Meaningfulness as key system dimension | CSL4D – Sjon van ‘t Hof

Meaningfulness as key system dimension

Or how humans fit in systems thinking

There is a lot of talk about social systems design and human systems approaches in this blog, but the human dimension seems to be missing sometimes. While exploring the question of how human systems thinking evolved, i.e. in the Darwinian sense of the word, I came across the Princeton University Institute for Human Values (UCHV), in particular their publications page. Two publication drew my attention: Frans de Waal’s “Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved” (2009) and Susan Wolf’s “Meaning in Life and Why It Matters” (2010). Maybe I am lazy, but I didn’t read the books (I don’t have access and my book cases are full), so I just watched De Waal’s Ted Talk (here) and Wolf’s 2017 Shipka lecture (here) to enlighten me. De Waal surprised me (elephants!), but Wolf gave me something that I have been searching for a while: a fundamental way to fit people in systems thinking from an individual point of view. So that’s what I am going to summarize in this blog (see concept map with in grey my additions). I also think that Wolf should get together with De Waal and a few others (e.g. Christopher Boehm) to tentatively integrate evolutionary anthropology. It is my personal belief that if we can show that human biology evolved simultaneously with evolutionary serendipitous discovery-invention-design of speech, fire, tools, morality AND systems thinking (all of them social!) there is a stronger case to bring systems thinking to the forefront in human debate (democracy, governance), business development, and education (all of them social).


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