Toward a better standard of judgement than peer review

© June 2005 Graham R Little


There is ongoing proliferation of journals, and rush to achieve peer review publication. With the Sokal affair, peer review comes into question as the process for ensuring intellectual integrity and article quality. Journals are long on advice on topics and style, but nowhere are offered clear guidelines on content. Much is published amid performance pressures on academics but with disquiet and unease that we are in fact writing more and saying less. Wisdom, where?

With this backdrop this article explores the question: what guidelines are able to be applied such that article quality, that is the content of the article does in fact add to the overall accumulation of human wisdom? The paper provides a definitive answer based on the critical role of strategic thinking in all intellectual endeavours, showing how it is the relating of a topic to its ground that ensures wisdom and the accumulation of real understanding.

What is proposed is that the current standard of ‘peer review’ is replaced by a standard of ‘rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency’. It is important to understand that this work is presented in the manner and style of the proposed new standard. Specifically, the standard is summarised in the next section, in a manner suggested for all works.


Abstract 1

The standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency. 2

Guidelines offered by Journals and the lack of guidelines for judgement of conceptual quality. 3

Sokal and the emergent questions over peer review.. 4

Summary of the problem and related issues. 4

The conceptual structure of strategic thinking. 5

Summary of critical function of ground. 6

Examples of how the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency impacts intellectual topics  7

General and particular 7

Perception. 7

Psychology and cause. 8

Epistemology. 8

Use of conceptual diagrams. 9

Strategic human resource management in the firm... 9

The sociology of Karl Marx. 10

Interpretation of quantum electro dynamics. 10

The existence of time. 11

That some aspects of the universe depend for form and structure and even existence on our observing those aspects  12

Note on the historical discussion of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. 12

Summary comparison of peer review with standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency  13

Comparison of this paper and original Sokal paper against the two standards. 13

Notes on the process of judgment using the rigorous standard of strategic and conceptual transparency  14

Concluding comment on some consequences of the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency  15

The standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency

The outline of the relationship between the topic and issues of ground that need to be resolved prior to initiating meaningful discussion on the topic. The discussion of the topic must be congruent with issues of ground, and any discussion of the topic bounded by any limitations within the solutions to the issues of ground. The article must also have a clear and succinct purpose in relation to advancing understanding on the topic, with the purpose underpinning the originality and uniqueness of the work. Clarity of purpose within the bounds dictated by issues of ground, ease and unforced nature of all congruence, completeness of list of issues of ground, and the cautious limiting of the topic discussion to the bounds enforced by the solutions to the issues of ground collectively infer high quality content. Science is a creative endeavour in relation to a topic within the bounds determined by the ground; it is not a creative-speculative endeavour.

Topic: What needs to be done to ensure greater quality in the content of scientific/intellectual journal articles? That all such articles do contribute to improved/increased human understanding and wisdom.

Purpose of the article: To present a complete solution to the question posed by the topic.

Issues of ground and the summary position adopted.

Immediate examples, topics and issues.

Peer review process exhibits flaws; journals offer no guidelines on judging content.

Nature of general theory of psychology.

Core to the general theory of psychology underlying the work is that psychology has several causal factors embedded in a causal structure as spelled out in the theory. Knowledge is one of those factors. Other causal factors include predispositions in the form of habits and comfort zones, and predispositions arising from pre-existing aspects of world-views and yet others arising from aspects of Thought and Emotion, embedded into mental sets, resulting in people being more likely to respond one way rather than another.

Nature and structure of knowledge.

Epistemology is chiefly about the relation knowledge makes with reality beyond what we know. Ashby tools of immediate and ultimate effects models scientific knowledge. Knowledge ordered into conceptual hierarchies based on immediate and ultimate effect relations these hierarchies offering causal insight into the mechanisms/causes of the universe.

Nature and structure of understanding.

Understanding exists in the relation some knowledge makes to other, pre-existing knowledge and understanding. Without being able to be linked to pre-existing knowledge and understanding any information/knowledge remains as only that, and neither adds to further insight nor to the accumulation of wisdom.

Existence of Reality.

Rule of relations limits ability of any individual to assess existence of Reality. Inference of existence from analysis of perception and from scans of neural activity in presence of objects. Goal of science is to build models offering increasingly clear insight into regularities of Reality.

Nature of ‘truth’.

An act of judgement, no process or system is able to replace final judgement, but we can develop processes that enforce better disciplines of judgement, more focused on the crucial issues and less influenced by personal preference and ideology or some socially accepted formula of content and style. Scientific truth is judgement of models best reflecting regularity of Reality, therefore not all ‘truths’ equal. Scientific truth is the current best-fit model; successive scientific truths viewed as asymptotically approaching Truth (capital) the perfect match to Reality. Scientists build current scientific truths aspiring to Truth they can never attain.

Nature and structure of strategic thinking.

Emerges as a consequence of the above model of knowledge and understanding. Is the conceptual action of relating a topic to its ground, and of ensuring issues of ground are all understood, covered, secure, and complete before initiating any discussion or thinking on the topic. Most specifically, ensuring that whatever is said on the topics is not able to be altered or necessarily revised by any emergent insights or additional understanding of the issues of ground, and of ensuring full congruence of what ever is said on the topic with the issues of ground solutions used.

Ethics of science.

Emerges as the essential behavioural consequence of enforcing the disciplines of strategic thinking onto all scientific/intellectual endeavours.


Guidelines offered by Journals and the lack of guidelines for judgement of conceptual quality

Journals offer two very precise guidelines to authors: First, they define carefully the topics or area to which the journal is devoted. Second, they specify the style in which any article is to be presented, with most opting for the ‘Chicago style’. I have not researched every journal, nor every set of submission guidelines, however nowhere have I found clear guidelines as to what constitutes top quality content, nor do I expect to, since it is expected that the process of ‘peer review’ ensures the article is up to the standard of quality required.

Let us be clear as to what ‘peer review’ means: Any work is placed before a panel of people who work in the field. Journals compete in effect to recruit ‘editors’ and ‘editorial panels’ of prestigious academics to act as the ‘reviewers and arbiters’ of article quality. Any particular work may go to one or several of these arbiters of standards, it would depend on the nature of the work, its estimated impact, and the uniqueness or otherwise of what is presented.

Peer review would seem to cover the standards needed, it would seem to be able to generate objectivity as experienced professionals in the field rated the work of other professionals. Appearances can be deceiving, and in the next few paragraphs I would like to explore potential downsides of this peer review process in relation to its stability and potential to achieve the necessary levels of intellectual rigour and the standards apt for science.

People lean toward pre-existing worldviews. The general theory of psychology on which this paper is based proposes that a person’s ‘world view’ is causal in their conduct. Further, that ideas inconsistent with any pre-existing worldview are unlikely to find a comfortable fit within the psychic structures of a person. To be pointed, the theory strongly suggests that ideas inconsistent with a pre-existing worldview are likely to be counter-argued or dismissed or both.

How do pre-existing worldviews impact the peer review process? Ideas that do not fit with the thinking of the day within some group of professionals will be dismissed or counter argued or both.

To escape this tendency demands a significant act on part of the reviewer, to lift themselves out of their natural and instinctive manner of thinking and ‘see’ and assess ways of thinking quite different and quite foreign to them. It is unquestioned this can be done, but given the shortfalls that are I would think apparent to anyone of the most meagre reflection, I suggest this implies peer review to be not a process on which to solely base the intellectual standards of humankind.

What consequences would be evident if the issue of pre-existing worldviews was rife in the peer review process? I suggest two definite consequences. (1) That there would be a proliferation of journals and people with a given world-view would aggregate about particular journals. The very existence of pre-existing world views would encourage those with a gain in publishing journals to promote and support any journal likely to garner sufficient support, regardless of any questions of quality of content. (2) Articles accepted by any journal would then reflect that which the people who read the journal wanted to read. There would be an emergence of word and topic harmonious with the population of the journal, and anything inharmonious would not be published, and anything harmonious would be published.

The peer review process is intrinsically not objective. Karl Popper among others suggested that objectivity was shared subjectivity. Were this so simply so then peer review would have this as it root, its core of validation. This view of objectivity overlooks any factors of judgement inherent in the work itself, independent of the observer. For example, distance is ‘objective’ in the first instance, with only the manner of measurement varying between observers, but varying dimensions able to be reconciled with little effort. Distance is not something of ‘shared subjectivity’; there is something ‘there’, in and of itself, although at times we may wrestle to fully grasp that which it is. The same applies I suggest for articles and for the advancement of knowledge. The knowledge that is, is there, in and of itself. It is not merely shared subjectivity. Any addition or proposed addition is also ‘there in and of itself’. Peer review internalises judgement to the peers involved. And while reviewers can and do produce reports on a work, the judgement remains shared subjectivity, and is not immediately intrinsic to the work.

This issue emerges most if any work is rooted in conceptual structures currently not popular, currently not common, and currently not the way the core of those reading and hence reviewing the work think. This would universally result in the work being rejected.

The alternative as outlined here seeks to root the core of the judgement in the work itself, measures derived from the relationship the work (knowledge) makes to other work (knowledge). Some degree of subjectivity is always present, but the proposed process pressures the move away from subjectivity to strategic and conceptual transparency fundamentally intrinsic to the work.  Given that the process of peer review intrinsically embraces no factors fundamentally intrinsic to the work, this leaves the process liable to distortion and misdirection exactly as outlined above, with judgement leaning heavily toward pre-existing points of view.

As in business, when things go wrong it is most often not people to blame but faulty process, so it is with peer review. The peer review process is intrinsically faulty, in that the predisposition is intrinsic to the process, it is not deliberate in reviewers, they can do nothing else, since the very structure of their psychology enables nothing else, they can in effect not help themselves but be who they are as they are.

Sokal and the emergent questions over peer review

Then came Alan Sokal. Professor Sokal was professor of theoretical physics at NYU. He was he professed disenchanted with much of modern thinking in social science and the lack of precision and intellectual rigour. He drafted an article claiming to link various social phenomenon with quantum variability, and submitted it to a well-known and highly regarded social journal. It was accepted, and the time of it being published he declared the article a hoax written to prove that if an article were written in the language of the editors and journal population, it would be published. To date, this is the only effort at empirical validation or otherwise of the accepted system (peer review) for maintaining article integrity.

Sokal’s thesis could be summed: Any article meeting the pre-dispositions of editors and likely readers, written and saying things they would like to hear, will be published. Given the discussion above, this seems highly predictable. But more importantly we best view the Sokal version as an aspect of a more general proposition, namely: That peer review will maintain and ensure the integrity of articles and the quality of those articles.

In discussions of science, Popper presented his falsification proposition, namely that if the proposition is all swans are white, then the sighting of one black swan will negate the thesis. Now I do not adopt any simple view of judgment in science, and have elsewhere discussed the topic, however, falsification has its place amid the range of factors guiding judgement, along with prior conceptual analysis, instinct, and supporting evidence. If we are committed as I would think to ensure the integrity and quality of intellectual articles, and if we think that the process for doing that is peer review, then any evidence whereby peer review is negated as the process must be seen as very serious indeed, regardless of motives, of detail, or of embarrassment, Professor Sokal and the editors who accepted his article, both in the end should be seen as doing world science a favour.

Peer review is clearly established as flawed and not able to secure the level of intellectual rigour and quality to which I would think we all aspire.

Summary of the problem and related issues

Here I will try to bring together the issues and what we know of them.

  • There is a need to ensure the quality and intellectual rigour of articles so that the overall accumulation of wisdom and understanding increases and with all articles being seen to so add to the accumulation of wisdom and understanding.
  • The peer review process when analysed does contain potential shortfalls and intrinsic flaws.
    • That people intrinsically have pre-dispositions, and the peer review process does not adequately take these into account, so the process is open to abuse and misdirection.
    • That the peer review process contains no elements of judgement intrinsic to the work itself and relies solely on subjective criteria of the reviewers.
  • The peer review process when empirically tested failed in protecting the system from hoax and the publishing of articles of low and inadequate intellectual quality.
    • I have had it suggested that perhaps the editors saw in the work of Professor Sokal validity that he did not see himself. Such argument does not alter the issue that the work was written as a hoax, and was accepted. Try to imagine a work close to that of the editors’ pre-dispositions, but with just small variations and deliberate misdirection’s as to make it worthless, I would suggest it likely to be published, and peer review would not secure the integrity of the articles. The problems outlined above are intrinsic to the system; people are entitled to be as they are, and this is not taken to account in the structure of the process as a result the process of peer review undermines itself.
    • Second, Professor Sokal does not believe the work to be valid, that being so, there must be means and processes whereby it can be established and objectively measured and peer review clearly cannot do that since author asserts work a hoax, and editors judge it something else, such conflict itself highlights flaws in the very nature of the process whereby the judgements are framed.

With this as backdrop I have constructed the framework that any system must match if the integrity of articles is to be assured.

1.       Intrinsic objectivity: The system must be objective, and must embrace elements of judgement intrinsic to the work itself.

2.       Acceptance of human predispositions: The system must accept people as having predispositions, and must not be bounded or potential undermined by people’s natural tendencies. The process must be grounded in actions that do not assume best endeavours of people, but assumes normal and typical endeavours of people.

3.       Strategic science: The system must assert the very nature of science and rigorous intellectual endeavour: It must assert the intellectual discipline essential for an article to be of the required standard and this must tie to the intrinsic objectivity as specified above.

4.       Establish ethics a consequence of intellectual disciplines: Any ethical considerations should flow naturally from the disciplines of achieving the necessary intellectual standard; ethics arise not from assertions of a ‘behavioural standard’, but arise naturally from the very nature and structure of science with any ‘behavioural standard’ being a consequence not a necessary prior assertion. That is, ethics do not make a scientists, science demands levels of intellectual rigour that if followed flow to essential ethics that are subsequent to the endeavours of science.

5.       Enable multi-discipline judgements: The criteria of judgements must allow and enable judgements on ideas beyond that of a reviewer’s experience (for example, new paradigms being offered) and offer transparency of judgement transcending disciplines, so that what is in one discipline can be bought to account in assessing quality of articles in other disciplines implied or referred to in the work.

6.       Transparent science: The transparency should extend to clear conceptual/strategic transparency such that any intelligent observer is able to examine and assess the validity of the judgement on a work, and where the first issues needing dealt with have clearly been dealt with and it is immediately evident that there is no issue overstepped that would or could refute or erode the discussion on the topic.

I assert the process I outline below will achieve these criteria and more, and I now elaborate on the process and models behind it.

The conceptual structure of strategic thinking

Strategic thinking I define as the conceptualisation of a topic in relation to the prior issues that relate to the topic and are pertinent in any consideration of the topic. In business, for example, the topic might be stated “identify the market position and product mix for the firm that will assure the required return on investment over the next five years”. This is clearly ‘strategic’, and is type of activity I would facilitate with a senior team undergoing a ‘strategic review’. In fact, my overall definition of strategic thinking arose from my work as a consultant in business; it became extended when I asked myself ‘what is the general nature of what we do in business?’ I came to understand ‘strategic thinking’ as a form of ‘thinking’, a conceptual process, implicating conceptualisation. I had already reached views on the definition of understanding, and the extent that any understanding required knowledge to be related and integrated into prior knowledge. It became a small step then to see strategic thinking as conceptualisation of a topic in relation to issues of importance that needed resolved prior to proceeding with consideration of the topic.

There are several crucial aspects intrinsic to strategic thinking.

  • That no topic sits in isolation, it is intrinsically integrated with other, prior issues, and is only truly understood in relation to those prior issues.
  • To deal with a topic it is crucial to deal with prior issues first, so that first things are dealt with first, then the topic can be considered and progressed secure that what is considered is built on a substantial base.
  • The issues to be considered prior to consideration of any topic can be seen to define the ‘ground’ of the topic that is the intellectual region within which the topic can be pursued. Any consideration extending beyond this ground is rejected as not secure; it is not grounded, and becomes speculation about the topic.

Science is not a speculative endeavour: The next major step in developing the view of strategic thinking was to see it as applying to any and all intellectual endeavour. I experimented and quickly came to see the application of strategic thinking in philosophy and science generally, and wrote some articles for my web site to that effect. 

As I dug deeper, I saw the power of the approach. In effect, for any topic, there is always a ground. And anytime any consideration of any topic extended beyond the ground of the known it was then mere speculation because the consideration no matter how useful or solid it appeared, extending beyond what could reasonably be projected, once outside the bounds determined by the ground, the considerations on the topic were not based on known insight and understanding, but implicated ignorance, speculation and risk. This understanding immediately posed a question: Is science a speculative endeavour?

Science as part of knowledge is itself thus an aspect of a variable of psychology and of sociology. Values of variables define specific states, and the variables from which values determined are not able to direct or determine those states. In social science, this issue is the definition of the precise point where reason and objectivity and ‘science’ cease and moral and ethical choices assume full weight. The decision as to whether or not ‘science’ is a speculative endeavour or not, is thus no decision of science nor of any form of sociological theory, it is solely a decision by us, based on our moral and ethical views of what we want science to be, and beyond just science, the issue extends to all serious intellectual endeavour that we choose to take seriously (that is not to say science fiction is not taken seriously, but no-one asserts science fiction has any validity beyond entertainment).

Furthermore, within the process of strategic thinking as I have defined and developed it, there is intrinsically a process able to assert a standard for these endeavours that far surpasses the current standard of peer review. So, for instance, if we were to assert that science is not a speculative endeavour, it would mean that any work on any topic that was not grounded was rejected as speculation and while interesting and perhaps offering speculative guidelines as to potential direction, it was not science was not serious intellectual endeavour, and as such was not able to be used or published or referenced in any serious journals.

My personal view is stated in the heading to this section. Should any groups follow this view, then journals with which they associate, even Universities would adopt a standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency as developed here in assessing any work offered as a serious contribution to increasing human wisdom and understanding. Others are entitled to their own views, they may choose to continue with peer review as their standard, then final judgement would emerge over time as to whether the tighter intellectual standard was in practice the superior position.

Summary of critical function of ground

  • The ground of any topic is defined by the list of issues that could or do impact the topic. For example, if one seeks to develop a causal general theory of psychology, then it is first necessary to assess and have a clear definition of cause, or at least specify the definition and understanding of cause being applied; if not, then there is always the potential for any future emergent definition of cause invalidating any comment on the theory and/or invalidating the theory itself.
  • The definition of ground ties the topic back to the existing intellectual framework; therefore any discussion on the topic is fully understood within this framework.
  • Summary positions adopted in ground then define the scope of creative effort able to be applied to the topic.  For example, again if pursuing a general theory of psychology, and there is no understanding of cause, then discussions on the topic are limited for example perhaps to discussion on potential variables, relations between variables, and evidence that a some variables does impact human conduct, etc. The point is, there could be no definitive causal discussion, since there is no understanding on causality.
  • The more that is known of issues of ground the wider the potential scope for creativity as regards the topic. Conversely, the less known of the issues of ground the less the creative scope for discussion of the topic, in effect the less that is known of ground the more thinking effort is drawn back to issues of ground that need resolved prior to considerations of topic. This, to me, seems an inherently sound position, and one intrinsic to the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency. As parallel example, it is exactly as in business, where strategic analysis bought realisation that the management knows less about the market than it should to make final decisions on where to position the firm. I know of no senior teams that would ignore this, and rush forward with speculation and make decisions on that speculation, yet this is exactly what is done frequently in science and is accepted as ‘legitimate’, even given status by being afforded peer review.
  • Serious intellectual effort is then intrinsically defined as ‘bounded creativity’ in relation to a topic. So science is intrinsically defined by the standard applied. The crucial discipline of science is then establishing what can legitimately be said of a topic without violating limits of ground.
    • I define “serious” effort as effort intended to increase human wisdom and understanding, within this, for example, I would question whether much ‘history’ met the criteria, but then few claim history as science, but this would also embrace philosophical endeavour reciting/reinterpreting what another, usually dead philosopher has said. Within this criteria, cultural studies, for example, are social science, and would then have to meet the criteria of rigorous strategic and conceptual clarity which would I suggest raise issues since rigour and limiting of discussion to bounds of sound pre-existing concepts is not how that discipline seems to operate. This also being a particular issue for much of sociology particularly in light of application to the standard of rigorous and conceptual clarity to the work of Marx, noting that similar comments would apply to the likes of Weber, Durkheim, and the bulk of existing social science authors, since there is simply no existing model of causal forces in society which offers reasonable conceptual and intellectual ground.

Examples of how the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency impacts intellectual topics

The following are meant to be illustrative, and I have tried to select a wide range of topics. Essentially the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency severely limits the range and nature of the discussion against all the examples. In many instances, such as for the work of Marx, the damage is such as to negate the work, and to classify it as unscientific, and a totally unfit intellectual legacy. The same would apply to Freud, Skinner, Tolman, Weber, Durkheim, and a very large cross section of writers in social science. Physical science is generally more precise and circumspect, except when it comes to speculation on the nature of the universe as interpreted from quantum electro dynamics, here there is again need to assert the ground, and to forge a much more careful and precise if significantly less interesting frame of thinking. For example, moving from the serious deficiencies of quantum theory implicit largely in its assumptions and what it fails to do, and what associated models and theories fail to do, to project multiple universes is bordering scientifically irresponsible.

General and particular
  • General and particular can only be psychological constructions. Should any aspect of general and particular be seen as ‘aspects of the universe’, and not psychological, then our noting of them must occur by psychological and perceptual processes. In the absence of an agreed general theory of psychology, a general theory of perception and clearly defined links between the two, how can any issues of the general and particular be convincingly discussed?
  • General and particular must also be considered aspects of our knowledge of objects, and how our knowledge relates to the object itself or to aspects of the object. However, any such considerations can only specific examples of the general issue of how all knowledge results to objects represented by that knowledge, unless we are to argue that knowledge and object is the same thing. It follows that in the absence of a general theory of knowledge issues of general and particular cannot be discussed or considered with any degree of confidence, for clearly the emergence of a valid and detailed general theory of knowledge could profoundly impact any such assessments.
  • Issues of ground: General theory of psychology. Theory of knowledge. Theory of ontology, namely that which exists in and of the universe that shapes impacts and is able to interact with our perceptual receptors.
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, and in the absence of any understanding of the factors of the environment that impact and shape perception we speculate as follows on the nature of the general and particular …
  • Perception must consist in some part of psychological factors and factors derived from the environment we perceive. If this were not so, it would mean we can perceive without engaging our psychology, and/or that we could perceive accurately an environment without any factors being derived from that environment, say immaculate perception, whereby we ‘know’ without any communication channel to the environment. Knowing without any communication channel does appear extreme given our understanding of photons for example, and their role in sight. Given this background, a general theory of psychology would likely have a lot to say about perception, and the psychological processes implicated, to the point that in the absence of a general theory of psychology discussions on perception are sharply curtailed bounded by the lack of such a defining theory.
  • Issues of ground: General theory of psychology. Theory of knowledge. Theory of ontology, namely that which exists in and of the universe that shapes impacts and is able to interact with our perceptual receptors.
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, and in the absence of any understanding of the factors of the environment that impact and shape perception we speculate as follows on perception …
Psychology and cause
  • Are ideas influential in the affairs of humans? If not, then how do we describe the causality of mood and conduct? Why are books so influential, TV so powerful and ideologies so dominating in our world? How can we possibly discuss psychology without having resolved these questions? Are we to assume that answers to these questions would have no impact on a general theory of psychology?
  • What must be the necessary form of a general theory of psychology? How and in what way must the variables of psychology be separate from and different to the values of those variables? Especially if values describe the particulars (see the discussion of general and particular), then the theory must form the generalities, but what exactly does that mean?
  • What is cause, and what do we mean when we talk of causality of human mood and conduct? Is cause knowledge? Can we know cause directly, unmediated by knowledge? But if we can, then this must be able to be described, so then becomes knowledge of how we have knowledge of cause? So is cause knowledge? At very least is our understanding of cause knowledge?
  • If we had a causal theory of human mood and conduct, what would it look like, what would be its necessary structure? And what would or could it necessarily tell us of an actual person in an actual situation? And can we even form a general theory of psychology without understanding of this question?
  • Issues of ground: Causal variables affecting human mood and conduct; tools for analyzing such complex interactive systems; starting points of theory creation, nature of theory; nature of variables and values and their relationship; cause itself; nature and status of knowledge; necessary reflexive nature of any theory of psychology, that it must account fully for its own existence; how and why mathematics parallels the universe, is it because the universe is mathematical, or because our knowledge is mathematical? Limitations of any and all theory.
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of cause and of knowledge, of any understanding of the factors of the environment that impact and shape perception, and without defining science and the nature of variables and their values, and without fully analysing how issues of cause and definitions of science might impact a theory of psychology, we speculate as on human psychology as follows …
  • Does knowledge arise solely from our internal psychology? If so how?
  • Does the universe affect our knowledge of it? If so how? Can the affect be analyzed? Can we structure mechanisms whereby state of the universe shape states of perception in humans? (See perception.)
  • To what extent does our prior knowledge and experience shape our perception? If it does, then how? And can we even begin to address issues of epistemology without addressing this question? If we can, then which questions can we, and how do we address them?
  • How do issues of prior knowledge relate to issues of learning, and is learning significant in epistemology and its impact on humans? Are there any evolutionary precedents in this issue? Or did all knowledge spring to being as a whole? If there are evolutionary issues, then does the historical data show any systematic framing of ideas and use by humans?
  • What is the relation of knowledge to psychology? That is, how does knowledge come to be? Can any theory of knowledge have any legitimacy if it cannot account for its own existence? That is, a theory of knowledge is knowledge, so any theory of knowledge must be part of the set of all knowledge. So how can there be any theory of knowledge without a theory of psychology from which the theory of knowledge forms merely an aspect in operation?
  • What theories of psychology satisfy and account for what theories of knowledge? And if there is no firm or definitive link, then can either be valid? And what qualifications must be stated for any work then to be published?
  • Issues of ground: The states of the universe enabling perception; states of perception enabling knowledge; psychology that enables both; understanding of cause, and how that fits into the emergent issues of psychology, knowledge and perception; details of values and variables and how they arise; relating of these detailed implication to the particular of science and scientific theory; how such understanding of science in fact provides a theory of knowledge since why should any theory of knowledge be fundamentally different from any other theory of science?
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, and in the absence of any understanding of the factors of the environment that impact and shape our knowledge, and without having any idea of how ideas arise and the factors that shape them, we speculate on knowledge as follows…
Use of conceptual diagrams
  • In any diagram showing variables linked by an arrow, what is the meaning of the arrow? If it is not given precise definition, then what meaning the diagram, and if none or little, then what point it being offered?
  • What is a variable? How do variables relate to ideas? How do variables relate to particulars?
  • Are variables generalities? If so, how do they arise? And what is the precise role of the state of the universe in shaping perception so that the generality arises? And when this happens, is it regular? If so, what does this mean, and how do we understand it?
  • Without precise and deliberate tools for describing and exploring the complex systems of social science and of philosophy, what chance of any progress?
  • Issues of ground: Conceptualization; role and nature of knowledge in relation understanding; relation of knowledge to the universe from which it is abstracted; nature of abstraction; nature of ideas and their place; psychology; scientific theories; mathematics; variables and how they can be related and interact; variables and their values; scientific reduction; scientific method; tools of intellectual analysis; tools of analysis for complex systems.
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, without bothering to fully define terms or what such diagrams mean, without analysing conceptualisation its role and the processes that support it we apply and use conceptual diagrams as follows…
Strategic human resource management in the firm
  • Are people different from the firm? If they are not, then how can this be justified, and if they are what then is the firm?
  • Can any theory of strategic human resource management be put forward that does not consider the issue of the nature and status (the existence) of a firm in relation to the nature and status (the existence) of people? This is the ontological problem implicit in the question of a theory of strategic human resource management.
  • What is the relationship between the variables of any potential theory of SHRM and the values of those variables? This leads to the issue of whether or not success is intrinsic to the theory, or arises as a value of variables. This is the normative problem intrinsic in any theory of strategic human resource management.
  • Can any legitimate or remotely valid theory of strategic human resource management be offered without considering the ontological and normative problems intrinsic in the ground of the topic?
  • If the ontological and normative issues are to be addressed, how can they be without addressing general ontological issues, that is establishing what is that must generally exist, with the firm being some detail of what generally exists?
  • Can any resolution of the normative issues be reached for a theory of strategic human resource management without considering the issues of the relation between the general and the particular and the relevance of this problem to the nature and structure of science?
  • Is any theory of strategic human resource management intended or able to offer causal insight into the manner of the firm and its change and development? How can any consideration of these issues be separated from the general problems of the causality of human mood and conduct, since it is people who populate the firm?
  • Issues of ground: Existence of firm; relationship between variables and their values; causality of human mood and conduct; theory of organization; cause; tools for analysis of complex systems; ontology.
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, and in the absence of any understanding of the factors linking people to the firm, and without analysing whether or not people are separate from the firm and what that means, and without fully locating our comments within social science, we speculate as follows on strategic human resource management …
The sociology of Karl Marx
  • Marx defined no system of cause, without this he cannot claim causal precision, since he does not know what cause is.
  • He did not separate variables from their value. He specified actual groupings of society through which society was expected to develop and change. His views then are not universal, for they assume every society to consists of same groupings interacting in the same manner.
  • Marx did not establish the existence of society and in particular social variables as causal, in part because he did not see he needed to, and also he offered no system of intellectual tools whereby he could have done such an analysis.
  • At no stage was there full analysis of how individuals interact with society, he had no causal model of psychology, so could not proceed with such an analysis.
  • At no stage was it established how social causality proceeded, what were the forces that resulted in change in society? If we consider the artifacts left from ancient societies, do they change? Seems trivial, for they cannot, but the point is that in the absence of people artifacts are only that, leaving us most often wondering as to the meaning and to what purpose they served. The general implications follows, namely that there is no forces of change in society without people. Marx never analyzed any of these issues.
  • Issues of ground: Causal variables affecting human mood and conduct; tools for analyzing such complex interactive systems; starting points of theory creation, nature of theory; nature of variables and values and their relationship; cause itself; nature and status of knowledge; necessary reflexive nature of any theory of psychology, that it must account fully for its own existence; Limitations of any and all theory. Limitations of causal processes in society.
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, and in the absence of any understanding of cause, and without assessing whether or not there are any causal factors in society, nor analysing the structure and mechanisms of change in society and whether or not it necessarily involves people as individuals, ignoring all of this intellectual background, I, Karl Marx, assert the following on the nature and structure and causal forces in society…
Interpretation of quantum electro dynamics
  • Is QED knowledge? Obviously. It follows that any interpretation of QED is first a problem of epistemology, not of physics; any interpretation must be a detail of the manner that all knowledge makes with the objects represented by that knowledge. But to have a theory of knowledge requires a theory of psychology, unless we assume knowledge is created without involving our psychology, and if any theory of psychology is to be useful it needs to be causal, but we have no theory of cause.
  • QED gets the right answer, but does that necessarily mean it represents what actually happens?
  • Atoms disintegrate; but we are not able to predict such disintegration for any particular atom. We have no theory of atomic radioactivity. Are we to assume that QED as the theory of small particles will not be impacted by resolving atomic radioactivity?
  • Imagine a photon strikes an atom, and an electron jumps to a higher state about the atom. The atom will then release the photon and return to the ground state, driven by entropy with energy distributing itself among lowest possible available states. Just immediately prior, to the atom releasing the photon, imagine the smallest time scale we can, how do we regard the atom? Is it pregnant with the photon? Have no variables of the atom changed? Do we merely dismiss/ignore the events immediately before and after (whether probabilistic or not) release of photon? Do we assume there are no events precursors to ejection of the photon despite there are such events in every other aspect of our known universe? There is such a large amount of unknown, such a vast extent of inexplicable, such a range of issues, questions where we have no idea, any interpretation of QED is nothing more than gross speculation.
  • Issues of ground: General theory of psychology, cause, general theory of knowledge. General theory of the atom and in particular of atomic radioactivity. Ontology. Structure of scientific theories. Nature of variables, and relation to objects make to the variables. 
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge and of the structure of knowledge in relation to the objects represented by that knowledge, and in the complete absence of any understanding of the factors in the environment linked to the perceptual receptors of people, and fully accepting the assumption that we can treat small regularities of the universe as points, and assuming we have identified all possible causal variables in small systems of regularities in the universe, and ignoring the fact there are very significant events involving small systems of which we have not the slightest clue about nor the remotest insight into or explanation of, despite all these shortcomings, we remain comfortable speculating that the probability interpretations of quantum mechanics is correct despite not knowing exactly how probability arises within our system of knowledge, and that without laughing, and without invoking science fiction we can even go as far as discuss multiple universes branching with every small event.
The existence of time
  • Is what we know of time knowledge? It must be. Are we to then assume that sharp and accurate insight into the exact nature of knowledge, how it arises, nature of an idea, the construction of the environment relative to our knowledge of it would have no impact or offer no insight at all into our understanding of time and how it arises? I judge this a large assumption.
  • Time arises in our equations, and this mathematics seems to parallel the structure of the universe. Why? Why should it, why should human math parallel the structure of the universe? Is there any other explanation, such as does our very knowledge of the universe have a fundamentally mathematical structure? If there is any other potential answer, then we are not justified in assuming that just because time appears in our equations, and those equations get good answers, that time exists in the universe.
  • Is time an aspect of that which we experience? Yes, it is. But what exactly is it we experience? How does that experience of the universe arise exactly? And if we understood this, would it offer any insight into time? What is exactly happening when we experience ‘time’, and would sharper insight into this impact what we understand of time?
  • Can we understand time without understanding fully our place in the universe and what exactly that means? That is our links to the universe beyond our immediate senses, how those links occur, what they do, how they arise, and how they impact us via our sensory receptors?
  • Issues of ground: General theory of psychology, cause, general theory of knowledge. Relationship of knowledge to the universe. Exact structure of perception. Structure of universe that is able to influence perceptual processes.  Ontology. Structure of scientific theories. Nature of variables, and relation to objects make to the variables. 
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the absence of a general theory of psychology and of knowledge, and in the absence of insight or understanding of how time exists, and without any evidence that time does in fact exist, and despite having no understanding of how we exist in the universe, and without being able to link our ideas of the universe with the structure of the universe, and without knowing whether insight into our existence and our exact place in the universe would impact what we see and how we se it, nonetheless, and because everyone gets ‘older’, we firmly assert the unequivocal existent of time, and that it flows forward, and sometimes we are able to interpret our math and assert it flows backward as well. That this is then carried forward into something called space-time that is asserted as the very fabric of the universe. We are able to assert all this, despite the fact we do not have the slightest clue as to what time is or how it might or could exist in the universe, our position supported by dedicated, even if misplaced, confidence that no other understanding of time could alter these assertions.
That some aspects of the universe depend for form and structure and even existence on our observing those aspects
  • Can we sensibly discuss the issue of how we as observers impact the universe without understanding fully our place in the universe and what exactly that means? That is our links to the universe beyond our immediate senses, how those links occur, what they do, how they arise, and how they impact us via our sensory receptors?
  • Would a full and complete general theory of psychology shape or influence our understanding of how we interact with the universe and shape our insight into our perceptual processes?
  • Can we understand our interaction with the universe without understanding how the universe impacts us, and without understanding the factors in any environment that influence our perception?
  • Once we have clear insight into the processes and mechanisms of our interaction with the universe would this necessarily offer insight into the topic, namely that aspects of the universe require our observing them to have form or structure?
  • Issues of ground: General theory of psychology. General theory of perception. Understanding of cause and its application to psychology and perception. Detailed model of our place in the universe and how that determines how we interact with any environment. Generalization of the place of humans in the universe to the place of any and all intelligence/consciousness. Full answer to the question ‘must there be a definite structure to an environment for any perception to be possible, whether or not it is like human perception?’
  • Essential qualifying assertion: In the full and complete absence of any insight or understanding of our place in the universe, and assuming that detailed understanding of our psychology, and perception and the general structure of environment for perception to be possible would not alter our assertions, we speculate that…
Note on the historical discussion of the interpretation of quantum mechanics

All notable people involved in quantum mechanics have at various times discussed its interpretation, this includes no lesser than such as Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Plank. What has been consistently overlooked in the discussion is that the true interpretation of quantum mechanics is not an issue of physics, but one of epistemology. Quantum mechanics is first knowledge, therefore any interpretation must be a detail of the relationship all knowledge makes to objects represented by that knowledge, and further that this issue is a fundamental issue of ground in the interpretation of quantum mechanics to the extent I argue that the absence of full and accurate model of how all knowledge relates to the objects represented by that knowledge invalidates any discussion of the interpretation of quantum mechanics relegating it to the realm of speculative science fiction. Any failings in the luminaries who created quantum mechanics lay in their inadequate grasp of the nature and structure of knowledge, they were physicists not epistemologists, in particular they did not see the essential strategic nature of science, and consequently, being of a time that saw and thought in concrete images, they naturally sought to interpret their creation in physical terms. Today, we best await clearer notions of knowledge, etc, before pushing to interpret quantum mechanics, contenting ourselves meantime with the fact it gets very good answers although we are not fully clear as to why.

Summary comparison of peer review with standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency

Judgement factor

Peer review standard

Standard of strategic and conceptual clarity

Intrinsic objectivity:

Does not exist and only operative to extent editors/journals choose to assert it.

Is the fundamental issue of judgment, editors having no choice, and the judgments are evident and able to be challenged, as is bias.

Acceptance of human predispositions:

Biased toward pre-existing views and opinions. But not easily evident or able to be challenged.

Independent of pre-dispositions, with judgment rooted in factors intrinsic to the work itself.

Strategic science:

Non-existent; tends to assert style with which editors familiar and referencing/scholarship to imply credibility.

Asserts essential link to key issues that must be validated prior to the discussion on the topic. Credibility vested in strength of ground, clarity of links to ground, and limiting of discussion as defined by ground. Encourages creativity within bounds defined by ground.

Establish ethics a consequence of intellectual disciplines:

No intrinsic limit to speculation, acclaim being in saying first that which later emerges, and if it does not, then recognition in volume of output. Encourage quantity over quality.

Intrinsic enforcing of a cautious, building approach. First things first.

Enable multi-discipline judgements:

Not possible because contrary to core underlying premise, namely experts know best on topic. Will encourage proliferation of journals each seeking an ‘audience’ of initiates.

Any reasonably informed editor able to asses congruence of ground and topic and whether the discussion has reached too far beyond bounds determined by ground. Encourage professional editors.

Transparent science:

Initiated talking to initiated; will tend toward complex language that is effectively the jargon of the initiated. Emphasis on style, not on conceptual clarity.

Enforcing of clarity of conceptual structure; language to carry concepts, irrelevant in and of itself. Encourage moderation of jargon in search for transparency and conceptual clarity.

Comparison of this paper and original Sokal paper against the two standards

This paper.

Peer review

Strategic and conceptual clarity

·          Not consistent with commonly held views on many aspects.

·          Limited attempt at scholarship.

·          Destructive of much high profile work.

·          Language overly simple, implied amateur.

·          Ideas differing from many common views.

·          But, high level of congruence in overall intellectual construction.

·          Very high coherence.

·          Many comments on high profile work merely summarize what others have said. Here, point made; used to illustrate process and intellectual structure.

·          Highly transparent.

·          Comments limited firmly by ground.

·          Highly original work.

·          Offering result from within new paradigm, but nonetheless with clarity and congruence able to be extended forward to grapple with and deal to issues not otherwise easily dealt to.



Accepted. Support to refine style and tighten


Original Sokal paper

Peer review

Strategic and conceptual clarity

·          Fully consistent with style and expectations of editors.

·          Extensive scholarship.

·          Progressive of ideas and direction sought.

·          Language complex but authoritative, supported by credentials of author.

·          Non-existent link to ground. 

·          Discussion significantly over reaches any reasonable assessment of ground, becoming fully speculative.

·          Limited conceptual transparency, hard to see what exactly is being offered that adds to human wisdom.





Notes on the process of judgment using the rigorous standard of strategic and conceptual transparency

The process of judging work in intellectual endeavors is precisely akin to business processes in a firm and can be approached on same basis. The goal is agreed, to identify and support publication of work of intellectual merit that adds to the accumulation of human wisdom and understanding. Ancillary goals could be put as follows.

  • To ensure intellectual work does not push beyond that which can be claimed in relation to the prior issues. For example, quantum mechanics extended Newtonian mechanics but did not speculate beyond the ground determined by Newton mechanics.
  • To support publication of work with the implicit degree of coherence regardless of whether or not current editors may personally approve of issues within the work.
  • To consolidate social respect for science and for rational thought by ensuring the ethics implicit in the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency are enacted fully in regard to every published work.

The standard if adopted does intrinsically lean to full-time professional editors, not part time academics sitting on judgment of work of peers. A trained and informed person can ‘see’ congruence, coherence, transparency, and clarity in work, one does not need to be a specialist, in fact being a specialist as pointed out, is a disadvantage in assessing work. Rather than needing specialists in judging work it really needs generalists who are able to ‘see’ how items and issues from other disciplines in fact bear to the discussion of the topic. Generalists ‘see’ the overall range of ground implicated with the topic and where appropriate guide authors in reconsideration of their ideas. Scholarship and referencing is deemphasized because it guarantees nothing in terms of intellectual quality. There are two purposes (1) to ensure ground and core issues relative to the topic are covered, (2) to ensure that critical ideas and comment of others is given weight and appropriate recognition (avoidance of plagiarism). Beyond these definite contributions, scholarship is seen as no more than historical catalogue of comment, a filing cabinet of historical effort. The emphasis and thrust in this standard of strategic and conceptual clarity is on solving issues, with the standard forcing focus back onto unresolved issues crucial to the topic, and necessarily requiring resolution prior to moving onto discussion of the topic. Using the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual clarity it is not possible to step past unsolved issues and pretend we can talk meaningfully about something dependent on the issues we have ignored.

The questions able to be used in judging a work would include the following.

ü       Have all issues of ground been identified?

ü       What issues of ground are core, and what are peripheral?

ü       Have the solutions of all core issues of ground been defined and stated?

ü       Are the solutions to issues of ground agreed and secure?

ü       Are there new solutions being offered? Are the new solutions themselves rooted in clearly defined ground and those solutions congruent with their own ground? (Relates to assessment of potential new paradigm.)

ü       Which issues of ground have limited understanding? Which issues of ground have unclear or imprecise solutions? Which issues of ground have no agreed solutions or contentious solutions? To what degree do these issues act as a veto on the range of discussion available on the topic?

ü       Are there issues of ground involving ‘interpretation’? (Quantum mechanics, for example.) To what extent is the discussion of the topic dependent on this interpretation? What qualifications must then be placed on the discussion so it is offered within a tighter strategic science framework?

I do not claim this a complete list of issues and questions, but do think it sketches the manner of the process for making a judgment. The standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual clarity also encourages editors to support publication of good ideas that is ideas meeting the standard. Whether the editor receive the application hand written in pencil on toilet paper, from a peasant in Timbuktu, Bosnia or from a miner in Runanga is irrelevant, does it meet the standard, is it useful and sound thinking, if so, then let’s help get it published as a contribution to the advancement of human wisdom.

Concluding comment on some consequences of the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency

Currently, promoting new paradigms (using the term in the manner of Kuhn), new ways of seeing things, and developing and offering new conceptual structures is very difficult. Peer review blocks such efforts largely enforcing a status quo, with social standing and money all flowing from the structure, so much vested interest involved. Here science as an ideal collides with human frailties of power, influence, prestige and money. All this is well known and understood, even if it is not often addressed as a serious ethical issue for world science.

The standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency offers some solution, it does not rest on prior views, it does not require a work to fit with what editors think, it demands judgment of the coherence of the work, so if a new paradigm is on offer, it requires that paradigm to consolidate its ground, and to build from that ground ensuring supporting evidence at every step, and that the topic when finally reached, exhibits tight congruence with every issue of ground which itself is fully developed and consistent with evidence and argument. New paradigms are encouraged and supported, but the author must have done the work, all necessary work from the ground up!

Within this view science emerges not as some monolithic structure but as a multifaceted endeavor driven by people with vision. There is a Reality, beyond sense and perception, and we can know it, but never quite, but we can know it better than we do now. Hence science, the endeavor to achieve the additional insight and understanding that takes us that step closer to a goal we can never achieve. Wisdom understands the more you learn the less you know you know.

Science parallels business, the entrepreneur sees economic opportunity, and pursues it. Success is the fulfilling of the vision. All science has a collective vision of achieving greater wisdom and clarity on the regularities of Reality. The scientist-entrepreneur sees the new route to the goal; they have not a vision of an end as in business, but of path and process as in a new paradigm. Must all science necessarily follow the same paradigm? For science is there but only one-way to skin the cat?

I hasten to add that this is not ‘relative science’. I do not think there are multiple Realities, although I do think we can know it differently and in different ways, but all must reconcile to the singular, or to whatever the end may be. There is only one end point to which humanity can only strive but never reach because we can only know it through the glass of our knowledge, we cannot know Reality directly, ever. So even should we attain ultimate insight, we could not know it so, and such a position would violate wisdom’s understanding, and frankly I believe more in limiting faith in my wisdom than allowing arrogance of any belief in ultimate knowledge. In these comments we see where science needs moderated by moral and ethical choices of spirit extending far beyond what is only science.

Multiple paths to the end we can never reach. Science entrepreneurs pursuing personal visions doing the work to validate their paradigms and gaining followers supportive of their path. And who prior is to say they are wrong? Provided the ground well developed, consistent, supported by evidence, not falsified by any observation, coherent in argument, extending beyond limits of what is, addressing problems not easily addressed from within current positions and paradigms, and offering the goal of greater insight and understanding of Reality then the standard of rigorous strategic and conceptual transparency supports such efforts, and rewards the scientist-entrepreneur with recognition and publication.

Multiple science, multiple paradigms pursued as paths to glory, while serving the greater goal of increased wisdom and understanding: A deconstructed image of science paralleling multiple entrepreneurs pursuing their own goals of wealth and so doing making the economy wealthy. Free science, free all creativity, but creativity bounded by an intense demand for strategic and conceptual clarity and coherence. -End-