Kategoriarkiv: Phenomenology

Book Review: Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning

Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning is a most interesting book. Eugene Gendlin examines the edge of awareness, where language emerges from non-language.1 This book is a philosophical work. Gendlin explores how concepts relate to experiencing.2 He adds a body of theory that refer to experiencing, and that can grasp the way in which experiencing functions.3

Thinking employs more than conceptual logic
Thinking employs more than conceptual logic. We think with the intricacy of situations.4 There is always a situation, an implicit experiential context, that is more than any formed form. If we enter into how this more functions, we become able to employ it deliberately. New ways of thought open from it which otherwise wouldn’t exist.5

Conclusions do not follow just from clean rational progressions by logic alone. The use of logic is always enmeshed in the context from which logical units first are made. The logical interferences are undone if one changes one logical unit. Logic inference can always be disorganized.6

We can let our next step of thought come from experiential feedback
We can neither assume that the world is ordered as a conceptual system, nor that it is arbitrary. We don’t lose logical implications if we also think with experiencing.7 We can let our next step of thought come from experiential feedback, rather than concepts alone. It can lead us to modify our concepts, rather than being confined in them.8

Every word has an emergent meaning it its situation. Rather than giving some cognitive system priority and reading it into experience, we can recognize the priority of making experiential sense . For example, when speaking from a felt sense.9

Nature is not arbitrary or invented. Nature is a responsive order. It is not limited to one set of patterns and units. When two meanings cross experientially, the result is new experiences that could not have followed logically from either.10 The content of experience is generated by the process of experiencing.11

We can think everything more truly if we think with attention to how we think
The felt sense is a felt meaning, a bodily comprehension. We are not limited to rearranging existing already-formed concepts in life. We can engage the experiential meanings. We can reopen old concepts and assumptions if we think with our experiencing as well as with logic. We can think everything more truly if we think with attention to how we think. Experiencing is always freshly there in the present moment, and open to being carried forward in new ways.12

Besides the logical dimension of knowledge, there is also a directly felt, experiential dimension. Meaning also involves felt experiencing. There is a relationship between the felt dimension of experience and logical order.13

Concepts are abstractions of living experience
The application of concepts to experience as actually lived and felt is difficult. Only actual living can grasp living experiencing adequately, while concepts can distort and deaden it. The attempt to define concepts turn living experience into abstractions.14 Experience functions in the formation of meaning before it is logically ordered. Pre-logical or pre-conceptual experience functions together with logical symbols.15

Experiencing is the flow of feeling to which we can, at every moment, attend to inwardly. Experience must be referred to directly. It plays a basic role in the formation of meaning.16 The functions of experiencing in cognition are varied and essential.17

Concepts are meanings in relation to experiencing
We cannot know what a concept means without a feel for its meaning. If we do not have the felt meaning of a concept, we haven’t got the concept at all.18 Nor can we think without felt meaning. We think in a felt way.19

Concepts are meanings in relation to experiencing. Thought involves many meanings, and these are felt and can give rise to further concepts and changes in concepts. Verbal and other behavior involves orders, which are more than, and different from, those of logic. Experiential factors relate to and interact with the use of symbols. A concept in actual thought involves a felt experiencing of meaning, which can lead to different concepts and new meanings.20

Symbolized meanings change in interaction with experiencing
Meaning is formed in the interaction of experiencing and symbols. When symbolized meanings occur in interaction with experiencing, they change. And when one employs symbols to attend to a felt meaning, it changes. This is the basic source of order in human behavior.21

There is always a flow of feeling. At any moment we can direct our attention inward, and there it is. It is not at all vague in its being there. It may be vague only in that we can put only a few aspects of it into words. It is always something there, no matter what we say it is.22

Experiencing underlies every moment of living
All the different kinds of feeling and feeling tones, felt meanings, and so on, are aspects of feeling, of inner sense. This is experiencing.23 There is always an inward sensing.24

Experiencing is an aspect of human living that is constant. It is like metabolism. It underlies every moment’s special occurrences of living. The felt experiencing of the moment enables us to respond. Our response most often springs from the inwardly felt experiencing without verbal symbolization. Within experiencing lie the mysteries of all that we are. We react as we do based on what we observe. We create from our experiential sense.25

Actual experience is largely missed when interpreted through stereotyped concepts
Much of the time we pretend that our meanings are only the logical meanings of our words.26 We fall into the trap of interpreting our experience through stereotyped concepts whereby we largely miss the actual experience.27

Experiencing is involved in every instance of behavior and thought.28 We can refer directly to the experiencing. Language can help us refer to our experiencing, help us create and specify aspects of it, help us convey it. We can use language in an experiential sense. We need not limit ourselves only to a word’s logical definition. Any word, concept, thought, event, or behavior, can be viewed in reference to experiencing.29

Experiencing is a pre-conceptual and supra-logical order
Experiencing has a pre-conceptual type of order. Thus we must take account the kinds of relations that logical order can have to pre-conceptual order.30 The body is one interpenetrating system in which every aspect of order involves every other aspect. The many different kinds of orderly units we may isolate are related to each other in ways that logical patterns cannot represent. The ordering of all these aspects is more than logical.31 The actual order is supra-logical. It is more than a given logic can represent, although a given logic can fit some given aspect.32

Experiencing is an inward sensitivity of the living body. The pre-conceptual order of experiencing is similar to the body order: Experiencing is concrete. It is a ”this” or a ”this way I feel”. Any aspect of experiencing has very complex unfinished orders.33

The pre-conceptual is not constituted of actual defined existent meanings. These implicit meanings are not complete and formed. When they become explicit, they become different from what they were when they were implicit. They were pre-conceptual, and only as they interact with symbols do they become completely formed.34

Concepts can refer to experiencing but cannot fully represent it
We can let concepts help us refer experiencing, but we need to dissolve them again when we wish to get at new aspects of concrete phenomena. Concrete phenomena can support many logical definitions, but they do not limit the choice of any one.35 All areas of a person are involved in any one moment’s experiencing even though, verbally, just some small meaning is thought or spoken.36

Change occurs through experiencing
What is present is the experiencing now. Past events have made it what it is. Only by referring directly to the experiencing can necessary change be identified and accomplished.37 Merely using words and logical explanations don’t lead to change.38

The experiencing is different in relationship with another experiencing than alone.39 I change as I interact with you. I am already different, because my experiencing is occurring with you, and you vitally affect what it is in me. As I tell you how I am, already I am living a process of being otherwise.40

Conceptually, only meanings which are thought or spoken are present at a given moment. Pre-conceptually—in the felt experiencing—very many meanings, past events, and learnings are present. Change occurs through experiencing. The content of what is experienced varies as symbols interact with the experiencing.41 Symbols include words, behaviors, and other things.42

Meaning is something felt or experienced
Meaning is experienced.43 Meaning is not only a matter symbols and their relationships. It is also something felt or experienced. We feel the meaning.44 The whole gestalt of something can only be had as a felt meaning.45 We feel, or sense, relationships that only afterwards receive symbolizations. Felt meaning functions in the having and the forming of cognition.46

Felt meaning is present whenever something occurs that have meaning
We are most aware of felt meaning when our symbols fail to symbolize adequately what we mean. The problem of the inadequacy of symbols to express a felt meaning covers many areas, such as seeking for relevant words, articulating experience, and so on.47

The experience dimension of meaning is present, both when we conceptualize our experience, and when we don’t.48 Verbal or other symbols make our meaning explicit.49 Like thought, observation involves felt meanings.50 We experience or feel the meanings of what we observe. We orient ourselves in situations and make appropriate responses, all on the basis of the felt meaning of our observations.51

In speech, the feel of what we intend is especially noticeable when we say something that doesn’t quite mean what we intend. What we intend to say is not explicit until we say it. There is a transition from intended felt meaning to explicit speech. Whether there are verbal symbols or not, felt meaning is present whenever actions, observations, and situations occur that have meaning to a person.52

The exploration of feeling develops on its own power
Accurate conceptualization tends to allow the person to continue exploring the feeling and other feelings connected with it. The exploration of feeling develops on its own power.53 Some feelings are expressed along with intellectual content, others with gesture, voice quality, or silence. Feelings are not conscious most of the time, but they are not unconscious either. Any attention to them makes them conscious.54

A feeling, no matter how vague it may be, is capable of becoming sharper, and to be full of meaning.55 What we say arises for us from out of the as yet not articulate meaning we feel and are about to express.56 We can observe this relationship from moment to moment in our experiencing. We speak and act from out of felt meanings.57

Symbols and felt meanings function together in different ways
There are different ways in which symbols and felt meanings function together. Symbols includes things, persons, and whatever.58 Symbols function as pointers. Felt meaning functions as containing the meaning. The symbols depend on the felt meaning for their meaning. The felt meaning is independently meaningful.59

Felt meaning can itself be prior to symbols.60 When we begin with the felt meaning and seek further symbolization, the symbols come to us.61 The symbols function to express, explicate, conceptualize the felt meaning.62 Symbols and felt meanings depend on each other.

Meanings are formed in the interaction of symbols and felt meanings
Meaning always exists in terms of a relationship between symbols and feeling. The given felt meaning change as it is comprehended. A good comprehension will be experienced as accurately representing the implicit content.63 When meaning is implicit, there is the possibility of comprehension. When comprehension actually occurs, the meaning becomes explicit.64

Explication and comprehension both seek symbolization for a given felt meaning. Explication occurs to further symbolize a felt meaning. Comprehension attempts to symbolize a felt meaning already created.65 Almost all meaningful symbols require the presence of many relevant meanings or experiences. Past experience is necessary for understanding. One must understand the context. If one does not understand the context, one will only grasp a limited part of the symbolization.66

Meanings and logical patterns are formed in the interaction of symbols and felt meaning.67 Only some of the many pre-conceptual meanings of a felt meaning can ever be symbolized.68 We can directly refer to felt meaning and examine it. Specified logical concepts are distinguished from the functioning of felt meaning.69 A felt meaning can be accurately comprehended in various ways by different symbolic comprehensions.70

The pre-conceptual is not determined by the conceptual
Logical relations do not determine the creativity of new meaning and new symbolization. The pre-conceptual is not determined by the conceptual. The pre-conceptual can be directly referred to when it functions in symbolization.71

Logically specified, symbolized, unique concepts are not felt meanings and do not have the creative characteristics of felt meanings. The felt meanings that function in experienced creation of meanings are always directly referred to. They are not indeterminate. They are capable of further symbolization.72

Experiencing is multiple and non-numeric
Any experienced meaning is differentiable into countless experienced meanings, each of which is again differentiable into countless meanings. Experiencing is multiple, non-numerical.73 There are no units. A unit experience can always be differently symbolized as an aspect of many other experiences. A given set of many experiences can be differently symbolized as one experience. Experiencing is not organized in schematic relationships of units to each other.74

We can speak of experienced meaning as an occurrence or as a process. The process of experiencing a specified meaning can be referred to directly. An experienced meaning includes more than the aspect of what is specified.75

Experience can be specified as one or as many experiences
Since experience is non-numerical, it can be specified as one or as many experiences. Therefore, it can be specified as a meaning, or as relations between other meanings. Any newly created meaning are like all the meanings that functioned in its creation.76

A felt meaning is general. As general, it can occur more than once.77 A new meaning is only one of very many that might have been created from the same given meanings.78 Only after the creation may logical analysis validly set forth the relations contained in any creation of meaning. Logical analysis can say nothing about kinds of meaning not yet created.79

New meanings are determined by all present meanings
Relationships and meanings are created simultaneously and are two kinds of specification of one same experienced meaning.80 In the case of any given meaning, a directly referred to experienced meaning involved in it may be specified as a certain kind of more general meaning.81 A meaning is intimately tied up with other meanings. It is the meaning of the activity through which it rose.82

At any stage of an experience, one may consider a given meaning as an instance of itself. Many aspects of any problem become apparent when the kind of experiencing involved can be referred to. One may with whatever specified meanings refer to the experiencing that is occurring.83

Experiencing can be specified in myriad ways. These myriad ways also represent the ways in which an observation can be meaningful. Reflection on the experienced meaning can help us specify countless meanings. Specifications of new meanings are partly determined by all the meanings present in a given movement.84

All logical rules are formulations that could have been different
At any given meaning, we may arrive at many more new and different concepts. All logical rules that seem as if they controlled the formation of meanings are merely formulations that could have been different.85 Our terms are relative.86

There is no absolute basis in experience itself that determines what will refer to the same experiencing.87 All creation of meaning offers new possibilities in which different concepts can be created as specifications of some new same such experiencing.88

Endless possibilities of novel creation of meaning can be used without loss of precision and logical integrity.89 One may use every conceivable logic, and do so with increased power, escaping entrapment in the confines of the logic with which one happens to have begun. The functional relationships formulate a content that directly affects the ways of symbolizing experience.90

Metaphors create new meanings
Metaphor is the interaction of experienced meanings producing new meaning. All concepts contain, make use of, involve, and impose logical forms on experience.91 Concepts are metaphoric. From their logical form, come their logical implications, and the power to differentiate other experiences.92

It is when the logical forms are imposed on experience that certain differentiations in experience can be made. Once differentiated, an aspect of experience has its own existential, demonstrative existence and can be directly referred to.93

Experiencing is the total of experienced meaning
Experiencing is the total of experienced meaning, including thought. Once specified, the experienced meaning can be referred to directly, as well as by a multitude of terms that are functionally equivalent.94

Some problems are contexts in which the problem of experienced meaning appears. Any problem involves more than one aspect of experience. Experience can be a source of meaning. Several functional relationships can function meaningfully with the aid of symbols. Felt meaning functions to make symbolized meaning possible.95

Intellect is distinguished from felt experiencing. Felt meaning is an early, pre-conceptual stage of cognition. Anything that is a source of meaning for the intellect can be looked at in terms of its effect upon the functional relationships in which intellect and felt meaning functions.96

Intellect depends on the functions of felt meaning
Things and senses first bring about felt experiencing. Meaning arises in symbolic interaction with felt experiencing.97 The intellect is not in direct contact with perception or reality. Intellect always depends upon the functions of felt meaning.98 It is always subject to the role of felt meaning, and thus indirectly to anything that affects felt meaning.99

Felt meaning functions, for example, as recognition, as well as metaphoric creation of new meanings, as well as being a direct referent to many possible specified meanings. Everyone thinks with recognition feelings. Everyone interprets observations by means of them.100

Many possible specifications can symbolize the same felt meaning
Different people do not create the same meaning, even if given the same metaphor, if their recognition of them is different. It is, on the other hand, possible to communicate metaphorically a felt meaning that a person has not previously had.101

Many possible specifications and schemes can refer to and symbolize the same felt meaning. It is possible to specify experiencing in many more than one way. This is the case of all intellectual interpretations and symbolizations of experiencing.102 Different felt meanings produce different results.103

One cannot create new meanings without experiencing
Without the function of experiencing one cannot create new meanings and new logical patterns and methods, nor can one account for their formation.104 Every individual lives in subjective experiencing and looks out at the world from and through it. Neither logical constructs, nor external observations, succeed in replacing subjective experiencing.105

Experiencing is a continuous stream of feelings. It is something given in the phenomenal field of every person. Experiencing and conceptualization often occur together, but are not the same thing. The fact that they are different is noticeable when we have either experiencing that we cannot conceptualize, or concepts the content of which we do not now feel.106

No one can conceptualize all possible meanings of an experience
Concepts themselves represent what is symbolized.107 Experiencing refers to the directly given stream of feelings, and is defined directly by observable direct reference.108 Experiencing often occurs concretely and intensely to an individual without conceptual contents. Not only does experiencing sometimes occur without any explicitly known content, it can occur with a gradation of explicit knowledge and content. Experience refers to content, while experiencing denotes something concretely felt and present in an individual’s phenomenal field, whether conceptual content is explicitly known or not.109

An individual who is maximally open to his or her experience weighs and balances all the meanings in his experience in a subjective process.110 No one can exhaustively conceptualize all possible meanings of one experience.111

It is vitally important to refer directly to experiencing
There is a vital difference between meanings found implicit in one’s own experience that are perhaps due to introjected concepts instead of personal experiencing.112 The subjective weighing in feeling occur in the present moment. It does not occur in terms of explicit conceptual contents. It is an implicit subjective feeling process that implicitly contains all meanings in the present moment.113

Experiencing is a way of having experience that is congruent without being fully conceptualized.114 It is vitally important to refer directly to feeling, whether this be conceptualized congruently or not.115 Direct reference to experiencing is first.116 It may not be accurately symbolized, but it is not ignored, or allowed to remain totally unspecified.117 Metaphor emphasizes that experiencing itself changes in the act of symbolizing it. Symbolization always changes experiencing.118

Experiencing always exceed what can conceptualized and communicated
The reference to experiencing is nearly everywhere implicitly assumed. This book makes this implicit reference to experiencing explicit and communicable. If conclusions can be retranslated into terms referring directly to experiencing, then this makes it possible to develop the theory further and to formulate further explicit hypotheses.119

Experiencing always exceed what may be stated communicably. Reference to experiencing is needed not only in the generation of hypotheses, but also for the generation of new logical forms and principles of inquiry.120

We can think everything more truly if we think with attention to how we think. Thinking employs more than conceptual logic. This means that we can let our next step of thought come from experiential feedback.

Experiencing underlies every moment of living. It is a pre-conceptual and supra-logical order. Actual experience is largely missed when interpreted through stereotyped concepts. Concepts are abstractions of living experience. They can refer to experiencing but cannot fully represent it.

Change occurs through experiencing. Symbolized meanings change in interaction with experiencing. Meaning is something felt or experienced. Felt meaning is present whenever something occurs that have meaning. The exploration of feeling develops on its own power.

Symbols and felt meanings function together in different ways. Meanings are formed in the interaction of symbols and felt meanings. The pre-conceptual is not determined by the conceptual. The intellect depends on the functions of felt meaning. All logical rules are formulations that could have been different. Many possible specifications can symbolize the same felt meaning.

Experiencing is the total of experienced meaning. Experiencing is multiple and non-numeric. It can be specified as one or as many experiences. One cannot create new meanings without experiencing. New meanings are partly determined by all present meanings. Metaphors create new meanings. Concepts are metaphoric. Meaning arises in symbolic interaction with felt experiencing.

It is vitally important to refer directly to experiencing. Experiencing always exceed what can conceptualized and communicated. Experience refers to content, while experiencing denotes something concretely felt, whether conceptual content is explicitly known or not. No one can conceptualize all possible meanings of an experience.

This book is a groundbreaking philosophical work. Eugene Gendlin considers felt experiencing in its own right. He explores how logical order can relate concretely to felt experience. His approach makes philosophical analysis of experiencing and the creation of meaning possible. It’s a most interesting book, but it’s also a very difficult book to read.

1 Eugene Gendlin, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (Northwestern University Press, 1997, first published 1962), p.xi.
2 Ibid., p.43.
3 Ibid., p.7.
4 Ibid., p.xii.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid., p.xv.
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p.xvii.
9 Ibid., p.xviii.
10 Ibid., p.xix.
11 Ibid., p.xx.
12 Ibid., p.xxi.
13 Ibid., p.1.
14 Ibid., p.2
15 Ibid., p.3.
16 Ibid..
17 Ibid., p.5.
18 Ibid..
19 Ibid., p.6.
20 Ibid..
21 Ibid., p.8.
22 Ibid., p.11.
23 Ibid., p.12.
24 Ibid., p.13.
25 Ibid., p.14.
26 Ibid., pp.15—-16.
27 Ibid., p.17.
29 Ibid., p.19.
30 Ibid., p.24.
31 Ibid., p.25.
32 Ibid., p.26.
33 Ibid., pp.27–29.
34 Ibid..
35 Ibid., p.33.
36 Ibid., p.34.
37 Ibid., p.35.
38 Ibid., p.37.
39 Ibid., p.38.
40 Ibid., p.39.
41 Ibid., p.41
42 Ibid., p.42.
43 Ibid., p.44.
44 Ibid., p.45.
45 Ibid., pp.46–47.
46 Ibid., p.47.
47 Ibid., p.64.
48 Ibid., p.65.
49 Ibid., p.66.
50 Ibid., p.67.
51 Ibid., p.68.
52 Ibid., p.70.
53 Ibid., p.80.
54 Ibid., p.81
55 Ibid., p.82.
56 Ibid., p.83.
57 Ibid., p.84.
58 Ibid., p.90.
59 Ibid., p.100.
60 Ibid., p.106.
61 Ibid., p.107.
62 Ibid., p.108.
63 Ibid., p.125.
64 Ibid., p.126.
65 Ibid., p.127.
66 Ibid., p.128.
67 Ibid., p.138
68 Ibid., p.139
69 Ibid., p.144.
70 Ibid., pp.144–145.
71 Ibid., p.147.
72 Ibid., p.148.
73 Ibid., p.152.
74 Ibid., p.153.
75 Ibid., p.158
76 Ibid., p.159.
77 Ibid..
78 Ibid., p.163.
79 Ibid., p.164.
80 Ibid., p.177.
81 Ibid., p.180.
82 Ibid..
83 Ibid., p.187.
84 Ibid., p.190.
85 Ibid., p.192.
86 Ibid., p.195.
87 Ibid., p.199.
88 Ibid., pp.199–200.
89 Ibid., pp.205–206
90 Ibid., p.206.
91 Ibid., p.217.
92 Ibid..
93 Ibid., p.218.
94 Ibid..
95 Ibid., p.219.
96 Ibid., p.220.
97 Ibid., pp.220–221.
98 Ibid., p.221.
99 Ibid., pp.221–222.
100 Ibid., p.222.
101 Ibid., p.223.
102 Ibid..
103 Ibid., p.224.
104 Ibid., p.226.
105 Ibid., p.228.
106 Ibid., p.230.
107 Ibid., p.237.
108 Ibid., p.239.
109 Ibid., p.240
110 Ibid., p.254.
111 Ibid., p.255
112 Ibid., pp.255–256.
113 Ibid., p.257.
114 Ibid., p.258.
115 Ibid., p.263.
116 Ibid., p.264.
117 Ibid., p.265
118 Ibid., p.267.
119 Ibid., p.272.
120 Ibid..

Related book review:
Focusing: How to Gain Direct Access to Your Body’s Knowledge by Eugene Gendlin

Authentic vs. counterfeit orders

This is a post in my series on organizing ”between and beyond.” The post is part of my exploration of deeper generative orders for organizing. Other posts are here.

I introduced a distinction between authentic versus counterfeit operating limits in my post on the phenomenology of sociocracy. This distinction is inspired by Henri Bortoft.1 My argument is that authentic operating limits naturally belong together with the situation, while counterfeit operating limits are artificially forced to belong together with the situation. Similarly, I think it’s necessary to distinguish between authentic versus counterfeit orders.2 Authentic orders naturally belong together with the situation, while counterfeit orders are artificially forced to belong together with the situation. Or, in the language of Bohm & Peat, authentic orders are informed, while counterfeit orders are misinformed.3 And misinformation enfolded into an order have wide-ranging and negative consequences.4 Misinformation is not only rigid but destructive.5 A clearing up of misinformation is needed if energy is to be freed from its destructive pattern.6

Why is this relevant in our search for a deeper generative order7 of organizing? I think that a major problem arises when it is assumed, often tacitly, that principles and assumptions that are valid in one situation automatically are valid in another situation. For example, a conclusion from this post is that defined processes aren’t appropriate for intellectually intensive work. In other words, defined processes impose a counterfeit order on intellectually intensive work. Another conclusion from the same post is that personal practices are largely independent of organizational processes. In other words, organizational processes are a counterfeit order by not naturally belonging together with personal practices. And it’s destructive to artificially force organizational processes to belong together with personal practices. And, finally, the conclusion in this post is that people are not machines. Machines and organisms are different. In other words, applying specific assumptions applicable to mechanical or electrical systems to human systems impose a counterfeit order. This can produce more harm than good.

Counterfeit orders are misinformed. And misinformation is destructive. The deeper organizing order must be an authentic order!

Here is more on belonging together vs. belonging together.

1 The idea behind authentic versus counterfeit operating limits is inspired by Henri Bortoft who distinguished between authentic versus counterfeit wholes. The notion of authentic and counterfeit is also connected to the phenomenological idea of belonging together. See Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter (Floris Books, 2014), pp. 51f & 150—153. See also Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 70, 90—95, 132.
2 The notion of ”order” extends beyond the confines of a particular theory. Order permeates the whole infrastructure of concepts, ideas, and values. Order enters the very framework in which human thought is understood and action is carried out. See David Bohm & F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity, p. 98.
3 By ”misinformation” is meant a form of generative information that is inappropriate, rather than simply incorrect. Ibid., p. 238.
4 Ibid., p. 271.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid..
7 A ”generative order” may be regarded as a concrete activity of the general. This takes the form of principles, aims, values, attitudes, and beliefs of all kinds. When a principle is regarded as valid, it means that it is taken as necessary. Ibid., p. 238.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

A wide-ranging hangout with Simon Robinson

Simon Robinson, co-author of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, shares in this wide-ranging hangout his view on holonomics, wholeness, leadership, change, human values, and the dynamics of seeing deeply. Simon says that there’s lot of talk about collaboration, co-creation, sustainability, and sharing, but that these are just words if there’s no authenticity and a lived presence of human values. I fully agree.

Related posts:
Book Review: Holonomics
Book Review: First Steps to Seeing

The phenomenology of sociocracy

Phenomenology is a philosophy, an academic discipline, and a practiced research methodology. It arose from a group of continental philosophers in the early 1900s with Edmund Husserl and has developed into a qualitative research methodology. Unlike other research methodologies, our sense experience, intuition, and feelings do not need to be disregarded. The key is to notice without attachment, and discern the difference between thoughts, feelings, and direct experience.

Sociocracy is a governance method based on consent decision-making and cybernetic principles. Sociocracy was developed during the 1970s by Gerard Endenburg. Endenburg is a Dutch entrepreneur and electrical engineer. His first book on sociocracy was published in Dutch in 1981 and in English in 1988. The book contains two examples to illustrate the feedback control loop, or circle process, in cybernetics. The first example is riding a bicycle,1 and the second is a central heating system.2

The basic rules, or principles, in sociocracy are discussed in detail in relation to these two examples. The major conclusion drawn is that there is one operating limit which can never come under discussion, and that is the equivalence in the decision-making.3 An important distinction is that this equivalence in the decision-making only applies to deciding the operating limits, or thresholds, of the system components. This is why the first principle in sociocracy only governs policy decision-making.

Gerard Endenburg acknowledges that the operating limits in riding a bicycle are not the same kind of limits as those within which a thermostat in a heating system is allowed to function, but he still thinks that they indicate constraints within which control may be exercised.4 He is aware that riding a bicycle is far more complex in reality than his simple example might suggest.5 Endenburg also acknowledges that people are not system components,6 but he doesn’t distinguish between machines and organisms in his reasoning.7 The way of seeing in sociocracy is the engineer’s. The operating idea is cybernetics.

With a phenomenological approach, Gerard Endenburg would have set aside his engineering preconceptions and assumptions, and explored the phenomenon of riding a bicycle in terms of itself. He would have reflected on his experiences to search for intrinsic patterns and qualities, and, with them, gained a deeper understanding. For example, he might have noticed that some operating limits are authentic, while others are counterfeit.8,9,10,11

Authentic operating limits are, in this case, determined by the bicyclist’s need to keep the balance while riding the bicycle.12 An example of a counterfeit operating limit could be to be forbidden to cross a white line on the road. It would be counterfeit because the bicyclist would still cross the line, if needed, to keep the balance.13 However, sometimes not crossing the line could be authentic, for example, if it would be better to fall than to be killed by a car.14 The point is that people decide themselves what is authentic, or not, depending on the situation.15 And people don’t obey counterfeit operating limits, or rules, unless they are forced to do so.16 This means that equivalence is applicable to all decision-making. The operating limit on sociocracy itself is that people are autonomic.17,18

1 Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making, (Eburon, 1998), pp. 16—19, 23, 33—37, 223—224.
2 Ibid., pp. 19—23, 30, 36, 40.
3 Ibid., p. 23.
4 Ibid. pp. 23, 30.
5 Ibid., p. 16.
6 Ibid., p. 39.
7 Ibid.
8 The idea behind authentic versus counterfeit operating limits is inspired by Henri Bortoft who distinguished between authentic versus counterfeit wholes. See for example Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively, (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 90—95.
9 See also Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson, Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, (Floris Books, 2014), pp. 51f & 150.
10 The notion of authentic and counterfeit is also connected to the phenomenological idea of belonging together. Note especially that there is a feedback loop in that the way in which the belonging together is developed helps to inform the system, and when the system is created it can also help to better see the belonging together. Ibid., pp. 150—153.
11 The belonging together emerges from the phenomenon itself. See Emma Kidd, First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively, (Floris Books, 2015), pp. 70, 132.
12 Authentic operating limits naturally belong together with the situation, in this case with the bicyclist’s balancing act.
13 Counterfeit operating limits are artificially forced to belong together with the situation.
14 Note that there is a feedback loop between the operating limit(s) and the situation.
15 It’s important to understand the situation and let it control the actions. See Frederick S. Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, (Bantam Books, 1969), p. 20.
16 External control, even internalized, interferes with the healthy working of the organism. Ibid.
17 Organisms are autonomic, while machines are allonomic. Organisms come into being as a whole entity and grow into maturity as a whole entity unlike machines that are assembled piece by piece by some other. See Norm Hirst, Towards a science of life as creative organisms, Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 4, No 1-2 (2008).
18 According to Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, we can never direct a living system; we can only disturb it. Furthermore, a living system has the autonomy to decide what to notice and what will disturb it. See Fritjof Capra & Pier Luigi Luisi, The Systems View of Life: A Unified Vision, 4th printing, (Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 256.

Related book reviews:
Book Review: Sociocracy by Gerard Endenburg
Book Review: First Steps to Seeing by Emma Kidd
Book Review: Holonomics by Simon Robinson & Maria Moraes Robinson

Related posts:
The big misconception in sociocracy
Fritz Perls on control
What if control is inappropriate?
Machines are allonomic, living organisms are autonomic
Autognomics: Radical Self-Knowing
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?

Book Review: First Steps to Seeing

First Steps to Seeing: A Path Towards Living Attentively is Emma Kidd’s first book. Emma Kidd “left the fashion industry to investigate alternative ways of thinking about and doing business” (p. 11). What she didn’t expect was that her explorations would take her right back to the very foundation for her previous work as designer – the “way of seeing” (p. 11). The book has two parts: Developing a Dynamic Way of Seeing, and Giving Life Our Full Attention, and is designed to take the reader on a journey “that encourages us to fully notice life by paying acute attention to the ways in which we see, think and act, every day” (p. 14).

A Dynamic Way of Seeing (and Being)
The book also serves as an introduction and guide to Henri Bortoft’s work. Henri Bortoft called the switch of attention from ‘what we see’, to ‘the way in which we are seeing’ a “dynamic way of seeing” (p. 32). A dynamic way of seeing involves “noticing our experience of life as we are experiencing it, rather than analyzing it” (p. 15). It “enables us to transform the way in which we relate to ourselves, to other people, to our work and to life in general” (p. 16), and “ask[s] us to become more gentle, vulnerable, open and intimate in our encounters with the world” (p. 17). Fundamentally, it is “a way of being in, and relating to, life” (p. 109). Living attentively “allows life to thrive, both inside and outside of us” (p. 109).

Focused Sensory Experience
Developing a dynamic way of seeing involves “pausing any internal dialogue that is occurring in our mind and opening our awareness to notice the way in which our senses can perceive the world” (p. 40). By shifting our attention “from our thoughts and towards our senses we can move beyond our habits of perception and begin to rediscover our own experience of life” (p. 41). When we “become aware of the way in which our thoughts divert our attention away from our experience of the world, we can make an effort to redirect our attention and attempt to more fully experience life” (p. 47). Although our “thoughts are an intrinsic … part of our experience, they are often part of a secondary ‘meaning-making’ process that attempts to re-present the life that our sensory experience first presences” (p. 47). The “awareness that exists prior to our thoughts”, in the form of words, “has a clarity and freshness to it that brings our experience of the world directly to the forefront of our perception” (p. 47). “Lived experience is our capacity to experience life, as it is being lived, in the present moment” (p. 51). Henri Bortoft believed that “perception can only truly begin when we slow down” (p. 51). Our minds often work incredibly fast, jumping “from one thought to the next” (p. 51). By slowing down, “changing the way we see, and the way in which we notice the world around us, we are literally changing the way we use our mind” (p. 60). This makes it possible “to experience a new richness, depth, and diversity in the life around us” (p. 63).

Sensorial imagination
We can also “use our imagination as a mirror to reflect on our experience and to bring it to life again in our mind” (p. 63). When we “use our imagination to re-member (put back together) a particular experience, as exactly as possible, in all its sensory and felt detail,” we can review the experience “without the distractions of personal opinions, analysis, preconceive ideas or definitions” (p. 64). Since we are all different, “there are no fixed instructions for the exercise of exact sensorial imagination” (p. 65). “We just need to pay full attention to our sensory experience of life and then try to accurately bring that experience back to life in our imagination” (p. 65). When we let “our intellectual analysis dominate our investigations, our living experience of the world tends to be overlooked” (p. 73). “This leaves us blind to the life of the world around us” (p. 73).

Intuitive Perception
The action of “fully focusing on our experience, rather than our thoughts, has the effect of … connecting us directly to the world” (p. 82). We can then “release the specific focus of our attention and open our awareness, so that we remain present to our experience yet not fixated on it” (p. 82). This “frees up our intuition to sense life in its own unique way” (p. 82). Intuition is also “called non-inferential perception” (p. 81). With “focused sensory perception” we narrow our gaze, whereas with “intuitive perception” we loose gaze and open our attention (p. 84). Putting “intuitive perception” into practice is not as straightforward as the “ways by which we can put our thoughts and senses into immediate action” (p. 84). Again, there are no fixed instructions “that will guarantee successful results” (p. 85). “All we can do is try to create conditions within ourselves for intuitive understanding to emerge” (p. 85). The validity of our intuition can be strengthened by “most crucially coming to know ourselves, ever further and deeper” (p. 86).

Authentic vs. Counterfeit Wholes
Wholeness is “intrinsically embedded in all parts of nature” and “expresses itself through the parts that make up whole forms” (p. 87). Henri Bortoft distinguished between ‘authentic’ and ‘counterfeit’ wholes. An ‘authentic’ whole ”reflects the type of wholes that nature creates, where the whole is always present in the parts” (p. 90). This type of whole “cannot be reduced by simply removing ‘parts’ of it” (p. 90). The authentic whole “is created by an ongoing, interactive ‘dialogue’ between the parts and the whole(s) of which they are a part” (p. 92). “An authentic whole is … a coherent integrity which becomes expressed through the parts that make up its form” (p. 92). The parts rely on “the coherent integrity of the whole to guide their development, but they are not slaves to the whole” (p. 92). The parts are “a place for ‘presencing’ of the whole” (p. 92). “In an authentic whole there is an intrinsic relationship between the parts and the whole but neither the part nor the whole is dominant; they are not separate entities and cannot be separated” (p. 93). A ‘counterfeit’ whole, on the other hand, is “a kind of ‘super part’ which domiciliates the parts that it creates by sitting over and above them, assuming significance, supremacy, and superiority” (pp. 91—92). This type of whole consists of “a collection of separate parts that have been assembled … in order to create the ‘whole’” (p. 92). Counterfeit wholes “operates as separate entities” (p. 92). They have “just been put together” (p. 92). “Our ability … to distinguish between authentic and counterfeit wholes … can help us to recognize what is genuine, and most satisfying, in our everyday lives” (p. 93). “In nature, in order for a whole to thrive, its parts must thrive also” (p. 95). “The same goes for societies, neither the part nor the whole can dominate, they need to authentically work together” (p. 95).

Living inquiry
Paying full attention “to noticing what brings us alive and intentionally expressing that vitality draws out the same potential in others also” (p. 124). If we want “to create livelier … societies we each need to find our own ways to come more alive and to be more fully human” (p. 124). “Paying attention to experiencing ourselves and presencing our own life … enables us to become more present, vulnerable and authentic” (p. 125). This creates “new space for life to flourish and flow within us” (p. 125). “A living inquiry is a dynamic way of seeing in action” (p. 130).

A Dynamic Way of Seeing (and Being) At Work
Emma Kidd cites several authors and researchers in the book to “demonstrate a form of living inquiry that allows the part of life being studied to become its own theory and to show itself, on its own terms” (p. 130). The case studies are very interesting and “illustrate the way in which systemic change can begin with an individual” (p. 143). “By using living knowledge to put the needs of life itself at the very centre of professional practice,” each case study shows “ways in which life can, and does, thrive” (p. 143). The projects and people in the book provide examples “of a truly revolutionary way of working” (p. 143), but to truly change the way of being at work is difficult. Emma Kidd has “come across many businesses and individuals all over the world who are really trying to make a difference but many only manage it in a partial way” (p. 168). They might, for example, “still end up controlling their employees rather than finding ways that allow them to genuinely thrive” (p. 168). Emma Kidd noticed, on reflection, “that these contrasting ways of working form two very different approaches to life and to business – one in which life generally suffers and in the other life quite obviously thrives” (p. 170). The case studies in the book display “a radical form of honesty and openness” (p. 174). They provide “a kind of … open-source project design and development, offering … a starting point from which to provide the best possible conditions for life to thrive in our own communities, schools, offices and businesses” (p. 174). The projects are very important “examples of the way in which parts of life can thrive when whole systems intentionally give their parts the freedom to do so” (p. 174).

From Surviving to Thriving
“At the root of everything we create is the mind that created it, including the organisations in which we work and the societies in which we live” (p. 176). A dynamic way of seeing “shines a light on the conditions within which life is most likely to flourish and therefore makes it possible for us to replicate these conditions” (p. 176). This is why a dynamic way of seeing and being is so important!

I highly recommend the book! It’s a great guide towards living and working more attentively, so that we can create conditions for life to thrive. The book is an important signpost in my own search for life-giving ways of working.

Related post:
Seeing Life in Work

Book Review: Holonomics

Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter by Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson is a book which places business within the overall ecosystem of the biosphere. Holonomics is a combination of ‘holos’ (the whole) and economics. The authors highlight the limitations and traps within the current ways of thinking in business.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Part One introduces the phenomenological way of encountering wholeness in systems, which is a dynamic way of seeing. Experiencing the coming-into-being of phenomena makes it possible to reach a deeper understanding of the world. The authors call this holonomic thinking. Holonomic thinking doesn’t replace mechanistic thinking, which focuses on objects, or systems thinking, where the dynamic coming-into-being often is lost, but expands our thinking.
  • Part Two covers systems theory and complexity science. One of the key insights from Part Two is how the dynamic way of seeing transforms the observer from within through the genuine encounter with the phenomena that are studied. Holonomic thinking enables a person to reach a deeper understanding of the world where business is no longer seen as separate from people and nature.
  • Part Three presents a number of case studies of holonomic thinking as applied to business. Holonomic thinking is relevant to businesses since they are living systems. Among the examples mentioned are: Visa Inc.’s Chaordic Organization, where governance and power is distributed; Kyocera’s Amoeba Management System, which is based on self-managed and self-coordinated cells; Gore Associates’ Lattice Organization, where teams emerge naturally around perceived opportunities; Toyota’s Production System, in which the information that directs operations is the work itself; and DPaschoal’s Business Ecosystem, where all parts belong together and sustain each other.

A key insight from the book is that our thinking is an intimate part of our seeing, and vice versa. This means that entering into a new way of seeing expands our thinking. This book is important since it invites us into a new way of seeing which greatly expands our world view. This is much needed since people and planet matter. I warmly recommend the book!

Related link:
Simon Robinson’s blog posts about Holonomics at Transition Consciousness