All posts for the month July, 2004

I’ve blogged two or three times before about Dutch and UK experiments with removing all road signs, speed limits and road markings and discovering increased road-safety due to the humans (yes, cars have humans inside them) having to rely on common sense and eye-contact to communicate and negotiate priorities etc.

Picked this one up from FN4, but it seems Toyota are going one further. Building body-language and expressions of emotion into the cars themselves. Barking mad ? Maybe not.

I’ve not yet finished reading Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” – great 14th century murder mystery with philosophers, inquisitors and church leaders thrown in – hard to spot where fact ends and fiction starts … anyway the point is I’ve also just received and started reading the 2nd edition (2002) of Nils Brunsson’s “The Organization of Hypocrisy” (1989).

Only just through the introductory paras, but having read Brunsson’s original “Irrational Organization” I’m already sympathetic to the message. In my Manifesto, and my Dissertation before that, I refer to Chris Argyris’ and Donald Schon’s “Theory in Use” – which I tend to summarise as “What we say, What we do, & What we say we do, are three different things”. The basic hypocrisy often turns up as “political correctness” in what we can say, whatever we intentionally or naturally actually do – with a clear conscience – a necessary lie. The net result is best-laid-plans, written records, and any knowledge learnt from them, can be deadly misleading if you act on them. They are comfortable “rationalisations of the irrational”. Knowledge and learning must be based on action and intent – hence “Theory in Use” & “Action Science”.

Interestingly Brunsson’s preface to the new edition suggests that perhaps he should suspend judgement on whether the hypocrisy was just a feature of society & culture at the time of original publication. Sadly for us all I suspect “it was ever thus” again – nothing new under the sun.

Remember Pinker’s “Baloney Generator”. Innately (by genetic evolution) the left side of our brain is hard-wired to be a spin-doctor, thanks to a long history of memetic / cultural evolution of rationalising the irrational.

Just noticed Brunsson’s subtitle is …
“Talk, Decisions and Actions in Organizations”
which maps very neatly to my own aphorism …
What we say (Talk),
What we say we do (Decisions) &
What we do (Actions) …
being three distinct things.

Looking forward to reading in full.

Following the Lisa Jardine trail … lots of interesting stuff Francis Bacon and Milton, to name a few … anyway … at the Center for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) …

The Auchinleck Manuscript was probably created in London in 1330/1340-ish and is currently housed in the National Library of Scotland. This is an on-line copy of an English language literary work that pre-dates Chaucer, so is important lingusitically and culturally as well as a work of literature.

I was moved to blog the link. because I happen to be reading Eco’s 1980 “The Name of the Rose”, set in and around the “scriptorium” of a monastery in 1327, under investigation by a member of the “inquisition”. The text is full of the jargon of scribes and manuscripts and the Auchinleck site has a useful glossary of such terms.

Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary College, University of London and Honorary Fellow of King’s College Cambridge was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s “Devout Sceptic” programme yesterday. An interesting person – atheistic, brought up in an orthodox Jewish extended family, though her parents were also atheistic intellectuals, but with a love of rousing Christian hymns, at funerals, including her own – Jerusalem, I Vowe to Thee, etc. (I have a soft spot for Jerusalem too, it was my old school hymn, and indeed is that of my sons’ school.)

Lisa mentioned an epiphany moment in her life, seeing Dr Jacob Bronowksi pick up that handful of human ash mud near the gates of Auschwitz, speechless with emotion in the closing scene of one programme from his Ascent of Man series. I mention that same moment as a formative experience of mine, and apparently it was voted one of the top 50 moments in TV (though I wasn’t aware of that until yesterday.)

The late Jacob Bronowski was hero of mine. He was Lisa’s father.
(Excellent Bronowksi site by Stephen Moss … Bruno was a polymath, a geometer and a poet specifically. Interesting aspect of mysticism where art met science in the quote from his wife Rita Jardine, shortly after they had first met, whilst he was posing for her to sculpt … [QUOTE] Like many people he thought of Blake as an eccentric and a mystical, otherworldly character. At this reading he had sudden insight into the heart of the man, whom he saw to be a true man of his time, a real revolutionary. Bruno rushed off to research the newspapers of the time and wrote a breakthrough book called William Blake, A Man without a Mask which has had a strong effect on the manner in which William Blake is viewed today. [UNQUOTE]