paper is from the historical collection of Dr. Graves work and has
been reorganized from the original abstract. The content of this
particular paper was revised in Dr. Graves' later work.
Temporary versions of diagrams and
figures in Acrobat .pdf and MS Word .doc formats are linked
in the text.}
by William R.
A SYSTEMS VIEW OF
Clare W. Graves
Department of Psychology
Schenectady, New York
(Presented at the IEEE Systems Seminar, Cybernetic Corporation,
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 1969.)
A framework for
understanding human values is presented and discussed. The
framework is developed around the General Systems concepts of open
states, hierarchy and centralization. The framework is utilized to
suggest that many valueproblems of man are not signs of decay but are signs of
reorganization for operation at
higher levels of human existence.
Today, everywhere they
look, people seem to see a breakdown of man's values.
They see it in the crass materialistic values of some and the
adherence to conformity of
others. It is seen in the psychedelic behavior of youth and in the
older generation's price
fixing activity, shoddy merchandising and callous exploitation and
pollution of our
environment. Many see the confrontation of authority and our riots
as the devil's handiwork while others see a satanic hand on those
who act with and for authority. Elsewhere in the world people see
value disintegration in Red Guard behavior, the Russian invasion,
nationalistic property expropriation and the dispatch, by black
men, of one black leader after another. Is this what these
occurrences are or is there another point of view?
One could easily agree
that such problems are reason for despair if his views were
determined by the premises of those who so see the behavior. But
before one agrees he
might question whether such inferences are drawn from a limited
perceptual field - a field
of view reduced by constricting premises and narrowed by fear. He
might look for some
other point of view.
Suppose, instead, that in
another framework, just as tenable, these actions could be
seen as a healthy sign, as a sign of growth rather than as a sign
of decay. Would not such a framework be interesting to explore?
Today this is strong
stuff. It borders not only on heresy but on the brink of
irresponsibility and has within it more than a twinge of the
crackpot. But be that as it may, this paper
does present a framework for understanding values which suggest
that such problems
may well signify that man is reaching for higher and better forms
of existence rather than
showing the worst that is in him.
The conclusion which so many draw today that man's present is
bleak and his
future is black seems to be based on a three part premise.
I. That beneath it all
man is a beast driven by his original sin, his agressiveness, his death instinct.
II. That civilized
human behavior, good values, can only be superimposed on man and therefore must be constantly
imposed upon him lest his animalism override his humanism.
III. That these good
values, Judo-Christian ethics or the like, have been revealed to man and are the prime
tenets by which he should live.
Logically within this
three part premise man's current problems represent a break-down
of his values. But this is not the only premise from which we can
look for understanding. There is another, rapidly developing point
of view, based on a different three part premise, which casts
quite a different light upon our value problems. It is the
humanistic, the organismic, the systems or as I call it, the Level
of Existence point of view.
This premise says:
I. That man's nature is
not a set thing, that it is ever emergent, that it is an open system, not a closed system.
II. That man's nature
evolves by saccadic, quantum like jumps from one steady state system to another.
III. That man's values
change from system to system as his total psychology emerges in new form with each
quantum like jump to a new steady state of being.
My version of this point
of view is a revised, enlarged and, in certain critical aspects,
new version of this developing point of view. Particularly, it is
a hierarchical systems point of view which is infinite rather than
finite in character.
According to my view:
The psychology of the
mature human being is an unfolding or emergent process marked by
the progressive subordination of older behavioral systems to
newer, higher order behavioral systems. The mature man tends
normally to change his psychology as the conditions of his
Each successive stage
or level is a state of equilibrium through which people pass on
the way to other states of equilibrium. When a person is in one
of the state of equilibrium, he has a psychology which is
particular to that state. His acts, feelings, motivations,
ethics and values, thoughts and preferences for management are
all appropriate to that state. If he were in another state, he
would act, feel, think, judge and be motivated in a different
manner. A person may not be genetically or constitutionally
equipped to change in the normal upward direction if the
conditions of his existence change. He may move, given certain
conditions through a hierarchically ordered series of behavior
systems to some end or he may stabilize and live out his
lifetime at any one or a combination of levels in the hierarchy.
Again, he may show the behavior of a level in a predominantly
positive or negative manner, or he may under certain
circumstances regress to a behavior system lower in the
hierarchy. Thus, an adult lives in a potentially open system of
needs, values and aspirations, but he often settles into what
approximates a closed system. When he is in any one level, he
has only the behavioral degrees of freedom afforded him at that
According to my research2,
adult man's psychology, which includes his values, develops from
the existential states of man. These states are defined by the
intersection of two mental components which grow by periods of
spurt and plateau, Figure I. As man solves certain crucial
problems for existence, N. P. Q the growth rate of the components
change and as they do higher order neurological systems A, B, C
are switched on in the brain.
The first existential
state is the A-N state that exists when man is living in
conditions where he spends most awakened hours attending to that
which will satisfy his basic physiological needs. The states which
emerge later B-O, C-P, D-Q, etc., arise as each
different and ordinal set of human problems are resolved. As the
adjustment of the organism to the environment and adjustment of
the environment to the
organism develop in their spurt like, plateau like fashion, higher
and higher psychological
systems emerge. The alteration of the components produces a cyclic
existential states which dictates that the psychology, and thus
the values of every other
system, is at one and the same time like and unlike its cyclic
partners - an aspect of human existence and human values which if
not understood leads to much confusion when so called value
problems are discussed.
As each system emerges
man believes that the problems of human existence are the problems
with which he is faced at the level at which he has arrived. He
develops, therefore, a general way of life, a thema of existence,
including a thematic value system appropriate to his current
existential state. This thema is specified into particular schema
for existence as a result of individual, group and environmental
When man's existence is
centralized in lower level systems, the subsistence levels, Table
I, states A-N through F-S. It is characteristic of him to believe
that there is something
inherently wrong in a man or men whose values are contrary to what
his existential state
dictates human values should be. Thus what man values when at the
subsistence levels will lead him to abhor the values of a man who
is at or striving for any other level for existence.
According to this
conception, each system consists of two kinds of values. There are
those which dominate in earlier appearing systems, which modify
and wax and wane
with time on a curve of declining importance. Valuing the
traditional is a prime example. It dominates the A-N system. It reassumes a central but less
strong position in each odd
numbered subsistence level until it becomes subordinated and quite
weak in the being
level systems. The other types of values are the reverse. Valuing
the individual is one of
this kind. In the A-N system it is almost totally subordinated.
For example, the weaver of a Navajo blanket is allowed but a little personal touch upon it.
Yet, with time, as sit too
modifies and waxes and wanes from even numbered systems to odd
genuine valuing of all individuals increases. But these are only
minor points in the thesis
of this paper.
Figure II depicts its
major point - the point that so called value breakdown can be seen
as a reorganization for higher level values rather than as decay
of a time and lasting
value system. It depicts how values change in a
regressive-progressive fashion when
each set of man's existential problems are solved and presage
movement to higher level
psychological systems. Points a, a', a" are points of value
crisis. At these points man's
values are no longer appropriate to his new existential state.
They appear to break down as he searches regressively for a new
value system more congruent with his new state of being.
When he develops a
glimmer of insight into his new value system, points b, b',
b" behavioral crises such as riots and confrontations
develop. At these points he fights his establishment, his older
generation, the old value system he is striving to go beyond. And
there the establishments resist man's putting his new, but
embryonic ways of thinking into operation.
Then, as time passes, man
overcomes the values of the past and develops his new values at points c, c', c" and consummates his movement into his
next steady state value system.
Thus my basic position is
very simple. It is that adult man, as he grows psychologically,
moves saccadically from a value system appropriate in restricted
living circumstances infinitely on to higher and higher systems
appropriate to his being when life is better for him. The position
is that man, as he and his societies develop, must subordinate old
values if ever he is to develop those values appropriate to his
new state of existence. Develop and discard, retain and rearrange,
this seems nature's way of handling all things. Should this basic
ordering be different in the values realm? I suggest that perhaps
the answer is no. But to say no is not enough. One must buttress
his position with his evidence.
My research suggests that
seven major value systems have emerged to date. They are, Figure
II, the phenomenistic, the heroistic, the sacrificial, the
materialistic, the sociocratic, the problematic and the
impressionistic value systems.
First level values,
phenomenistic values are consonant with the A-N existential state.
The characteristics of man in this state are that he is motivated
by basic physiological needs, that he lacks a true awareness of
his existence as a separate being, that he learns by the classical conditioning system and that he has a barely operant
cognitive system. In this state man's awareness is centralized around those needs imperative
to his and the species existence. Therefore, he values that which is related to their
satisfaction and that which, in the peculiar Pavlovian way, has become associated with the
presence or relaxation of
physiological tension. Whatever brings him pleasure, the reduction
of tension, and all
associated with it is positively valued. Whatever brings his pain,
increased tension, and
all associated with it is negatively valued. Thus, first level
values are reactive and
phenomenistic in character because they arise from the Pavlovian
physiological state, sensation and experience and not from
intuition or thought.
The prime value at the
first level is tradition. It is valued because here man's
ancestors have learned what seems to bring pleasure and what seems
to bring pain. Thus man's thema for existence at this level is
"one shall live according to the ways of one's elder's,"
and his values are consonant with his existential thema. But the
schematic form for first level existence and schematic values are
singularly tribalized due to different past experiences. Each
traditionalistic set of values are group centered, concretistic,
syncretic, diffuse and rigid. The group member is locked into them and cannot
violate them even
though the valuistic attitudes contain several meanings because of
principles of generalization and differentiation. They are not
broken down into their parts
and they truly tie the person to their meaning for him. They force
him into a magical,
superstitious, ritualistic way of life wherein first level man
values what tradition ways will
bring his spirits favor. He shuns that which tradition says will
raise his spirits ire.
Though these values are
peculiar to higher level people, they do order man's physiological
existence. But the day comes when they leave energetic youth who
has his physiological problems solved - no problems to attack.
This state of boredom and frustration provokes generic man's first
attack upon the values of the establishment and ultimately moves
him to the second level of human existence.
Second level values
derive from the B-O existential state, the state where egocentric
man comes to be. At this level the energy previously devoted to
satisfying man's physiological needs and ritualisms awakens him to
the recognition that he is a separate and distinct being. It bring
to stage center his need for survival, a need which cannot
dominate man until he is truly aware of his existence. In this
state cognitive capacity has increased, but is still limited, and
the operant conditioning system has emerged as the dominant way
for learning. Here man begins to intentionally manipulate his
world rather than passively accept it. And from this mix his
second level values develop.
Driven by the need to
maintain his existence, he manipulates his world and
egocentrically interprets the reward or punishment feedback so as
to foster his survival. He perceives that many try but few
succeed. He comes to believe the extraordinary, the Homeric, the
heroic deed is the means to his survival in his epic struggle. So
he comes to value heroism as the prime value. To the victor
belongs the spoils for he has shown through his deeds that it is
he who is worthy of survival. From this develops a world of those
who have and those who have not, a world that becomes one of
authoritarian submission control. He who wins has a right to loot
the world to his own ends. Those who lose have right only to the
scraps he will toss their way. Might is right.
This condition for
existence produces a fearful insecure world for all. It is a world
ruled by man's lusts, a world noteworthy for its lack of a
"moral sense." It leads man to value the ruthless use of
power, unconscionably daring deeds, impulsive action, volatile
emotions, the uncalculated risk, an eye for an eye and a tooth for
a tooth. It leads him to
value conquest in any form and war as the heroic effort, as the
entrance to Walhalla, not
a particularly petty value system from other frames of reference.
Yet for all its negative
aspects, is viewed from other levels, this value system is a giant
step forward for man. Some men, in their heroic pursuits, do tame
the mighty river, to provide the leisure for beginning
intellectual effort, do build cities, do assign occupational
positions that directly improve their personal lot, but indirectly
spill off to the betterment of the miserable many. But this way of
life and its heroic value system creates a new existential problem
for man. The winner cannot but die and the loser cannot but wonder
why - - why he is doomed to his miserable existence. Now both the
have and the have not must explain why these states have come to
be. And as they strive to do so they build man's third form for
existence and his third thematic value system.
The third level of human
existence arises from the C-P existential state. At this level man
develops a way of life to explain the have and have not condition,
the life and death world that has come to be and he develops a
value system consonant with his explanation. He explains his have
and have not world, his life and death condition as part of an
plan. It is meant that some shall have, that others shall have
less and that many shall not
have. And there is meaning in why man shall live, why roles are
determined and why men
shall die. Life is a test of whether one is worthy of salvation,
be this salvation occidental
or oriental in flavor.
This state gives rise to
the third level thema for existence, "one shall sacrifice his
desires now in order to get reward later." And it gives rise
to its associated value system, the sacrificial system.
At this level man accepts
his position and his role in life. Inequality is a fact of life.
He believes that the task of living is to strive for perfection in
his role, absolute perfection.
He believes that salvation will come ultimately to he, regardless
of his original position,
who lives best by the rules of life prescribed for him. What one
wants, what he desires is
not important. What is important is that he discipline himself to
the prescription of his world.
Thus the prime value of
third level man is self sacrifice. He who sacrifices best his
wants in the way authority prescribes is most revered. The leader
values the life that enables him, if necessary, to sacrifice his
self in the protection of the led. The led values sacrificing self
in support of the leader.
Third level man values
the suppression and repression of his inner life and a rigid
ordering of the outer world. He values denial, abstinence,
modesty, deference, self-sacrifice,
no self indulgence, harsh self discipline, fealty and loyalty,
service and noblesse oblige.
Kindness to his kind is valued and tolerance toward the
unbeknighted is expected. He
values his absolutistic moral laws and the words should and ought.
Life is a serious business here. Only institutionalized pleasure
is permitted. Rules are black and white and only his authority has
the proper word. His authority defines both virtue and sin. Thus
this system has much in common with the A-N system but now it is
man's higher authority that sets the rules for life instead of
man's elders. But once third level values bring a modicum of order
to man's world he is confronted by his fourth existential problem.
The time comes when some
people question the price of sacrificial values, the price of the
saintly existence. They ask why can't one have some enjoyment in
this life? Why must life be only a time of denial? When this
question arises in the mind of man, the sacrificial ethic is
doomed to decay and readied for discard. But man cannot move on
until he perceives his next set of problems. He must perceive that
he cannot have enjoyment in this life so long as he is at the
mercy of an unknown world so long as he is the servant of the
universe rather than its master. Concomitant with this perception
the adjustment of the
environment component spurts and man begins another tortuous climb
to the D-Q level.
At the D-Q level man
perceives that his life is restricted by his limited control of
the physical universe and his lustful human drives. To satisfy the
latter, his materialistic aim, he must conquer the first. Thus rationalistic man who
"objectively" explores his world comes to be. The thema for existence is "express self in a way that
rationality says is good for man now." This is the dominant
mode of existence in America today.
materialistic values derive naturally from this thema. They are
the values of accomplishing and getting, have and possessing. The
prime value is achievement, achievement of control over the
physical universe so as to provide for man's material
wants. Here he values equality of opportunity and the mechanistic,
measuring, quantitative approach to problems, including man. He values gamesmanship,
entrepreneurial attitude, efficiency, work simplification, the
calculated risk, the scheming and manipulation. But these fourth level, self centered values are
not the "to hell with the
other man," egocentric values of the second level system.
Here he is careful not to go too far. He avoids inviting rage against him. He sees to it that the
loser gets more than scraps
but never as much as he.
Fourth level values
improve immeasurable man's conditions for existence. They create
wealth and techniques. They lead to knowledge which improves the
But to third level man they are akin to sin, to the fifth they are
the crass materialism of "The Status Seeker," However,
in this frame of reference they are not values to condemn. They
are values we should strive to enable lower level man to
experience even though they are not values that have come to stay
as the major establishment in America today seems to believe. They
too give way because they create a new existential problem for
man. He has learned how to live with want and how to live to
overcome it, but he has not learned how to live with abundance.
Now he has a new problem and now he must seek a new way of life
and a new value system.
In the E-R existential
state man has fulfilled his material wants. His life is safe and
it is relatively assured but what of other men? Now he feels the
need to belong to the community of man, to affiliate himself
rather than to go it alone. The belonging need arises as the adjustment to the environment component ascends to the
dominant position. And the thema, "sacrifice some now so that
others can have now" comes to be. Again, he values conformity
but not to his elders wishes, not to his authorities prescriptions
but to the wishes of his contemporaries whom he values. He values
pleasing his others, being accepted by them and not being
On the surface
sociocratic values appear shallower and less serious and even
in contrast to values at other levels because the surface aspects
shift as his group's values
shift. But the central core of this system is a very solid thing.
Fifth level man knows as well as any other what he values. It is
being with, in with and within his valued others. He values
interpersonal penetration, interpersonal communication,
committeeism, majority rule, the tender, the subjective, the
non-ordered, formal informality, the subjective approach,
avoidance of classification, the tender touch and the religious
attitude but not religious dogma.
To many such as Ayn Rand,
these values signify the appearance of man's most regrettable
weakness, his tenderness. When "Organization Man" tries
to fit in rather than
take over, those who see values from other frames of reference
despair of this value system.
executives contrived to allow all to live, rather than kill off
the enemy as in the second level "Robber Baron" days, or
price them out of business as at the fourth, other value systems
sent them to jail. But don't misunderstand my point of here. These
are still lower level values. The company executives did not think
of all others. They thought only of their valued friends which is
the keystone of fifth level values.
At this level many feel
that man has lost his self, that he has given it up for social
approval. But my frame of reference says that this conclusion is
an error. It says that man has simply subordinated his self
interest for the time being and that self interest will return
again in a new and higher form.
Fifth level values are a
great step forward for man. They reflect the beginning of man's
humanism, the demise of his animalism. But he finds that
sacrificing self to obtain the good will of others takes from him
his individuality. This is a price too high to pay. Thus man
strives on seeking a new value system by which he can be a more
inclusive man. By now he has felt many times that he has arrived,
but arrived he has not, nor will his arrival ever come to be. His
forms for existence to date have required of him less than he has
to give, his cognitiveness. He has not arrived because all
previous forms of existence, all previous value systems restricted his most typically human characteristic,
his cognition. But now
with five basic existential problems solved the cognitive realm
opens wide and enables the leading edge of man to capture a glimpse of the future modes of
life and values for mankind.
Western man at this
moment in history is approaching this great divide, the landmark
between subsistence level systems and being level systems, Table
I. Across this psychological space man will come to the end of his
first value trek - - the trek which
favored the existence of the action prone man, the more
animalistic man. If man, in mass, can span this space, and truly establish his sixth form for
existence, then for the future of
mankind, an amazing process will be uncovered. Theoretically, my
data says, from the
character of the seventh level system, which is more like the
first than any other, that man will move on to repeat, on a higher level, his six psychological
stages centralized around
intellectual man, Figure III. And then again he will repeat the
process through the emphasis of compassionate man. And by then, in
all probability, man will have changed his self and will move
infinitely on. But space does not permit the development of this
part of my data so we must return to man at the sixth level of
The F-S state develops
when man has resolved the basic human fears. With this a marked
change in his conception of existence arises. Cognition,
previously hobbled now
becomes free, and with fear relatively gone he energies are freed
for cognitive roaming.
Lit up in devastating detail is man's failure to focus upon the
salient aspects of life. He sees now that he has the problem of
life hereafter, not the after life, but the maintenance of his
world so that life can continue to loom up before him. The most
serious problem of existence to date is now his existential
Thus, I call the sixth
level the problematic existence because now man truly sees the
problems before him if life is to continue. His thema for
existence is "express self so that all others, all beings can
continue to exist." His values here are very different
values. Values at the sixth level come not from selfish interest
but from the recognition of the magnificence of existence and from
the desire to see that it shall continue to be. To sixth level man
the prime value is life and thus he focuses on the problems that
its existence creates. This is why the prime need is for
existence, existence of life not self. And it is here for the
first time that man is able to face existence in all its
dimensions even to the point of valuing inconsistencies,
oppositions and flat contradictions.
Since he values
"life," he looks at the world in respect to the many
problems that its existence creates, different wants in different
species, different values in different men.
He sees the world and all its things, all its being and all its
people as truly interdependent.
He sees them entwined in a subjective-objective complex. So he
values pluralism. He
values that which will enable all animals, all plants and things
to be, and all mankind to
become. His ethics are based on the best possible evidence as to
what will benefit all, the majority, the needy or the desiring is
not enough. He values that which will do good for him and all the
universe but the peripheral aspects of what he values today may
change tomorrow because as he solves one set of problems he seeks
another in its place.
Oddly enough this value
system is seen as decadent by many. It is seen as decadent for it values new ways, new structurings for life, not just the ways of
one's elders, because it values others as well as self, because it
values the enjoyment of this life over and above
obeisance to authority, because it values others having just as
much as me and because if value all and self not just the few selected others. but as
magnificent as this value system
may seem to those who can feel it, it is not, as so many have
thought, the ultimate for man.
Beyond it lies another
value world that few men have yet to know. For those men who have
come relatively to satisfy their need to esteem life, a new
existential state, the G-T state is just beginning to be. It
emerges when problematic man truly realizes that there is much he
will never know about existence. This insight brings man to the
end of his first ladder value trek because now man learns he must
return to his beginning and travel again, in a higher order form,
the road by whence he has come. A problem solving existence is not
enough. It must become subordinated within a new form of autistic
existence. This I call the intuitive existence after the seventh
level thema of existence, "adjust to the reality of existence
which is that you can only be, you can never really know."
The seventh level values
are call the impressionistic values. Here man values those
"vast realms of consciousness still undreamed of, vast ranges
of experience like the humming of unseen harps we know nothing of
within us.3 He values wonder, awe, reverence, humility,
fusion, integration, unity, simplicity, the poetic perception of
reality, non-interfering perception versus active controlling
perception, enlarging consciousness,
the ineffable experience.4
Since seventh level man
need not attend to the problems of his existence (for him they
have been solved) he values those newer, deeper things in life
which are there to be
experienced. He values escaping "from the barbed wire
entanglement of his own ideas and his own mechanical
devices."3 He values the "marvelous rich
world of context and sheer fluid beauty and face-to-face awareness
These seventh level
impressionistic values are only beginning to emerge in the lives
of some men. If the conditions for existence of man continue to
improve, the day will come
when they will be the dominant value system of man. The time will
come when all other
values will be subordinated within their supra-ordination but they
too will pass away. And when the time comes that the leading edge of man finds seventh
level values wanting, some men, somewhere, sometime, will accuse
these new venturers of a breakdown of man's values.
C. W. Graves,
"The Deterioration of Work Standards," Harvard
Business Review, Vol. 44. No. 5, p. 120, Sept.-Oct. 1996.
The research of the
author, referred to in this article, will be published in a book
The Complete Poems
of D. H. Lawrence, edited by Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts, Vols. I and II, The Viking
Press, New York, New York.
The reader will note
the similarity of the seventh level values to some of the thoughts
of Abraham Maslow. And he will note that this work
is a revision and extension of many of Maslow's writings..