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The Notion of Qualifying Aspect - and the 2008 Credit Crunch

The notion of qualifying aspect helps define what type of thing an individual might be. It has some problems, but it can be very useful despite these problems and especially if not taken to an extreme.

For Analysis

An excellent discussion of how the notion of qualifying aspect may be used in information systems and analysis is found in Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn's article, 'The Role of the Qualifying Function Concept in Systems Design' [Systemic Practice and Action Research, (2001) vol.14, 79-93]. Her main argument is that if analysts ask themselves what the qualifying aspect of each thing is, they can gain clarify in their analysis and begin to see where things are going wrong, because, as discussed below, things are being treated as what they are not intended to be.

For Guidance on Setting Policy

The qualifying aspect of a type of thing indicates that type of thing's 'destination', especially in the longer term. It reflects the inherent normativity of reality, especially the subject side (entity side) thereof. It means that if we treat something in a way other than it was 'intended' to be treated, then there is a risk of damage occurring. For example, if we treat hospitals, which should be qualified by either the biotic or ethical aspects, as primarily economic entities, then the quality of cares gradually decreases. Of course, sometimes it is useful to treat something in ways different from its qualifying aspect would indicate, for specific reasons. But if it is treated thus widely and continuously in society - this is when damage occurs. This damage might not occur immediately, because of the interwoven robustness of reality, but because of that very interwovenness any damage spreads and does not remain localised. Here are a few examples.

How We Treat Housing

Houses are, primarily, places where a family lives. They provide the biotic functions of shelter, the social function of helping the family to function as a unit, and the ethical function of providing a private place where a marriage can grow. So the qualifying aspects of a house may be said to be the biotic, social and ethical (some people would try to select one of those above the others; I do not).

But in recent years in the UK and USA houses have been treated primarily as financial investments, a way to increase your stock of money - that is, as though qualified by the economic aspect. The dangers of doing this have been voiced by many over the years, but their voices have gone unheeded - until the middle of 2008, when what was known as the Credit Crunch occurred. Houses were treated primarily with a view to making a profit. They would be bought and sold by speculators. Even families, in their house-buying, would give too much credence to how attractive the house would be to sell - and notice how they would put a lot of money into 'doing up' a house just before they sold it, rather than doing this while they lived in it and gaining themselves the benefit of such doing-up.

'Everyone' did this. This attitude to housing became the norm. Over a few decades the price of housing grew as a bubble, harming those with little money because such families could no longer obtain a house in which to fulfil their biotic, social and ethical functions to the full. Part of the bubble burst in 2008. It also harmed the global economy, being the worst financial collapse since the 1930s.

British Railways

During Mrs. Thatcher's 'reign' in the UK in the 1980s the British Railways Board, a government-owned and controlled body, was given a new primary aim: reduce your losses. This replaced the original aim: run a railway system. In Dooyeweerdian terms, the qualifying aspect changed, from transport (approx. kinematic aspect) to financial (approx. economic). In the first year the losses were cut, as a lot of waste was removed - so Mrs. T 'rewarded' their good work with a demand for yet another cut. This happened repeatedly over several years, but since the waste had been removed, the cuts simply did damage.

The effect of this was disastrous. Morale in the rail industry plummeted, and its best people were lost. Investment nearly ceased. Railway use, which had been reducing over decades but which had reached a plateau, now went into another nose-dive. Car and truck use soared (Mrs. T. called for 'a great car economy'), and we have enormous levels of traffic congestion, pollution and overuse of roads today. We meekly accept over 3,000 deaths a year from road accidents, and 300,000 serious accidents. (By contrast, the railways, according to some rather old figures I have, average something like 12 passenger deaths per year.)

We can see in terms of a false qualifying aspect being damaging. A transport body should have a kinematic qualifying aspect, not an economic one. Granted, every aspect should be taken into account in the strategic, tactical and operational activity in the organization, but there is a difference between taking into account, and making the primary aim that determines all decisions:

This page is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Compiled by (c) 2006 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Created: 20 September 2008 Last updated: 8 December 2010 corrected 2 links in parent dir.