A nomic system is a self-amending system. Peter Suber started out by using nomics to understand our Constitutional system — an ongoing, evolving, self-amending system of government, where Congress is the amending arm which produces the changes, amendments and applications of law.
As Suber developed his book/research: “The Paradox of Self Amendment”, he used the boundaries he identified as part of the nomic system to construct a game which he called Nomic. The game is a mythical construct in so far as it bears only modest resemblance to what we normally think of as games. In laboratory type settings, a group of people assemble and begin constructing the rules by which they will play. They debate the merits and faults of each rule, then pass or reject each rule. Each passed rule must be examined to determine its scope, applications, and contradictions to other rules. Each time a new rule is added, exceptions and applications have to be identified and harmonized with existing rules.
That’s the short form, but you get the idea. Nomic – The Game is not a chess, monopoly, or poker kind of game. It is an intellectual exercise. In fact, the characteristic of Nomic-The Game which most separates it from other games is that a true nomic has no winner and has no end. It is ongoing, evolving, and self-amending. The card game called Fluxx is the most nomic of what we consider to be “normal” games, in that it does produce a winner and does have an endpoint. Aside from Fluxx, other games are “partially nomic” or may have “nomic-like elements” — but are not truely nomic.
Aside from Nomic-The Game, and our system of government, there are other things that are nomic.
(ongoing, evolving, and self-amending.)
The Environment as a whole / eco-systems independently
The Human Mind (though the ongoing part is hard to know/prove from our perspective)
The Human Body*
And, strangely enough, “the system” as we have been referring to it for the last 15 years. Not the Gravesean system, but the system exposed by understanding the Graves system. (Language is a bit of a jungle-gym at this point.)
Jim, Rebecca and I were discussing nomics last night when we suddenly realized that “the system” we had presumed to be fixed, is actually nomic in nature. Which led to another discussion on self-reflexivity (which both tests for nomic nature, and serves as the trigger for a nomic’s change.
The relationship between self-reflexivity and nomic behavior is inseperable in that only those systems that are self-reflexive can identify the incongruities which trigger the demand for self-amendment/change; and any system without a self-reflexive componant will never self-amend or evolve.
For those keeping score — this explains why some individuals, cultures, and other entities never change or even acknowledge the existence of change; and why others seem to have self-amendment and change woven into their DNA and experience it as so common that they cannot fathom those who do not.
Without self-reflexivity, change does not exist.
However, we also know that some entities are self reflexive up to the point where the change would have to occur for the entity to experience forward movement. If, however, there is fear or anger that causes resistance or and unwillingness to leap blindly into the unknown of a new existence, then that is a choice of “not-nomic” existence.
The very word “evolving” has baggage that implies that the newly evolved state is somehow superior to the evolved-from state. But is this true?
For a lot of my life, I’ve heard a saying which in so many words says, “either you’re going forward, or you’re going back — but there is no standing still.” I’m not so certain that is true. I believe it is possible to choose “against” change and to stay in the same spot. I’m not sure that staying still can ever be “happy” or “fulfilling” — but it can mean less fear, and less responsibility. For some people, that is more important than blazing ahead. It wouldn’t be my choice —
The logical extension of what I just said has to be that there may be cultures for which “not-nomic” existence is the choice. If we cannot demand that individuals choose change (nomics) as a way of life, how can we demand that cultures become nomic? If a second or third world culture is determined to continue the same social norms and rules — are we really justified in requiring them to evolve before we establish a relationship with them?
In Graves terms, we have always said that there is a place for healthy manifestations of all levels. At the same time, the model itself seems to indicate that movement forward is the most natural and healthy state. Maybe the biggest paradox of self amendment is that it does, and has to, exist simultaneously with non-self-amendment.