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4.8 out of 5 stars
Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter
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130 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2001
An articulate, intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable account, Capra has captured the very essence of life, both its complexity and simplicity, and held it up for his readers in a text of stunning clarity. Capra's arguments are engaging and persuasive, without becoming too technical or falling into the trap of preaching.

For anyone who's ever wanted an answer to the question "why are we here?" - this is the book for you. All over the world and down through the many generations of sentient human beings, the quest for an explanation for our existence, one that is acceptable to both scientific and non-scientific people alike, has remained elusive - until now. In "Web of Life", Fritjof Capra presents his "new synthesis" of life - intergrating his own exceptional vision with ideas from the works of such pre-eminent thinkers as Margulis, Lovelock, Maturana and Varela. The product of this ambitious endeavour is a truly remarkable, entertaining and most of all enlightening account of what life is, how it arose, and how it evolved and continues to evolve.

The subject matter is helped enormously by Capra's writing style: captivating, succinct and free of excess technical terminology. He presents his ideas in a logical and compelling manner, providing hooks into deeper source material throughout the text and yet managing to convey the essence of his thoughts into laymen's language for common understanding.

This book will do for human understanding of life and man's place in it what Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time" has done for our everyday understanding of the universe. It really is a beautiful work, filled with ideas that will change the way you think about your own life and about the life around you.

As one who has been seeking answers for 25 years, be assured that they exist. You can find them in Fritjof Capra's "Web of Life".
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2009
A marvellous book, first recommended to me by a friend. Now I have bought it for my son, because I believe that he will thoroughly enjoy Capra's very interesting insights into how we have developed our understanding of life, in all its dimensions. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 May 2011
As systems theory is the basis for engineering, operations research, biology and physics, it is easy for the layman to get confused. Here Capra does a magnificent job in giving a popular overview of systems theory by using the biology lens although suggesting systems of differential equations (dynamic systems theory) as the general approach that will make systems comprehendable within all practical fields, such as engineering, management, biology and physics. Capra also tires to add a moral to the proceedings, making sustainabiliy one of the key issues. A very nice book indeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2012
I bought this book months ago and I still haven't finished reading it. I've found I can't just gobble it up like most books - I have to stop and think and digest and get my head around a different conception of reality. It's not that it's hard to understand (although I have to admit I struggled a little with some of the more scientific chapters), it's just that it takes a lot of digesting and it's full of deeply satisfying 'aha' moments when you get a glimpse of the awesomely amazing interconnectedness of everything. And you just want to sit and contemplate the implications of what you're learning before taking more information in.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2012
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the depth of life. Not a one for anyone wanting to know if their numbers will come up on the bingo/lottery or if Mr/Mrs Right/Wrong is on the horizon. The Web of Life effortlessly educates the reader, thanks to an author with natural insight and plenty brain juice. Not only did I re-read parts, because of the magnetic dialogue used, I tucked them in my mind for future reference. Capra is an author with lots to say and what he does say to his readers is priceless.
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on 15 February 2014
This synthesis is astounding. The way Capra writes is so clear and concise, it guides your thoughts to the ideas he's trying to convey so eloquently. I can't speak for people who have never even heard of deep ecology or systems thinking, as I was already interested, but this book has quite literally changed the way I see the world. Really, for your own sake, read this book.
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on 16 March 2014
How does the universe (or, to start easy, the earth) really work? Must-read for aspiring geo-engineers, tinkerers, system analysts, hard scientists, gurus, green politicians, global warming denialists, fossil fuel addicts.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A phenomenal read, truly inspirational. The scope of the subject matter covered and the holistic framework presented for understanding "Life" in its most expansive and interdependent sense is breathtaking. So much to take in, so much food for thought - its like seeing the most complex jigsaw puzzle magically come into focus before your eyes; Capra takes you on a journey that traverses the evolution of the frontiers of science & philosophy, helping us understand how early systems thinking, information theory and cybernetics have laid the foundations for ecological systems theory; elaborating a conceptual framework for defining a "living system" that entails the self-organisation patterns of autopoiesis; the dissipative structures that are evidenced in the non-linear mathematics of complexity and chaos theory and how they combine together with the process of cognition - all of which form the holistic framework that underpins the interdependent reality espoused in Gaia Theory. In order to bring together such a coherent ontology Capra applies his gimlet eyed scrutiny to the most salient aspects of scientific & philosophical determinism represented by the likes of Darwin, Newton and Einstein et al, and the Cartesian dogma of Descartes, by honing in on and dissecting the assumptions inherent within their formulations to reveal fundamental flaws that exist within both classical and quantum physics. In particular focusing on how certain decisions by the likes of Newton to ignore the effects of friction and entropy (highlighted by the 2nd law of thermodynamics) in his "Laws of motion" in order to validate his mathematical proofs, and how they ultimately distort our view of empirical reality and contrasting them with those of the new paradigms that support an ecological, interdependent, and epigenetic network of all living systems, be that at a cellular, individual, societal or ecosystem level. Of particular interest is the work of Ilya Prigogine, who has helped shed new light on the laws of thermodynamics in terms of explaining how the mathematics of phase space help us to understand the dynamics at work that underlie the forces that bring forth dissipative structures (higher levels of complexity that materialise as organisational patterns & structures) where the dynamics of equilibrium move away from the stability of the point attractor to the bifurcation points of strange attractors and non-equilibrium that bring the laws of probability and indeterminacy into play - which in simple terms provides us with insight as to how patterns of self-organisation and higher levels of order & complexity spontaneously emerge out of what seems to be apparent chaos.

Fascinating at every level, and the resonance this insight has upon all aspects of life and consciousness is truly profound.
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on 26 May 2015
A stimulating and challenging book, helpful in explaining the paradox of entropy: if everything is running down, how do you explain evolution?
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on 24 March 2015
Essential additional reading for students of systems and complexity - still relevant.
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