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Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue With Nature Hardcover – Aug 1984

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House Inc (T); 1st Edition edition (Aug. 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394542045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394542041
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 780,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Back Cover

Ilya Prigogine, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1977 for his work on the thermodynamics of nonequilibrium systems, makes his ideas accessible to a wide audience in this astonishing book which has engaged massive debate in Europe and America. He and his colleague Isabelle Stengers show how the two great themes of classical science, order and chaos, which co-existed uneasily for centuries, are being reconciled in a new and unexpected synthesis: 'We know now that nonequilibrium, the flow of matter and energy, may be a source of order. We have a feeling of great intellectual excitement: we begin to have a glimpse of the road that leads from being to becoming.'

'A passionate meditation on Man and Universe'

'A book filled with flashing insights that subvert many of our most basic assumptions and suggest fresh ways to think about them… brilliant, demanding, dazzling'
- From the Foreword By Alvin Toffler

'An astonishingly ambitious and wide-ranging book which reaches deep not only into physical and chemical theory, but also into the history and philosophy of science'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Frank Bierbrauer on 19 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the book "Order Out of Chaos", Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers investigate both historically and in a scientific sense how order may arise within certain physical systems, so-called dissipative systems. The book itself is divided into three separate "books": Book 1: The Delusion of the Universe, Book 2: The Science of Complexity and Book 3: From Being to Becoming.

In Book 1, some issues pertaining to the history and philosophy of science are raised including issues such as the social origins of science, its relationship to ancient Platonic ideas and the issue of whether classical science led to a dehumanisation of the world. The second stage then explores the basis of classical science as identified with the Newtonian synthesis and how change is represented within it, including time. This study explores more than just the well known collaborators such as Descarte and Newton, others such as Diderot, Hegel and Bergson are also discussed. These thinkers are not ignored or ridiculed as has been done in the past but rather their issues are taken seriously.

In the second book they start to discuss how the science of thermodynamics differs from classical mechanics and the principles of conservation of energy and entropy are discussed. Then they embark on a discussion of how the old thermodynamics of Boltzmann is unable to explain completely how the inherently time reversable equations are unable to explain the irreversability of the entropy law. Some exmaples are given of various physical processes such as chemical reactions and bifurcations and symmetry breaking is introduced. Near the end of this second book the instability of nonlinear physical systems is discussed and how this leads to complex phenomena.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Erland.Lagerroth on 15 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
Prigogine (and the philosopher and chemist Isabelle Stengers) I met in Order out of Chaos (1984, French original La nouvelle alliance 1979) and later in many other books. About "modern" analytical-reductionist science from the 17th century it is said in the book: "Nature's humiliation is parallell to the glorification of whatever escapes it, God and man" (p. 53 in the Swedish translation from 1984). The depreciation of nature unites science and religion. But life is "the outermost consequence of the occurrence of self-organizing processes, instead of being something outside nature's order" (172). We are the last creation of the nature we learnt to despise. "The classical science", it is said summarizing, "the mythical science about a simple, passive world, belongs to the past, killed not by philosophical criticism or empirical resignation but by the internal development of science itself" (57).
With the help of Prigogine's theory, covering both matter and life, we can overcome the biases of natural science and humanities. For natural science deals with a world without Man, the humanities - and still more "humanism" - with Man without world. The first case can be felt to be poor and inane and the second one to be narrow-minded and anthropocentric. This depends on the fact that in both cases it is a question of abstraction and construction. For the world is one only, it is only we who persist in dividing it into two: Man and Nature, soul and body, mind and matter.
So it becomes urgent to contemplate the relationships between both sides, something I did already in my doctoral dissertation, Landscape and Nature in [Selma Lagerlöf's] Gösta Berling's Saga and the Wonderful Adventures of Nils (in Swedish). That is why it is such a bliss to work and (re)search in the way I do now.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By trevor holdsworth on 1 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
important book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
90 of 92 people found the following review helpful
A popularization of chaos and its philosophical implications 24 Dec. 1996
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Prigogine argues persuasively that he has reconciled classical
dynamics with the human conviction that the future cannot be
predicted from a knowledge of initial conditions and differential equations alone.
He draws the reader through his own intellectual odyssey from
classical thermodynamics, through linear nonequilibrium thermodynamics, and finally
to his holy grail of nonlinear nonequilibrium thermodynamics. I suspect he has
identified the quantitative tools that will connect the Human Genome Project to a functional
understanding of cell biology and physiology. Tools capable of dealing with complexity.</br>

If you are a scientist who has followed these disciplines from afar, and who has
wished for a succinct summary that does not shrink from rigor, then acquire this book.
You will chuckle at the constant barbs directed across the English Channel, and you will
learn wonderful things about thermodynamics and thermokinetics.

So few scientific books reveal the authors' insights. Instead, they teem with facts and formulas.
Prigogine and Stengers have bedded physics with philosophy as if they were matchmakers for
an illicit tryst. You will find yourself whispering, "Aha!"
And you will, as I have, wear out your pen with underlining.

I loved Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World", but Sagan was speaking to everyman.
Prigogine and Stengers are speaking to scientists in fields outside their own.
They believe they have seen the light, and they want you to see it too. Give them the chance to convince you.
You will not be disappointed.
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
A classic on self-organization 9 May 2004
By John C. Landon - Published on
Format: Paperback
This work is one of the classics of the breakthrough period of chaos theory, complex systems, and self-organization theories. Mixing two modes and two cultures it stretches its bow between the nitty-gritty details of dissipative systems, and the history of the relations of the human and natural sciences, from the age of the emergence of thermodynamics to the present. The book has something now routinely filtered from discussion, the early critiques of the Newtonian mindset as it was starting to become dominant. The material on the history of the two cultures would seem to fall on deaf ears these days, and gives the book at depth not often seen in works of this type. Very much worth reading.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A thorough study of the history of quantum physics and an exhaustive description of how order emerges from chaos 30 Nov. 2006
By Frater W.I.T. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Prigogine describes his ideas of how order emerged from a ground of chaos and how the processes of entropy can lead a system open to its environment to evolve greater complexity. He also gives an exposition of the relevance of science to society. Prigogine's Nobel prize-winning models of dissipative structures are difficult to understand but persistent effort will reward the reader. His theories are as applicable to the evolution and expansion of consciousness as to the emergence of life on earth from a relatively simple environment.
42 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Dissipative structures what? Chaos 20 Nov. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
The whole problem with writing about a book, and especially this one, is that one has to cut a long story short. A story long enough to encompass a fair amount of scientific history - elaborated, if not referenced exhaustively. Not that it is meant to be. Prigogine's journey does not offer to take you by the hand for a guided tour of order, complexity and self-organisation. Rather, it keeps to the spirit of Toffler's introduction, (Was it coincidental that it was the other way round?!) where he talks about the wonderful art of scientific dissection. Order out of chaos, however, is a difficult read for the anyone who has been initiated into the scientific non-fiction. For those who expect the book to be a popular account of concepts in complexity and self-organisation, the intense style and the depth of detail can be exhausting. Like Penrose in the Emperor's New Mind, Prigogine's style is uncompromising. Toffler's introduction is fitting, if only in parts. The book does not offer explanations. Rather, Prigogine prefers to illumate his readers with his keen philosophical bent. It is here that the book triumphs. The effort that has gone into integrating the ideas in the book, the subtle nuances reflecting Prigogine's own views is truly commendable. But then, one should be fairly conversant with the loopholes that science finds itself in. The description of the behaviour of complex systems warrants some mention. The idea of switching between reality and mathematical description does not gel with the rest of the narrative in parts - specially when chemistry is the running example. Well, Prigogine wasn't writing the book with the intention of it being self-contained - and he makes no bones about it. That is the seed of inspiration, I suppose, for any writer, be it for the cause of science or for the sheer love for the written word. Prigogine has shown that philosophy is in some way inseparable from what many consider the scientist's playground. And we are glad that he has shared his views with us.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Islands of order from pages of chaos 7 Jan. 2013
By U Dream - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book is not an easy read. I found it quite disorganized (chaotic, if you will), and only by going through it a second time--indexing all the text that I highlighted--did I find order emerging. I wonder if some important nuances were lost in the translation into English. The book was helpful however in understanding the themata that has determined the form scientific development has taken: From Newtonian dynamics as the universal, deterministic fundamental level of description to equilibrium thermodynamics with the arrow of time toward heat death, to Relativistic physics with the important role of the observer, to quantum mechanics with randomness and indeterminacy, to non-equilibrium thermodynamics with irreversibility and dissipative structures as the crucible of creation of order from chaos. The book counters the New Age trend to ground human existence in quantum physics. Biology, let alone consciousness, though it is consistent with microphysics,can not be deduced from it. It's scale alone takes it out of the planck domain. The objects of study of physics are simple compared to the complexity of living systems. Even chemistry, characterized by irreversible process, is not reducible to physics:(pg. 136-137). Biochemistry with auto-catalytic and cross-catalytic processes creates far-from-equilibrium steady states that by virtue of being unstable, are therfore sensitive to the boundary conditions in which they exist, and therefore confer adaptability to changing environmental conditions. Crash goes the reductionistic freight train! Complexity theory is the foundational science of biology, and should be for medicine if it is to be redeemed from it's current abandonment of healing for pharmacologic symptom suppression.
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