Optionality by Comparison
Abstract: This article acts as an introduction to the series of articles called 'Optionality by Comparison'. In this introduction, Edwin Thor replies to questions about the way optionality is compared with other concepts. Edwin discusses differences in implementation of optionality, i.e. optionality as an object of analysis, as a perspective, or both. The article ends with the conclusion that this series of articles should not be regarded as a contest between perspectives, but as a comparison of concepts, one of which is optionality .
A. Comparative Analysis
The May 1995 issue of Optionality discussed the background of the series of articles called Optionality by Comparison. In this series, optionality is a concept that is compared with other concepts on criteria such as logic, consistency, clarity and usefulness. Back then, it was pointed out that, in this series of articles called Optionality by Comparison, the comparative analysis method is applied in a specific way. For more background on the comparative analysis method, see appendix A, added to this article.
B. Different Implementations of Optionality
Quintessence is a consultancy company that likes to apply comparative analysis while taking the perspective of optionality. The series Optionality by Comparison is special in that in each article a direct comparison is made between optionality and another concept. In this series, optionality is an object for comparison, a concept that itself is compared with other concepts. Thus, optionality is in this series both a perspective and an object for comparison.
The above situation reflects three different implementations of optionality. Firstly, Quintessence regards optionality as the perspective it takes in consultancy work, in particular when applying the comparative analysis method.
Secondly, Don Paragon regards optionality as an element of his Vision, not as his overall perspective. In terms of the comparative analysis method, Don Paragon would regard optionality as an object of the comparison, as a concept that is to be compared with similar concepts, in this case concepts that reflect ideologies and belief systems.
Thirdly, there is the magazine Optionality. Issued by Quintessence, the magazine shares Quintessence's fondness of taking the perspective of optionality. However, the focus of the magazine Optionality is also on optionality as a concept - the editorial approach of the magazine Optionality is to compare concepts, even to put various implementations of optionality next to each other (see appendix B).
In terms of the comparative analysis method, optionality is both an object of the comparison and the perspective taken in this comparative analysis. This dual use of optionality becomes manifest in the series called Optionality by Comparison which has been the cause of some criticism.
C. Promoting optionality as a Universal Perspective?
In the series Optionality by Comparison, optionality is used both as the perspective from which such articles are written and as an object in the comparative analysis of concepts.
The problem is that it may be hard for readers to keep perspective and object separate. There is a risk that the analyst is seen as taking a biased view, even a universal point of view, expressing an unarticulated claim to have absolute knowledge as to what is wrong and what is right.
Back in early 1995, Don Paragon warned about this: If optionality is compared directly with another concept, i.e. as an object of analysis, and if optionality is simultaneously used as the perspective from which this comparative analysis is done, then there is a risk that the analyst is seen to be taking a universal point of view. The risk of seemingly taking a universal perspective is even stronger, according to Don Paragon, because of the format of such articles, i.e. written language. As Don says: "Readers may think they are reading a scientific or philosophical analysis". Moreover, readers may conclude that such an analyst attempts to elevate the concept optionality from an object for comparison to the only valid universal perspective.
D. The Need for an Editorial Response
Since that time, the articles in this series (in which optionality is compared directly with another concept) have been compiled into a paper that came with an introduction reflecting this discussion. This introduction has since grown into this very text, after several comments were made that were begging for a more elaborate editorial response.
F. Who is inconsistent?
Inconsistency is what optionality has repeatedly been accused of. Inconsistency between "what optionality claims to stand for and the dogmatic way in which it is elevated as the one and only simplified truth". Another comment was: "No single concept should be put on a pedestal as the one and only solution to all that is wrong in society! Appointing Kings is what's wrong in society and, similarly, no single concept should be crowned as superior or, even worse, as the winner
over all other concepts!"
Great rhetoric! We like to agree! The Comparative Analysis method merely expresses preference, it does not declare one object as the only valid one. The very fact that objects are being compared implies that there are alternatives. However, our question is: What is the perspective of someone who writes such comments? It may be a logical, philosophical or scientific perspective; but, importantly, it is a perspective, just like optionality is a perspective! Although the perspective behind above comments is not expressed in a single word like optionality is, and although the perspective is not articulated, it still is a specific perspective; in fact, it is the very universal perspective that Don Paragon warned about!
The point is that the same line of reasoning can be applied to this unarticulated perspective. People making such comments may feel smart by alleging inconsistency in the reasoning of others, but what about the same inconsistency in their own reasoning? Is it not their unarticulated perspective that is presented as the one and only rightful perspective, the universal truth? Do they imply that their perspective is superior to optionality? In what ways? Is it supposed to be better to be stealthy, rather than to articulate one's perspective?
G. DonParagon's Vision
It is important not to confuse DonParagon's Vision of the Future with this unarticulated, universal perspective. For Don, optionality is a concept, not a perspective. For Don, optionality is an ideology, it represents what he believes in. But optionality is just one part of Don's Vision, i.e. the ideological part, if you like, optionality is what Don believes in. Don regards optionality as just one of the concepts of the future, or rather as one of the aspects of cultures that will flourish in future times, next to other aspects such as improvisation, creativity and appreciation.
The editorial perspective is optionality. Don's perspective is more difficult to pin down, reason why Don's Vision is described in above-mentioned separate article. And even this article does not fully pay respect to Don's perspective. Don prefers to express himself in music, rather than in words, because Don argues that words (especially when written down) are more inclined to promote singularity. Therefore, Don will not accept that his perspective can be captured entirely in the word optionality or in any written article. Don does believe in optionality, but not in optionality as a written word.
H. Pledge for more coherent Reasoning
Those calling optionality inconsistent only show that their reasoning is incoherent. This magazine does not promote optionality as the one and only concept that should rule the world, as alleged, but merely tries to stimulate discussion about optionality as a concept. This magazine puts optionality into practice by articulating various implementations of optionality.
Of course, Quintessence likes to see greater and non-exclusive acceptance of optionality as a perspective. But Quintessence regards a perspective as something one chooses to take, not as something that can be enforced or installed by stealth. As a perspective, optionality unambiguously opposes dictatorship. So, if any perspective is to be accused of promoting itself as the one and only rightful view, than optionality will have to be ranked at the bottom, rather than at the top of the line of candidates. On the other hand, the unarticulated perspective constitutes a belief that promoting something by stealth is the right way to go. In comparison, clarity and openess are qualities that are inherent to optionality.
E. This is not a contest between Perspectives!
The quintessence is that, in the series of articles that is called Optionality by Comparison, optionality is both compared with other concepts, and optionality is the perspective from which the articles are written. The fact that the perspective of optionality is taken, is not under discussion in the articles; it is an editorial choice. The fact that Quintessence's perspective is derived from elsewhere, in this case DonParagon's Vision, implies that there are other perspectives. Quintessence will readily admit that, if one takes another perspective, one can reach other conclusions. There is no argument about that. The series of articles is not intended to be a contest between perspectives, but it is an effort to give optionality as a concept more depth. After all, the one question that Quintessence is asked more than any other questions, is: What is optionality?
Thus, the intention of the series of articles called Optionality by Comparison is not to compare perspectives, but to compare concepts. So, let's try and clarify the objects that we speak about, let's describe and analyze what the concepts are that we reflect upon, in particular the concept optionality.
Appendix A: Comparative Analysis
In consultancy work, a comparison is often made between two or more different concepts, policies or scenarios. To advise clients, consultancy company Quintessence likes to use the comparative analysis method, or . In this method, objects are analyzed by comparing them with each other from a specific perspective. In Quintessence's case, this will typically be the perspective of optionality - optionality as formulated in DonParagon's Vision of the Future.
The perspective that Quintessence takes in the comparative analysis method is thus optionality. It is Quintessence's preferred position to take this perspective, but it is clearly possible to take other perspectives and, subsequently, reach different conclusions. Quintessence likes to clarify in advance what perspectives are to be taken in consultancy work. To apply the comparative analysis method, one identifies at least three elements, i.e. an articulated perspective and at least two objects that are to be compared with each other.
If there are clients who like to polish up their perspective and ask Quintessence for advice, Quintessence is happy to comparatively analyze different perspectives. It should be clear, however, that when different perspectives are comparatively analyzed, they become objects in the comparative analysis method. In such a case, Quintessence will continue to use optionality as its own perspective, while also comparatively analyzing specific perspectives as objects. Similarly, different interpretations of optionality can be comparatively analyzed. In that case, such interpretations of optionality also become objects in the comparative analysis method (see appendix B).
(Further background on the comparative analysis method, or , can be found in the articles: From the Perspective of Optionality and Optionality in Practice.)
Appendix B: Optionality versus Optionality
Optionality Magazine likes to give descriptions of optionality. One way to do this is by comparing optionality with other concepts, as done in Optionality by Comparison, as discussed above. After all, one of the first things that people who are interested in Quintessence's work generally ask, is: what is optionality? Of course, a dictionary-style description of what optionality is supposed to be is inappropriate, as explained in the article above. The magazine Optionality therefore endeavours to describe various implementations of optionality.
In terms of the comparative analysis method, analyzing two different interpretations of optionality means that they are both objects of the analysis. Apart from that, Quintessence will take the perspective of optionality - optionality as in DonParagon's Vision.