Kategoriarkiv: Philosophy

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

Masanobu Fukuoka in his own words

This post is a compilation of my tweets from reading of Masanobu Fukuoka’s two books The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert. Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008) was a Japanese farmer and philosopher. He was an outspoken advocate of the value of observing nature’s principles.

Masanobu Fukuoka’s first and last major works (from left to right).

The One-Straw Revolution is Masanobu Fukuoka’s first book which became a bestseller. It is an inspiring book about agriculture, because it is not just about agriculture. The book is both practical and philosophical. Masanobu Fukuoka criticizes our willingness to reduce life to what is know about it, and to act on the assumption that what we don’t know can safely be ignored. Masanobu Fukuoka uses paradox and apparent contradiction to help break habitual patterns of thought. He opens the consciousness to perception beyond the reach of the intellect.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert is Masanobu Fukuoka’s last—and perhaps his most important—major work. One principle that Masanobu Fukuoka followed was to consider how one could do as little as possible. This was not because he was lazy, but because of his belief that if nature were given the opportunity it would do everything on its own. Masanobu Fukuoka saw nature as a single interconnected reality. And he saw time as an uninterrupted moment of the present with past and future embedded within it.

Quotes from The One-Straw Revolution

Eventually I decided to give my thoughts a form, to put them into practice, and so to determine whether my understanding was right or wrong.

Nature as grasped by scientific knowledge is a nature which has been destroyed, it is a ghost possessing a skeleton, but no soul.

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.

I was unable to communicate my view to anyone. Eventually I decided to give my thoughts a form, to put them into practice, and so to determine whether my understanding was right or wrong.1

The usual way to go about developing a method is … bringing in a variety of techniques one upon the other. This … only results in making the farmer busier.2

The reason that man’s improved techniques seem to be necessary is that the natural balance has been so badly upset beforehand by those same techniques.

To the extent that people separate themselves from nature, they spin out further and further from the center.

… if people merely become caught up in reacting, moving to the left or to the right, depending on conditions, the result is only activity.

I think that … the world has become so specialized that it has become impossible for people to grasp anything in its entirety.

A single step away from the source can only lead astray.

Scientists think they can understand nature. … But I think an understanding of nature lies beyond the reach of human intelligence. Why … That which is conceived to be nature is only the idea of nature arising in each person’s mind.

The ones who see true nature … see without thinking, straight and clear. If even the names of plants are known, … nature is not seen in its true form.

An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.

If you want to get an idea of the natural fertility of the earth, take a walk to the wild mountainside sometime and look at the giant trees that grow without fertilizer and … cultivation. The fertility of nature, as it is, is beyond reach of the imagination.

Nature is everywhere in perpetual motion; conditions are never exactly the same in any two years.

… until the general sense of values changes, the situation will not improve.

… all aspects of the problem … must be brought together and solved at the same time. A problem cannot be solved by people who are concerned with only one or another of its parts.

Food that is not fresh can be sold because it looks fresh.3

If you think commercial vegetables are nature’s own, you are in for a big surprise. These vegetables are a watery chemical concoction … with a little help from the seed.

… if you decide to try to make money … you get on board of the profit wagon, and it runs away with you.

The act of defense is already an attack.

Fast rather than slow, rather than less—this flashy ”development” is linked directly to society’s impending collapse.

Though he was called a poor peasant … The New Year’s holiday lasted about three months. Gradually this vacation came to be shortened to … a three-day holiday. … There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song.

I do not particularly the word ”work.” Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think this is the most ridiculous thing in the world.4

[There’s] a distinction between techniques undertaken in conscious pursuit of given objective, and those which arise spontaneously … free from the domination of the volitional intellect.5

Quotes from Sowing Seeds in the Desert

… one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them …

Discriminating knowledge is derived from the analytic, willful intellect in an attempt to organize experience into a logical framework. … Non-discriminating knowledge arises without conscious effort … without interpretation of the intellect.

Human life is not sustained by its own power. Nature gives birth to human beings and keeps them alive. This is the relation in which people stand to nature.

Nature is in constant transition, changing from moment to moment. … The face of nature is unknowable.

Trying to capture the unknowable in theories and formalized doctrines is trying to catch the wind in a butterfly net.

Discrimination, a fragmented and incomplete understanding, always forms the starting point of human knowledge. Unable to know the whole of nature, people can do no better than to construct an incomplete model of it …

There is meaning and basic satisfaction just in living close to the source of things. Life is song and poetry.

Just as human beings do not know themselves, they cannot know the other. Human beings may be children of ”Mother Nature,” but they are no longer able to see the true form of their mother. Looking for the whole, they only see parts.

… the discriminating and analytical knowledge of scientists may be useful for taking nature apart and looking at its parts, but it is of no use for graping the reality of pure nature.

People do sometimes sense the sacredness of nature, such as when they look closely at a flower, climb high peaks, or journey deep into the mountain. Such aesthetic sense, love, receptivity, and understanding are people’s most basic instincts—their true nature.

If we have not grasped the intrinsic greenness of the grasses and trees, which originates with the life at their core, we cannot say that we really understand what true green is.

People simply believe they understand by making a distinction based on the outer appearance.

I believe that there is a limit to our ability to know nature with human knowledge.6

In the end, it will require some courage and perhaps a leap of faith for people to abandon what they think they know.7

Plants, people, butterflies, and dragonflies appear to be separate, individual living things, yet each is an equal and important participant in nature. … They form a single living organism.8

In the end it is love, really, that sustains our spirit.

Gradually I came to realize that the process of saving the desert of the human heart and revegetating the actual desert is actually the same thing.9

… what the world sees as cause and effect can be deceptive.10

The first step we must take in countering desertification is not to redirect the flow of rivers, but to cause rain to fall again. This involves revegetation.11

The problem is that the water, soil, and plants are considered separately … A permanent solution will never come about this way.12

Both in the past and at the present, human beings with their ”superior” knowledge, have been the ringleader in turning the earth and the human heart into wastelands.13

I first saw the desert and began to have an interest in it the summer I flew to the US … in 1979. I was expecting the American continent to be a vast, fertile green plain … , but … it was a brown, desolate semi-desert.14

Modern agriculture in the desert is based on the idea that you can grow anything if you just have water. … I advised people, on the contrary, to use as little water as possible … … high temperatures from radiant heat are of greater concern than lack of water.

… una typical scientist I have not tried to … systematically formulate measures for preventing desertification. Instead, my desert prevention measures are strictly intuitive and based on observation. I arrived at the by using a deductive method.

My immediate concern is that unforeseen changes are occurring in the communities of plants and soil microorganisms as a result of using chemicals.15

… while modern agriculture appears to be increasing yields, net productivity is actually decreasing.

As mechanization was introduced … increased harvests became the overriding goal, and efficiency declined sharply. Now … the energy produced is only half that invested.16

… modern petroleum-based farming is not producing anything at all. Actually, it is ”producing” a loss. The that is produced, the or the earth’s resources are being eaten up. In addition, it creates pollution and destroys the soil.

… by using mass-production techniques, the meat and fish industries severely pollute the earth and the sea.

… rather than bombs, it would be better to sow seeds in clay pellets from airplanes that had previously been used as military bombers.17

I do know … the usefulness of aerial seeding for revegetating large areas in a short period of time.18

The problem … is not that a place becomes a desert because there is no water … The relationship of soil, water, trees, and human communities is not as straightforward as specialists would have us believe.19

Originally, water, soil, and crops were a single unit, but since the time people came to distinguish soil from water, and to separate soil from crops, the links among the three were broken. They became isolated and were placed in opposition to one another

… instead of thinking that grasses and trees grow in the soil, it is actually the grasses and trees, other plants, animals, microorganisms, and water that create the soil and give it life.20

… efforts should not be centered on rules and techniques. At the core there must be a sound, realistic way of seeing the world. Once the philosophy is understood, the appropriate techniques will become clear as day.

… the techniques will be different for different situations and conditions, but the underlying philosophy will not change.

Without understanding what it is to know things intuitively, people have sought knowledge and have become lost.

My method of natural farming aims at liberating the human heart.21

1 Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution, p.5.
2 Ibid., p.15.
3 Ibid., p.88.
4 Ibid., p.115.
5 Ibid., p.119.
6 Masanobu Fukuoka, Sowing Seeds in the Desert, p.35.
7 Ibid., p.36.
8 Ibid., p.43.
9 Ibid., p.47.
10 Ibid., p.60.
11 Ibid., pp.60–61.
12 Ibid., p.64.
13 Ibid., p.79.
14 Ibid., pp.70–71.
15 Ibid., p.89.
16 Ibid., pp.89–90.
17 Ibid., p.100.
18 Ibid., p.101.
19 Ibid., p.107.
20 Ibid., p.108.
21 Ibid., p.140.

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, orders 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: