Causal texture, contextualism, contextural

The blog post on “Causal texture, contextualism, contextural” should perhaps come with a warning that it digs into the foundations of theory development by Eric Trist and Fred Emery leading up to their famous 1965 publication.

In a discussion with @zaid_khan today, he thought the details that I was describing aren’t much of a departure from lectures that he’s heard from me for some time. However, as we got deeper into the discussion, there are some fine points where the Systems Changes Learning Circle core members may adopt some concepts and language with particular meaning … in a balance of being rigourously correct, while still being understandable.

In a phone call with @davidlhawk yesterday, he recalled Eric Trist chiding Russell Ackoff in his use of language, saying that Russ didn’t understand Latin … nor did he understand Greek. I have the benefit (or curse) of having studied Latin (by correspondence, in high school) for 3 years, so you’ll see in this blog post full etymology for specific words. (What, the word was in popular use in the 17th century? Do we want to use that, now?)

In any case, some of the responses to my posted links (on LinkedIn and Facebook) led me to discover that my friend Doug McDavid published an easier reading summary of Emery and Trist 1965, so that I didn’t have to do that. Doug consistently was ahead of the curve, so I provide thanks as a liberate his words from the LinkedIn walled garden to the open Internet.


After our discussion and reading the blog entry, my mind is wonders: does the causal texture of the environment have vitality? If so, how do we reason that it does?

Because if it does, and I think it does, then that flip in orientation could be so profound that I could see it as similar to what occurs to some through spirituality means or religiosity (David don’t critique these words for accuracy here, hehe). It gets at placing the individual and their system as just an occurence from the main story, which is the unfolding of the causal texture environment.

Let me rephrase the question, @zaid_khan : is the environment living?

I think that the answer is yes. If the system can be living (and not all systems are), then the environment can also be living.

The living and non-living get us into “Robert Rosen: The Well Posed Question and its Answer: Why are Organisms Different from Machines?” | Don Mikulecky | 1999 at .

I’m uncomfortable with the word “vitalism”, because I sat in an ISSS meeting a long time ago, and really didn’t understand the controversy that they were presenting. It might have something to do with the Red Queen effect … or maybe I’ve got that wrong.

Ah, yes, good rephrase.

Now I see the bridge to anticipatory systems. Over two years ago I recall a Systems Thinking Ontario session with David Mallory (can’t remember if Judith Rosen was there), but the example about a tree shedding leaves in anticipation of the reduced sunlight stuck with me since then.

When it comes to an end-state, and working towards it, If the focus is reshifted towards the living environment, then…
…does the idea of water come first, and happens to be the transactional effect of hydrogen and oxygen. That’s a profound reversal. hmmm…

Creative Commons Licence Contributions to the Open Learning Commons are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Please honor the spirit of collective open learning by citing the author(s) in the context of a dialogue and/or linking back to the original source.