical universe that is observable, and capable of being experienced by ordinary means: transcending nature in degree and in kind or concerned with what transcends nature. Divine as opposed to human, or spiritual as opposed to material.

Instrumentalism. The doctrine that ideas are instruments of action and that their usefulness determines their truth.

Pragmatism. An American movement in philosophy founded by C.S Peirce and W. James and marked by the doctrine that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is as guide to action, and that the truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief.

Integral humanism. A Christian humanism based on thomistic principles and advocated especially by Jacques Maritain.

Thomism. A theological theory deriving from Thomas Aquinas that explains the relation between efficacious grace and free will as a free determination of the will accomplished by virtue of a divine physical premotion. Compare MOLINISM.

Molinism. A doctrine that it is man's free cooperation which makes it possible for him to perform a good act with God's helping grace. Compare CONGRUISM.

Congruism. A theory advanced by the Molinists according to which divine grace is efficacious because it is given by God in circumstances which he foreknows to be congruous and favourable to its operation.

New Humanism. A 20th century doctrine marked by a belief in moderation, the dignity of the human will, a sense of permanent values, and a dualistic order of existence.

Dualism. An ontological theory that divides reality into mind and matter. An epistemological theory that objective reality is known by means of subjective ideas, representations, images, or sense data - contrasted with MONISM.

Monism. The metaphysical view that there is only one kind of substance or ultimate reality - compare DUALISM, PLURALISM. The metaphysical view that reality is one unitary organic whole with no independent parts - contrasted with pluralism. An epistemological theory that proclaims the identity of the object and datum of knowledge.


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