Systems Thinking vs Belief? LO19769

AM de Lange (
Mon, 9 Nov 1998 11:41:47 +0200

Replying to LO19753 --

Dear Organleaners,

Steve Randall < > writes:

>At wrote: how can we escape this trap of "dialectical
>duality" which the "draw a mark which distinguishes"
>may lead us into? By introducing a "rich diversity" into
>our ST as soon as possible, before the trap can even
>begin to function.
>I disagree. No matter how fecund or numerous the
>intellectual understandings and expressions, without
>stimulating other modes of knowing it will only amount to
>a complex accumulation distinctions. Still a trap of
>circular references within a closed intellectual system.

Greetings Steve,

I think there is some misunderstanding here.

First of all, I have exactly this "other modes of knowing" in mind when I
speak of a "rich diversty". For example, one can also know through belief,
something which has precipitated this very thread "Systems Thinking vs

But secondly, when I asked this question, I had something else in mind,
namely the "degeneration" of a "spread with its two extremes" as well as a
"complementary duality" into a "dialectical duality". This degeneration
into a "dialectical duality" is forced by judgements (a binary [dual]
evaluation) ". These judgements require a "dialectical duality" -- two
opposite classes, the one the "anti" of the other, the one excluding the
other, both exhausting all possibilities. On the other hand, in a
"complementary duality" the two duals do not exclude each other, but both
are needed to represent the whole. Likewise in the case of a spread the
two extremes (limits) do not exclude each other, but are connected by the
intermediate values to make up the spread.

A typical example of a "complementary duality" is "man and woman". Of the
46 chromosomes in each which operate in 23 pairs, 45 are the same. They
only differ in the X and Y chromosomes, the woman with a XX chromosome
pair and the man with a XY pair. Thus they have much in common, and both
are necessary for at least the reproduction of humankind. But even this
complementary dual is already an oversimplification of reality. Some
humans have only one X chromosome (and thus 45 in total), the so-called
Turner syndrome. They appear to be females, but with certain unique
deformities. Others may have more than two sex chrmosomes (the Klinefelter
syndrome) like XXX (females) or XXY, XXYY, XXXY or XXXXY (all males),
again with certain unique deformities. Does this makes them less human?
Heaven forbids it because then we force a "complementary duality" on a
"spread with two extremes" to arrive at a "dialectical duality". This line
of thinking eventually results in the killing of people with genetical
disformities, something which happened most horrendously during WWII.

The act "draw a mark which distinguishes" also sets up two duals which we
may cal the "distinction duality". Unfortunately, it can just as easily
degenerate into a "dialectical duality". This is the "trap" to which I
refered. The reason why I suggested the introduction of a "rich diversity"
as soon as possible, is to provide examples which require successive
applications of the act "draw a mark which distinguishes". Depending on
how this act is intoduced the second time, we may arrive at 2x3 or 1x3
matrixes. Introducing it the third time leaves us with many possible
matrixes. Whatever, the case, the trap is not so enticing any more after
succesive applications of the act "draw a mark which distinguishes".

>At asks: Is it possible to set up a ST without having
>to resort to a "dialectical duality"?
>If you're focusing on *Systems ***Thinking****, I would
>say no. Thinking *by itself* always involves distinctions,
>and also *perceived or felt separations*. But if you ask
>whether it's possible to set up *Systems Views* without
>resorting only to dualistic measures, I would say yes, it
>is. If nonverbal awareness encompasses and accompanies
>(verbal) reasoning, it is possible to think and make distinctions
>without having to experience the field of awareness as being
>divided. The two modes of knowing can complement each other.

Steve, with all due respect, I think that with "Systems Views" we will
have the same problem as with "Systems Thinking". For example, just to
speak of "Systems Views", you have already made use of the act "draw a
mark which distinguishes" through the term "nonverbal awareness". You then
postulate "Systems Viewing" as more encompassing than Systems Thinking.
This postulate in itself is also the result of the act "draw a mark which
distinguishes". In other words, try as we may to escape it, we have to
employ George Spencer-Brown's "draw a mark which distinguishes".

I think that what we have to bear in mind, is that the "draw a mark which
distinguishes" is a becoming with a temporary character. We run into
trouble as soon as we let it degenerate into a being with a permanent

I have no vested interests (a mark with a permanent character) in either
Systems Thinking or Systems View. Your description of "Systems View"-ing
is much more in line with my own Systems Thinking. I have cautioned many
times that my own Systems Thinking is very complex. For example, I
distinguish between four levels of knowing: experential, tacit, formal and
sapient. Language (verbal articulation) plays a role only in the upper two
levels, namely formal and sapient. In fact, any form of expression plays a
role in these two levels. Music (which is nonverbal), for example, is for
me a powerful way of expressing formal knowledge. But somebody may argue
that music is still an auditory expression. Then what about smells! What
about making some nice smelling food to make your family aware that you
know that they have it difficult and that you care for them whatever will
happen. All this I take into consideration in my own Systems Thinking.

By the way, why "systems view" rather than "systems viewing"?

>Winfried wrote: What will stop this negative trend?
>Integration of intuition and feelings in our inner
>judgement processes.
>This aligns very well with what I am saying above.

Well, the "intuition and feelings" part also aligns with my own Systems
Thinking. Intuition has very much to do with the first two levels of
knowing: experential and tacit. I am still not so sure as to identify
"feelings" with "experential" and "intuition" with "tacit" because I am
aware in myself of some overlappings in both. I would rather say that my
intuition focus on the tacit (with the experential in view) and my
feelings focus on the experential (with the tacit in view).

The only point where I personally differ very much, is the "inner
judgements". If I understand you and Winfried correctly, "inner
judgements" refer to judgements which a person makes without letting
anybody else know about them. This is how I worked for quite some time in
my life, up to about 1990. I then began to realise that these "inner
judgements" are just as dangerous to me as "outer judgements" are to
other people. Today I try to avoid all judgements, inner or outer. I can
explain with my Systems Thinking why. Basically it boils down to this.
Each judgement (to which a condemnation is associated) destroys life in a
lesser or greater degree. I do not want to participate anymore in hurting
or destroying life as its final outcome.

Obviously, how can we be sure without judging? This question shows
just how much judging has taken control of our lives. We can become
surer without ever having to judge. This is one of the main messages
in the creative essentiality sureness ("identity-categoricity"). See
on the LO archives:
Essentiality - "identitity-categoricity" (sureness) LO17823
< >

Now why do I use the name "systems thinking" rather than "systems viewing"
if we have so much in common. Or let us assume it to be the case if it is
not the case. Well, in the case of dialogue, I follow the rule "when in
Rome, do as the Romans do". In the world of cybernetic systems,
information technology and managerial science, the phrase "systems
thinking" has a certain nominal function. But in many of the other
humanitarian sciences such as education and history, that same nominal
function is accomplished by the name "systematisation of thoughts" or
"philosophy" for short. I would not get very far in any dialogue there is
I use the name "systems thinking" rather than "philosophy".

However, each name do not have only a nominal (labeling) function, but
also a seminal (explaining)function. The seminal difference between
"systematisation of thoughts" and "systems thinking" is that in the former
the focus is on act "systematisation" (with little stress on "act") while
the focus in the latter is on the act "thinking". But this make the two
concepts so much different that they do not overlap? No. The
"systematisation of thoughts" (philosophy) is what most people had been
doing before WWII while "systems thinking" is what many people is now
doing after WWII. In other words, "systems thinking" is nothing but
post-WWII philosophies -- or to say it from the other side,
"systematisation of thoughts" is nothing but a pre-WWII systems thinking.

Now we get to a very serious issue in systems thinking, one which has
very much to do with belief. Which name should get priority, the older
or the newer name? We can think of two cases which crept up in this
"systematisation of thoughts" or "systems thinking"?
"systems thinking" or "systems views"?

On what will we base our understanding of priorities? I leave this
question in our midst to have a dialogue on.

As for myself, my "logues" (contribution to the dia-LOGUE) would converge
to our very thread "Systems Thinking vs Belief?".

Thanks Steve for a very stinulating dialogue.

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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