Truth and Reality in Systems Thinking LO26347

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 03/13/01

Replying to LO26332 --

Dear Organlearners,

Richard Karash <> writes:

>I encountered this question:
>>Now the question: Is it system thinking really helping us
>>mapping reality and be correct about it?
>I think this is a great question.
>I can address your question in terms of "Reality," but I'm not
>so sure "Reality" is an objective phenomenon. The alternative
>view, which I find very useful, is that we only can know the world
>as we experience it. This doesn't make everything subjective
>because there is great coherence in the way different people
>experience the world.

Greetings dear Rick,

After unloading my mailbox, deleting most of it except personal mail and
then studying the LO-digests, I came upon the above which I could not
resist answering.

I agree. But I wish to add that to know this coherence we will have to
manage our learning accordingly.

One thing which I cannot accept, is to elevate the learning of any person
to the questionable status of a doctrine. The concept doctrine means that
afterwards other people must come to exactly the same fixed learning even
though their experiences may be slightly different.

Adhering to doctrines is a facet of simplicity thinking. It belongs to the
past. The future requires complexity thinking. Doctrines reminds me of
cloning. In the propagation of biological species, cloning happens mostly
on the low level of bacteria and other one cell organisms. The progeny and
ancestors are identical. However, once reaching the high level of many
cell organisms with clearly differentiated internal organs having
different functions, there is always genetical diversity in the progeny.
The greater this diversity (see essentiality otherness), the better the
adaptation and thus survival of the species. Thus it become senseless to
speak of the "genome of a species" -- the gene map of one specimen as if
the gene maps of all other specimens of that species are equivalent to it.
The best we can do is to speak of the "gene pool of a species". It is like
hundreds of artists painting the same scene. No two painting are the
sameand yet the same scene can be discerned in all of them
We will have to stop trying our cloning of scientific and systemic
concepts. I cannot think of a better example from my own world of
experience than the "second law of thermodynamics" (Law of Entropy
Production - LEP). Study textbooks on thermodynamics since WWI and see how
much the rendering of the 2nd law became a cloning business!

>So, I would rather talk about "experience" than about "reality."
>This actually will make things easier.

Language is the most powerful way to communicate our experiences. Just as
with a biological species, we will have to stop thinking that using one
language as lingua franca (i.e, effectively cloning that language ;-) we
will reach maximum undertstanding. Let me give an example.

The word in my own mother tongue Afrikaans for reality is "werklikheid".
It is similar for Dutch and German. The syntactical translation for
"werk-lik-heid" into English would be the nonexistent word "work-ly-hood".
It means that through work and using the head the person learns
continually more of the "world-outside-the-person". Now this may seem to
be a meaningless rendering to people using a Romanic language (modern
language like Portugese derived from classical Latin or Greek) or one with
a high overlaod of words with a Romanic ethymology (like English).

However, in my very long contribution "Free Energy and Work -- the dance
of LEP on LEC), I explained how all significantly irreversible changes in
any system is driven by changes in free energy, resulting in an
interaction between the system and its surroundings which can be
characterised by work. In other words, systems can explore their
surroundings (or vice versa ;-) "work-ly". Add to this that the
interaction has to be driven by entropy produced through free energy and
much "hood" (head) is needed to understand it all. Thus "work-ly-hood" is,
after all, not an incomprehensible name for reality. Thus I smiled when
reading your

>I think the purpose of systems thinking is to improve our
>understanding of how things work so that we can be more
>effective in the world. The model is useful if it explains
>experience (in the past, in the future, or both).

not because it is funny or simple, but because it has such profound
meaning in terms of my mother tongue as well as my systems thinking.

>A basic test of any model is whether it explains
>experience. Everyone can propose a dynamic model,
>but these models are not equal! Some models are
>better at explaining our experience than others. We
>should shift our attention towards the better models and
>away from those which are not as good.

I agree. Yet I want to add that this "shift" involves far more that what
we expect. As you write:

>(There is much more to say about the criteria for
>good models.)

Perhaps the following will shead another light on these criteria.

As for me, between my experience and that knowledge which I can articulate
formally, even by using models, is my tacit level knowledge. My
experiences become tacit knowledge only through emergences and my tacit
knowledge again becomes formal knowledge only through emergences. These
emergences are not simplistic. They involve entropy production as the
necessary condition and the seven essentialities as the sufficiency
condition. For example, up my wholeness is not up to the requisite level
of complexity, I will not be able to recognise my experiences in my tacit
knowledge and be even less able to recognise it in my formal knowledge. In
other words, due to a lack of my wholeness, I will favour the explanation
by a model which has less wholeness in it rather than one which seems to
be more complicated because of more wholeness in it -- wholeness which I
do not match to. This seemingly "more complicated" will evaporate as I
grow in wholeness. Eventually I will want to kick myself for originally
having followed the seemingly good model.

>I think this makes things easier... Instead of "correctly mapping
>reality" we want models that "explain our experience in a way
>that's helpful."

May I add that I am now hopefully prepared to provide for the next
"becoming" in my experience and not merely my experiences as "beings" from
the past. This preparation has often provided me with help from quite
unsuspected angles.

Rick, thank you once again for your personal input on the topic. As you

>Each systems thinking diagram represents a theory
>of how the system works. We should test it based on
>validity, explanatory power, relevance, and utility:

As for truth, the day when I discovered that truth is not merely "being",
but also "becoming", my own struggle to cope with being-restricted truth
(dogma) came to an end.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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