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The Big Dilemma

The Control of Power

Just protesting and even ‘better understanding’ is no longer enough. 

I fully support the many calls for protest and condemnations against the Putin invasion of Ukraine. And to  contribute donations to help refugees and victims of this unprovoked war: providing band-aids for the wounds our inability to prevent the war has caused? 

What I am missing is more of an effort to discuss, understand, and find remedies for the underlying forces that led to this — and similar situtions. Because it seems obvious to me that the provisions humanity has tried to put in place so far, are critically ineffective. 

The problem is the use and misuse of power in societal governance and conflict. More specifically: the apparently unquestioned assumption that conflicts and violations of laws, treaties and agreements can only be prevented, and must be punished, by the threat and application of force or forceful ‘sanctions’. 

We have long known, from examples of abuses of power  form antiquity to current events, that power is addictive, that it seems to destroy the mental sanity of the holders of power — the more so, the greater the power they hold —;  because mistakes, arbitraniness and evil intent in its application will generate both fear and resistance, opposition.  Fear, both in the oppressed and the powerful. because if they adhere to the above assumption that power is acquired, and sustained by force, they must be afraid that force will be used against them as well. This creates a vicious circle of escalation of power use and abuse, and opposition resistance. 

 For the relationships among nations, this is the ultimate dilemma: the ‘World government dilemma’: If violations of treaties and human rights by force (and similar means) can only be ‘prevented’ by the threat of more powerful force, the question necessarily arises: what will prevent that superior entity itself from falling victim to the temptation and vicious cycles of power?  And equally likely: Given the kinds of weapons for conflict resolution by force that now is available to contenders for global governance, the outcome of such a conflict has best been described by the alleged Einstein comment that we don’t know what kinds of weapons will be used in WW3 — but we know that any WW4 will be fought with stones and sticks: ‘civilization’ as we know it will have destroyed itself. 

What is the lesson? Is this a dilemma that cannot be resolved? Then what? Can we afford to give up hope that better solutions can be found? Can we put our faith in future history books —if they won’t be burned — that will tell of our heroism in just resisting, fighting power in an unwinnable battle, if we don’t submit to the ultimate tyrranny or mutual destruction?  If there is the slightest possibility of finding better ways around the dilemma — is it not our responsibility to find and try to implement them, while there still is time? 

I believe there are possible answers. I believe one partial answer lies in the development of ‘sanctions’ that don’t rely on ‘enforcement’ by a greater power but that will be based on a principle of (agreed-upon) preventive measures automatically triggered by the very attempt of violation. There are already small scale examples using this approach; new technology and AI may be helpful in this effort.  I cannot believe that if more effort and resources would be devoted to this problem, humanity could not find other, better answers to this dilemma.  I believe that such efforts should be pursued with the highest priority, at all levels from local to global governance. 

I also don’t believe that implementation of such answers, if we can find them, should be attempted via the old ‘forceful’ revolution approach, ‘regime change’, violent overthrow and bloodshed. That would just be reverting to the old problem and vicious cycles, attempting to solve the problem with its own causes. This, too, needs a better approach, such as the old ’skunkworks’ of US research and development agencies in the cold war: devoting part of ‘official contract’ resources to ‘free’ research on issues on the principle that maybe the official project is asking the ‘wrong question’ and trying to ‘solve the wrong problem’? And it needs a global platform for the impartial discussion and evaluation of any proposed answers, as heretic als they may seem.  (I have  explored these issues in some papers  e.g. on  Academia. edu.)

I am surprised and disappointed that even the ’systems thinking’ community — as far as I can see, — is not even discussing this issue much less devoting any effort, official or ‘skunkworks’-like — to this dilemma. Just focusing on a ‘better understanding ‘ of the problems, much as we do need that, is no longer enough. 

The Conundrum of ‘Conduction’

Some comments on the 2019 article on A Dialectical View on Conduction: Reasons, Warrants, and Normal Suasory Inclinations  by Shiyang Yu and Frank Zenker in  Informal Logic, Vol. 39, No. 1 (2019), pp. 32–69. 

The following comments were triggered by the article but may not be pertinent to the stated aim of the article’s aim and “Focal question: Should one treat conduction as argument-as-product?” as opposed to a dialectical view on natural language argumentation. But since the arguments I have studied in the design, planning, and policy-making discourse have at times been labeled a type of ‘conductive’ arguments, and I am interested in the ways such arguments lead to reasoned decisions, some questions arise for the implications of its views on a more systematic and transparent evaluation process within that discourse.  This is, in my opinion, an urgent concern for humanity’s treatment of problems and crises that transcend traditional decision-making boundaries and practices. So I welcome any effort to devote more attention to these kinds of arguments, and hoped to find useful insights in this article. 

Seen from this perspective, I am not particularly concerned about the labels give to these arguments, or whether the understanding of ‘conductive’ arguments should be narrowed (as the article seems to imply) to arguments that contain both ‘pro’ as well as ‘con’ premises or considerations: It had been my understanding that the key criterion was the presence of deontic premises to support the equally deontic ‘conclusion’.  If I am mistaken in this,  my comments and questions  may not apply to the discussion in the article.  

In my efforts to develop better evaluation approaches for arguments to ‘ought’ issues  – which arguably humanity argues about as much if not more than the ‘factual’ arguments analyzed by the traditional logic sources I was aware of  [1]– I found the treatment by these sources of such arguments to be of little help.  In their aims for establishing compelling ‘validity’ if not ‘actually ‘truth’, some disciplines – e.g. ‘deontic logic’ seemed to actually sidestep the problem, basing the analysis on concepts like ‘permitted’, ‘mandatory’ (as e.g. by law) or ‘forbidden’, thereby turning the argument inference rule into patterns closer to the deductively valid rules such as the modus ponens, — but neglecting the subsequent issue of all such premises whether they ought to be permitted, mandatory or forbidden.  Does the article make substantial progress towards a better treatment of these concerns? 

Or is it possible that the effort to stay within the traditional ‘proper’ discipline approach caused the analysis to neglect to pursue key features of planning arguments that they just mention almost as side comments:  

–  That the presence of the deontic claims ‘ought’  or ‘should’ (as in the sample argument discussed) and its argument pattern makes the argument inconclusive by the standards of formal logic (the fancy term used is ‘defeasible’);   

–  That the ‘dialectical’ discourse may aim at reaching ‘normal suasive’ attitudes but that these attitudes cannot be taken for granted, in fact, the ‘arguments’ express disagreements which may be fundamental and based on irreconcilable principles;  

—  That planning decisions rest on often large sets of both pros and cons, not on single arguments, that arguments intended by discourse participants as ‘pro’ reasons for adopting the plan proposal, may turn into equally plausible ‘con’ arguments by other parties, if they disagree (negate) one or more of the proposed premises;  

–  That participants may, in the same sentence, offer both a ‘pro’ as well as a ‘con’ reason for the ‘conclusion’ (as in the ‘monster argument’ discussed [2]) 

My approach to these issues was the following: 

*  Acknowledging that planning decisions should be based on the due consideration of the many ‘pros and cons’ people affected in any way by the problems a plan aims to remedy, as well as the plan alternatives (there is always the alternative of ‘doing nothing’) the discourse should be set up to encourage and even ‘reward’ as wide participation as possible, calling for both ‘pro’ and ‘con’ arguments. 

* Accepting the fact that may comments from the public will be ‘messy’, incomplete (enthymemes), even containing the disturbing ‘counter-considerations’ in one sentence that makes horrified argumentation scientists scream ’monster argument!’, organizing a more systematic, transparent evaluation process will require some formatting many comments into common argument ‘templates’ that clearly shows argument structure and missing (implied) premises. (However, original contributions must be kept for reference in a ‘verbatim’ file.)

* That re-formatting should be as close to conversational language as possible, so that authors can recognize their own intended concerns and agree to the format. 

* I chose to turn the argument patterns around to state the ‘conclusion’—the plan proposal – first, with the approval or rejection claim first, linked to the following support premises with the  link ‘because’ (or ‘since’ or a similar word): resulting in the pattern:

“Plan proposal A ought to be adopted (‘Conclusion’, a deontic D- claim


Plan A will imply or result in effect B (Factual-instrumental FI premise ) 


Effect B ought to be pursued” (Deontic D- premise) 

Summarized as  D(A) since {(FI(A)B) & D(B)}.

A more elaborate version would include a premise stating the conditions  C  under which it is assumed that the factual-instrumental  premise would apply:

D(A)  since / because  { ((FI A  B)  & D(B) | C)  & F(C)} 


A ought  to be adopted 


A will result in B given conditions C


B ought to be pursued 


Conditions C are (or will be) given. 

I was led to this because sometimes the third premise is present in actual arguments, often just in terms such as “Given the circumstances”  or ‘In the present state of affairs…) ,  but an argument could be made that this is really an argument supporting or questioning one of the other premises: ‘We can’t implement A because the needed resources just aren’t available to achieve B”.  

* The arguments do not have to (I suggest should not) be labeled as ‘pro’ or ‘con’ (other than perhaps as ‘intended’ by the author) because, as will be seen below, whether an argument is perceived as a pro or con by an individual, depends on the individual’s assignment of plausibility judgments to the premises.

* While the discussion may pursue the questions of supporting evidence or argument for any ot the premises, the assessment of  the set of all arguments will begin by individual participants assigning 

  a) plausibility judgments pl to all premises of the arguments (that can be seen as probability judgments  for FI and F premises), on a scale of e.g. -1 to +1, and

  b) weights of relative importance w, of the deontic premises in each argument, with the weight w(i) for deontic claim in argument i:  0 ≤ w(i) ≤ 1.0 and ∑w(i) =  1.0  of all deontic claims in the entire set of pro and con arguments. 

* For each individual participant:

   – The plausibility Argpl(i) of an argument i will be some function of  the plausibility judgments the participant has assigned to the premises of that argument;  e.g. 

Argpl(i) = ∏{Prempl(j) of all its premises, or Argpl(i) = MIN(Prempl(j ):   the argument is as plausible as its least plausible premise. 

  – The weight Argw(i)  of argument i  is a function of its plausibility and the weight w(i) of its deontic premise, e.g.  Argw(i) = Argpl(i) * w(i).

  – The plausibility of the proposed plan  (for an individual) is then a function of all argument weights:  e.g. Planpl = ∑(Argw(i) for all n arguments I considered.

* For the task of generating an acceptable ‘group” plausibility statistic to determine the group’s decision, each group or constituency will have to agree upon some such statistic, e.g. the average Planpl and a decision threshold for acceptance of a plan. There are several possibilities. For example,  it could be agreed that the group’s average Planpl should be at least positive (on the -1/+1 plausibility scale), or that it should be the highest one of several alternative ‘plans’ including the alternative of ‘doing nothing’, or a consideration of  the range of  plausibility values for individuals or subgroups (taking care of the ‘worst-off’ parties affected by the problem to be remedies and by proposed plan(s).  This important and controversial issue is beyond the scope of the issue at hand here – the treatment of pro and con arguments in the planning discourse.  

Whether these or similar provisions for collective design, planning, policy-making discourse can or should be applied to all ethical, moral, political discourse, is another much needed discussion. For now, just one significant implication of this view — that any measure of plausibility merit of social plans must be based on the distribution of individual judgments of affected or concerned people, not some general or universal  ‘truth’ or validity — should be noted: For any application of AI tools to collective decisions about controversial plans, is there any plausible basis for an AI system to make even recommendations for such decisions, unless the data base for its algorithms includes the individual  plausibility and weighting judgments of all human participants in the discourse? That is, much as machine assistance will be needed for the discourse of large or global planning projects or decisions, the AI tools or systems must be integrated into the human discourse and compute its results with the human judgment data as they evolve during the discourse. They cannot substitute for the discourse.  

Such implications may be lurking in the background for the theoretical discussions of arguments, whether deductive, inductive, or conductive. They must urgently be pulled out from the background into a human ‘planning–type’ discussion of its own. 


[1]  At the time of my first efforts in this  (the early 1970’s) I was not aware of Wellman’s introduction of the term ‘conductive’ for these arguments but was disappointed in the modal logic and deontic logic sources. There was some discussion whether they should be considered forms of ‘abduction’ (in Peirce’s sense). But the common understanding of abduction also did not seem to match the kinds of arguments I saw in the planning discourse. Abductive reasoning can play a role in the development of solution proposals, however, but not in the weighing of those different solutions. 

[2]  The statement simply combines two considerations, one ‘pro’, one ‘con’, which simply means that it offers two separate arguments to two different ‘conclusions’ or action proposals, as rudimentary enthymemes, with the ‘though’ wording also indicating that one of those reasons, however admittedly plausible, should be assigned less ‘weight’ than the other. I do not see any rationale for the desperate suggestion in one of the branches of the treatment decision tree, to consider the ‘counter-consideration’ as an implied part of the ‘conclusion’. Some necessary assumptions would also be necessary, for example that the only time period available for the two actions is the same (so that e.g. mowing the lawn might be done before going to the movie, or, why not …tomorrow? 

The implication is that for a systematic evaluation, the two arguments for the two different proposals must be stated separately, with all the missing premises made explicit, and that participants then add their individual evaluation judgments to all the premises. 

Similarly, the popular ‘informal logic’ recourse to the Toulmin argument pattern with its backing  and warrant components did not seem appropriate for planning arguments: the pattern seemed to somewhat arbitrarily select its components from premises of ‘successor issues’ arising from efforts to support or question the basic premises of the ‘planning argument’ as I perceived them. 

Some Hot Investing Tips

Preparing to get some payments for my share in the  second home I sold in Europe, I started to look at investment possibilities here in the US. The first attempts at doing so were rewarded with an avalanche of promotion emails and FB posts selling investment services, So I looked at some of those to find out more. 

What I saw was an astounding similarity in their promotion material. They all  asked me to watch videos  — of unspecified length, so I never knew how much time I would have to devote to listen to them. Not all of them offered transcripts of those videos for hearing-challenged folks like me. But they all lure prospective viewers with the promise to reveal some incredible secret, and then devote much time and space to ”first introducing themselves” and showing a lot of ‘predictions’ of crises or events they claimed to have made, and resulting investment earnings diagrams that — surprise  — all show the same angle from almost nothing to current levels of stock or crypto prices or capitalizations. Which of course, if one knows just a little about making such diagrams,  can be manipulated by choosing different scales for the x and  y-axis of those diagrams, makes one wonder how stupid and gullible they think we are… Let me tell you a secret:  if you start a diagram with the initial stock price of zero or almost zero (which is where most of them start) any price after any time span will produce a close to potentially infinitely high ‘profit rate’!   (Potential, that is, if you can sell it… That’ll be $2.50, thank you) .

The killer, however,  is the common pattern of selling the services: first claiming the amazing ‘value’ of their service programs and then making the incredible generous offers of reducing the initial three-or-four-digit price down to something like $49 or $39 for the ‘basic’ version. (‘Ending tonight!) And before even getting to the final checkout for that purchase, taking up ore time with offers of ‘lifetime extensions’ and other service blends. Which makes one wonder, again: don’t they realize that one wants to try out the quality of such a service before buying more of them? Huh? So those offers should be launched at customers after some time of proving their ‘value’.  

Now I’ll admit that those videos and ‘reports all are done up very smartly and convincing, obviously not cheap. But doesn’t this raises more questions?:  why are those folks so desperately eager to sell such two-digit services if they could make so much more money by investing the cost of those videos and websites and promotions in the investments they are promoting (or promise to reveal)? Because the first result of some purchases of basic services are just more videos, (including endless repeats of the very videos that conned the customer to buy the service in the first place),  fear-raising webinars for additional fees, more service programs and ‘reports;’ and very little actual useful information for novice prospective investors. Inbox overflow. The promised ‘professional customer service teams’ don’t even bother to respond to  questions… 

It could drive a poor advice-seeking fellow to drink, For a modest fee, I’ll reveal the brand to respondents so y’all can invest in the company, whose shares are going to rise — in up or even in down market conditions, guaranteed!

Psst:  Any reader out there producing adequate Sonoma Zinfandel libations:  here’s a hot innovative tip: Insert a currently cheap but promised to-rise altcoin token recommendation under the bottle cap to lure more investment-advice-seeking consumers. It must be discovered fast before the price goes up: get it? (You don’t want any of those guys who buy wine to keep for decades.)  With the profound insights I have gathered, I can promise that advice for just a guaranteed monthly delivery of a case… 



Thorbjørn Mann 2021

The claim we want to examine, as stated by proposed approaches (methods, techniques, perspectives): “This approach can be used to tackle WP’s” seems to accept the understanding of WP’s — the original Rittel/Webber one or a slightly different one of later interpreters, as well as a common understanding of ‘tackle‘ as not only ‘trying’ but actually achieving the development of a ‘solution’ to problems described as WP’s: ‘solving’ such problems. It was already pointed out in the first post of this series that of course any group is entitled to ‘tackle‘ (understood as ‘trying to solve’) any problem with any approach it deems appropriate. The question then is whether the claim actually can be seen as a believable promise that a problem with the WP properties will be solved usingthe approach or method. (The possibility that the very concepts of ‘problem’, WP, ‘solving’ these, etc. might themselves need critical scrutiny was be taken up in a the second post of the series).

So what are the criteria that might be used to determine the merit or validity of a claim of the above nature? Put crudely: what would make a client confident to hire a company using an approach X claiming that the approach will solve the client’s WP?  Would a first step be to look for answers to the question of how the proponents of the approach would respond to each of the mutually accepted and understood WP properties? Two questions: 

a) If the respective property is seen as a significant obstacle to the achievement of a solution‘ to WP’s, what will enable X to overcome / respond to that obstacle?


b) What if the WP property is serious, what are its implications for application of approach X? E.g.: If the property requires an adaptation of the approach or the general understanding of ‘solution’: what would those adaptations look like? 

What other critical question might be asked? The attempt to examine a few competing approach ‘brands’ might help improve this first set of questions. 

The examination of the answers — their generality or specificity, the strength of supporting evidence  or argument, and fit to the problem at hand —  might help to assess the merit of the claim, even if it may not be sufficient to establish a sound basis for preferring one approach X from a competing method Y. This is, in essence, an invitation to entities aiming to work on the world’s WP’s, to contribute their response.

Not being a representative or promoter of a particular ‘brand of this kind, but feeling obliged to offer an example of what answers to these questions might look like, I will sketch a few sample answers from a less controversial ‘approach’: the predominant political parliamentary process. The answers are not intended as a comprehensive set of possible responses, but to clarify what such responses might look like, and start the discussion:

Some potential responses of the ‘parliamentary process’ (‘PP’) as a problem-solving ‘approach’, to the WP properties: 

  • No definitive problem formulation

The PP accepts ‘problems’ on its ‘agenda’ as the justification for proposed ‘solutions’ in the form of proposed ‘bills’ that aim to remedy them. That is, problems statements dealt with as stated by the legitimate participants in the process (elected representatives of defined constituencies). Such statements may be questioned and debated in the subsequent discussion prior to a decision. That is, the issues of what problem formulations will be entered for discussion and consideration is entirely the task of the participants (though they may be responding to statements in the media and public domain).

  • Every wicked problem is essential unique:

Each ‘bill’ for legislative action is accepted without regard to its uniqueness or similarity to other cases, though it may have to be stated in formal terms defined by procedural rules, terminology, and conventions. 

  • Any ‘solutions’ for WP’s are not ‘correct’ (true) or ‘wrong’ (false) but, in the opinions of affected parties, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. 

The terms ‘true or false’, ‘good, bad’ etc. may be used in the discussion of proposed measures, but the outcome of the process is (sidestepping this issue?) is simply ‘accepted’ or ‘rejected’. 

  • Every WP can be explained in many different ways, but can also be seen as part of, or as a symptom of another problem or set of problems.

The debate offers the opportunity for presenting such considerations. The issue may best be included in provisions or justification statements for introducing bills for decision: these should include evidence of having explored different explanations or underlying problems of which the stated reason of the bill could be a mere symptom. 

While the issue of ‘tests’ (or their substitutions by systemic prediction or simulation models) may be and perhaps ought to be more forcefully entered into in the debate of a proposal, the viability of proposed legal actions is left to the judgment of each participant. (In theory, unless constrained by factors such as ‘party discipline’).

  • There are no immediate nor ultimate tests for the goodness or appropriateness of proposed ‘solutions’.
  • There are no well-described and finite sets of admissible operations that can be brought to bear on WP’s.

If this means that the process should deliberately be kept open to new ideas and ‘operations’, it of course applies to the phase of development of solutions before they are presented to the decision-making body for approval or rejection, which then does rely on agreed-upon procedural rules. The debate itself remains open to offering new ideas, or they may be assigned to special groups for more systematic analysis.

  • There is no enumerable set of potential ‘solutions’ to a WP: the ‘solution’ space is infinite and multi-dimensional.

In PP practice, solution proposals are simply presented to parliamentary bodies for approval. The debate may make claims of having explored the entire solution space, but the support for such claims and their counter-arguments must be judged by the participants. Claims of there being ‘no alternative’ to proposed solutions are always flawed and should be avoided: there is always at least one alternative: that of ‘doing nothing’. 

  • WP’s have no inherent ‘stopping rule for efforts to deal with them.

This being true for all possible approaches, the question becomes one of adopting meaningful and practical ‘problem-external’ stopping rules. Common examples in parliamentary bodies are the rule of ‘no more comments / objections’ serving as triggers for proceeding to the decision-making (e.g. voting) phase, or agreed-upon simple time limitations. Provisions like the ‘filibuster’, pretending to ensure that there will be enough time to present ‘all’ concerns for ‘due consideration’, should be amended with rules preventing mere repetitions of arguments already heard.

  • Every WP is essentially unique. 

This feature should be seen as a warning against relying exclusively on precedent cases for the justification of proposed solutions: again, it is a suggestion for the debate to explicitly examine the unique aspects of the problem the solution claims to address.

  • Every effort to deal with a WP is a ‘one-shot operation’ 

Like other WP properties, in the PP,  this should be seen as ‘stock’ reminder for the debate to address.

  • The WP-planner hasno right to be wrong’ (as in ‘trial and error’) but is liable for the outcomes of any actions taken. 

The issue of accountability for actions taken or not taken by parliamentary bodies is a perennial one. Traditional provisions of holding representatives or officials by the threat of denying re-election, or (for more egregious issues: removal from office) arguably are in need of improvement. Especially in view of other rules such as term limits: If representatives can only one serve a single term, or two terms, there is no accountability remedy for flawed actions during the ‘last’ term. There is no logical reason against the parliamentary system making such improvements. 

     * The ‘distributed information’ feature of WP’s:

This admittedly serious issue is one that should — and arguably can — be addressed in the provisions for preparation of action proposals (bills) to parliamentary bodies.

* Nonlinearity, ‘loops’ and counter-intuitive patterns in the behavior of the system affected by a proposed action:

Like some other assessment aspects (such as quantitative measures of performance of proposed solutions), this issue may not be sufficiently well dealt with in traditional parliamentary debate: Rhetorical debate arguments tend to focus on simple cause-effect relationships, and — for quantitative issues — highly aggregated but therefore abstract indices such as ‘growth’, ‘Gross National Product’ or ‘Deficit spending’. Systemic analysis and representation of complex systems aspects should be made required components of the preparatory justification documentation of proposed bills, together with provisions for sending proposals ‘back to the drawing board’ to include new and insufficiently detailed concerns brought up during the debates, or in outside public comments accompanying the debate.

   * The ‘doorknob’ syndrome: 

This aspect is related to the ‘WP as a symptom of other problems’ feature. It should properly be dealt with in the preparation phase of bills, with a summary of its treatment in the justification documentation. 

   * Making decisions on behalf’ of others, such as actually affected parties: 

In the PP, this question is addressed by the assumptions 

a)   that by constituencies electing their leaders and representatives, thereby entitle them to make decisions on their behalf, and 

b)  that conflicts of interpretations in the constituency as well as conflicts in the decision-making body are adequately settled by majority rule voting. 

It must be admitted that these provisions do not meet the aim of ‘acceptable’ or ‘desirable’ design for all parts of the constituency. In fact, the majority rule (in all its variations to ensure more fairness) allows all concerns of the voting minority to be summarily dismissed. The remedies for this are seen in the ‘re-election’ provisions — calling for efforts to develop better ‘accountability’ tools (as discussed above).

   * The ‘making a difference’ syndrome:

Contributing to the uniqueness of WP’s, this aspect can be seen as not adequately served by the rules of the PP. It must of course be balanced against the necessity for agreed-upon procedures that can be fairly and equitably applied to all similar public projects. Such common rules include the principle of separating the ‘projects’ of generating and reaching agreement on general project rules from the specific planning projects to which those rules apply. Specific ‘unique’ aspects of individual projects may require exceptions or modifications of the general rules. (To prevent conflicts that could derail constructive planning projects, the general rules must and can contain provisions for such possibilities). Individual participants’ desire to ‘make a difference’ will mainly be constrained by such rules in the main decision-making phases of the PP, but arguably can find opportunities for creative application in the preparatory and support activities.

Summary observations:

This tentative discussion suggests that while the Parliamentary Process as practiced may fall short of adequate provisions to avoid pitfalls related to some WP properties, but that needed improvements are quite possible. A common denominator is that such improvement provisions will be situated in preparatory activities such as developing the specifics of plans and other support functions, before the final plans are presented for approval in the main decision-making phase. This may remain a problem, because any such supplementary functions may or may not be called upon, at the discretion of the ‘official’ members of the main decision-making assembly. 

Another potential problem of the parliamentary process — common to many other ‘approaches’ — is that the final decision-making tools such as majority voting have the potential of marginalizing or entirely ignoring many of the contributions and insights achieved in supporting and preparatory activities, and even overriding key concerns of minorities, in the main decision body. This feature of common planning and policy-making is not addressed in the WP ‘properties’: Should this issue be included in that set, or be seen as a separate but ubiquitous wicked problem that affects many or all other WP’s? 

The Parliamentary Process, in its many forms, currently is a main governance planning tool, up to the highest international institutions. Can it be expected to be easily and smoothly replaced by a ‘better’ system any time soon? The main competitive ‘approach’ currently being authoritarian rule, which arguably offers few assurances for meeting the PP promises of ‘listening to all concerns and give them all due consideration’ in making decisions, much less guarantees for attending to WP pitfalls. (But it may deserve a chance to present its case, not just to violently take over?) 

Barring convincing demonstration that a better approach will emerge, is the best hope we have that meaningful improvement provisions such as those related to the concerns expressed in the WP (and others!) can be integrated into the PP structure? A wide, structured, and thorough discussion of other competing ideas is urgently needed, and it should include the response of each approach to the Wicked Problem features. 

— o —



Thorbjørn Mann 2021

This is the second post on the question of claims by proposed problem-solving ‘approaches’ to successfully ‘solve’ Wicked Problems.

Looking for reassuring answers to the question whether some approach, method or ‘perspective’ can be expected to live up to claims that using the respective approach will reliably result in ‘solving’ Wicked Problems, it may be useful to turn the question around and look at the concept of ‘wicked problems’ itself, and its understanding. Are its ‘properties’ and implications really justifying the frequent automatic rejection of such claims, or claims of a technique guaranteeing solutions? The following first attempt, for discussion, takes a stab at this question, examining each of the WP properties:

* “No definitive problem formulation”:

This feature reflects the fact that different people involved in a project will have very different opinions about the problem, and that the acceptance of one view of ‘what the problem really is about’ is a choice or decision. It is a stern challenge to the habitual recommendation to begin a problem-solving process with a ‘clear statement of the problem’. The implication: to avoid controversies and disruption from occurring later in the process it is necessary to not only begin such a process with a widely open invitation to affected and interested parties to contribute many different perspectives of the problem, but to keep the process open to emerging insights on this issue. 

* “Every WP can be explained in many different ways”: 

The same recommendation holds for this WP property: 

* “Every WP can be seen as a symptom of another problem or set of problems.”:

One obvious implication of this feature is that any proposed ‘solution’ idea, however promising, can be dismissed as ‘only treating the symptom’. The question should therefore be raised early in the process to be discussed, and any necessary decisions resulting from it agreed upon – such as having to shift the entire effort to a different institutional level or entity – before devoting much time and energy to develop a ‘symptom-treating’ solution. 

* “Every wicked problem is essentially unique”:

The implication of this feature is that ‘tried-and true’ methods and lessons from previous cases may not be applicable to a new WP.  However, could it be that the stark formulation of the property unnecessarily hides the fact that the significance of similarities and differences between the new problem and similar cases are a matter of degrees? There may be part of the problem that are sufficiently ‘similar’ to warrant the application of known tools. The process should address this question by looking at details and make decisions about using known methods where applicable and devote efforts to develop new tools as needed. 

* “WP ‘solutions’: not ‘True or False’ but ‘Good  or Bad’:

This reminder was especially necessary at the time the WP issue was raised and published: there was a veritable movement of stressing ‘fact-based’ decision-making, that is, using ‘objective facts’ about a proposed solution’s measurable performance as the decision criterion. This trend seems to re-emerge periodically, (under slightly different banners such as ‘science’ or ‘expert advice’), perhaps because of inappropriate populist switching to decision-making based on ill-informed intuitive ‘goodness’ judgment or insistence on ideological principles decrying the facts presented by discipline experts as ‘elitist oppression’. So the reminder should perhaps be revised to reflect that the real issues are 

    –  the selection of the performance measures for which the ‘facts’ are then established – of course factual information must be provided and assessed for any problem, wicked or tame;

    – these ‘facts’ will always be qualified by probability; especially the  predicted ‘facts’  offuture solution performance (which of course aren’t even facts yet!); and

    – the necessity of communicating about how fact-measurements and predictions relate to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ judgments (the process Rittel called by the somewhat problematic name of ‘objectification’); and

    – the most important question of  whose judgments  should determine the common decisions about accepting or rejecting proposed ‘solutions’. 

* “No immediate nor ultimate tests”:

This property refers to the difference between scientific hypothesis-testing and the discussion of proposed plans to remedy social problems, as well as to the feature that plans and policies will have chains of consequences that make ‘immediate tests’ meaningless even if we had such tests and ‘ultimate tests’ un-specifiable because the time span of those consequences is indefinite. However, any reaction of doing without any ‘testing-like’ efforts is seriously mistaken. Two considerations:

    – Simulation models used properly (that is, to explore the possible consequences of different actions and strategies taken today) can be considered a kind of test or better ‘evaluation’ – the best tools we have for predictions, none of which are establishing true facts since they all deal with future developments: probabilities.  And

    – Argumentative discourse: The sharing and assessment of the proverbial ‘pro’ and ‘con’ arguments about proposed plans.In which simulation model results may play a significant role, but the essential difference is that planning arguments contain the ‘ought’ premises that are not properly assessed as ‘true’ or ‘false’ and thus the same ought claim may be ‘plausibly’ seen as ‘ought’ or ‘desirable’ by some affected parties but as ‘not desirable by others. The degree to which a plan is perceived as achieving the ‘ought’ state (of a problem perception) is the basis for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ judgments of the plan. 

I have suggested that to Popper’s advice about scientific hypothesis-testing: 

“We are entitled to accept a hypothesis as corroborated (only) to the extent we have done our very best to show that it is false, plausible and it has survived all those tests” 

the closest analogous ‘test’ we have in design and planning is the following:

We are entitled to accept a plan as plausible and ‘supported’ (only) to the extent we have done our very best to expose it to all the most plausible counter-arguments  (‘cons’) and those have all been shown to be flawed or outweighed by supporting arguments (‘pros’). 

Evaluation procedures and approaches to develop measures of plausibility of individual judgments of planning arguments have been described, as the closest we have to ‘testing’ plan proposals.  

* “No well-described, finite sets of admissible operations”

This feature is set against disciplines like mathematics where the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc. are the admissible operations that define ‘tame’ problems. It warns that approaches attempting to specific a finite set of such operations for WP’s are liable to encounter new ways to tackle them – ‘anything goes’ if it works. 

* “No enumerable set of potential solutions to a WP”:

The insight that the ‘solution space’ for WP’s may be infinite and impossible to define implies that claims of finding ‘optimal’ solutions are meaningless: there may be even better solutions somewhere in regions of the solution space that were not explored. This constrains the discussion to the more modest quest for solutions that are ‘good enough’ within the regions an approach is able to examine: a feature that was earlier proclaimed as ‘satisficing’?

* “No inherent ‘stopping rule’ for efforts to deal with WP’s”:

The implication of this feature is simply that stopping rules  for efforts to tackle WP’s are not provided by the problem itself but by constraints outside the problem but acting on the task force working on it – and as such ‘arbitrary’ and debatable: financial and time constraints being the most common such limitations. For the problem itself, ‘we can always try to do even better”. 

* “Every effort to deal with a WP is aone-shot operation’”: and

* “No trial and error’”:

These two properties are intimately related. We cannot rely on the trial and error strategy to learn how to ‘solve’ a WP: Any actions on the problem itself will expend resources, generate new consequences: the ‘next trial’ will now be a very different problem.  

* “The WP-planner has no ‘right to be wrong’:

Like the hypothesis-testing issue above, this aspect refers to a fundamental difference between science and WP-planning. The scientist having performed a test that refutes a hypothesis may be disappointed — but that is making a legitimate and rightful contribution to scientific knowledge. The would-be WP- solver failing to remedy the problem is actually ‘making things worse’. The plausible implication then is the call for holding the planner – or the decision-maker for the implementation of the plan liable’ — ‘accountable’ — for the failure. More often than not, such calls are rather meaningless, if there is no ‘account’ involved (other than perhaps a decision-maker’s position or ‘reputation’: how does it balance suffering of people affected by the problem of the wrong solution?). Should efforts be devoted to finding better ‘accounts’ for this issue? Rittel suggested one implication: the ‘complicity model’ of planning. Taking this aspect seriously, no decision-maker would be able to accept responsibility for major decisions if it required ‘investments’ equal to the risks of failure of plans. It would be necessary to find ‘accomplices’ willing to share that risk. Again, what kind of ‘account’, what ‘currency’ might be used for this?  (I have sketched one possible idea: the use of the ‘reputation’ account of ‘merit points’ earned for the value of contributions to the public discourse to have decision-makers ‘pay’ for important decisions.) 

* “Distributed information”:

This issue refers to several aspects of large public WP’s: 

    – The need to assemble ‘factual’ information about how the problem – and any proposed solutions — affect many different parties ‘out there’ – that are not yet documented and certified in knowledge bases and experts’ knowledge. This may require research and information-gathering for which the need will only become apparent as the discourse proceeds, so that initial estimates of needed resources will be unreliable; and initial surveys to gather such information will be insufficient: the questions to be answered will only emerge later on: the information-gathering effort must accompany the process throughout;

    – The question of ‘getting ‘ the information may require offering some incentives for people to contribute it – early enough to be useful (rather than complains after the fact) – and mechanisms for assessing its truthfulness or validity;

    – If the property of ‘not true or false but good or bad’ is valid, and thus should determine the decision, these judgments will have to be the judgments of the affected parties. This will require a clear distinction between ‘factual’ information (that must be ‘verified’) and goodness/badness judgments that must be accepted as individual’s assessments and aggregated into overall statistics of sentiments of approval or disapproval. This task is not adequately addressed by many ‘approaches’; the effort to achieve consent or even consensus in small task groups seems to sidestep rather than systematically and transparently confront it. (See also the issue of ‘making decisions ‘on behalf of others’, below.)

* “Nonlinear and counter-intuitive system behavior”:

It is the merit of ‘systems modeling’ to bring this issue to the attention of planners and decision-makers. The simulation models aim at overcoming the resulting prediction difficulties of this ‘complexity’ of the systems involved in WP’s. The connection between the prediction results and the ‘goodness’ judgments (of the many affected parties) has not been sufficiently well explored much less convincingly resolved.

* “The ‘doorknob’ syndrome:” 

The warnings against getting lost in the upward or downward ‘cause’ or ‘symptom’ issues of WP’s are understandable but carry the risk of under-estimating the reality and significance of such relationships.  The rules that can guide decision about how much attention to devote to them, like the ‘stopping rules’ discussed above, are often extraneous to the problem – which can lead to flawed decisions. 

* “Making decisions ‘’on behalf of others”: 

Governance and planning decisions on public issues have traditionally been taken by leaders, officials, or representatives of the community, with the justification that these decision-makers are sufficiently familiar with their constituencies to make decisions ‘on their behalf’.  This can mean one of two things: Either they know (or claim to know) ‘what’s best’ for the community — even if there are people in the community who disagree — or they know the basis of judgment (the way the community members relate their goodness judgments to the facts of the matter) well enough to make judgments ‘as the people themselves would’. Both assumptions have been questioned, and current efforts to validate either assumption are cumbersome and unconvincing, adding to the wickedness of the problem at hand. 

* “The ‘making a difference’ syndrome”:

Many people are perfectly content with the provisions of planning decisions being made by leaders, officials or hired consultants: delegation of work allows us to focus on ‘our’ work and priorities.  But to the extent people are – in the name of ‘citizen participation’ – becoming more extensively involved in public problem- solving issues, this makes that involvement a part of their lives, in which they may want to ‘make a difference’ – a somehow outstanding contribution. Consciously or subconsciously, this may mean ‘doing things differently’ from the way things have been done, or from what some recommended ‘approach’ or method is proposing. The planning process itself becomes a part of the plan, and they want to make it ‘theirs’. Regardless of how appropriate or allowable this may be in the view of other participants or approach promoters, this will introduce unforeseen complications into the process. If it is seen as part of these individuals’ ‘right to pursuit of happiness’ – that governments are supposed to ensure: should all public planning efforts include provisions for such efforts – and what would they look like? 

There may be some commonalities of implications in these properties that are not apparent in the individual items, and that deserve closer examination.  One such common assumption is the reference to the ‘WP solver’. Is this an unspoken and unquestioned assumption of a single designated person or team to do the problem-solving ‘on behalf’ of the community affected? The reality of public projects is that there are always multiple institutions with various decision-making responsibilities – the task then also involves the organization of constructive coordination between all these entities. 

A larger common aspect is that meaningful response to WP properties requires some common communication and coordination platform. For all the progress of information technology over the last decades, an appropriate and effective platform for this purpose remains to be developed.

The platform, finally, will also be the venue for reaching decisions. None of the WP properties mention this explicitly, but their implication is that the traditional decision-making modes (such as voting) do not meet the expectations of suitable responses to the issues – e.g. being based on transparently explained individual ‘goodness’ judgments. Especially for problems transcending existing governance boundaries with different decision-making entities and rules, this will become an urgent consideration. 

Are these sketchy observations indicating an urgent need for wider discussion? 

— o —

Can ‘Approach X’ be used to tackle Wicked Problems?

An invitation  to examine claims of design and planning approaches 

to effectively ‘solve’ wicked problems.

Thorbjørn Mann 2021

(This post is the first part of several attempts to explore the question, in comments or further posts)

The question whether certain design and planning approaches can be used to ‘solve’ or ‘tackle’ wicked problems [1] is an issue raised anew with each new ‘approach’ being brought out on the market. Such claims have been made for widely popular ‘thinking’ ways — ‘systems thinking, ‘design thinking’, ‘holistic thinking’, ‘sociocracy’ and Pattern Language [2], for example: 

The question may have to be restated somewhat. Of course every such approach ‘can’ be used to try to address wicked problems. If we only have one tool, that will be the one we will, indeed must use. But the real question is about the validity or plausibility of claims that an approach will reliably be effective and successful (indeed: the only or better one than others on the market). It is the one we must ask: the more so, the more serious and global and ‘wicked’ the emerging problems facing humanity are seen to be. 

Wicked problems (‘WP’ in the following) are expressed as statements of discrepancy between perceived real conditions and perceived opinions / desires about what those conditions ought to be. The wickedness resides in what Rittel and Webber called their properties — which cannot be stated often enough, (because many comments tend to omit or re-state them in ways that change their meaning): 

  • There is no definitive problem formulation that systems thinking or other approaches, Pattern Language etc. could ‘resolve’ by appropriately react to. Traditional problem-solving methods insist on starting by ‘clearly stating’ the problem; this is the first serious issue the WP view is raising: there are many ways a WP can be stated and explained.
  • Every wicked problem is essential unique: though there are always similarities with other, known problems, there are always new features that can make traditional ‘tried and true’ solutions inapplicable.
  • Any ‘solutions’ – proposed reactions – to WP’s are not ‘correct’ (true) or ‘wrong’ (false) but, in the opinions of affected parties, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, – and different parties tend to have different and opposing opinions as to which is good and which is bad. 
  • There are no immediate nor ultimate tests for the goodness or appropriateness of proposed ‘solutions’;
  • There are no well-described and finite sets of admissible operations (‘recipes, ‘approaches’, procedures, techniques, tools, and we may add: ‘thinking’ kinds, that can be brought to bear on WP’s.
  • There is no enumerable set of potential ‘solutions’ to a WP: in other words, the ‘solution’ space is infinite and multi-dimensional.
  • WP’s have no inherent ‘stopping rule‘ for efforts to deal with them — that is, a stopping rule inherent in the problem statement, that can tell the problem-solver to end the effort: we can always try to do a little better.
  • Every WP can be explained in many different ways, but can also be seen as a part or symptom of another problem or set of problems (the sets Ackoff [3] called ‘messes’).
  • Every WP is essentially unique. This implies that there are no ‘experts’ that can claim expertise from previous work on WP’s.
  • Every effort to deal with a WP is a ‘one-shot operation’ – each attempt to solve it counts significantly; ‘trial and error’ approaches are inappropriate, and any ‘another try’ is now a different problem – and will have consequences that can be seen by different affected parties as new problems.
  • The WP-planner has no ‘right to be wrong’ (as in ‘trial and error’) but is liable for the outcomes of any actions taken. 

Some additional aspects or implications of one or more of the above features can be added to this list:

     * The ‘unique’ aspects, especially regarding the ways a problem or the attempts at solving a WP affect different individuals or groups in the overall affected community, is that the information about these effects is distributed, not yet reliably collected in documentation or existing data bases, or in the memory and skill set of ‘experts’. The effort to confront a WP may involve the development and application of entirely new tools of information collection, analysis, and testing.

   * The connections and relationships between the components of ‘systems models’ of wicked problems and their context, can be multiple and contain various ‘loops‘ that add nonlinearity and sometimes counter-intuitive patterns to the behavior of the system over time: effects that many descriptions summarize as ‘complexity’ and excuse that wicked problems ‘can’t be solved’ (which doesn’t prevent some promoters of new approaches to claim that their approach can be used to solve WP’s…) 

   * The reality of problems of the wicked kind is that they are prime examples of the syndrome that even earlier systems efforts to describe systemic planning method recognized as the ‘doorknob syndrome‘ [4]: the problem of designing a better doorknob is inextricably embedded in 

a) ‘upward’ design issues: of the design of the door to which the doorknob will be attached, which may be accepted as ‘given’ — but perhaps included in the design considerations: (should it be a single-leaf or double-leaf or a sliding door, which depends on the wall into which the door will be set?) as well as the design of the spaces on either side, and so on until it ends up mulling the design of the society creating and inhabiting the building and the economic conditions of its production; and 

b) ‘downwards’ design issues and their context: the choice of material for the doorknob and its surfaces, which involves the production modes for each material choice, the available materials and their composition, supply chain etc. down to the atomic level of its components. 

The problem as it first is brought to attention can escalate in both directions, and the ‘context’ to be accepted as given at each level is not a matter of the logic of the problem itself. It is a choice on the part of the ‘planner(s) and as such involves another layer of uniqueness. 

Some ‘social’ aspects of public planning that, I feel, have not been sufficiently well acknowledged so far are the following: 

   * The discussions about WP talk about ‘the planner’ or entity (consulting firm) attempting to develop a plan for addressing the problem on behalf of the client community, or for a ‘governance’ decision-maker client who has the legitimacy and/or power to actually set in motion the plan the planner just recommends. The WP features seem to imply that the community as a whole should be both: planner and decision-maker, which may become part of the doorknob syndrome; but in any case raises the question of the appropriate (design of the) process and decision-making modes and criteria. This inevitably makes any WP a political problem, in addition to its own complexity;

  * To the extent the people respond to the demand for participation by devoting time and effort to public planning, this makes the planning process itself an inextricable part of the whole problem, — and of their own lives. People may have visions and desires of ‘making a difference’ in their participation in public affairs, making the entire project, planning process and outcome distinctly ‘theirs’. Consciously or unconsciously, they may work to not just accept any part of the work — attributes of the resulting plan as well as the process, but to do things distinctly ‘differently’ from traditional ways. Doing it ‘their way’, — objections of invested experts in the domain notwithstanding, who insist on having things done ‘professionally’ and ‘properly’, ‘according to standards and (collectively assumed norms and expectations. This desire to ‘make a difference may be intolerable to some who, like Aristotle, demanded to exclude any ‘subjective opinions’ from the resolution of public issues. But others, a key part of the very purpose of society is to empower and facilitate access of all its members to their own ‘pursuit of happiness‘. The need to ‘balance’ these two opposing forces makes the entire process of any significant planning process a wickedly unpredictable one — almost by definition.

Against this onslaught of wickedness stand the calls from victims of problems that ‘something ought to be done’. And what possible judgment can there be against any effort and approach to bring whatever tools and procedures and principles to bear on the problems we face? In principle, any theory, approach, method, perspective for working on problems, wicked or not, must be welcomed for discussion.

But given the variety of so many different ‘approaches’ and the impossibility of having them all work on the challenges we face, the question of ‘what makes an approach or method more or less likely to succeed in the battle against wicked problems?’ is equally legitimate and urgent. 

What are the strategies we might pursue in looking for answers to this question? The question can be stated more specifically: How can we assess the likelihood that a proposed approach will prevail against the different Wicked Problem Properties? 

Apart from the strange and isolated suggestion [5] that because they can’t really be solved, WP’s aren’t really problems — so we shouldn’t waste our efforts trying to solve them, — except maybe some tame aspects that admittedly are part of all WP’s? A few distinct strategies can be seen in the efforts of some proposed approaches to convince us that they indeed can ‘tackle wicked problems’. 

One possible strategy consists in reducing the impression of wickedness of the WP properties. The examination of this strategy would call for looking at each such proposal’s answer to each of the problem properties. 

Another strategy consists in pointing out how projects addressing WP’s have produced outcomes (‘solutions’) that have received enthusiastic approval by not only the ‘clients’ of projects but more importantly by the teams and participants working on them, as the main success criterion.

A third tack consists in ‘adapting’ the approach claiming to be useful tools for dealing with WP’s. For example, redirecting the focus of approach away from claiming that constructing solutions from ‘valid’ components will lend validity to any of potentially multiple solution generated so that only one such solution needs to be generated and does not need additional validation or evaluation) towards sets of general procedural recommendations that should be given ‘due consideration’. 

Two variants of this strategy, at opposite ends of a scale of quality ambition, are the ‘axiomatic’ approach (following e.g. the example of geometry) starting from ‘self-evident’ true first statements that don’t need further explanation or evidence to generate true theorems by combining the first axioms with equally valid logic arguments; and the example of government regulations e.g for buildings. The former must be followed to generate ‘valid’, beautiful buildings according to mostly qualitative aspects. Then, the validity of outcomes is ensured by following the process. The latter must be met to ensure minimal acceptable standards of e,g. safety and other objectively measurable criteria to get a permit. It involves minimal ‘evaluation’ efforts — checking whether the rules have actually been met. Qualitative concerns assessed by subjective judgments are more difficult to address with this approach.

These difficulties lead to efforts to construct ‘axiomatic’ theories for qualitative concerns — e.g. is Alexander’s effort to declare qualities such as ‘value’, ‘beauty’ and ‘life’ of built environments to be ‘matters of objective fact’ is an example of this strategy? Because the ‘axioms’ are not as universally accepted as ‘self-evident’ such efforts are considered controversial. 

Are there other possible avenues for building support for the position that a planning approach will be able to convincingly ‘tackle’ wicked problems? This post is an invitation to explore that question for discussion. Pending development of such strategies, it may be useful to examine the specific considerations needed for acceptance for some the above strategies in some detail. This will be the subject of follow-up posts: the first one of which will be the issue of how a given approach might respond to each of the WP properties to establish its validity.

— o —

[1] Rittel, H. and M.Webber: “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning” [Panel on Policy Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 4, (1969) 155-169].

[2] e.g. Douglas Schuler, Aldo de Moor and Greg Bryant: “New Community Research and Action Networks : Addressing Wicked Problems Using Patterns and Pattern Languages.” 

[3] Ackoff, Russel: Resurrecting the Future of Operational Research | SpringerLink › article › jors.1979.41

[4] ‘Doorknobbing’ — a term and story I remember from my student days, warning against ‘over-thinking’ any given design problem, I do not remember its original author 

[5] Nelson, Harold: From a FB or WP SciO SystemsThinking discussions, I partially noted: “Wicked problems are indeterminate and thus are not real problems in any normative sense. Rittel chose politics as the strategy for dealing with them. They also reveal the difference between describing and explaining real-world systems (actually framing and naming them) and creating systems that are considered to be desirable by someone.”  

— o — 

What ‘supporting evidence’ does it take?

In the Fog Island Tavern

“Last call”
– What, Vodçek ? When we just are getting ready to solve some serious problems?
– Time waits for no procrastinating problem-solvers, Bog-Hubert.
– Okay then, a last  double Zin for me,  and the same double-seeing treatment for  this august problem-solving team…
–  Sigh. All right. Now, what was the humongous problem you were getting ready to solve?
– Good question. What was it again, Sophie? 
– Somebody here was wondering why Abbeboulah isn’t making any progress on his Occasion/Image theory for Architecture. 
– Right, that was it. Well, how do you know he isn’t making progress? 
– He ain’t on TV, and he ain’t getting rich from it so he can buy hissef a new boat.  That’s how we know. 
–  Good point, Renfroe. He doesn’t even show up in the Tavern much anymore. 
–  But he may be home making progress, eh?
–  Well, we’ll see,  But the question was why we don’t see any of that progress.
–  So was anybody having a good explanation? 
–  We were just getting to that.
– Yeah, somebody actually threw out several explanations we were going to discuss. 
– What explanations? 
–  Lets’ see if I remember all the  know-it-all wild ideas you guys were throwing around here in just a few minutes. There was the idea that he isn’t making progress, and the opposite idea that he is making progress but isn’t quite done yet.
–  Didn’t somebody suggest that he just isn’t doing any effective marketing, promoting the idea? 
–  Because he’s not interested in marketing, or not good at it?
–  Or because he doesn’t get any funding for it? 
–  Is it  important enough to get funding?  
–  Well, some friend of Abbeboulah’s was telling him that he should get off that fool’s errand of the global planning discourse system and finish the work on that occasion and image theory.
– Right, that was it. And somebody here said that it was because it wasn’t a real theory. Didn’t you,  professor? 
–  Well yes, I brought up the issue. But Abbeboulah himself  has never called those ideas a ‘theory’. He was just calling it a ‘Way of Talking”. 
– Well, then what was all the stuff he talked about here, then?  Sounded like some theoretical concoction to me?  What’s a theory, anyway? And why didn’t he call it one?
–  I guess he was trying to reserve the term for a more ‘scientific’ story — ‘scientific’ meaning  trying to find out what the world is like, and especially how or works.  What are the laws that govern what happens in ‘reality. The laws of nature?  And for that there are some features that he felt he wasn’t ready to claim. 
– What are those?
–  Well, a ‘theory’ in the ‘scientific’ sense is  a ‘way of talking’ — and more specifically: describing and explaining — some aspect of reality. So a theory, at the basic level, is a set of statements about that part of what we call ‘reality’ that identifies, distinguishes what we perceive, and provides descriptions of those distinguished things that help us understand what the theory is talking about, and recognize them in the world we perceive.  The set of statements should mutually support each other, that is, make sense as a coherent story. 
– Makes sense so far. 
– Yes, Sophie. but you see, there are a lot of ‘theories’ out there that made sense at some level, to many people, but that turned out to be wrong. The flat earth ‘theory’ for example. 
–  So how do we know whether a theory is right or wrong? 
–  Well, now: that’s the sticking point. ‘Science’ — meaning those called  the ‘natural sciences’ that look at reality and how it works, — has developed some good criteria for what makes a valid scientific theory. They rest on observation: We observe some aspects of ‘reality’, and try to state a ‘law’ that explains why things happen they way they happen. Then we  state a ‘hypothesis’ that goes like this:  If the law is true, we should observe an effect  (evidence, consequence, result, implication) of the law. So we look around, or make an experiment of a situation where only the law is supposed to be at work, to see if the evidence shows up. If is does — we can say that the experiment results ‘support’ the hypothesis. Not ‘proves’: supports.
–  And if it doesn’t?
–  Excellent question, Renfroe. If it doesn’t, we will have to say that the hypothesis was wrong. Refuted. ‘Falsified’. Or that our experiment was  flawed. Which means that we have learned something, that helps us develop better hypotheses, theories, observation and experiment tools. But it also means that a  theory, to be scientific, must be able to be ‘tested’, and potentially be refuted, with observations and experiments. There must be some possible observation that would tell us the theory is wrong.
–  So if it can’t be tested in some way, it isn’t scientific? 
–  Right. 
–  But can it be a theory without being scientific? 
–  If you are willing to stick with a plausible but limited understanding of the term ‘theory’ as just a set of statements about the world that are mutually connected and supported, sure. But the problem is that for the things we are doing, we want, need knowledge (especially in planning for the future)  that we can trust. The can help us construct buildings that will hold up to the forces of winds and snow and rain and earthquakes. 
–  But didn’t you just say, in so many words,  that there’s no theory we can trust with 100% certainty — if there’s a possibility that it’s wrong?  
–  Yes, the upshot is that we are always taking chances, making a bet. Anybody telling you the theory he’s betting on is 100% foolproof doesn’t know what they are talking about. But then, would you invest a lot of money and effort  on a plan when the theory supporting it can’t be tested, verified or refuted — at all? 
–  So are you saying that Abbe Boulah isn’t calling these ideas a ‘theory’ because he hasn’t been able to test it yet?
– Wait:  his ideas or ‘Way of Talking’, as he calls it: isn’t it about planning the built environment? 
– Right. Oh, I see what you are getting at:  if it consists of statements about the future, how can they be tested? You can’t observe the outcomes of doing something if it hasn’t been done yet?
–  But that goes for all the knowledge and theories we have to do our planning with? 
–  Yes. And that is why some of the bright idea buildings that have been built  turned out out to be big mistakes. And have to be blown up, if they didn’t fall down by themselves. 
–  That’s scary. You are saying that we live in built environments that are planned and built on nothing but unsupported bets?
–  Yes, Sophie. But it isn’t all just pipe dream bets. All buildings, no matter how experimental, use a lot of knowledge that has been fairly well supported — by experience, and by predictions using logic and calculation. Even testing, for example whether the concrete has been mixed right. So most buildings are fairly safe. The environments based on new ‘ways of talking’ will still be built to reasonable standards of safety and performance.  But the claims about how some new shapes and forms will or won’t make users happy, or make money for the owners and developers, those are much less supported by solid evidence, — and can’t claim the status of scientific theories. So does it make sense for him to avoid the pretentious label of ‘theory’ — that some people use to make their ideas sound more scientific and reliable? 
–  Are you saying they are selling snake oil? 
–  I’m not accusing anybody — just saying its a plausible temptation;  just investigate and make up your own mind.
– But …
– Yes, Sophie? 
– Well, if it sounds like a good idea, what does it take to produce enough of  what you call ‘supporting evidence’? Even for part of a story?  That would make more people willing to take bets on a theory even if it’s only half- or three-quarter-baked? 
–  Good question. Maybe that’s what Abbe Boulah is working on:  What would it take to develop reasonable supporting evidence for this occasion and image story?
Any ideas?  What, Vodçek? 
– Hey, that’s enough. Don’t start another round of  swapping unsupported ideas. By ol’ procrastinator king Valdemar Atterdag’s famous prediction:  Tomorrow is another day! Last call!  What supporting evidence does it take, mon cul!
–  We’re counting on it… 
–  I said: tomorrow!

Ideologies as Contagious Illnesses?

For discussion: An issue involving two current problems.

A paper on the “sociopathy of ideologies” by Dr. Hans Grunicke [1] raises a question whether ideologies can be seen as contagious ‘illnesses’, especially with regard to the way they spread and react to prevention and ‘treatment’. If so, the comparison might reveal helpful suggestions about more effective ways of responding to either one. 

There are important issues about such comparisons that need clarification. For example, there is more common consensus about the state of affairs we call ‘health’ and ‘life’ that is being threatened by a virus, and that it should be resisted and ‘defeated’, than about competing ideologies that each see themselves as the ‘healthy’ state and the other as the ‘unhealthy’ and potentially ‘toxic’ threat. So the definitions of health or ‘soundness’ and unhealthy, toxic features of ideologies will be obvious controversies.

Two first tentative ‘maps’ of the forces and effects involved may help to start the examination of this idea. The ‘epidemic’ map tries to show interventions of societies to maintain or restore ‘health’ and the productive or counterproductive ‘loops in that system, with ‘society’s main intervention agents as ‘government’ and ‘media’. In the ‘ideology’ map the part of ‘health-defending’ party is simply shown as the ‘dominant’ ideology responding to the effort of one ‘alternative’ ideology to become dominant. 

Some first observations concern the role of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ loops or circular forces. The ‘ideology’ map shows a clear patterns of escalating actions and countermeasures that can be seen as a toxic vicious cycle or spiral towards violent confrontation (‘war’) where one ‘ideology’ will remain or win dominance over the other. Each action can be seen as leading to escalation, even when intended as a means of forcing the sequence back onto a ‘lower’ level of confrontation in the system.

The ‘pandemic’ map does not show one clear overall ‘escalation’ loop. Of course there also is escalation, determined by success or failure of prevention and treatment interventions over time. But an equally important role is played by several potentially positive or negative feedback loops, that affect society’s compliance with the needed or recommended efforts: Government measures that prove ineffective to combat the pandemic, plausibly reduce public confidence in those measures, and thus reduce the public’s compliance with those measures, just as their visible effectiveness would increase confidence. But that same confidence that “the pandemic is under control” also can reduce the compliance, inducing a false sense of reduced risk. The effects of government and media communication to the public will further complicate these effects. (The media role in the ‘ideology’ system should be added to the map and investigation.)

The maps show that there are many possible ‘intervention’ points in each network (numbered for further detailed discussion) of each item. Is this contrary to the impression in the general discussion that covers only a few contested issues? Should public discussion in both domains be more concerned with comprehensive strategies consisting of several ‘treatment’ possibilities at the many intervention points?

[1] Dr. Hans Hermann Grunicke: “Zur Soziopathie von Ideologien”: (unpubl. draft 2020), private communication.

Added diagram to March 13 comment.

Connecting Systems Models With Argumentation and Systematic Evaluation

Thorbjørn Mann 2020


      My attempts to sketch an outline of a (potentially global) ‘Planning Discourse Support Platform’ encountered difficulties in accommodating the differences between Systems Modeling, the Argumentative Model of Planning, and the approaches to systematic evaluation (‘formal evaluation’ techniques). These issues suggest an effort to develop better connections between these perspectives. The following is a summary of the main tenets of such a connection perspective.

The planning discourse: a general ‘systems’ view

      The planning discourse can be (roughly) described as the exchange of communications about PLANS aimed at remedies some PROBLEM.


      Understood as some person or group’s claim that some aspect or state S of reality IS not as it OUGHT to be and calls for some PLAN of ACTIONS to be developed to change that discrepancy:

      The state of affairs or ‘situation’  SI  — assigned a ‘quality’ assessment judgment Q  (on some scale such as  Q ={‘couldn’t be better’ / good  (satisfactory/ good enough) / so-so / bad/ couldn’t be worse} as ‘worse’ than the ‘better assessment of a ‘desired’ state SO that OUGHT to be (in that person’s opinion). Upon questioning the ‘problem-raising party may describe the IS- situation by a set of descriptors s(values of variables); and  the OUGHT-state, or OUTCOME state as a set of different values of those variables.

SI = {si1,si2,…sin}    


OS = {so1,so2… son)     

A restatement of he PROBLEM in terms of quality judgments Q:

PROBLEM = Qi ≠ Qo  or   Qi < Qo 

      Aims or different desirable outcomes SO can be distinguished as

SOo — > Qosomax      Any ‘optimal’ outcome given the judgment ‘couldn’t be better’


OSo — >  Qosoge         Any outcome that can be given a judgment of ‘good enough’.

PLAN = {Actions a}     

      Plans aiming at a better outcomes consist of a set A of actions a that, given situations SI in overall CONTEXT C  are claimed to achieve SO.


      The system of the planning situation is understood as SI-descriptions, the set of C-descriptions, and the set of actions A, and the set of relationships REL between them. The system can be described in a Systems Models  SM:

SM = {IS, A, C, REL} 

      The SM model must contain the variables describing SI, A, C , and the relations REL.  (Many SM simulations (aiming primarily at ‘understanding the system and its behavior) only describe SI and C, and their relationships, and explore (simulate) different settings of SI and C that result in different outcomes). For planning, the connections to Q assessments of outcomes are not explored, – since Q judgments are individual ‘subjective’ assessments: the model would have to include all those individual assessments. The standard ‘shortcut’ practice is to resort to some (‘objective’) aggregated state measure of the extent to which SO has been achieved, to serve as the group’s basis for decision. A ‘group’ GQ would require obtaining information of how the outcome variable values determine / influence Q- assessments. This is not part of the standard  practice – even if the modeling is done within a small team:  the team is supposed to achieve ‘consent’ or consensus about which aggregated state variable is to be ‘optimized’ and serve as the basis of decision, and the decision is postulated as legitimate ‘on behalf of’  the actual population affected in one way or another by the problem and proposed solution. The legimacy of this ‘shortcut’ is of course open to question. A more legitimate approach would have to include the Q-assessments of all parties in the model and simulation. Formal Evaluation Techniques offer explanations of what this would require, as follows:

Connecting the systems view with a ‘formal’ evaluation technique

Qe  = AF(qe1, 2,3,…n)     

      The overall Qe assessment of a plan by an individual evaluator e is a function AF of the individual’s  assessments q of evaluation ‘aspects’ and the ‘weights of relative importance w the individual assigns to each aspect (for example: 0<w <1.0 and ∑wi = 1). Each aspect judgment can be a function of a set of sub-aspect judgments, sub-sub-aspects etc. – or a function of a ‘criterion’ or ‘performance measure’ that measures how well a Plan is expected to achieve that aspect. ‘Criterion’ is a different name for a variable s in the  systems model. The criterion function can be expressed in a graph (or equation) showing how different values of so correspond to different values of q (in the diagram as ‘the objectively measurable variable’):

Figure 1:  Criterion function example,, showing how one person’s q–judgment depends on a performance variable s, on a q-scale of +U to –U

Group judgment indicators

    Statistical measures of judgments by individuals in a group should not be called  ‘group judgments’: groups do not make judgments but group decisions.  (The exception perhaps being the unlikely total ‘consensus’ results) can now be derived from individuals’ overall Q judgments: the mean, range, lowest judgment (of the ‘worst-off’ party); or coefficients measuring the degree of disagreement in the group.

Connection the evaluation aspect tree with a systems model

      The following diagram shows how the evaluation criteria relate to a systems model – or vice versa – how a systems model should be connected to an individual’s evaluation aspect tree.  It raises questions such as: should all systems variables be represented in the aspect tree if it aims at ‘complete ‘objectification’? Or can some judgments – for example aesthetic judgments or issues pertaining to individuals’ moral ‘system’ – be left as un-explained or unrelated to any measurable variable?

Figure 2 – Evaluation aspect tree and ‘quality’ judgments and systems model

Argumentation and Systems Model

      In the Argumentative Model of Planning, an approach to evaluate the plausibility of plans as a function of the plausibility or merit of the ‘pro’ and ‘con’ arguments about a proposed plan, the corresponding elements and steps can be described as a process of emerging complexity of mutual additions to what may be called a ‘systems-enhanced’ discourse (or a discourse-validated systems model) of the evaluation of planning project proposals:

(In the following, ‘argumentative discourse activities are regular; the ‘systems modeling’ process italicized ).

Starting, again:  with a PROBLEM being raised:  “Situation SI is not as it ought to be” Specifically: the initial (‘now’ at time 0 ) state of SI is not as it ought to be:

            SI ≠ So          (initial is-state ≠ future ought-state)

SI  (as understood by problem-raisers) is described by a set of variables s1, s2, s3,…sn:

            SI =  {s1i, s2i , s3i…sni};  and  SO =  {s1o, s2o, s3o,…sno}

A first version systems model SM1 is prepared,

consisting of the variables of situation SI,

and exploring relationships between the variables.

A PLAN of actions A is proposed:

+A!’  (“Plan A ought to be adopted for implementations!”) A  is described in detail as composed of a set of actions a:

      A = {a1, a2, a3.. }

SM1 is modified to SM2 by adding the proposed actions of A.

Can they be connected (according to general laws and relationships)

with ‘new’ variables of S, in the ‘context’ of the system

that ought to be brought to the attention of participants in the discourse?

ARGUMENTS are raised for (‘pro’) and against (‘con’) the proposed PLAN: first, in general, ‘qualitative’ form:


            +A!                         (Plan-Actions A ought to be adopted

             because                  because

            +(A àRà SO)!                  A will bring about (have relation to) SO                       

and                         and

            +(SO)!                        SO ought to be aimed for)!


            ~A!                         A ought not to be adopted

            because                        because

            ~(A àRà So)!                  A will not bring about SO

            and                        and

            So!                        SO is what should be aimed for)!


            ~A!                        (A ought not to be adopted

            because                        because

            +(A à R à SO)!            A will bring about SO

            and                        and (but)

            ~SO!                        SO (as described in the problem explanation)                                           should not be aimed for)!

      The authors of arguments may be asked to offer more detail – to explain – the claims in their premises. For example:


            +A!                         (Plan-Actions A ought to be adopted

             because                  because

            +(ai àri,jà sj)!                  part ai of A will bring about  effect sj of SO,                 

and                         and

            +(So)!                        sj in SO ought to be aimed for)!

      This raises the claims ai, ri,j, sj to ‘successor issues’ that need to be discussed or for which evidence is called.

The variables ai, sj, and relationship ri,j  , and the respective variables of all other pro and con arguments will now have to be added to the systems model SM2, for a revised version SM3.

Calculations of the effects of actions A throughout the system may not be performed without including assumptions about conditions in the ‘context’ or environment C      of the system: the first argument premise may have to be further explained or qualified as follows:

The ‘factual-instrumental’ premise should specify the conditions {c} under which the relationship ri,j is expected to hold, and a third premise added to the argument: +(ck1,2,..)!

The values of these ‘conditions must then be verified and added to the model.

The calculations or simulation will now present all the ‘objective’ measures of performance (‘consequences’) of implementing the actions A of the plan; these may give rise to more issues regarding their plausibility or desirability, and corresponding new arguments.

Entering ‘quality’ judgments      

With the presentation of the revised systems calculations, discourse participants will now be able to ‘evaluate’ the merit of these contributions. One way this can be done is by assigning a ‘plausibility’ judgment to each premise, use these to derive a plausibility value of each entire argument; develop ‘argument weights’ by first assigning weights of relative importance to all ‘deontic’ (ought-) claims in all arguments and multiply the plausibility of arguments with the respective weight of its ought-claim, and finally ‘aggregate’ the argument weights into an overall plausibility judgment of the plan.

Q =  FP(PlanPl)     

      An individual’s assessment of ‘Quality’ of a plan is a function FP of Plan plausibility Planpl. The relationship can be shown in a diagram like the criterion functions in figure 1 above, using Planpl as the ‘performance criterion’.

PlanPl =FA{Argwi-1,2,…n

      Plan plausibility PlanPl is a function FA of the argument weights argwi of all pro and con arguments i raised in the discourse of the plan. For example: Planpl = ∑{Argwi}

Argwi = FAW(Argpli, wi)

      The weight of an argument is a function of the Argument weight function FAW:  of the plausibility of that argument and the weight of relative importance of its deontic (ought)-premise, for example:

Argwi = Argpli x wi        and

Argpli = APL{prempl}      

      The argument plausibility is a function of the plausibility prempl of all argument premises (for the ‘planning argument’.  Here, the so outcome of premise 1 is the systems variable  so;  the expression ‘will result in’ of premise 1 is equivalent to the system’s model relationship between the plan (actually, to be specific, the action a of the Plan) and the variable value so which the argument then claims in premise 2 to  be desirable, and the set {c} of conditions under which premise 1 is expected to hold, of premise 3,  is a subset of context conditions of the overall systems model.  (A diagram showing the connection between argument assessment and the systems model remains to be developed.)


      The connections between the different ‘perspectives’ guiding evaluation – the systems model, the ‘formal evaluation’ model, and the argument assessment model can now be seen, at least, to facilitate the ‘translation’ between the different approaches.

Mutual shortcomings of approaches

      The decision to choose equivalent symbols for the elements or variables involved also shows the shortcomings of each perspective: The standard systems model does not accommodate the evaluation aspects, suggesting to decision-makers that the ‘objective’ variables suffice to support decisions; the formal evaluation and the argument assessment approach fail to provide the ‘systemic’ overview of the ‘whole system’ that is the major contribution of the systems model.

There is no completely adequate single approach

      An essential insight, I suggest,  is the following: Neither the construction and calculations of the systems model, the assessment of plan plausibility and its argumentative ‘pro and ‘con’ discussion, nor any ‘formal’ evaluation procedure, can be a sufficient condition to support decisions guided by the merit of all aspects that ought to be given ‘due consideration’ for important planning projects. Nor can they be arranged in some linear sequence, such as first, collect the ‘data’ to construct a systems model, then develop pans, argue the pros and cons, or evaluate alternative plan options.

‘Parallel’ development of systems model and evaluation

        The work involved in each of these views should be going on ‘in parallel’: the argumentative discussion (with participation by all parties affected by the problem or plan) identifies aspects and variables that should be included in the systems model.  The model supplies variables whose probability, plausibility and desirability (contribution to ‘quality’) should be discussed and evaluated with tools like the formal evaluation or argument discussion.

      The decision about which tools should be used for each individual project must be taken – agreed upon — by the participants in the process. However:  the platform should provide the tools, the guidelines, opportunity and support, even encouragement, for the use of different techniques in the project, as appropriate and applicable. 

      This work is ongoing; the above interim observations are offered for discussion.

— o —

About True Love and Logic

In the Fog Island Tavern, on a long November evening.

– Vodçek:  what’s wrong with our friend Dexter over there — he’s been sitting there by himself brooding all night?

– Right, Bog-Hubert. I think he’s having problems with his girlfriend.

– How so? I thought it was all true bliss and love with those two?

– It was his logic bent that got him in trouble. Something logical about love. Or lack of logic. You know he’s a computer guy, and it’s all logic with him.

– Yes I know, he’s been very helpful with our projects. But what does logic have to do with love? 

– He briefly mentioned something when he came up to order his beer. It seems he stumbled upon a post in a social network group — about philosophy, no less — where some guy logically proved that humans can’t really experience true love. You were here, Renfroe: did you hear that? I was kind of busy with the orders.

– Yeah! Oh man. So when his girlfriend asked him if he truly loved her, he just blurted out that conclusion, didn’t want to lie about such important issues. Boom, big mistake. That was it. ‘You don’t love me!’… You can imagine the rest.

– Poor Dexter.  Makes me wonder about that proof? Did you catch that, Renfroe?  

– Nah. It had something to do with perfection. We love what’s perfect, but we ain’t perfect.

– Ah. I think I get it.  We love what’s good, beautiful, perfect?

– Right. Makes sense. Doesn’t it?

– Okay:  so we’d have True Love only for what’s completely good and true and  perfect?

– And since we are all not completely perfect, we can’t have completely True Love for each other. 

– Right. It’s what the preacher says in church:  you can only truly love God because He’s the only perfect being. What’s that, Sophie? 

– You mean She.  God. Perfect. 

– Oh yeah, I plumb forgot, sorry, Sophie. It’s just that Preacher keeps saying He, and Good Lord Almighty. Stuff like that. Hard to change old familiar sayings, I guess…

– Okay, different issue. For now, you’re forgiven. 

– Hmm. And so Dexter has to come up with some lame explanation about how close to true love he loves her, matter of degrees is a difficult one for one-and- zero digital folks like Dexter anyway. Too late, hopeless. Good…. Grief. 

– Clever save, Vodçek. But I wonder. What’s wrong with that logic thing? Bog-Hubert? 

– Well, Abbé Boulah would say something like, if you have trouble with the conclusion, check out which of the premises might be wrong, or whether the argument pattern is valid.  

– I thought Abbé Boulah had given up on valid logical arguments?

– That’s only for his beloved planning arguments. Another different topic. But look at those premises:  The first one says that we love what’s good, perfect. The other one says we humans aren’t perfect. If you accept both of them, and the argument rule — which is deductively valid — then you’ll have to accept the conclusion. So if you disagree: which is it?

– Okay: I think we have to accept the second one. Sorry Sophie, we know you’re almost perfect but as Abbé Boulah also keeps saying about some issues, “Let’s not investigate”.  

– Wise decision, Vodçek. But I don’t know, the first one also sounds good.

– I don’t agree, Bog-Hubert. What if it is the other way around? 

– What in three twister’s name are you talking about, Sophie? Don’t we love what’s good and beautiful and true? 

– Of course we do, at least most of us, — some folks may have poor taste about some things.  But what if love is really about accepting the other in spite of their  flaws, not just because of their good features? 

– Interesting. And a quite appealing way of looking at it — not as selfish as the other one.  

– I agree. But even more difficult to live up to? 

– Yes, perhaps more of a challenge?  So what you are saying is that the more flaws somebody has, the closer to true the love for that person would be?  I’ll have to think about that. 

– Why is that, Vodçek?  Isn’t that also more like what the preacher says: God loves the sinner man? And the other son, the lost and derelict one, more than the good son who stayed home and was the more perfect one?  If the lost one does come back, that is… 

– Ah Renfroe, you got me there. I just have more trouble loving customers, the bigger the bill they stiffed me with… Just one of my flaws, I admit. 

– I think that is a better definition of True Love, too, at least to think about, together. But think about it all the way through: Does it follow that loving somebody who is completely flawed, with no redeeming qualities, that would be perfectly True Love? 

– Help!  You’re talking about the devil there, Vodçek, aren’t you?  Satan? And the only people who would be capable of True Love would be Satanists? 

– Don’t you hate it when something like that happens with perfectly good logic?