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The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision [Hardcover]

Professor Fritjof Capra , Pier Luigi Luisi
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 April 2014 1107011361 978-1107011366
Over the past thirty years, a new systemic conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science. New emphasis has been given to complexity, networks, and patterns of organisation leading to a novel kind of 'systemic' thinking. This volume integrates the ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Taking a broad sweep through history and across scientific disciplines, the authors examine the appearance of key concepts such as autopoiesis, dissipative structures, social networks, and a systemic understanding of evolution. The implications of the systems view of life for health care, management, and our global ecological and economic crises are also discussed. Written primarily for undergraduates, it is also essential reading for graduate students and researchers interested in understanding the new systemic conception of life and its implications for a broad range of professions - from economics and politics to medicine, psychology and law.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 508 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (10 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107011361
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107011366
  • Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 17.5 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'A magisterial study of the scientific basis for an integrated worldview grounded in the wholeness that generations of one-eyed reductionists could not see. The authors succeed brilliantly!' David W. Orr, Oberlin College

'The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision gives us a sound synthesis of the best science and theory on the connectedness of all living things, the dynamics of emergence and self-organization as conceived by Francisco Varela. This volume offers a profound framework for understanding our place on the planet, for better or worse. And if we apply the insights offered by Capra and Luisi, it will be for the better. The Systems View of Life should be required reading for today's young, tomorrow's leaders, and anyone who cares about life on this planet.' Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Ecological Intelligence

'What is life? What is a human being? How can new discoveries about nature and ourselves keep us from becoming the first self-endangered species? Capra and Luisi's dazzling synthesis explains how moving beyond mechanistic, linear, reductionist habits is revealing startling new answers to perennial questions of philosophy and practice. Sir Francis Bacon's goal of 'the enlargement of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible' has put humanity in serious trouble. But today, rebuilding our thinking, language, and actions around Darwin, not Descartes, and around modern biology, not outmoded physics, creates rich new options. Driven by the coevolution of business with civil society, these can build a fairer, healthier, cooler, safer world. The Systems View of Life is a lucid, wide-ranging guide to living maturely, kindly, and durably with each other and with other beings on the only home we have.' Amory B. Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute

'Partly an enjoyable survey of exciting new developments in systems biology, valuable to any student of biology or science, and partly a bold blueprint for how we might preserve our future on Earth.' New Scientist

Book Description

Taking a broad sweep through history and across scientific disciplines, this volume integrates the ideas, models, and theories underlying the systems view of life into a single coherent framework. Life's biological, cognitive, social, and ecological dimensions are presented and its philosophical, spiritual, and political implications discussed.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding work. A true magnum opus. 12 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fritjof Capra has been a consistently interesting and deservedly popular thinker for many years now. I have always been impressed by the clarity and economy with which he has been able to communicate complex ideas, often in considerable depth, to a general audience. Equally, I have always been impressed by the breadth of his intellectual interests and his rare ability to combine these wide-ranging interests into coherent and far-reaching syntheses.

Now, together with his co-author Pier Luigi Luisi, who has himself made significant contributions to the discussion of the emergence of life (see, e.g., Luisi's The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology), Capra and Luisi have outdone themselves. Their 500 page book The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (with many words per page, given its large-page format) is, purely and simply, a magnum opus, it really is. It surely represents the culminating statement of Capra and his co-author's work over several decades now on the development of a scientifically-informed unified vision of the world that incorporates and integrates the biological, ecological, cognitive, philosophical, social, political, and even the spiritual dimensions of life. The last time I read such an all-embracing, well-informed, and richly rewarding synthesis as this was when I read Charles Birch and John Cobb's The Liberation of Life : From the Cell to the Community (also from Cambridge University Press) - and that was published back in 1981!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
I was so impressed by their presentation that I bought my copy of 'The Systems View of Life' after a book launch lecture given by Fritjof Capra and his co-author Pier Luigi Luisi on Thursday May 1st 2014 at the Study Society in Colet House, London. They gave a very interesting account of how a new systemic conception of life has emerged to pose a serious challenge to present reductionist thinking. They discussed the implications of this new paradigm on such diverse areas as healthcare, management, ecology and economics. Neither speaker made light of the serious problems confronting mankind at this time and stressed the new need for a fresh approach which acknowledges the essential unity of the phenomenal world. As might one might have expected, their talk was followed a lively question and answers session and debate.

'The Systems View of Life' is a high quality and very interesting book. It is a pleasure to owe and read. It is clearly written and amply supported with useful illustrations to complement the explanatory text. The subject matter is by no means easy and is primarily intended for students and researchers into the new systemic conception of life. This is a very impressive piece of work and a worthy successor to his ground breaking: 'Tao of Physics' and 'The Turning Point'.

Chris Allen is a Technical Author and writer with the following books available through Amazon:
The Beam of Interest: Taken by Storm
Hypnotic Tales 2013: Some Light Some Dark
Call of the Void: The Strange Life and Times of a Confused Person: 1
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to savor. Just what I've been waiting for! 12 July 2014
By Frances Moore Lappe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Systems View of Life is just what I've been waiting for! The mechanical world view is being displaced in every field of science, it seems; and now, finally, we have a work beautifully weaving together for us the meaning and history of the emergent systems view. We see why this transition is so critical for the future of our planet. Mounting evidence across a range of fields confirms that the core frames through which we see the world determine, literally, what we can see and what we cannot see. If we are to address today's mounting crisis, we must learn to see through the evidence-based lens of relationships. This work helps enormously. The Systems View of Life is a work to savor, to absorb. It will change you. In a systems view we see there are no parts, only participants. What possibilities it opens.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Systems - A View of Life on All Fronts 4 Jun 2014
By Upstate New York Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Systems seemed to find a home whatever my career choice. In the chemistry lab, in the church, in the family, and in computer science - each required an understanding of systems theory. Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi’s The Systems View of Life is attempt to meld the concept of systems into the far ranging fields of physical science, biological science, social science, and religion. The success with which this is done might depend on the reader’s interest and training, but the book makes for interesting reading regardless of the reader’s background.

Claiming to be an undergraduate textbook, Capra and Luisi’s text explores the history of scientific thinking from ancient times forward. The authors attempt to move the student through the rolling attitudes that seem to bounce between a very mechanistic approach (i.e. the entire universe is a machine) and a holistic approach (i.e. the universe is more than its whole).

Recognizing that the philosophy of science seems to be a pendulum that moves between these to extremes, the book stresses that the 21st century is in the much more holistic than we have seen in the immediate past. That being so, there is room in the current scientific landscape for a spiritual (not necessarily religious) perspective of our world. The authors point out that there are fundamentalists that are both religious (e.g. Christian or Muslim) and scientific (e.g. Richard Dawkins) who attempt to exclude each other from valid scholarship.

Though coming from Cambridge University Press, the book is not a specifically Christian (or even religious) view of science or a scientific view of religion. Rather, it is an attempt to allow members of each community to appreciate the contribution of the scientific community and the religious community toward a holistic world view. The authors, early in the book, make it clear that they are writing for an undergraduate audience. This might be true for an undergraduate class in the Philosophy of Science, but otherwise the book might not find a place in most undergraduate degree programs. On the other hand, it would find a home in the seminary training for a modern pastor (at least for some) or the graduate science student looking beyond the typical laboratory setting.
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This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and readable. 29 May 2014
By mitioke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a well written, authoritative, and completely accessible volume on a new direction for science, away from reductive materialism towards a scientific holism.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding work. A true magnum opus 27 Jun 2014
By Prof Warwick Fox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Fritjof Capra has been a consistently interesting and deservedly popular thinker for many years now. I have always been impressed by the clarity and economy with which he has been able to communicate complex ideas, often in considerable depth, to a general audience. Equally, I have always been impressed by the breadth of his intellectual interests and his rare ability to combine these wide-ranging interests into coherent and far-reaching syntheses.

Now, together with his co-author Pier Luigi Luisi, who has himself made significant contributions to the discussion of the emergence of life (see, e.g., Luisi's The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology), Capra and Luisi have outdone themselves. Their 500 page book The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (with many words per page, given its large-page format) is, purely and simply, a magnum opus, it really is. It surely represents the culminating statement of Capra and his co-author's work over several decades now on the development of a scientifically-informed unified vision of the world that incorporates and integrates the biological, ecological, cognitive, philosophical, social, political, and even the spiritual dimensions of life. The last time I read such an all-embracing, well-informed, and richly rewarding synthesis as this was when I read Charles Birch and John Cobb's The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community (also from Cambridge University Press) - and that was published back in 1981!

If you want to understand the major cultural shift that we have been undergoing over the last several hundred years (right across the physical, life, and social sciences) from a mechanistic worldview to the emergence of what the authors term a 'systems' worldview - a worldview that sees the world around us in terms of networks, patterns, and complex, mutually interacting, living or life-like systems rather than in terms of discrete building blocks that interact in linear, sequential ways that are open to precise forms of prediction and control - then this is now THE book to read.

As the authors show, this shift in worldview has major implications for almost everything that ought to matter to us - from the very practical ways in which we need to attend to the manifold problems that are pressing in upon us in the ecological and socio-political realms to the ways in which we can find an approach to our inner, spiritual lives that is consistent with our best scientific understandings.

You get the idea. I cannot praise this book enough. Capra and Luisi have done us all a great service. I cannot see how anyone could spend even just a few hours with this book and not come away considerably the richer for it. Spend considerably longer with it and you will undoubtedly come away knowing a lot more about various areas of interest to you than you do now - not to mention more inspired to work for changes in directions that will enable us to sustain the web of life on this planet. Every critically-minded reader will find their own quibbles here and there of course, but c'mon ... the comprehensive breadth and depth of scholarship displayed in this book, all communicated clearly and economically (often with aid of pictures, inset boxes, and diagrams), is simply outstanding.

Warwick Fox - author of Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism, A Theory of General Ethics: Human Relationships, Nature, and the Built Environment, and On Beautiful Days Such as This: A philosopher sings the blues and restores his soul in Greece.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great but not an easy read ... 9 July 2014
By Philippe Bailleur - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book ... BUT ... only for people who really want to deep dive in the history and evolution of Systems Thinking. As a Living Systems Coach it is a great help in my work with clients and in my teaching classes with coaches.

Some books on Systems Thinking are a little too fluffy. This one reads like a doctoral study. The authors show this field is not a new age topic with some vague links to quantum mechanics but an upcoming way to deal with the challenges of our world.

If you're working from a systemic perspective and you want to deepen your knowledge to work with "rather Cartesian" groups that need some more "understanding" to open up for this way of looking at things ... than this is a great book.

Many thanks to the authors to write this kind of books ... you can feel they didn't write to sell books but to deepen the understanding of an upcoming and very important field.
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