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The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

Provides broad insights and in-depth perspectives on key aspects of the systems view of life
Integrates life's biological, cognitive, social and ecological dimensions into a single, coherent framework
Introduces the reader to the concept of systematic thinking and engages them with application boxes

By: Fritjof Capra (Author), Pier Luigi Luisi (Author)

512 pages, 81 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Aug 2016 | #228228 | ISBN-13: 9781316616437
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £18.99 $23/€21 approx
Hardback | Apr 2014 | #208025 | ISBN-13: 9781107011366
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £28.99 $35/€33 approx

About this book

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. The Systems View of Life 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.

"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


Introduction: paradigms in science and society

Part I. The Mechanistic World View
1. The Newtonian world-machine
2. The mechanistic view of life
3. Mechanistic social thought

Part II. The Rise of Systems Thinking
4. From the

parts to the whole
5. Classical systems theories
6. Complexity theory

Part III. A New Conception of Life
7. What is life?
8. Order and complexity in the living world
9. Darwin and biological evolution
10. The quest for the origin of life on Earth
11. The human adventure
12. Mind and consciousness
13. Science and spirituality
14. Life, mind, and society
15. The systems view of health

Part IV. Sustaining the Web of Life
16. The ecological dimension of life
17. Connecting the dots: systems thinking and the state of the world
18. Systemic solutions


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Fritjof Capra is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California, and serves on the faculty of Schumacher College (UK). He is a physicist and systems theorist, and has been engaged in a systematic examination of the philosophical and social implications of contemporary science for the past 35 years.

Pier Luigi Luisi is Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Rome 3. He started his career at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland (ETHZ) where he became full professor in Chemistry and initiated the interdisciplinary Cortona-weeks. His main research focuses on the experimental, theoretical and philosophical aspects of the origin of life and self-organisation of synthetic and natural systems.

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