An activity of the Primer Group


A Special Integration Group (SIG) of the
International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS)
originally SGSR, Society for General Systems Research.








Curiosity, Wonder, Zest for Life.

By Gary Boyd

The starting place for both science and philosophy, especially for young people, must be a romantic excitement with the particular possibilities of life. Wonder, zest for life, and the risky excitement of exploration of the beautiful complexity of the universe comes first.

As we explore physically and conversationally we re-configure our nervous systems and our social connections to enable us to explore wider and deeper and safer, and to enable us to share the beauties and the powers which we are finding, with significant others. Languages (verbal. graphical, musical, mathematical) enable us to coherently regenerate our experiences and exhibit them to one another.

Since, despite our common primate homo-sapiens biophysicality, everyone's history of experiences and everyone's neurophysiology is to an appreciable extent unique, the sharing of beauty and of power is subject to much confusion and mis-understanding. Consequently, there is a need to agree on rules and tools for ordering discourse designed to promote understanding. Several strategies are possible here:

1) The mimetic strategy of copying what others are doing and saying until many ways of distinguishing and relating experience and action are become automatic habits. This is where we all start, and indeed where all educable mammals start.

Such mimetically learned understanding of the life-world is however very hard to correct and improve. It amounts to habits of seeing and doing and speaking and listening in particular sacrosanct magically efficacious ways. The standard form of behaviour or address depends on established categories of others and of immediate situations. These sacred ritualized categorizations cannot be generalized or corrected on the basis of other's or long-term experience.

Further than this, and their cultures (however beautiful and moral) have been overwhelmed by the graeco-judaeo-christian culture which learned to use verbal, geometrical, and numerical languages in mutually self-correcting coherence building (scientific) ways, notably the following two.

2) A bottom-up elaborating code linguistic strategy involves starting with the concrete and particular, making tentative rules, and using logic and experiment to determine regularities, discard incongruities. So that eventually we can link these multi-dimensional bottom-up poly-linguistic models into ever more reliable and larger wholes.

3) 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.

The third strategy is the main strategy of systems science, as I understand it.

Gary Boyd
Professor of education

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