A. N. Whitehead and Ervin Laszlo: A New Global

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Dec 1, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)


A. N. Whitehead and Ervin Laszlo: A New Global
Philosophy of Systems

Shigeyuki Itow, Kyushu Sangyo University, Japan

: The late Alfred North Whitehead(1868

Ervin Laszlo(1932
)are intellectual giants to search for truth
.The former
us both a sharp or complicated speculation and a strong motivation to open to a
new global philosophy in our civilization; the latter, learned a lot from him,
created a new Philosophy of Systems, or Systems Philosophy, succeeding to
General System The
ory of the late Ludwig Von Bertalanffy

in the 1970's, and
challenging to go beyond Whitehead's philosophy of Organism
. His systems
philosophy played a role to integrate localized sub
systems and globalized
upper systems as a whole. He mentioned that
this kind concept of systems is in
a neo
Whiteheadian stage of transformation
. Examining many books of him,
the present author can conclude that he belongs to Whiteheadian, and tries to
newly construct more soph
isticated philosophy and metaphy
sics just
like his
Systems Philosophy and his metaphysics of Akashic Field
. Dr. Ervin Laszlo is
now a global leader to do strong efforts to shift our obsolescent world and its

1. Actual Entities and Natural Systems: Key Concepts

The late Alfred North W
hitehead in his
Process and Reality
referred to refuse "no
'mere' togetherness of abstraction." In his endeavour, he discovered that the
most important things in philosophical thought are based upon the concrete
elements in our experience. He mentioned tha
t they are: actual entities,
prehension, and nexus
. Ervin Laszlo in his

Introduction To Systems Philosophy

depicted such a new model of "Natural Systems as wholeness and order,
Cybernetics I as adaptive self
stabilization & II as adaptive
ganization, and Holon
Property" as intra

and inter
systemic hierarchies


: According to Whitehead, the final real things of which the
world is ontologically made up are: actual ent
ities. They are real things and differ
among themselves, and such actual entities are God, he mentioned. Also he
referred that the final facts are, all alike, actual entities; and these actual entities
are drops of experience, complex, and interdependence
.Whitehead's terms of
actual entities or actual occasions are a organism that grows, matures, and

: Whitehead's actual entities can be permissible to
transform into more scientific and philosophical term of today: systems. L
tries to replace his actual entities of organism into the new term of systems. His
transformation of systems goes more precisely into "natural systems" as
systemic state property of wholeness and order
. The latter is an assemblage
or combination
of real things, parts, or correlated elements forming a complex
and integrated whole in the changing process of natural systems. Systems are
always plural and make a network of systems, not one single system that can
not be survive in a real world. It can
not alive as isolated with no energy and no
information. A system is alive with another system in energy and information
exchange process; therefore, such a system as open one interdepends another
system, which in turn interdepends or (re)produces other sy
stems. Thus Laszlo
says that the real things are systems in the world. Such systems differ among
themselves, and different systems produce different systems just like many
things in experience, diversity, complexity, and integrated whole

In my
anding of them except systematic system, any systems are
complementary, not dichotomized in spirit and matter like dualism.


: Whitehead argued that, with the purpose of obtaining a
substance cosmology, 'prehensions' are a generalization from Descartes'
mental 'cogitation,' and from Locke's 'ideas,' to express the most concrete mode
of analysis applicable to every grade of individual actuality. He also explained
that a prehension repr
oduces in itself the general characteristics of an actual
entity: it is referent to an external world, and in this sense will be said to have a
'vector character;' it involves emotion and purpose, and valuation, and causation.
In fact, any characteristic o
f an actual entity is reproduced in a prehension. It
might have been a complete actuality; but, by reason of a certain incomplete
partiality, a prehension is only a subordinate element in an actual entity. A
reference to the complete actuality is required
to give the reason why such a
prehension is what it is in respect to its subjective form. This subjective form is
determined by the subjective aim at further integration, so as to obtain the
'satisfaction' of the completed subject. In other words, final ca
usation and atom
are interconnected philosophical principles

Prehension has two aspects: negative and positive. The former

consists of "exclusion from contribution to the concrescence; "the later consists
of "feelings." The feelings contributed to t
he concrescence consist of three
phases: conformal, conceptual, and comparative. The last one is divided into
simple and complex comparative feelings.

: Whitehead's prehension shown as the
sensational feeling interdependence betwe
en the subject

object relation can
more scientifically be translated into Laszlo's System
Cybernetics I as adaptive
stabilization & II as adaptive self
organization in Cybernetics. Every system
is always composed of smaller or larger, or internal or
external systems in
different levels of new integrating processes. In this sense, systems have always
interfaces with inner or outer world, or subject systems and objective systems,
as Whitehead's prehension is referent to the external world. Any systems,
internal or external are prehended in a manner of input
output relation with
feedback loops in Cybernetics. That which systems are in input
output relation
with them means that any systems input and output a kind of energy or
information with feedback loop
s. This is a characteristic of open systems, not
closed or isolated. Thus open systems can be defined as real systems
embedded in a feedback process inputting and outputting any free energy and
information. This kind of systems is called "living." Therefor
e, any living systems
are open. If any physical, biological, and social systems in our world are open,
then we can define that they are "living systems." In general, physical systems
process a larger volume of energy and a smaller one of information; biolo
systems process a full of energy and information more than physical ones; and
social systems process a relatively smaller energy and a relatively larger
information in due ones, and process much larger volume of information than
physical and biologic
al ones

Next, let us consider that any living systems as open ones input and output a
kind of energy and information. That one system inputs energy and information
outputting the other system, inputting another outputted energy and information
systems relatedness in a real world. Such systems relatedness can be
described as input
output relation and also connected with feedback loops in
each different level of systems. By new changing or changed relations, any
systems make different systems like

physical, biological, and social ones;
changes of relationship make diversity of systems. Such changes are concerned
with systems subjectivity which can analyze into functions of perceiving,
monitoring, choosing, feeling, loving, memorizing, evaluating, j
udging, learning,
creating, imaging, mapping, projecting, and so on. Systems objectivity emerges
from new results of such functions. Systems subjectivity and objectivity create a
new world of environment containing a lot of data each system inputs and
uts. All these kinds of systems are a self
pattern of "living" in input
relation. Such systems as adaptive self
stabilization and adaptive
organization are living and open in that they consist of body (processing
energy) and mind(processing inf
ormation). These sorts of living and open
systems evolved a complex and diversified society




: Whitehead argued as follows: a
ctual entities involve each
other by reason

of their prehensions of each other. There are thus real individual
facts of the togetherness of actual entities, which are real, individual, and
particular, in the same sense in which actual entities and the prehensions are
real, individual, and particula
r. Any such particular fact of togetherness among
actual entities is called a'nexus'(plural form is written 'nexus')
. The ultimate
facts of immediate actual experience are actual entities, p
rehensions, and nexus.
Whereas subjective forms are private m
s of fact, nexus is public matters of
act calling society or societies. Society and societies enjoy social order. They
change from subject to object, and from object to superject in a dynamic process.
Such dynamic process, putting into Laszlo's intra

and inter

hierarchies, can emerge a new nexus in the different levels.


: Such hierarchies are shown
as Arthur Koestler's Holon Property
. What Holon is interests to us for
understanding what whole or part

is mathematically or philosophically. Laszlo
argued that, given systems which constitute ordered wholes, adaptively
stabilizing themselves in their environment around existing steady
states as well
as evolving themselves to more adapted, and normally more

informed) states, development will be in the direction of increasing hierarchical
. As to Koestler's holon property, Laszlo translated itself into intra

and inter
systemic hierarchies, constructed and emerged as a result o
stabilizing and self
organizing ordered wholes in common

The idea of intra

and inter
systemic hierarchies are may derive from Chinese
one in history
. The paper craft in China exhibits a structure of Chinese boxes.
The craf
t is composed of many boxes, small or large, and of large boxes inside a
lot of small boxes. So it is defined that Chinese boxes structure within boxes
within boxes within boxes, which you can see as their application in computer
operation when you do clic
k. Any such structures of Chinese boxes can be
shown as systems structures that are full of systems within systems within
systems just like Chinese boxes in the paper craft in China. In this form, systems
such as living as subject throughout processes of e
nergy and information
prehend or interdepend smaller living systems prehended, and smaller living
systems as object act against a new prehension of larger and more stable order
of living systems. If the new prehension can achieve by matching, then new
r of living systems emerge there as superject. The superject never can
reduce to the former object or subject because it could shape up a new
wholeness in a new dimension. In this way, any living systems change, evolve,
reform, and create a world of living


In this respect, the late Erich
Jantsch mentioned that
evolution creates wholeness which interacts
autonomously with other wholeness.


As a result, such living systems

make the world in time
space more diversified,
more differentiated,

more integrated, more complicated, and more opened in
stabilizing and self
organizing processes

just like our sola system



As a Hungarian
born and international famed pianist, Ervin Laszlo
started his life
from New York city. While he performed as his pianist all over the world, he was
interested in learning from a synthetic philosophy of A. N. Whitehead. He said,
"eventually I came across Whitehead. In his 'philosophy of organism' I believe
d I
had found an answer meriting sustained consideration.
" He also mentioned
that "Whitehead was illuminating, but not the final answer.
" He then
completed notes which took on the character of a Whiteheadian process
philosophy and centered on man a
nd society, but founded on the natural
scientific world picture. The notes finally published as
Essential Society: An
Ontological Reconstruction
. This book showed as going beyond Whitehead's
Philosophy of Organism and as being already in a neo
dian stage of
. On this connection, Thimothy E. Eastman,
ever,commented misleadingly

As his first systems philosopher, Ervin Laszlo learned from the first Whitehead
and the second Ludwig
von Bertalanffy. He replaced Whitehead’s

otion of
"organism" and its Platonic correlates with the concept of a dynamic,
sustaining "system" discriminated against the background of a changing
natural environment
. By this replacement it means that he updated to more
scientific synthesis of

systems than complicated idea of organism led to a kind of

As his cybernetics master, Ervin Laszlo learned from the first Whitehead
referring to a kind of concrescence process of "many into one" and the second
Norbert Wiener's cybernetics model

of "input
output and feedback relation". He
applied Whitehead's concrescence process and Wiener's cybernetics model into
"musical activity" among the composer, the performer, and the listner
. Norbert
Wiener studied abroad to University of Cambridge in

the 1910's under A. N.
Whitehead and B. Russell who friendly
worked for completing a new formal
ogic of
Principia Mathematica
. After going back to the U.S., he created a new
discipline of Cybernetics focusing mainly on information and communication

As his global leader, Ervin Laszlo learned an adventure of ideas from Whitehead.
His leadership covered professors' position at many universities in the world,
and directors at the Club of Rome and the Club of Budapest, and in the research
ects of the United Nations where Whitehead saw "no hope for the future of
civilization apart from world unity based on sympathetic compromise within a
framework of morality.
" Now he has propelled the WoldShift project

all over
the world changing a
path of unsustainability, conflict, and disharmony to a path
toward sustainability, well
being, and harmony among people and between
people and nature.

Concluding Remarks
: we understand that both Whitehead and Laszlo are
intellectual giants, who has encou
raged us to understand truth, goodness,
beauty and peace. Now we have recognized that Laszlo's systems ph

cover a new development of systems ideas, following Whitehead's
philosophy of organism plus Wiener's Cybernetics. His standpoint of "eve
is li
ving and connected" will be accepted by

ian people, and will be effective
solve the present
problems: human crisis, water and air pollution,
load against environment, and so on
. In particular the
present author can
e that Laszlo

as Europea
n re
interpreted Asian cultures, or
Globally Acting Locally or Thinking Locally Acting Globally

of "everything is
living and connected" to construct a new global civilization. He has also
contributed to teach us a ne
w world perspective, a synthetic worldview, a
constructive way of science and philosophy, and a way of goodness from himself.
His systems ideas are now crystallizing a new philosophy of systemism which
will go beyond individualism and collectivism in the p


(1) Alfred North Whitehead was Mathematician, Scientist, and

Philosopher. His
life was noted in his “Autobiographical Notes,” in
Essays in Science and
, New York: Greenwood Press, 1968, pp. 3
14; Ervin Laszlo has been
pianist, philosopher, and gl
obal leader. His life is noted in his “An
Autobiographical Retrospective,” in
Science and the Akashic Field
, Rochester,
Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2004, pp. 168

(2)See: Paul A. LaViolette(ed.),
A Systems View of Man:
udwig von Bertalanffy,

Boulder, C
olorado: Westview Press, 1981.

(3)See: Ervin Laszlo,
Beyond Scepticism and Realism: A Constructive
Exploration of Husserinan and Whiteheadian Methods of Inquiry
, The Hague:
Martinus Nijoff, 1966; Ervin Laszlo,

La Metaphisique De Whitehead
, The hague:
nus Nijhoff, 1970.

(4)Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon and
Breach, 1972, viii.

(5)Ervin Laszlo adopted that the concept of Akasha(Akashic, adj)is a Sanskrit
word meaning “ether” to understand cosmos.In my understanding it,

I will choose
an integrated pattern of energy and information only, not Akasha in cosmos. Cf.:
Shigeyuki Itow, “The Possible Future of Asia
Pacific Order,”
Business Review
Fukuoka, Japan: Kyushu Sangyo University, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2009, pp. 53
54; and
, Shigeyuki Itow,

A New Wave of Civilization from Japan
, Tokyo: Keiso shobo,
pp. 146


(6) Ervin Laszlo,
, San Francisco, CA: Berrett

Koehler Publising,
2001; Ervin Laszlo, San Diego, CA: Waterside Productions, 2002. Dr. Seisaku

Yamamoto appealed for a new historical view after mastering Whitehead’s
philosophy: A Spiral view of History. See: Haruo Murata(ed.),
Whitehead and
Ethics in the Contemporary World: For Sustainability and Common Good
, Kyoto:
Shourai Sha, 2010.

(7)A. N. Wh
Process and Reality
, New York: Free Press, 1978,

(8)Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, pp. 35

(9)Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, p. 18

(10)Donard W. Sherburne(ed.),
A Key To Whitehead’s Process and Reality
, New
York: Macmillan, 1966, p. 6.

(11)P. B. Checkland, “Book Reviews(Systemic, Not Systematic): General
System Theory, London: Penguin Books, 1973 By Ludwig von
Journal o
f Systems Engineering
, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1972, pp. 149
150. In
this paper, Checkland clearly distinguishes the two concepts of systemic and
systematic. He also mentions that systemic is not classical physics or
thermodynamics but systematic is so. See also(27
)in this footnote.

) Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, pp. 36

) A. N. Whitehead,
Process and Reality
, New York: Free Press, 1978, p. 19.

) Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New Y
ork: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, pp. 38

) Shigeyuki Itow,
Systems Politics
, Tokyo: Keiso Shobo, 1987, pp. 25

) A. N. Whitehead,
Process and Reality
, New York: Free Press, 1978, pp.

) Arthur Koestler,
The Ghost in the Machine
, London: Hutchinson 1967 Ch. 3.

) Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, pp. 48

) Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, pp. 48

) Ervin Laszlo,
uction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, pp. 51

) Shigeyuki Itow,
A. N. Whitehead’s Theory of Politics
, Tokyo: Gakubun Sha,
2008, pp. 104

Erich Jantsch
The Self
Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human
mplications of the Emerging Paradigm of Evolution
, Oxford: Pergamon Press,
1980, p. 261

) Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, vii.

) Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, vii.

)Ervin Laszlo,

Essential Society: An Ontological Reconstruction,

the Hague:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1963; Ervin Laszlo,

Individualism, Collectivism,and political

the Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963. See: “In the 1960s, what meaning I
ound half
buried in particular fields I jotted down, and attempted to bring it into
relation with what I found in other fields. I just wanted to understand what the
world and life
my life,and life in general
are all about. I made copious notes, but
never e
xpected that they would get into print. How they did so is one of the
curious episodes of my life,” in “An Autobiographical Retrospective” of his book:
Science and the Akashic Field
, Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2004, pp.

) Ervin Laszl
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, viii.

)Timothy E. Eastman’s comment is as followed: The famous general systems
theory of Ervin Laszlo was inspired by Whitehead’s philosophy. “I found...that the
organic synthesis o
f Whitehead can be updated by the synthesis of a general
systems theory, replacing the notion of ‘organism’ and its Platonic correlates with
the concept of a dynamic, self
sustaining ‘system’ discriminated against the
background of a changing natural envir
onment”[Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction to
Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm of Contemporary Thought
York: Gordon and Breach, 1972),viii]. However, his systems theory is classical
whereas Whitehead’s philosophy of organism has clear quamtum
private communication, David Finkelstein, March, 2002], Timothy E.
Eastman and Hank Keeton(eds.), ”Duality Without Dualism,”
Physics and
Whitehead: Quantum, Process, and Experience
, Albany, NY: State University of
New York Press, p. 26. I[Itow] do not agre
e to Timothy E. Eastman’s comment of
“classical.” His definition of classical is unclear in his paper of “Duality Without
Dualism.”As one of systemist
, I classfy two: one is systematic systems; the
other systemic ones. The former is that “one and one is t
wo” system is quite
classical; b
ut the latter is that it is neither“one and one is two”
mechanical system), nor ”more than one and one is two”
system). This kind of system
is systemic and holon property
after quantum. In
my definition
, Ervin Laszlo’s standpoint is after quamtum. David Finkelstein may
misunderstand two kind of systems: “systematic” and “systemic” systems.

)Ervin Laszlo,
Introduction To Systems Philosophy
, New York: Gordon &
Breach, 1972, viii.

Ervin Laszlo, “Cyb
ernetics and Musical A

Systems Science and
World O

Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1983, pp. 122

) Norbert Wiener,
Cybernetics: or Control and communication in the Animal
and the Machine
, Mass.: MIT Press, 1948.

) A. N. Whitehead, “An Appe
al to Sanity,”

Essays in Science and Philosophy
New York: Greenwood Press, 1968, p. 53.

)Ervin Laszlo,
, Tokyo: Bio
Magazine, 2010.

)Archie J. Bahm, “Asian Philosophies,”
The Philosoper’s World Model,

Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood p
ress, 1979, pp. 82

) See: Shigeyuki Itow,
A New Wave of Civilization from Japan
, Tokyo: Keiso
Shobo, 1995(6th Reprint, 2006), pp. 32
50 (
in J