we are what we do; aren't we?
By ColmSmyth on Oct 12, 2004
Oh you're reading this on http://planetsun.org/ and you don't want to lose track of where you are?, Ok, rest easy gentle reader - here's my contributed bit of random-ness...
In response to "The Self As Agent", I can only say that a quantum level, all matter and energy "acts" (or "is an agent")!
From a certain black-box perspective, I agree that we are what we do (existence = actions).
However, I don't believe that action is inevitable or happens "at all costs" in groups; there is clear evidence to the contrary (e.g. the bystander effect, or the paralysis of commitees). Centrality (alignment) of action is desirable to achieve synergy, but it is also not inevitable. It is also questionable if action is inevitable in individuals (is vegetating in front of a TV to be considered action?)
I believe this points to a limitation in using "action" as the unit of analysis; it is essential to look one step back to \*goals\*, and even further back to \*plans\*. The challenge of a group is to construct plans that meet the goals of its members, and to facilitate those individuals to perform appropriate actions. The consideration of \*goals\* explains why we perform actions; we can also determine if they were actually appropriate or sufficient by looking at goals and comparing them to \*results\*.
Sensible individuals gravitate towards organisations that can encompass or align with their personal goals; however there are plenty of frustrated people, so this is also not inevitable (either due to misalignment of goals, or lack of pragmatism).
When we consider organisations as complex as a large company, we must define broader goals which are usually called \*objectives\*, and even further back to \*strategy\* (if the company is prudent, it will consider not merely the sum of it's individuals' goals, but the goals and results required by customers ;)
While action is the immediate result of existence (and at a certain level, even inaction is action - it takes energy to stay still), I believe that goals are a more useful measure of identity (which is for me the central question of human \*existence\*) in individuals, and strategy is the best measure for companies. Goals are also amenable to black-box analysis, provided we are willing to ask people questions and believe the answers ;)
And more important than actions, results are the ultimate measure of our existence; cause and effect, with causes spiralling backward to the big bang, and effects to... who knows ;)