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is_virtual_reality_really_virtual

IS VIRTUAL REALITY REALLY VIRTUAL?

By Eric Schwartz Centre interfactultaire de'etudes systemiques Adapted from 1995 ISSS Proceedings, page 198

“…a theory of the whole (…) is in no sense a theory of everything.” D. Bohm, The Undivided Universe

The theme of this 39th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences “Systems Thinking, Government Policy and Decision Making” is clearly, and rightly in our opinion, directed toward ACTION. however, in this paper we would like to remind ourselves that any procedure, any method or any methodology that can be proposed for concrete acton is founded on some KNOWLEDGE about the world: for example a political, social, economical or ecological model of the section of the world in which we would like to intervene, or a more general scientific theory. Furthermore, any such knowledge, common sense or scientific, is based itself on MYTHS that are considered as truth by society: religious beliefs, epistemological foundations, cultrural paradigms, etc.

This structure can be seen as three layers resting on one another: the top one, representing the concrete actions of the instructed players of the game with their practical know-how in the forms of rules of action, instructions, procedures, methods, methodologies, etc. The second plane, the conceptual plane, represents the abstract models. the scientific theoritical knowledge, the logical, mathematical or computatghjk.g'ional basis on which the methods are grounded. The pedestal on which these two planes are based, the existential plane, symbolizes the “truths”, the beliefs, the values, the meaning, shared by the members of the social system under consideration. In a stable society this represents all the myths (in the original mean of true saying) that are not questioned because they constitute the system. For a Christian, Jesus is the son of God: for a rationalist, the phenomema of the sensible world can be symlblized by signs obeying the laws of logic and mathematics., In a society which is in a transition phase betweeen a paradigm and another, some “truths” may start to be questioned. It is our impression that the industrial society is in such a TRANSITION PHASE. Using a general transdisciplinary meta-model, we have recently shown some indications of this trend.

In the present paper, we would like to contribute to the study of what “systems Thinking” can propose to help Government Policy and Decision Making. But we would like to direct our attention not so much to the practical methods and methodoloigies used by the players of the game, nor even to systems science, that is, the the rules of the game, but more to the existential plane, that is to THE GAME ITSELF. Indeed we are convinced that the roots of many of the problems to which our sociey is confronted are so deep, that not only our models of the natural systems should be revised but even our beliefs about the nature of “reality” must be questioned. In that sense it is not possible to treat these survival questions without consideration of the SPIRITUAL DIMENSION.

…What so we mean by systems science? While the different historical disciplines of the sciences have all developed their specific conceptual tools and rules, systems science hold that the large diversity of observable phenomena around us, can be made intelligible by using a limited number of abstract, primordial, and universal invariants and of relations between them,. The aim of systems science is therefore the development of a GENERAL SYSTEM THEORY with a WIDER RANGE OF APPLICABILITY, a GREATER ONTOLOGICAL DEPTH than the disciplinary sciences and, hopefully, a CLOSER RELATION WITH THE OBJECTS AND THE RULES OF NATURE.

How can systems science contribute to spirituality? As we have seen, the access to wisdom is mediated by three types of activities: sensible, conceptual and spiritual. THe? first and the last ones are rather individual, but the conceptual way can be shared by the use of language between communicationg individuals. Without reducing spiritual experience to mental intellectual activity, this latter can contribute to the former. In particular the SEARCH FOR ESSENTIAL SIMILARITIES, these fundamental invarients and regularities that can ne recognized in nature, may be a notable contribution to spiritual progress. As this search is precisely the purpose of systems science, the connection with spirituality is straightforward.“:

….We think that the universal wisdom and the spiritual tradition are full of resources to facilitate a conversion of our inducstrial society and logico-empirist paradigm to a more holistic approach. The reductionist and empirist discipline which emerged gradually since the Renaissance was probably useful to get rid of the aging, dogmatized, and perverted scholastic establishment, In the same way as the scolastic paradigm went through the steps of discovery and pertinence, maturity and decline, our rationalist paradigm generated a profitable stage in the history of mankind, teaching us to respect the indications of nature and to learn the power of logical coherence; it later allowed industrial society to take advantage of the controlling power nourished by the materialist sciences. It now seems that the unwanted by-products of technological advancement, like the ecological, social, economincal, political, financial chaotic movements point to a transformation not only of our model of natural processes but, more importantly, of the foundation of our knowledge and of our beliefs about reality.

As is well known it is not possible to decide to change ones beliefs, nor individually nor collectively, Nevertheless, by working together on the conceptual level we can discover some seeds that could trigger a deep collective existential metamorphosis.”

Eric Schwartz

Centre interfaculture d'etudes systemiques Universite de Neuchatel CH-2000 Neuchatel Switzerland Fax: +41 38 21.29.79

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