Transformation...of the foundation of our knowledge and of our beliefs about R..

To President, International Society for General Semantics
Fm: The Primer Group, International Society for the Systems Sciences
Subj: Cross-post, i.e., Translink

Excerpted from:

International Society for the Systems Sciences
39th Annual Meeting
1995 Proceedings

By Eric Schwartz
Centre interfactultaire de'etudes systemiques

                        IS VIRTUAL REALITY REALLY VIRTUAL?


"...a theory of the whole (...) is in no sense a theory of everything."
                                                D. Bohm, The Undivided

   The theme of this 39th Meeting of the International Society for the
Systems Sciences "Systems Thinking, Government Policy and Decision Making" is
clearly, and rightly in our opinion, directed toward ACTION. however, in this
paper we would like to remind ourselves that any procedure, any method or any
methodology that can be proposed for concrete acton is founded on some
KNOWLEDGE about the world: for example a political, social, economical or
ecological model of the section of the world in which we would like to
intervene, or a more general scientific theory. Furthermore, any such
knowledge, common sense or scientific, is based itself on MYTHS that are
considered as truth by society: religious beliefs, epistemological
fondations, cultrural paradigms, etc.
   This structure can be seen as three layers resting on one another: the top
one, representing the concrete actions of the instructed players of the game
with their practical know-how in the forms of rules of action, instructions,
procedures, methods, methodologies, etc. The second plane, the conceptual
plane, represents the abstract models. the scientific theoritical knowledge,
the logical, mathematical or computatghjk.g'ional basis on which the methods
are grounded. The pedestal on which these two planes are based, the
existential plane, symbolizes the "truths", the beliefs, the values, the
meaning, shared by the members of the social system under consideration. In a
stable society this represents all the myths (in the original mean of true
saying) that are not questioned because they constitute the system. For a
Christian, Jesus is the son of God: for a rationalist, the phenomema of the
sensible world can be symlblized by signs obeying the laws of logic and
mathematics., In a society which is in a transition phase betweeen a paradigm
and another, some "truths" may start to be questioned. It is our impression
that the industrial society is in such a TRANSITION PHASE. Using a general
transdisciplinary meta-model, we have recently shown some indications of this
   In the present paper, we would like to contribute to the study of what
"systems Thinking" can propose to help Government Policy and Decision Making.
But we would like to direct our attention not so much to the practical
methods and methodoloigies used by the players of the game, nor even to
systems science, that is, the the rules of the game, but more to the
existential plane, that is to THE GAME ITSELF. Indeed we are convinced that
the roots of many of the problems to which our sociey is confronted are so
deep, that not only our models of the natural systems should be revised but
even our beliefs about the nature of "reality" must be questioned. In that
sense it is not possible to treat these survival questions without
consideration of the SPIRITUAL DIMENSION.
    ...What do we mean by systems science? While the different historical
disciplines of the sciences have all developed their specific conceptual
tools and rules, systems science hold that the large diversity of observable
phenomena around us, can be made intelligible by using a limited number of
abstract, primordial, and universal invariants and of relations between
them,. The aim of systems science is therefore the development of a GENERAL
DEPTH than the disciplinary sciences and, hopefully, a CLOSER RELATION WITH
     How can systems science contribute to spirituality? As we have seen, the
access to wisdom is mediated by three types of activities: sensible,
conceptual and spiritual. THe first and the last ones are rather individual,
but the conceptual way can be shared by the use of language between
communicationg individuals. Without reducing spiritual experience to mental
intellectual activity, this latter can contribute to the former. In
particular the SEARCH FOR ESSENTIAL SIMILARITIES, these fundamental
invarients and regularities that can ne recognized in nature, may be a
notable contribution to spiritual progress. As this search is precisely the
purpose of systems science, the connection with spirituality is
   ....We think that the universal wisdom and the spiritual tradition are
full of resources to facilitate a conversion of our industrial society and
logico-empirist paradigm to a more holistic approach. The reductionist and
empirist discipline which emerged gradually since the Renaissance was
probably useful to get rid of the aging, dogmatized, and perverted scholastic
establishment, In the same way as the scolastic paradigm went through the
steps of discovery and pertinence, maturity and decline, our rationalist
paradigm generated a profitable stage in the history of mankind, teaching us
to respect the indications of nature and to learn the power of logical
coherence; it later allowed industrial society to take advantage of the
controlling power nourished by the materialist sciences. It now seems that
the unwanted by-products of technological advancement, like the ecological,
social, economincal, political, financial chaotic movements point to a
transformation not only of our model of natural processes but, more
importantly, of the foundation of our knowledge and of our beliefs about
    One of the most important (and neglected) aspects in the process iof
knowing the world is the choice of a language, of the CONCEPTUAL TOOLS that
will be used to express the features of the observed phenomena and their
    As is well known, Newton chose to express the movements of ovjects
through a relation between their mass,m the rate of change of their velocity
(acceleration) and the forces to which it is submitted. This original choice,
centering the descrtiption of the world on the movements of matter in space
and time, has influenced mechanics and physics, the natural sciences, and a
substantial part of the human sciences for several centuries. Thus, in the
dominant contemporary epitemology, MATERIALISTIC AND PHYSICALIST, the events
of the world (=reality) are finally reduced to stocks and fluxes of matter
and energy (the so-called e.g.s. world: centimeter-gramme-second).
    In the (W)holistic sytstemic epistemology proposed here, a system is seen
as a non-separable entity constituted of objects (components) in relations
(interactions). As a non-separable entity cannot be reduced to the sum of its
parts and as relations cannot be reduced to objects, we are led to three
basic, primordial and irrrteducible catagories: OBJECTS, RELATIONS and WHOLE.
The first correspond to the plane of ENERGY of conventional physics (physical
plane), the second to the plane of INFORMATION, as it is considered in
cybernetics or in information theory (logical plane) and third to the plane
of totality, or WHOLENESS (existential plane.)
     On fig. 1. are represented the MINIMAL SYSTEM, seen as an organized
whole made of two interacting comnponents (relational elements. ed.) which
represents what we are talking about (ontology).
  As is well known it is not possible to decide to change ones beliefs, nor
individually nor collectively, Nevertheless, by working together on the
conceptual level we can discover some seeds that could trigger a deep
collective existential metamorphosis."

end of exceptation 11395

Editors note: The MINIMAL System as presented by Schwartz, (and I in 1994
proceedings) constitutes (in my opinion) a major change in DIRECTION for the
systemic sciences. While not exactly a Theory of Everything in the scientific
sense, the ability to use the Minimal System as a systemic identifyer or
RECOGNITION tool, may (will) lead to a UNIFICATION of all sciences in the
philosophical sense. What does this mean? For one, we now have the
ontological basis (foundation) for a true SCIENCE OF WHOLENESS. What does
that mean? Well, another name for the foundational system is SYNERGY...
Wanting to leave that undefined, I am compelled, nevertheless, to add, like
MAKING LOVE. I'm certain, almost, that everyone knows what comes next...

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