Gina Gustavssons ledare i DN

Gina Gustavsson är docent i statskunskap vid Uppsala universitet och fristående kolumnist i Dagens Nyheter. Här är en översikt över Gina Gustavssons ledare i Dagens Nyheter (bakom betalvägg):

Articles Books Letters Retrospectives

Retrospective 2021-03–13

This is a summary of my reading during the first quarter 2021 (weeks 3–13). There are two list below:

  • The first list consists of books, articles, and letters that I have read (more or less in the order read).
  • The second list are notes I made while reading (in chronological order).

A collection of robert wolff’s unpublished writings are available in the robert wolff Library. I warmly recommend robert wolff’s published book Original Wisdom. I also want to express my gratitude to Skye Hirst for so generously sharing Norm Hirst’s interesting articles. Here is, by the way, an imagined conversation between Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, and Norm Hirst on whether people are machines, which is based on my reading.

Books, Articles, and Letters

  • Keith Sawyer, Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration
  • Thomas Hübl, Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds
  • Ervin Laszlo, How We Can Build a Better World: The Worldshift Manual
  • Carol Sanford, The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes
  • Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian
  • Argyris Arnellos, From Organizations of Processes to Organisms and Other Biological Individuals in Daniel J. Nicholson (Editor), John Dupré (Editor), Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology
  • Ursula Versteegen and Jill Jakimetz, Gestures of the Mind as an Invisible Force for Social Change: A Phenomenological Exploration of what it is to Listen in Olen Gunnlaugson (Editor), William Brendel (Editor), Advances in Presencing Volume 2: Individual Approaches in Theory U
  • Kelvy Bird, Visual Presencing in Olen Gunnlaugson (Editor), William Brendel (Editor), Advances in Presencing: Volume 1
  • Claus Otto Scharmer, The Heart is the Key to All of This: Conversation with Joseph Jaworski, October 29, 1999
  • Joseph Jaworski, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership
  • James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds
  • Anthony Blake, The Intelligent Enneagram
  • P.D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Way: A Record of Talks and Answers to Questions Based on the Teaching of G.I. Gurdjieff
  • J.G. Bennett, Deeper Man
  • Chuck Pezeshki, The Power of Empathetic Leadership in an Evolving World
  • Jeanne de Salzmann, The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff
  • P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching
  • J.G. Bennett, Witness: The Story of a Search
  • Anthony Blake, A Gymnasium Of Beliefs In Higher Intelligence
  • Anthony Blake, The Intelligent Enneagram
  • Mae-Wan Ho, Meaning of Life and the Universe: Transforming
  • Alan W. Watts, Al Chung-liang Huang (Collaborator), Lee Chih-chang (Illustrator), Tao: The Watercourse Way
  • Mae-Wan Ho, The Biology of Free Will
  • Alexander Lowen, Joy: The Surrender to the Body and to Life
  • Eugene Gendlin, A Process Model
  • J.G. Bennett, What Are We Living For?
  • Mary C. Richards, Centering in pottery, poetry, and the person
  • Mary C. Richards, The Crossing Point: Selected Talks and Writings
  • Mary C. Richards, Toward Wholeness: Rudolf Steiner Education in America
  • Sky Nelson-Isaacs, Living in Flow: The Science of Synchronicity and How Your Choices Shape Your World
  • Caitlin Rosenthal, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management
  • George Leonard, The Silent Pulse: A Search for the Perfect Rhythm that Exists in Each of Us
  • Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos
  • Mitsugi Saotome, Aikido and the Harmony of Nature
  • Calvin Schermerhorn, Unrequited Toil: A History of United States Slavery
  • William Gleason, Aikido and Words of Power: The Sacred Sounds of Kototama
  • Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman, Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development
  • Alan Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
  • David Bohm, Quantum Theory Erwin Schrödinger, My View of the World
  • Alan Watts, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are
  • Cathryn Barnard, Moments in Love: How to Build Authentic Engagement with Anyone
  • John Holt, How Children Learn Michael Jones, The Soul of Place: Re-imagining Leadership Through Nature, Art and Community
  • Sabine Hossenfelder, Lost in Math
  • Frank Wilczek, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design
  • Bernard F. Schutz, Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics
  • Robert S. Hartman, The Individual in Management
  • Norm Hirst, My Thoughts on my 80th Birthday
  • Norm Hirst, Foundations For An Axiological Science: Hartman’s Science Realized
  • Michael Jones, The Soul of Place: Re-imagining Leadership Through Nature, Art and Community
  • robert wolff, Have We Lost Our Humanity? (2013)
  • robert wolff, War on Terra (2006)
  • robert wolff, Conundrum: Climate Change, world culture and “democracy”
  • robert wolff, Politics Is Not Enough
  • robert wolff, Locks & Keys
  • robert wolff, Sailing to the Moon
  • robert wolff, Questions, questions
  • robert wolff, These Times
  • robert wolff, What There Is – Is All There Is
  • robert wolff, A Modest Proposal
  • robert wolff, for your entertainment a wider perspective
  • robert wolff, Interregnum means between reigns
  • robert wolff, Eight Months Into a new Administration What’s Next? (2009)
  • robert wolff, Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing
  • robert wolff, Smile
  • robert wolff, The Rights of Mother Earth
  • robert wolff, War on the World
  • robert wolff, Realities
  • robert wolff, Evolution Devolution
  • robert wolff, Adapt (2010)
  • robert wolff, What I Look At Looks At Me
  • robert wolff, Is there an alternative to constant economic growth?
  • robert wolff, The Rights of Mother Earth
  • Eleanor Rosch, Primary Knowing: When Perception Happens from the Whole Field [pdf]
  • robert wolff, Now What?
  • robert wolff, one one eleven (1/1/2011)
  • robert wolff, ”Let them it cake”
  • robert wolff, Be Prepared
  • robert wolff, Money, money
  • robert wolff, The Last War, Having vs Being
  • robert wolff, Fiddling While the Planet Burns
  • robert wolff, Worth
  • robert wolff, Search for Simple
  • robert wolff, What do you mean, “ecology?”
  • robert wolff, Titanic World
  • robert wolff, What domesticating does to us and how to get our from under
  • robert wolff, Last night’s dream; inhuman humans
  • robert wolff, Remember Hiroshima?
  • robert wolff, Strange, very strange, dangerously strange
  • robert wolff, What it means to be conservative
  • robert wolff, How we see others, how they see us
  • robert wolff, Money – and why we must learn to do without
  • David Bohm, The Limitations of Thought: A conversation with Michael Mendizza
  • David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order
  • Eleanor Rosch, What Buddhist Meditation has to Tell Psychology About the Mind
  • Rupert Sheldrake, Morphic Fields and the Implicate Order: A Dialogue with David Bohm
  • Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • robert wolff, “Yes, corporations are persons, my friend” robert wolff, What does it cost?
  • robert wolff, Interregnum (again)
  • robert wolff, A very immodest proposal (2012)
  • robert wolff, Tamed (2012)
  • robert wolff, Hello! Anybody home?
  • robert wolff, Why we cannot lead humankind to a sustainable world (2012)
  • robert wolff, From the end of 2012 looking at 2013
  • robert wolff, SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES and changes the planet
  • robert wolff, A Wider View robert wolff, Wars Come In Many Flavors (2013)
  • robert wolff, Immodest Proposals
  • robert wolff, Memes, Genes and Us
  • Elisabet Sahtouris, EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution


  • There is a profound loss of something deep inside that I don’t have words for. (Reference: Ursula Versteegen)
  • We need to relate the invisible dynamic of our own inner experience to the visible effects evolving in the current moment. (Reference: Ursula Versteegen and Jill Jakimetz)
  • Listening is at the cross-section of awareness and action.
  • People are effective despite and not because of the management system.
  • People self-organize along real needs.
  • There is a dissonance between my intellectual understanding and a felt understanding.
  • Life emerges bit by bit.
  • Children know how to improvise. Adults may need to relearn improvisation. (Reference: Keith Sawyer)
  • There is no correspondence between the size of your wallet and your personal worth. (Reference: Ervin Laszlo)
  • What are the principles that inform the world of the living?
  • Content informs drawing, spirit informs listening, and the hand unites the two. (Reference: Kelvy Bird)
  • The process of drawing carries the meaning. (Reference: Kelvy Bird)
  • Something has broken in how we treat each other. It’s about empathy, kindness, and respect. (Reference: Sarah Kendzior)
  • The insights, and the process by which I came to those insights, are inseparable. (Reference: Peter Senge)
  • Life has to be experienced, directly. (Reference: Anthony Blake)
  • Design is artifice. (Reference: Anthony Blake)
  • What is the burning question which is necessary to have if you are to go forward in your quest for reality? (Reference: Anthony Blake)
  • No good work comes out of rigid adherence to a formula. (Reference: Anthony Blake)
  • Felt sense is ’subtle thought’.
  • The subtle is ’finely woven’. (Reference: David Bohm via Anthony Blake)
  • The implicate order is deep structure?
  • What if there is an order which is not the result of laws which people are compelled to obey by external violence?
  • The seven-year period 2013-2020 represents a cycle in my life. (Reference: Mary C. Richards)
  • Attending carefully to the choices available in the moment. (Reference: Sky Nelson-Isaacs)
  • Flow is acting out of the unfolding generative order. (Reference: Joseph Jaworski)
  • My eyes are tired from reading. I need to let my hands carry forward the learning.
  • If there ever is a place where the unexpected can arise, it is in relationships.
  • An appropriate intention ls an anticipated qualitative experience.
  • Breath is both form and feeling. (Reference: William Gleason)
  • Markets constrain and commodify human freedom.
  • Capitalism’s defining characteristic is general commodification of labor.
  • There are times when logic only get between us and reality.
  • Treating people as humans worthy of respect actually works.
  • It is through immersing ourselves in the depths of life that life itself is transformed into aliveness
  • In order to let generative order inform the work we need to stay in alignment with what is unfolding, to distinguish between what wants to happen and what we believe ought to happen.
  • Generative order is in the flow of felt sense. The desire for success and positive outcomes impedes this flow.
  • The unity of mind, heart and hand is always being tested.
  • By following the lead of the hand, the artist learns dropping into the moment while letting go into the next.
  • Exploring the space in-between.
  • The destination is not a place, but a new way of seeing things.
  • What if schools are an expression of colonialism?
  • Engaging in true dialogue is a learning experience.
  • The deep song is a generative order.
  • We grab more of what we want by stepping on the backs of others.
  • We are so busy doing that we forget who we are.
  • Life is not a logical problem to be solved. We need to move beyond science (and religion). We don’t need new ways of thinking, we need a new heart. We don’t need a new understanding, we need a new way of sering.
  • Logic (although useful) is a construction.
  • What can not be said in mathematics can not be said in poetry.
  • What if there are truths that can not be reached by any formalism?
  • What if the foundations of any science will be incomplete?
  • What if explicate order is not law bound?
  • The word law is problematic in living context. It indicates something imposed from without.
  • Thought is ephemeral.
  • What we find out is already a foregone conclusion because of what we have already built in with our formalism.
  • The consequences of exceptionalism are dire.
  • Many of us know but it is unthinkable.
  • It is easy to see the end. Difficult to see a beginning.
  • We still don’t want to know. Civil servants promise that there is nothing to worry about. Media make it easy to ignore reality.
  • It’s a deep challenge to bring about deep change.
  • The basic trouble with thought is that it does not distinguish between the part of reality which is created by thought and the part of which is independent of thought.
  • Thought can be too powerful.
  • Surface order unfolds from a deeper order.
  • You’re not able to learn when you can’t keep straight what is independent reality and what is not. (David Bohm)
  • A healthy structure gives plenty of room for freedom and creativity.
  • The organization is a living system which has a deep structure. The health of this structure is dependent on the integration within the organization.
  • It’s not possible to control a living system in the way a machine can be controlled.
  • Cultural development influences how people talk, think, and act together.
  • An organizations is a living system that lives its own life with its own inner dynamics.
  • A mechanical system is designed to work in a relatively simple way. The networks of cause and effect can be understood.
  • Changes ripple causing unforeseen consequences in a living system.
  • Every living process is a structured organization of information, energy and matter. Energy is continuously consumed and must be continuously replenished. Information and matter continually flow and get changed.
  • Living systems adapt to, meet, and interact with the shifting conditions that occur both within and outside of its border.
  • The organization is an organic whole. Every part must be integrated in order to retain vitality, resilience, and ability to meet challenges.
  • It is the deep structure which holds the organization together as a single unit.
  • It is mutual understanding that keeps everyone pulling in the same direction, allowing people to keep pace with each other.
  • Most managers look only at the organization’s surface structure. The surface structure is what everyone can see. Sources to problems lie in the deeper structures of the organization.
  • The health of an organization’s deep structure is a function of how well the organization is integrated (connection between people).
  • To repair the deep structure in the organization, everyone needs to understand what’s at stake and why it’s important.
  • The deep structure needs to be repaired before you can make any headway.
  • People, without exception, do care about what happens once they understand what’s at stake.
  • Only when a real choice is possible can the full power and potential of an organization be mobilized.
  • Individuals must be allowed the freedom to say Yes or No (consent).
  • A person who is fully informed about their organization will behave differently than someone who is not.
  • Visibility increases the likelihood of constructive, responsible action.
  • Invite all involved.
  • The individual that suffers most often has the strongest incentive to do something about it.
  • It’s possible to build on what others know and really mean, when everyone has access to the thoughts and know-how of the entire group.
  • Groups that can interact rise their level creativity.
  • You cannot run a knowledge-based organization by direct control, pressure, high demands, and micro-management.
  • You simply cannot control an organization the way a single operator might control a machine. It’s not enough to merely design functions into workflows and then run these through various control mechanisms.
  • Making a commitment is an existential action. Something happens inside — and, importantly, it is an event that cannot be controlled from the outside. You can only be asked to take that step; no one can force you, or order you to do it.
  • Work, where you have total control, does not exist.
  • An organization must be led, but what this entails is not obvious.
  • Leadership involves touching the heart of every person — something that needs to be done if you expect to influence others.
  • Leadership involves building on the common interests between the organization, customers, people, and community.
  • Leadership is to ensure that the conditions of life are put in place.
  • Leadership is to inspire and focus the energy, to facilitate interplay and learning, and to ensure a steady outflow of results.
  • Cultural patterns show up as repetitive ways of speaking and acting.
  • Culture is always based on habitual ways of viewing and interpreting reality.
  • Culture forms the eyes you see with.
  • Cultural development lose momentum if there is no clarity concerning how people talk, think, and act.
  • Long-term energy and commitment is sustained when all are involved in the organization’s future. Activate the combined intelligence in the entire organization.
  • Put local knowledge and experience into play.
  • If people feel it’s important they will spontaneously pitch in and assist each other.
  • A well-integrated organization generates more energy and uses it to greater effect.
  • Thinking together requires communication and interaction.
  • Open space makes it possible for everyone to think, reflect, and learn together.
  • It takes time and effort for a group to agree on what the major challenges are and what has to be done about it.
  • Understanding and acting are all but obvious.
  • A mechanistic order is one in which the fundamental elements are independently existent, lying outside each other, and connected only by external relationships.
  • Mechanistic order is a limiting case of organismic order.
  • There is a sharp break between abstract logical thought and concrete immediate experience that doesn’t have to be maintained. The movement from immediate experience to logical thought doesn’t have to be fragmented.
  • Logic is constructed thought.
  • Constructs are mechanical.
  • Experiencing—through feeling—is immediate and direct and real? Experience—organized through thought—is a more or less logically coherent construction?
  • Creative intelligence vs. intellect.
  • External vs. internal relationship.
  • We have an almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance. (Reference: Daniel Kahneman)
  • Our language perpetuates illusions.
  • Only coerced action can be increased by rules.
  • Action can take palce in very different ways. There’s a huge difference between doing somthing bechase there’s a rule or becuase it’s the right thing to do.
  • Rules leads to action that’s rigid and ultimately less successful.
  • There are times when it is good to see everything, but other times when it is not good. It is difficult to know without the protection of a community.
  • The freer and safer, the deeper the insights.
  • Do you feel free and safe in the workplace?
  • Act from a sense of play rather than from ego or obligation.
  • Life is a particular kind of working organization.
  • Information is anything that is in formation. (Reference: Elisabet Sahtouris)
  • A living organism is always a holon within larger holons depending on them for its very life. (Reference: Elisabet Sahtouris)
  • Organisms are experiencing, experimenting.

Articles Life Phenomenology Quotes Thoughts

Notes on Goethe’s Aphorisms

Daniel Christian Wahl has translated Goethe’s collected aphorisms in ‘The Tip of the Iceberg’ Goethe’s Aphorisms on the theory of Nature and Science. I appreciate that Wahl has attempted to stay as close as possible to the literal meaning of Goethe’s writings in order to avoid unnecessary interpretations.

Here are my own brief notes, which are based on Goethe’s aphorisms and Wahl’s helpful comments:

  • We have a capacity for meaningful intuitive insight in addition to purely analytical reason. (Aphorism 1)
  • It is a mistake to generalize what specific phenomena have in common and thereby exclude differences. (Aphorism 2)
  • Our senses are attuned towards an intermediate level of scale, between the microscopic and the macroscopic. (Aphorism 3)
  • Each specific phenomenon is an expression of the general under certain circumstances. (Aphorism 4)
  • The individual phenomenon contains the general. The multitude of phenomena is the specific. (Aphorism 5)
  • The universal is in the particular. The particular is a living manifestation of the universal. (Aphorism 6)
  • Life is profoundly interconnected. Nature is simultaneosly multitude and singularity. Time is the eternal now. (Aphorism 7)
  • Dynamic phenomena manifest in the self-organizing whole. (Aphorism 8)
  • Agree on the approach to the phenomena and how to make sense of the observed. (Aphorism 9)
  • Let the phenomena become visible without imposing mental constructs. This requires participation. (Aphorism 10)
  • Exceptions are particularly important in understanding phenomena. (Aphorism 11)
  • Everything living is a field being. (Aphorism 12)
  • Nature abhors vacuum. Everything arising needs space. (Aphorism 13)
  • Everything arising wants continued existence. (Aphorism 14)
  • Abstracting things from their place and context can lead to a whole chain of errors. (Aphorism 22)
  • A non-rationalizable, subjective approach can allow for deep insight. (Aphorism 35)
  • The phenomenon can be obscured by the way make sense of what we are seeing. (Aphorism 38)
  • Our behaviour is based on how we are making sense of the world. (Aphorism 40)
  • Moving too quickly from the phenomenon to its explanation leads to premature conclusions via inductive interferences. (Aphorism 44)
  • Experiencing phenomena is primary. Making inductive interferences interferes with the experiencing. (Aphorism 45)
  • Thinking that fits to one context ends up being used for another. Finally the no longer fitting continues to be used. (Aphorism 47)
  • Nature is fundamentally incomprehensible to (traditional) logic. (Aphorism 57)
  • Traditional logic is useful but does not the same as wisdom. (Aphorism 58)
  • Participation unites the observer with the observed, making itself identical with it and becomes its theory. (Aphorism 59)
  • Explore the explorable. Revere the inexplorable. (Aphorism 61)

This is work in progress…

Related post:
Norm Hirst’s Propositions on Life

Articles Books Retrospectives

Retrospective 2020-31

This is a summary of my reading during the week.


I have read Wholeness in Science by Guus van der Bie. The author attempts to develop Goethe’s method in his interest in a humanization of medicine. Similarly, I think it’s possible to develop Goethe’s method in the interest of humanizing work. Traditional management, which treats the organization as a machine and people as machine parts, fails to see and understand the complex situations of an organization consisting of people who are alive.

Keeping what we see strictly apart from associated concepts was a key requirement for Goethe. Goethe was acutely aware of the necessity to practice emphatic see-ing. Goethe’s method provides the basis for developing an understanding of living processes.

When empathy is deliberately extended, it can work to broaden our insight.
—Guus van der Bie, Wholeness in Science

The role of the mind in Goethe’s methodology is to find the coherence of the organization. Preliminary judgments are actively held back. The attention is on perception and observation.

Organic organization is invisible.

All parts of an organization have a relation to the whole and to each other. Organizational changes can be understood as metamorphoses. Every fact or detail must be understood in its context. This is necessary to do justice to the organic coherence of the organization. Isolated facts must be understood in the whole picture. Otherwise, there will be adverse effects.

I have also read Spiritual Ecology by Andy Shaw. The onlooker consciousness is useful for certain purposes, yet fails to provide a comprehensive context for our existence in the world—and, I would add, in our work.

There is an immense qualitative discrepancy between life and non-life.
…a living being…is animated by an inner directing principle of some sort…
—Andy Shaw, Spiritual Ecology

Wherever management is concerned with measurement, the particular aspect of work has first to be prepared quantitatively. This is an intellectual rearrangement of work that reduces it to the purely quantitative. The measurement system is in no way intrinsic to work, but is a reduction of work so that management can manipulate it for its own ends.

Management can control work according to its own will, but the price for this is that workers withdraw from work. The work begins to seem lifeless and empty. The organizing need to be allowed to emerge from the living encounter between worker and work, rather than being imposed from without according to management’s preconceptions. The thinking itself must be brought into the realm of work.

We exist in a living world, and only a deep sense of life will enable us to heal its very real wounds.
—Andy Shaw, Spiritual Ecology


I have read Doing Goethean Science by Craig Holdrege. Practicing Goethean science involves heightened sensitivity and awareness to the way we engage in the phenomenal world. We need to overcome our habit of viewing the world in terms of objects and leave behind the propensity to explain via reductive models.

Craig Holdrege describes science as a conversation with nature and presents the Goethean approach via a practical example. The metaphor of conversation brings to accentuates an inner attitude that lies at the heart of doing Gothean science. Here are some of the elements of science-as-conversation:

  1. Give the conversation an initial focus. Something has sparked my interest, my attention has been caught.
  2. The conversation itself is paramount. We can’t have a conversation if the focus is too narrow or too rigid.
  3. Taking the conversation seriously means that it is open-ended, that there is an atmosphere of openness.
  4. Infusing the conversation with respect, giving it dignity, makes me more sensitive in what I think and do.
  5. Receptive attentiveness allows me to see and hear with fresh eyes and ears. I am actively giving form to the conversation through my observations.
  6. In conversation we get to know the other and ourselves better. Any time we interact, we change.
  7. Conversations is all about participation. I can’t distance myself from the process and its results.

The idea of science-as-conversation grows out of the doing. And once we become conscious of it, it becomes a kind of inner guide. Am I aware enough? It is a back-and forth? Am I listening or pushing an agenda?

You prepare the ground, but the moment of seeing always involves an act of grace. Or maybe we could just say: we have to wait till the world speaks.
—Craig Holdrege, Doing Goethean Science

I have also read Emma Kidd’s dissertation Re-Cognition: The Re-Cognition of our Connection to Nature Through Goethe’s Way of Seeing, and her guest articles A Pathway to Living Knowledge Course Review – Part One & Part Two. They are all available via Simon Robinson’s blog Transition Consciousness: Making the transition to a better world. I will come back to Emma Kidd’s dissertation in a future post.

In re-cognizing the wholeness of nature, we are re-cognizing the nature of wholeness and what it truly means to be whole, and part of a whole, on this earth.
—Emma Kidd, Re-Cognition: The Re-Cognition of our Connection to Nature Through Goethe’s Way of Seeing

A living inquiry tries to understand wholeness as an expression of the language of life.
—Emma Kidd, A Pathway to Living Knowledge Course Review – Part One

Life, and knowledge, become livelier when my ways of knowing become as dynamic as the part of life itself that I am getting to know.
—Emma Kidd, A Pathway to Living Knowledge Course Review – Part Two

Finally, I would like to mention Simon Robinson’s Book Review: First Steps to Seeing: A Path to Living Attentively by Emma Kidd. Emma Kidd’s book First Steps to Seeing is excellent!

Articles Autognomics Life

Norm Hirst’s Propositions on Life

This post is a summary of Norm Hirst’s Propositions on a New Metaphysics and Science of Life-Itself.


Norm Hirst (1932–2012) was an independent scholar studying life and values for over 50 years. At MIT, Hirst studied with Robert Hartman, a visiting professor developing a formal axiology. See my reviews of Hartman’s Freedom to Live and The Structure of Value. Hartman later became Hirst’s friend and mentor. In working with Hartman, Hirst came to the conclusion that we need to extend our notions of reality to include a living universe.


Norm Hirst concluded that there is something profoundly wrong with the way life is understood and lived. Understanding life and values became his sole focus for over 50 years. Hirst claims that we will not understand life until we understand its organismic nature. We must understand that life is fundamental, non-deterministic and has the ability to act. To be alive is to be able to act.


Organisms are self-initiating, self-acting, and creating. They are alive. Norm Hirst writes that “…there is nothing in our history of ideas, whether philosophical or scientific, that deals with living self-acting entitites. Everything in our philosophy and science is an attempt to imitate life with non-living entitites not capable of self-determining and self-initiating action.

Norm Hirst draws a distinction between mechanisms and organisms, that do not function by mechanisms. It used to be an outrageous claim that cosmos is living, but Hirst proposes “that we must … see that the cosmos is a living organism.” To him “reality, including physical reality, is the creation of life-itself.” “Strictly speaking there is no totally, non-living anything.

Living organisms are self-aware and self-motivated. This means that they are “totally outside the domain of current scientific thinking.” “Current scientific thinking is either classification, as in creating a taxonomy, or causal dynamics.” It is, furthermore, assumed that “causal dynamics must be both quantitative and predictive.” Numbers are a convenient, but they are not the only form of order. The new science will not be used for prediction, but for guidance in finding effective acts.

New Science

Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) claimed in What Is Life? (1944) that we need a new physics to understand life. Norm Hirst claimed that we need a new science, and that “physics can be derived as a special case.

Norm Hirst put a great deal of effort into studying logic. “It turned out to be totally disillusioning.” There is, in short, no logic of meaning. Hirst ultimately concluded “there is no meaningful logic.” Believing that philosophy was a way of exploration Norm Hirst turned to it, but he found that mainstream substance philosophy offers a wordview, a metaphysics, that further entrapped us. “Not only is a new view of reality required, we also need to change protocols of inquiry to cope with it.” “The science applicable to life does not yet exist.”

New Logic

Classical and new logics, including Peirce’s logic, have inherited “subject-predicate forms of propositions.” In other words, they show their linguistic heritage. However, Norm Hirst doesn’t believe that “living processes speak human languages, except for some of the living processes of humans.” After years of studying logic, Norm Hirst reluctantly came to agree with Whitehead that “The exactness is a fake.” (See Alfred North Whitehead, Science and Philosophy.)

Life Requires

Norm Hirst asks what we need to expect of a science of life and suggests that life requires:

  • Variety
  • Cooperation
  • Autonomy
  • Communication
  • Coherence
  • Awareness (in this moment of “now”)

Norm Hirst believes that the most serious mistakes result from the failure to understand that life needs “huge variety and harmonization.” “Finding ways to harmonize and utilize variety” creates health. We resort to violence and destruction when harmonization is, or seems, impossible.

New Formalisms

Norm Hirst, furthermore, makes the following distinctions between old and new logics, or formalisms:

Old LogicsNew Logics
Truth preservingCreative
Thing oriented (extensional)Meaning Oriented (intensional)
ConsistentAllows oscillation
Excludes self-reference (self-knowing)Requires self-reference (self-knowing)
Excludes valuesValue-driven

Traditional logics require truth-preservation. They are designed for arguments and collapse if there are inconsistencies. However, life must be able to evolve and can “quickly move beyond current truth“. Hence, traditional logics cannot handle the requirements of life.

Life, furthermore, is not computable. Thus new formalisms must be based on “forms of order other than numbers“. The question is not “Is it true?“, but “Can one get there from here?” The functions will be acts, transformations.


The primary value, for me, of Norm Hirst’s propositions is that he, through a lifetime of inquiry, makes it clear that a new form of logic and thinking is required to understand life itself. The mathematical and logical foundations of physics are totally inappropriate for understanding life.

Mathematics creates the “thought recipes” for physics, but cannot create the “thought recipes for a science of life“. Mathematics is too rigid and “does not allow the flexibility required by living processes.” Life is creative. It is only “when and where it gets bogged down and develops habitual patterns” that it can be “understood by logical concepts, theoretical physics, mathematics, and the hard sciences.

Norm Hirst makes another important distinction which I would like to emphasize. He distinguishes between entities that are autonomic versus allonomic. Hirst writes that “we have been led astray by our experience of obedient things.” “In dealing with living autonomic self-acting entities it may come as a surprise that they do what they want with no thought of obedience.” Organisms are born to create their own life. They are self-creating, and not just self-organizing. “They maintain their own life by constantly recrating it.” Their purpose is not to fulfill external tasks, but to develop their own life. It’s worth remembering!

Related post:
Notes on Goethe’s Aphorisms

Articles Books Retrospectives

Retrospective 2020-02

This is a summary of last week’s reading.

I’ve mentioned previously that I feel a need to wrap-up my series of posts on deeper generative organizing. One way of saying it is that: “There is no formula, except this is a formula.”1 As soon as we rely on formulas, procedures, and defined processes, we become fixed. The follow-up question, then, is whether formulas can be generative? I’ll come back to that.

Last week, I finished reading The Phenomenon of Life by Hans Jonas. This is a classic book on phenomenology and existentialism. At the center of Jonas’ philosophy is an attack on the fundamental assumptions underlying modern philosophy since Descartes. Hans Jonas’ critique of cybernetics caught my attention:

According to cybernetics, society is a communication network for the transmitting, exchanging, and pooling of information, and it is this that holds it together. No emptier notion of society has ever been propounded. Nothing is said on what the information is about, and why it should be relevant to have it. … Any theory of man’s sociability, however crude or distorted, that takes into account his being a creature of need and desire, and that looks for the vital concerns which bring men together, is more to the point.2

Hans Jonas emphasizes the importance of the concept of good.3 Action, whether individual or collective, is directed toward a good. Here, I see a connection with Robert S. Hartman’s seminal work on The Structure of Value.

I started reading The Safety Anarchist by Sidney Dekker. It’s a compelling book, which is as much about work in general, as about safety. Sidney Dekker writes that:

It is time for…people who trust people more than process, who rely on horizontally coordinating experiences and innovations, who push back against petty rules and coercive compliance, and who help recover the dignity and expertise of human work.4

I have also started reading When the Impossible Happens by Stanislav Grof. Grof presents a personal account of over 50 years of inquiry into holotropic states of consciousness, one that provides a glimpse into the deeper layers of our existence. Stanislav Grof mentions wu wei, which, I think, is related to generative organizing:

wu wei, or “creative quietude,”…is not action involving ambitious determined effort, but doing by being. … Instead of focusing on a predetermined fixed goal, we try to sense which way things are moving and how we best fit into them. It involves focus on the process, rather than the goal or the outcome. When we are able to approach life in this way, we ultimately achieve more and with less effort. In addition, our activities are not egocentric, exclusive, and competitive… The outcome not only brings satisfaction to us, but serves also a larger purpose of the community.5

I have started re-reading Christopher Alexander’s four volume masterwork on The Nature of Order. I am now reading Book One. Christopher Alexander has come to believe that architecture is so agonizingly disturbed because of our conception of the world, a worldview that essentially makes it impossible to make buildings well.

I believe that we have in us a residue of a world-picture which is essentially mechanical in nature–what we might call the mechanist-rationalist world-picture. … Like an infection it has entered us, it affects our actions, it affects our morals, it affects our sense of beauty. It controls the way we think…6

Alexander writes about built structures, but what he says is as applicable to Life itself.

Harrison Owen is one of my favorite authors. Harrison Owen’s insights are deep and he writes very well. In short, he is a pleasure to read. Last week, I found this interview with Harrison Owen by Keli Yen at Global Greens. The following caught my attention:

The most productive work groups that I’ve ever seen have virtually no prescribed structure. … This is going to sound totally heretical, but think about it, structure is very simply a figment of our imagination. … It’s all energy, it’s all flow. … So in a way, structure is kind of a crutch to allow us to think we have some control and understanding of the environment we’re in.7

This leads me back to Christopher Alexander’s built structures. Alexander says in The Timeless Way of Building that his pattern language is fallible, and that you cannot generate a living thing mechanically.8

…it is only the extent to which you yourself become ordinary and natural, that in the end determines how natural, and free, and whole the building can become. …
One place can have “good” patterns in it, and yet be dead.
Another place can be without the patterns which apply to it, and yet still be alive.9

And, here’s my point, a pattern is a formula. Hence, formulas aren’t generative, in the sense of being able to generate a living thing. Deeper generative organizing, then, is not about prescribing patterns or structures, but about following your heart.

…live so close to your heart that you no longer need a [pattern] language…
It is utterly ordinary. It is what is in you already. Your first, most primitive impulses are right, and will lead you to do the right thing, if you only let yourself. … It is only a question of whether you will allow yourself…to do what comes naturally to you, and what seems most sensible, to your heart, always to your heart, not to the images which false learning has coated on your mind.10

Do what comes naturally to your heart, always to your heart!

1 I attribute this statement to Skye Hirst, who said it in one of our conversations. It’s as I remember it. It might be a paraphrase.
2 Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life, pp. 126–27.
3 Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life, p. 127.
4 Sidney Dekker, The Safety Anarchist, p. iii.
5 Stanislav Grof, When the Impossible Happens, p. 66.
6 Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order: Book One, p. 7.
7 Keli Yen, Harrison Owen Interview: Inviting Flow and Self Organization | Global Greens (accessed 2020-01-08)
8 Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building, pp. 540–41.
9 Ibid., pp. 541–42.
10 Ibid., p. 547.

Articles Life Organizing Thoughts

Vårt sätt att organisera är människofientligt

I detta inlägg reflekterar jag över Jonna Bornemarks artikel Vårt sätt att organisera samhället har blivit människofientligt i DN 2019-12-25. Texten i artikeln är ursprungligen från ett tal som Jonna Bornemark höll i samband med Riksmötets öppnande 2019-09-10.

Jonna Bornemark skriver att “frågan om hur vi organiserar vårt offentliga samhälle har blivit alltmer akut”. “Svaret har varit checklistor, register och manualer.” Jag anser att frågan hur vi organiserar det privata näringslivet är lika akut. Dessa “checklistor, register och manualer” är lika utbredda i kommersiella bolag.

En grundläggande fråga, enligt Jonna Bornemark, är “vilken sorts människor vi förväntar oss att samhället byggs av”. Det är en fråga som har “blivit brännande i diskussionen om hur vi organiserar offentliga verksamheter”. Frågan är, enligt min mening, lika relevant i diskussionen om hur vi organiserar privat verksamhet. Vilken syn vi har på människor är en fråga som har att göra med hur vi organiserar all mänsklig verksamhet.

Jonna Bornemark frågar om “det är något i själva organiseringen av till exempel vården som har blivit människofientligt”. Bornemark skriver att “långsamt har syftet med verksamheterna förskjutits”. “Det har blivit viktigare att fokusera på vad det står i papperen” än vad som är syftet med verksamheten. “Kvalitetsarbetet tar plats i papperen, inte i verkligheten.” Den som faktiskt utför arbetet ska “bara lyda order”. Om ett djupare syfte med verksamheten är otydligt, eller kanske rentav saknas, och man inte litar på människors eget omdöme, är regler och ordergivning det enda som återstår i försöket att styra verksamheten.

Jonna Bornemark påpekar att vi “på så sätt har skapat ett system som ger allt mindre plats för professionellt omdöme”, dvs. förmågan att utifrån situationen “handla på bästa möjliga sätt”. Det är, enligt Bornemark, en förmåga som “aldrig kan generaliseras och skrivas ner i regler” därför att “livet är rörligt, ständigt annorlunda och specifikt”. “Pappersapparaten”, där enbart “det mätbara blir synligt”, saknar “känslighet inför det levande”. Jonna Bornemark påminner oss om att allt inte kan mätas, och att något kan vara viktigt även om det inte finns siffror. Jag håller med! Använding av mätetal har dessutom sidoeffekter beroende på sammanhanget. “När ett mätetal blir ett mål, upphör det att vara ett bra mätetal” (Goodharts lag).

Jonna Bornemark betonar att “vi behöver utveckla det mänskliga, inte avveckla det”. Det sker när det finns en pågående dialog och ett kontinuerligt utbyte av erfarenheter kring det som är konkret och svårt. Omdöme är “något som vi skapar tillsammans”, och då är det viktigt att vi inte är “alltför lika varandra” för då kan omdömet bli “allför smalt”. Mångfald är viktigt i såväl ekologiska system som mänskliga grupper. Enligt Science ökar t.ex. gruppers kollektiva intelligens ökar om den består av både kvinnor och män.

Jonna Bornemark undrar om “vi har odlat ett tankesätt där … effektivisering övertrumfar allt”? En effektivisering som utgår från att människor, djur och natur är till för att utnyttja. För det är som Jonna Bornemark skriver att: “Ett snävt fokus på effektivitet är inte effektivt eftersom det inte förstår sig på det levande.” Vårt sätt att organisera handlar om värderingar. Det är ett uttryck för vad vi värderar mest. Hur vore det om vi började sätta värde på och vårda Livet självt? Det skulle vara både natur- och människovänligt.

Articles Books Retrospectives

Retrospective 2019-46

This is a summary of my reading and painting this week.


The Philosopher’s Stone: Chaos, Synchronicity and the Hidden Order of the World by F. David Peat arrived this week. I have started reading the book and will come back with a review. Peat is one of my favorite authors. My series of posts on organizing between and beyond is inspired by his and David Bohm’s notion of the order between and beyond in Science, Order, and Creativity.

Peat, The Philosopher’s Stone.


The following articles caught my interest during the week (my emphasis in bold):

  • Divine transports by Mark Vernon.
    “…social activities create a kind of buzz that he called effervescence. Effervescence is generated when humans come together to make music or perform rituals, an experience that lingers when the ceremonies are over.”
  • Positive Deviance – a ground-up approach to innovation by Jacqueline Conway (@DrJAConway).
    “A positive deviance approach assumes that it is those closest to the work that are best placed to address and solve organisational problems. … It assumes that behaviour change in a system is best achieved through practice and doing without the aid of someone ‘in charge’ …”
  • Lyla June on the Forest as Farm by Trace L. Barnett.
    “…I don’t like the word sustainability. We’re not just going to sustain ourselves; that’s a low standard. I’m going for enhanceability. The ability to enhance wherever I walk. The ability to make it better than when I found it.”
  • Zen and the Art of Seeing by Kees van Aalst.
    “What we see isn’t what we see, but who we are.”


I worked on following two paintings during the weekend. See Jan Höglund Art.

Articles Books Retrospectives

Retrospective 2019-19

This is a look back at what has happened during the week.


Below are this week’s paintings where I explore the use of colors. I have become better at seeing and working with contrasts compared to a month ago.


One from Many
I mentioned last week that I planned to review On Dialogue by David Bohm. Well, I started re-reading Dee Hock‘s One from Many instead. It’s an amazing book! I read the book six years ago. Dee Hock’s insights are more profound than I realized back then.

Dee Hock tries to determine the organizational principles that would emulate the principles that Nature seems to use. Dee Hock believes that what makes an organization effective is a common purpose and shared principles. The purpose is a clear statement what the community hopes to achieve together — that which binds the community together mentally and emotionally. The purpose is not an objective.

Dee Hock writes that there is a place for control. You need, for example, a dust-free environment if you want a perfect silicon chip. But the fact that control is useful for a limited set of purposes doesn’t imply that it is the best way to run an organization. Interestingly, this is contrary to Watts Humphrey’s key assumptions in the CMM, PSP, and TSP, and to Gerard Endenburg’s assumptions in sociocracy. Sociocracy provides a “control machinery”.1


Below are this week’s notes to myself based on my reading of Dee Hock:

  • Organizing is agreeing. Agreeing is organizing.
  • Generative organizing is a continual process, as alive as the people involved.
  • Spontaneous order out of chaos can only happen as long as control is kept on a leash.
  • We need to rethink the very nature of the organizations in which we are enmeshed.
  • Principles educe behavior. Rules compel it.
  • If you don’t value Life itself your organization will, in time, turn toxic.
  • Chaordic software development is agile.


Institutions in the Age of Mindcrafting
Dee Hock’s speech at the Bionomics Annual Conference, in 1994, on Institutions in the Age of Mindcrafting covers topics that also can be found in One from Many. Dee Hock asks what would be the nature, not the structure, of an ideal organization if anything imaginable was possible. He gives examples of the principles that emerged from his work with Visa:

  • It must be equitably owned by all participants.
  • No member should have an intrinsic preferential position.
  • All advantage must result from indiviudal ability and initiative.
  • Power and function musst be distributive to the maximum degree.
  • It must be infinitely yet extremely durable.
  • It must embrace diversity and change.

Dee Hock emphasizes that everything has both intended and unintended consequences. The intended consequences may or may not happen, while the unintended consequences always do. He writes that a clear purpose and principles, give rise to complex, intelligent behavior, while rules and regulations give rise to simple, stupid behavior.

Cardiologist at Karolinska: “I am engaged in civil disobedience at work”
I found an article, Hjärtläkare på Karolinska: ”Jag ägnar mig åt civil olydnad på jobbet” (Dagens Nyheter 2019-05-10) by Lisa Röstlund, on how civil disobedience at work becomes necessary when the organization, in this case the Karolinska University Hospital, is controlled as a machine. Inger Hagerman, who is a cardiologist, says (my translation in italics):

– Det här är en konsultprodukt, och det märks väldigt mycket. … Men det här är inte produkter, patienterna är levande, komplexa människor i en kunskapsorganisation som också är väldigt komplex. Det var för svårt för konsulterna att ta in, tror jag.
– This is a consulting product, and it is very noticeable. … But these are not products, the patients are living, complex people in a knowledge organization that is also very complex. It was too difficult for the consultants to take in, I believe.

– När man pratar med människor i alla delar av vården har alla bra tankar om arbetssätt och förbättringar. Men det fanns ingen som ville lyssna på dem.
– When talking to people in all parts of the care, everyone has good thoughts about working methods and improvements. But there was no one who wanted to listen to them.

– Förut hade vi möten och ronder och diskuterade. Samarbete och konsensus. Nu skickar vi patienter med papper mellan varandra, vilket är fullständigt absurt.
– Previously we had meetings and rounds and discussed. Cooperation and consensus. Now we send patients with paperwork between each other, which is completely absurd.

What if Karolinska had used a chaordic approach instead — or, at least, had listened to the local expertise?

1 Sociocracy provides, in Gerard Endenburg’s own words, the “control machinery” needed for seeking solutions to “literally all problems and conflicts.” See Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making (Eburon, 1998), p. 6.

Articles Reflections Retrospectives

Retrospective 2019-18


The purpose of this post is to summarize the week.

First, a short background. I have done weekly retrospectives since 2016. However, this is the first retrospective this year which I write in English. So much of what I read is in English, and it feels akward having to translate it into Swedish while summarizing. Swedish, on the other hand, is my native language, which means that if I want to express some tentative new thoughts, then English feels akward.


I started painting a month ago, and, to my surprise, I’m pretty good ; ) I absolutely love it! Below are this week’s paintings.


I’ve finished reading On Dialogue by David Bohm. I warmly recommend the book and will write a book review next week.


Below are notes I’ve written to myself (with the most recent first). Many of them come from my reading of Christopher Alexander, Eugene Gendlin, Robert Hartman, and David Bohm:

  • Both Christopher Alexander and David Bohm talk about ‘unfolding.’ For Alexander it’s an unfolding from the Whole, for Bohm it’s an unfolding from the implicate order.
  • Our ‘organizing‘ prevents our organizations from unfolding.
  • A gentle hug changes the emotional landscape.
  • We are looking through our assumptions.
  • Those who benefit most from a system are those who don’t take it too seriously.
  • Assumptions produce their own intentions.
  • Respect for people” is to value people intrinsically (as defined by Robert Hartman).
  • Dialogue may occur but is by no means guaranteed.
  • Defensive posturing can diminish when there’s warmth and fellowship.
  • The ‘tacit ground‘ is what holds work together.
  • The ‘life‘ we experience in each moment is deeply correlated with the ‘space‘ in which we find ourselves. (This is a paraphrase of Christopher Alexander.)
  • We need to pay more attention to the wholeness (Bortoft) of work, in particular to include intrinsic values (Hartman) and degrees of life (Alexander) in the organizations we create.
  • The organism is not the sort of thing that can properly act mechanically. (This is a paraphrase of David Bohm)
  • Disharmony inevitably arises from trying to impose a defined process.
  • A child learns to walk and to talk just by trying something out and seeing what happens. As the child grows older learning becomes narrower. In school, s/he learns by to please the teacher and pass tests. At work, s/he learns to please the manager and make a living.
  • Thoughts emerge, create actions, and leave traces in the world.
  • We unconsciously practice metaphysics through our prevailing world view.
  • Insight and imagination give rise to one another.
  • When the original insight has established itself, new lines of conjecture and reasoning emerge. Strict formality and logic may expose hidden contradictions and limitations, which may lead to new insights.
  • When the intrinsic meaning of an insight is tentatively formulated in language it can be reflected upon internally, as well as be provisionally communicated externally with others.
  • Varying degrees of wholeness, while not algorithmic, are neither random nor accidental.
  • Giving simple attention is itself a primary creative act. Creativity is not the result of a planned and formulated goal, but rather the by-product of an attentive mind.
  • Insights can result in entirely new conceptual structures.
  • Experience can be structured through the use of concepts.
  • I can only change myself. When I change, you change.
  • Generative organizing works with invisibles, dimensions of human experience that can be felt. (This is related to Eugene Gendlin’s notion of felt sense.)
  • Silence speaks.
  • Life is now.


Below are articles which I read this week (I mention them here so that I can go back if I want to):

  • Resilience Engineering Notes by Lorin Hochstein. Resilience describes how well a system can handle troubles that were not foreseeable by the designer. There’s a change in perspectives on accidents and safety which is relevant for generative organizing as well. The traditional approaches often focus on “minimizing variance associated with humans doing work, using techniques such as documented procedures and enforcement mechanisms for deviating from them“, while the “new view” focuses on “understanding how actions taken by actors involved in the incident were rational, given what information those actors had at the time that events were unfolding.” “A recurring theme in resilience engineering is about reasoning holistically about systems… When you view the world as a system, the idea of cause becomes meaningless, because there’s no way to isolate an individual cause. Instead, the world is a tangled web of influences.
  • Whole Intelligence and the global emergency by Malcolm Parlett. “An existential crisis provokes us to think about our individual responses, facing the extremity of our human & global predicament. We wonder what … steps that we can take to embolden ourselves to live more faithfully in accord with our deepest values …
  • Arthur Koestler: 20th century man by Masha Karp. This article reminded me of my own post on Arthur Koestler. Koestler coined the term holarchy. He criticized the mechanistic view of organisms, and called the doctrine that they are “essentially passive automata controlled by the environment, whose sole purpose in life is the reduction of tensions“, a monumental superstition. Said differently, it’s a monumental mistake to view people essentially as sensors controlled by the organization, whose sole purpose is to process tensions.
  • Henri Bortoft’s Explorations of Goethe’s Dynamic Way of Seeing by Simon Robinson. “Goethe directs us into the sensory experience & away from the verbal, logical, conceptual & abstract mind. … when we move into an analysis of dynamic organisms, our minds encounter paradoxes, which they are unable to resolve within their own way of thinking.
  • Nature Unfolding by Tricycle, where Katy Butler speaks with Christopher Alexander. “If people think something ought to be a certain shape and then they start making it that shape instead of doing what the unfolding tells them to do, they will royally screw it up. Because of concepts! Concepts interfere with this process… Because human concepts, no matter how cleverly conceived they are, almost always work against the Whole. And that’s what we’ve been witnessing in architecture now for about one hundred years. The world is now prevented from unfolding.
  • Business “Basics for the Brink of Extinction by Michelle Holliday. Michelle Holliday writes that: “…in my experience, methods and techniques are a dime a dozen. Packaged with a shiny bow. Promised to work, just add water. Yet it’s never that easy, is it?” Yes, it’s never that easy! Methods and techniques need to unfold.


The following poem came to me this week (in English and Swedish):