Discussion Leaders

David Ing and Gary S. Metcalf

Session Description

The original announcement (including a link to the web video recording) is at https://wiki.st-on.org/2023-07-10.

Sciencing can be seen as an ongoing pursuit of better answers. Philosophizing can be seen as a pursuit of better questions. In the history and development of systems thinking, both have coevolved..

Gary Metcalf and David Ing are jointly exploring how systems changes may be approached differently via the philosophical history of American pragmatism, and post-colonial (contextural-dyadic) thinking. Gary led a brief in-person session at the ISSS 2023 meeting to introduce the direction. With more time available through a Systems Thinking Ontario session, we can discuss at greater leisure.

-- begin paste abstract --

In the development of systems thinking from the 1950s through the 1990s, strands of an emerging science of systems coevolved with underlying philosophies of science. Collaborations, across the Churchman-Ackoff network in the United States, and the Trist-Emery network in the UK, were largely influenced by traditions in American pragmatism dating back to the 1890s.

Branches of philosophy of science underlie practices in action learning, and theories in the systems sciences. Over decades, progress is more explicitly recognized with verbs rather than nouns. Sciencing can be seen as an ongoing pursuit of better answers. Philosophizing can be seen as a pursuit of better questions. The two pursuits coevolve.

The socio-psychological perspective was constructed on the structuralist psychology of Gestalt, through Andras Angyal and Kurt Lewin. The other two perspectives can be traced through philosophical strands amongst students of William James. The socio-technical perspective was constructed on the inductive and experimental methods in pragmatism, by C. West Churchman building on Edgar A. Singer. The socio-ecological perspective was constructed on pragmatist metaphilosophy, by Stephen C. Pepper building on Ralph Barton Perry. Although published as 3 volumes in a Tavistock Anthology, the three perspectives on organizational systems reflect current sciencing.

Inquiry into the meaning of texture benefits through sweeping in 21st century philosophizing. With processual philosophizing in ecological anthropology, Tim Ingold depicts strands as the lives of lines, and texture in weaving. With the comparative philosophizing of the science of classical Chinese medicine for western audiences, Keekok Lee distinguishes the waning and waxing of yin qi and yang qi, as the intertwining of qi-in-dissipating mode and qi-in-concentrating mode. Through a post-colonial constructionist program of philosophizing Rethinking Systems Thinking, principal concepts of (i) rhythm, (ii) texture, and (ii) propensity have become the core of Systems Changes Learning practices, theory, and methods.

Causal texture theory shifted the emphasis from the system of interest to four types of change in the organizational environment. The four types of causal textures can be extended with recognition of qi-in-dissipating and qi-in-concentrating modes. The constructionist philosophy can be applied to the socio-psychological, socio-technical, and socio-ecological perspectives through a variety of contextual-dyadic combinations.

The emphasis on systems changes on the sciencing of systems prioritizes a time-space predisposition over a space-time presumption. Conversations on systems thinking accordingly inquire first on rhythmic shifts in textures, and subsequently the defining of systems and boundaries. Systems Changes Learning is a systems approach bridging Western and Chinese philosophizing.

-- end paste abstract --

Suggested pre-reading: 

On American pragmatism:

On Systems Changes Learning:

On Contextual-Dyadic Thinking:


David Ing and Gary S. Metcalf, " Living, Becoming, Process Philosophy: Systems Thinking in Time", Systems Thinking Ontario , Toronto, Canada, July 10, 2023


Previous Post Next Post

2023/07/10 Sciencing and Philosophizing on Threads in Systems Thinking: Tracing through the texture of the socio-technical and socio-ecological perspectives