Symbiosis in LOs LO11294

Durval Muniz de Castro (
Fri, 06 Dec 1996 09:32:43 -0800

Replying to LO11279 --


> Finally, we need to be careful not to believe that there actually is
> such a thing as a system. This is purely a human construct which
> helps in rich picture formulation and subsequent design, analysis,
> engineering, and synthesis. The ideas associated with 'System',
> like those associated with probability lead to useful concepts and
> methodologies but all are weltanschauung driven.

This is very important and, when understood, may be one of the best things
in the system's approach. We can say that the system is a cognitive filter
that can be adjusted by the observer.

We can use a metaphor: the system's approach, compared to traditional
science, is like Lego compared to a conventional toy (a car, an airplane,
etc). The conventional toy may have finer detail and many exciting
features, but with Lego I can make `my own toy'.

I would like to relate this to another posting:

Jackie Mullen wrote:

> In the end, I'm inclined to think that the metaphor of symbiosis
> applied to human systems, particularly at the micro-level, is rather
> constricting, so I wear it uncomfortably. It seems reductive and somewhat
> insulting. It is taking a metaphor of a "complex adaptive system" and
> applying it to a "complex evolving system", where there is learning,
> relationships generated, structures changed and choices made. I prefer
> these metaphors to be fun.

All metaphors are constricting. All theories are somewhat reductive,
because when we apply a concept to an individual object we lose the
individuality of the object! Feeling unconfortable about this is healthy:
it reminds us that everytime we conceptualize and theorize we are:

a) bringing information from other experiences into our present

b) leaving out some of the content of our present experience.

This arises two questions:

a) is the information we bring in relevant to our present experience?

b) are we leaving behind some important information?

I have already mentioned a film, "The Postman", which contains a very
important lesson about the metaphors we use. We are always using
metaphors, but are generally unconscious of the. When we learn about
metaphors and more important, learn that we can build our own metaphors,
we gain a higher level of self-consciousnes and the capacity to change our

Therefore, metaphors are constricting only as long as we live in the
previously existing ones. Whe we learnthat we can create or modify them,
they become openings, not barriers. They are like the opening of Plato's
cave. But we have to remember what happened to the man who got out of the

Could we say that a scientist is a person who is productive within an
existing metaphor, while a poet is one who builds his own metaphors? Maybe
great scientists have a poetic side and great poets have a scientific


Durval Muniz de Castro <>
Fundacao Centro Tecnologico para Informatica <>
Campinas - Brasil - Fone: 55-19-2401011 - Fax: 55-19-2402029

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