A Human Systems Theory

by Jeffrey S. Stamps, PhD

  • Foreword by Prof. Kenneth Boulding
  • Contents
  • Preface

    My doctoral dissertation at the Saybrook Institute. Prof. Kenneth Boulding, the outside reader, was one of the founders of the Society for General Systems Research and, when he wrote this foreword, was the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Published in 1980 as one of the original books in the Systems Inquiry Series, Intersystems Publications.


by Prof. Kenneth Boulding

I have read this volume with great interest, and I have learned a good deal from it. As I see it, the work has two main objectives. One is to bring together a considerable body of fairly recent literature which has not been brought together before and show that, behind a good deal of diversity, there are a great many common facets. The core of this literature is a body of work which comes mainly from those associated with this group. Then there is a group of writers who might be described as forerunners or 'fellow thinkers' of the general systems group - Bateson, Dobzhansky, Prigogine, Schrodinger, L.L. Whyte, and Norber Wiener. Then there is a group of writers who might be called 'creative eccentrics' - Frazer, Koestler, Maslow, Jaynes, and others. The author gives a clear, sympathetic account of the work of those and other writers, and shows convincingly that this is a body of literature that has perhaps a somewhat eccentric and even dubious penumbra, but which nevertheless represents an important movement in the course of the last generation which is not usually recognized as such. To show this is a real contribution to the history of thought.

The author, however, has gone beyond this historical task to develop a synthesis of his own, which is largely taxonomic in nature. It is a brave effort, imaginative and far ranging. If I have doubts about it, it is because I have considerable doubts about any taxonomic scheme, for such always run into the temptation of imposing an order on the universe which may not really be there. However, as a taxonomic scheme it is certainly defensible and interesting, and adds to the value of the work. Even if the attempt at a grand synthesis is overambitious, I have no doubt that it will stimulate a good deal of thinking and research and that human knowledge will be advanced by it. This is a work both to be enjoyed and to be taken seriously.


Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus
Institute of Behavioral Science
University of Colorado


Table of Contents



Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter 1: World Views

  • The First Generation
  • The Term Holonomy

Chapter 2. Human Systems Theory

  • Human Science

Chapter 3. Third-Order Theory

  • Scientific Criteria

Chapter 4. Levels

  • The Architecture of Complexity

Chapter 5. Complements

Chapter 6. Holon: Koestler

  • The Human Condition

Chapter 7. Time: Fraser

  • Being and Becoming
  • The Levels of Temporality

Chapter 8. System: Laszlo

  • A Strategy for the Future

Chapter 9. Evolution

  • Genesis
  • Emergence
  • Succession

Chapter 10. Metapatterns

Chapter 11. Minds and Systems

  • The Image

Chapter 12. Consciousness: Jaynes

  • Mind as Metaphor
  • Bicameral (Un)Consciousness

Chapter 13. Autogenic Mind

  • A Chronology of Life
  • Noogenesis
  • Consciousness and Unconsciousness

Chapter 14. Bicameral Mind

  • The Rise of the Gods
  • Breakdown and Awakening
  • Origins and Vestiges

Chapter 15. Modern Mind

  • Two Modes of Consciousness
  • Science and the Post-Modern Mind

Chapter 16. Concrete Systems

  • From Microcosm to Macrocosm
  • Living Systems
  • Social Systems

Chapter 17. The Big Picture

  • Nature without People

Chapter 18. Taxonomies

  • The Psycho-Social Paradigm
  • A Holonarchy of Minds and Systems




Preface & Acknowledgements

In April, 1965, I headed a committee which shut down the University of New Hampshire for three days. With most classes canceled, students flocked to hear speeches and panels and to participate in discussion groups. After several years of campus confrontations, students and faculty had now disrupted the normal university routine one again - but this time, with the enthusiastic baking of the administration, to consider "The Transformation of American Democracy."

Speakers for the symposium, aimed at "challenging old shibboleths and exploring some hopes and perplexities of our changing democracy," included Samuel Huntington on the role of the military, Paul Weiss on law and values, Adolf Berle on the corporate economy, Richard Schreiber on the impact of genetic research, Harold Taylor on education, and Herman Kahn on the problems posed by military technology. Most exciting for me was the keynote address by Kenneth Boulding on "The Meaning of the Twentieth Century" - it had been Bouldingís book by that title which had given birth in my mind to the symposium idea, and his vision of the "big picture" seemed electrifying but friendly. Holonomy began there, 15 years ago.

It would be many years before I would discover that Boulding was a founding father of modern general systems theory, and more years still before I submitted my work for his scrutiny. Kenneth Boulding represents the many mentors-at-a-distance that peopled my imagination and gave me role models and the courage to stretch the boundaries of convention. Another important figure for me in this respect - and on occasional correspondent - has been Arthur Koestler; where Boulding straddles the "two cultures" as a humanist-in-the-scientist, Koestler is the even rarer scientist-in-the-humanist.

Two of my symposium co-conspirators - Peter Sylvester and Erwin Jaffe - had the often tiring and sometimes thankless task of being the dirty-diapers-and-midnight-crisis mentors-on-the-spot when my need was the greatest. Erwin, in particular - and Marianne, who found me deaf but not dumb - helped me discover my own path and challenges, gave me guidance and love, and pointed me toward my quest to understand self and society. We remain close friends still.

When, more than a decade later, I was finally ready to sit down and make sense of what I had learned, I did so in the context of an innovative but rigorous non-campus doctoral program with the Humanistic Psychology Institute whose president, Donald Polkinghorne, was my advisor and the chair of my thesis committee. Don gave me both room and rules and encouragement and criticism, and - combined with the extremely helpful comments of Stanley Krippner, another committee member - channeled my energy and insights into a respectable doctoral presentation. Maria Salner, another HPI faculty member, went far beyond the call of duty in carefully working through my dissertation in anticipation of its publication. Shortly thereafter, Bela Babathy of Far West Laboratories, an old acquaintance and new friend, introduced me to the publisher and thereby made the final connection which now brings Holonomy into public view.

Of the numerous friends whose ideas and patience I have used and abused over the past few years, Bob McAndrews and Robin King are particularly important colleagues who entered into my private world of human systems theory even as I was creating it. Of my family, whose patience and support shone brightly during dark days of endless research and writing, I am especially indebted to my mother, who was always there when needed.

"Last and most importantly" seems a feeble way to express the inseparableness of my life and work from that of my friend, lover, colleague, and spouse - Jessica Lipnack - without whom there surely would be no Holonomy. Her skill as a writer, sharpness as a critic, profundity as a thinker, and thoughtfulness as a mate are infused throughout the book.

I have dedicated Holonomy to my grandparents, James and Edith Rogers, out of respect for the past and a recognition of all my human forebears. I have written Holonomy for my daughters - Miranda and Eliza, not yet born when I began this book - and all the other children who will live the future I help create.


West Newton, Massachusetts
November, 1980