rules - unpacking the word

In my post on Principles and Rules, I explored the connection between our human desire for principles, our commercial need for risk and our love of rules.  It explored the fact that we create rules, to manage risks, that end up not aligned with our principles and made some suggestion about how we can close the loop. 

In the article, I skipped over the word “rules” without unpacking it.  This post is to unpack the word “rule”  The history and origin of the word “Rule” is here.  Irrespective of the correct use of the word “rule,” we use words in both correct and incorrect situations. Incorrect being there is a more precise or accurate word in the context or situation but we chose the word we do so as to create ambiguity, to avoid controversy, to soften the message and because of naivety.  We know that words and our language itself are filled with convenient generalisations that help us to explain ourselves whilst at the same time avoid the controversy created by unique circumstances. 

In the Principles and Rules article, the choice of the word rule was ambitious. This allows readers to apply their own context to it, thereby creating more relevance to their own circumstances when reading.  It was not a legal contract scenario, writing definitions at the beginning to provide that level of clarity and common interpretation. 

So in the idea was ambiguity - this post, however, is to expand an ontology of the word “rules.”

For me, you or someone;

  • Rules are written or unwritten or both

  • Rules are mine, created by me that you need to follow. They are yours, crafted by you that you need me to obey. They are shared and we believe that they create a better society

  • Rules can be the law, just a guide, the standard you need to meet or the rituals that creates success.  But which law, they one we should not break or the one where we follow the spirit?  As a guide to guide me from here to where.  As a standard is that absolute or is a range good enough.  My rituals, did I learn them, did you teach me or somehow are they just there?

  • Rules equally give you more freedom (safety, less murder) and remove your freedom (choice). Rules give me more agency and at the same time remove it.

  • Rules define my boundaries but are the ones I have created for myself and I have continually refined them as I learn, or are my rules ones that come from history; because we have always done it this way.  

  • Rules are they creating my view on values or are the rules I have someone else’s values?

  • Rules are only there to be broken

  • Rules allow me to create something as I have done something, have experience and have learnt. Rules allow me to repeat and not make the same mistake or improve and adapt.  Rules save me time and energy - I love my huristics

  • Rules allow me to manage, prevent and control risk

  • But whose rules are they?

The takeaway

When our principles become rules, do we question either the rules or principles enough?