Eruditio Issue 1 Part 4 Editorial

September 13, 2012

We are pleased to bring you Part 4 of Issue 1 of ERUDITIO, the new electronic journal of the World Academy of Art & Science. We have indicated previously that the first issue of ERUDITIO is dedicated to the theme of individuality viewed from a multidisciplinary focus with implications of social consequences and policy possibilities. The papers emerged from a web seminar of the Academy on “Individuality” as well as a conference on “Humanities and the Contemporary World” organized by the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts in June. This communication contains the fourth batch of four (4) articles. These articles are attached to this communication as a pdf file. Links are provided so that you may also access the individual papers online. To read/download the articles of Issue 1 (with all the four parts combined as a pdf), please click here.

Issue 1 – Part 4: Individuality

The first contribution in this part of Eruditio is an article by Garry Jacobs and Winston Nagan. The piece is titled “The Global Values Discourse.” It is based on their participation in a conference organized in part by the Club of Rome and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, which is a British foundation. The conference was in effect, meant to be a brainstorming session lasting several days in which participants came from diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds. Central to the theme of the meeting was the idea that humanity confronts a vital values deficit. Greater intellectual and scholastic effort is required to improve the vitality of values in shaping global public policies for the present generation and the future ones. An important guideline for the meeting was the stress on the value of the narrative as a mechanism for accessing the centrality of those values important to the future of humanity. Several other Fellows of the Academy participated in the meeting as well. In this report, the authors present their views and summarize the views of three other participants in the meeting. They readily recognize that this report does not reflect the breadth, richness, and diversity of all the perspectives presented during the meeting. However, the authors thought that this short report had some value for our Fellows and hope that it will stimulate a wider discussion among them.

The article commences with an appreciation of the evolving identification and importance of the individual in global society. The salience of the individual is of course a major theme for our Academy’s current interests. The authors present an evolutionary gloss on the struggles that led to the centrality of the individual in Western civilization. It is a narrative that touches on the Renaissance, the commercial revolution, the demise of feudalism and the revival of learning as a major cultural force. These factors led to the reaffirmation of the individual in the birth of the enlightenment, the development of science and modern democratic ideals. Particular reference is given to the values behind the French Revolution and its affirmation on the rights of the common man, ideas that implicated freedom and equality and spread throughout Europe. These ideas took on a new life in the United States where the emergence of individualism was identified with the American dream.

The expansion and integration of individualism with older cultural traditions represent an ongoing challenge with important prospects for the promotion of freedom and equality. Reference is also made to the importance of evolving self-determination and nationalistic ideals, the challenges of scientific truths and laws, as well as the emergence of the culture of the machine. The paper explores the issue of key values which may shape human future. This brings the authors’ paper to the point of clarifying values, narratives, and collective myths. The paper also examines the issue of transcendental values versus existential values. A clarification of this issue emerges from the Buddhist and Confucian thinking. It was Confucius, in particular, who suggested that we know nothing about transcendental reality and not enough about existential reality.

The focus on values in the existential sense permits us to fast-forward to the emergence of secular values in our time. Here we explore the work of WAAS Fellows in seeking to provide a framework of values rooted in social process and human institutions. These issues are tied to the emergence of contemporary human rights values.

A reference is made to Martin Palmer (ARC) who stresses the importance of values to improve the prospect of responsible choice making. Ian Johnson, a Fellow of the Academy, focused on the relevance of human segmentation and stratification forms that often lead to social injustice. He believes that the clarification of values is imperative for understanding the common good. David Korten provided a comprehensive paper carefully examining a multitude of cosmologies that represent contending visions relating to human values and the future of humanity.

The next article by Sasa Popovic and Ljudmila Mila Popovich, titled “Economics of Dignity: Growing People from Consumers to Members,” is an original and creative exploration of human-centered welfare economics. The article starts with a reference to Easterlin’s paradox in his paper “The Economics of Happiness,” where he suggests that material wealth is not a sure guarantee of personal happiness. This insight raises important lines of inquiry touching on economics, psychology and the humanities. According to the authors, such an approach brings post-modern economic thought to the equivalent of a post-mortem of classical economic perspectives. Central to this latter perspective is the issue of economic growth reflected in the idea of the gross domestic product. The authors suggest that there are other factors that also influence the satisfaction of the citizen consumer. These factors might include broader values implicating personal development and life satisfaction as perhaps more important than pure wealth for the satisfaction of human life.

The authors then explore the evidence of changing business practices in which the consumer is now somewhat differently understood. Cyber business permits this development. It creates in the consumer a sense that he is connected to a community, although this is a virtual community and is generated by entrepreneurial innovation. Still membership is membership, and the entrepreneur understands that membership implicates loyalty and captures the emotive need to belong. In this sense, the consumer is not only choosing what to consume, but is also involved in a choice of roles. Those roles are adding values but not at the altar of price. They use a very interesting illustration from the Starbucks chain of coffee shops. The Starbucks website includes links to the idea of a shared planet. It is receptive to the consumer’s ideas and encourages a broader connectivity. Other illustrations are given, which demonstrate the dynamics of broader connectivity among people. This suggests that technology is stimulating human interaction and connectivity as an important aspect of the business of doing business. This suggests that under our very noses we are transforming humanity and transforming the values of community, identity, and connectivity. This implies that we are tentatively approaching the notion of an economics of human dignity. The interests of the Academy in the idea of a new economics are an important background factor lending substance to this creative contribution.

The third article by Saulo Jose Casali Bahia and Craig Hammer is titled, “Returning to Vico: The Role of the Individual in the Investigation of the Social Sciences.” The authors focus on the dominance of Cartesian logic in its application to the social sciences. The Cartesian approach is quintessentially scientific in the sense that it seeks to generate objective scientific truths from observation to testing and verification. The authors of this piece examine the work of the Italian intellectual and theorist GiambattistaVico, who challenged the relevance of the Cartesian approach to the study of human affairs. Vico argued that the Cartesian approach was forced to use a degree of reductionism in the study of human relations, which provided scant interests in “verum-factum” and a greater concern for “verum-certum.” Cartesian certainties in this sense simply missed too much of the role of the individual and the mind of the individual in constructing and developing the framework of human relations. The problem with the Cartesian approach is its lack of connection with individual creativity. Vico stresses a point that is peculiarly modern. Regardless of the official standardized Cartesian rules of society, individuals frequently are involved in unofficial rule making that cannot be adequately accounted for. However, a proper understanding of this process will show that at the informal level human ingenuity and creativity create community rules that modern theorists have called ‘the living law of the community’. In short, there is the official scientific law codified in the books, which we may describe as the myth system of scientific rules. There is also alongside the myth system, the actual operational code reflected in the living law of the social participants.

The authors illustrate this with the example of the emergence of “jeitinho.” This word is untranslatable but roughly means “knack, twist, way, or fix.” This means that in Brazil there is a myth system of official law rooted in the constitution. There is also the Jeito, which is the behavioral law that fills in the gaps and inadequacies of official law. The authors note that the Cartesian approach has been dominant. However, they acknowledge that Vico was vastly ahead of his time and that the human subjectivities of individuals have a critically important role to play in the construction of cultural, social, and legal rules that implicate an adequate description of human social processes.

The final article in this part of Eruditio is UllicaSegerstrale’s “The Heart of the Humanities.” This article underscores the unfulfilled need globally for a relevant value discourse. In this connection, the author draws attention to the challenge posed for the humanities in fully engaging in this urgent task. Part of the problem is the gravitation of the scientific perspective to the human sciences. This seems to suggest that along with the imprimatur of science, there is a willingness to avoid the value implications of human sciences. The initial challenge that she sees is to bring the humanities and the human sciences closer together in order to significantly enhance the relevance and quality of the value discourse in both areas of inquiry. She draws attention to what she sees as the current crisis in the humanities. This raises questions about the humanities, why they exist at all, and who needs them. She notes that value discourse is generally not part of the self-perception of the scientific perspective. The value discourse generated from the humanities may be politically uncomfortable. It may be that for this and other institutional reasons, the idea of an academic neutrality is a more comfortable fit in the context of the way in which higher education institutions are operating today.

The author raises a crucial question about the issue of knowledge generation and its social and possible policy consequences. Many scientists are deeply committed to the principle that their self-identification as scientists is limited to the production of new knowledge. What happens to the knowledge after it is produced is in effect, not a scientific question but a policy question. Still, in such important areas as managing arms control and the possible proliferation of nuclear weapons, scientists have been forced into a role of advising governments about precisely the consequences of one agreement over another, based on their estimate of the consequences that may flow from such an agreement. The author has provided an important insight into the culture of science and the humanities and the values that are required for the appropriate level of intellectual responsibility of both fields. She concludes her piece with a challenging call to “academic activism.” As an editorial gloss, I mention that the Union of Scientists has adopted a human rights framework as an indication of its leadership in science with professional responsibility.             

Click here to read articles in Issue 1 - Part 4.

Click here to read articles in Issue 1 – Part 1 & Part 2 & Part3

To read/download the articles of Issue 1 (with all the four parts combined as a pdf), please click here.

Winston P. Nagan
Chair, Program Committee
Editor-in-Chief, ERUDITIO