Kategoriarkiv: Philosophy

Book Review: A Brief History of Thought

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by Luc Ferry is, in a way, a beginner’s guide to philosopy. I particularly like that Luc Ferry addresses a nonacademic audience. I also like that Luc Ferry tries to place the different philosophical systems in the best possible light, without seeking to criticize.1 I agree with him that we must try to understand before making objections. And by understanding how others think, we get a perspective on our own thoughts.2 That is what I found most valuable with the book!

I’m somewhat surprised that Luc Ferry describes philosophy not only as ‘love’ (philo) of ‘wisdom’ (sophia),3 but also as a road to ‘salvation’ by the exercise of reason – if not from death itself, then from the anxiety it causes.4 Personally, I think loving wisdom – trying to live wisely – is a perfectly valid aim in itself. I also find reason to question reason itself. I have come to believe that reason alone will not save us and the world. Instead, we need to bring our focus ‘upstream’ to where reason and heart may work in common.5

1 Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living (HarperCollinsPublishers, 2011), p.193.
2 Ibid., p.251.
3 Ibid., p.15.
4 Ibid., p.6.
5 The idea of moving ‘upstream’ is from Michael Jones. See Jones, Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of Imagination (Pianoscapes, 2006), p. xi.

Book Review: The Structure of Value

The Structure of Value: Foundations of Scientific Axiology is Robert S. Hartman’s seminal work on Formal Axiology. Robert S. Hartman was born in Germany in 1910. Seeing the Nazis organize evil, he fled Nazi Germany for his opposition to Hitler. He devoted the rest of his life to organize good. This led him to a life-long quest to answer the question, ”What is good?” and how to apply the answer to help preserve and enhance the value of human life. Here’s an overview of the book together with some conclusions.

Part One: The Structure of Science

Philosophy vs. Science
Hartman starts his book with an examination of the transition from value philosophy to value science.1 For him, the difference between philosophy and science is a methodological one.

  • The method of philosophy is analysis. The concepts are relatively unstructured, in a definite logical way. Analysis not only has relative lack of structure, due to its abstractive nature, but it also has relative lack of relevance to actuality.2
  • The scientific method is one of synthesis. The concepts in science are precisely structured. Axiomatic synthesis gives rise to systems which mirror the total variety of the corresponding actuality.3

Extensional vs. Intensional Logic
Surprisingly, the concept concept has never been fully treated in the history of logic.4 The development from natural philosophy to natural science is based on extensional logic. This is the part of logic which has been determined with precision, for example mathematics. The other part of logic which has been neglected is intensional logic.5

Value vs. Number
A logic of intensions investigates and structures the interrelationships between intensions, up to and including the totality of all intentions. This gives us meaning, rather than just an inventory of the world.6 The definition of Value is the intensional analogue of the logical definition of Number. Inversely, the definition of Number is the extensional analogue of the definition of Value.7

Formal Axiology vs. Mathematics
Formal axiology is with respect to intension what mathematics is with respect to extension. And what mathematics is to natural philosophy, formal axiology is to moral philosophy.8 Extensional logics is applied to mathematics, and mathematics to the natural sciences. Intensional logic is applied to formal axiology, and formal axiology to the moral sciences.9

It is relatively easy to follow an analytic argument, but it is difficult to follow a synthetic one. To do so, it is necessary to think both formally and systematically. It is, furthermore, a true art to find a correspondence between reality and a formal system. This can only can be learned by practice.10

Analytic vs. Synthetic Concepts
The difference between analytic and synthetic concepts defines, as we have seen, the difference between philosophy and science.11 The intension of the analytic concept contains within itself other concepts equally abstracted.12 A synthetic concept, on the other hand, is very different. It consists of terms related to terms. The model of a synthetic intension is a network rather than a nest of Chinese boxes.13 The difference between term and concept is that the term has neither intension nor extension. The term is a constructed variable. All its significance derives from its interrelationship with other terms.14

Part Two: The Foundations of Value Science

Axiological Value
If value theory is to become a science, then Value must be determined by an axiom which identifies it with some notion or application of logic.15 The Axiom of Formal Axiology is the definition of Good:

A thing is good if it fulfills the intension of its concept.”16

This axiom defines axiological Value in general.17 Axiological interpretation is subjective, axiological formalization is objective.18

Exact Value Measurement
The application of combinatorial calculus makes exact measurement of value possible. There are three possible kinds of sets, finite, denumberably infinite, and nondenumberably infinite.19

  1. Finite sets define formal concepts. The things corresponding to them are constructions of the human mind and are called systemic values. Such things either fulfill their concept or they are no such things.20
  2. Denumberably infinite sets define abstract concepts. These properties are denumerable, for they must be abstracted one by one. Fulfillment by a thing of an abstract concept constitutes extrinsic value.21
  3. Nondenumerably infinite sets define singular concepts. Things corresponding to such concepts are unique. Uniqueness is the intensional counterpart to extensional singularity. The fullfilment by a thing of a singular concept constitutes intrinsic value.22

Systemic, Extrinsic, and Intrinsic Value
Systemic value, extrinsic value, and intrinsic value are the three value dimensions. They constitute a hierarchy of value. Intrinsic value is more valuable than extrinsic value, and extrinsic more than systemic value. The hierarchy of value is a valuation of value.23

Part Three: The Structure of Value

Systematic vs. Empirical Import
Both the axiom and the system following from it have systematic and empirical import. The systematic import of the system is its logical structure. The empirical import is its capacity of accounting for the value realm, its applicability.24

Intensional Structures
Formal axiology is based upon the logical structure of intension. Various kinds of intensional structure are arrived at by applying the rules of set theory: finite, denumerably infinite, and nondenumerably infinite. These structures determine systemic, extrinsic, and intrinsic value. The intension, in formal axiology, is an axiometric structure.25

Fact and Value
Formal axiology arrives at value being the reality of which fact is the measure. Fact measures value, but that is all.26 Any value dimension is fact to the succeeding dimension and value to the preceding dimension.27 The relationship between systemic, extrinsic and intrinsic value corresponds to a process of continuous enrichment with leaps from one value dimension to the next.28

World of Fact vs. World of Value
As natural science creates a world of fact, so axiological science creates a world of value.29 The goodness of a thing is not the norm for the thing’s factuality, but for the thing’s value possibilities.30

Measure Value
While the systematic import arises from the axiometric nature of intension, its empirical import arises from its axiometric nature, its capacity to measure value. The value structure is the structure of the value form. The value measure is the measure of the value phenomenon.31

Intensional vs. Extensional Structures
Intensional structures are axiometric in the same fundamental sense that extensional structures are physiometric. The former measure value phenomena in the same sense that the latter measure physical phenomena. There is measurement in all three value dimensions. They have great differences among themselves.32

Dynamic Hierarchy of Values
The hierarchy of values is dynamic. The experience of the value dimensions follow each other in any order. The application of the combinatorial laws to the value dimensions constitutes the calculus of value. Calculus of value is applying exponentiation to the value dimensions.33

Calculus of Value
The calculus of value arises by combining the three value dimensions S (systemic), E (extrinsic), and I (intrinsic), and their arithmetical values. The combinations of these three value dimensions can either be compositions or transpositions.

Value Compositions vs. Value Transpositions
A composition of values is a positive valuation of one mode of value by another, while a transposition is a negative valuation. The most valuable value, that is, the value that fulfills the Value concept most fully, is intrinsic value. It is the positive value of a value.34

Secondary Value Combinations
There are nine compositions and nine transpositions of the three value dimensions.35 Here are the possible value combinations in the order of their axiological rank:

II, EI, SI, IE, IS, EE, SE, ES, SS, S-S, E-S, S-E, E-E, I-S, I-E, S-I, E-I, I-I

The formula II is , for example, intrinsic valuation of intrinsic value, such as valuing a baby. The formula I-E is, on the other hand, extrinsic disvaluation of intrinsic value, such as to regard people as functions. Regarding people as functions has, by the way, the same axiological value as making the worst of a good situation. As is obvious, the value combinations can be combined in turn. Thus arise tertiary, quaternary, etc., compositions and transpositions of value.36

Perversion of Value
Disvalue posing as value is a perversion of value. It is worse than straightforward disvaluation.37 An example is learning children to value not valuing themselves. The value formula (I-S)-S)S covers, for example, any situation where a systemic disvaluation of a systemic disvaluation of an intrinsic value is systemically valued.38 Like a mathematical formula, a value formula is capable of infinite interpretation.39

Robert S. Hartman defines science as the application of a logical frame of reference to a subject matter. Hartman’s specific approach to his value science makes use of combinatory mathematics. This makes an exact enumeration of the different value dimensions possible. Even the most complicated axiological arguments and situations can be analyzed by means of this calculus.40

The book itself is an excellent example of axiomatic synthesis. I found it interesting to see how Hartman constructs the foundations of his value science. He obviously knows philosophy, science, and mathematics very well! The book is well-structured and clearly written, but is also very demanding to read!

Hartman’s own hope is that the application of axiology to actual situations will lead to higher levels of insights into the world of value.41 For example, that axiology will help to expose the real evils of our civilization.42 Hartman’s book is a remarkable achievement and his insights are profound!

1 Robert S. Hartman, The Structure of Value: Foundations of Scientific Axiology (Wopf & Stock, 2011, first published 1967), p. 14.
2 Ibid., p. 46.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid., p. 48.
5 Ibid., p. 49.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p. 52.
8 Ibid., p. 53
9 Ibid., p. 60.
10 Ibid., p. 65.
11 Ibid., p. 64.
12 Ibid., p. 83.
13 Ibid., p. 84.
14 Ibid., p. 85.
15 Ibid., p. 102.
16 Ibid., p. 103.
17 Ibid., p. 104.
18 Ibid., p. 110.
19 Ibid., p. 112.
20 Ibid., p. 112.
21 Ibid., p. 113.
22 Ibid..
23 Ibid., p. 114.
24 Ibid., p. 154.
25 Ibid., p. 193.
26 Ibid., p. 220.
27 Ibid., p. 221.
28 Ibid., p. 223.
29 Ibid., p. 225.
30 Ibid., p. 226.
31 Ibid., p. 249.
32 Ibid., p. 250.
33 Ibid., p. 265.
34 Ibid., p. 268.
35 Ibid., pp. 272–274.
36 Ibid., p. 276.
37 Ibid..
38 Ibid., p. 277.
39 Ibid..
40 Ibid., p. 280.
41 Ibid., p. 311.
42 Ibid., p. 276.

Related book review:
Freedom to Live

Book Review: A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality

A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality by Donald W. Sherburne is a great guide to Whitehead’s philosophy! Alfred North Whitehead’s book Process and Reality (commonly referred to as PR) is extremely difficult to read.1 PR is rich and suggestive, but its opacity is monumental.2 The text of PR is in very poor condition. Whitehead refused to have anything to do with the publishing process.3

The challenge Donald W. Sherburne faced was to make the philosophy of PR more accessible than it is in the original.4 The book is, however, not just a series of comments about Whitehead. Sherburne makes sure that Whitehead speaks himself by drawing together Whitehead’s scattered observations topic by topic.5 Sherburne doesn’t give an exhaustive account of all aspects of Whitehead’s philosophy, and he doesn’t attempt a critical evaluation of what it does present.6 Sherburne has, however, added many explanatory paragraphs. He has also added several helpful diagrams not to be found in PR.7

Actual Entities
Whitehead presents an organic philosophy where actual entities, or actual occasions, are organisms that grow, mature, and perishes. The whole of PR is concerned with describing the characteristics and interrelationships between these actual entities.8 There is, according to Whitehead, no going behind actual entities to find anything more real. Whitehead’s presumption is that there is only one genus of actual entities.9 An actual entity is furthermore a process. It’s not describable in terms of ‘stuff.’10

Organism and Reason
Whitehead’s doctrine of organism is an attempt to describe the world as a process of generation of actual entities.11 Actual entities are the only reasons. This means that to search for a reason is to search for actual entities.12

Formative Elements
Actual entities emerges from the interaction of three formative elements. The first is pure potentiality.13 The second is the Whiteheadian concept of God.14 And the third formative element is creativity.15

Creativity is the concept that account for the perpetual creative advance into novelty, which is a cornerstone of Whitehead’s process philosophy.16 Creativity is the outcome of the interdependence of actual entities, the Principle of Relativity, and that every actual entity is superject as well as subject.17

Time and Consciousness
Whitehead incorporates the relativity theory in physics into the basic principles of his system. This means that there is no absolute time.18 It’s also important to grasp Whitehead’s analysis of consciousness. Consciousness presupposes experience, and not experience consciousness.19

Transmutation and Nexus
Transmutation enables Whitehead to move from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic realm. Whitehead analyzes the way actual entities group themselves into aggregates.20 Transmutation is the operation whereby an aggregate of actual occasions, forming a nexus, is prehended not as a many, but as a unity, as one macrocosmic entity.21

Society and Order
A society is a nexus with social order.22 There is furthermore a hierarchy of societies.23 A structured society as a whole provides a favourable environment for the subordinate societies which it harbours within itself.24 Molecules are structured societies, and so are in all probability electrons and protons. But gases are not structured societies.25

Life and Conceptual Novelty
A structured society may have more or less ‘life.’. The primary meaning of ‘life’ is the origination of conceptual novelty. A society is only to be termed ‘living’ in a derivative sense.26 All societies require interplay with their environment. This interplay takes the form of robbery in the case of living societies.27 Living societies develop together with other societies which constitute an epoch.28

Metaphysics / Speculative Philosophy
I find Whitehead’s In Defense of Speculative Philosophy, in the Appendix, particularly interesting.29 It gives insights into the nature and scope of Whithead’s undertaking. It also gives insights into the subject of metaphysics, or speculative philosophy, itself.

Donald W. Sherburne’s book is excellent! It takes the reader into the heart of Whithead’s philosophy more quickly and easily than would have been possible otherwise. Whitehead is sometimes brilliant, but often incomprehensible. He frequently introduces new bewildering terminology. According to Sherburne, Whitehead is nevertheless often closer to traditional positions than his mode of speaking initially suggests.30 I am grateful for Sherburne’s impressive effort.

Surprisingly, reading Donald W. Sherburne’s book gave me insights into my own metaphysics. I can see that I’m very much influenced by David Bohm, who also thought about mind and matter, creativity and order. Interestingly, I think that Bohm went beyond Whitehead’s actual entities, or process. Order arises from process, but process arises from a deeper order. Active information, rather than process, is constitutive of the world.

This means that my metaphysics is a philosophy of in-form-ed order. Life itself has a complex and subtle order of infinite complexity and subtlety. Life’s various suborders are all arranged, connected, and organized together, clearly inseparable from the greater whole. Life is, therefore, an order of orders.

1 Donald W. Sherburne, A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality (The University of chicago Press, 1981, first published 1966), p. 1.¨
2 Ibid., p. 2.
3 Ibid., p. 5.
4 Ibid., p. 2.
5 Ibid., p. 3.
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p. 4.
8 Ibid., p. 6.
9 Ibid., p. 7.
10 Ibid., p. 8.
11 Ibid., p. 17.
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid., p. 20.
14 Ibid., p. 25.
15 Ibid., p. 32.
16 Ibid., p. 33.
17 Ibid., p. 35.
18 Ibid., p. 38.
19 Ibid., p. 69.
20 Ibid., p. 72.
21 Ibid., p. 73.
22 Ibid., p. 78.
23 Ibid., p. 80.
24 Ibid., p. 84.
25 Ibid., p. 85.
26 Ibid., p. 88.
27 Ibid., p. 91.
28 Ibid., p. 95.
29 Ibid., pp. 191–204.
30 Ibid., p. 126.

Book Review: The Systems View of Life

thesystemsviewoflifeThe Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi is an interdisciplinary book which presents ”a unified systemic vision that includes and integrates life’s” different dimensions (p.xii). All living systems are ”highly nonlinear” networks where there are ”countless interconnections” (p.xii). Here is a summary of the book together with some conclusions.

Introduction (pp.1–16)
The systems view of life is ”a change from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network” (p.4). Greek philosophy, in the sixth century BC, ”understood the order of the cosmos to be that of a living organism” (p.5). The shift from an organic to a mechanistic worldview ”was initiated by … René Descartes (1596-1650)” who is ”regarded as the founder of modern philosophy” (p.8).

A living system is ”an integrated whole whose … properties cannot be reduced to its parts” (p.10). These properties ”arise from the interactions and relationships between the parts” (p.10). Outlines of a ”coherent theory of living systems … are now emerging” (p.12). This is the subject of the book.

We need to ”question … the old paradigm” (p.12). The ”paradigm shift also involves … changes of values” (p.13). There is a ”striking connection between changes of thinking and of values” (p.13). The ”connection between an ecological perception of the world and corresponding behavior is not a logical but a psychological connection” (p.14). ”Logic does not lead us from the fact that we are an integral part of the web of life to certain norms of how we should live (p.14). However, if we have a ”deep ecological experience of being part of the web of life, then we will … be inclined to care for all living nature” (p.15). ”The paradigm shift … at its deepest level, involves a perceptual shift” (p.15).

The mechanistic worldview (pp.17–60)
As the organic view of nature was replaced by the metaphor of the world as a machine, ”the goal of science became … to dominate and control nature” (p.21). All ”scientific theories are reductionist in the sense that they need to reduce the phenomena described to a … number of characteristics” (p.24). Scientists ”in treating living organisms as machines, tended to believe that they are nothing but machines” (p.26). The adverse consequences of this ”have become especially apparent in medicine” (p.26). ”Economists [also] generally fail to recognize that the economy is merely one aspect of the whole ecological and social fabric” (p.56). Unlimited growth ”on a finite planet can only lead to disaster” (p.56).

As the ”metaphor of organizations as machines” has taking hold, it has generated ”mechanistic theories of management” with ”clearly defined lines of command and communication” (p.58). During the Industrial Revolution ”efficient operation of the new machines required major changes in the organization of the workforce” (p.58). The workforce was disciplined ”to accept the rigorous routines [required] by factory production” (p.58).

Interestingly, Max Weber (1864-1920) ”was very critical of the development of mechanistic forms of organization” (p.58). Weber observed ”the parallels between the machination of industry and bureaucratic forms of organization” (p.58). He was concerned about ”the mechanization of human life, the erosion of human spirit, and the undermining of democracy” (p.58). Weber’s contemporary, Frederick Taylor (1856-1915), ”perfected the engineering approach to management” (p.58). The organization’s ”structure and goals are designed by management … and are imposed on the organization” with ”top-down control” (p.59). The ”design of formal structures, linked by clear lines of communication, coordination, and control, has become almost second nature” (p.59).

Transcending ”the mechanistic conceptions of health, the economy, or biotechnology” and ”the mechanistic view of organizations” is ”critical for the survival of or human civilization (p.59).

The rise of systems thinking (pp.61–126)
”Throughout the living world, we find living systems nesting within other living systems” (p.65). Living systems act both as ”parts and wholes” (p.65). There is both ”an integrative” and ”a self-assertive” tendency (p.65). The ”essential properties” of living systems are ”properties of the whole” (p.65). ”The great chock of twentieth-century science has been that living systems cannot be understood by analysis” (p.66).

There are ”three kinds of living systems – organisms, parts of organisms, and communities of organisms” (p.67). Living systems ”at all levels are networks” and consists of ”networks within networks” (p.68). ”Whenever we look at life, we look at networks” (p.95). Nature shows us ”a complex web of relationships between … parts of a unified whole” (p.68). ”There is stability, but this stability is one of dynamic balance” (p.75). All living systems are ”open systems” which need ”a continual flux of matter and energy” (p.86).

Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) introduced the term ”cybernetics,” from the Greek kybernetes (”steersman”), in the 1940s. Wiener defined cybernetics as the science of ”control and communication in the animal and the machine” (p.87). ”All major achievements of cybernetics originated … in mechanistic models of living systems” (p.89). Interestingly, Norbert Wiener made ”a clear distinction between a mechanistic model and the non-mechanistic living system it represents” (p.93). Ross Ashby (1903–1972), who was ”the leading theorist of the cybernetics movement” in the 1950s and 1960s, had, on the other hand, a ”strictly mechanistic outlook” (p.93). For Ashby, there was ”no creativity, no development, no evolution” (p.97).

Even ”the simplest living system … is a highly complex network” (p.98). ”Nonlinear dynamics … represents a qualitative rather than a quantitative approach to complexity and … systems thinking” (p.99). The systems view is a shift of perspective ”from objects to relationships, from measuring to mapping, from quantity to quality” (p.99). Nonlinear phenomena are ”an essential aspect of the network patterns of living systems” (p.105). Nonlinearity has brought about a ”shift of emphasis from quantitative to qualitative analysis” (p.105).

The ”spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability” is ”one of the hallmarks of life” (p.116). The ”understanding of pattern[s] is crucial to understand the living world” (p.126).

A new conception of life (pp. 127–339)
Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela coined the term ”autopoiesis”, which means ”self-making”, in the 1970s (p.129). The main characteristic of life is ”self-maintenance” (p.129). A living organism ”does not need any information from the outside to be what it is, but it is … dependent on outside materials in order to survive” (p.134). Life can be seen as ”a system of interlocked autopoietic systems” (p.135). ”Autopoiesis is the particular self-organization of life” (p.135).

There is ”a clear difference between the ways living and nonliving systems interact with their environments” (p.136). If you ”kick a stone, it will react” (p.136). If you ”kick a dog, it will respond” (p.136). ”The interaction with the environment … is determined by the internal organization of the living organism” (p.141). A living organism is ”capable of cognition (the process of knowing)” (p.142). The ”living organism and the environment become one through cognitive interactions” (p.143). ”A particular combination of self-organization and emergence gives rise to self-reproduction” (p.145).

Dynamic systems ”generally operate far from equilibrium, and yet are … stable, self-organizing structures” (p.158). In static systems, ”self-organization and the resulting emergent properties are relatively simple concepts” (p.180). In dynamic systems, however, ”self-organization and emergence are subtle and complex” (p.180). ”New structures … and forms of organization may arise … in situations of instability, chaos, or crisis” (p.180).

The ”appropriate way of approaching nature … is not through domination and control but through respect, cooperation, and dialogue” (p.180). In the living world, ”history plays an important role” and ”the future is uncertain” (p.180). ”Life … cannot be explained in reductionistic terms” (p.181). All living forms ”are linked together to each other by a network of parenthood” (p.182). ”Cooperation is clearly visible … at many levels of living organisms” (p.202). ”The planetary network of bacteria,” for example, ”has been the main source of evolutionary creativity” (p.192). Another example is ”symbiosis, the tendency of different organisms to live in close association with one another” (p.202).

In living organisms, ”there is no easy way to separate instructions from the way they are carried out, to distinguish plan from execution” (p.206). The ”principle of structural determinism, … implies that only those changes can be accepted that are consistent with the existing inner structure and organization of the living organism” (p.214). The change must also be consistent with the organism’s ”self-maintenance” (p.214). Evolution is ”complex, highly ordered, and ultimately cognitive” (p.215). It is ”an integral part of life’s self-organization” (p.215).

One important implication of ”the new systemic understanding of life” is a new understanding of ”the nature of mind and consciousness” (p.252). The ”phenomenon of mind” is connected with the ”phenomenon of life” (p.253). In other words, ”cognition is the very process of life” (p.254). ”The organizing activity of living systems, at all levels of life, is mental activity” (p.254). ”Mind – or, more accurately, mental activity – is immanent in matter at all levels of life” (p.254).

”Every living organism continually renews itself” while maintaining ”its overall identity or pattern of organization” (p.255). Living organisms create ”new structures – new connections in the network” (p.255). ”Living systems are autonomous” (p.255). Living organisms respond ”to environmental changes,” and ”these changes” alter future responses. This ”modification of behavior on the basis of previous experience” is learning (p.255). Continuing ”adaptation, learning, and development” are key characteristics of all living beings (p.255). ”We can never direct a living system; we can only disturb it” (p.256). A living system has the ”autonomy to decide what to notice and what will disturb it” (p.256).

”Describing cognition as the breath of life seems to be a perfect metaphor” (p.256). Mind is ”the process of cognition, which is identified with the process of life” (p.257). At all levels of life, ”mind and matter, process and structure, are inseparably connected” (p.257). Consciousness ”emerges when cognition reaches a certain level of complexity” (p.257). Consciousness is ”a cognitive process” (p.260) which ”involves self-awareness” (p.258). Conscious experience is ”an expression of life, emerging from complex neural activity” (p.265). Mind and body ”are two complementary aspects of life” (p.273). Primary, or core, consciousness ”provides the organism with a transient sense of self (the core self) in the act of perception” (p.274), while ”reflective consciousness” is ”the process of cognition … we experience as thought” (p.274).

The ”pattern of organization of any system … is the configuration of relationships among the system’s components” (p.301). This ”configuration of relationships” gives the system ”its essential characteristics” (p.301). The ”structure of a system” is its ”physical embodiment of its pattern of organization” (p.302). The ”process of life” is the ”continual embodiment of the system’s pattern of organization” (p.302). These are three perspectives on life: ”organization, structure, and process” (p.302). This is the ”trilogy of life” (p.303).

The trilogy of life can, in more general terms, be expressed as ”form (or pattern of organization), … matter (or material structure), and … process” (p.304). Meaning is added to ”the other three perspectives” in order to ”extend the systemic understanding of life to the social domain” (p.304). Meaning is ”a shorthand notation for the inner world of reflective consciousness, which contains a multitude of interrelated characteristics” (p.304). Human action ”flows from the meaning that we attribute to our surroundings” (p.304). Human language ”involves the communication of meaning” (p.304).

Living systems ”exhibit similar patterns of organization” (p.305). ”The network pattern, in particular, is … very basic” (p.305). ”All living systems are … networks within networks” (p.306). ”A social network, too, is a nonlinear pattern of organization” (p.306). However, ”organisms and human societies are very different types of living systems” (p.307). ”Human beings can choose whether and how to obey a social rule; molecules cannot choose” (p.307). ”Meaning is essential to human beings” (p.309). In ”acting with intention and purpose … we experience human freedom” (p.309). The ”behavior is constrained but not determined by outside forces” (p.309). As human beings, ”we experience this … as the freedom to act according to our own choices and decisions” (p.309).

”Bringing life into human organizations … increases their flexibility, creativity, and learning potential” (p.320). People need to ”feel that they are supported … and do not have to sacrifice their integrity to meet the goals of the organization” (p.320). However, the economic environment today ”is not life-enhancing but increasingly life-destroying” (p.320). We need to ”change our economic system so that it becomes life-enhancing rather than life-destroying (p.321). This change will ”be imperative not only for the well-being of human organizations but also for the survival … of humanity as a whole” (p.321). The ”new unifying vision of life … has important implication for almost every field of study and every human endeavor” (p.322).

”From a systems point of view, … illness results from patterns of disorder” (p.327). Health is ”a multidimensional and multileveled phenomenon” (p.327). ”Lack of flexibility manifests itself as stress” (p.356). ”Loss of flexibility means loss of health” (p.328). From a systems view of life ”the current health revolution can be seen as part of a global movement dedicated to creating a sustainable world” (p.338).

Sustaining the web of life (pp. 339–452)
There are different meanings of ”self-organization” (p.346). ”To cyberneticists … self-organization meant the … emergence of order in machines featuring feedback loops” (p.346). In complexity theory self-organization is the ”emergence of new order … governed by nonlinear dynamics” (p.346). And, in ecosystems self-organization is understood as ”dissipative structures operating far from equilibrium” (p.346). There is, however, ”almost total silence on the question of autopoiesis in ecosystems” (p.347). We need to ”understand the principles of [self-]organization that ecosystems have evolved” (p.353). Ecology is of ”paramount practical importance” (p.361).

The ”major problems of our time … cannot be understood in isolation” (p.362). The fundamental dilemma is ”the illusion that unlimited growth is possible on a finite planet” (p.363). ”Social and environmental costs” are not included in economic activities (p.363). There is ”a widening gap between the rich and the poor” (p.363). All ”ethical dimensions are excluded” (p.378). ”Global capitalism … exacerbates” poverty and social exclusion (pp. 384–385). There are also ”actively misleading” campaigns that ”systematically create doubt and confusion … concerning the threat of global warming” (p.388). ”This is why the systems view of life” is very important and ”has tremendous practical relevance” (p.392). There are ”hundreds of systemic solutions being developed all over the world” (p.393).

It seems as a ”more fluid system of global governance would be more appropriate for today’s world,” where power is increasingly shifted ”to regional and local levels” (p.398). This includes the ”shift from governments serving corporations to governments serving people and communities,” as well as respect for ”core labor, social and other human rights” (p.397).

The most important reformation of ”the corporation will be to expose the core myth that shareholder returns must be maximized at the expense of human and ecological communities” (p.400). This means ”reviving the traditional purpose of the corporation to serve the public good” (p.400). A ”fundamental issue … is ownership” (p.401). ”Conventional corporate ownership” is an example of ”extractive ownership” (p.401). A new ”generative ownership” is needed, which ”generates well-being and real, living wealth” (p.401).

”Unfortunately, … systemic thinking is still very rare among … corporate and political leaders” (p.407). The ”world has to act now or face devastating … consequences,” but there is ”lack of political will” (p.411). There is an ”erroneous belief that nature can be subjected to human control” (p.437). We ”need to honor, respect, and cooperate with nature” (p.442). And ”we can learn valuable lessons from nature’s ecosystems” (p.442). ”We have the knowledge and the technologies to build a sustainable world” (p.452). What is needed is ”political will and leadership” (p.452). ”Major breakthroughs” are needed ”to turn the tide” (p.452).

Fritjof Capra och Pier Luigi Luisi’s book is truly impressive! The amount of materials covered is broad indeed. The Systems View of Life: A Unified Vision is an attempt to integrate life’s biological, cognitive, and social dimensions in a unified systems view of life. In a way, I think Capra and Luisi are brave in taking such a broad sweep across so many different areas. Even if you take a broad sweep, it will still be too narrow. And what you gain in breadth, you risk losing in depth. Overall, I think Capra and Luisi have succeeded in integrating many different perspectives. The book certainly broadened my own perspectives. The main value of the book is the integration of the different ideas, models, and theories into a single framework.

Related post:
Analysis of the systems view of life

Free flow of meaning

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here.

Arleta Griffor has written two essays in The Search for Meaning, which is a book edited by Paavo Pylkkänen. Griffor writes about the self-organizing nature of the implicate order and how to deal with misinformation, among other things. This post is based on Griffor’s second essay Mind and its Wholeness.1

Limited and fixed meanings
David Bohm makes the point that meanings, which constitute the content of consciousness, are limited. There is nothing wrong with this as long as the meanings correctly inform activity within its limits.2 The limitation of meanings becomes serious, if not destructive, when meanings are applied beyond the limits within which they are relevant.3 What is serious is that activity becomes a self-sustaining trap when meanings are fixed. One example of such a trap is to hold rigidly to one’s worldview. Attributing absolute necessity to fixed and limited meanings is a common contradiction. It is a dominant factor in the generative order of society.4

Misinformation, self-deception, and violence
Misinformation is inappropriate, rather than simply incorrect, generative information.5 Misinformation is destructive. Individuals and groups who are entrapped in incompatible assumptions and presuppositions cannot do otherwise than to protect themselves against the threat which they represent for each other. This protection takes the form of self-deception and violence.6

Multiplication of misinformation
The world in which we live is shaped by our meanings. Meanings are fundamentally confused in a world full of conflict and violence.7 Meanings constitute the very essence of what we are. If the essence is gone, we are gone as well.8 Misinformation multiplies because new meanings are superimposed on old ones.9 Contradictory attempts to clear up misinformation create more misinformation. Meanings become inbuilt in our consciousness. Past misinformation is active now, informing the outward order of human life and the inward order of consciousness.10

Consciousness and profound perception
The only way to meet the challenge in a relevant way is to transform the order of consciousness.11 To reach the source of the generative order, perception has to be very profound indeed. What is needed is a total shift at the core of the mind’s order of activity.12 If this possibility is actualized, there wouldn’t be any need to impose additional, thought-created order.13 Attempts to impose order on human beings, for example with rewards and punishments, result in further fragmentation and conflict. Imposing order is an attempt to create order starting from the wrong end.14

Free flow of meaning
Bohm suggested that free flow of meaning is primary. It is actualized as a two-way activity where meaning shapes the points of view, and the points of view shapes the meaning. Dialogue is an example of this. Dialogue is different from ordinary discussion where people argue from fixed positions. Discussion doesn’t lead beyond existing meanings.15 Dialogue, on the other hand, creates new common meaning, shared by the whole group.16 Dialogue is a creative movement of unfolding of ever more subtle and new meanings in contact with the whole.17

1 Paavo Pylkkänen (editor), The Search for Meaning: The New Spirit in Science and Philosophy, (Crucible, 1989), pp. 295–315.
2 Ibid., p. 295.
3 Ibid., pp. 295–296.
4 Ibid., p. 296.
5 Ibid., p. 314.
6 Ibid., p. 297.
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p. 298.
9 Ibid., p. 303.
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid., p. 305.
12 Ibid., p. 308.
13 Ibid., p. 309.
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., p. 312.
16 Ibid., p. 313.
17 Ibid., p. 314.

Meaning as being

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here.

Arleta Griffor has written two essays in The Search for Meaning, which is a book edited by Paavo Pylkkänen. Griffor writes about the self-organizing nature of the implicate order and how to deal with misinformation, among other things. This post is based on Griffor’s first essay The Mental and the Physical.1

Matter, mind, and the implicate order
Arleta Griffor writes that it’s important to note that David Bohm’s proposal of the implicate order actually is a change from what is usually meant by matter. It’s a new way of understanding of what matter is.2 Bohm suggested that both matter and mind are in the implicate order. This may help us to understand how they are related.3 The implicate order is a dynamic unfolding-enfolding activity inseparable from what is generated. The implicate order is essential to what things are.4

Self-organization and active information
The implicate order can be regarded as a self-organizing activity. Bohm introduced the notion of active information.5 and proposed that elementary particles are self-active.6 Each elementary particle is inseparable from a quantum wave. The movement of the self-active particle is guided by the information content in the wave function. The information content concerns the entire context of the particle. The particle cannot be separated from the whole of its relevant environment.7 The information does not fall off with distance.8

Self-activity and meaning
The activity of each particle reflects the state of the whole system.9 The form of movement of the particles and the form of the connection between the particles depends on the state of the whole system.10 The creation, sustenance, and annihilation of the particles is guided by a deeper second implicate order. The second implicate order acts on the first implicate order, organizing it into manifest structures of the explicate order. Active information gives rise to activity. Bohm called this activity meaning.11 Meaning signifies the activity of unfoldment of enfolded information.

The many levels of implicate orders
The information in the first implicate order is, for example, the meaning of more enfolded information in the second implicate order, and so on. The self-organizing activity of the many levels of implicate orders can be discussed in terms of meaning.12 That is, we come to an activity involving a series of levels of meaning, or meanings of meaning, where each level organizes the next more manifest one. Bohm suggested that we deal with basically the same overall activity of meaning in the context of matter and the context of mind.13

Meaning as being
Bohm inquired into what matter is, and what mind is, and arrived at meaning. Meaning, in general, is objectively present and active in both matter and mind. The structure of meaning involves an indefinite, perhaps infinite, number of levels and comprises a whole order of relationships. Meaning can be said to be intrinsic to the whole universe and encompass the whole of existence.14 In other words, meaning is being.15

1 Paavo Pylkkänen (editor), The Search for Meaning: The New Spirit in Science and Philosophy, (Crucible, 1989), pp. 178–193.
2 Ibid., p. 178.
3 Ibid., p. 181.
4 Ibid., p. 182.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid., p. 183.
7 Ibid..
8 Ibid., p. 191.
9 Ibid., p. 183.
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid., p. 184.
12 Ibid., p. 185.
13 Ibid., p. 187.
14 Ibid., p. 188.
15 Ibid., p. 189.

Book Review: Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order

Paavo Pylkkänen’s aim with Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order is to explore David Bohm’s ideas on mind, matter, time, and conscious experience.1 Pylkkänen was a collaborator with Bohm and has for many years had the intuition that quantum theory is relevant to the understanding of consciousness.2 This has led him to more carefully consider David Bohm’s notion of the implicate order.3 Pylkkänen first gives a brief overview of Bohm’s work (27 pages).4 He then explains Bohm’s views (164 pages).5 Finally, he considers other viewpoints as well (42 pages).6

New general concepts
Paavo Pylkkänen thinks that new concepts are needed to discuss the fundamental structure of the physical world, including consciousness.7 Mind and matter are intimately related.8 Experiencing isn’t identical with, and cannot be derived from, mechanical neurophysiological processes.9

… once you change your general concepts,
you will see the world in a new way

Physics can help us to better understand general concepts like space, time, movement, and causality.11 These concepts are relevant to mind and matter.12 No-one has been able to show how the mind can be reduced to matter.13 Pylkkänen suggests that physical processes related to mind and matter lie outside of the domain of classical physics.14 Pylkkänen doesn’t claim that this is the case, but suggests that this is an option worth considering.15 Pylkkänen’s own conclusion is that it seems fairly certain that quantum theory and relativity theory cannot be safely ignored by the mind sciences.16

The architecture of matter
Paavo Pylkkänen examines how the implicate order arises from quantum physics and relativity, the way the implicate order accounts for discontinuity of movement, wave-particle duality and non-locality, and how the implicate order can be extended to cosmology and biological phenomena .17 Quantum theory and relativity theory point to the notion of the implicate order, according to David Bohm. Bohm further suggested that the notion of the implicate order can be extended to biological phenomena and consciousness.18

Bohm suggested that the way we think about the totality influences the way our minds operate, which in turn influences our actions.19 Changing our general conception of reality influences our understanding of the nature of mind and matter.20 The focus on ”order” became important for Bohm in the 1960s.21 Quantum theory and relativity theory inspired Bohm to view ”order in movement” as fundamental, and the order of things as derivative.22

… parts of a living organism are
internally related to each other,
while parts of a machine are
only externally related to each other

Bohm, furthermore, often used the metaphors of machine and living organism to illustrate the difference between a mechanical order and a non-mechanical order.23 Bohm emphasized that both relativity and quantum theory challenge the relevance of mechanistic order.24 Our macroscopic reality obeys the principles of mechanistic order, but only approximately. Non-mechanical holistic principles provide a more accurate description. This is what led Bohm to the notion of the implicate order.25

… experimental evidence … strongly suggests that
the mechanistic order is inadequate
as a fundamental characterization of
the architecture of the physical world

One may say that everything is enfolded into everything in the implicate order.26 The key point is that the implicate order makes it possible to account for the non-mechanistic features of quantum phenomena: discontinuity of movement, wave-particle duality, and non-locality. A further strength is that it’s possible to derive the phenomena of classical physics as a limiting case.27 The ”elementary particle” is something we abstract from the more fundamental movement of unfoldment and enfoldment.28

Bohm proposed that the implicate order ought to be taken as fundamental.29 The idea is that what happens in the explicate order is determined by relationships in the implicate order.30 The implicate order is a general view which is meant to describe the general architecture of being. However, Bohm was also open to the idea that he had not arrived at a final truth.31

The implicate order opens up a new way to understand how inanimate matter becomes animate matter. The key point is that it’s in the process of enfoldment and unfoldment that matter is informed to produce a living entity.32 Life is thus a particularly well-informed process of unfoldment and enfoldment.33 Bohm suggests that matter, life, and consciousness have a similar architecture.34

The architecture of consciousness
Pylkkänen discusses Bohm’s suggestion that the implicate order also is the basic architecture of conscious experience, and how matter and consciousness are related.35 Bohm showed in some detail that matter as a whole can be understood in terms of the notion of the implicate order.36 Bohm assumed, based on the notion of unbroken wholeness, that consciousness and matter have a common ground.37

Bohm argued that the more fundamental nature of matter cannot be understood in terms of the explicate order, but that the implicate order is needed. He also suggested that the more fundamental nature of the mind has to be understood in terms of the implicate order.38 This opens up the possibility of integrating mind and matter.39 Bohm emphasized that what we experience as consciousness ought to be seen as a relatively autonomous sub-totality that arises from the underlying implicate order.40

Interestingly, Bohm advocates a kind of phenomenological method to study conscious experience.41 There are also some interesting similarities between the views of Bohm and Husserl.42 Bohm’s basic proposal is that matter and consciousness are relatively autonomous sub-totalities which can be abstracted from the holomovement.43

Our freedom as individuals depends on our relative independence from each other as human beings, but Bohm emphasized the limits of such independence. Instead of viewing human beings and nature as separate elements in causal interaction, we ought to see ourselves and nature as projections of a common ground. If reality and human beings are a unity, then changing reality means changing oneself.44

Bohm assumed that the totality of existence is movement. And movement implies the possibility of change. Thus it’s natural to expect that both reality and our knowledge of reality can change.45 A change in the general world view can have all sorts of significant implications. New notions of matter, causality and time can have wide ranging implications and opens up many new possibilities.46 Bohm’s general idea was that the fundamental order of matter and consciousness is the implicate order. This leads to the idea that there is an underlying ground.47

… not only is information about the whole
enfolded in each part,
but information about each part
is also enfolded in … the whole

In order to understand the relationship between quantum theory and consciousness, it’s natural to first consider the relationship between quantum theory and biological phenomena.49 Bohm noted that the quantum wholeness is reminiscent of the wholeness associated with living organisms.50 He also noted that active information resembles mind.51 Bohm proposed that active information connects the physical and mental.52

There’s a kind of self-organization for the mind.53 We always act based on a certain understanding, which is related to tacit and explicit knowledge (information content).54 At each level there is active information that connects the mental and physical sides.55 The levels are related via unfoldment and enfoldment. Changes in less subtle levels can affect the more subtle levels, and vice versa.56

Bohm used to describe culture as shared meaning. He was interested in communication, and was very concerned with the social implications of our general world view. Bohm felt that a major source of our problems is in our habits of thought.57 The mechanistic tradition emphasizes external relationships. The implicate order, on the other hand, draws the attention to internal relationships and participation.58 Bohm thought that it was important to understand the factors which supports communication and coherent action.59

An elementary particle, like an electron, is in the ontological interpretation of quantum theory a spatio-temporal entity, which has a proto-mental quality. Paavo Pylkkänen underlines the potential significance of this.60 The implicate order is the ground of space-time. The deeper essence of consciousness might also be beyond space-time.61

A more comprehensive theory of mind and matter
Paavo Pylkkänen then moves on to discuss how the ontological interpretation of quantum theory gives rise to a more comprehensive theory of mind and matter.62 Pylkkänen argues that the implicate order provides a basis for a more adequate theory of time consciousness that those currently on offer.63 Pylkkänen thinks that much of contemporary philosophy of mind, cognitive science, etc. try to reduce consciousness to the explicate order.64

There is … a difference between
our abstractions and the reality
out of which the abstractions are made.
… we have to be careful not to attribute
too strong a reality to our abstractions

Bohm’s views have thus far largely been ignored by the communities which study consciousness.66 Bohm described consciousness in terms of a series of moments, where each given moment cannot be fixed exactly in time, but covers a variable duration. Each moment has a certain explicit foreground content, and an implicit background content.67 Bohm assumed that one moment of consciousness gives rise to the next moment.68 In such a later moment, content which was implicate can have become explicate, and vice versa.69 Different active transformations are all present, while having different degrees of enfoldment.70

Movement, causation, and consciousness
At the end of the book, Pylkkänen further clarifies Bohm’s concept of reality as movement, the role of causality, and briefly considers how conscious experience can arise from a Bohmian perspective.71 Bohm’s basic metaphysical proposal is that reality is movement.72 The essence of the university is not the motion of objects, nor is it a step-by-step evolution of the state of the universe in a process of time. More fundamentally, the universe as a whole is (holo)movement, which involves total ordering. This total ordering is enfolded in each moment. The key point is that the total ordering is not essentially related to a process of time. The holomovement is beyond time. Time arises from the holomovement.73

Bohm considered yet another form of movement, the movement in living beings. This is the movement in which all the various functions of the organism are organized together to create and maintain the whole organism. The movement of life is an organizing energy which works within the organism, and even in its atoms and elementary particles. This gives a feeling what it means to view movement as fundamental.74

The more subtle levels in the implicate order enfold or gather information about the less subtle ones, and in turn act to organize the latter on the basis of the meaning of the information thus gathered. This organizing activity can be seen as a kind of unfoldment of the meaning of the enfolded information.75 The quantum field provides an example – and a mathematical description – of what the subtle levels might be, and how they connect with less subtle levels.76 Certain kinds of non-locality are necessary for the emergence of locality. Non-locality is a non-causal relationship, while locality is causal. Non-causality makes causality possible.77

It’s obvious that we are conscious, but its puzzling how we can be conscious. Paavo Pylkkänen suggests that the failure to come to terms with consciousness is partly related to a tacit overcommitment to a mechanistic framework. The mechanistic framework worked well in physics until the end of the 19th century, but doesn’t fit with the major developments in physics since then.78 Pylkkänen writes that it’s important to realize that mechanistic explanations cannot be used to describe the more fundamental levels of the physical world.79

Bohm never tackled the hard problem of consciousness. Bohm would probably have said that the origin of consiousness is in the depths of the implicate order.80 There seems to be nothing within the explicate order which can make conscious experience possible. If this is the case, then there is no other alternative than to explore the role played by the implicate order.81 Bohm doesn’t have answers to all questions about consciousness, but perhaps better theories can be developed based on his ideas.

Paavo Pylkkänen provides an excellent introduction to and overview of David Bohm’s ideas on mind, matter, and the implicate order. Paavo Pylkkänen was a collaborator with David Bohm and is therefore in a great position to comment on Bohm’s work. I would suggest that those who are interested in Bohm’s ideas also read David Bohm’s own books.

1 Paavo Pylkkänen, Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order (Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2007), p. 12.
2 Ibid., p. xiii.
3 Ibid., p. xiv.
4 Ibid., pp. 13–39.
5 Ibid., pp. 43–206.
6 Ibid., pp. 207–248.
7 Ibid., p. 3.
8 Ibid., p. 4.
9 Ibid., pp. 5–6.
10 Ibid., p. 8.
11 Ibid..
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid., p. 10.
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., pp. 10–11.
16 Ibid., pp. 11–12.
17 Ibid., pp. 43–92.
18 Ibid., p. 43.
19 Ibid., p. 44.
20 Ibid., p. 46.
21 Ibid., p. 47.
22 Ibid., p. 49.
23 Ibid., p. 51.
24 Ibid., p. 52.
25 Ibid., p. 53.
26 Ibid., p. 57.
27 Ibid., p. 60.
28 Ibid., p. 71.
29 Ibid., p. 73.
30 Ibid., p. 75.
31 Ibid., p. 84.
32 Ibid., p. 86.
33 Ibid..
34 Ibid., p. 90.
35 Ibid., pp. 93–156.
36 Ibid., p. 101.
37 Ibid., p. 102.
38 Ibid..
39 Ibid., p. 103.
40 Ibid..
41 Ibid., p. 108.
42 Ibid., p. 109.
43 Ibid., p. 134.
44 Ibid., p. 145.
45 Ibid., p. 155.
46 Ibid., pp. 157–158.
47 Ibid., p. 158.
48 Ibid., p. 20.
49 Ibid., p. 181.
50 Ibid., p. 182.
51 Ibid., p. 183.
52 Ibid., p. 185.
53 Ibid., p. 186.
54 Ibid., p. 187.
55 Ibid., p. 190.
56 Ibid., p. 195.
57 Ibid., p. 197.
58 Ibid., p. 198.
59 Ibid., p. 199.
60 Ibid., p. 204.
61 Ibid..
62 Ibid., pp. 157–206.
63 Ibid., pp. 207–230.
64 Ibid., p. 100.
65 Ibid., p. 201.
66 Ibid., p. 208.
67 Ibid., p. 221.
68 Ibid., pp. 221–222.
69 Ibid., p. 222.
70 Ibid., p. 224.
71 Ibid., pp. 232–248.
72 Ibid., p. 232.
73 Ibid., p. 233.
74 Ibid., p. 234.
75 Ibid., p. 237.
76 Ibid., p. 238.
77 Ibid..
78 Ibid., p. 240.
79 Ibid., p. 241.
80 Ibid., p. 246.
81 Ibid., p. 247.

Related book review:
Science, Order, and Creativity

The meaning of meaning

The Search for Meaning by Pylkkänen (editor)

This is a post in my organizing ”between and beyond” series. Other posts are here. The purpose of this post is to explore David Bohm’s notion of meaning in The Search for Meaning by Paavo Pylkkänen (editor).1

The power of meaning is that it completely organizes being.2

Meaning and information
Meaning is inseparably connected with information. Literally ‘to inform’ means ‘to put form into’.3 What is essential for a form to constitute information is that it has a meaning.4 Gregory Bateson said ‘information is a difference that makes a difference’, while David Bohm said ‘information is a difference of form that makes a difference of content, i.e., meaning’.5 Meaning is related to the notion of active information.6 Bohm suggests that the activity, virtual or actual, is the meaning of the information.7 The relationship between active information and its meaning is basically similar to that between form and content.8

Soma-significant vs. signa-somatic activity
The manifestation of soma, which include all matter, has form. And this form (potentially) has meaning. Soma is (quite generally) significant, that is soma-significant. This significance can give rise to further somatic, or signa-somatic, activity. So soma-significance gives rise to a signa-somatic activity.9

Outward vs. inward activity
An activity of meaning can be virtual, as a kind of suspended action. An outward action happens when the action cease to be suspended.10 A suspended outward activity is a kind of inward activity that flows out of the meaning of the information. All action, including inaction, takes place immediately according to the meaning of the total situation at the moment. The apprehension of meaning is the totality of the action.11

Meaning, intention, and action
Meaning indicates not only significance but also intention. Intention arises out of the perception of meaning or significance. A choice to act, or not to act, depends on the significance at the moment. Intention is sensed as a feeling of being ready to respond.12 Meaning and intention are inseparably related. Meaning unfolds into intention, and intention into action, which has further significance.13

Meaning, significance, and value
Value is closely related to meaning and intention. There is a sense of value in that which has significance. Action is weak without a sense of value.14

Being flowing out of meaning
Meaning flows into being, which flows into meaning. Ultimately meaning is being in human life. Information gives rise to activity, which is our being. Action is thus informed. The being flowing out of meaning is infinite.15

Enfolded meaning
Meaning is an expanding structure where all levels and contexts of meaning enfold each other. There is a constant unfoldment of still more meanings. Actions flowing out of each new meaning may be expected to fit what actually happens within limits. Meanings, intentions, and consequences of these intentions, outside these limits will be disharmonic. Meanings can extend to ever greater levels of subtlety as long they are perceived freshly from moment to moment.16

Meaning and matter
The Schrödinger wave field is not to be regarded as a force field, but rather as an information field.17 This implies that an elementary particle, for example an electron, has an inner complexity.18 Each particle is self-active. The form of its action depends on information belonging to the whole system. This information induces organized movement. Organized quantum mechanical behavior tend to be significant mainly in the small scale, but can appear in the large scale under special situations.19 The common pool of information implies a non-local connection. The quantum potential may be regarded as active information. The movements of the self-active particles can be regarded as the meaning of the information. The notion of active information and meaning applies to all matter.20

Indefinitely subtler levels of information
According to the quantum theory, an elementary particle is something that can significantly respond to information from its environment. This response is the meaning of the information, and is essential to what the particle is. As the Schrödinger wave field guides the elementary particles, there may be a subtler level of information that guides the Schrödinger wave field. Such a hierarchy can in principle go on indefinitely.21

Mind and matter
What we experience as mind may ultimately, soma-significantly and signa-somatically, be connected to the Schrödinger way field. This would mean that there is no split between mind and matter. As with information and meaning, mind and matter are two sides of one process. The essence of all being is the flow of meaning. In this flow, everything enfolds everything and unfolds into everything.22 Matter is not dead. Particles respond to information. The structure and form of matter is organized by an active meaning.23

Free flow of meaning
Dialogue is a free flow of meaning between people. What is essential for dialogue is that each person listens with an intent to understand the meaning of other’s view. The free flow of meaning in dialogue allows a group to move together in a coherent way.24 If this could happen on a large scale, it would be a revolutionary transformation.25

Essence of being is meaning
The essence of being is meaning. As the meaning changes so does the essence.26 Meaning and being reflect each other, but have to be seen as essentially one.27 Meaning pervades being.28 For every different meaning there is a different being.29 Meaning completely organizes being, and has power over being.30 Meaning gives value. The perception of new meaning profoundly moves people.31 As meaning develops, purpose also develops.32

1 Paavo Pylkkänen (editor), The Search for Meaning: The New Spirit in Science and Philosophy, (Crucible, 1989), pp. 43–85.
2 Ibid., p. 72.
3 Ibid., p. 43.
4 Ibid., p. 44.
5 Ibid..
6 Ibid..
7 Ibid., p. 45.
8 Ibid., p. 46.
9 Ibid..
10 Ibid..
11 Ibid., p. 47.
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid., p. 48.
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., p. 51.
16 Ibid., p. 52.
17 Ibid., p. 56.
18 Ibid., p. 55.
19 Ibid., p. 57.
20 Ibid., p. 58.
21 Ibid., p. 59.
22 Ibid., p. 60.
23 Ibid., p. 62.
24 Ibid., p. 61.
25 Ibid., p. 62.
26 Ibid., p. 63.
27 Ibid., p. 64.
28 Ibid., p. 66.
29 Ibid., p. 71.
30 Ibid., p. 72.
31 Ibid., p. 75.
32 Ibid., p. 85.

BELONGING together vs. belonging TOGETHER

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.

Heidegger’s distinction between belonging together and belonging together is helpful.1 In the first case belonging is primary and determines the together. Things already belong with one another and this belongingness determines their togetherness. In the second case it is the together which determines the belonging. Things belong with one another because they are togethered.

Taking Apperance Seriously by Bortoft

Belonging together is subtle. If we don’t become aware of the way in which things already belong, then we may try to make them belong by togethering them – i.e. by imposing a framework which organizes them. Since this will not be sensitive to the more subtle way things already belong, the organizational framework that brings them together can only be imposed externally and not be intrinsic.2

The sensuous-intuitive mode of perceptions leads us to the belonging together, whereas the verbal-intellectual mind is more at home with the belonging together.3

Belonging together is authentic, while belonging together is counterfeit.

1 Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), p. 29.
2 Henri Bortoft, Taking Appearance Seriously (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2012), p. 21.
3 Ibid., p. 190.

Related posts:
Organizing in between and beyond posts

John Seddon on lean

John Seddon writes about lean in his two books Freedom from Command & Control and The Whitehall Effect. He writes that the term lean was coined by Womack, Roos and Jones1 when they wrote The Machine That Changed the World. The term thus came to represent the Toyota Production System as a whole.

What’s interesting is that Taiichi Ohno, the man behind the Toyta Production System, unequivocally warned against using any kind of label on grounds that people then would view it as a ready-made package.2 Ohno counselled, never codify method, because it is the thinking that is the key.3 Ohno’s favorite word was understanding. He never explained.4 To Ohno, the approach was a way of behaving when faced with problems that needed solving.5 The point is that you can only absorb counterintuitive truths by studying and seeing them yourself.6

To sum up, the reason lean has become so popular is that it reduced the Toyota Production System to a set of tools.7 Tools can be taught and reporting can be institutionalized.8 Learning, on the other hand, requires active involvement.9

Updates 2016-06-19:
References added to Freedom from Command & Control and The Machine That Change the World.

1 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control, (2nd ed., 2005), p. 182.
2 John Seddon, The Whitehall Effect, (1st ed., 2014), p. 149.
3 Ibid..
4 Ibid..
5 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control, (2nd ed., 2005), p. 182.
6 John Seddon, The Whitehall Effect, (1st ed., 2014), p. 150.
7 Ibid..
8 John Seddon, Freedom from Command & Control, (2nd ed., 2005), p. 182.
9 Ibid..

Cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems

Here is how Elisabet Sahtouris defines ecosophy and why she thinks that cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems:

… I give the word ‘ecosophy’ (oikos + sophia = oikosophia) the meaning it would have had in ancient Greece, had it come into use there:

Ecosophy: wisely run household of human affairs
or, even more simply:
Wise Society 1

Cybernetics is an advanced form of mechanism, but it is still [a] mechanism, which I consider a poor metaphor for any living system – a metaphor missing the system’s very essence.

… elites have learned to control society by deliberately working to construct society itself as machinery, and teach people that it is machinery… That does not mean that psyche, society and nature are machinery!

… it is not possible from my perspective to promote an ecosophy in terms of cybernetic mechanics.

… Mechanism and organism are created and function by completely different kinds of logic. 2

1 Elisabet Sathouris, Ecosophy: Nature’s Guide to a Better World, Kosmos Journal, Summer 2014 (accessed 26 April 2016).
2 Ibid..

Related post:
Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking

Ancient Indian principles

I received the following ancient Indian philosophy via Murari Saha, who is a friend. I was struck by how similar these ancient Indian principles of spirituality are to the principles of Open Space Technology.

Ancient Indian principles
Open Space Technology principles
Every Person you encounter is the right one. Whoever comes is the right people.
Whatever has happened, is the only thing that could [have] happened. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, be prepared to be surprised!
Each moment in which something begins is the right moment. Whenever it starts is the right time.
What is Over is Over. When it’s over, it’s over.
Nothing is permanent. Wherever it is, is the right place.

Japanese aesthetic ideals

Aesthetics in Japan is seen as an integral part of daily life and include ancient ideals like:

  • Yūgen (幽玄), an awareness of the Universe that triggers emotional responses too deep and powerful for words; 1
  • Wabi, transient and stark beauty;
  • Sabi, the beauty of natural aging.

In Zen philosophy there are seven principles for achieving wabi-sabi:

  • Fukinsei (不均整), asymmetry, irregularity;
  • Kanso (簡素), simplicity;
  • Koko, basic, weathered;
  • Shizen (自然), without pretense, natural;
  • Yugen (幽玄), subtly profound grace, not obvious;
  • Datsuzoku (脱俗), unbounded by convention, free;
  • Seijaku (静寂), tranquility, stillness.

Yūgen (幽玄) – Deep Awareness of the Universe

1 The exact translation depends on the context.

The ecology of perception and language

Here is a seminar on The Ecology of Perception and Language with David Abram.1 He is author of two books – Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology and The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World – and is best known for his work bridging phenomenology with ecology.

Specific topics covered in the seminar include:

1 The seminar was arranged by Naturakademin Learning Lab, Stockholm, 2010-11-05.

Abolish human rentals

abolishhumanrentals.org makes principled arguments against the rental of human beings. By analogy, inalienable rights invalidate slavery. People today cannot willfully sell themselves into slavery, even without coercion. Legally and socially slavery is unacceptable even with the consent of the slave, The same inalienable rights also invalidate the rental of humans. Human rentals bears no more legitimacy than that of human sales.

Ett exempel på värdegrund

För några år sedan hörde jag en föreläsning av Nirvan Richter, grundare av Norrgavel. Föredraget handlade dels om hantverket i möbelsnickeri, dels om Norrgavels värdegrund. Nirvan Richter är en färgstark person med starka värderingar. Norrgavels värdegrund är tredelad och har ett humanistiskt, ett ekologiskt och ett existensiellt perspektiv:

  • Humanistisk – om människan: Ambitionen är alltid att göra möblerna så fina som det någonsin går. Möblerna är bruksföremål som skall vara funktionella och praktiska, men de skall oockså göra vardagslivet enkelt och vackert. Mottot är okonstlad enkelhet.
  • Ekologisk – om naturen: Konsekvent kretsloppstänkandet utgör själva grunden i sättet att göra möblerna. Användningen av förnyelsebara råmaterial handlar inte enbart om kretsloppstänaknde utan har också med upplevelsen att göra. Äggoljetemperans doft. Den fysiska känslan när man stryker handen över en såpad träyta. Naturmaterial åldras som regel med behag. Ytterligare en ekologisk aspekt är funktionen. Möblerna ska tåla att användas dagligen under lång tid.
  • Existentiell – om evigheten: Vad är meningen med allt? Vem är jag? Vad är egentligen viktigt i livet? Livsviktigt, alltså! Ett barns födelse. En anhörigs död. Att få vara frisk. På ett sätt är det livsviktigt precis hur möblerna är utformade och ur en annan synvinkel är det fullkomligt oväsentligt. Möblerna skall inte dominera livet utan vara en bakgrund till det. Inspiration kommer från den japanska traditionen och amerikansk shaker. När möblerna görs åt Gud duger enbart det bästa.

Craftsmanship and meaning making

”Meaning is created through a craft approach to life.”
— Alan Moore

Here is the story about the transformation of Gränsfors Bruk into an innovative, sustainable, and lightweight company. It’s a story of transforming a company from a mass production-style manufacturer, to a small scale, high quality shop with skilled, dedicated, and engaged co-workers. It’s a story about another way of doing business based on values that manifest themselves in the whole company and its products. It’s a story which gives hope for small scale, sustainable ways of running businesses. It’s a story of craftsmanship.

The Elements

The Elements with Joseph Jaworski is an interesting series of short videos on:

The goal of strategy

The following is from Dan Gray’s blog post about Stephen Bungay’s book The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions and Results. Stephen Bungay is a military historian who has examined the nineteenth-century Prussian army. There are some unexpected strategy lessons here. At least for me.

The goal of strategy, according to Stephen Bungay, is to reduce three gaps — those of

  1. knowledge (what we would know in an ideal world vs. what we actually know),
  2. alignment (what we would like people to do vs. what they actually do), and
  3. effects (what we expect our actions to achieve vs. what they actually achieve).

Ultimately, this boils down to:

  1. Deciding what really matters. You can’t create perfect plans, so don’t even try. Formulate strategy as an intent rather than a plan.
  2. Granting people autonomy to act. Recognize the distinction between intent (what we want to achieve and why) and action (what to do about it and how). The more alignment you have around intent, the more autonomy can be granted around action.
  3. Giving people space and support. Don’t try to predict the effects your actions will have, because you can’t. Your actions are subject to the independent wills of multiple agents. Encourage people to observe what is actually happening and adapt their actions accordingly to realize the overall intent.

All this might seem obvious, but is nevertheless worth emphasizing.

Related posts:
Book Review: The Art of Action
Principles for collaborative leadership

What if the organization is a living system?

Holacracy is described as a new operating system 1 for evolution-powered organizations. It’s a punchy analogy which people understand. What people seem to forget is this: The operating system as a metaphor requires people to execute the programming code, but people aren’t microprocessors. This might seem like playing with words, but metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking. There is always a cost in trying to script people’s behavior. They might decide to withdraw their engagement. What if the organization is a living system, and not a computer?

Notes (added 17 April 2016):
1 HolacracyOne’s web page where Holacracy is described as a new operating system no longer exists. However, a description of Holacracy as ”a comprehensive new operating system” can also be found in Brian Robertson’s book on Holacracy. See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy, (Penguin, 2015), p. 12.

Related posts:
Book review: Holacracy
Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking
Language of rules & policies vs. agreements
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?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology