By Michael C. Jackson
Would systems thinking realize its potential as a force for good in the world if it rediscovered and developed its pragmatist roots? Does the link between the past and future of systems thinking lie through critical systems thinking and practice?
In brief, I suggest that:
- Pragmatism provides an appropriate philosophy for systems thinking.
- Systems thinking has pragmatist roots.
- Critical systems thinking and practice shows how to develop those roots.
- Pragmatism can help systems thinking realize its potential and systems thinking can help pragmatism achieve what it set out to do.
What is pragmatism?
Kant was in awe of Newton’s science but believed it could supply certainty only about the physical world. In most areas of human endeavor, he argued, we have to use ‘pragmatic belief’ to guide our actions.