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Transdisciplinary Methodology: Linking the Levels of Reality


The purpose of our work is to provide a panoramic picture of current glocal problems of human unsustainability; integrative eco-ethical worldview can potentially contribute to achieve the SDGs. In this research, philosophical and cosmological levels are linked to human production systems because the transdisciplinary nature of eco-ethics requires the presence not only of the unity of natural and social sciences, but a holistic image of humans in the universe. At the dawn of the third millennium, the understanding of human condition/identity on planet Earth needs an adequate and appropriate contextualization in the universe. When we analyze the connections between the microcosm and the macrocosm, we perceive that human beings are not involved in chaos and arbitrariness, but belongs to the large network of interdependencies, complementarities and reciprocities that constitute life [Capra, 2005]. The emergence of life on Earth, around 3,8 billion years ago, was a complex process of exceptional natural phenomena, inherent in all living systems. A process which is expressed through unlimited creativity: mutation, gene exchange, and symbiosis [Capra, 1998]. From a cosmo-biological perspective, we can understand a new conceptual dimension of life, where all living beings share same basis of genetic code: the twenty amino-acids and four phosphatic bases. In fact, the diversity of living beings is caused by the combination of this cosmo-bio-genetic basis. The atomic particles that compose life on our planet -and that compose us-, are born in the first seconds of the cosmos: our carbon atoms were created in a sun before of current one and our molecules were formed on Earth [Morin, 2011]. This trans-dimensional
perspective has a deep ecological and spiritual sense for our worldview because the human evolutionary adventure is the latest stage of life on Earth. The modern human being is a vertebrate animal, mammal, belonging to the primates, which emerged 200,000 years ago. In recent centuries he has imposed its anthropocentric, industrial and capitalist vision to the detriment of Pachamama (an Indigenous goddess known as earth mother). We consume around 120% of the natural resources that Earth Mother regenerats annually [Margulis, 2002]. Our consumer behavior is immersed in a fatalistic dynamic with a destiny to climate change (deforestation, loss of biodiversity, ozone, etc.), and our own self-destruction as a species.

There is an urgent need to get beyond the cognitive fallacy that the mental structures of social Darwinism and capitalist postulates of the 19th century have historically constituted, because they only understand natural and social systems as warmongers and competitive processes whereby species diverge from each other. The Darwinian concept of adaptation to the environment has become outdated with the scientific demonstration of the Gaia Theory [Margulis and Lovelock, 1989], which recognizes the Earth as an autopoietic whole, where living and nonliving systems intertwine in the same net of interdependence. In this way, the evolution of living organisms is linked with the environments‘ evolution: adapting mutually in a unique process of co-evolution. The co-evolution recognition as an ontological phenomenon has deep philosophical implications that involve a revolution in the current civilization model of values. We cannot maintain the current capitalist socioeconomic order because it is incompatible with the planet‘s limits. The global economic crisis is actually a crisis of planetary civilization characterized by exploitation and depletion of natural resources. “The only way to continue learning from nature is safeguard its patrimony, the source of new ideas” says Janine M. Benyus [Benyus, 2012: p.24] in her book Biomimicry, adding that “biomimicry becomes more than just a new way of looking at nature: its becomes a career and a ransom” [Benyus, 2012: p.24].



Thus, GCED proposed by UNESCO requires a new methodology outside of the positivist thought of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which reduces and separates the relationship between subject and object, that is, the hidden middle between human beings and nature. In this sense, the pioneering work “The Manifesto of Transdisciplinary” published in 1996 by physicist Basarab Nicolescu (President of CIRET3), is a proposal in perfect harmony with the paradigm shift that information age of network society [Castells, 2000] is demanding to achieve the SDGs. It represents a new epistemological approach which understands human being as an integral part of the autopoietic cosmic whole, and also houses the ethical imperative to develop a culture of peace. In fact, the International Congress organized by UNESCO and CIRET “Which University for Tomorrow? Towards A Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University”, celebrated in Locarno (Switzerland), participants would submit to the attention of Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza (Director-General of UNESCO at

3 The International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (CIRET) is a non-profit organiza- tion, located in Paris and founded in 1987. The aim of our organization is to develop research in a new scientific and cultural approach — the transdisciplinarity — whose aim is to lay bare the nature and characteristics of the flow of information circulating between the various branches of knowledge. The CIRET is a priviledge meeting-place for specialists from the different sci- ences and for those from other domains of activity, especially educators. For more information, visit: http://ciret-transdisciplinarity.org/
the time) programs of action and cooperation between Member States. A statement with recommendations that addressed the specifics of the new transdisciplinary methodological vision that would end up germinating with the UNESCO´s Transdisciplinary Project “Toward a Culture of Peace”4 in full symbiosis with the UN International Decade of Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010)5. In this context of new epistemological approaches, Nicolescu would present his three pillars of transdisciplinary: levels of reality, logic of the included middle and complexity. According with the last version found in his book “From Modernity to Cosmodernity. Science, Culture, and Spirituality” (2014), such axioms are the following ones:

  1. The ontological axiom: There are different levels of Reality of the Subject and, correspondingly, different levels of Reality of the Object.

  2. The logical axiom: The passage from one level of Reality to another is ensured by

the logic of the included middle.

  1. The epistemological axiom: The structure of the totality of levels of Reality appears, in our knowledge of nature, of society, and of ourselves, as a complex structure: every level is what it is because all the levels exist at the same time [Nicolescu, 2014: p.207].

By examining the three methodological pillars of transdisciplinarity proposed by Nicolescu, we see the first two get their experimental evidence from quantum physics, and the third axiom is also opened for human sciences. In this third axiom opened to the human sciences is highlighted the influence of “complex thinking” promoted by Edgar Morin in his book “The Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future”, written in 1999 under invitation of Gustavo López Ospina, Director of UNESCO´s Transdisciplinary Project- “Educating for a Sustainable Future”. In this visionary work, Morin affirms that “teaching the human condition means teaching the cosmic, physical, and earthly condition of the individual-society-species” [Morin, 1999: pp. 21-23]. Since these visionary intellectual horizons, all education pretending to be universal must take into account the different levels of epistemological and ontological reality that constitute the multidimensional identity of the individual-society-species: as individual in a local and specific community; as citizen of a determinate society belonging to a particular State/Nation; and as same cosmo-bio-genetic species in constant process of evolution. A human identity opened to the infinite diversity of global citizenship in its own unity as species. At the same way that own ontology structures the nature in different levels of Reality, humans have different strata, levels, and plans of gnoseological perception that structure and concretize their historical complexity in their cosmological context, hence we can also add the identity in the Cyber-Space-Time: the virtual identity. This educational perspective is also presented in the planetary-cosmic personality proposed by Bazaluk [Bazaluk, 2013; Bazaluk, 2014], who is also in harmony with M. Montessori pedagogical approach: “The real importance of the M. Montessori methods is in need of cosmic education impact on the developing subconscious neural ensembles” [Bazaluk, 2014]. More significantly, this cosmic consciousness has the purpose to link all levels of reality, reintroducing us as “transforming agents” [Montessori, 1994].

4 Check http://www.unesco.org/cpp/sp/proyectos/cppinfo.htm

5 Check http://www.fund-culturadepaz.org/spa/DOCUMENTOS/InformeMundial_Cultu- radePaz_2001-10.pdf
Thus, GCED pedagogical programs must model the human formation through the adjacent complexity in all levels of identity that human race is composed, without falling in reductionist, one-dimensional or homogenize logics. Our identity is composed from multiple dependencies. It is an original construction of multiples relationships. Every culture is more or less hybrid, mixed, made of crosses, retro- feeds... There are not finished or perfect cultures. Each culture carries with its sufficiencies, insufficiencies, functionalities, dysfunctionalities... “Eco-bio-anthropo- social conceptual loop is a loop in which the thought of natural complexity should allow developing the thought of social and political complexity” [Morin, 1983: p.120]. Therefore, it is necessary to promote a structural epistemological transformation that facilitates the development of a complex thought capable to build a new kind of identity for the emerging global citizenship. A global identity based on the idea that humans are part of nature (governed by natural laws), whose historical approach addresses the past of people, life, Earth, and the universe. That is, a transdisciplinary perspective whose dynamic approach understand complexity of social relations of our time with nature, in harmony with the Big History spearheaded by David Christian in his book “Maps of Time” [Christian, 2010] and theoretically founded by Fred Spier in his work “Big History and the Future of Humanity” [Spier, 2011].

For the epistemological development of global identity is necessary overcome the antagonistic logics between the contraries that structures of thought derived from Newtonian classical mechanics have caused: subject vs. object, globality vs. locality, liberalism vs socialism, rational vs emotional, affectivity vs effectivity, etc. For this reason it is necessary to understand the second axiom of Nicolescuian transdisciplinarity, that is, the logic of the included middle that Stephane Lupasco [Lupasco, 1994] would demonstrate mathematically, because it represents the epistemological key to pass from one level of Reality to another adjacent. Relied on the quantum revolution, the logic of the included middle would overcome the classical logic principle “principium tertii exclusi” proposed and formalized by Aristotle, whereby the disjunction of one proposition and its negation is always true. The ontological structure of nature´s subatomic reality is manifested with striking phenomena: inseparability of subject and object, wave-particle duality, quantum superposition, complementarity, uncertainty principle, wave function, discontinuity, non local causality, indeterminism, etc. In this way, the logic of the included middle would revolutionize the cognitive structures of classical thought -derived from mechanistic concepts of classic physics-, because it would get relieve the existing belief of just one level of ontological reality that served as epistemological configuration for the formulation of materialist theories, religious dogmas, and political ideologies that devastated the twenty century because they thought they were in possession of the whole, and therefore, of absolute truth.

Translated into the educational world that concerns us, where neoliberal globalization has turned education into a purely commercial element (unable to be distinguished from any other field of commercial and financial reproduction) and meritocratic (PISA reports promoted by OCDE represent a good example of competitiveness and international validity), I consider that organization of knowledge derived from the postulates of quantum mechanics represents a bridge between the old logical paradigm tending to reduction, simplification, and
contradiction; and a new logical paradigm that tends to a holistic understanding of complexity, contradiction, and interdependence. A good example is the pioneering work that Fritjof Capra published in 1975, “The Tao of Physics”, where he makes an exploration of the parallels between modern physics (especially Quantum Theory and the Theory of Relativity) and eastern mysticism (Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese thought, Taoism, and Zen). That is, a comparison between the Western rational modern knowledge and Eastern ancestral intuitive knowledge that demonstrates how nature has always been present in the rich philosophical and theological framework of mankind during his trans-historic path on planet Earth. Therefore, the logic of the included middle offers an opportunity to build a new philosophical-epistemological approach that goes beyond to the ontological essence of the individual-society- species, representing a creative tool to build new transnational, transpolitical, transcultural, and transreligious conceptions capable to prevent future conflicts and to achieve a sustainable development. In words of Nicolescu:

The present instant is, strictly speaking, a non-time, an experience of relation between Subject and Object; thus, it contains potentially within itself the past and the future, the total flow of information and the total flow of consciousness, which cross the levels of reality. The present time is truly the origin of the future and the origin of the past. Different cultures, present and future, develop in the time of history, which is the time of change in the state of being of peoples and of nations. The transcultural concerns the time present in transhistory, a notion introduced by Mircea Eliade, which concerns the unthinkable and epiphany. The transcultural is the necessary condition for the existenc of culture. The complex plurality of cultures and the open unity of the transcultural coexist in the cosmodern vision. The transcultural is the spearhead of cosmodern culture. Different cultures are the different facets of the human being. […] The multicultural allows the interpretation of one culture by another culture, the intercultura permits the fertilization of one culture by another, and the transcultural ensures the translation of one culture into various other cultures, by deciphering meaning that links them and simultaneously goes beyond them [Nicolescu, 2014: p.14].

Since such cosmodern vision, I propose that existing debate on GCED does not have to find solutions for the increasingly complex problems that arise in the current economical system of the world-society of the third millennium. GCED should promote the transformation of capitalism´s production system inspired by biomimicry approach. Affirming that economic growth is good for itself, postulating that human quality levels can be measured by GDP and GNP of a country, represent an intellectual fraud of danger consequences in the era of global ecological crisis. While it is true that capitalist system has brought enormous material benefits, its functionalist view subordinates everything to the maximum economic profit and the indiscriminate consumption at the expense of nature. It does not work to debate between communism, anarchism, socialism, capitalism or any other political theory of social organization derived from classical mechanics mental structures (where there is just one level of reality), but to mimic our own nature: “if we want to get along with Gaia, it is precisely how we must see ourselves, as one vote in a parliament of
thirty (or perhaps even a hundred) million seats, a species among species” [Benyus, 2012: p.24]. Why the human species continues mortgaging the future of millions of species by its absurd logic of irrational consumption, which involves the exploitation of natural resources? Why do we believe in the epistemological illusion of unlimited economic growth when it has never existed any living species in nature which grow endlessly to infinity?

Undoubtedly, the creation of a true GCED which pretends to achieve the SDGs implies a radical rupture with the political-economic and socio-educational structures of the past, because there is no doubt that technocratic education, still in vigor, is the consequence of alienating the social organization model that capitalism has imposed, after the Industrial Revolution, in order to reduce students to submissive consumers and passive citizens [Collado & Galeffi, 2012c.]. Promoting a GCED that encourage the compliance of the SDGs will require a poly-logical understanding6 [Galeffi, 2001] that understand the interlinks between micro-local-simple and macro-global-complex phenomenon. In words of Educator for Peace Alicia Cabezudo:

Global Education is not only about global themes, world problems and how to find solutions altogether — it is also about to envision a common future of Peace and Justice for All connecting micro-macro perspectives. And how to make this vision real and possible starting from our small spot in the world. (…). If Global Education shift the focus onto the transformation from a culture of reproduction and domination to one of partnership we are changing the general rules — transforming the value system underlying the global economy to make it compatible with the demands of human dignity we all ask for [Cabezudo, 2014: p.22]

Consequently, I propose that GCED epistemological approach promotes, on the one hand, the development of a planetary-cosmic consciousness [Nicolescu, 2014; Bazaluk, 2013; Bazaluk, 2014] that embraces the supra-identity of “Homeland-Earth” [Morin and Kern, 1993] through learning the “Big History” [Christian, 2010; Spier, 2011], which implies the recognition of human, life, Earth, and universe history. On the other hand, I also propose that GCED promotes an eco-ethic through the study of biomimicry, which inspires to understand the interdependence of ecosystems to make an organizational-procedural-structural application in human systems.

Effectively, Newtonian logic of classical mechanics only allows us to observe reality in just one level, the level of reality 1. From this level of reality 1 is impossible come to a logical reconciliation between natural systems and human systems, because they are two contradictories process of structural organization that they destroy themselves, as happens between matter and antimatter. Hence the importance ensured by the logic of the included middle to achieve a coherent conciliation of the logical contradiction. Biomimicry is represented by the state “T” (quantum), that is, the quantum propriety to be wave (“A”) and particle (“no-A”) at the same time. In this way, following the philosophical postulates derived from quantum mechanics, we find the level of reality 2, where biomimicry appears as conciliatory element of openness to new

6 The poly-logical perspective, according Galeffi (2001), includes the coexistence of multiple logics in human knowledge processing, bringing together different plans of formation of Real without the monological reduction to a single plan of Reality, as it happens in western modern rationalism.



Figure 1. Representation of biomimicry concept in the logic of the included middle. Own elaboration from Nicolescu [Nicolescu, 2002: p.51]

multidimensional and multi-referential horizons for the formulation of knowledge

theories available to find solution for the current unsustainability.



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