Nonrational (or arational) is not irrational

In the Appreciative Systems framework, there are three judgments: (i) reality judgments; (ii) value judgments; and (iii) instrumental judgements. (There’s more on an excerpt from Adams, Catron, Cook (1995)).

While (i) reality judgements and (iii) instrumental judgments are largely rational, dealing with (ii) value judgments tends to wander over into the non-rational.

In The Systems Approach and its Enemies (1979), C. West Churchman characterizes four enemies:

  • Politics
  • Morality
  • Religion
  • Aesthetics

Human history is a tapestry made up of the interplay of the four enemies. Politics is the background of human events, as people have formed themselves into communities and nations. Morality is the deep red hue of revolutions, dissent. and heroism. Religion is a pervasive tone, which melds into the background of politics by turning into doctrine and bureaucracy or into morality as the inspiration of religious wars. The history of aesthetics is rarely written, except in histories of art and (occasionally) in biographies, but the true essence of aesthetics is what gives the tapestry its meaning; what “really” happened to humans in history is an image of human joys, desperation, love, hate, opulence, and drudgery. Most histories recount the major political movements, just as most news journals emphasize the blending of morality (horror) and politics. Wouldn’t it be a delightful change if someone were to write a history of “welcoming the stranger,” the fantastic ways in which just plain folk have designed, aesthetically, a welcoming environment? [pp. 25-26]

The nonrational has been a focus of David L. Hawk, in his systems approach to management. In one of his early writings:

We should reconsider the current scientific-philosophical model of research in light of the trouble it is having with dynamic processes. Central to this work is the concept of change, how it is defined, modeled, measured and managed. Change tends to exist just outside the limits of unaided-rationality [9]. We need to carry out research that better serves human needs in their efforts to best realize the consider potentials that have become possible.

  • [9] Unaided rationality refers to the definable limits of any single approach to rationality, and suggests the greater potentials in being able to also accommodate the non-rational in any human situation. In this it is a more general and very different construct than Herbert Simon’s “bounded rationality” in economic thinking.

Hawk, David L. 1999. “Changelessness, and Other Impediments to Systems Performance.” In Proceedings of the Conference to Celebrate Russell L. Ackoff, and the Advent of Systems Thinking, edited by Matthew J. Liberatore and David N. Nawrocki. Villanova University.

Some of these ideas emerged in the session on " Humanism, the Anthropocene, and Enemies of the Systems Approach" at Systems Thinking Ontario - 2022-04-11

1 Like