The science and the philosophy of a system are related but they are not the same thing. Science is about something in particular, but a philosophy is a general statement which does not apply to any single particular something.
- ALFRED NORTH WHITEHEAD
“While each scientific theory selects out and abstracts from the world's complexity a peculiar set of relations, philosophy cannot favor any particular region of human enterprise. Through conceptual experimentation it must construct a consistency that can accommodate all dimensions of experience, whether they belong to physics, physiology, psychology, biology, ethics, etc..”
Science is the tool of the Western mind and with it more doors can be opened than with bare hands. It is part and parcel of our knowledge and obscures our insight only when it holds that the understanding given by it is the only kind there is.
“The dramatic change in concepts and ideas that happened in physics during the first three decades of this century has been widely discussed by physicists and philosophers for more than fifty years…The intellectual crisis of quantum physicists in the 1920's is mirrored today by a similar but much broader cultural crisis. The major problems of our time…are all different facets of one single crisis, which is essentially a crisis of perception…Like the crisis in quantum physics, it derives from the fact that most of us. and especially our large social institutions, subscribe to the concepts of an outdated world view…At the same time researchers…are developing a new vision of reality…emerging from modern physics can be characterized by words like organic, (w)holistic, and ecological. It might also be called a systems view, in the sense of general systems theory. The universe is no longer seen as a machine, made up of a multitude of objects, but has to be pictured as one indivisible dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process”. What we are seeing today is a shift of paradigms not only within science but also in the larger social arena…The social paradigm now receding had dominated our culture for several hundred years, during which it shaped our modern Western society and has significantly influenced the rest of the world…This paradigm consists of…the view of the world as a mechanical system, the view of the body as a machine…the view of life as a competitive struggle…the belief of unlimited of unlimited progress achieved through economic and technological growth and the belief that the female is subsumed under the male…During recent decades all these assumptions have been severely limited and in need of radical revision. Indeed, such a revision is mow taking place…In science, the language of systems theory. and especially the theory of living systems, seems to provide the most appropriate formulation of the new ecological paradigm. I would like to now specify what is meant by the systems approach…I shall identify five criteria of systems approach…1. Shift from the parts to the whole. The properties of the parts can be understood only from the dynamics of the whole. In fact, ultimately there are no parts at all 2. Shift from the structure to the process. In the new paradigm, every structure is seen as a manifestation of an underlying process. 3. Shift from objective to epistemic science. In the new paradigm, it is believed the epistemology - the understanding of the process of knowledge - has to be included explicitly in the description of natural phenomenon…4. A shift from building to networks as a metaphor of knowledge. In the new paradigm, the metaphor of knowledge as a building is being replaced by that of the network. 5. Shift from truth to approximate descriptions. This insight is crucial to all modern science…in the new paradigm, it is recognized that all scientific concepts and theories are limited and approximate…One of the most important insights of the new systems theory is that life and cognition are inseparable. The process of knowledge is also the process of self-organization, that is, the process of life. Our conventional model of knowledge is one of representation or an image of independently existing facts which is the model derived from classical physics. From, the new systems point of view, knowledge is a part of the process of life, of a dialogue between subject and object. I believe that the world view implied by modern physics is inconsistent with our present society, which does not reflect the interrelatedness we observe in nature. To achieve such a state of dynamic balance, a radically different social and economic structure will be needed; a cultural revolution in the true sense of the word. The survival of our whole civilization may depend on whether we can bring about such a change. It will depend ultimately, on our ability to…experience the wholeness of nature and the art of living with it in harmony.“
Today the network of relationships linking the human race to itself and to the rest of the biosphere is so complex that all aspects affect all others to an extraordinary degree. Someone should be studying the whole system, however crudely that has to be done, because no gluing together of partial studies of a complex nonlinear system can give a good idea of the behavoir of the whole.”
GENERAL SYSTEMS THEORY
Ludwig von Bertalanffy “Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology…” “These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter is formulation of principles that are valid for “systems” in general, whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or “forces” between them… “General system theory, therefore, is a general science of wholeness”… The meaning of the somewhat mystical expression, “The whole is more that the sum of its parts” is simply that constitutive characteristics are not explanable from the characteristics of the isolated parts. ”
The Turning Point
The systems view looks at the world in terms of relationships and integration. Systems are integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller units. Instead of concentrating on basic building blocks or basic substances, the systems approach emphasizes basic principles of organization. Every organism- from the smallest bacterium through the wide range or plants and animals to humans is an integrated whole and thus a living system. …But systems are not confined to individual organisms and their parts. The same aspects of wholeness are exhibited by social systems- such as an anthill, a beehive, or a human family- and by ecosystems that consist of a variety of organisms and inanimate matter in mutual interaction. What is preserved in a wilderness area is not individual trees or organisms but a complex web of relationships between them.
All these natural systems are wholes whose specfic structures arise from the interactions and interdependence of their parts. The activity of systems involves a process known as transaction- the simultaneous and mutually interdependent interaction between multiple components.“
“a theory of everything which will unite all the laws of nature into a single expression… an abbreviated representation of the logic behind the universes's properties…a single coherant framework…an encapulation of all the laws of nature…a simple and single representation…the ultimate directory…an independent prescription which appeals to simplicity, naturalness and economy…a union of perefect and unique intercompatibility..a general principle…which can be applied in a varity of different situations without becoming embroiled in their pecularities…Perhaps there exist a whole set of basic rules about the development of complexity which reduce to some of our simpler laws of nature in situations where the level of complexity is essential nil. If such rules do exist, then they are not like the laws which the particle physicists seek. But is there any evidence that such principles exist? collection of 1027 protons, neutrons and electrons may be all that a desk-top computer is at some level, but clearly the way in which those sub-attomic particles are put together, is what distinguishes the computer from a crowd of 1027 separate sub-atomic particles. …The question of the existence of a “secret of the Universe” amounts to discovering whether there is some deep principle from which all other knowldege of the physical world follows…”
“A long standing ambition of physicists is to construct a single master theory that would incorporate all the known forces. One imagines that such a theory would reveal some deep connection between the various forces while accounting for their apparent diversity. Such a unification has not been attained, but in recent years some progress may have been made…What may ultimately prove more important, all four forces are now described by means of theories that have the same general form. Thus if physicists have yet to find a single key that fits all the known locks, at least all the needed keys can be cut from the same blank.”
- Jonas Salk The Anatomy of Reality
“It appears that all units of reality are comprised of two basic elements in an asymmetrical binary relationship in dynamic interaction…” (p.38) “As noted above, one of the basic ideas that underlies my thinking, one of the images I have in mind when I contemplate the universe, is that it is constructed upon a simple pattern of order that may be seen in any and all phenomena, no matter how complex. The simple pattern is that of a binary relationship, recognized in a binary system. The implication here is that everything in nature, everything in the universe, is composed of networks of two elements, or two parts in functional relationship to each other…”(p.39) “The most fundamental phenomenon in the universe is relationship.”(p.44)
KAFATOS and NADEAU
The Conscious Universe Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory Menas Kafatos Robert Nadeau Springer-Verlag ISBN 0-387-97262-5
From the Introduction Page 11
…We will also advance the hypothesis that the epistemological situation we are obliged to confront in a quantum mechanical universe, in which non-locality must now be viewed as a fundamental fact of nature, provides a new basis for understanding the ability of the human brain to construct symbol systems, or symbolic representations of reality. Drawing extensively on Niels Bohr's definition of the logical framework of complementarity, which we regard as fundamental to understanding the actual character of physical reality in a quantum mechanical universe, we will advance and attempt to support the view that complementarity is the most fundamental dynamic in our conscious constructions of reality in both ordinary and mathematical language systems. If this thesis is correct, it provides a more reasonable and self-consistent explanation than physical scientists have developed thus far as to why the language of mathematics, or the language of mathematical physics, is more “privileged” in its ability to uncover the dynamics of physical reality than is ordinary language. And it could also relieve much of the obvious “angst” that has apparently been occasioned by the rather widespread conviction among humanists and social scientists that all of us are locked, as Nietzsche put it, in the “prison house” of our linguistically-based constructions of reality with no real or necessary connection between subjective reality and external reality. The most radical hypothesis advanced here is, however, more narrowly scien- tific. That hypothesis is that since complementarity has been a primary feature in every physical theory advanced in mathematical physics beginning with the special theory of relativity in 1905, and since complementarity can also be shown to be an emergent property or dynamic in the life of the evolving universe at increasingly larger scales and times, then future advances in physical theory in cosmology, or in the study of the origins and evolution of the entire universe, will also feature complementary constructs. In this same discussion, we also suggest that present limits of observation in the study of the large-scale structure of the universe appear to be providing additional evidence that the entire universe is a quantum system, and that cosmologists and astrophysicists may have to invoke complementarity in resolving some seemingly irresolvable problems associated with the most widely accepted model for explaining the origins and evolution of the cosmos-ae big-bang model with inflation.”
Thus we have two experiments, both of which, after sixty years of refinement and discussion, are considered correct and factual. Each absolutely excludes the theory which is the necessary basis for the explanation of the other- necessary, that is, if we must think in such terms as waves and particles. On this point, Nobel laureate Richard Feynman emphasizes, “All our experience is with waves and particles.” The wave and the particle natures are two sides of one thing whose nature cannot be rationally expressed. This one thing is light, which seems both continuous and discontinuous, and which the experiments show is neither continuous nor discontinuous, but which we know at a level beyond rational knowledge is a unity….Our knowledge that it is light, a unity, or electron, another unity, to which the opposites apply, emphasize a “both/ and” which links the two and highlights their contradictory character.
- GREGORY BATESON
“Of all these examples, the simplest but the most profound is the fact that it takes at least two somethings to create a difference. To produce news of difference, i.e., information, there must be two entities (real or imagined) such that the difference betweeen them can be immanent in their mutual relationships; and the whole affair must be such that news of their difference can be represented as a difference inside some information-processing entity, such as a brain, or, perhaps, acomputer. “To what questions have fifty years of science led me? This chapter has defined and exemplified a manner of search and therefore it is the moment to raise two questions; For what am I searching? To what questions have fifty years of science led me. The manner of search is plain to me, it might be called the method of double or multiple comparison.” Thus the whole, in which such instances are placed…become a display inviting the reader to ahieve insight by comparing instances one with another,”
SUPERFORCE: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature
It is a curious fact that all ordinary matter in the universe is made from just the two lightest leptons (the electron and its neutrino) and the two lightest quarks (up and down). If the other leptons and quarks suddenly ceased to exist it is probable that very little would change in the world.“
THE JOYOUS COSMOLOGY
“The principle is that all dualities and opposites are not disjoined but polar. They do not confront eachother from afar, they expoliate from a common center. Ordinary thinking conceals polarity and relativity because it employs terms and terminals, the poles, neglecting what lies inbetween them. The difference of front to back, to be or not to be, hides their unity and mutuality.”
“According to the philosophy of Zen, we are too much a slave to the conventional way of thinking. which is dualistic through and through. No “interpenetration” is allowed, there takes place no fusing of opposites in our everyday logic. What belongs to God is not of this world, and what is of this world is incompatible with the divine. Black is not white, and white is not black. Tiger is tiger, and cat is cat, and they will never be one. Water flows, a mountain towers. This is the way things or ideas go in this universe of the senses and syllogisms. Zen, however, upsets this scheme of thought and substitutes a new one in which there exists no logic, no dualistic arrangement of ideas. We believe in dualism chiefly because of our traditional training. Whether ideas really correspond to facts is another matter requiring a special investigation. Ordinarily we do not inquire into the matter, we just accept what is instilled into our minds; for to accept is more convenient and practical, and life is to a certain extent, though not in reality, made thereby easier. We are in nature conservatives, not because we are lazy, but because we like repose and peace, even superficially. But the time comes when traditional logic holds true no more, for we begin to feel contradictions and splits and consequently spiritual anguish. We lose trustful repose which we experienced when we blindly followed the traditional ways of thinking. Eckhart says that we are all seeking repose whether consciously or not just as the stone cannot cease moving until it touches the earth. Evidently the repose we seemed to enjoy before we were awakened to the contradictions involved in our logic was not the real one, the stone has kept moving down toward the ground. Where then is the ground of non-dualism on which the soul can be really and truthfully tranquil and blessed? To quote Echart again, “Simple people conceive that we are to see God as if He stood on that side and we on this. It is not so; God and I are one in the act of my perceiving Him.” In this absolute oneness of things Zen establishes the foundations of its philosophy. The idea of absolute oneness is not the exclusive possesion of Zen. There are other religious and philosophies that preach the same doctrine. If Zen, like other monisms or theisms, merely laid down this principle and did not have anythng specifically to be known as Zen, it would have long ceased to exist as such. But there is in Zen something unique which makes up its life and justifies its claim to be the most precious heritage of Eastern culture. The following “Mondo” or dialogue (literally questioning and answering) will give us a glimsp into the ways of Zen, A monk asked Joshu, one of the greatest masters in China, “What is the ultimate word of Truth?” Instead of giving him any specific answer he made a simple response saying, “Yes.” The monk who naturally failed to see any sense in this kind of response asked for a second time, and to this the Master roared back. “I am not deaf!” See how irrelevantly (shall I say) the all-important problem of absolute oneness or of the ultimate reason is treated here! But this is characteristic of Zen, this is where Zen transcends logic and overrides the tyranny and misrepresentation of ideas. As I have said before, Zen mistrusts the intellect, does not rely upon traditional and dualistic methods of reasoning, and handles problems after its own original manners….To understand all this, it is necessary that we should acquire a “third eye”, as they say, and learn to look at things from a new point of view.”
In a true system…not all macroscopic properties follow from the properties of components and combinations. Macroscopic properties often do not result from static structures, but from dynamic interactions playing both within the system and between the system and its environment…A human being falling in love – perhaps only once in a lifetime – changes the life of the community of which he or she is a part. Such considerations already hint at the fact that a systemic view of necessity leads to a dynamic perspective. Quite generally, a system becomes observable and definable as a system through its interactions. (The Self-Organizing Universe.” p24)
A Starting Place Submitted by by
A top-down systemic strategy, this involves imagining the whole oceanic unity of the universe, as we all vaguely remember experiencing it in the womb, then making a division, say between self and other, then conversationally and experimentally exploring the connections across the boundary between self and other. Then successively by making other analagous distinctions, say between the self and the family and the other, or between the living and the non-living, we can explore the connections across those boundaries using guiding metaphors as heuristics and rigorous logic for detailed self-correcting theory and model building.
“But let me emphasize that to have an approach of wholeness doesn't mean that we are going to be able to capture the whole of existence within our concepts and knowledge. Rather it means first that we understand this totality as an unbroken and seamless whole in which relatively autonomous objects and forms emerge. And secondly it means that in so far as wholeness is comprehended with the aid of the implicate order, the relationship between the various parts or sub wholes are ultimately internal. Wholeness is seen as primary while the parts are secondary, in the sense that what they are and what they do can be understood only in the light of the whole. And perhaps I should also add here that in each sub whole there is a certain quality that does not come from the parts, but helps organize the parts. I could summarize this in the principle: The wholeness of the whole and the parts. Each human being is therefore related to the totality, including nature and the whole of mankind. He is also therefore internally related to other human beings. How close that relationship is, has to be explored. What I am further saying is that the quantum theory implies that ultimately the relationship of the parts and whole of matter in general is understood in a similar way. This approach of wholeness could help to end the far-reaching and pervasive fragmentation that arises out of the mechanistic world view.”
The Physiology of Perception When a person glimpses the face of a famous actor, sniffs a favorite food or hears the voice of a friend, recognition is instant. Within a fraction of a second after the eyes, nose, ears, tongue or skin is stimulated, one knows the object is familiar and whether it is desirable or dangerous. How does such recognition, which psychologists call preattentive perception, happen so accurately and quickly, even when the stimuli are complex and the context in which they arise varies?
Much is known about the way the cerebral cortex, the outer rind of the brain, initially analyzes sensory messages. Yet investigations are only now beginning to suggest how the brain moves beyond the mere extraction of features-how it combines sensory messages with past experience and with expectation to identify both the stimulus and its particular meaning to the individual.
My own group's studies, carried out over more than 30 years at the University of California at Berkeley, suggest that perception cannot be understood solely by examining properties of individual neurons, a microscopic approach that currently dominates neuroscience research. We have found that perception depends on the simultaneous, cooperative activity of millions of neurons spread throughout expanses of the cortex. Such global activity can be identified, measured and explained only if one adopts a macroscopic view alongside the microscopic one.
There is an analogy to this approach in music. To grasp the beauty in a choral piece, it is not enough to listen to the individual singers sequentially. One must hear the performers together, as they modulate their voices and timing in response to one another.
From: February 1991 Scientific American, Vol 264, (2) Pgs. 78-85.
JAN C. SMUTS
Holism and Evolution;
Holism (from the Greek Holos, whole) is the theory, which makes the existence of “wholes” a fundamental feature of the world. It regards natural objects, both animate and inanimate, as “wholes” and not merely as assemblages of elements or parts. (which) looks upon nature as consisting of discrete, concrete bodies and things, and not as a diffusive homogeneous continuum. And these bodies or things are not entirely resolvable into parts; in one degree or another they are wholes which are more than the sum of their parts, and the mechanical putting together of their parts will not produce them or account for their characters and behaviour. The so-called parts are in fact not real but largely abstract analytical distinctions, and do not properly or adequately express what has gone to the making of the thing as a whole.
Gregory Bateson A Sacred Unity Harper 1991 ISBN 0-06-250100-3
A system, after all, is any unit containing feedback structure and therefore competent to process information. There are ecological systems, social systems, and the individual organism plus the environment with which it interacts is itself a system in this technical sense. The circumstance that the family as a unit came to be thought of as a system must lead back inevitably, I believe, to considering the individual as a system. It follows that the ways of thinking evolved by psychiatrists in order to understand the family as a system. . . .The polarization of opinion then will not be simply between practitioners of individual therapy and practitioners of family therapy but between those who think in terms of systems and those who think in terms of lineal sequences of cause and effect. . . . The basic rule of system theory is that, if you want to understand some phenomenon or appearance, you must consider that phenomenon within he context of all completed circuits which are relevant to it.
New Concepts of Matter, Life & Mind Advances in the new sciences suggest a further modification of this assumption about the nature of reality. In light of what scientists are beginning to glimpse regarding the nature of the quantum vacuum, the energy sea that underlies all of spacetime, it is no longer warranted to view matter as primary and space as secondary. It is to space or rather, to the cosmically extended “Dirac-sea” of the vacuum that we should grant primary reality. The things we know as matter (and that scientists know as mass, with its associated properties of inertia and gravitation) appear as the consequence of interactions in the depth of this universal field. In the emerging concept there is no “absolute matter,” only an absolute matter- generating energy field.
PETER SENGE The Fifth Discipline
Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static �snapshots.� It is a set of general principles�distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management. …During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological, and even psychological systems. And systems thinking is a sensibility�for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character.
The Aquarian Conspiracy
General Systems Theory, a related modern concept [to holism], says that each variable in any system interacts with the other variables so thoroughly that cause and effect cannot be separated. A simple variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a cell, a rat, a brain structure, a family, a culture if you isolate it from its context. Relationship is everything.
Synergy: an Introduction:
By a `synergy', I mean a system of interactions between two or more actors or centers of action. The word `synergy' comes from a Greek work meaning `working together'. Any set of two or more interacting beings may be regarded as a synergy. Two people in a conversation, two people bumping into each other on the street, a bee visiting flowers and polinating them, or two armies at war may all be regarded as synergies. All of them involve interactons or systems of interaction between two or more beings or centers of action.
PETER CORNING Synergy and the Systems Sciences:
Synergy – the combined effects produced by two (or more ) parts, elements or individuals – is a unbiquitous phemomenon in nature and human societies alike.
Although it plays a significant role in most, if not all, of the scienctific disciplnes its importance is not widely appreciated because it travels under many different aliases, including emergence, cooperativity, symbiosis, coevolution, symmetry, order, interactions, interdependencies, systemic effects, even complexity and dynamical attractors. In this paper it is proposed that the term “synergy” be utilized as a pan-disciplinary lingua franca for co-operative effects of various kinds.
Although its role is often unappreciated, synergy can also be considered one of the core concepts of the systems sciences.
�LUDWIG von BERTALANFFY
Problems of Life
A �system� can be defined as a complex of elements standing in interaction. There are general principles holding for systems, irrespective of the nature of the component elements and the relations of forces between them. …In modern science, dynamic interaction is the basic problem in all fields, and its general principles will have to be formulated in general General Systems Theory.