More than Cool Reason: “Withness-thinking” or “Systemic thinking” and Thinking about Systems

Many of our difficulties in our practical lives are not of the form of “problems” that we can solve by reasoning; nor are they are “empirical problems” that we can solve by discovering something currently unknown to us by the application of a science-like methodology. They are difficulties of a quite another kind: they are relational or orientational difficulties to do with how we, as practitioners, spontaneously respond to features in our surroundings with appropriate anticipations ‘at the ready’, so to speak, thus to ‘go on’ within them without being (mis)lead into taking any inappropriate next steps. Difficulties of this second kind are not solved but resolved in the course of our ‘moving about’ within our surroundings, in our tentative explorations of the possible next steps they make available to us. Thus the outcomes of our inquiries as practitioners are not to be measured in terms of their end points – in terms of their objective outcomes – but in terms of what we learn along the way, in the course of the unfolding movements they led us into making. In other words, rather than resulting in nameable ‘things’ out in the world, i.e., products, their results come to be registered in our (still in process) embodied capacities and sensitivities. What is special about this kind of learning without explicit teaching, is that it occurs spontaneously, throughout our lives; it is basic and prior to all our more self-conscious learning and teaching. It gives rise to what I have elsewhere called withness-thinking or thinking systemically, and my purpose here is to explore the collaborative nature of the practices involved in such sensitivities coming to be shared within a social group.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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