January 6, 2009

Capra and Prigogine on a Systems View of Life

Fritjof Capra (1939) is a theoretical physicist best known for his bestselling book The Tao of Physics. Capra has done extensive research on particle physics, human ecology and systems theory.

In this lecture, Capra outlines the new understanding of life that is now emerging at the forefront of science. This ‘web of life’ conception is based on systemic thinking and the innovative concepts and mathematical techniques of complexity theory. Capra argues that a systems perspective of evolution allows us to integrate our understanding of the biological, cognitive, and social dimensions of life.

Yet, some have argued that his theoretical view is inherently reductionist and does not take into account the intangible and qualitative nature of consciousness-as-such. Of course, you can judge for yourself.

Ilya Prigogine (1917–2003) was a renowned Belgian chemist noted for his work on dissipative structures, complex systems, and irreversibility. Prigogine is known best for his theories of thermodynamic systems far from equilibrium, which won him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.

Prigogine’s work on 'dissipative structures led to pioneering research in self-organizing systems, as well as philosophic inquiries into the formation of complexity of biological entities, and the quest for a creative and irreversible role of time in the natural sciences. His work is seen by many as a bridge between natural sciences and social sciences.

Below is an interview with Ilya Prigogine where he describes his understanding of the kosmos as a emergent, living, fluctuating, mysterious reality.

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