Tue, Jul 29, 2008


In contemplating where in this blog to begin our query regarding value, it seems obvious that it should begin with the work of Norm and Skye Hirst which evolved from Norm’s investigation into axiology to their effort in the founding of a new focus of inquiry named AutoGnomics.

REVISITING THE MIND TRUST: Norman F. Hirst & Skye Hirst

The following are just a few notes selected to underscore the content of this post. For more details on my partners, Norm and Skye, see and links therefrom.

Norm is a graduate in mathematics and physics (1957) from M.I.T. where he met Robert Hartman (world renowned philosopher for contributions to axiology) and began his work in the study of values and the logic of metaphysics. In 1965, he joined a project team headed by Eugene (Gene) Pendergraft at the University of Texas at Austin Linguistics Research Centre (LRC) which achieved the development of the first Computerized Semiotic System, i.e. a self-created symbol processing system applied to machine learning of human language. This foundation laid by the LRC research resulted in what has become known as a partial AutoGnome and which originally came to serve as the core of Siemens’ METAL translation system. When Gene and Norm first met, Gene was unfamiliar with axiology and Norm with Peirce (semiotics).

Skye, with a Ph.D. in Communication from The Union Institute (1979), in 1987 was introduced to Hartman’s Value Theory when she met Norm. Skye joined with Norm in 1992 and stimulated a joint effort to establish an institute to work on a theory of Living Processes. Together with Gene and myself, the four of us began organizing The AutoGnomics (named by Gene and Skye) Institute, Inc. and with my partner, John F. Papsidero, Esq., we legally formed it as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation.

The results of a 40+ year research project
leading to a new understanding of the
laws of Value and Life-itself
by Norman F. Hirst & Skye Hirst
May 7, 2001

[The following blue text is edited by this blogger from the above-referenced document]


Natural law consists of relationships, or systems of relationships, that prevent chaos while not unduly inhibiting freedom.

The complex systems of Life are governed by laws of Value.

Are there natural laws of value? Yes, but don’t expect them to tell us what to value. There is no law saying gentlemen should prefer blondes. One’s values can be extremely personal. However, whatever one’s values there are lawful processes at work.

Following Hartman there are three kinds of value; intrinsic, extrinsic and systemic:
Intrinsic values are aesthetic and/or unique. They defy description.
Extrinsic values are practical values. As such they can be judged good or bad.
Systemic values are laws or rules. Under systemic values judgements are right or wrong.

Remarkably, the three kinds of value seem to be related to the three levels of semiotics; firstness, secondness and thirdness.

  • Peirce describes Firstness as the mode of being of that which is without reference to any subject or object. Secondness is the mode of being of that which is itself in referring to a second subject, regardless of any third subject. Thirdness is the mode of being of that which is itself in bringing a second and a third subject into relation with each other (CP 8.328).3 Thirdness brings Firstness and Secondness into relation with each other, and mediates between them. Thirdness is the mode of being of signs, in that signs mediate relations between their objects and their interpretants. [Copywright© Alex Scott 2004; retrieved 7/29/08 from]

Firstness – as the realm of all possibilities it is the source of intrinsic value.
Secondness – corresponds to extrinsic value.
Thirdness – corresponds to systemic value.

The law of value places intrinsic over extrinsic and extrinsic over systemic. This law has been verified through the use of the Hartman Value Profile in a wide variety of cultures.


Albeit the threeness of the Peircian modes of being ignores the fourth Relational Order – R(S)-NESS [ see, or ], as threeness it seems experientially relevant; however, the potpourri of specific “definitions” beginning with Peirce and continuing to date seem not to provide a coherent meaning. Correspondingly, the suggested relation to the three kinds of value lacks argumentive strength.

As an alternative consideration, I suggest the following conjecture. Clarity on this notion is a must since it permeates both Pearcian Semiotics and Hartman Axiology and thus any work inspired thereby.


Firstness <–> Whole(Ness) as per von Goethe via Henri Bortoft
Secondness <–> Distinction of Parts as per Spencer-Brown
Thirdness <--> Part-Whole Interrelations as per mereology, the theory/logic of part/whole relations

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