Your browser (Internet Explorer 8 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.




Can decisions based on META-VALUES improve outcomes?

Hanns-Jürgen Hodann

Fritjof Capra said that from a systems perspective, ethical behavior is always related to community; it is behaviour for the common good. Using this perspective, I would define Meta-Values as those values that promote the well-being of human beings and safeguard the biosphere on which that well-being ultimately depends.  Considering meta-values as an overriding criteria and rejecting an automatic acceptance the narrow options offered by doctrines and ideologies provides a much larger choice on which to base decisions.  Doctrines and ideologies could then serve to provide explanations, views of how the world works, that could be used if found appropriate in a particular situation -  but  viewed from an agnostic stance and not from a quasi religious belief in their truth. As Donella Meadows once said, 'No paradigm is true'. Actions based on aspects of  doctrinal beliefs that are false are very likely to lead to unintended negative consequences.  Can carefully considered decisions based on Meta-Values avoid most of these negative side effects? The CLD shows the dynamic that could be at work if this assumption is true. 

Ethics Decision Making

  • 3 years 10 months ago


Hanns-Jürgen Hodann
Adjectives such  as 'bad' or 'good' used for value judgments always evaluate something  specific - they characterize what they describe as predicate. Unlike the adjective 'good', the word 'good' in the phrase 'The Common Good' does not qualify anything. It is a noun and  intrinsic value that denotes something desirable. As it does not qualify any specific object or project it could be regarded as an all-encompassing Meta Value. This diagram shows a practical use of The Common Good as a guiding principle:  anything that creates it or adds to it is morally desirable and anything that detracts from it or destroys it is not. The word 'common' that limits the meaning of the noun 'good' is taken to mean 'civilization as a whole', though it would be possible to specify a local community also. Only factors that influence the common good DIRECTLY have been shown. These factors could serve to formulate goals to prompt desirable action and are very suitable for exploration via the use of systems thinking. 

Ethics Moral Principle Meta Value

  • 3 years 6 months ago