Morality in Learning Organisations LO17978

Mnr AM de Lange (
Mon, 4 May 1998 17:33:26 GMT+2

Replying to LO17810 --

Dear Organlearners and Fred,

Fred, I am very sorry for replying so long after the meal. I cannot
get to it all.

You <> write:

> At de Lange closes his reply to Richard Hills by asking:
> >Is it possible for an organisation to be a LO and persist in
> >acting immoral?
> At's question has two components: (1) the nature of a Learning
> Organization (LO), and (2) the possibility of such an organization
> persistently acting in immoral ways.
> Regarding the first component:
> If by "LO" is meant an organization where knowledge is being created,
> captured, and communicated in ways that enable its further use by people
> who didn't create the knowledge, then I would say that any organization,
> regardless of its "morality," could be an LO.

In my opinion we cannot separate morality, like logic, from knowledge.
Knowledges, whether they refers to the unique knowledge of an individual
or the common knowledge of an organisation, are whole "becoming-beings",
i.e holons. Furthermore, since learning (individually and collectively) is
a creative act and since wholeness is one of the seven prerequisites for
constructive creativity, I believe that LOs have to deal with knowledges
as holons.

There is a very interesting parallel between logic and morality. The logic
of statements is concerned with the truth values "true" and "false". Fussy
logic allows for a spectrum of values between (and including) the two
extremes values "true" and "false". Propositional logic allows for only
the two extreme values. Whatever the case, the logic of statements
concerns itself with beings (structures). Any "becoming" is considered to
be syncategorematic. In other words, actions like "truefy" and "flasify"
have no place in the logic of statements. Probably most important to
understand for any LO is that declarative logic cannot be applied to
statements before they have been created. In other words, logical
evaluation has to be postponed until sufficient statements have been

Morality is considered with the moral values "right" (good) and "wrong"
(bad). Whereas logic is concerned with beings (structures), morality is
concerned with becomings (processes, behaviours, actions, functions). In
fact, the etymology of the word moral is the Latin word "moris" (manner).
Unfortunately, whereas mathematicians have contributed to great CONSISTENT
and COHERENT advances in our understanding of (declarative) logic, the
same consistency and cohernecy were not acheived in morality. For example,
I know of no study on "fuzzy morality".

Contributions to morality (and ethics) were mainly from philosophy and
theology. The study of morality declined sharply after it has also been
applied to being (structure, character). This happened because it was not
understood that "being" is syncategorematic to morality. Again, probably
most important to understand for any LO is that morality cannot be applied
to actions before they have happened. In other words, moral evaluation has
to be postponed until sufficient behaviours have been created.

In summary, if LOs have to deal with knowledges as holons, they will have
to deal (fuzzy or sharp) with the moral values "right" and "wrong"
concerning "becomings" as they deal with the truth values "true" and
"false" concerning "beings". The acid test comes when they

(1) have to determine if a two value (sharp or fuzzy) evaluation is
(2) have to combine these two evaluations into one complex system for
both "beings" and "becomings".
(In chapter 8 "The laws of teaching" of my book "Entropy, creativity
and Learning" I will offer such a complex system covering both.
Unfortunately, because of its complexity, chapter 8 is one of the
"black holes" in my book.)

> Regarding the second component:
> I do not believe that organizations act in any fashion, immoral or
> otherwise. My favorite statement on this score is, "Organizations don't
> do anything, people do." (Originating with Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch,
> in "Organization & Environment," if memory serves.) That stipulated, I
> believe it is possible for moral and immoral people alike to continue
> learning while continuing to act morally or immorally, as the case may be.
> I also believe that people who act immorally can learn and change in ways
> that their patterns of behavior are no longer characterized by acts
> labeled as immoral. In other words, immoral people become moral people.
> The reverse is true as well.

Fred, I believe that both truth (true and false) and morality (right and
wrong) have two sides to them - the individual and the collective. In
other words, we do not have a flat 2x2 matrix, but at least a 2x2x2 (three
dimensional) matrix (called a tensor). This complexity of tensors is what
makes the mathematical equation for entropy prodution so hideous.

Furthermore, I believe that constructive emergences and destructive
immergences are not symmetrical to each other. Although they both can
happen, constructive emergences are far more complex than destructive
immergences. In other words, trying to understand what is "true", "right"
and "common" is far more complex than trying to find out what is "false",
"wrong" and "unique". As I have stressed before, the key for me to
understand these "sharp" dichotomous evaluations is to postpone them until
sufficient "evidence" has been created. In the meanwhile, I make use of
"fuzzy" evaluations to direct me into the future, trying to make them
"sharper" during the creative course of time.


> Having said all this, it occurs to me that the consultant's favorite toy
> (the 2x2 matrix) might offer an interesting structure to explore the
> interactions of morality and competence.
> On one axis array moral and immoral. On the other array competent and
> incompetent. The resulting cells are as follows:
> moral competence
> moral incompetence
> immoral competence
> immoral incompetence


> In short, we can chose to become or not become proficient at the right
> things or the wrong things.
> Whatcha think?

Fred, creating matrixes (and tensors) is a powerful way to explore
possibilities. It is one of the many intances of the essentiality
"quality-variety" (otherness). Fractalization and computing series are
other ways of exploring this essentiality. The crux of the matter is to
see if each "cell" in a tensor makes sense. If a row seems to make little
sense, do not scrap the exercise as nonsense. That very row is often the
key to advance emergent learning.

Maybe you do not know that after the initial discovery of the quantum
effect by Max Planck, the first formulation of quantum mechanics was made
by Werner Heidenberg as "matrix mechanics". Then followed the second
formulation of quantum mechanics by Erwin Schroedinger as "wave
mechanics". It was the brillancy of people like PAM Dirac to show that
these two formulations, despite their immense differences, were
equivalent. Today we speak of quantum mechanics, not "matrix mechanics" or
"wave mechanics", using matrixes and wave functions as each situation

The moral of the story? After the discovery of the quantum effect, the new
breed of physicists were so excited about its concequences that they
managed to postpone their final judgement: either "matrix mechanics" or "
wave mechanics". They were excited because they saw a way to emerge from
the moral trap of Newtonian mechanics. Yes, there were hot arguments. But
the most heated arguments were between them and those old-timers who
wanted to scrap both "matrix mechanics" and "wave mechanics". Eventually,
when the jury came out, it was "inclusive thinking" which triumphed over
"exclusive thimking".

This is what I value so much on this list - the many times when "inclusive
thinking" triumphs over "exclusive thinking". Sometimes it goes very
slowly, like in the threads "Competition" and "Employee rating", but we
make progress towards what is "true", "right" and "common". That is what
counts second best. But what counts foremost, are emerging beliefs and how
they become stronger. When a small minority begin to follow IRREVERSIBLY
what appears to the great majority as "false", "wrong" and "unique", it is
time to question in earnest as never before. It is time to explore a new
level of consciousness. It is definitely not the time to pass judgement,
neither by the majority, nor by the minority.

Best wishes


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email:

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