Memes & The Ladder LO7153
Fri, 3 May 1996 07:35:32 -0400

Replying to LO7126 --

Replying to LO7126 about the "Ladder of Inference",

When one begins to discuss the connection between some kind of structure
that connects ideas and matters of "logic", and does not refer to any
underlying formalism, nor to the essential behavioral attributes involved
in developing such structures, they become clear candidates to read some
of the material that I have put together over a period of 28 years.

Let me just outline very briefly a straight-shot reading pattern that
leaps from document to document.

In my 1976 John Wiley book called SOCIETAL SYSTEMS: PLANNING, POLICY, AND
COMPLEXITY, I provided the foundational mathematics behind the creation of
structural models. This foundation appears in the following chapters:

8. Boolean Algebra, Sets, and Binary Relations
9. Binary Matrices and Matrix Models
10. Digraphs, Digraph Maps, and Digraph Models
13. Cycles

The same book shows how to produce structural models in group settings,
with computer assistance designed to achieve a multiplicity of things, all
relating to quality assurance of the models produced.

THROUGH SYSTEMS DESIGN, where I show the behavior side of the coin,
mention many examples of how structures have been produced in many places
on many issues by many groups, using the methods from the 1976 book. Also
shown in Appendix 3 is the set of seven methods that make up the portfolio
of processes that support the large variety of model developments.

Among the many issues of importance is this: "from that portfolio, which
products are likely to provide the greatest value added? Although the
"intent structure" (published, 1972) now slightly watered down and called
"ladder of inference" was the first such formalization, experience showed
that it was not the optimum in most situations, and so it is now less
widely used. The reasons largely related to the cognitive burden added by
the intent structure as one approaches the final decision points, where
other matters are equally important. One key issue is how much reliance
can be put on informed intuition, based on what structures are actually

Now hop to the 1994 book A HANDBOOK OF INTERACTIVE MANAGEMENT, where over
a hundred applications are briefly described, and where great detail is
provided for practitioners. Most practitioners are not interested in
tracing all this back to the underlying formalism, which is fine. However
one might ask if they would then forego becoming advocates of systems or
structures that are not so well-founded in the underlying scientific
ideas, mathematical, behavioral, and linguistic.

What I have just said could be taken largely as self promotion, or as self
serving, but somewhere in the back of the mind is this issue: "what is at
stake in these matters? How high are the stakes? And how much
responsibility should be borne for taking matters too lightly?"

Finally we reach the insights of Charles Sanders Peirce, perhaps the
greatest logician who ever lived, who made quite clear the idea that logic
is governed by and should be goverened by first ethics, and then at a
deeper level, esthetics; i.e., what is beauty and what makes is so
valuable? This seems to be a message that cannot get through to the
modern management guru who (perhaps unknowingly) keeps promoting the
positivistic, nominalistic philosophies that are at the root of mammoth
amounts of human suffering.

I got carried away.

John N. Warfield


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