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Contextual Quote

"Organicism in the maximally broad sense, entails a commitment to the thesis that there is a metaphysical continuity between the natural world, life, and (human) mindedness. We are metaphysically continuous with the rest of the cosmos."

- Otto Paans [1]


“I’ve become increasingly convinced that it is the growing immaterialism of modern society that is generating many of our most destructive political impulses and divisions. As we increasingly move into a digital virtual world, we create an immaterial environment where the abstract starts to seem more real than reality. In the past, our frequent engagement with the materiality of work and play had served to bring us back ‘down to earth’ where our shared human commonalities might bridge political divides. But now our identities are increasingly whatever we wish to pretend they are, and politics has become just another spectator sport that we play on the Internet. This, I would suggest, is the logical outcome of the post-modern cultural turn: an environment where immaterial ideas are everything and material reality is largely irrelevant. Any politics that does not recognise and counter this growing immateriality is, I be-lieve, unlikely to succeed in changing much of anything in the real World.”

- Timothy J. LeCain. [2]

"At at some point, through the emergence of modern science leading to the industrial and information revolutions, a gap developed — an ever-widening chasm between interior (cognition, awareness, emotion, value) and exterior (technological) capacities. The longstanding co-evolution of interiors and exteriors has dramatically broken down, and we no longer have a story of value equal to our power. This gap between the wisdom of a civilization and its power has greatly contributed to the existential challenges threatening the future of our social systems. The challenges that resulted in the failure of classical civilization are now compounded through exponential technologies, which created a vital global civilization as well as existential risk. As scholars have pointed out, all civilizations generally fail due to the same set of causes, most of them rooted in some version of rivalrous, win/lose dynamics and unsustainable resource extraction. We have not yet solved for any of those causes. But if our civilization unravels it will be a failure of an entirely different order, a global failure."

- David J. Temple (CosmoErotic Humanism, draft review, Spring 2023)

Technology as Artificial Representation

"The very idea of “natural representation,” when combined with the 17th-century Cartesian idea of an objective space in which we can represent by means of coordinates, contributed significantly to the emergence of the mechanistic worldview: not only is the natural world nothing but a large-scale complex machine, but also the human perceptual mind is nothing but a small-scale simple machine like a pinhole camera, i.e., a camera obscura. This thought-shaping mental model—the human perceptual mind as a camera obscura—which more or less covertly lies behind the shaped thought that the technology associated with the leading formal and natural sciences are the final answer to the problem of mental representation—whether it is a pinhole camera, a brownie camera, a movie camera, or a digital camera application in a smart phone—has proven to be a remarkably influential and persistent myth. The increasing mathematization of the sciences, the models for problem-solving derived from engineering, the reduction of biology to statistical mathematics, evolutionary genetics, chemistry, and physics, and the reduction of animal behavior to Turing-computable algorithms, as well as the reduction of consciousness to physico-neural processes, all point in the same conceptual direction: the variety of life itself must be brought under one idealizing system of representation. And, not surprisingly, that very idiom is conceptual and limited to the operations of mathematizability and/or formal logic. The fact that science itself speaks in abstractions and idealizations does not in the slightest stop the advance of mechanistic thinking, because it justifies its existence by appeals to its objectivity and practical efficacy. Thereby, it reduces life (and in its wake, Being) to phenomena that are understood once they can be replicated or described in mathematical (and increasingly digital) terms, potentially making them available for artificial reproduction."

- Otto Paans [3]

Living Beings Are Not Machines

"When someone persistently hallucinates, seeing things that aren’t there, we usually assume a cognitive aberration of some sort, if not a severe mental illness. What, then, to make of those countless biologists who look at organisms and think they are seeing machines? Or who look at organs, cells, organelles, and even molecules, and see machines within machines? I will leave it for you to judge. However, one thing is certain: an inexcusable mistake has gripped the scientific community for decades, severely perverting biological understanding." I have previously tried to explain in various places why the analogy between organisms and machines fails utterly. But in reading the biological literature lately, I have found the insistent appeals to machinery so egregious, so viciously destructive of scientific insight, and so contrary to the obvious evidence, that I have myself been driven rather too close to a pathological reaction, or at least to an unhelpful exasperation. And so I have decided to gather my thoughts together in what I hope will be a more concise and effective statement."

- Stephen Talbott [4]

Consciousness and self-understanding are not epiphenomenal

"Consciousness and self-understanding are not epiphenomenal — they are not merely supervening or reacting to a more basic bio-technological base—human consciousness and self-understanding are driving the global crisis at all levels. So it is conscious evolution from here on out: we are able to know and do too much to pretend otherwise; we must consciously orchestrate the future of the planet and the biosphere. Our generation is in an unprecedented position to take responsibility for participating in profoundly generative and destructive evolutionary crises. The question is: can we understand our crises in cosmic context, as opportunities for the emergence of the unprecedented, and as invitations into a higher form of life? To do so we must come to see that the evolution of the universe and biological life is not a fact, it is a story. Evolution is a story about us, who we are, and what we are going through now. The universe itself is a best understood as a story, not as a mere fact. The universe is a love story. Like all true love stories (and unlike harlequin romances or romantic comedies) it has been as story of profound crisis, cataclysm, tragedy, hope, emergence, and creativity."

- Zachary Stein and Marc Gafni [5]

From Reduction to Emergence

“The emerging new scientific conception of life…can be seen as part of a broader paradigm shift from a mechanistic to a holistic and ecological worldview. At its very core we find a shift of metaphors that is now becoming ever more apparent…a change from seeing the world as a machine to understanding it as a network. During the twentieth century, the change from the mechanistic to the ecological paradigm proceeded in different forms and at different speeds in various scientific fields. … The basic tension is one between the parts and the whole. The emphasis on the parts has been called mechanistic, reductionist, or atomistic; the emphasis on the whole holistic, organismic, or ecological. In twentieth-century science, the holistic perspective has become known as ‘systemic’ and the way of thinking it implies as ‘systems thinking’…” (p. 4).

- The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, by Fritjof Capra and biochemist Pier Luigi Luisi [6]


New section, created March 9, 2023, on the Organicist philosophical and metaphysical approach.

  • Before the victory of the modernist mindset of separation and atomization, the Renaissance had attempted the construction of a participatory worldview, which Loren Goldner calls the Cosmobiological Tradition.

  • Robert Hanna and Otto Paans, relate a similar trajectory of philosophy under the name of Organicism, and more specifically, Expressive Organicism. Prominent formulations of this philosophy come from philosophers like Edmund Husserl, Henri Bergson, but especially the process philosophy of Whitehead.

See: Robert Hanna on Defining and Defending Human Dignity

  • We also include attention to non-European trends such as the Organic Marxism in China, which seeks a blend of both traditional and modern Chinese philosophy (i.e. Confucianism, Taoism but also Open Marxism) while including the kind of Marxism still functioning in China; Thinkers like Zhihe Wang, Huili He and Meijun Fan consider Whitehead's Process Philosophy to originate the fork of Constructive Postmodernism; alternatively, the Mesology of Augustin Berque, which is entirely a philosophy of relations, is inspired by trends in Japanese philosophy.

See: Second Enlightenment as an Aesthetic Enlightenment

  • Given the orientation of this wiki towards peer to peer and commons-oriented relational logics, this section will also cover Relational philosophies.

As usual, listing in this wiki is done under a philosophy of pluralistic curation and does not mean an endorsement. However, we do feel, at this stage of our inquiry and mapping, that the Organicist tradition is the most compatible approach to a relational philosophy in harmony with our commons approach.

Essentially, what binds the elements of the organicist philosophy together is the critique of the Cartesian and mechanistic worldview, and the Eight_Core_Commitments_of_Mainstream_Contemporary_Western_Metaphysics.

Some additional approaches:

Related Sections:

  • In our section on Civilizational Analysis, we pay attention to approaches that link societal evolution, to the evolution of human consciousness, including those that take seriously the data from the mystical tradition and connection to the 'ground of being', for example, the Sophiological tradition:


D: From Human Dignity to Cosmic Dignitarianism

Please read: Robert Hanna on the Distinction Between Identitarianism and Dignitarianism; and: Solidarity vs Identitarian-Based Relationships

  • The basic concepts of organicist Dignitarianism:
  1. Cosmic Dignitarianism
  2. Human Dignity

H: History

Q: Quality / Purpose / Telos / Value

T: Thought-Shapers

  • An introduction to the Theory of Thought-Shapers: "Thought-shapers are essentially non-conceptual contents that operate in the construction of mental imagery and thought by arbitrarily picking out some topological and/or processual properties, and subsequently exaggerating or diminishing their presence."

According to Robert Hanna and Otto Paans et al. "In our view, only organicism is a philosophically, scientifically, artistically, morally, and socio-politically fully adequate worldview, and therefore only its root metaphor—the organism — is a fully generative thought-shaper. As a consequence, the root metaphors associated with animism, mysticism, formism, mechanism, and contextualism are all, to some degree, constrictive thought-shapers; and the natural automaton or natural machine, the root metaphor associated with the mechanistic worldview, is the most constrictive."

See: Constrictive vs. Generative Thought-Shapers

See also for related material:

  1. Religious Ground Motives Behind Human Thought, by Herman Dooyeweerd (i.e. Transcendental Pragmatism)
  2. The Root Metaphor Theory in the Fourfold World Hypotheses Model of Stephen Pepper which distinguishes Formism (similarity), Mechanism (machine), Contextualism (historical act) and Organicism (living system)

T: Transculturalism

Arran Gare:

As opposed to the transculturalism ... assert their own cultural values against others. Transculturalism advances dialogue; multiculturalism precludes it." [8]

Key Resources

Key Articles

  • "We have to ground our understanding of machines and intelligence in evolutionary thought": Article by Daniel Paski [9]

Key Books



The Sophianic / Sophiological and Cosmobiological Traditions

A tradition that 'sacralizes' the material world.

  • Sergei Bulgakov

From the materialist tradition, a quite similar argument and approach:

Pages in category "Cosmobiological"

The following 96 pages are in this category, out of 96 total.