UPDATE: I forgot to include the best part of this story and the reason why Jeff received a new degree from Saybrook. After he was interviewed by Saybrook Alumni Director George Aiken and Wendy Thayer last fall (published here), Jeff sent an email to George thanking him and including this request: "Since I only have an HPI degree certificate, am I eligible for an upgrade to an actual certified school? I may have to present credentials at the pearly gates." The longer story follows. I accepted the degree last Fri night at Saybrook's graduation. Keep reading for more background...
Two posts now related to Jeff Stamps noting some "doin's" this weekend related to him in San Francisco.
This evening, at Saybrook University's graduation ceremony, I will accept the following on Jeff's behalf:
In Honor of his Outstanding Contributions in the Fields of Networks and Systems Theory, Alumnus Jeffrey Stamps will posthumously receive a re-issue of his 1980 Humanistic Psychology Institute Doctoral Degree as a Saybrook University Diploma. His wife, Jessica Lipnack, will be present to accept the degree.
Background: In 1980, Jeff received his PhD in Human Systems Theory from what was then called the Humanistic Psychology Institute. The school had been founded by psychologist Eleanor Criswell in 1970 as the academic arm of the Association for Humanistic Psychology where luminaries like Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and, of course, Abraham Maslow found large followings. In a break from rat-oriented views of human development, these pioneers defined a new approach to psychology that recognized the complexity of people, i.e. a more humanistic approached.
Jeff had originally studied for his PhD (actually called a D.Phil there) at Oxford, where he wrote an original dissertation on the metaphysics of Thomas Hobbes. As the home of Hobbes study, where scholars focused almost exclusively on Hobbes's politics, Oxford dons were not taken with Jeff's non-derivative views of The Leviathan, including a deep dive into Hobbes's mathematics. Orginally trained as a mathematician, Jeff was able to derive his own number theory, referenced in the dissertation. Plus he wrote the entire thesis without including references to other scholars as none had approached the aspects of Hobbes's thinking, including his work on cosmology. Let's put it this way: his dissertation committee was not pleased and Jeff was given a consolation degree instead: an M.Litt from Oxford. It's not as bad as it sounds. His Oxford tutor, Zbigniew Pełczyński (just a wonderful human being, IMHO), once told us that some 50% of Oxford dissertations end the way Jeff's did. So at least he was in good company.
But, like many a brilliant person, Jeff wanted a PhD -- and wanted to pursue his thinking around systems theory, which is where the Hobbes work took him conceptually. So in 1976 he discovered the Humanistic Psychology Institute and enrolled in their program. Thanks to an early encounter with Gregory Bateson, who confirmed that Jeff's approach to his topic was precisely the way he absorbed new material -- read like crazy, allow yourself to become so stuffed with ideas that you're confused, then let it sort itself out over time, Jeff took off reading and writing. He consumed everything he could about general systems theory, a field that looked at overarching principles, which always fascinated Jeff. From there, he identified two common themes that appeared in all systems theories: whole-parts and level structure. Arthur Koestler, who later invited Jeff to lunch at his cottage in the English countryside, was the principal architect of the whole-part concept, inspired the title of Jeff's dissertation, Holonomy: A Human Systems Theory, which was published by Intersystems Publications just months after he finished it, with a foreword by Kenneth Boulding.
Here's Boulding's Foreword, which explains a great deal about Jeff's work:
I have read this volume with great interest, and I have learned a good deal from it. As I see it, the work has two main objectives. One is to bring together a considerable body of fairly recent literature which has not been brought together before and show that, behind a good deal of diversity, there are a great many common facets. The core of this literature is a body of work which comes mainly from those associated with this group. Then there is a group of writers who might be described as forerunners or 'fellow thinkers' of the general systems group - Bateson, Dobzhansky, Prigogine, Schrodinger, L.L. Whyte, and Norber Wiener. Then there is a group of writers who might be called 'creative eccentrics' - Frazer, Koestler, Maslow, Jaynes, and others. The author gives a clear, sympathetic account of the work of those and other writers, and shows convincingly that this is a body of literature that has perhaps a somewhat eccentric and even dubious penumbra, but which nevertheless represents an important movement in the course of the last generation which is not usually recognized as such. To show this is a real contribution to the history of thought.
The author, however, has gone beyond this historical task to develop a synthesis of his own, which is largely taxonomic in nature. It is a brave effort, imaginative and far ranging. If I have doubts about it, it is because I have considerable doubts about any taxonomic scheme, for such always run into the temptation of imposing an order on the universe which may not really be there. However, as a taxonomic scheme it is certainly defensible and interesting, and adds to the value of the work. Even if the attempt at a grand synthesis is overambitious, I have no doubt that it will stimulate a good deal of thinking and research and that human knowledge will be advanced by it. This is a work both to be enjoyed and to be taken seriously.
I'm also appending to this post a paper that Jeff wrote on the potential of online education IN 1980! Jeff was a visionary and as such could peer so far into the future that some of us are still waiting for ideas like these to truly emerge.