Plato – The Republic

Still reflecting in Plato’s cave

Essays not withstanding, I managed a revisit to Plato’s “The Republic” this weekend. This passage caught my eye:

“the object of our legislation…is not the special welfare of any particular class in our society, but of the society as a whole; and it uses persuasion or compulsion to unite all citizens and make them share together the benefits which each individual can confer on the community; and its purpose in fostering this attitude is not to leave everyone to please himself, but to make each man a link in the unity of the whole”

Plato – The Republic – Book VII pp242

Watching the news, and ignoring political overtones, these words seem to reflect yet to be learned truths…

Project Chatter #99

Time-bound intended change

Podcast appearance here. My thanks to Project Chatter. And to Paul Goodge, who never disappoints.

I like to think the thread of my argument is consistent. I like to think my research, consulting, and personal perspectives align. The shared discussion in this podcast was enlightening for me. I make no claims to philosophical expertise, more amateur curiosity, but I have loved gaining new insight from the little I have so far grasped. I still have to pinch myself that I get to say this stuff out loud. And in the company of such great people.

We talk in this podcast of perspectival challenge. Of communication. And of boundary lines. Over the weekend I have pushed at a few more of my own. I must admit from my first visit this weekend to Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, it has me hooked. It’s a tough read. Immediately challenging, to even the few perspectives I thought I’d settled upon. Maybe all.

No way I can offer anything meaningful yet. It’s taken me two days just to grasp the outline of his Being and Time 1927 thesis. Only reading in detail the introduction and chapter one…and only then with regular visits to Herbert Dreyfus to steer me through {here} 🤯

But he’s making much of boundaries I didn’t even think to ask were there…

I hope you check out the podcast. And that the conversation started continues and expands anon.


About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Trust in philosophy

What do Stanford say about trust?

These are summary notes and observations from reviewing the philosophical considerations of what trust is, in one of the best free resources of academic thought I have found. In summarising this encyclopaedia entry (link here and below), there is positive confirmation that visibility | behaviour | trust (v | b | t) reflects other conclusions of interactions between these three variables I am attempting to integrate into project assessment. However, it also presents some rather tricky obstacles if trust is to be a meaningful assessment criteria aimed toward measuring likelihood of project success.

This single entry in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (SEP) is around 15,000 words. It comes immediately to the point by presenting trust in terms of risk. Next is an exploration of what conditions are required to enable trust. Comparison is also made to trustworthiness, which is reflected upon as a property, not an attitude as is required to have trust. For a trusted relationship to exist, both parties are required to have the property of trustworthiness.

One ongoing challenge I have set myself is testing through examples that visibility, behaviour and trust are functional parts of a whole. This encyclopaedia entry presents a connection to all three…

“The trustor might try to reduce this risk by monitoring or imposing certain constraints on the behaviour of the trustee; but after a certain threshold perhaps, the more monitoring and constraining they do, the less they trust this person. Trust is relevant “before one can monitor the actions of … others” (Dasgupta 1988: 51) or when out of respect for others one refuses to monitor them. One must be content with them having some discretionary power or freedom, and as a result, with being somewhat vulnerable to them (Baier 1986; Dasgupta 1988).”

The highlights and underlining in this quoted extract are my additions.  The key observation here being that in my own enquiry to seek evidence of a v | b | t relationship, this acknowledged encyclopaedic resource offers a unifying link more succinctly than I could otherwise have hoped.

This therefore appears a satisfactory venture into the philosophical discussion. However, further observations are reflected upon below. These are useful additional details but each presents new challenges to my ongoing enquiry.

Reliance vs Trust

A further subtlety offered is to distinguish mere reliance, from a breach of trust. The SEP presents this via Annette Baier (1986: 235) “although people who monitor and constrain others’ behaviour may rely on them, they do not trust them if their reliance can only be disappointed rather than betrayed.”  This presents a challenge to my own thinking on what behaviour is to trust therefore, and in the context of project relationships requires me to consider again my v | b | t core.  My only counter to this observation is the additional factoring of the control framework to necessarily consider reliance or trust by all project parties and whether adequate levels of interaction have been permitted to enable a shared interest in outputs the project itself can rely.  This passage revisits the vulnerability of the one party. I pose this as a vulnerability to the project itself.  With less trust, there becomes a greater reliance upon this control framework.  I flag this here as an open question to resolve.  (cf.  Goldberg 2020 via SEP).

Developmental trust

“therapeutic trust” (Nickel 2007: 318; Hinchman 2017 via SEP) which is highlighted as a dynamic attitude toward another – with hope of eliciting an improving trustworthy nature in time. In a project setting I would equate this to the many leadership and management challenges of coaching and development of skills, and the delicate balance of offering increasing responsibility and the controlled hope for a responsive (i.e., changing) trustworthy behaviour. (cf McGeer 2008: 241; Horsburgh 1960 and Pettit 1995 via SEP). As with reliance vs trust in a project context, this is a two way interaction with an appropriate control environment providing backup to this trust gap.

Competence plus motivation

“When we trust people, we rely on them not only to be competent to do what we trust them to do, but also to be willing or motivated to do it.” This too draws upon an external evaluation, albeit deficient, with the SEP referencing Jones criticisms of risk-assessment theories making no attempt to distinguish between trust and mere reliance and therefore criticized for this reason (cf. Jones 1999 via SEP). Other accounts of motivation deemed to require distinctions be made of motives being a determinant of whether trustworthiness is availed (cf. Katherine Hawley “motives-based” theories (2014) via SEP). A third category is also presented; “non-motives-based theories”, which are also not risk-assessment theories (Hawley 2014, SEP). Each strive to distinguish between trust and mere reliance, though not by associating a particular kind of motive with trustworthiness.

Acknowledging a potential boundary case

Perhaps the crucial reflections upon this philosophical summary is to acknowledge the difficulty arising if attempting a singular understanding of what trust and trustworthiness are – whether or not this is beyond mere reliance and reliability. The SEP entry presents the complexity of determining if trust is warranted, and whether such determinants are internal to the trustor or able to be externally accounted for.

Significant problems to my enquiry can now be flagged by virtue of this one summary of the philosophical framework of trust. Trust’s value and therefore its measurement is problematic. Accounts disagree on its rational justification (or even if rationality has different qualities in consideration of trust) or the potential for its illusory properties, or their misrepresentation. The SEP entry gives reason to think trust and distrust have great value when deemed very high and become integral to moral and societal norms and social contracts. Trust is also deemed essential in the exchange of knowledge and therefore wider truth. It argues that it is trust that enables human cooperation, and commitments to future return.

Some hard truth

But I have to therefore ponder upon whether trust can become a tangible measure at all. This SEP entry presents a difference between truth and end-directed rationality. Questions are posed on what trust is – is it an emotion, or a belief, or something else building up to a mental attitude? Various theories are offered across each. It poses questions as to how can trust be developed, and from what to what?

Upon my first reading of this account therefore, I conclude any modelling involving trust as a variable is unlikely to reach quantitative precision given the abstract and diverse parameters it could entail. This is useful. It informs and better frames my ongoing research. Flagging an upcoming obstacle of some size. The very real constraints to which this whole enquiry could ultimately be bound.

I trust you agree with my caution…

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Francis Bacon saw through it

With a few days yet before I rely upon my academic betters to once more guide my learning, I find myself seeking passages from older text that I doubt my psychology syllabus will stretch to. Here are a few lines from one of the stalwarts of applied learning, Francis Bacon. Like all sciences before it, psychology as a science spawned from Philosophy, these passages a case in point. In reminding myself how the essay was once the command of all thought, this author was one of the best.

Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished…bend nature, as a wand…let not a man trust his victory over his nature, too far, for nature will lay buried a great time, and yet revive, upon occasion or temptation…

they are happy men, whose nature’s sort with their vocations…

whatsoever a man commandeth upon himself, let him set hours for it, but whatsoever is agreeable to his nature, let him take no care for any set times; for his thoughts will fly to it, of themselves; so as the spaces of other business, or studies, will suffice…

A man’s nature, runs either to herb or weeds; therefore let him seasonably water the one; and destroy the other.

Francis Bacon 1561-1626, extracts from his essay “Of nature of men”

Just as our respect for all nature begins with our understanding of its will, so too must we understand ourselves if we are to harness our best and manage our worst. There is stoic resolve here, but also hedonistic understanding. To know yourself is to perhaps find both stoic indifference but to also have a quiet peace if doing what your nature has you do best, with least effort. On those rarefied occasions we are blessed enough to choose.

These sage words also remind me of Jungian shadow, those repressed parts of our psyche that we dare to override but reappear unannounced all the same. Psychological impact of denial of what we are. That we do well not to repress, but to understand, integrate, and respect. Thereby finding means to improve. And then make good nourishment from those unwanted weeds.

These are the projects within each of us. Of which psychology can aid us better intend change, rather than simply react to it. This too will become a place for my evaluation of what connects all projects. Increased visibility as leading to our understanding, enabling us to better address our behaviours, and therein trust ourselves more. The more of ourselves we can acknowledge the more consistent our truth to ourselves. All of which I contend myself with thinking Francis Bacon knew quite some centuries before…

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

A seeker of truth

A short story of an early truth bearer, one of my Sunday best. A piece from my journal.

Classical truth

The air is heavy, acrid, and still.  Dust hanging heavy and unmoving, resisting the pull of yet undiscovered gravity, held defiant by the raising heat from classical sunshine in this typical Greek summers’ day.  A little chaff from a nearby cornfield catches in the throat of our first truth seeker.  Both the chaff and this chastened man are dried-up remnants of their best days.
Our vagabond figure, clings to the edges of his robes.  A tunic of questionable colour long faded in summers long past.  Frayed cloth edges grabbing fresh dust as they sway back and forth to the cadence of stoic, hardened bare feet.
This is the outskirts of Athens, in 400BC.  The long, curly, grey-white beard of this anti-sophisticate are well known to us now.  As is the thinning hair atop his head.  But the Zeus like features, seen upon modern day depictions of this man, are perhaps a little generous.  For this face is politely described as characterful; the nose robust; eyes a little big, or perhaps sockets a little small.  Features better suited to a battlefield than a play.
And this face has seen battle.  And fared well.  Bravery.  Courage.  Discipline.  All terms he proved demonstrable in his youth - in later life undefinable against his wit.  His was a reputation long standing for calm in chaos, to which even Spartans had given ground.  A resilience to hardship.  On long marches with empty stomach, seemingly impervious to winter bite, or summer heat.  All it would seem, completely in keeping with these latter-day choices to roam free, without burden of duty or possessions.  This tunic of questionable colour then, hiding enough, but reflecting all.
These are times none of us in this modern era can really know.  They have been romanticised, and sanitised, over some two thousand four hundred years.  A reflection of their significance, and of much of what we take for granted, but at this moment, on this road, still raw and real.  As are many of the stings this man of words has dealt.  Stings to many with long memory, thick veins of vanity, strong influence, and thin skin.  It is a meeting with these 500 or so wounded peers, to whom this dusty road leads.  The likes of Plato and Xephonese capturing all.
Indeed, it will not even be written by this wisest of souls.  For nothing of this man’s great mind was captured directly by his own hand.
This simple life and the wisdom within it, needs a little context.  For these are times when the norms of life, had different meaning to those we would contemplate today.  Society has been crafted, redrafted, redefined, many times, and would be many more.  In Egypt for example, these Athenians and Spartans are little more than a curiosity.  But in all comparison of civilisations of this time, all forms of hierarchy of government stem from authority of the few.  Egyptian theocracy, Athenian democracy and  oligarchy, outside tribalism masquerading as aristocracy, all retain a tyrannical edge.  Settlement by force.  A powerbase and peace kept and broken by spear.
Not that most people in Athens or anywhere else on earth would really have had much to say of comparison between one tyranny or the next.  For most of the world’s people, that had ever been, served no purpose of their own making.  One master may determine the relative misery of those beneath, with much greater variance than the higher authority they depend.  In spending life in service of another, seeing little more than the dirt in front of your face, and on the faces of those closest in kinship.  It matters little who is holding the whip, beyond how keenly they deem it of use.  For in these times, and all that had gone before, the great majority of peoples lived, or suffered, as slaves.  Born into slavery, traded into slavery, or commuted there by their conquerors – the ones with better spears.  If not slaves, then labourers, or craftsmen, or traders, or soldiers, or all.  But all at the mercy of the next spear.
This is perhaps what makes this man on the road the most remarkable of all the truth seekers that will follow.  At least in the west.  This man of wisdom, who asked why and probed for better answers.  Took on all-comers in discourse.  He defiantly sought for better definitions from men of influence, stripping bare self-interest, revealing false piety, knocking at hollow argument and empty head.  This man lived a free life, defiant of all subjugates, and all faith.  At a time that none had seen need to outline life in such terms.
And what truth do we learn from this greatest of all rebels?  First amongst the philosopher class to ask much but to answer question with another question.  We learn that wisdom is found in knowing that you do not know.  And that truth is found from within.  From your reason and your divine spirit.  And as such your truth, is perhaps yours alone.  But that it cannot therefore just be taught or administered.  And always it should be questioned.  For this is the Socratic way.

Warren 24th January 2021

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Being more

Applying knowledge not owning it

The lockdown library

I spend most of every day in my lockdown library. A store of owned knowledge.  Growing, courtesy of Oxfam’s fabulous array of second-hand books.  It is where I write, research, and ponder.  It is where I work, and (because of lockdown necessity) where I live.

However, I am trying to be a better representation of my craft.  Being an active participant in the development of knowledge, not simply having ownership in this room.

Last week was a moment of intentional change to my being. I launched “projects | within projects” as a repository of my structured thought.  A place people can visit, read summaries of what I am learning, and how I am trying to apply it to projects.  It connects you to my ongoing enquiry, and to my life.

I am being more visible.

I had 147 visitors to my website in this first week, and 230 views.  The dialogue it generated via LinkedIn is very encouraging. I am very grateful. I am already rewarded for attempting a more active mode.

This was a big step for me.  Stepping out of my comfortable surroundings, albeit digitally.  This becomes my more action orientated learning.  Applied learning.  My attempt at being a contributor to learning, not just a passive recipient.

My blog yesterday was about this difference.  Being not having.  To be present and active in a process. Introducing you to Erich Fromm. There is more to say on this in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you for the support in my first week as a blogger.