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Holistic Principles

We live in momentous times. A period in which there is an overwhelming need to change, evolve, see things differently. It’s a need felt by many, and that’s a good thing. In his book “The Web of Life” (third edition, Bur Scienza, January 2005), renowned American author and physicist Fritjof Capra wrote:
“The solutions to most of today’s problems are readily available; some are even simple. Yet they require a radical change in our perceptions, in our mindsets, in our values. There’s no doubt that we are, today, witnessing the start of a sweeping process of change in the way we view the world, a paradigm shift on a par with that brought about by Copernicus. But this realization has not yet dawned on most of our political leaders. The recognition that a profound change of perception and thinking is needed if we are to survive has not yet reached most of our corporate leaders either, nor the administrators and professors of our large universities.”
Clear, significant words that I thoroughly agree with and which indicate we’re facing a crisis of perception and an important paradigm shift as its solution. Another passage from F. Capra’s book states:
“The paradigm that is now receding has dominated our culture for several hundred years, during which it has shaped our modern Western society and has significantly influenced the rest of the world. This paradigm consists of a number of entrenched ideas and values, among them the view of the universe as a mechanical system composed of elementary building-blocks, the view of the human body as a machine, the view of life in society as a competitive struggle for existence, the belief in unlimited material progress to be achieved through economic and technological growth... .
Inevitably, all these assumptions have been undermined by recent events. And there is now a need for a radical revision of them”.
The ascent of systems thinking during the last century was undoubtedly revolutionary. Once again, Capra’s book sheds light on the fundamental stages of this change:
“The emergence of systems thinking was a profound revolution in the history of Western scientific thought. In the analytic, or reductionist, approach, the parts themselves cannot be analysed any further, except by reducing them to still smaller parts. Indeed, Western science has been progressing in that way, and at each step there has been a level of fundamental constituents that could not be analysed any further.
The great shock of twentieth-century science has been that systems cannot be understood by analysis. The properties of the parts are not intrinsic properties, but can be understood only within the context of the larger whole. Thus the relationship between the parts and the whole has been reversed. In the systems approach, the properties of the parts can be understood only from the organization of the whole. Accordingly, systems thinking does not concentrate on basic building-blocks but rather on basic principles of organization.”
Again from the book "The Web of Life", we find a description of the key characteristics of systems thinking:
“The first principle, the most general, is that of a shift from the parts to the whole. Living systems are integrated totalities, the properties of which cannot be traced back to those of their smaller parts. Their essential, or systemic, properties are properties of the whole: the component parts do not possess such properties. Their origins lie in the organisational relationships of the parts, that is, a configuration of relationships typical for that particular class of organisations or systems. Systemic properties are destroyed when a system is broken up into isolated elements.
Another key principle of systems thinking is that there are not, in fact, any parts. What we refer to as a part is nothing more than a pattern in an inseparable weave of relationships. The shift from the parts to the whole can, then, be seen as a shift from objects to relationships. In the mechanistic vision of things, the world is a collection of objects. These, obviously, interact with one another, and exist in relation to each other. Yet the relationships are given only secondary importance. In systems thinking, instead, we realise that the objects themselves are relationship webs inserted in ever-larger webs".



"These are my terms: the white man must treat the animals of this land as his brothers. Because anything that happens to animals will soon happen to man. All things are connected." Native Indian Chief Seattle, 1887

Stefano Sabioni