My argument is about the rediscovery of systemic thinking in the design process (a cybernetic design conversation) as a living systems design and a new way of seeing the world around us, and how we interact with it. This means gaining intrinsic control over the self, before the ‘other’ can be dealt with in any reasonable manner, since, while gaining control over events in the real world have merit (as first-order systems and product management), to transfer this same mindset to social systems leads to an unjust and uncivil society.
Aristotle (1971:29) posed this question: in arguing your case, is it better to argue from or to first principles? We will do well to accept the premise of incompleteness for the essence of anything, including our own developing beings as acts of creation, and that this approach to seeing and understanding the world begins to encompass also the idea of all beginnings: all acts are incomplete, beginnings are incomplete, and as such all first principles also, leading to the incompleteness of all things to be called facts. Now Aristotle states that “we begin with the fact, and if there is sufficient reason for accepting it as such, there will be no need to ascertain also the why of the fact”‖ (:30). This apparent contradiction is resolved because Aristotle‘s ‘fact’ equals incompleteness, the idea instead of the ideal. As such it corresponds to our own beginnings as first principles: Aristotle’s fact is a mutable instance of being, neither textually nor historically captured, in the sense that it is human experience and consciousness that is taken as the beginnings of everything that comes after, i.e., experience built on an action that can only be described as the present-compelling-itself-into-the-future. This is the very idea of what an experience is, can be, and can afford us, as human actors, in our knowing interaction with designed objects, situations, and with groups of people, which contact leads to an intelligible relationship, a space of understanding of our new selves as knowing beings, and because of this, a knowledge of our (new) relationship with the world and everything in it: our total world space.
Aristotle‘s first principles, then, as the-fact-of-being-human beginnings, is a stance towards an ontological understanding of the self and its place in the world that asks a different question: Aristotle’s ‘the why of the fact’ becomes what next, an inbetween, unspecified, ‘incomplete’ question that makes use of whatever is there, at, and in, the moment, in and with the dynamics of the cybernetic design conversation. New beginnings that have to be worked for, which is why one argues to these first principles and not from someone else’s. I submit that this systemic approach to design, to life in general, is the way to justice for civil society, for we invite each other to experience, to invent and so discover what we both wish the other would … this approach is an open invitation to dialogue that has no beginning and does not end.
Johann van der Merwe
Independent Design Researcher (Retired)