An Emergent Cosmopolis

"A Cosmopolis Institute." What professional standards do we hold for such a organization? For there is a difference between being a technican called in to solve a problem defined by others, and a professional whose allegiance is not to the demands of any potential employer but to the ethical standards of their profession.

This meeting dealt with the beginning of a two-fold directed workshop strategy, an outline of a twelve week training program in the essentials of professional practice, and a quick sketch of what it may mean to be a human being.

Our first session covering these points did so in a very brief manner. Instead, there were a number of issues that arose, things having to do with virtually unconditioned judgments, shifts from animal to spiritual control mediators, the sequence of conditioned levels following Lonergan's functional specialties (foundations to doctrines, doctrines to systematics, and systematics to communications), values as derived from a need to make choices, and the fact that the only true critical instrument is oneself.

This is the first draft of a problem we have been dealing with for many years: the difference between putting one's professional skills under the control of a client, and exercising one's own judgment when it comes to exercise one's skills. This is a matter of  who one considers the boss: the client or the Divine Mystery? If the former, than one doesn't have to take personal responsibility for whatever happens; for responsibility lies with the client. If the latter, then one takes personal responsibility for the way in which one's professional skills are used.

The problem is, what does making responsible professional practice a reality  mean in practice?

Our first set of meetings have to do with common guides for common action, or in other words a set of pointers that one should keep in mind whenever engaged in professional practice. Very briefly, they are:

  1. good intentions are never sufficient
  2. there is only one truly critical instrument
  3. listen to that still small voice within
  4. acknowledge vulnerability to authority
  5. each situation is time-and-space-specific
  6. the real solution may be a counter-intuitive solution
  7. fieldwork is both transdisciplinary and transcendental
  8. language is infinite yet bounded
  9. freedom is more than a release from constraints
  10. you can never do merely one thing
  11. no idea is totally bad
  12. and then what?

A copy of an appendix of a master's thesis is attached that covers the reasons why each point is important.

This week we deal with three topics:

  1. Differentiating between levels of the human good within a given organization, for with increased differentiation comes greater operational skills. In other words, being able to distinguish between different "human goods" at play enables a professional to fit the proper tools and techniques for each distinct type. So we distinguish between informal cooperation around a particular good, the formal roles and tasks associated with the organization's good of order, and the type of reflective intelligence exercised among free people is a series of personal relationships so necessary when it comes to questions of value.
  2. The necessity for ongoing conversion, so that the professional can take a position concerning the human good in time-and-space-specific socio-political situations. Before a professional can sort through the variety of orientations he or she is likely to encounter in the field, he or she has to be clear of their own orientation, the way in which that foundational stance affects one's evaluation of the situation, the kind of diagnosis to be carried out, and estimates of what can and can't be done.
  3. Three "neglected" points to keep in mind: you can never do merely one thing (the great insight in ecology), there is no such thing as a bad idea (escaping premature closure when it comes to designing something new), and the individual is the critical instrument (intentionally, we mean meaning to be "out there" independent of any human being, but in fact, meaning is embedded in the individual.

This week we continued our conversation around the set of twelve points to keep in mind. The first thing we did was do a group ranking, separating those points of particular interest from those that were not. The conversation shifted to the fact that professional practice always takes place within a time-and-space-specific situation, i.e., within unique historical and geographical circumstances. Then we moved on to the problem of recognizing and actualizing potential before delving into the twin streams of personal development and professional practice. Of special interest was a short video on VUCA (situations characterized by high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

A Cosmopolis Institute: Professional Practice