Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller: My Mental Autobiography

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Chapter 1: Unconditioned Thinking

  • What I thought we really ought to be doing was saying what does my experience teach me needs to be done that nobody’s attending to?
  • So I thought I would have to do everything I could to uncondition myself from anything I learned to believe, and go totally on what I had learned by experience. My thinking must always be experience.

Chapter 2: Process to Find Purpose

  • You’ll find out in due course whether if what you’re doing is what you should be doing, because you’ll find yourself surviving by what seems to be pure accident, absolute pure accident. No direct connection whatsoever.

Chapter 3: Future Thinking

  • I saw one thing that individuals can do right away and do it fast is think. A bureaucrat just isn’t allowed to think. You’re not going to be able to make a difference involved with that. Most of the thinking immediately involves you in seeing things that need to be donethat are going to take 45 years, 50 years, maybe 100 years. No corporation or political system will have the time horizon in view. They can’t afford it, the payoff isn’t there. I found society really tied up with very shortsighted way, with this year’s profit, this year’s crop, this year’s politics, next election.

Chapter 4: Evolutionary Tranformations

  • The mechanism was the ability to commit yourself to think about what needs to be thought about, whatever the size of the thing. Not worrying about time, not worrying about how you’re going to pay for things. But to really commit yourself, you must work very hard at it. You must do everything possible that is intelligent.
  • Another thing I decided was to never ask anybody to listen to me. I woudl only talk to human beings when they ask me to talk to them. I’m still very, very strict about this. I’m confident that people are not listening when you ask them to listen to you. They ony listen to you when they ask you to talk to them.
  • I must go into physical actions, and not just give my idea to somebody else to execute, or try to persuade other people.
  • I’m talking about an environmental alteration, rather than trying to reform human beings.
  • Environment to each must be, all there is that isn’t me. Universe in turn must be, all there is that isn’t me, and me.
  • I saw we were all processes. Whether we like it or not, we are chemical processes. A great deal of our time is preoccupied in attending to those processes. Anything I might do to accommodate your processes in less time would give you more time to really live. If I could cut down the numbers of hours and minutes that anybody else has to put into taking care of a chore, then that woudl allow them to have more time to pursue their own direction.

Chapter 5: Ordering Experience


Chapter 6: Results

  • One of the most important things to bear in mind is that there’s nothing one can budget. You can’t say I’m going to be able to afford to do that at all. You just have to say, what needs to be done and what do you need to know in order to be able to do it completely?

The Measurement of Value

by Robert S. Hartman

Research Professor in Philosophy. National University of Mexico & Chair of Excellence, Department of Philosophy, University of Tennessee

Originally prepared for the Director of Personnel at General Electric, Crotonville, New York April 29, 1959

A Short Introduction to Axiology


The subject of this short presentation will be “The Measurement of Intangibles.”

What are intangibles and how can they be measured?

The important choices we have to make in life and, I believe, in business, are based on intangibles.

Think, for example, of the choice of your wife. How in the world do you choose her? What do you have to go by? You know very well that if you would have a list of specifications of wives and you would carry that along when you were looking for girls and you would find one with all the specifications, then you wouldn’t marry her because you wouldn’t like her. There have been cases like this.

What is it then, that you base your choice upon? It is an intangible.

In business, suppose you have to choose a labourer. There isn’t much difficulty in doing that because you can put down in writing the specifications of that job and if he can raise a hammer and carry a heavy load than he will be a good labourer.

But how do you choose the president of a company? What specifications can you write down for the president of a company like General Electric who has to make decisions of hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of hundreds of thousands of employees?

How about the choice of the President of the United States? Why did you vote for Eisenhower instead of Stevenson or for Stevenson instead of Eisenhower? What did you go by? Why did they vote for Truman as against Dewey? I bet many did because Dewey had a moustache.


So, what are these tremendously important choices based upon? Can the intangibles be measured? You will say, “of course not, it is impossible, it can’t be done.”

Well, I agree up to a point – because the science of measuring those intangibles is in its infancy. But I want to remind you that also in the natural sciences, where you have the precision measurements on which General Electric is based, there was a time when all these ‘tangibles’, as you might call them, of measurement today, were absolutely intangible.

That was before Galileo had invented the marvellous application of mathematics to nature. For us today, it seems absolutely natural, a tangible thing, that if you go a hundred miles in two hours you have a speed of fifty miles per hour.

But for Galileo to produce the equation v = s/t was a tremendous achievement, and of such importance that it actually destroyed the medieval world. And, as you know, it almost killed him.

Why? Because he did something tremendous. He made the intangible tangible – and he did it in such a way that those who liked the intangibles more that the tangibles didn’t like it. What was the intangible that he made tangible?

Before Galileo, motion or movement was defined by Aristotle, in his Physics, as ‘the transition of potentiality into actuality.’

This was the Aristotelian definition of movement of things, of animals, of the soul, of God, of the limbs of the human body, and so on. This was called Natural Philosophy and on this you could not have built General Electric.

So Galileo did something absolutely unique and at that time unheard of.

First of all, he said, “I am only interested in the motion of objects,” – mechanical motion as we call it today. Therewith he toppled the whole Aristotelian world picture; he “secularized” movement.

Secondly he said, “I will measure such motion with measuring instruments,” and therewith he toppled the metaphysical view of the world. Since ‘falling’ was too fast to measure, he put balls on inclined planes, designed a water clock and measured, and the result was the little formula, that “v” equals the mathematical division between space and time, v = s/t.

Then he said the following.

“If this formula is correct according to my measurements, then I don’t have to look at observations of mechanical motion any more at all. All I have to do is look at what this equation means.

And what does it mean? For example, it means that vt = s.

If this is true, then it is also true that s is a rectangle with the sides v and t.

If this is true, I will try to see what are the properties of this rectangle and that, then, will give me the space of motion.”

And when you opened Galileo’s great book, Two New Sciences (1638), all you find is drawings of rectangles, triangles, and so on and, as you know, he said, “The book of nature is written in rectangles and triangles, in geometrical symbols,” and this is the beginning of modern science.

Now, this was the development from natural philosophy to natural science, and on this little formula is based the whole of modern science. It formulates uniform motion, then came the formula for accelerated motion, a = ½ gt2 , then the system of Newton, combining Galileo’s and Kepler’s formulae, the system of Einstein, and the atomic bomb. All this was based on the break by Galileo with Aristotelian physics. The book called Physics by Aristotle contained intangibles which Galileo
made tangible.


Aristotle also wrote a book called Ethics – the Nicomachean Ethics (his son was Nicomachos). Today when we teach ethics we teach the ethics of Aristotle and similar moral philosophies. Thus today we combine Einsteinian physics with Aristotelian ethics.

We have a disequilibrium of tremendous proportions: technological development in natural science and absolute stand-still in moral philosophy. We are morally at the stage of Aristotle.

Some of us philosophers, when we were students, thought that this situation was rather lopsided and that we must do to Aristotle’s Ethics what Galileo had done to Aristotle’s Physics.

We had to take the philosophical definition of goodness of Aristotle (and, by the way, “transition from potentiality to actuality” may also be regarded as an Aristotelian definition of value – it means just as little or as much for value as it does for motion) and we had to change it into something that meant as much for value as the Galilean definition for motion.

So our task, we figured, was to find an exact definition of value, of goodness in terms of either a mathematical or logical relation which would be as applicable and as developable as the Galilean definition of motion. This definition was finally found and I will in the time I have, give you the principles of it. We are today in the rudimentary beginnings of a science of value, you might say the first ten years of Galileo. If you remember how long it took to go from Galileo to General Electric,
then you will understand the tremendous development that is ahead in the science of value.


Now, what is a science? A science is nothing but the application of a formal frame of reference to a chaos of phenomena. In other words, you have the chaos of moving things. Aristotle tried to order this by words like “potentiality,” “actuality,” and the like, but these words themselves are disorder. For what is potentiality?

If you want to define it you have to define it by words, these words have to be defined, and the definitions defined, and the definitions of the definitions defined, and so on ad infinitum. Such a nest of definitions within definitions itself represents no order, or only a very rudimentary one.

However, if you take a system like mathematics – and the great achievement of Galileo was the line between the s and the t in the formula for velocity, v = s/t which represents the arithmetical division – then you are within a framework that is systematized and you can then apply this system to the chaos. You take points in the system and apply them to points in the chaos, and the order between points in the system is the order between the points in the chaos.

On this relationship between a formal system and phenomenal chaos is based all scientific definition. The minute a ray of light was defined as a straight line, the science of optics was born: the system of geometry could be used to account for rays of light, for “straight line” is a notion in the system in geometry.

Thus, a science is a combination of a formal system, whether it be mathematics in physics or theory of harmony in music or axiology in value, to a chaotic set of phenomena, be they natural phenomena or musical sounds or value situations.

So today we have the following view of science. You have the various natural sciences which are ordered by mathematics, namely physics, chemistry, astronomy, and so on, each applied to a set of natural situations. For example, a situation such as a cyclist cycling, is ordered by the science of physics which is ordered by mathematics and mathematics is itself ordered by logic; so that in the last instance the mechanical situation is ordered by logic. All natural science is, in the last instance, applied logic.


Now, we figured about twenty years ago, there are also value situations – such as I said before – choosing my wife, choosing the president of a company, or to give you another example, the flight of the airplane Enola Gay to Hiroshima. The pilot wrote in the log book the wind velocity, the weather and everything, at this exact minute we released the atomic bomb, angle so-and-so, weight so-andso, weather so-and-so, etc., all the details mechanically, aerodynamically, meteorologically, of the flight.

But at the end of these entries in the log book are these words, “My God, what have we done?” As you know, the pilot had to go under psychiatric care; he had such a tremendous guilt complex that he couldn’t hold a job, committed petty crimes, and so on.

Now everything in this log book entry up to these last words is natural science, mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry – but these last words, “My God, what have we done ?” – that is a moral question, something in the field of value. If we had value sciences, say, ethics, religion, aesthetics, and so on, all these value situations would be ordered by the corresponding sciences.

But if they are to be sciences then there must be a formal frame of reference which must order these sciences as mathematics orders the natural sciences; and this formal frame of reference is what we call formal axiology, from the Greek word “axios” meaning “valuable.”

This notion “formal axiology,” was already coined in the year 1903 by the German philosopher Husserl. Formal axiology must be a kind of logic just as mathematics is a kind of logic but it must be a different kind of logic; and what kind of logic, that was, was precisely the question.

So, what I want to develop for you very shortly, and only in principle, are the foundations of the science of formal axiology, as that science which does for value situations and value sciences what mathematics does for natural situations and natural sciences.


I shall now give you the definition of good or value, not in words which don’t mean anything and which the books are full of, like potentiality, actuality, or self-realization, purpose, pleasure, satisfaction, and the like. With these words you can’t do anything for they are themselves undefined. Rather, I will do it in terms of exact logical relations. Before I do that, we must be absolutely clear that what will be defined is good in the general sense and not in the moral sense. In other words, when I say -“He is a good murderer,” – I do not mean that morally. I mean he murders well. A murderer is good if he murders well but that does not mean that he is morally good; on the contrary he is morally bad.

If I say, “She’s a good girl,” I don’t mean it the way you hear it, because that is the moral use of goodness. I mean it in the way that she’s got everything that a girl has got to have, and that (allows for the fact that) she might, morally, be a bad girl. I mean axiological goodness. Or if I say, “The better your conscience the worse it is,” then you have both uses in one sentence. The axiologically good conscience is a sensitive conscience. If you have a sensitive conscience then, of course, it will be a bad conscience morally more often than when you have an axiologically bad conscience which is an insensitive conscience. So, an axiologically good conscience will be often a morally bad conscience because it’s sensitive, and an axiologically bad conscience will be more often a morally good conscience because it’s insensitive. We have two levels of language here which must not be mixed up. Their mixing up has been the curse of ethics for two thousand years, although Plato already made the distinction crystal-clear; but Aristotle messed it all up.


Now then, let us define goodness axiologically. In that same year 1903 there was an English philosopher by the name of G. E. Moore, from whom stems the whole development that I’m explaining to you. After much reflection Moore wrote a book called Principia Ethica, the title patterned after Newton’s Principia Mathematica Philosophae Naturalis, The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.

Moore wrote Principia Ethica as the preface to any future ethics that pretends to be scientific. However he didn’t get very far in founding the science of Ethics. The gist of the book is that there is good and that it is indefinable. The book, therefore, is very short. Yet, what it says is fundamental, namely;

  1. There is good and good is not anything else but good, nothing like satisfaction, pleasure, and so on; and
  2. But nobody can possibly know what it is.

Then Moore goes back into the history of ethics and shows how everybody had messed things up, mixing up goodness itself with things that are good, starting from Aristotle up to Moore – and he’s right.

When we were students we thought that that was an awful situation. What is goodness is not definable, and what is definable is not goodness. What we had to find then, was Goodness which is definable. G. E. Moore himself gave us some help. In 1922 he came up with a kind of definition and in 1943 with a little more of it, the gist of it all being as follows:

“Two things are true of goodness;

    1. It is not a natural property and
    2. Although it is not a natural property it depends entirely upon the natural properties of the thing that is said to be good.”

Let me explain this, “Good is not a natural property.” A natural property is a property of the senses which describes a thing. This desk here is brown, high, with a microphone, and so on. These are the sense properties of this desk and they describe it. Now, says Moore, “Good is not a natural property.”

Let’s take a chair. A chair is a knee-high structure with a seat and a back. These are the natural properties of the chair which describe it and which you learn as a kid. Good, according to Moore, is also a property of the chair, but isn’t any of these (natural properties). It’s a value property. “And if only I knew”, he said, “how this value property depends upon all those natural properties then I would know what is goodness.”

Well, we produced this definition, in a very simple way. But first let me illustrate what Moore said with another example. Let’s say that I have my automobile standing out there on the parking lot and I forgot my key, and I say to one of you, “Pray be kind enough and go outside and get me the key out of the car.” And you say, “Which car is it ?” and I say “Oh, it’s a good car.” Will you ever find it ? You won’t. Good is not a natural property.

When I say, “It is a good car,” I have not described the car. You don’t know whether it’s a Ford, Oldsmobile, Chevy, how many doors, what {kind of} tires, you know nothing of the car. You don’t know the natural properties. Yet, you do know a great deal about the car, you know it’s a good car.

What does that mean ? It does have tires; it does have a motor; it does have a door; and when you push the accelerator it will accelerate; when you push the brake it will brake, and not the other way around, all that you know just by my saying, “It’s a good car” – and yet you know nothing of the car itself.

Now, there’s the clue. What we did was a very simple thing. For Moore, there was no relation between descriptive properties and value properties. We put in a relation.

What we did was this: “A thing is good if it has all its descriptive properties.” [all of the attributes of the fully defined concept]

This is the fundamental definition of value of formal axiology.

It is both simple and obvious. Take anything that you call good, and you will see that you call it good because it has all its properties. This is a good chalk because it writes and it has all the other properties of chalk. Anything that you know has all its properties you may call good. From this definition, follows the system of axiology, for it is a logical definition of value, and logic is a system.

It means that the measurement of value is the concept of the thing in question. This concept you have in your mind.

We are now getting close to the measurement of intangibles.


Goodness is an intangible. It’s none of the descriptive properties that you can see or hear or smell or taste, yet you can measure it with absolute precision. The measure is no more tangible than is mathematics. It’s the concept of the thing that you learn by learning language. In other words, language itself has within it the measurement of value, it is value measurement. Let us see what this means.

Let’s take that chair again. The concept “chair” is in quotes, the actual chair is standing there. The concept chair is not a chair. The concept is in the dictionary, you look it up if you don’t know it. So the concept chair has one, two, three, four properties – “knee-high,” “structure,” “a seat,” and “a back.”

The set of these properties is called the intension or meaning of the concept and the set of chairs that are, have been, or will be, is called the extension or class of the concept. The concept chair, then, looks logically as follows:

You learn the intension or meaning of the concept as a kid. How? By asking mother. What’s this? A Chair. What’s this? A girl. What’s this? A mirror. My little boy, when he came to the ocean first, looked in and said, “Daddy, mirror!” I said, “No. This mirror is liquid.” I added another property. I said, “Such a liquid mirror is called water.” So you learn the words of the language, learning their meaning as a set of properties, and this set of properties is the measurement of value for the things named.

Those of you who have read the autobiography of Helen Keller will remember the tremendous excitement of a child on learning names, when her tutor Miss Robinson spelled into her hand the word W-A-T-E-R. The excitement is not only because the name names, but also because it values.

A good chair, then, has all the properties you learn chairs have. It is a knee-high structure with a seat and a back. Now if a chair is nothing but a back it’s a pretty poor chair. It’s a good back but a bad chair. There you have another little beautiful thing of our simple definition. Anything which is good if it has the totality of its properties is not good when it has less than the totality of its properties.

But it is also true that any set of properties can be looked at in terms of some concept. Take any set of properties and you can always find a concept for them.

So that a bad chair with legs and a seat but no back is a good stool – because it fulfils the properties of the stool, and a bad house is a good ruin, and a bad car is a good jalopy.

Here you have the difference between the pessimist and the optimist. The pessimist always finds the concept which is not fulfilled by the properties at hand, and the optimist always finds the concept which is fulfilled by the properties at hand. So the pessimist says, “I have a lousy car” and the optimist says, “I have a lovely jalopy.”

In other words, the famous saying that for the optimist the glass of water is half full and for the pessimist it is half empty, means in logical terms, that for the optimist the concept is half full and for the pessimist it is half empty.


Now, let us look at the definition of value in greater detail. The measure of value of a thing, we said, is the set of properties which defines the thing. So let’s take our chair again, one, two, three, four properties, “knee high,” “structure,” “a seat,” and “a back.”

If it is not knee-high it is not a very good chair. If it is not a structure but wobbles it is not a good chair but it’s a good contraption for circus acrobats. If it has no seat it’s not a good chair and if it has no back it is not a good chair either. Thus, if a particular thing is what it is named to be, for example something called a “chair,” then we call it a good such thing. If this thing here having all the chair properties would be an elephant then it would be a monstrosity.

This is the definition of being not good or of disvalue – transposition of frames of reference.

Let us now use the concept as measure. If the thing has all the conceptual, or intensional, properties, we call it good.

Let us say that the number of properties contained in any conceptual intension is P, whatever that may be. A good chair, or a good anything, has P properties.

If it has half the properties it is a so-so or average thing and has P/2 properties. If it has more than half the properties it is a fair thing and has P/2 + m properties, where m is less than P/2, m < P/2.

In other words, in the case of the chair, m would be less than P/2, and since P = 4, P/2 is 2 and less than that is 1. The chair would be fair if it had P/2 + m = 2 + 1 = 3 properties. In other cases, of course, fair would be something else. Bad is less than half, P/2 – m, in the case of the chair only one property; it would be pretty bad. In sum, the four values of a thing, goodness, fairness, averageness, and badness, can be measured as follows, using the example where P = 4:

All this is extremely simple. But now look what’s happening. Let us put a girl on the chair so we get some differences of opinion, for if four people look at a chair it is difficult to get real differences of opinion. There she is sitting with four fellows sitting around her. One says, “Boy, that’s a girl!” What does he mean? She’s got all the girl properties; she is P. Another says, “Aw, I don’t think she’s so hot.” What does he mean? Well, she’s so-so, not so hot, not so bad either. He says she’s P/2. The other says, “I think she’s pretty good.” She’s P/2 + m. The fourth says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think she’s awful.” She’s still a girl, but she doesn’t have much of girl qualities. He doesn’t mean to say she’s a bad girl, that wouldn’t be so bad maybe. No, to him she’s P/2 – m.

Now, my question is, what is the value of the situation of the fellows saying this about the girl? Or, what is the value of the girl in the situation with these fellows? What does what they say add up to? Very simple. The one said P, the other P/2, the third P/2 + m, the fourth P/2 – m. So let us add up what they say (P) + (P/2) + (P/2 + m) + (P/2 – m). The result is 2 1/2 P.

This is a peculiar result. Remember, P is the totality of all her qualities. Does she then have more qualities than she has? Indeed she does. And this is the core definition of value: valuation is a play with pure properties.

You abstract from the thing itself and take the properties of the thing as a set with which you play around. Depending upon how you play, you call the thing good, bad, indifferent, and so on.

In other words, fact is only one of the sets of properties that a thing has, and it is that set upon which people most readily agree. This is a desk because it has all the desk properties. We all agree on that. However, when it comes to valuation, you abstract from that factual set and just take the properties of the thing by themselves, playing around with them, arranging and rearranging them in your imagination.

Evaluation is an imaginative play with properties and not looking at the thing itself. And fact itself is only one set of the thing’s properties. This means that valuation is a function of the imagination. You have the capacity of valuation in the degree that you have imagination.

If you lack imagination you will see only facts, like the dejected fellow in the Thurber cartoon about whom the ladies gossip, “He doesn’t know anything except facts.” But facts, being themselves sets of properties, they are not factual at all.

To give you an example, one day I was sitting in my study, my wife came in the door and she kind of coiled back and said, “What’s going on, are you here?” I said, “Sure I am, here I am.” She said, “But the car isn’t in the garage.” I said, “What? It must be stolen!” We rushed to the garage and there big as daylight stood the car. She had been looking in the garage but had not seen it because she thought (imagined) I was out. We see what we conceive to be. Even fact is a part of what we have in our mind.

So, valuation is a play with pure properties; and axiology is the score of that play, just as music is a play with sounds and musical science is the score of that play.

Now, let us continue our play. I can do much more with the sets of girl properties or of chair properties or any other set of properties than merely add. I can subtract, multiply, divide, arrange and rearrange these sets in sub-sets, and the result of all this is value. Let us ask ourselves how many different values a thing can have.

Since the set of properties and each of the sub-sets of this set is a different value, and since according to a well-known formula, a set of P items has 2P – 1 sub-sets, a thing with P properties can have 2P – 1 sub-sets of properties. This number, then, 2P – 1 is the totality of different values which a thing can have.

Now, look what that means. Our chair, for example, has four properties, 24 – 1 = 15. A chair with four properties can have 15 different values. Why? Because it can have one value of goodness; there’s only one set of all properties. In combinational analysis 4C4 = 1. There are 6 ways in which the thing can have two properties,  because 4C2 = 6; hence there are 6 different ways in which the chair can be so-so; it can be knee-high and have a seat but wobble and have no back; it can have a seat and a back but not be knee-high and wobble, and so on. There are 4 ways in which the chair can be fair; and there are 4 ways in which it can be bad, for 4C1 = 4.  Thus, our chair can have one goodness, four fairnesses, six averagenesses, and four badnesses. In toto, a thing can have 2P – 1 values because every sub-set of properties is, by definition, a value.

Let us apply this now, say, to job evaluation. Suppose you have evaluated a job as so many properties, let’s say ten. Then in how many ways can the employee fulfil or not fulfil this job… in 210 – 1 = 1,023 ways. There are 1,023 ways in which the employee can perform or not perform one particular job which is defined by ten  properties.

To be exact, there is 1 way of good performance, 385 ways of fair performance, 252 ways of average performance, and 385 ways of bad performance. By dividing the possible number of performances through the possible total of all performances, we get the percentage of performance expectation: 0.098% for good, 37.64% for fair, 24.64% for average, and 37.64% for bad.

The difference between this theoretical expectation and the actual performance in your shop is an objective measure of your shop performance.

The calculus can, of course, also be applied to gauge the acceptance of your product. If the product, in the mind of the public, is determined by 10 properties, the theoretical expectation of evaluation of it are 210 = 1,024, adding one evaluation {equal to} zero; and there are 385 ways in which the product may appear fair or bad and 252 ways in which it may appear so-so. These ways may in turn be broken down; of the 385 ways in which the thing may appear fair, there are 10 ways in which 9
properties may be accepted, 45 ways in which 8 may be accepted, 120 in which 7 and 210 ways in which 6 properties may be accepted. The corresponding percentages of expectation are, respectively, 0.98, 4.4, 11.73, and 20.53. Again, the actual acceptance as against the possible acceptance is an objective measure of your product’s success.

Here already you have a calculus of value, measuring much that at present is intangible.


However, the calculus has much wider scope. The above application is valid only if properties can be enumerated. But how if they cannot, as in the case of the company president or my wife? Here, it seems, matters become really intangible. Yet, even these values can be made tangible, even they can be measured. Let us see how.

So far we have spoken only of one kind of concept, abstract concepts such as “chair” or “girl.” There are two other kinds of concepts which give rise to two other kinds of values. The three kinds of values are the dimensions of value.


Let us look first at the abstract concept again. Abstract concepts are concepts which are abstracted from the space-time empirical things. In other words, in the world we have all the chairs or girls or what-not and we abstract those properties which all these kinds of objects have in common. The result is the properties of the concept “chair,” “girl,” or “what-not” or “X”.

We had before my little boy who saw the ocean and thought it was a mirror. I had to tell him, “No, it’s liquid, and such a thing is called water or ocean.” I gave him a new concept.

Such concepts, abstracted from sense reality, have the following important characteristic: their properties are denumerable, or enumerable, one by one. For they have been abstracted one by one. You have to take common properties and you just have to learn one by one, one after another, all these properties. A set of items which can be identified one by one is mathematically called a denumerable set. The properties of an abstract concept, thus, are a denumerable set. If I couldn’t enumerate and thus identify them I would not know the thing. Denumerability is the essence of discursive knowledge. But, secondly, how many properties can I abstract that things have in common ? If I have a huge number of things they will have very many properties in common; if I have only two things I can abstract an almost infinite number of common properties. The range of the number of properties that can be abstracted, then, is between one and infinity. Or, the properties of an abstract concept are, at most, denumerably infinite. There is a mathematical sign for such an infinity which is the Hebrew A with a zero. This is mathematically as exact a symbol as any you know.

When an abstract concept is fulfilled or not fulfilled there appear degrees of valuation, goodness, badness, as we have seen. Such values are called extrinsic values because what is valued is not the thing itself but its belonging to a certain class. A good chair is good because it is a good member of the class of chairs.


The second kind of concept is constructions of the human mind – constructs. Have you ever wondered why there are no bad geometrical circles? Because the geometrical circle is defined with such precision in the system of geometry – as “plane closed curve equidistant from a centre” – that if a curve does not have all these properties and lacks just one of them it is not what it was defined to be. It’s not a bad circle; it’s not a circle.

Why aren’t there bad electrons? For the same reason. When a thing seems like an electron and lacks an electron property we cannot call it an electron; and the main endeavour of modern physics is to find out about these “bad” electrons and give them new names: positron, neutron, meson, and so on.

Why are there no bad square roots of minus one? For the same reason. Why is there equity in the law? Because even in the law there are such exact definitions that when a thing lacks a part of the definition it is not what it is defined to be, and in order to relieve the tension between the system and reality, jurists have invented equity and other institutions.

If the systemic rules remain unrelieved you have legal injustices, as in Menotti’s powerful opera The Counsel. Again, you have moral injustices if, for example, you define a human being by a system, say, the system of spectroscopy If you define a human as “white,” and all “non-white” as “non-human” you use a minimum of properties to define a very complex being. Such a definition is a transposition of frames of reference and hence, as we have seen, not good.

Constructs have the following characteristics:

The number of properties is finite. It is a minimum number of properties, say, n. A construct gives rise to only two values, either perfection or non-existence. There are no degrees such as good, bad, indifferent, and so on. This kind of value is called systemic value.

I can apply systemic value to anything, say, my wife, I look at her systemically when I see her as my housekeeper and get mad when the soup isn’t on the table or when she pushes the toothpaste from the top and I at the bottom. But that is not the right way of looking at my wife.

I also can look at my wife extrinsically as a member of the class of wives, compare her with other wives, and so on. But that’s not the right way either.


When I really think of my wife the way I should, she’s unique. The concept “my wife” is a singular concept. How many properties does she have? She has an infinity of properties and I cannot put my finger on any one of these properties. I see her, as the psychologists say, as a “gestalt” or as the mathematicians would say, as a “continuum.” I neither abstract from nor construct her. I live her life, identifying myself with her. She is an intrinsic value. Logically, this means that the properties she has are non-denumerably infinite, and the sign of this is Aleph1.

Let me explain this sign and then give you an example. When we come to transfinite numbers most peculiar things happen. If you take all the rational numbers to infinity you have the odd and even numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4… Now take only the odd numbers, 1, 3, 5, 7… How many odd numbers are there? Infinitely many. This means that there are as many odd numbers as there are odd and even numbers. How many even numbers are there? 2, 4, 6, 8… Again, infinitely many. There are as many even numbers as there are odd and even numbers. So the mathematical definition for a transfinite number is that the part equals the whole.

This is a most peculiar arithmetic, yet, it is as exact an arithmetic as any other arithmetic. Actually, it is much simpler than finite arithmetic. Suppose you deduct an infinity from an infinity, what is the result? Well, an infinity. Now add an infinity to an infinity – again an infinity. Whatever you do you always get an infinity: Aleph – Aleph = Aleph, Aleph + Aleph = Aleph, etc.

The most significant thing is that no subtraction is possible. The only thing that may significantly happen is rise to higher infinities, by exponentiation: Aleph0Alepho = Aleph1.

This is all we need as foundations of axiology. Let me summarize:

  1. Value is the degree in which a thing fulfils its concept.
  2. There are three kinds of concept: abstract, construct, and singular. Correspondingly, there are three kinds of value:
    1. Systemic value is the fulfilment of the construct
    2. Extrinsic value is the fulfilment of the abstract
    3. Intrinsic value is the fulfilment of the singular concept.

The difference between these concepts is that a construct is finite, the abstract is denumerably infinite, and the singular is non-denumerably infinite.

To wrap it all up in an example, let us take a student, say, of mathematics at MIT, John. He’s going on a vacation trip to Europe all alone and while he steps on board the Queen Mary he says to himself, “I’m going to have a good time.” While he thinks this, he has nothing on his mind but a mathematical curve, a kind of sinus curve, belonging to the concept “girl.” He does not think of any girl in particular but, so to speak, the principle of femininity. This is systemic valuation, construction in the mind. He sets up an ideal of some kind.

The next day out on board there’s a little party, quite formal as it is on these European ships. The boys line up on one side of the room, the girls on the other side. John is standing there and over there are samples of the class of girls, in space and time.

Now the concept has enriched itself and, by the way, you may also define valuation as enrichment of properties. The concept m = now is not just a mathematical curve but quite a bit more – the curve has been filled in. In looking over there he uses the concept in his mind, “girl,” with those new properties, to measure what is standing over there, the samples of the class – he weighs in his mind the members of the class in light of the concept – and the word axios is our word “axle,” namely the axle of a scale.

The process of weighing is reflected in his face. On one he says, “Uh uh” and on one “Mmmm” and on this one “Ah!” meaning P (all – so far) properties. So he walks over, asks her to dance, and the dancing itself, of course, is a continuation of the process of valuation, weighing what he has in his arms against what he has in his mind.

Well, let’s say he likes her; let’s call her Mary. They keep company and do have a wonderful time. Extrinsic valuation – she’s the best girl in the axiological sense.

One day before the ship arrives in Southampton there happens a most peculiar, and you might say irrational and intangible, thing were it not for axiology. He wakes up in the morning and suddenly thinks, “Mary – she’s not a girl at all; she’s the only girl in the world.” He knows very well there are one thousand million girls in the world and yet he knows with equal certainty that she’s the only girl in the world.

So, being a mathematician and very logical, he reasons, “If she’s the only girl in the world and I’m a man, and I have to live with a girl, then I have to live with her.” So he writes her a letter which starts as if he had read axiology. “My one and only.” Uniqueness! And the language of the letter is as foreign to mathematics as poetry. “My treasure,” “my world,” “the sun of my life,” and the like. And he adds a “P.S. If you don’t marry me, I’ll jump overboard.”

What has happened? Systemic, extrinsic, and now intrinsic valuation. In intrinsic valuation, since you do not abstract nor construct, how do you know it? By self-identification. He identifies himself with her. They marry and after three months or three years the process goes into reverse. He walks down Main Street and suddenly sees, “Ah, there are girls.” And then he compares Mary with them; extrinsic (comparative) valuation.

Then he goes home and there comes systemic valuation as his housekeeper, as I said before, the soup isn’t ready and she pushes the toothpaste at the wrong end and the linens are not washed (and there’s no milk in the fridge) and he gets mad. He shouts at her, “I’m working all day and the soup isn’t ready,” and she cries and she says, “Now you’re not nice to me,” and he looks at her and there she is again, the one and only girl in the world, and he goes over and says, “I’m so sorry, I  measured you systemically.” And she says, “Yes, you were very bad. I am unique. I am to be measured intrinsically. I am I.”

All right. This wraps up the thing. Now we come to a few applications.


The Axiological Nature of Man: Moral Goodness

The most important thing for all of us to determine: What is a human being? We define a human being as the only thing in the world that has its own definition of itself in itself. That chair over there doesn’t know it’s a chair, but I know that I am I. And no matter how people might look on Mars – they may look like chairs with four legs, who knows? But if they can say “I” and can reflect upon this, then they are human beings.

From this definition of a human being follows a far-reaching consequence. When I say, “I am I,” then I am thinking of myself, that is I think of Me. But I think Me, how about the I that thinks? Since it does the thinking it is not being thought. How can we think of the I that thinks Me? By making it a Me. So, let’s think of it. I think of Me thinking of Me. But now what about this new I? Well, let’s think of it. I think of Me thinking of Me thinking of Me. Again, there appears another I that cannot be
thought of and so on, ad infinitum. By the simple definition of a human being as self-reflective it appears as an infinity. I can never completely reach myself as  thinking.

The peculiar thing is that in one of the first mathematical treatises on infinity German mathematician Dedekind, 1887, used this example to prove the existence of infinite systems. The American philosopher Royce, twelve years later, turned around Dedekind’s proof in order to prove the infinity of the human being. The human being, axiologically, is an actual infinity. Moreover, he is a non-denumerable infinity: for what is true of I and Me is true of any thought I may have. If I think of this chair, I can think of my thinking this chair, and my thinking thinking this chair, and so on, ad infinitum. Each of my thoughts, thus, may be an infinity. If I can have a denumerable infinity of thoughts – as potentially I can – then the infinity of this infinity is non-denumerable, for Aleph0Alepho = Aleph1.

Since a non-denumerable infinity, by our definition, is intrinsic value, the human being is an intrinsic value. This is an objective definition of the worth of a human being. Depending on how I fulfil it in actuality, I am a good or not good human being.

If we now define moral good as the application of intrinsic value to humans, then the goodness in question is moral goodness.

Let us see what this means. Our definition of value was that a thing was good if it fulfils its definition. The definition of a human being is in himself. Hence, a human being is good when he fulfils his own definition of himself. What does this mean? It means that he is morally good if he is as he is. All the words of ethics mean this very same thing, this identification of myself with myself, being sincere, being honest, being genuine, being true to myself, having self-respect – these words mean that I am as I am, that I am myself. This seems to be a very simple thing and yet it’s the most difficult to achieve. For I can define myself in three ways; systemically, extrinsically, and intrinsically.

When I define myself systemically, I put up a system, I construct something as myself which I’m not at all. And you probably know some people in your acquaintance whose images of themselves are very different from everybody else’s images of them. They live a construct. Karen Homey and others call this the “self system.” It leads to neurotic breakdowns and similar sicknesses of the self for in the long run you can’t live another’s life or an imaginary construct. In the worst case, it leads to the

Also, a person can define himself extrinsically, as a member of some class. In our lives we are continuously in external situations, all kinds of situations, like now I am a speaker, then I’ll be a listener, then an eater, and so on. I am a father, I am a commuter, I am a Rotarian, etc. I’m in the millions of situations in my lifetime. But do these situations add up to myself?

Suppose I define myself as the best professor in the world. So what? I haven’t touched the core of myself, which would be my intrinsic definition of myself, not as this or that, doing this or that, but as the gestalt of my essential being, as simply who I am. Who am I ? I am this human on this planet Earth. I was born a naked baby and I have to die. That’s all. That’s the gist of being myself and being a professor or anything else for that matter is a different thing from being this human, born on this
planet Earth and having to die.

Any extrinsic definition of myself is really not the definition of myself. In order to make the definition of myself I must neither construct myself nor even abstract from myself, but simply BE, namely, identify myself, as we said before, with myself. And this is the most difficult and the most important task of our mortal life. It is very difficult simply to be, to be natural and not to pretend, nor be proud nor ashamed of this or that. Sometimes we reach this stage when we “get away from it all” on
vacations, to be alone with ourselves and to get acquainted with ourselves. To be moral is, so to speak, to bring the vacation spirit into our daily lives.

The moral, in this sense, appears whenever you cannot impress anyone either positively with your achievements or negatively with your failures. It is what makes children and dogs love you – if they do – and what makes your wife look at you when you are asleep.

Just to Be, in daily life, is highest maturity. Also it is very powerful for it brings into play the infinity of your intrinsic self. To scramble around in the treadmill of extrinsic value is not only immature, it is inefficient. It shuts up your infinite powers and lets them lie idle. It prevents you from really Living. It is not, however, immoral; it is amoral – neither moral nor immoral.

To be immoral is not-to-identify oneself to be insincere, dishonest, not true to oneself, to lack selfrespect – nor to identify oneself with any other human being, to be indifferent to human beings. Often, those indifferent to concrete human beings profess great concern for humanity in the abstract.

All this is illustrated by a wonderful story by Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych. Ivan Ilych is a judge in a provincial town in Russia whose whole ambition is to be a judge of the Supreme Court in Moscow. He finally reaches that ambition, his whole family moves to Moscow, they get a great big mansion, furniture and everything, and while he puts up the curtain he falls down the stepladder, breaks a rib, it goes into his liver and from that moment he dies.

The story is about the dying of Ivan Ilych. How trivial, how insignificant is the fact, that now {that} he is a judge of the Supreme Court, that death is upon him. All his family falls away from him, it takes too long for him to die, all his friends fall away from him and at the end the only friend he has is his menial servant, Gerasim, the butler’s assistant, a peasant lad, who makes him comfortable.

Here we have the transition from extrinsic to intrinsic self-definition.

Examples from Business

Now let’s turn to some examples from business. Take, for example, the idea of a worker. Systemically, a worker is a system of mathematical elements, as you have it in time and motion studies.

Extrinsically, a worker is a member of the class of workers or a member of the shop or some other function. This, of course, is a different view from that of time and motion studies. It leads to different kinds of compensation, such as incentives.

Intrinsically, a worker is a human being with infinite value, and this again leads to entirely different consequences in business actuality, e.g. to the partnership of worker and employer in profit sharing.

What is a salesman? Again, systemically, he may be a person who has learned a certain approach by rote, he makes that approach and he sells.

Extrinsically, he has been trained in analysis of situations, in psychology: the science of psychology is defined as extrinsic value applied to a human being. He analyses the situation as such and such a situation, and he sells.

But intrinsically, he goes in there and he uses no approach at all, he breaks all the rules and he runs away with the sales. His secret is that he identifies himself with the customer.

In one of the companies where we discussed this matter in detail we came to the conclusion that every single job except the most simple should be specified and evaluated in all three of the value categories.

Every single job can be both systemic, extrinsic, or intrinsic.

Let’s take the president of a company. If you have a company which is nothing but automation and there are people just pushing buttons, then the president of course can be systemically selected, for things here run by themselves like an elevator. All he has to do is to push the main button and, perhaps, to know why the thing works.

But if the company is defined in a different way, let us say in its function in society or as making the best product at the lowest price or, as some do in Europe, as making the worst product at the highest price, or by whatever other social or economic function, then you need a different kind of president.

He has to have the extrinsic view of situations; he has to be a master politician and manipulator. And if the company is as big as a country and has a tremendous number of people, then every decision is wrought with “intangibles,” with values, and the president should be one who, in addition to the other value dimensions, also knows intrinsic value and is a human being.

Take other examples. Think of the Hawthorne experiments. A group of girls was taken out of the factory and experimented upon.

They got better working conditions and productivity increased. They got worse working conditions and productivity increased. They got better lighting, productivity increased, they got worse lighting – productivity increased. They got rest periods, midmorning lunches, a shortened work week – productivity increased. They got no rest period, no midmorning lunches, a lengthened work week – productivity increased.

No matter what was done – productivity increased. Roethlisberger and Dickson shook their heads, and wondered what kind of logic was at work. Any particular thing we do, they concluded, is unimportant, the only important thing is the attention we give them and the cooperation they give us. And that was exactly right. What was mobilized was intrinsic valuation: “stores of latent energy and productive cooperation” were uncovered.

In intrinsic valuation, as I said before, the only thing that can happen is addition. Once these girls were given intrinsic human attention everything that happened was addition. The finite arithmetic of subtraction simply did not apply.

Again, take the case of profit-sharing companies. Some give away 50% of their profit (I am thinking of a foundry in Ohio) and you might think that the formula would be 100% – 50% =50%. But in that particular case the formula was 100% – 50% = 170%. Why ? Because, again, the human element was mobilized, productivity increased 40%, profit increased 340%, split 50/50, it was 170% for each.

Or take the example of rest periods. You want to put in a rest period of 20 minutes a day for your workers. Your time and motion engineers use their slide rules, “Twenty minutes a day less for 1,000 people is 20,000 minutes less a day, 100,000 minutes less a week, half a million minutes less work a month, you lose production.”

Well, suppose you have a common sense, or you have read Roethlisberger and Mayo, and you have stamina, you introduce the rest period anyway, and production increases, as you knew it would.

Again, what has happened? You went from extrinsic to intrinsic valuation, and finite arithmetic, the arithmetic of subtraction, passed out of the picture. I could cite many more examples if I had time.

An Example from War

Let me give you an example from war. When I was at one of the war research laboratories in the East they had the following very serious problem.

Suppose there was an enemy attack, and from the direction of the planes we know it can either go against the computer upon which the whole defence system of the area is based or against the city of Boston of a million people. We only have enough planes to protect one of them. Which one should we protect?

We discussed this for several hours, and the consensus was the following, based on value theory: War is a systemic thing. People don’t count in war, they are numbers.  Within the war system you must protect the computer. Of course, this is a highly immoral result but the war system is immoral; and if you want to be moral then you should not work at a war research laboratory or be a part of the war system.

An Example from Religion

This profile is not based on any religious principle. This example is simply meant to illustrate a concrete context in which to understand the ways in which the dimensions of thought can be applied.

When Peter asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, Jesus answered, “If I would not speak in parable nobody would understand me.” For – and this is the moral of the Parables – “Whosoever has, to him shall be given and he shall have more abundance and whosoever has not, from him shall be taken even that which he has” (Matthew 13:12).

Now, what in the world does this mean? It does not mean, of course, that the bankers will go to Heaven, and the beggars will go to Hell. These are called the Parables of the Kingdom. It means very simply, if you live in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the kingdom of intrinsic value or infinity, then since in infinity the only thing that can happen is addition, “to him who has will be given.”

Or as He said in another context, “It will be added unto you.” And he who has not or only lives in the material world from him shall be taken even that which he has because he can’t take it with him; when he dies it’s gone. A very simple solution of this difficult saying.

And so, the moral of all the parables is precisely this – infinity against finiteness. For example, the workers in the vineyard. They work all day in the hot sun, at ten minutes to six in come two loafers who work ten minutes in the shade. At six everybody lines up at the cashier’s window, everybody gets a dollar. Everybody gripes, saying, “The two loafers get a dollar!”

The master of the vineyard says, “What’s it to you, you got what you were promised. The first will be last, the last will be first. For many are called but few are chosen.” It is again very simple.

In the Kingdom of Infinity there is no space and time. If there is no space there can be no different pockets. If there are no different pockets what difference does it make where the dollar is? Because what one has all have and what one does not have nobody has. Again, the only thing that can happen is addition. In infinity every part equals the whole, hence is infinite.

Thus, those who are finite will become infinite when they enter the Kingdom of Heaven by faith in intrinsic value, the last will be first; but those who lose faith will become finite and lose their infinity, the first will be the last, the intrinsic becomes extrinsic: For many are called to live intrinsic value but few achieve it for good. If you re-read the Parables in this interpretation they will give you a great deal.

The Efficiency Of Value Theory

Let me close with an example that shows you the efficiency of this method. It is being taught at some colleges. What I am outlining for you here corresponds to over 100 college hours, so you can imagine how little I can actually give you. When I taught it at MIT the semester started in October and by Christmas we had gotten to intrinsic value. I asked the boys to write me a term paper over the vacation and analyse any situation or text they wanted in terms of axiology.

One of them, who was the editor of the school magazine, analysed his own articles – you can analyse with this method with great precision the value of words, a very nice thing, for example, for advertising – and found much more in them than he had ever thought he had put into them.

Another analysed a drama by T.S. Eliot. A third came to me just before we left for home and said, “Sir, I want you to know that the writing of this paper is the most important thing in my life.”

I said, “How do you mean?” He said, “You just wait until you get that paper.” So, after the vacation I got the paper. It was entitled “Homecoming of a Son,” and the story he told was this.

He was a very bright fellow, on a four-year scholarship at MIT, and his parents were Polish immigrants, working by the way in a GE lamp factory, and he was ashamed that they were just workers. Now, by learning value theory he knew very clearly what he had only known vaguely, that a person is what he is and it isn’t important what he does and that his parents were wonderful persons.

So he wanted to go home and tell them how he loved them. But how could he do that without showing them at the same time that he had never loved them before? The paper was the method he evolved to show them his love without showing them that he had never loved them before. He just produced one value situation after another and poured love into it. The whole household changed, laughter and happiness prevailed; it was an entirely new family.

I got this paper and it was a wonderful thing to read, a miracle consciously brought about. After about three weeks he comes into my office with a letter from his mother, and the mother writes, “John, this was a beautiful and strange vacation and Dad and I have been thinking about it and talking about it all this time and finally we have come to a conclusion. We want you to know our conclusion. It is that we have never loved you before.”

Now just imagine what happened here. Nobody talked to anybody and yet the logic of value worked itself out to such a degree that the parents were able to put into words, from their own side, what the boy had started out with in the first place.

This was a very small introduction to axiology. I do hope that in the sessions to follow we will be able to pull it all down into your everyday practice.

The Outsiders

This post is a direct copy, with apologies, from

Mainly because I don’t want it to be lost. Here is the original article:

The Outsiders © 1987 by Grady M. Towers

His name was William James Sidis, and his IQ was estimated at between 250 and 300 [8, p. 283]. At eighteen months he could read The New York Times, at two he taught himself Latin, at three he learned Greek. By the time he was an adult he could speak more than forty languages and dialects. He gained entrance to Harvard at eleven, and gave a lecture on four-dimensional bodies to the Harvard Mathematical Club his first year. He graduated cum laude at sixteen, and became the youngest professor in history. He deduced the possibility of black holes more than twenty years before Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar published An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure. His life held possibilities for achievement that few people can imagine. Of all the prodigies for which there are records, his was probably the most powerful intellect of all.

And yet it all came to nothing. He soon gave up his position as a professor, and for the rest of his life wandered from one menial job to another. His experiences as a child prodigy had proven so painful that he decided for the rest of his life to shun public exposure at all costs. Henceforth, he denied his gifts, refused to think about mathematics, and above all refused to perform as he had been made to do as a child. Instead, he devoted his intellect almost exclusively to the collection of streetcar transfers, and to the study of the history of his native Boston. He worked hard at becoming a normal human being, but never entirely succeeded. He found the concept of beauty, for example, to be completely incomprehensible, and the idea of sex repelled him. At fifteen he took a vow of celibacy, which he apparently kept for the remainder of his life, dying a virgin at the age of 46. He wore a vest summer and winter, and never learned to bathe regularly. A comment that Aldous Huxley once made about Sir Isaac Newton might equally have been said of Sidis.

For the price Newton had to pay for being a supreme intellect was that he was incapable of friendship, love, fatherhood, and many other desirable things. As a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb [5, p. 2222].

Photo of Lewis M.Terman, coordinator of the first longitudinal study of the gifted.

There was a time when all precocious children were thought to burn out the same way that Sidis did. The man most responsible for changing this belief was Lewis M. Terman. Between 1900 and 1920 he was able to carry out a study of about a hundred gifted children, and his observations convinced him that many of the traditional beliefs about the gifted were little more than superstitions. To confirm these observations, he obtained a grant from the Commonwealth Fund in 1922, and used it to sift a population of more than a quarter of a million children, selecting out all those with IQs above 140 for further study. That group has been monitored continuously ever since. Many of the previously held beliefs about the gifted did indeed turn out to be false. The gifted are not weak or sickly, and although the incidence of myopia is greater among them, they are generally thought to be better looking than their contemporaries: They are not nerds.

Nevertheless, in his rush to dispel the erroneous beliefs about the gifted, Terman sometimes made claims not supported by his own data. In fact, in some cases, the data suggests that exactly the opposite conclusion should have been drawn. Terman’s own data shows that there is a definite connection between measured intelligence and mental and social maladjustment. The consequences of misinterpreting these data are so grave that it will pay to re-examine them in some detail.

Terman’s longitudinal research on the gifted included a constant assessment of mental health and social adjustment. Subjects were classified into three categories: satisfactory adjustment, some maladjustment, and serious maladjustment. Terman defined these categories in the following way.

1. Satisfactory. Subjects classified in this category were essentially normal; i.e., their “desires, emotions, and interests were compatible with the social standards and pressures” of their group. Everyone, of course, has adjustment problems of one kind or another. Satisfactory adjustment as here defined does not mean perfect contentment and complete absence of problems, but rather the ability to cope adequately with difficulties in the personal make-up or in the subject’s environment. Worry and anxiety when warranted by the circumstances, or a tendency to be somewhat high strung or nervous–provided such a tendency did not constitute a definite personality problem–were allowed in this category.

2. Some maladjustment. Classified here were subjects with excessive feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, nervous fatigue, mild anxiety neurosis, and the like. The emotional conflicts, nervous tendencies and social maladjustments of these individuals, while they presented definite problems, were not beyond the ability of the individual to handle, and there was no marked interference with social or personal life or with achievement. Subjects whose behavior was noticeably odd or freakish, but without evidence of serious neurotic tendencies, were also classified in this category.

3. Serious maladjustment.
a.) Classified as 3a were subjects who had shown marked symptoms of anxiety, mental depression, personality maladjustment, or psychopathic personality. This classification also includes subjects who had suffered a “nervous breakdown” provided the condition was not severe enough to constitute a psychosis. Subjects with a previous history of serious maladjustment or nervous breakdown (without psychosis) were included here even though their adjustment at the time of rating may have been entirely satisfactory.
b.) Classified as 3b were those subjects who had at any time suffered a complete mental breakdown requiring hospitalization, whatever their condition at the time of rating. In the majority of cases the subjects were restored to reasonably good mental health after a brief period of hospital care [6, pp. 99-101].

In 1940, when the group was about 29 years of age, a large scale examination was carried out. Included in that examination was a high level test of verbal intelligence, designated at that time the Concept Mastery, but later re-named the Concept Mastery test form A. Terman found the following relationship between adjustment and verbal intelligence. (These are raw scores, not IQs.)


CMT-A [6, p. 115]



Satisfactory adjustment40795.230.934492.428.7
Some maladjustment91108.031.25998.625.4
Serious maladjustment18119.523.617108.627.1

The data show three things. First, that there is a definite trend for the maladjusted to make higher scores on the Concept Mastery test. Second, that women show symptoms of maladjustment at lower scores than men. And third, that 21 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women showed at least some form of maladjustment.

During 1950-52, when the group was approximately 41 years old, another examination was made using a new test, the Concept Mastery test form T. Test scores were again compared to assessments of adjustment. (CMT-T scores are not interchangeable with CMT-A scores. They have different means and standard deviations.)

CMT-T [7, p. 50]



Satisfactory adjustment391136.426.2303130.827.7
Some maladjustment120145.626.1117138.126.4
Serious maladjustment40152.823.833140.029.6

Similar conclusions can be drawn from these data as well. Again, there is a definite trend shown for the maladjusted to make higher scores than the satisfactorily adjusted. Again, women show symptoms of maladjustment at lower scores than men. But the most alarming thing of all is that the percentage of maladjustment shown for both sexes rose in the 12 years since the previous examination. The percentage of men showing maladjustment having risen from 21 percent to 29 percent, and the figure for women having risen from 18 percent to 33 percent! Nearly double what it was before!

How did Terman interpret these data? Terman states:

Although severe mental maladjustment is in general somewhat more common among subjects who score high on the Concept Mastery test, many of the most successful men of the entire group also scored high on this test [7, p. 50].

In other words, Terman deliberately tried to give the impression that the relationship between verbal intelligence and mental and social maladjustment was weak and unreliable. He did this by misdirection. He gave a truthful answer to an irrelevant question. Terman failed to realize that a small difference in means between two or more distributions can have a dramatic effect on the percentage of each group found at the tails of the distribution. The relevant questions should have been “what is the percentage of maladjustment found at different levels of ability, and does this show a trend?” Terman’s data can be used to find answers to these questions.

The method used to solve this problem is a relatively simple one but tedious in detail. (See appendix.) The results, however, are easy to understand. Using CMT-T scores for men as an illustration, and pooling the data for some maladjustment and serious maladjustment, the following percentages can be obtained.





< 97.8
97.8 – 117.1
117.1 – 136.4
136.4 – 155.7
155.7 – 175
> 175


By comparison, the Triple Nine Society averages 155.16 on the CMT-T, and the average score for Prometheus Society members is 169.95 [1, 2]. The implications are staggering, especially when it is realized that these percentages do not include women, who show more maladjustment at lower CMT-T scores than men do. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why super high IQ societies suffer so much from schisms and a tendency towards disintegration. In any event, one thing is certain. The currently accepted belief that verbal intelligence is unrelated to maladjustment is clearly a myth.

Nevertheless, while Terman’s data do provide a prima facie case for a connection between verbal intelligence and maladjustment, they fail to explain the causal mechanism involved. To obtain such insight requires close observation by a gifted observer. Fortunately, those insights are available to us in Leta S. Hollingworth’s book, Children above 180 IQ. Hollingworth not only observed her subjects as children, she also continued to maintain some contact with them after they had reached maturity. So although her book is ostensibly about children, it is in fact laced throughout by her observations on exceptionally gifted adults as well.

Before examining Hollingworth’s findings, however, it is necessary to explain how childhood IQs are related to adult mental ability. As a child ages, his IQ tends to regress to the mean of the population of which he is a member. This is partly due to the imperfect reliability of the test, and partly due to the uneven rate of maturation. The earlier the IQ is obtained, and the higher the score, the more the IQ can be expected to regress by the time the child becomes an adult. So although Hollingworth’s children were all selected to have IQs above 180, their adult status was not nearly so high. In fact, as adults, there’s good reason to believe that their abilities averaged only slightly above that of the average Triple Nine member. Evidence for this conjecture comes from the Terman research data. Terman observed the following relationship between childhood IQs on the Stanford-Binet and adult status on the Concept Mastery test form T.



> 17048155.8



The average childhood IQ score for those with childhood IQs above 170 was 177.7 for men, and 177.6 for women. That’s quite close to the 180 cutoff used by Leta Hollingworth in selecting her subjects. Note that Terman’s subjects who scored above 170 IQ as children averaged 155.8 on the CMT-T at age 41, a score quite close to the 155.16 made by the average Triple Nine member. Such a close match makes it reasonable to generalize Hollingworth’s findings to members of both the Triple Nine Society and the Prometheus Society.

Hollingworth identified a number of adjustment problems caused by school acceleration. As this is rarely practiced in today’s educational system, these are no longer problems and will not be discussed. There still remain, however, four adjustment problems that continue to perplex the gifted throughout their lives, two applying to all levels of giftedness, and two applying almost exclusively to the exceptionally gifted–i.e. those with childhood IQs above 170, or adult Concept Mastery test (T) scores above 155.

One of the problems faced by all gifted persons is learning to focus their efforts for prolonged periods of time. Since so much comes easily to them, they may never acquire the self-discipline necessary to use their gifts to the fullest. Hollingworth describes how the habit begins.

Where the gifted child drifts in the school unrecognized, working chronically below his capacity (even though young for his grade), he receives daily practice in habits of idleness and daydreaming. His abilities never receive the stimulus of genuine challenge, and the situation tends to form in him the expectation of an effortless existence [3, p. 258].

But if the “average” gifted child tends to acquire bad adjustment habits in the ordinary schoolroom, the exceptionally gifted have even more problems. Hollingworth continues:

Children with IQs up to 150 get along in the ordinary course of school life quite well, achieving excellent marks without serious effort. But children above this mental status become almost intolerably bored with school work if kept in lockstep with unselected pupils of their own age. Children who rise above 170 IQ are liable to regard school with indifference or with positive dislike, for they find nothing in the work to absorb their interest. This condition of affairs, coupled with the supervision of unseeing and unsympathetic teachers, has sometimes led even to truancy on the part of gifted children [3, p. 258].

A second adjustment problem faced by all gifted persons is due to their uncommon versatility. Hollingworth says:

Another problem of development with reference to occupation grows out of the versatility of these children. So far from being one-sided in ability and interest, they are typically capable of so many different kinds of success that they may have difficulty in confining themselves to a reasonable number of enterprises. Some of them are lost to usefulness through spreading their available time and energy over such a wide array of projects that nothing can be finished or done perfectly. After all, time and space are limited for the gifted as for others, and the life-span is probably not much longer for them than for others. A choice must be made among the numerous possibilities, since modern life calls for specialization [3, p. 259].

A third problem faced by the gifted is learning to suffer fools gladly. Hollingworth notes:

A lesson which many gifted persons never learn as long as they live is that human beings in general are inherently very different from themselves in thought, in action, in general intention, and in interests. Many a reformer has died at the hands of a mob which he was trying to improve in the belief that other human beings can and should enjoy what he enjoys. This is one of the most painful and difficult lessons that each gifted child must learn, if personal development is to proceed successfully. It is more necessary that this be learned than that any school subject be mastered. Failure to learn how to tolerate in a reasonable fashion the foolishness of others leads to bitterness, disillusionment, and misanthropy [3, p. 259].

The single greatest adjustment problem faced by the gifted, however, is their tendency to become isolated from the rest of humanity. This problem is especially acute among the exceptionally gifted. Hollingworth says:

This tendency to become isolated is one of the most important factors to be considered in guiding the development of personality in highly intelligent children, but it does not become a serious problem except at the very extreme degrees of intelligence. The majority of children between 130 and 150 find fairly easy adjustment, because neighborhoods and schools are selective, so that like-minded children tend to be located in the same schools and districts. Furthermore, the gifted child, being large and strong for his age, is acceptable to playmates a year or two older. Great difficulty arises only when a young child is above 160 IQ. At the extremely high levels of 180 or 190 IQ, the problem of friendships is difficult indeed, and the younger the person the more difficult it is. The trouble decreases with age because as persons become adult, they naturally seek and find on their own initiative groups who are like-minded, such as learned societies [3, p. 264].

Hollingworth points out that the exceptionally gifted do not deliberately choose isolation, but are forced into it against their wills.

These superior children are not unfriendly or ungregarious by nature. Typically they strive to play with others but their efforts are defeated by the difficulties of the case… Other children do not share their interests, their vocabulary, or their desire to organize activities. They try to reform their contemporaries but finally give up the struggle and play alone, since older children regard them as “babies,” and adults seldom play during hours when children are awake. As a result, forms of solitary play develop, and these, becoming fixed as habits, may explain the fact that many highly intellectual adults are shy, ungregarious, and unmindful of human relationships, or even misanthropic and uncomfortable in ordinary social intercourse [3, p. 262].

But if the exceptionally gifted is isolated from his contemporaries, the gulf between him and the adult authorities in his life is even deeper.

The very gifted child or adolescent, perceiving the illogical conduct of those in charge of his affairs, may turn rebellious against all authority and fall into a condition of negative suggestibility–a most unfortunate trend of personality, since the person is then unable to take a cooperative attitude toward authority. A person who is highly suggestible in a negative direction is as much in bondage to others around him as is the person who is positively suggestible. The social value of the person is seriously impaired in either case. The gifted are not likely to fall victims to positive suggestion but many of them develop negativism to a conspicuous degree [3, p 260].

Anyone reading the super high IQ journals is aware of the truth of this statement. Negative individuals abound in every high IQ society.

Hollingworth distilled her observations into two ideas that are among the most important ever discovered for the understanding of gifted behavior. The first is the concept of an optimum adjustment range. She says:

All things considered, the psychologist who has observed the development of gifted children over a long period of time from early childhood to maturity, evolves the idea that there is a certain restricted portion of the total range of intelligence which is most favorable to the development of successful and well-rounded personality in the world as it now exists. This limited range appears to be somewhere between 125 and 155 IQ. Children and adolescents in this area are enough more intelligent than the average to win the confidence of large numbers of their fellows, which brings about leadership, and to manage their own lives with superior efficiency. Moreover, there are enough of them to afford mutual esteem and understanding. But those of 170 IQ and beyond are too intelligent to be understood by the general run of persons with whom they make contact. They are too infrequent to find congenial companions. They have to contend with loneliness and personal isolation from their contemporaries throughout the period of their immaturity. To what extent these patterns become fixed, we cannot yet tell [3, p. 264].

Hollingworth’s second seminal idea is that of a “communication range.” She does not state this explicitly, but it can be inferred from some of her comments on leadership.

Observation shows that there is a direct ratio between the intelligence of the leader and that of the led. To be a leader of his contemporaries a child must be more intelligent but not too much more intelligent than those to be led… But generally speaking, a leadership pattern will not form–or it will break up–when a discrepancy of more than about 30 points of IQ comes to exist between leader and led [3, p. 287].

The implication is that there is a limit beyond which genuine communication between different levels of intelligence becomes impossible. To say that a child or an adult is intellectually isolated from his contemporaries is to say that everyone in his environment has an IQ at least 30 points different from his own. Knowing only a person’s IQ, then, is not enough to tell how well he’s likely to cope with his environment. Some knowledge of the intellectual level of his environment is also necessary.

If the optimum range of intelligence lies between 125 and 155 IQ, as Hollingworth suggests, then it follows that 155 can be thought of as a threshold separating an optimum adjustment zone below it from a suboptimum range above it. Other psychologists have also noticed how this score tends to divide people into two naturally occurring categories. Among these is one of the doyens of psychometrics, David Wechsler. He comments:

The topics of genius and degeneration are only special cases of the more general problem involved in the evaluation of human capacities, namely the quantitative versus qualitative. There are those who insist that all differences are qualitative, and those who with equal conviction maintain that they are exclusively quantitative. The true answer is that they are both. General intelligence, for example, is undoubtedly quantitative in the sense that it consists of varying amounts of the same basic stuff (e.g., mental energy) which can be expressed by continuous numerical measures like intelligence Quotients or Mental-Age scores, and these are as real as any physical measurements are. But it is equally certain that our description of the difference between a genius and an average person by a statement to the effect that he has an IQ greater by this or that amount, does not describe the difference between them as completely or in the same way as when we say that a mile is much longer than an inch. The genius (as regards intellectual ability) not only has an IQ of say 50 points more than the average person, but in virtue of this difference acquires seemingly new aspects (potentialities) or characteristics. These seemingly new aspects or characteristics, in their totality, are what go to make up the “qualitative” difference between them [9, p. 134].

Wechsler is saying quite plainly that those with IQs above 150 are different in kind from those below that level. He is saying that they are a different kind of mind, a different kind of human being.

This subjective impression of a difference in kind also appears to be fairly common among members of the super high IQ societies themselves. When Prometheus and Triple Nine members were asked if they perceived a categorical difference between those above this level and others, most said that they did, although they also said that they were reluctant to call the difference genius. When asked what it should be called, they produced a number of suggestions, sometimes esoteric, sometimes witty, and often remarkably vulgar. But one term was suggested independently again and again. Many thought that the most appropriate term for people like themselves was Outsider.

The feeling of estrangement, or at least detachment, from society at large is not merely subjective illusion. Society is not geared to deal effectively with the exceptionally gifted adult because almost nothing objective is known about him. It is a commonplace observation that no psychometric instrument can be validly used to evaluate a person unless others like him were included in the test’s norming sample. Yet those with IQs above 150 are so rare that few if any were ever included in the norming sample of any of the most commonly used tests, tests like the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, the Kuder Vocational Preference Record, the MMPI and so on. As a consequence, objective self-knowledge for the exceptionally gifted is nearly impossible to obtain. What he most needs to know is not how he differs from ordinary people–he is acutely aware of that–but how he is both like and unlike those of his own kind. The most commonly used tests can’t provide that knowledge, so he is forced to find out in more roundabout ways. It is his attempts to find answers to these questions that may explain the emergence of the super high IQ societies. Where else can he find peers against which to measure himself?

There appear to be three sorts of childhoods and three sorts of adult social adaptations made by the gifted. The first of these may be called the committed strategy. These individuals were born into upper middle class families, with gifted and well educated parents, and often with gifted siblings. They sometimes even had famous relatives. They attended prestigious colleges, became doctors, lawyers, professors, or joined some other prestigious occupation, and have friends with similar histories. They are the optimally adjusted. They are also the ones most likely to disbelieve that the exceptionally gifted can have serious adjustment problems.

The second kind of social adaptation may be called the marginal strategy. These individuals were typically born into a lower socio-economic class, without gifted parents, gifted siblings, or gifted friends. Often they did not go to college at all, but instead went right to work immediately after high school, or even before. And although they may superficially appear to have made a good adjustment to their work and friends, neither work nor friends can completely engage their attention. They hunger for more intellectual challenge and more real companionship than their social environment can supply. So they resort to leading a double life. They compartmentalize their life into a public sphere and a private sphere. In public they go through the motions of fulfilling their social roles, whatever they are, but in private they pursue goals of their own. They are often omnivorous readers, and sometimes unusually expert amateurs in specialized subjects. The double life strategy might even be called the genius ploy, as many geniuses in history have worked at menial tasks in order to free themselves for more important work. Socrates, you will remember was a stone mason, Spinoza was a lens grinder, and even Jesus was a carpenter. The exceptionally gifted adult who works as a parking lot attendant while creating new mathematics has adopted an honored way of life and deserves respect for his courage, not criticism for failing to live up to his abilities. Those conformists who adopt the committed strategy may be pillars of their community and make the world go around, but historically, those with truly original minds have more often adopted the double life tactic. They are ones among the gifted who are most likely to make the world go forward.

And finally there are the dropouts. These sometimes bizarre individuals were often born into families in which one or more of the parents were not only exceptionally gifted, but exceptionally maladjusted themselves. This is the worst possible social environment that a gifted child can be thrust into. His parents, often driven by egocentric ambitions of their own, may use him to gratify their own needs for accomplishment. He is, to all intents and purposes, not a living human being to them, but a performing animal, or even an experiment. That is what happened to Sidis, and may be the explanation for all those gifted who “burn out” as he did. (Readers familiar with the Terman study will recognize the committed strategy and the marginal strategy as roughly similar to the adjustment patterns of Terman’s A and C groups.)

If the exceptionally gifted adult with an IQ of 150, or 160, or 170 has problems in adapting to his world, what must it have been like for William James Sidis, whose IQ was 250 or more?

Aldous Huxley once wrote:

Perhaps men of genius are the only true men. In all the history of the race there have been only a few thousand real men. And the rest of us–what are we? Teachable animals. Without the help of the real man, we should have found out almost nothing at all. Almost all the ideas with which we are familiar could never have occurred to minds like ours. Plant the seeds there and they will grow; but our minds could never spontaneously have generated them [4, p. 2242].

And so we see that the explanation for the Sidis tragedy is simple. Sidis was a feral child; a true man born into a world filled with animals–a world filled with us.

o o o o
Some of those reading this paper may find the portrait painted here to be completely incredible. Their own experiences were nothing at all like those described, nor were those of most of their gifted friends. But the point of this article is not that there’s some special hazard in having an exceptional IQ: There’s not. The point is that the danger lies in having an exceptional IQ in an environment completely lacking in intellectual peers. It’s the isolation that does the damage, not the IQ itself.

It is the belief of this author that the super high IQ societies were created primarily by those who have adopted the marginal strategy, and by rights ought to be aimed at fulfilling the needs of this subdivision of the exceptionally gifted. It’s obvious from reading the journals that those who have followed the committed strategy rarely participate in society affairs, rarely write for the various journals, and indeed have little need to belong to such a group. They have far more productive outlets for their talents. It’s the exceptionally gifted adult who feels stifled that stands most in need of a high IQ society. The tragedy is that none of the super high IQ societies created thus far have been able to meet those needs, and the reason for this is simple. None of these groups is willing to acknowledge or come to terms with the fact that much of their membership belong to the psychological walking wounded. This alone is enough to explain the constant schisms that develop, the frequent vendettas, and the mediocre level of their publications. But those are not immutable facts; they can be changed. And the first step in doing so is to see ourselves as we are.

–Grady M. Towers

(From The Prometheus Society’s Journal, Gift of Fire Issue No. 22, April 1987. The article was re-issued in Issue 72, March 95. Robert Dick, the [former] Prometheus Society Membership Officer, recommends “The Outsiders” as a good view of the high-IQ condition.


Sorry about the footnotes; my source, the Prometheus Society, had numbers but no notes. I’ll try to track them down and restore them.

I reprint this article here by request. As many as one-tenth of the emails I get at the World Dream Bank are from the severely gifted–well above their incidence in its general readership (itself quite gifted), and vastly above their incidence in the population. They write me looking for advice on how to cope with the isolation that Grady Towers describes so frankly. I’ve done what I could by describing some of my own experiences as a child prodigy, but Towers makes a rigorous statistical case for what I knew empirically: the bright tend to be lonely.

And those who aren’t isolated are often co-opted, their genius channeled into acceptable paths. I agree with Towers: moderate maladjustment, bearable loneliness, what he calls “the marginal strategy”, may be as good as it gets. And often not good enough. While working a job as a security guard because it gave him time to write, Towers himself was murdered. And not randomly, but for what he had written. This blunt article is his chief legacy. Was it worth his life?

How many lives has it saved?

It’s not so easy to judge life-strategies, even your own. Did Blake or Dickinson or Van Gogh think they were successes? Mozart? Leonardo? Jesus, dead at 33?

Not to get dramatic on you, or anything.

–Chris Wayan


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Self Awareness

Why self-awareness?

This really started, with my becoming an Innermetrix Consultant – which immediately led to a fascination in axiology (or formal axiology, or axiological science.. whatever..)

As an Innermetrix Consultant, the Genius Study kind of shook my world. Basically showing that the more self-awareness we had, the more authentic we could be, and the more successful we were (the more value we had) in our work, and lives. And so to be true to ourselves, first requires that we know ourselves. And the Innermetrix Advanced Insights, was, and probably still is – the most powerful (but not the only) tool for building reliable self-awareness.

In terms of axiology, the Hartman Value Profile, was one part of the three part Innermetrix Advanced Insights. And by far the most valuable part for me.

“The most fundamental presuppositions of axiological science are that human personalities and behaviors are structured around human values, that values are the keys to our personalities, and that by measuring values we can gain powerful insights into who people are and what they are likely to do.” [1]Preface to the Hartman Value Profile Manual of Interpretation 2nd edition 2006, Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D.

This may well start with something as simple as knowing what is good and bad for us. Situations, people, things, contexts, environments. What’s important, is to understand that the goodness and badness doesn’t exist within the thing itself – what is good or bad for us, depends on the combination of us and the thing. Some things are good for some people, and bad for others. Value – is different to goodness and badness. A bad thing, can have certain value in certain contexts. A good thing can not have value in certain contexts.

The things themselves – remain static. They don’t change. And so it  is ‘us’ that needs to be understood – as it is ‘us’ that makes a thing good or bad – for us. We are not good or bad, we are are ‘good for’ and ‘bad for’ – i.e. our value is contextual in terms of the world. BUT – our value is inherent in terms of our basic human-ness.

We all have the right to respect, appreciation, love, acceptance. As a human being.

BUT – our behaviours are contextual, and are subject to approval or disapproval – depending on what the context (other people, or our health/pleasure) requires. So  we (our behaviours) can be ‘good for’ some people, and ‘bad for’ others. We (our behaviours) can be ‘good in’ some contexts, and ‘bad in’ others.

Axiology, as mentioned above – presupposes that our behaviours are driven by our values. Behaviours, are a product of thinking and decision making. For the purposes of this subject – feelings – are seen as a part of thinking – the part the brain uses to attribute importance. The more emotion or feeling there is attached to a thought or idea, the more important it is.

So our brain gathers information, through our senses – processes that information (applies historical data to the current situation, to assess likely outcomes in advance) – and makes decisions on the best action to take.

How it thinks and makes decisions – is value based, not purely information based. The more value an ‘idea’ has, the more likely it is to be chosen as the best idea.



1Preface to the Hartman Value Profile Manual of Interpretation 2nd edition 2006, Leon Pomeroy, Ph.D.

A Quick Guide to Journaling

The primary goal of journaling, is self-development. Positive change. Growth. Self-development, or personal growth, comes from closing the gap between where we are now, and where we aspire to be.. In order to close the gap, we need to see the gap, and embrace the gap. We discern the gap – through reflection. Reflection in the sense of looking back at ourselves, from a place which is different from the place we were.

The key – is to separate the writing, and the in-the-moment thinking, from the later reflection back at what we wrote.

Because, we want to be able to ‘see’ how our own mind works – we need to be able to look at our thinking – by looking back at how we thought and reflected on what happened that day. And when we (critically) go over our journal entries – we will remember what we were journalling about – and we will see how we reflected at the time – and we will learn something about how we think and make decisions. Which is what we aim to become self-aware of.

So there are two critical aspects to journalling;

  1. Journal
  2. Reflect – ideally at the end of each wek – on what and how and why, you journalled the way you did. See your patterns. See ‘how’ your mind works, it’s biases and habits. The difference between when you’re exhibiting good judgement, and when it’s not so good 🙂

Write openly, honestly, and without judgement.

Aspects of Journaling

Expressing Our Emotions and Sensations

We need to be seen, heard and validated, for what we are experiencing in the moment. This is best done by using the emotion wheel, and the sensation wheel. And expressing what we see and feel when we look inside ourselves, cleanly and simply. No story of the why, who, when, where. Just the observation and description of the emotion or sensation.

I am feeling abandoned. I am feeling angry. I am feeling small. I feel tightness in my neck. I feel butterflies in my gut. I feel wobbly. I feel sick. I feel rage. I feel depressed.

If you want, you can also attribute that sensation or emotion to a part, or sub-personality, especally when it is things like shame, guilt, regret, humiliation, embarrasment, self-consciousness.

Then acknowledge that feeling or sensation, or part. And tell yourself you are ok at the same time. Thank the part if there is one.

Observe them, accept them, write them all down. Appreciate that you are ok, whilst feeling and observing them.

Write About What Has Happened, and What You Think

This is where you can write about what happened, again, observationally.

And then importantly – highlight what you noticed, what you didn’t, what you felt, what you didn’t, and what you concluded about the situation – what did it mean to you? The mind is a meaning-making machine. What meaning did your mind give to the event/situation/person/action.

What underlying belief does your ‘perception and conclusion’ confirm or deny?

Can you see any patterns?

The hardest part here, is complete honesty with yourself. If your results are poor, your judgement is likely poor. Our results are simply consequences of our actions. What understanding might you be missing? What did you not see, and might be blind to?

Write and Speak Your Primary Affirmation

Write your primary positive affirmation, and read it out loud to yourself 6 times, slowly and with emotion and conviction.

Write About Your Future Self

Highlight any obvious progress you have made towards your future self. Define your future self in terms of values, and how those values are expressed through behaviours.

Express Gratitude

What are three things, people, situations you feel gratitude for?

Reflections on Yesterday’s, or the Last Week’s Journal Entries

This is where you read yesterday’s entry (or your last one) and then write about what you notice.. can you ‘see’ yourself? where you are, how you think, how you make sense of situations, how you see yourself, what you aspire to, focus on, give attention to?

What are your conclusions – for change going forward?

What specifically will you do differently?

Write out scenarios that incorporate and enable you to express your reflective learning and growth.

Congratulate yourself on doing good work.

Intuitive Writings

Finish off by asking yourself if there’s anything you intuitively feel ought to be written out. Trust your intuition.

Traits of Giftedness

Note: These are traits of giftedness i.e. how it might show up, and not the kinds/areas of giftedness!

For a more in-depth coverage of the kinds of and areas of giftedness, see (intellectual, emotional, creative, sensual, physical, and existential)

Keen power of abstraction

Interest in problem-solving and applying concepts

Deep fascination with ‘how things work’

Constantly questions ideas/beliefs/concepts with ‘why’

Voracious and early reader

Large vocabulary

Intellectual curiosity

Power of critical thinking, skepticism, self-criticism

Persistent, goal-directed behavior

Independence in work and study

Diversity of interests and abilities

Creativeness and inventiveness

Keen sense of humor

Ability for fantasy & imagination

Openness to stimuli, wide interests



Independence in attitude and social behavior

Self-acceptance and unconcern for social norms


Aesthetic and moral commitment to self-selected work

Unusual emotional depth and intensity

Sensitivity or empathy to the feelings of others

High expectations of self and others, often leading to feelings of frustration

Heightened self-awareness, accompanied by feelings of being different

Easily wounded, need for emotional support

Need for consistency between abstract values and personal actions

Advanced levels of moral judgment

Idealism and sense of justice


Boundless enthusiasm

Intensely focused on passions – resists changing activities when engrossed in own interests

Highly energetic – needs little sleep or down time

Constantly questions

Insatiable curiosity

Impulsive, eager and spirited

Perseverance – strong determination in areas of importance

High levels of frustration – particularly when having difficulty meeting standards of performance (either imposed by self or others)

Volatile temper, especially related to perceptions of failure

Non-stop talking/chattering

Source:  Clark, B. (2008). Growing up gifted (7th ed.)   Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson Prentice Hall.