Seven sins – a worked example (‘Natural rights’)

Enterprise-architecture, strategy, and more: they all depend on discipline and rigour, in thinking, sensemaking, decision-making and action.

But what happens when that discipline is lost? What are the ‘sins’ that can cause that discipline to be lost? How can we know that it’s been lost? And what can we do to recover?

This is the final ‘wrap-up’ part for a brief series on metadiscipline for sensemaking via the ‘swamp-metaphor‘, and on ‘seven sins of dubious discipline’ – common errors that can cause sensemaking-discipline to fail or falter:

For this final ‘wrap-up’, let’s start with the set of disciplines for sensemaking and decision-making from the ‘swamp-metaphor‘:

And, as usual, cross-mapped to the SCAN framework for sensemaking and decision-making:

In sensemaking and decision-making, we continually ‘move around’ – metaphorically-speaking – between the respective modes and domains of the frame, switching between the disciplines and ‘rules’ that each represents. We do the ‘moves’ according to need and context, and usually in accordance with ‘the EA-mantra‘ of ‘I don’t know’, ‘It depends’ and ‘Just enough detail’.

The metadiscipline here is the discipline that we need in order to use and to switch between those respective disciplines. To achieve sensemaking and decision-making that does align well with the needs in the real-world context, that metadiscipline demands of us that at all times:

  • we know which mode is needed for the current context and type of action
  • we know which mode we’re ‘in’, are currently using in sensemaking and decision-making for that action
  • we know why and when and how to switch to another mode, dynamically, and which mode to switch to
  • we apply all of this continually in real-world practice

And yeah, it’s darn hard work to do it well: I doubt that anyone ever gets it right all of the time.

(I know I don’t – which is why I question my own thinking all the time, and challenge myself all the time to do it better, too. Do you?)

There are so many ways to lose discipline, that it can get kinda dispiriting at times – but it’s really, really important, for everyone, that we do the best that we can, and be clear and honest with ourselves when we screw up.

To help in this, it’s useful to cluster some of the most common anti-patterns into what might be called the Seven Sins of Dubious Discipline. Each has their own distinct symptoms and impacts, their own ways of getting lost or stuck somewhere within the swamp-metaphor frame:

  1. The Hype Hubris – ‘a triumph of marketing over technical-expertise’ [stuck in and blurring between Artist and Believer]
  2. The Golden-Age Game – a glamour-trap formed by misplaced notions of past or future [stuck in and blurring between Scientist and Believer]
  3. The Newage Nuisance – often-wilful avoidance of any form of discipline [misuse of and blurring between Believer, Scientist, Technologist and Artist]
  4. The Meaning Mistake – allowing concepts to become ‘half-baked’, ‘overcooked’, or both [misuse of Scientist mode]
  5. The Possession Problem – fear of uncertainty leading to misguided notions about ‘The Truth’ [stuck in Believer, overriding other modes]
  6. The Reality Risk – failing to manage a crucial balance between ‘as-if’ and ‘is’ [blurring between Believer, Artist and Technologist]
  7. Lost in the Learning Labyrinth – any of the above errors occurring during the skills-learning process [stuck in and/or between Believer, Artist, Technologist, Scientist]

So let’s use all of that now to explore a real worked-example.

A worked- example – ‘Natural rights’

To start with, this was a real question recently from a listener on a BBC weather-show:

Everyone knows that the wind is caused by the leaves moving on the trees.
What happens to the wind in winter, when the leaves fall off?

The presenter was completely floored by this – we could hear him making all manner of strange mutterings in the background on-air. Eventually, though, he settled for a deep sad sigh, followed by “Let’s move on to another question, shall we?”

To be fair to him, I’m not surprised: when faced with a Meaning-Mistake that’s that far overcooked, where on earth do you start?

Which brings me to the notion of ‘rights‘ – because to me, it often seems most people’s grasp of the core concepts is as ass-backwards as that question above about the wind and the leaves…

This was brought home to me the other day in a three-way Twitter-conversation between myself [‘Tom’], a colleague with a philosophical bent [‘Peter’], and someone I hadn’t previously encountered [‘Charles’]. (I’ve used pseudonyms for the latter two to keep things as fair as possible, and also to make it clear that I’m challenging the thinking-discipline errors, not the person.) The conversation turned out to be so riddled with ‘sins of dubious discipline’ that it makes a good worked-example with which to close this series of posts.

My basic position on ‘rights’ is that they’re a useful social-fiction – an ‘as-if‘ that we can use to explore intrapersonal and interpersonal needs, and concomitant social-relationships to serve those needs. The catch with using an ‘as-if‘ in that way is that, unless used with real care and discipline, the Reality Risk can eventuate – mistaking ‘as-if‘ for ‘is‘, or in this case thinking that the social-fiction of ‘rights’ is somehow inherently ‘real’.

And if there’s a Reality-Risk failure, it’s then likely to trigger a Meaning-Mistake, that in turn probably underpins a Possession Problem and quite possibly a Newage-Nuisance or Golden-Age Game as well. At which point the whole thing becomes so overcooked and so ego-laden that the only sane response is “Let’s move on to another question, shall we?” Which, unfortunately, is exactly what happened in this conversation.  Oh well.

Anyway, the conversation started innocuously enough, with a valid question from Peter:

  • Peter: I was looking for something on rights vs responsibilities. Should those unable to take on responsibility be protected by rights?
  • Tom: simplest to drop the whole ‘rights’ delusion: what shared responsibilities are needed to achieve overall desired-outcome? // if someone has lesser ‘response-ability’ (e.g. a child), others take up the slack, balanced across whole context // for most contexts now,”rights’ have become a ‘me-first’ priority-squabble that gets in the way of achieving desired-outcome

But at that point, Charles came in from nowhere, to invite himself into the conversation:

  • Charles: Rights are self-evidently real. It is a corrupt government (instituted to secure them) that pretends them illusory.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll recognise the term ‘self-evident’ as an automatic warning-flag for a potential ‘echo-chamber‘ – exactly the kind of Reality Risk failure that I’m so wary of in the so-called ‘rights’ space. I’ll admit that straight away I dropped into somewhere between a sigh and straight-out frustration, having gone over this ground so many times before. Yet this was a particularly egregious example: in what fantasy realm is an imaginary social-construct ‘self-evidently real’? Hence, yeah, I kinda over-reacted even at that point:

  • Tom: @Charles ‘Rights are self-evidently real” – sorry, can’t agree. They’re a useful social-fiction – nothing more than that.

It got worse from there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture the Tweets between Charles and Peter – some of which I couldn’t see anyway since I don’t follow Charles on Twitter. But in essence, Charles’ position was that ‘rights’ are inherent from nature itself, that the purported ‘rights’ arise automatically and inherently from the mere fact of ‘being human’.

It’s apparently what’s called a ‘natural rights’ position. The catch is that it starts from a whole swathe of untested assumptions about the nature of ‘rights’ versus ‘privileges’ and the like. It becomes clear that Charles has built a huge superstructure of a ‘rights’-model upon those assumptions – but has never questioned the core-assumptions themselves. In other words, an almost-guaranteed Meaning-Mistake.

As I said, I missed most of the Tweets in this segment, but I did eventually see a good enquiry-based wrap-up from Peter:

  • Peter: Perhaps rights & responsibilities are both useful fictions, in the absence of absolute authority to appeal to, and… // either notion, rights or responsibilities, may be open to abuse, if the fiction is over-elaborated. // You could analyse right/responsibility as minimum standard of care, which may vary more or less with culture. // Perhaps that’s taking an anthropocentric view, but I know what you mean, and I think we need that, to some extent.

It is indeed an anthropocentric view – which is another assumption. Which, if it’s allowed to go unchallenged, by definition automatically has a very high risk of causing an ‘overcooked’ Meaning Mistake, because everything that follows is built on top of that unchallenged assumption. What I can’t see is any reason to assert “I think we need that [anthropocentric view]” – because, bluntly, we don’t.

Peter then asks Charles to explore the question of shared-rights, and relative-priorities in relation to rights:

  • Peter: If there are negotiated rights – access to a shared alley to put the bins out?

Again, I wasn’t able to capture most of the succeeding Tweets, but what Charles ends up with is this:

  • Charles: Hence, the only position that doesn’t result in fiction/quasi-rights is the natural one – rights are a priori innate.

Yet in effect, what he’s asserting here is that the failure of “a priori innate” rights to survive a challenge re social-fiction – “the only position that doesn’t result in fiction/quasi-rights” – is somehow a ‘proof’ that rights are therefore “a priori innate”. Which is not only a really good example of an ass-backward Meaning-Mistake, but also a classic example of circular-reasoning.

Given Charles’s logic so far, Peter asks for a bit more detail about specific edge-cases:

  • Peter: So plants would have liberty rights?
  • Charles: As far as plants have innate powers, all equivalent plants (same species) have rights. We have superior powers/rights // Thus, that plant/animal species (us) can be observed to have rights, doesn’t make the right of one equal the other.

“We have superior powers/rights” – what are these ‘powers’ or ‘rights’? Other than in a crass sense of ‘might is right’, what makes the “powers/rights” of some stakeholders in an ecosystem supposedly inherently-superior to those of others? Or “that plant/animal species (us) can be observed to have rights” – just where, how and in what ways are these ‘rights’ observed? Or “Thus […] doesn’t make the right of one equal the other” – why not, in an overall ecosystem? The Deep Ecology folks might throw some serious doubts on all of those assumptions…

That one Tweet by Charles above indicates that he’s built his whole conception not just on one arbitrary assumption – the notion of ‘natural rights’ – but a whole mess of further assumptions, not one of which is actually questioned at any stage. All of which, in terms of the Meaning-Mistake, illustrates just how far overcooked his position really is.

Peter kind of brought the conversation to a halt at this point – and, being who he is, did so more politely than I would have been able to manage:

  • Peter: Thanks both of you (@Tom @Charles) it’s given me much to ponder. I’m trying to write something and differing perspectives help.

Still decidedly irked, I privately asked Peter what, if anything, Charles’ perspective had given him to ponder, and what he thought of Charles’ sensemaking/decision-making process:

  • Peter: He’s very anti-copyright, knows the history, has his worked-out positions, and it matters a lot to him. >>@Charles: “Liberty
    a) Do nothing, save that which the law permits us
    b) Do anything, save that which violates another’s right
    Which were you born with?”
  • Peter: He’s clearly a libertarian based on natural rights of human beings as opposed to other species. It’s consistent, not circular.

I’d agree that Charles’ reasoning was consistent – for a given notion of ‘consistent’, anyway. Yet it’s also almost entirely circular, in the sense of circular-proofs for unquestioned-assumptions, and also a long way from what I would consider ‘rational’, in the sense of the quality that’s required for professional-dialogue. Peter disagreed:

  • Peter: Seemed a rational enough dialogue to me; he’s just very committed to that position and no doubt well aware many aren’t.

Yes, it’s ‘rational’, in the sense of strict logic: the problem is that the logic itself is completely overcooked. Also “he’s very committed to that position” should warn us of a high probability of a Possession-Problem on top of the all-too-evident Meaning-Mistake errors. Peter again disagreed:

  • Peter: I guess he would argue from nature – to eat, defend personal space, or whatever. // I’d guess he’d support some traditional definitions of liberty from e.g. American, French revolutions? // But yes, “natural” would mean for our species, which I’d then say was necessity of making humanity special case (useful fiction).

Evidently I dismissed “necessity of making humanity special case” as arbitrary, because Peter’s next reply was:

  • Peter: Don’t feel it’s fair to say it’s arbitrary, if it’s basic to his worldview. Don’t we all have one unexaminable assumption?

Fair enough, it’s probably true that “we all have [at least] one unexaminable assumption” – lots, in fact. Yet in every case it would, by definition, represent a Meaning-Mistake risk – and that may not be a risk that we could afford to take. If we were to do our sensemaking / decision-making properly, we would not allow ourselves the luxury of any “unexaminable assumptions” at all.

Anyway, it seems I’d said I wasn’t happy, in some now-lost Tweet, because Peter continues:

  • Peter: He doesn’t sound either of those ways here: >> @Charles: “However, rights are of little use to a species if it is incapable of recognising them. Most animals rely upon instinct.”
  • Peter: But it’s a premise more accepted when attached to religion.

‘Religion’ is indeed the key point here. The position purports to be the Scientist, and even the Technologist when put to real-world use, but if we compare it more closely to the swamp-metaphor modes, is more probably embedded in the Priest sub-mode of the Believer. If so, that’s definitely into Possession-Problem territory.

I have to presume that at this point Peter put out a public Tweet about this, because Charles returns to the attack:

  • Charles: @Peter I tried to help @Tom here: “The power you have to defend yourself against your equal from: murder, burglary, fraud, or imprisonment – is your innate right.”

Again, notice the circular-definition: power is right, right is power. Given what he’d said earlier about relative rights of humans versus other species, the only way in which this can make consistent sense is if we assert that an innate ‘power’ – a capability to do something – in itself grants the ‘right’ to use that power’ to obtain dominance over others. Or, in effect, an assertion of ‘might is right’. In other words, the same kind of blurred ethics-avoidance and suchlike that’s typical of the Newage-Nuisance – on top of the Reality-Risk and Meaning-Mistake failures already all too evident.

At this point, ‘returns to the attack’ takes on a more literal turn, with a switch to the kind of sneering putdowns that are all too typical of the Priest sub-mode and the Possession-Problem:

  • Charles: But he cannot afford to recognise my argument (individuals have rights). That @Tom would invent such fictions in order to support his assertion that rights are fictions does not bode well… (my emphasis)

To me, there isn’t an argument to “recognise”: as above, it’s a mess of unquestioned and unverified assumptions. It’s true that, professionally speaking, I “cannot afford to recognise” as credible something that’s all too evidently a Newage-Nuisance mess – but then no professional should. To my mind, anyway.

And there’s no “invent” in anything that I’d said. All I’d done was to point out that an ‘as-if‘ – the social-fiction of ‘rights’ – was being reframed and misused as an ‘is‘ – the untested assumption that ‘rights’ are inherently ‘innate’.

What gets interesting, though, is to view this in terms of psychological-projection: given that misinterpreting an ‘as-if‘ as an ‘is‘, is itself literally an invention, just how much can Charles himself afford to recognise the critique? Not much, is the short answer. Hence, it seems, a deeper and deeper retreat into the Possession-Problem…

Possibly to cool things down a bit, Peter tried to summarise the differences in base-positions:

Which seemed fair enough from my perspective, but evidently not to Charles:

  • Charles: @Peter Agreement is not at issue. @Tom aborted the argument. NB Your links do not describe my explanation of natural rights. (my emphasis)

I replied that I hadn’t aborted the argument, just written it off as circular. This didn’t go down well:

  • Charles: It was you who conjured up the circularity, and insinuated it as mine. Such coping strategies are common. (my emphasis)
  • Tom: ever heard of psych term ‘shadow‘? – you’ve demonstrated it perfectly, also why attempts at discussion w you are pointless.

Notice once more the pejorative terminology that I’ve highlighted in Charles’ Tweet above: again, this is all too typical in the Possession-Problem.

As can be seen from my response, I’ll admit I was somewhat starting to lose my rag at this point: these days there’s only so much of those kinds of abusive game-plays that I can take. As per earlier above, I should more correctly have used the term ‘projection’ rather than ‘shadow’, but the latter is close enough, the same overall principle: “those qualities and impulses he denies in [his own behavior] but can plainly see in others”.

  • Charles: People usually use Twitter’s block feature, having persuaded themselves that my argument for natural rights is offensive. (my emphasis)
  • Tom: @Charles “having persuaded themselves that my argument for natural rights is offensive” – not offensive, just circular and delusional.

Okay, ‘delusional’ might seem a bit unfair, but in fact it is the correct term to use. When a multi-layered Meaning-Mistake is propped up with a full-on Possession-Problem – as all too much in evidence in Charles’ Tweets above – then we really are talking about delusion here, in the formal-psychology sense. And potentially-dangerous delusions at that – dangerous in a lot of different ways, once we explore some of the more worrying Reality-Risk implications. Not A Good Idea…

And at this point, yes, I did indeed use Twitter’s ‘block’ feature – not only because I’d had more than enough abuse of that type already, but because his position was so blatantly stuck in ‘inedible’ Meaning-Mistake circularities that any further attempt at conversation was pointless anyway. Oh well.

With Charles thankfully out of the way at last, Peter came back to his initial question:

  • Peter: The thing is @Tom how does one live constructively in a society where opinions vary widely between free market, state ownership, etc?
  • Tom: @Peter “how does one live constructively” etc – that’s the challenge. daft delusions of ‘natural rights’ etc don’t help in that at all.

The point I was trying make there – and probably failed – was that the whole ‘rights’ discourse is a classic illustration of HL Mencken‘s acerbic comment that “for every complex problem, there is at least one answer that is clear, simple, easy-to-understand and wrong”. In practice, the notion of ‘rights’ has precisely one useful function, as each ‘right’ providing a soundbite to summarise a socially-desirable outcome. For anything beyond that, they’re not only daft and delusional, but downright dangerous – often actively working against the outcome that they purport to serve.

To me, pretty much the whole ‘rights-discourse’ is indefensible, though Peter disagreed:

  • Peter: Well, maybe I’m daft too because I think it’s a defensible position – although I have more sympathy for fictionalism
  • Tom: it’s defensible/valuable once we acknowledge it as a fiction – the problems and dangers arise if we pretend it isn’t fiction // What makes his position daft is that he’s built a huge superstructure on a fictive construct, and pretends it’s all ‘real’ // the danger is that ‘desirable-outcome’ (normative?) is v.different from ‘natural-outcome’ (physical) – esp. when imposed on others…

Peter then brought it back to the deeper issue:

  • Peter: How should one acknowledge the many diverging – even contradictory – philosophies within every “web of responsibility”?
  • Tom: Yep. Next? :–( :–) – that’s when paediarchy breaks out, all the kiddies trying to evade responsibility and dump it on others…

‘Paediarchy’ is a term I coined some while back to describe a culture that in essence is run “by, for and on behalf the childish” – where being irresponsible is often actively rewarded, and responsibility often actively punished. One of the common characteristics of a paediarchy is endemic ‘Rights as Trumps‘, that certain claimed ‘rights’ purportedly assign inherent priority and privilege over others. To give one of the sadder examples, almost the entirety of the so-called ‘women’s rights’ discourse now falls into that category: well-meant in theory, but in practice a frequently-lethal mess of Meaning-Mistake, Possession-Problem and Newage-Nuisance running rampant throughout entire cultures. Not A Good Idea…

To me, the only way to avoid that kind of mess is to be very clear on any distinctions between ‘as-if‘ and ‘is‘ – in other words, to use the Reality-Risk, but with all appropriate caution. In practice, that means being very clear that every ‘as-if‘ is a ‘useful fiction‘ – and not a purported ‘fact’.

  • Tom: That’s where fiction of ‘rights’ can be useful, as an anchor to clarify the ‘response-abilities’ needed for desired-outcome – but the moment we pretend that the ‘right’ is not a fiction about desired-outcome, it becomes new way to evade responsibility
  • Peter: It isn’t a fiction. Denying natural rights is like denying free will, or your own existence. Etc. Can one inhabit the other view?

Kinda awkward, because ‘free will’ is itself another highly-contested social-fiction – perhaps a bit more defensible in physical terms than for ‘rights’, but not much. Even “your own existence” is not as guaranteed a concept as most people would probably believe. To me, again, the only way that works is to be absolutely rigorous about those distinctions between ‘as-if‘ and ‘is’ – it’s the only thing that helps us manage the Reality-Risk appropriately.

  • Tom: the concept of ‘natural rights’ is a fiction, a belief, because there is nothing at all in nature that resembles ‘rights’. // don’t confuse fact (physical/biological reality) with opinion (chosen belief about reality) – they’re not the same…

Peter then took it sideways a bit, pointing to my own work on ‘bending reality’, which he presumably thought would contradict what I was saying about ‘rights’:

  • Peter: I thought that was one of the points of [my blog-post] ‘Bending reality‘ – accepting others’ assertions as if true, without offence?
  • Tom: when working with subjectivity, we accept assertions at face-value, yes – yet then also must work with realities too // aka “just how far down this rabbit-hole do you really want to go?” – I do know diff. b/w realism vs delusional… // e.g. if anyone can describe physical evidence of ‘natural rights’ as distinct entities, might take it more seriously… // yes, may be social impacts of ‘believed-in’ entities [aka religion], but is not same as ‘independent/physical-reality’…

The point I was making there was that whilst we do shut down the Scientist-mode when working directly with the Reality-Risk – “when we’re working with subjectivity” – we also don’t keep the Scientist shut down beyond that stage. We need the Scientist-mode to do its reality-checks and the like once we’ve moved beyond that point – “then also must work with realities too”. And yeah, we do also need to warn people that working directly with the Reality-Risk is not an easy juggling-act: “aka ‘just how far down this rabbit-hole do you really want to go?'”.

The key here, though, is that we do need to keeping moving between modes and domains according to the needs of the context – and not that there is one single ‘the right way to do things’. (That’s the difference, in fact, between single-discipline – ‘the way to do it’ – and metadiscipline – dynamic context-dependent selection of ‘current way to do it’.) The moment we fall into thinking that there is just ‘one right way’ is the point at which things start to go seriously wrong…

Yet despite all of the warnings and explanations above, Peter again comes back to the same Reality-Risk / Meaning-Mistake error, persisting in prioritising a social-fiction ‘as-if’ – purported ‘rights’ – over the respective ‘is’ of physical-realities – the mutual-responsibilities through which the purported ‘rights’ are implemented:

  • Peter: So then there’s the right to defend one’s personal space – that’s passive libertarianism.
  • Tom: “right to defend personal space” is a social fiction (mainly about dumping responsibility/blame onto others…) // (will admit this is insanely frustrating: language of ‘rights’ itself blocks any feasible discussion of mutual-responsibility) // ‘libertarianism’ is, for the most part, paediarchal ‘me-first-ism’ – hence e.g. claims of ‘special rights’ etc

And he does it again:

  • Peter: If there was a river, equal access to the water in it. Equality primarily within your own species, otherwise viruses have rights.
  • Tom: drop the language of ‘rights’ – it doesn’t help. instead, what are the responsibilities in that river-scenario?

And again:

  • Peter: I’m just trying to argue the physical possibility of it, not how you feel it works out – perhaps misused – in practice.
  • Tom: there’s nothing that even vaguely resembles physicality of ‘rights’ in either scenario. the fiction of ‘rights’ does not help!

And again:

  • Peter: So it’s not a physical reality that if another animal attacked you, you wouldn’t be within your rights to fend it off?
  • Tom: again, drop the language of ‘rights’ – it doesn’t help. instead, what are the (mutual)-responsibilities in that animal-scenario?

And again:

  • Peter: Drop the responsibilities. The other animals (in my scenario) don’t have any responsibilities towards me. Rights take precedence.
  • Tom: there are clear physical ‘response-abilities’ in each direction there – notion of ‘Rights take precedence’ is just plain daft.

At which point it became clear that his position was now as circularly Meaning-Mistake-raddled as was Charles’, and that until he faced that Reality-Risk failure and Meaning-Mistake error, there was nothing more that I could do:

  • Tom: Go back to those Plato articles you referenced, go deeper at least a couple steps to reconcile the opposites, look for physicalities etc, come back up again. From there, ‘rights’ are a social-fiction, response-abilities [expressed as] physically ‘real’.  more specifically, ‘rights’ are a social-fiction that are realised/realisable only via mutual interlocking response-abilities.

So that’s where we left it:

— Charles promoting his own Hype-Hubris, rigidly locked into a Golden-Age Game, built on top of a Newage-Nuisance, on top of a Possession-Problem, on top of a morass of Meaning-Mistake errors, all built upward from one core Reality-Risk failure – an inherently-indefensible delusion of ‘natural-rights’;

— Peter stuck in a Meaning-Mistake loop, likewise resulting from a Reality-Risk failure – mistaking an ‘as-if‘ social-fiction for an ‘is‘ physical reality – and hence Lost In The Learning-Labyrinth.

And yeah, I’m probably not that much better, to be honest – but at least I do challenge myself darn hard on it, all of the time. Do you?

Wrapping up

At this point it’s probably worth re-iterating what I wrote at the end of the introductory post to this series:

The point that we do need to note here is that what we’ve seen in these posts are indeed ‘sins of dubious discipline’ – and if there’s to be any chance of lifting the quality of our practice, we do indeed need to be cleansing the sins.

But it’s useful to remember that the literal meaning of ‘sin’ is something like ‘error’, or ‘ignorance’. So the ‘sins’ are just errors of practice that need to be addressed, mistakes that anyone can fall into – mistakes that we all fall into from time to time, to be honest about it.

So it’s not a big deal as such – a ‘mortal sin’ or suchlike. It’s just that facing the ‘sins’ is what makes the difference between work that has real value for us and for everyone else, versus work that would be meaningless, pointless and worse. Which is why it’s kinda important for all of us…

So what do we need to do?

Answer: develop the metadiscipline, as described in this series and in the other posts associated with it. Practice, practice, self-awareness and more practice – exactly as for every other discipline, in fact.

Yet we also need to remember those useful hints from the two different meanings of ‘ignorance’.

The first is that sense of being in ignorance, of not knowing. Well, now we do know about each of those Seven Sins, and we’ve seen some suggestions as to how to tackle each of them in practice: so we can’t claim we’re in ignorance any more, can we?

The other is that tendency towards wilful ‘ignore-ance’. If we know about the problems – which we now do – and yet still choose to ignore them, then there’d not be much that anyone could do to help us there, other than to keep reminding us about the need for the metadiscipline. Others can warn us about the sins, but they can’t cleanse our sins for us: it’s not that they won’t, but actually that they can’t. That’s the fundamental challenge here – and why it’s always our responsibility to keep the metadisciplines of sensemaking and suchlike on-track.

Which means that keeping to that metadiscipline is up to us: nobody else.

For each of us, it’s always our choice, our own choice. Quality is a personal commitment, a personal responsibility: ultimately no-one else can do it for us.

That’s why this matters so much.

Over to you now, for comment and critique, if you wish?

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