1.      The war ofdefinitions


a. How transdisciplinarity wasborn


Transdisciplinarity is arelatively young approach: it emerged seven centuries later thandisciplinarity, due to the Swiss philosopher and psychologist Jean Piaget(1896-1980).

The worditself first appeared in France, in 1970, in the talks of Jean Piaget, Erich Jantsch andAndré Lichnerowicz, at the international workshop“Interdisciplinarity –Teaching and Research Problems in Universities”,organized by the Organization for EconomicCo-operation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with theFrench Ministry of National Education and University of Nice[1].

In his contribution,Piaget gives the following description of transdisciplinarity: "Finally,we hope to see succeeding to the stage of interdisciplinary relations asuperior stage, which should be "transdisciplinary", i.e. which willnot be limited to recognize the interactions and or reciprocities between thespecialized researches, but which will locate these links inside a total systemwithout stable boundaries between the disciplines"[2].This description is vague, but has the merit of pointing to a new space ofknowledge “without stable boundaries between the disciplines”. However, theidea of a “total system” opens the trap of transforming transdisciplinarity ina super- or hyperdiscipline, a kind of “science of sciences”. In other wordsthe description of Piaget leads to a closed system, in contradiction with hisown requirement of the instability of boundaries between disciplines. Thekey-point here is the fact that Piaget retained only the meanings “across” and“between” of the Latin prefix trans, eliminating the meaning “beyond”. In such away, transdisciplinarity is just a new, but “superior” stage, ofinterdisciplinarity. I think that Piaget was fully conscious of this alterationof transdisciplinarity, but the intellectual climate was not yet prepared forreceiving the shock of contemplating the possibility of a space of knowledge beyond the disciplines. The proof is that,in his introduction to the Proceedings of the workshop, Pierre Duguet honestlyrecognizes that some experts wanted, in preliminary meetings, to see the word“transdisciplinarity” in the title of the workshop, but authorities of the OECDrefused to do so, because they were afraid to confuse some representatives ofthe member countries[3].

In his contributions,Erich Jantsch, an Austrian thinker living in California, falls in the trap ofdefining transdisciplinarity as a hyperdiscipline. He writes thattransdisciplinarity is “the coordination of all disciplines andinterdisciplines of the teaching system and the innovation on the basis of ageneral axiomatic approach”[4].He clearly situates transdisciplinarity in the disciplinary framework. However,the historical merit of Jantsch was to underline the necessity of inventing anaxiomatic approach for transdisciplinarity and also of introducing values inthis field of knowledge.

Finally, the approach ofAndré Lichnerowicz, a known French mathematician, is radically mathematical. Hesees transdisciplinarity as a transversal play, in order to describe “thehomogeneity of the theoretical activity in different sciences and techniques,independently of the field where this activity is effectuated”[5].And, of course, this theoretical activity can be formulated, he thinks, only inmathematical language. Lichnerowicz writes: “The Being is put betweenparentheses and it is precisely this non-ontological character which confers tomathematics its power, its fidelity and its polyvalence.”[6]The interest of Lichnerowicz for transdisciplinarity was accidental, but hisremark about the non-ontological character of mathematics has to be remembered.

I described in somedetail the three different positions of Piaget, Jantsch and Lichnerowiczconcerning transdisciplinarity, because they can be found again, a quarter of acentury later, in what I call “the war of definitions”. The word “war” does notbelong to the transdisciplinary vocabulary. But I use it on purpose, because itappeared in the issue “Guerre et paix entre les sciences: disciplinarité ettransdisciplinarité / War and Peace Between Sciences: Disciplinarity andTransdisciplinarity” of a French magazine. In this issue, one of the authorsasked for the interdiction of the word “transdisciplinarity”.[7]His desire was obviously not satisfied.

I would like to add, inthis discussion about the incipient phase of transdisciplinarity, the name ofEdgar Morin. A short time after the Nice meeting, Morin begins to use the word“transdisciplinarity” and he even leads a transdisciplinary laboratory in humansciences, in the framework of a prestigious French research institution. It istrue that Morin did not give a definition of transdisciplinarity. For him,transdisciplinarity was, in that period, a kind of messenger of the freedom ofthinking, a go-between discipline.


b. Beyond disciplines


I proposed the inclusionof the meaning “beyond disciplines” in 1985[8]and I developed this idea over the years in my articles and books and also indifferent official international documents. Many other researchers over theworld contributed to this development of transdisciplinarity. A key-date inthis development is 1994, when the Charter of Transdisciplinarity[9]was adopted by the participants at the First World Congress ofTransdisciplinarity (Convento da Arrábida, Portugal).

This idea did not comefrom heaven or just from the pleasure of respecting the etymology of the word trans, but from my long practice ofquantum physics. For an outsider, it might seem paradoxical that it is from thevery core of exact sciences that we arrive at the idea of limits ofdisciplinary knowledge. But from inside, it provides evidence of the fact that,after a very long period, disciplinary knowledge has reached its ownlimitations with far reaching consequences not only for science, but also forculture and social life.

The crucial point hereis the status of the Subject.

Modern science was bornthrough a violent break with the ancient vision of the world. It was founded onthe idea — surprising and revolutionary for that era — of a totalseparation between the knowing subject and Reality, which was assumed to becompletely independent from the subject who observed it. This break allowedscience to develop independently of theology, philosophy and culture. It was apositive act of freedom. But today, the extreme consequences of this break,incarnated by the ideology of scientism, become a potential danger ofself-destruction of our species.

On the spiritual level, theconsequences of scientism have been considerable: the only knowledge worthy ofits name must therefore be scientific, objective; the only reality worthy ofthis name must be, of course, objective reality, ruled by objective laws. Allknowledge other than scientific knowledge is thus cast into the inferno ofsubjectivity, tolerated at most as a meaningless embellishment or rejected withcontempt as a fantasy, an illusion, a regression, or a product of theimagination. Even the word “spirituality” has become suspect and its use hasbeen practically abandoned.

Objectivity, set up as the supremecriterion of Truth, has one inevitable consequence: the transformation of theSubject into an Object. The death of the Subject is the price we pay forobjective knowledge. The human being became an object — an object of theexploitation of man by man, an object of the experiments of ideologies whichare proclaimed scientific, an object of scientific studies to be dissected,formalized, and manipulated. The Man–God has become a Man–Object,of which the only result can be self-destruction. The two world massacres ofthis century, not to mention the multiple local wars and terrorism — areonly the prelude to self-destruction on a global scale.

In fact, with very fewexceptions – Husserl, Heidegger or Cassirer – modern andpost-modern thinkers gradually transformed the Subject in a grammaticalsubject. The Subject is today just a word in a phrase[10].

The quantum revolutionradically changed this situation. The new scientific and philosophical notionsit introduced – the principle of superposition of quantum “yes” and “no”states, discontinuity, non-separability, global causality, quantumindeterminism – necessarily led the founders of quantum mechanics torethink the problem of the complete Object / Subject separation. For example,Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize of Physics, thought that one must suppress anyrigid distinction between the Subject and Object, between objective reality andsubjective reality. “The concept of “objective” and “subjective” – writesHeisenberg – designate […] two different aspects of one reality; howeverwe would make a very crude simplification if we want to divide the world in oneobjective reality and one subjective reality. Many rigidities of the philosophyof the last centuries are born by this black and white view of the world.”[11]He also asserts that we have to renounce the privileged reference to theexteriority of the material world. “The too strong insistence on the differencebetween scientific knowledge and artistic knowledge – writes Heisenberg– comes from the wrong idea that concepts describe perfectly the “realthings” […] All true philosophy is situated on the threshold between scienceand poetry.”[12]

My line of thinking isin perfect agreement with that of Heisenberg. For me, “beyond disciplines”precisely signifies the Subject, more precisely the Subject-Object interaction.The transcendence, inherent in transdisciplinarity, is the transcendence of theSubject. The Subject can not be captured in a disciplinary camp.

The meaning “beyonddisciplines” leads us to an immense space of new knowledge. The main outcomewas the formulation of the methodology of transdisciplinarity, which I willanalyze in the next section. It allows us also to clearly distinguish betweenmultidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity.

Multidisciplinarity concerns itself with studying aresearch topic in not just one discipline only, but in several at the sametime. Any topic in question will ultimately be enriched by incorporating theperspectives of several disciplines. Multidisciplinarity brings a plus to thediscipline in question, but this “plus” is always in the exclusive service ofthe home discipline. In other words, the multidisciplinary approach overflowsdisciplinary boundaries while its goal remains limited to the framework ofdisciplinary research.

Interdisciplinarity has a different goal thanmultidisciplinarity. It concerns the transfer of methods from one discipline toanother. Like multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity overflows thedisciplines, but its goal still remains within the framework of disciplinaryresearch. Interdisciplinarity has even the capacity of generating newdisciplines, like quantum cosmology and chaos theory.

Transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline. Its goal is theunderstanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is theunity of knowledge[13].

As one can see, there isno opposition between disciplinarity (including multidisciplinarity andinterdisciplinarity) and transdisciplinarity, but a fertile complementarity. Infact, there is no transdisciplinarity without disciplinarity. In spite of thisfact, the above considerations provoked, around 1990, a more a less violent warof definitions. This war is not yet finished.

There is a specificdifferent approach of transdisciplinarity, characterized by the refusal offormulating any methodology and by its exclusive concentration on joint problem-solvingof problems pertaining to the science-technology-society triad. This approach isrepresented by figures like Michael Gibbons[14]and Helga Nowotny[15].The point of view of this transdisciplinary current was largely expressed atthe Zürich Congress, held in the year 2000[16].

This version oftransdisciplinarity does not exclude the meaning “beyond disciplines” butreduces it to the interaction of disciplines with social constraints. Thesocial field necessarily introduces a dimension “beyond disciplines”, but the individualhuman being is conceived of as part of a social system only.

It is difficult for usto understand why "joint problem solving" must be the unique aim oftransdisciplinarity. It is certainly one of the aims but not the only aim. Theuse of singular seems to us dangerous, as in religion, as allowing unnecessarywars and unproductive dogmatism. Is transdisciplinarity concerning only society,as a uniform whole, or, in the first place, the human being which is (or has tobe) in the center of any civilized society? Are we allowed to identify knowledgewith productionof knowledge? Whythe potential of transdisciplinarity has to be reduced to produce "betterscience"? Why transdisciplinarity has to be reduced to "hardscience"? In other words, the Subject - Object interaction seems to us tobe at the very core of transdisciplinarity and not the Object alone.

I think that theunconscious barrier to a true dialogue comes from the inability of certaintransdisciplinary researchers to think the discontinuity. I will give an imagein order to express what I have in mind. For them, the boundaries betweendisciplines are like boundaries between countries, continents and oceans on thesurface of the Earth. These boundaries are fluctuating in time but a factremains unchanged: the continuity between territories. We have a differentapproach of the boundaries between disciplines. For us, they are like the separationbetween galaxies, solar systems, stars and planets. It is the movement itselfwhich generates the fluctuation of boundaries. This does not mean that a galaxyintersects another galaxy. When we cross the boundaries we meet theinterplanetary and intergalactic vacuum. This vacuum is far from being empty:it is full of invisible matter and energy. It introduces a clear discontinuitybetween territories of galaxies, solar systems, stars and planets. Without theinterplanetary and intergalactic vacuum there is no Universe.

It is my deep convictionthat our formulation of transdisciplinarity is both unified (in the sense ofunification of different transdisciplinary approaches) and diverse: unity indiversity and diversity through unity is inherent to transdisciplinarity. Muchconfusion arises by not recognizing that there are a theoreticaltransdisciplinarity,a phenomenological transdisciplinarity and an experimental transdisciplinarity.

The word theory implies a general definition oftransdisciplinarity and a well-defined methodology (which has to bedistinguished from "methods": a single methodology corresponds to agreat number of different methods). The word phenomenology implies building models connectingthe theoretical principles with the already observed experimental data, inorder to predict further results. The word experimental implies performing experimentsfollowing a well-defined procedure allowing any researcher to get the sameresults when performing the same experiments.

I classify the work doneby Michael Gibbons and Helga Nowotny as phenomenological transdisciplinarity,while my own work[17],as well as the one of Jean Piaget and Edgar Morin[18],as theoretical transdisciplinarity. In its turn, experimentaltransdisciplinarity concerns a big number of experimental data alreadycollected not only in the framework of knowledge production but also in manyfields like education, psychoanalysis, the treatment of pain in terminaldiseases, drug addiction, art, literature, history of religions, etc. Thereduction of transdisciplinarity to only one of its aspects is very dangerousbecause it will transform transdisciplinarity into a temporary fashion, which Ipredict will disappear soon as many other fashions in the field of culture andknowledge have indeed vanished. The huge potential of transdisciplinarity willnever be accomplished if we do not accept the simultaneous and rigorousconsideration of the three aspects of transdisciplinarity. This simultaneousconsideration of theoretical, phenomenological and experimentaltransdisciplinarity will allow both a unified and non-dogmatic treatment of thetransdisciplinary theory and practice, coexisting with a plurality oftransdisciplinary models.


2.      Formulation ofthe methodology of transdisciplinarity


a.      Theaxiomatic character of the methodology of transdisciplinarity


The most importantachievement of transdisciplinarity in present times is, of course, theformulation of the methodology of transdisciplinarity, accepted and applied byan important number of researchers in many countries of the world. Transdisciplinarity,in the absence of a methodology, would be just talking, an empty discourse andtherefore a short-term living fashion.

The axiomatic characterof the methodology of transdisciplinarity is an important aspect. This meansthat he have to limit the number of axioms (or principles or pillars) to a minimum number. Any axiom which can bederived from the already postulated ones, have to be rejected.

This fact is not new. Italready happened when disciplinary knowledge acquired its scientific character,due the three axioms formulated by Galileo Galilei in Dialogue on the GreatWorld Systems[19]:

1. There areuniversal laws, of a mathematical character.

2. These laws can bediscovered by scientific experiment.

3. Such experimentscan be perfectly replicated.

It should be obvious that if we try to build a mathematical bridgebetween science and ontology, we will necessarily fail. Galileo himself makesthe distinction between human mathematics and divine mathematics[20].Human mathematics constitutes, he says (through Salvati), the common languageof human beings and God, while divine mathematics is connected with the directperception of the totality of all existing laws and phenomena.Transdisciplinarity tries to seriously take this distinction into account. Abridge can be built between science and ontology only by taking into accountthe totality of human knowledge. This requires a symbolic language, differentfrom mathematical language and enriched by specific new notions. Mathematics isable to describe repetition of facts due to scientific laws, buttransdisciplinarity is about the singularity of the human being and human life.The key-point here is, once again, the irreducible presence of the Subject,which explains why transdisciplinarity can not be described by a mathematicalformalism. The dream of the mathematical formalization of transdisciplinarityis just a phantasm, the phantasm induced by centuries of disciplinaryknowledge.

After many years of research,we have arrived[21] at thefollowing three axioms of the methodology of transdisciplinarity:

i. The ontologicalaxiom: Thereare, in Nature and in our knowledge of Nature, different levels of Reality and,correspondingly, different levels of perception.

ii. The logical axiom: The passage from one level ofReality to another is insured by the logic of the included middle.

iii. The complexityaxiom: Thestructure of the totality of levels of Reality or perception is a complexstructure: every level is what it is because all the levels exist at the sametime.

The first two get theirexperimental evidence from quantum physics, but they go well beyond exactsciences. The last one has its source not only in quantum physics but also in avariety of other exact and human sciences. All three are in agreement withtraditional thinking, present on the earth from the beginning of historicaltimes.

Axioms can not bedemonstrated: they are not theorems. They have their roots in experimental dataand theoretical approaches and their validity is judged by the results of theirapplications. If the results are in contradiction with experimental facts, theyhave to be modified or replaced.

Let me note that, inspite of an almost infinite diversity of methods, theories, and models whichrun throughout the history of different scientific disciplines, the threemethodological postulates of modern science have remained unchanged fromGalileo until our day. Let us hope that the same will prove to be true fortransdisciplinarity and that a large number of transdisciplinary methods,theories and models will appear in the future.

Let me also note thatonly one science has entirely and integrally satisfied the three Galilean postulates:physics. The other scientific disciplines only partially satisfy the threemethodological postulates of modern science. However, the absence of rigorousmathematical formulation in psychology, psychoanalysis, history of religions,law theory and a multitude of other disciplines did not lead to the eliminationof these disciplines from the field of science. At least for the moment, noteven an exact science like molecular biology can claim a mathematicalformulation as rigorous as that of physics. In other words, there are degreesof disciplinaritywhich can respectively take into account more or less completely the threemethodological postulates of modern science. Likewise, the process of more orless taking completely into account the three methodological pillars oftransdisciplinary research will generate different degrees oftransdisciplinarity.Large avenues are open for a rich and diverse transdisciplinary research.

The above three axioms give aprecise and rigorous definition of transdisciplinarity. This definition is in agreementwith the one sketched by Jean Piaget.

Let me now describe theessentials of these three transdisciplinary axioms.



b.     Theontological axiom: levels of Reality and levels of perception


The key concept of thetransdisciplinary approach to Nature and knowledge is the concept of levelsof Reality.

Here the meaning we giveto the word “Reality” is pragmatic and ontological at the same time.

By “Reality” we intendfirst of all to designate that which resists our experiences, representations, descriptions,images, or even mathematical formulations.

In so far as Natureparticipates in the being of the world, one has to assign also an ontologicaldimension to the concept of Reality. Reality is not merely a socialconstruction, the consensus of a collectivity, or some inter-subjective agreement.It also has a trans-subjective dimension: for example, experimental data canruin the most beautiful scientific theory.

Of course, one has todistinguish the words “Real” and “Reality”. Real designates that which is, while Reality is connected to resistance in ourhuman experience. The “Real” is, by definition, veiled for ever, while“Reality” is accessible to our knowledge.

By “level of Reality”, Idesignate a set of systems which are invariant under certain laws: for example,quantum entities are subordinate to quantum laws, which depart radically fromthe laws of the macrophysical world. That is to say that two levels of Realityare different if, while passing from one to the other, there is a break in theapplicable laws and a break in fundamental concepts (like, for example,causality). Therefore there is a discontinuity in the structure of levels of Reality, similarto the discontinuity reigning over the quantum world.

Every level of Realityhas its associated space-time, different from one level to the other. Forexample, the classical realism is associated with the 4-dimensional space-time(three dimensions of space and one dimension of time), while the quantumrealism is associated with a space-time whose number of dimensions is bigger thanfour. The introduction of the levels of Reality induces a multidimensional andmultireferential structure of Reality.

A new Principle of Relativity[22] emerges from the coexistencebetween complex plurality and open unity in our approach: no level of Realityconstitutes a privileged place from which one is able to understand all theother levels of Reality. A level of Reality is what it is because all the other levels exist atthe same time. This Principle of Relativity is what originates a newperspective on religion, politics, art, education, and social life. And whenour perspective on the world changes, the world changes. The great Brazilianeducator Paulo Freire asserts, in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed[23], that saying a true word isequivalent to the transformation of the world.

In other words, ourapproach is not hierarchical. There is no fundamental level. But its absencedoes not mean an anarchical dynamics, but a coherent one, of all levels ofReality, already discovered or which will be discovered in the future.

Everylevel is characterized by its incompleteness: the laws governing this level are just a partof the totality of laws governing all levels. And even the totality of lawsdoes not exhaust the entire Reality: we have also to consider the Subject andits interaction with the Object.

The zone between two differentlevels and beyond all levels is a zone of non-resistance to our experiences,representations, descriptions, images, and mathematical formulations. Quitesimply, the transparence of this zone is due to the limitations of our bodiesand of our sense organs — limitations which apply regardless of whatmeasuring tools are used to extend these sense organs. We therefore have toconclude that the topological distance between levels is finite. However thisfinite distance does not mean a finite knowledge. Take, as an image, a segmentof a straight line – it contains an infinite number of points. In asimilar manner, a finite topological distance could contain an infinite numberof levels of Reality. We have work to do till the end of times.

Thisopen structure of the unity of levels of Reality is in accord with one of themost important scientific results of the twentieth century concerningarithmetic, the theorem of Kurt Gödel[24],which states that a sufficiently rich system of axioms inevitably leads toresults which are either undecidable or contradictory. The implications ofGödel’s theorem have considerable importance for all modern theories ofknowledge, primarily because it concerns not just the field of arithmetic, butall of mathematics which include arithmetic. The Gödelian structure of levelsof Reality implies the impossibility of a self-enclosed complete theory.Knowledge is forever open.

The zone of non-resistance corresponds to thesacred — to that which does not submit to any rationalization.Proclaiming that there is a single level of Reality eliminates the sacred, andself-destruction is generated.

The unity of levels of Reality andits complementary zone of non-resistance constitutes what we call thetransdisciplinary Object.

Inspired by thephenomenology of Edmund Husserl[25],I assert that the different levels of Reality are accessible to our knowledgethanks to the different levels of perception which are potentially present inour being. These levels of perception permit an increasingly general, unifying,encompassing vision of Reality, without ever entirely exhausting it.

As in the case of levels of Reality, thecoherence of levels of perception presupposes a zone of non-resistance toperception.

The unity of levels of perceptionand this complementary zone of non-resistance constitutes what we call the transdisciplinarySubject.

In a rigorous way, we see that “levels ofperception” are, in fact, levels of Reality of the Subject, while “levels of Reality” are, infact, levels of Reality of the Object. Both types of levels imply resistance.

The two zones of non-resistance oftransdisciplinary Object and Subject must be identical for thetransdisciplinary Subject to communicate with the transdisciplinary Object. Aflow of consciousness that coherently cuts across different levels ofperception must correspond to the flow of information coherently cutting acrossdifferent levels of Reality. The two flows are interrelated because they sharethe same zone of non-resistance.

Knowledge is neither exterior norinterior: it is simultaneously exterior and interior. The studies of theuniverse and of the human being sustain one another.

The zone of non-resistance plays therole of a thirdbetween the Subject and the Object, an Interaction term, which acts like asecretly included middle which allows the unification of the transdisciplinarySubject and the transdisciplinary Object while preserving their difference. Inthe following I will call this Interaction term the Hidden Third.

Our ternary partition {Subject, Object, Hidden Third } is, of course, different from the binarypartition{ Subject vs. Object } of classical realism.

The emergence of atleast three different levels of Reality in the study of natural systems - themacrophysical level, the microphysical level and cyber-space-time (to which onemight add a fourth level - that of superstrings, unifying all physicalinteractions) - is a major event in the history of knowledge.

Based upon ourdefinition of levels of Reality, we can identify other levels than the ones innatural systems. For example, in social systems, we can speak about theindividual level, the geographical and historical community level (family,nation), the cyber-space-time community level and the planetary level.

Levels of Reality are radicallydifferent from levels of organization as these have been defined in systemicapproaches[26]. Levels oforganization do not presuppose a discontinuity in the fundamental concepts: severallevels of organization can appear at one and the same level of Reality. Thelevels of organization correspond to different structures of the samefundamental laws.

The levels of Realityand the levels of organization offer the possibility of a new taxonomy of themore than 8000 academic disciplines existing today. Many disciplines coexist atone and the same level of Reality even if they correspond to different levelsof organization. For example, Marxist economy and classical physics belong toone level of Reality, while quantum physics and psychoanalysis belong toanother level of Reality.

The existence of different levels ofReality has been affirmed by different traditions and civilizations, but thisaffirmation was founded either on religious dogma or on the exploration of theinterior universe only.

The transdisciplinaryObject and its levels of Reality, the transdisciplinary Subject and its levelsof perception and the Hidden Third define the transdisciplinary model ofReality. Based on this ternary structure of Reality, we can deduce otherternaries of levels which are extremely useful in the analysis of concretesituations:

Levels of organization– Levels of structuring – Levels of integration 

Levels of confusion– Levels of language – Levels of interpretation 

Physical levels –Biological levels – Psychical levels 

Levels of ignorance– Levels of intelligence – Levels of contemplation 

Levels of objectivity– Levels of subjectivity – Levels of complexity 

Levels of knowledge– Levels of understanding – Levels of being 

Levels of materiality– Levels of spirituality – Levels of non-duality

Iformulated the idea of levels of reality already in 1976, during apost-doctoral stay at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, after stimulatingdiscussions with Geoffrey Chew, the founder of the bootstrap theory and othercolleagues. My main motivation was the fact that this idea offered a logicalsolution to the incompatibility between the theory of relativity and quantummechanics. I interpreted this incompatibility as the necessity of enlarging thefield of Reality, by abandoning the classical idea of a single level ofReality.

In 1981, I wasinterested by the idea of veiled reality of Bernard d’Espagnat[27],but I realized that his solution is not satisfactory and I therefore decided topublish my findings in an article published in 1982[28]and later, in an elaborated form, in 1985, in the first edition of my book We,the particle and the world[29].

In 1998, I had a bigsurprise to discover the idea of « levels of Reality », expressed ina different form, in a book by Werner Heisenberg, Philosophy - Themanuscript of 1942[30]. This book had a quite astonishing history: itwas written in 1942 but it was published in German only in 1984. I read theFrench translation of the book in 1998. There is not yet, to my knowledge, anEnglish translation of this book.

The philosophy ofHeisenberg is based on two main ideas: the first is the notion of levels ofReality corresponding to different modes of embodying objectivity in terms of therespective process of knowledge and the second is the gradual erasing of thefamiliar concept of 3-dimensional space and 1-dimensional time.

For Heisenberg, realityis “ the continuous fluctuation of the experience as captured byconsciousness. In that sense, it can never be identified to a closed system[...]”[31].By “ experience ”, he understands not only scientific experiments butalso the perception of the movement of the soul or of the autonomous truth ofsymbols. For him, reality is a tissue of connections and of infinite abundance,without any ultimate founding ground.

“ One can neverreach an exact and complete portrait of reality ”[32]- writes Heisenberg.

The incompleteness of physical lawsis therefore present in his philosophy, even if he makes no explicit referenceto Gödel.

Heisenberg asserts manytimes, in agreement with Husserl, Heidegger and Cassirer (whom he knewpersonally), that one has to suppress any rigid distinction between the Subjectand Object. He also writes that one has to renounce the privileged reference tothe exteriority of the material world and that the only way to understand thenature of reality is to accept its division in regions and levels.

The similarity with myown definition of reality is striking, but the differences are also important.

By “ region ofreality ” he understands a region characterized by a specific group ofrelations. His regions of reality are, in fact, strictly equivalent to thelevels of organization of contemporary systemic thinking.

His motivation fordistinguishing regions and levels of reality is identical to my own motivation:the break between classical and quantum mechanics.

Heisenberg classifiesthe numerous regions of reality in only three levels, in terms of the differentproximity between the Object and the Subject[33].He deduces that the rigid distinction between exact and human sciences has tobe abandoned, a fact which sounds very, very transdisciplinary.

Heisenberg’s first levelof reality corresponds to fields which embody objectivity in an independent wayfrom the knowledge process. Classical physics, electromagnetism and the twotheories of relativity of Einstein belong to this level.

The second levelcorresponds to fields inseparable from the knowledge process: quantummechanics, biology, the sciences of consciousness (like psychoanalysis).

Finally, the third levelcorresponds to fields created in connection with the knowledge process. Hesituates there philosophy, art, politics, the metaphors concerning God, thereligious experience and the artistic creativeexperience.

If the first two levelsof Heisenberg totally correspond to my own definition, the third one mixeslevels and non-levels (in other words, the zones of non-resistance). Thereligious experience and the artistic creativeexperience can not be assimilated to levels of Reality. They merely correspondto crossing levels in the zone of non-resistance. The absence of resistance andespecially the absence of discontinuity in the philosophy of Heisenberg explainthe difference between his approach and mine. A rigorous classification ofregions in levels can not be obtained in the absence of discontinuity.

Heisenberg insists onthe crucial role of intuition: “Only an intuitive thinking – writesHeisenberg – could bridge the abyss between old and new concepts; theformal deduction is impotent in realizing this bridge […]”[34].But Heisenberg did not draw the logical conclusion concerning this impotence offormal thinking: only the non-resistance to our experiences, representations,descriptions, images or mathematical formalisms can bridge the abyss betweentwo levels. This non-resistance restores the continuity broken by levels.



c.      Thelogical axiom: the included middle


The incompleteness ofthe general laws governing a given level of Reality signifies that, at a givenmoment of time, one necessarily discovers contradictions in the theorydescribing the respective level: one has to assert A and non-A at the sametime. This Gödelian feature of the transdisciplinary model of Reality is verifiedby all the history of science: a theory leads to contradictions and one has toinvent a new theory solving these contradictions. It is precisely the way inwhich we went from classical physics to quantum physics.

However, our habits of mind,scientific or not, are still governed by the classical logic, which does nottolerate contradictions. The classical logic is founded on three axioms:

1. The axiom of identity: A is A.

2. The axiom ofnon-contradiction:A is not non-A.

3. The axiom of the excluded middle: There exists no third term T (“T”from “third”) which is at the same time A and non-A.

Knowledge of the coexistence of the quantum world and the macrophysicalworld and the development of quantum physics have led, on the level of theoryand scientific experiment, to pairs of mutually exclusive contradictories (Aand non-A): wave and corpuscle, continuity and discontinuity, separability andnon-separability, local causality and global causality, symmetry and breakingof symmetry, reversibility and irreversibility of time, and so forth.

The intellectual scandal provoked by quantum mechanics preciselyconsists in the fact that the pairs of contradictories that it generates areactually mutually exclusive when they are analyzed through the interpretive filterof classical logic.

However, the solution is relatively simple: one has to abandon the thirdaxiom of the classical logic, imposing the exclusion of the third, the includedmiddle T.

History will credit Stéphane Lupasco (1900-1988)[35]with having shown that the logic of the included middle is a true logic, mathematicallyformalized, multivalent (with three values: A, non-A, and T) andnon-contradictory[36].

In fact, the logic of the included middle is the very heart of quantummechanics: it allows us to understand the basic principle of the superpositionof “yes” and “no” quantum states.

Heisenberg was fully conscious of the necessity of adopting the logic ofthe included middle. “There is – writes Heisenberg – a fundamentalprinciple of classical logic which seems to need to be modified: in classicallogic, if one assertion has a meaning, one supposes that either this assertionor its negation has to be true. Only one of the sentences “There is a tablehere” and “There is no table here” is true: tertium non datur, i.e. there is not a thirdpossibility and this is the principle of the excluded middle. […] In quantumtheory, one has to modify this law of the excluded middle. If one protestsagain any modification of this basic principle, one can immediately argue thatthis principle is implicated in the ordinary language […]. Consequently, thedescription in ordinary language of a logical reasoning which does not apply tothis language would mean simply a self-contradiction.”[37]

Our understanding of the axiom of theincluded middle — there exists a third term T which is at the same time Aand non-A — is completely clarified once the notion of “levels ofReality”, not existing in the works of Lupasco, is introduced.

In order to obtain a clear image ofthe meaning of the included middle, let us represent the three terms of the newlogic — A, non-A, and T — and the dynamics associated with them bya triangle in which one of the vertices is situated at one level of Reality andthe two other vertices at another level of Reality. The included middle is infact an included third. If one remains at a single level of Reality, all manifestation appearsas a struggle between two contradictory elements. The third dynamic, that ofthe T-state, is exercised at another level of Reality, where that which appearsto be disunited is in fact united, and that which appears contradictory isperceived as non-contradictory.

It is the projection of the T-stateonto the same single level of Reality which produces the appearance of mutuallyexclusive, antagonistic pairs (A and non-A). A single level of Reality can onlycreate antagonistic oppositions. It is inherently self-destructive if it iscompletely separated from all the other levels of Reality. A third term whichis situated at the same level of Reality as that of the opposites A and non-A,cannot accomplish their reconciliation. Of course, this conciliation is onlytemporary. We necessarily discover contradictions in the theory of the newlevel when this theory confronts new experimental facts. In other words, theaction of the logic of the included middle on the different levels of Realityinduces an open structure of the unity of levels of Reality. This structure hasconsiderable consequences for the theory of knowledge because it implies theimpossibility of a self-enclosed complete theory. Knowledge is forever open.

The logic of the included middledoes not abolish the logic of the excluded middle: it only constrains itssphere of validity. The logic of the excluded middle is certainly valid forrelatively simple situations, for example, driving a car on a highway: no onewould dream of introducing an included middle in regard to what is permittedand what is prohibited in such circumstances. On the contrary, the logic of theexcluded middle is harmful in complex cases, for example, within theeconomical, social, cultural, religious or political spheres. In such cases itoperates like a genuine logic of exclusion: good or evil, right or left, heavenor hell, alive or dead, women or men, rich or poor, whites or blacks. It wouldbe revealing to undertake an analysis of xenophobia, racism, apartheid,anti-semitism, or nationalism in the light of the logic of the excluded middle.It would also be very instructive to examine the speeches of politiciansthrough the filter of that logic.

There is certainly coherence amongdifferent levels of Reality, at least in the natural world. In fact, an immenseself-consistency — a cosmic bootstrap — seems to govern theevolution of the universe, from the infinitely small to the infinitely large,from the infinitely brief to the infinitely long. A flow of information istransmitted in a coherent manner from one level of Reality to another in ourphysical universe.

The included middle logic is a toolfor an integrative process: it allows us to cross two different levels ofReality or of perception and to effectively integrate, not only in thinking butalso in our own being, the coherence of the Universe. The use of the includedthird is a transformative process. But, at that moment, the included thirdceases to be an abstract, logical tool: it becomes a living reality touchingall the dimensions of our being. This fact is particularly important ineducation and learning.

It is important to note that thecombined action of the ontological and logical axioms engender the notion of paradox. The paradox is the suspension ofthe contradictories (A, non-A) in the space between two levels of Reality.Therefore, there is no need to introduce paradox as a 4th axiom of transdisciplinarity[38].

Recent findings in the physiology ofthe brain give a particularly deep understanding of the action of the includedmiddle. High technology tools, like the single photon emission computedtomography, allow to rigorously visualizing the blood flow patterns in thebrain during so different activities like solving a mathematical problem or Zenmeditation. Different specialized zones of the brain are now identified. Ofcourse, the notion itself of “reality” is empty without the brain participation.This does not necessarily mean that the brain creates reality. Merely we cansay that we have inside ourselves an apt apparatus of perceiving reality.

Based on these neurophysiologicaldiscoveries, Andrew Newberg and Eugene d’Aquili introduced a series of cognitiveoperators, whichdescribe the general functions of the human mind[39].Between them, of particular interest for us are the binary operator and theholistic operator.

The binary operator means the “humanbrain’s ability to reduce the most complicated relationships of space and timeto simple pairs of opposites – above and below, in and out, left andright, before and after, and so on” and it “gives the mind a powerful method ofanalyzing external reality”[40].The brain constructs in such a way, during the evolutionary process, a binaryrepresentation of the world, very useful for survival in a hostile environment.However, culture extended this binary representation, in terms of exclusivecontradictories, to ethical, mythological and metaphysical representations,like good and evil, the space-time background of such representations beingerased. The binary operator describe, in fact, the neurological operations ofthe inferior parietal lobe[41].The classical logic is a product of the inferior parietal lobe.

In its turn, the holisticoperator “allows usto see the world as a whole. […] The holistic operator most likely rises fromthe activity of the parietal lobe in the brain’s right hemisphere.”[42]The holistic view is also a product of the evolutionary process. When ourancestors where confronted with a wild animal, the binary representations werenot sufficient for survival. If our ancestors spent their time in analyzing thedifferent parts of the wild animal and the associated pairs of the mutuallyexclusive contradictories, they would be simply killed and we would not be hereto think about excluded or included middle. The holistic operator erasescontradictories and therefore is connected with the action of the includedmiddle.


d.     Thecomplexity axiom: the universal interdependence

There are several theories ofcomplexity. Some of them, like the one practiced at the Santa Fe Institute,with the general guidance of Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel Prize of Physics, aremathematically formalized, while others, like the one of Edgar Morin, widelyknown in Latin America, are not.

In the context of our discussion,what is important to be understood is that the existing theories of complexitydo not include neither the notion of levels of Reality nor the notion of zonesof non-resistance[43].However, some of them, like the one of Edgar Morin[44],are compatible with these notions. It is therefore useful to distinguishbetween the horizontal complexity, which refers to a single level of reality andvertical complexity, which refers to several levels of Reality. It is also important tonote that transversal complexity is different from the vertical,transdisciplinary complexity. Transversal complexity refers to crossingdifferent levels of organization at a single level of Reality.

In a paradoxical way, in fundamental physics, complexity is embedded inthe very heart of simplicity. Indeed, popular works state that contemporaryphysics is a physics where a wonderful simplicity rules (in fact, morerigorously said, simplexity rules), through fundamental “building-blocks” - quarks, leptons, andmessengers of the physical interactions. But for physicists working insidephysics, the situation appears as infinitely more complex.

For example, according to the superstring theory in particle physics,physical interactions appear to be very simple, unified, and subordinate togeneral principles if they are traced within a multidimensional, 11-dimensionalspace–time (10 dimensions of space and 1 dimension of time) and involve anincredible energy, corresponding to Planck’s mass. But complexity appears atthe moment of describing our familiar world, which is characterized by fourdimensions and by low energies. Unified theories are at their strongest at thelevel of general principles, but they are very poor at describing thecomplexity on our own level of reality. It is interesting to note in passingthat the superstring theory has emerged thanks to string theory, which in turnemerged from the bootstrap theory, which embodies a particular form of the oldprinciple of universal interdependence. Bootstrap describes not only theinterdependence of all existing particles, but also of the general laws ofphysics.

From a transdisciplinary point of view, complexity is a modern form ofthe very ancient principle of universal interdependence. This recognitionallows us to avoid the current confusion between complexity and complication.The principle of universal interdependence entails the maximum possiblesimplicity that the human mind could imagine, the simplicity of the interactionof all levels of reality. This simplicity can not be captured by mathematicallanguage, but only by symbolic language. The mathematical language addressesexclusively to the analytical mind, while symbolic language addresses to thetotality of the human being, with its thoughts, feelings and body.

It is interesting to note that the combined action of the ontological,logical and complexity axiom engenders values. Therefore, there is no need tointroduce values as a 4th axiom[45].The transdisciplinary values are neither objective nor subjective. They resultfrom the Hidden Third, which signifies the interaction of the subjectiveobjectivity of the transdisciplinary Object and the objective subjectivity ofthe transdisciplinary Subject.


3. Paths of theFuture


Nobody can predict thefuture. In the transdisciplinary approach, our linear time“past-present-future” is an anthropomorphic construction, a crude approximationof the living time.The living time is linked to the intersection of the space-times associatedwith all the levels of Reality. We can decipher the traces of the future in thesand of the present moment if we decide to open our eyes. In that sense I speakabout “paths of the future” and not “paths for the future”. Everything existsin the present moment, and the past and the future.

After a long hibernationof a quarter of century after Piaget, transdisciplinarity is experiencing anaccelerated movement in the 90’s. Today, transdisciplinary activities are flourishingin many parts of the world[46].Transdisciplinary institutes, associations and networks are being created inBrazil, in France, in Italy, in Canada, in Romania, in South Africa, inSwitzerland. Important international conferences dedicate entire sessions ontransdisciplinarity, in Russia, in Turkey, in Canada, in Austria, in USA, inHolland and in other countries. Transdisciplinary magazines are published oneafter another in several countries and on the Web. A surprisingly big number oftransdisciplinary books were published in the last few years, covering anamazingly diverse range of subjects, such as education, “science and religion”studies, economics, management, therapy, geography and landscape studies,post-colonialism, nursing, health social science, storybook activities forchildren or even studies of the work of Jacques Derrida from transdisciplinarypoint of view. Two editing houses in France, one in Brazil and one in Romania founded“Transdisciplinarity” series. A quite new phenomenon, transdisciplinarylectures are given in several universities in USA, in Spain, in Romania, inFrance, in Brazil and even transdisciplinary chairs are created.

We live now in a newperiod of the advancement of transdisciplinarity.

The theory oftransdisciplinarity is fully developed. Now the time for action has arrived. Inthe past, our actions were concentrated in the field of education, a fact whichis natural because of the central role of education in individual and sociallife. But now we have the ethical obligation to extend our activities in thescientific, social, political and spiritual sectors.

 Let me describe, in few words, what kindof actions are, in my opinion, of an urgent nature.


a.      Developmentof transdisciplinary higher education


The transdisciplinaryeducation, founded on the transdisciplinary methodology, allows us to establishlinks between persons, facts, images, representations, fields of knowledge andaction and to discover the Eros of learning during our entire life. Thecreativity of the human being is conditioned by permanent questioning andpermanent integration.

The epistemologicalaspects of transdisciplinarity presented above were studied, on a practicallevel, in 1997, at the International Congress held in Locarno “What Universityfor Tomorrow? Towards the Transdisciplinary Evolution of Education”, organizedunder the sponsoring of UNESCO, CIRET and the Government of Ticino[47].The Locarno Congress was based on the CIRET-UNESCO project on transdisciplinaryeducation[48] and on theDelors Report[49]. Theparticipants adopted the Declaration of Locarno. Experiments conforming to therecommendations of the Locarno Congress were already made in differentcountries: Brazil, Canada, France, Romania, USA, Switzerland, Argentina andSpain. The Locarno Congress stimulated also a rich theoretical reflection, inparticular on the invention of new methods of education in relation with thenew technologies[50]. En entirerecent issue of the E-zine “Transdisciplinary Encounters” was dedicated toexperiences in transdisciplinary education[51]Similar experiments were done, independently of the Locarno Congress, indifferent countries.

One of the importantpoints is that we accumulated a lot of useful data from practical work,justifying one of the basic assumptions of the transdisciplinary education. Intransdisciplinarity, we always talked about three types of intelligences: theanalytical intelligence, the feeling’s intelligence and the intelligence of thebody. This idea is similar to the idea of multiple intelligences developed byHoward Gardner[52]. Thedifference with the theory of Gardner is that we speak, in fact, about a newtype of intelligence, founded upon the equilibrium between mind, body andfeelings. Transdisciplinary education is an integral education. A person is therefore not confinedto choose a job connected with his or her own type of intelligence, but he orshe is able to perform his or her freedom of choice, through the internalflexibility between the three types of intelligence which, in fact, anybodypossesses.

At the beginning, ourclaims sounded exotic, like a new utopia. It is very encouraging that recentscientific works in biology, as the one of Antonio Damasio[53],demonstrate the cognitive dimension of feelings and emotions. Also, in a very stimulatingbook, Jean-Louis Revardel showed the extraordinary pertinence of the axioms oftransdisciplinarity in studying the universe of affectivity[54].

Another significantpoint is that important work on the formation of transdisciplinary educatorswas already performed, for example in Brazil, through the persistent andrigorous actions of CETRANS[55],[56],[57]and several other Brazilian organizations and universities, in Romania[58]and in France, due to the academic work performed at the University of Tours[59],[60]and in other French universities.

In fact, networks oftransdisciplinary educators are now present in different countries. They allowus to think of three new stages in transdisciplinary education.

First of all, it isimportant to introduce in as many as possible universities courses ontransdisciplinarity. Of course, transdisciplinary courses are not very rare,but we know about only one example of course on transdisciplinarity, i.e. about theepistemological foundations and practical applications of transdisciplinarity.The Claremont Graduate University (CGU), one of the highest rated universitiesin United States, recently instituted a new transdisciplinary courserequirement for all doctoral students. The mission of CGU is to prepare adiverse group of outstanding individuals to assume leadership roles in theworldwide community through teaching, research and practice in selected fields.At Claremont, all PhD students must now take a "T course"("T" for "transdisciplinary") sometime in the first twoyears of their program. CGU already has a rich tradition of transdisciplinaryactivities[61]. There arealready two transdisciplinary chairs at CGU. The example of CGU can be followedby many other universities, of course by adaptation to the local conditions.

A second importantdevelopment would be the creation of a PhD in transdisciplinary studies. Thereare several examples of transdisciplinary PhD theses[62],but they are all performed in a given discipline. There is even a PhD thesis inphilosophy, on the foundations of transdisciplinarity[63].However, the time has now arrived to create a specific PhD, intransdisciplinary studies. It will create the appropriate space for academicstudies and also for social action in the field of transdisciplinarity. It willalso allow students with transdisciplinary interests to find an appropriateplace to accomplish their research. The very prestigious StellenboschUniversity in South Africa is at an advanced stage of creating such a PhD.

A third importantdevelopment would be the creation of a Virtual Global TransdisciplinaryUniversity. This can be realized, due to the existence of transdisciplinarynetworks in several countries and due to extraordinary advancement ofinformatics today.


b.     Towardsa human model of health


In many contemporarysocieties, the human being is more and more a collection of numbers, codes andelectronic files. The physical body itself is seen as a juxtaposition of genes,cells, neurons and internal organs, each organ and part of this organ beingunder the control of super-specialists who do not communicate between them. Ofcourse, high technology treats these organs, prolonging our life, and nobodycan complain about this positive fact. However, no high technology can treatthe entirety of the human being.

In thiscontext, transdisciplinarity can contribute to the emergence of a new healthsystem. One might think that this is again a utopia, an unnecessary luxury.However, empirical data accumulated show that transdisciplinary teams, actingin the field of health, can bring about a better quality health care system– a system which succeeds in simultaneously satisfying our bodily, mentaland psychical needs whilst, at the same time, reducing the costs of having totreat all the different maladies and disorders.

Very interestingtransdisciplinary experiences were performed in Québec, in Canada, where theInstitute for Health Research of Canada (IRSC) is assisting such initiatives. Ican mention the activities of the transdisciplinary team of Patrick Loisel[64],Professor of Medicine at the University of Sherbrooke, acting in the field ofworkplace handicaps, which affect more than one million of Canadians per year aswell as the transdisciplinary team of Daniel Boisvert[65],Professor at the University of Québec at Trois RiviŹres, acting in the field ofintellectual deficiencies, which affect more than one million persons in Québecand France. Interestingly enough, these experiences directly show thepertinence, on a very concrete level, of the three pillars of transdisciplinarity.


c.      Scientificstudies on consciousness


“Consciousness” was, a fewyears ago, a forbidden word in scientific research, as a kind of magicreminiscence. However, scientists began slowly to recognize that there is amissing link between neurons and the human being. John Eccles, Nobel Prize ofPhysiology and Medicine, is amongst the pioneers in this regard[66].

Like quantum mechanics,the scientific theory of consciousness will certainly be a collective creation.It is important to create transdisciplinary teams involving neurophysiologists,physicists and other disciplinary specialists of exact and human sciences,animated by a transdisciplinary attitude. Brain and mind, like anything in thisworld, involve different levels of Reality and perception. I am personallyconvinced that consciousness is the ultimate frontier of the science and of thephilosophy of 21st century and that transdisciplinarity has verymuch to contribute to this advancement of science.


d.     Dialoguebetween cultures and between religions


The transdisciplinary model ofReality allows us to define three types of meaning:

1. Horizontal meaning - i.e. interconnections at onesingle level of Reality. This is what most of the academic disciplines do.

2. Vertical meaning - i.e. interconnections involvingseveral levels of Reality. This is what poetry, art or quantum physics do.

3. Meaning of meaning - i.e. interconnections involvingall of Reality - the Subject, the Object and the Hidden Third. This is theultimate aim of transdisciplinary research.

It may seem paradoxicalto speak about cultures and religions in transdisciplinarity, which seem torefer, by the word itself, to academic disciplines. However, the presence ofthe Hidden Third explains this fake paradox.

The crucial differencebetween academic disciplines on one side and cultures and religions on theother side can be easily understood in our approach. Cultures and religions arenot concerned, as academic disciplines are, with fragments of levels of Realityonly: they simultaneously involve one or several levels of Reality, one orseveral levels of perception and the non-resistance zone of the Hidden Third.

Technoscience is entirely situatedin the zone of the Object, while cultures and religions cross all the threeterms: the Object, the Subject and the Hidden Third. This asymmetrydemonstrates the difficulty of their dialogue: this dialogue can occur onlywhen there is a conversion of technoscience towards values, i.e. when the techno-scientificculture becomes a true culture[67].It is precisely this conversion that transdisciplinarity is able to perform.This dialogue is methodologically possible, because the Hidden Third crossesall levels of Reality.

Technoscience has a quiteparadoxical situation. In itself, is blind to values. However, when it entersin dialogue with cultures and religions, it becomes the best mediator of thereconciliation of different cultures and different religions.


e.      Creationof networks of networks


The existence oftransdisciplinary networks is today a fact of life. Of course, this processwill continue in the future.

The very existence ofthese networks signifies that the number of transdisciplinary experts iscontinuously increasing. These researchers are certainly not “experts” in theusual meaning of this word: they are not ultra-specialists of a very narrowdiscipline. However they are transdisciplinary experts, because they haveknowledge of the methodology of transdisciplinarity, because they are involvedin practical applications of transdisciplinarity and because they are sociallyattached to transdisciplinary values. These transdisciplinary expertsconstitute the seeds of transdisciplinary local networks. These networks haveto link in order to form networks of networks, crucially important for actionsat a national or regional level. In the not too distant future, these differentnetworks of networks will join in order to form a planetary network ofnetworks, which will be the seed of the transdisciplinary culture.

The transdisciplinaryculture is a necessity of our time, due to two contradictory facts: on oneside, the inner evolution of knowledge and, on the other side, the process ofglobalization.

The inner evolution ofknowledge is marked by the already mentioned disciplinary big-bang. It istherefore more and more difficult to understand the complexity of our worldtoday and to take appropriate decisions: an expert in one discipline isignorant of thousands and thousands of other disciplines. The decision-makersare confronted with this fact.

From another angle,globalization is requiring, by its own dynamics, to built bridges and linksbetween different areas of knowledge and between different views of the world.If globalization is to be reduced only to the economic dimension, it will inevitablylead to new exclusions and a new form of slavery. Globalization with a humanface, serving the human being, requires a transdisciplinary culture, able toharmonize different fields of knowledge, different cultures and different viewsof the world.


f. Create livingsustainability examples


In April 2005, I had theprivilege of visiting the Lynedoch EcoVillage Development just outsideStellenbosch in South Africa where I witnessed an emerging example insustainable living. Lynedoch EcoVillage Development is a very good workingexample of an integrated sustainable development approach where strategies and action plans arebeing consciously pursued and implemented to connect social, economic and ecologicalobjectives whilst incorporating technologies that spans the energy, water,waste, and sanitation and building materials fields. Lynedoch is also alearning and educational hub. As a socially mixed community – kept apartby years of racist policies and practices – it is organized around not onlya child-centered learning precinct, but it is also home to the SustainabilityInstitute whichoffers a MPhil degree in Sustainable Development where students from across theAfrican continent can learn about sustainability in action.

Although my visit was abrief one, I was left with a deep sense of having encountered a real-lifeexample of where the principle of the included middle is not just talked aboutin theoretical terms, but where it is being pursued in all sorts of creativeand practical ways. What Professor Mark Swilling and his wife Eve Annecke havemanaged to achieve in a relatively short period of five years is worthy ofbeing replicated on different scales and in many parts of the world[68].From a transdisciplinary point of view, if our aim is to not only understandthe world, but to also find solutions to the complex problems facing us alltoday, including having to change the systems of reference which produce theseproblems, then we simply have no choice but to act decisively in our search foralternative, sustainable modes of living. In the ‘Planetary Era’ there is noone single, big problem – only series of overlapping, interconnectedproblems – what Edgar Morin so aptly described as a ‘polycrisis’[69].How we as the human species are going to respond to these over the next decadeor two might very well be decisive for our peaceful and continued existence onthe Earth. From a transdisciplinary point of view, it is our duty andresponsibility to use all the means at our disposal – spiritual, theoreticaland practical – to find sustainable solutions to problems which, ifremain unresolved, will affect each one of us on this beautiful planet ours– rich and poor, young and old, Muslim and Christian, believer andnon-believer, male and female, North and South, West and East.


g. Building a newspirituality


“Spirituality” is acompletely devaluated word today, in spite of its etymological meaning as“respiration”, in an act of communion between us and the cosmos. There is a bigspiritual poverty present on our Earth. It manifests as fear, violence, hateand dogmatism. In a world with more than 10000 religions and religiousmovements and more than 6000 tongues, how can we dream about mutualunderstanding and peace[70]?There is an obvious need for a new spirituality, conciliating technoscience andwisdom. Of course, there are already several spiritualities, present on ourEarth from centuries and even millennia. One might ask: why is there a need fora new spirituality if we have them all, here and now?

Before answering to thisquestion, we must face a preliminary question: is a Big Picture still possiblein our post-modern times? Radical relativism answers in a negative way to thisquestion. However its arguments are not solid and logical. They are in fact verypoor and obviously linked to the totalitarian aspect of the political andphilosophical correctness expressed by the slogan “anything goes”. For radicalrelativists, after the death of God, the death of Man, the end of ideologies,the end of History (and, perhaps, tomorrow, the end of science and the end ofreligion) a Big Picture is no more possible. For transdisciplinarity, a Big Pictureis not only possible but also vitally necessary, even if it will never beformulated as a closed theory. We are happy that the well-known art critic SuziGablik, in her book Has Modernism Failed?[71], joined recently our point of view.The last chapter of her book is entitled “Transdisciplinarity –Integralism and the New Ethics”. For her, the essential intellectual change ofthe last two decades is precisely transdisciplinarity. This change wasanticipated by the big quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958), NobelPrize of Physics, who wrote fifty years ago: “Facing the rigorous division,from the 17th century, of human spirit in isolated disciplines, Iconsider the aim of transgressing their opposition […] as the explicit orimplicit myth of our present times.”[72]

The first motivation fora new spirituality is technoscience, with its associated fabulous economicpower, which is simply incompatible with present spiritualities. It drives a hugelyirrational force of efficiency for efficiency sake: everything which can bedone will be done, for the worst or the best. The second motivation for a newspirituality is the difficulty of the dialogue between differentspiritualities, which often appear as antagonistic, as we can testify in oureveryday life. The new phenomenon of a planetary terrorism is not foreign tothese two problems.

In simple words, we needto find a spiritual dimension of democracy. Transdisciplinarity can help withthis important advancement of democracy, through its basic notions of “transcultural”and “transreligious”[73].

The transcultural designates the opening of allcultures to that which cuts across them and transcends them, while thetransreligious designatesthe opening of all religions to that which cuts across them and transcends them[74].This does not mean the emergence of a unique planetary culture and of a uniqueplanetary religion, but of a new transcultural and transreligious attitude. The old principle “unity indiversity and diversity from unity” is embodied in transdisciplinarity.

Through thetranscultural, which leads to the transreligious, the spiritual poverty couldbe eradicated and therefore render the war of civilizations obsolete. Thetranscultural and transreligious attitude is not simply a utopian project— it is engraved in the very depths of our being.




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Pierre-LéonardHarvey and Gilles Lemire, La Nouvelle Éducation - NTIC, transdisciplinaritéet communautique, Les Presses del'Université Laval / L'Harmattan, Québec - Paris, 2001, foreword by BasarabNicolescu.

Werner Heisenberg, Philosophie - Le manuscrit de 1942, Paris,Seuil, 1998. Translation from German and introduction by Catherine Chevalley.German original edition : Ordnung der Wirklichkeit, Munich, R. Piper GmbH § KG, 1989. Published firstin W. Blum, H. P. Dürr, and H. Rechenberg (ed.), W. HeisenbergGesammelte Werke, Vol. C-I :Physik und Erkenntnis, 1927-1955, Munich, R. Piper GmbH § KG, 1984, pp. 218-306. To my knowledge, there is no translation inEnglish of this book.

------------------------- Physique et philosophie, Albin Michel, Paris, 1971, translation from theEnglish by Jacqueline Hadamard.

Edmund Husserl, Méditations cartésiennes, Vrin, Paris, 1966. Translated form the German by Gabrielle Peiffer and Emmanuel Levinas.

Erich Jantsch, a. “ Vers l’interdisciplinarité et latransdisciplinarité dans l’enseignement et l’innovation “, in Léo Apostelet al. (1972).

----------------- b. TechnologicalPlanning and Social Futures, Cassell/Associated Bussiness Programmes, London, 1972.

André Lichnerowicz, “ Mathématique et transdisciplinarité “, inLéo Apostel et al. (1972).

Locarno Declaration,Rencontres Transdisciplinaires No11, June 1997

Patrick Loisel,Marie-José Durant, Renée-Louise Franche, Michael Sullivan and Pierre Cote, “ L’enseignementtransdisciplinaire d’une problématique multidimensionnelle – Lediplôme de 3e cycle en prévention d’incapacités au travail “, RencontresTransdisciplinaires No 18– Expériences d’éducation transdisciplinaires, March 2005.

Stéphane Lupasco, Le principe d’antagonisme et la logique de l’énergie- ProlégomŹnes ą une science de la contradiction, Hermann & Cie, Coll. “Actualités scientifiques et industrielles”,n° 1133, Paris, 1951 ; 2nd ed. Le Rocher, Monaco, 1987, foreword by BasarabNicolescu.

Edgar Morin, La méthode I – Lanature de la nature, Paris, Seuil, 1977.

--------------- La méthode II - Lavie de la vie, Paris, Seuil, 1980.

--------------- La méthode III - Laconnaissance de la connaissance, Paris,Seuil, 1986.

--------------- La méthode IV– Les idées, leur habitat, leur vie, leurs mŌurs, leurorganisation, Paris, Seuil, 1991.

--------------- La méthode V– L’humanité de l’humanité,Paris, Seuil, 2001.

--------------- La méthode VI– Ethique, Paris, Seuil,2004.

--------------- ‘Réforme de pensée, transdisciplinarité, réforme del'Université’ :

--------------- Seven Complex Lessons inEducation, Paris,UNESCO, 1999. Translated from the French by Nidra Poller.

Edgar Morin and Anne Brigitte Kern, Terre-Patrie, Seuil, Paris, 1993.

Ernest Nagel and JamesR. Newman, Gödel's Proof, New York University Press, New York, 1958.

Andrew Newberg, Eugened’Aquili and Vince Rause, Why God Won’t Go Away, Ballantine Books, New York, 2001.

Basarab Nicolescu, “Sociologie et mécanique quantique”, 3eMilénaire, no 1, Paris, March-April 1982.

------------------------- Nous, la particule et le monde, Le Mail, Paris, 1985. 2nd edition, Le Rocher, Monaco,“Transdisciplinarité" Series, 2002.

--------------------------“Science as Testimony”, in Proceedings of the Symposium Science and theBoundaries of Knowlege : the Prologue of Our Cultural Past, organised by UNESCO incollaboration with the Cini Foundation (Venice, March 3-7, 1986), Paris,UNESCO, 1986, pp. 9-30.

-------------------------Science, Meaning and Evolution - The Cosmology of Jacob Boehme, with selected texts by JacobBoehme, New York, Parabola Books, 1991. Translated from the French by RobBaker. Foreword by Joscelyn Godwin, afterword by Antoine Faivre.

------------------------ a. La transdisciplinarité, manifeste, Monaco, Le Rocher,"Transdisciplinarité" Series, 1996. English translation: Manifesto ofTransdisciplinarity.New York: SUNY Press, 2002, translation from the French by Karen-Claire Voss.Translation in Portuguese: O Manifesto da Transdisciplinaridade, Triom, Sčo Paulo, 1999,translation by Lucia Pereira de Souza; 2nd edition: 2001.

------------------------b. “Levels of Complexity and Levels of Reality”, in Bernard Pullman (ed.), TheEmergence of Complexity in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. Vatican City, Pontificia AcademiaScientiarum, 1996, pp. 393-417. Distributed by Princeton University Press.Proceedings of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 27-31October 1992, Casina Pio IV, Vatican.

-----------------------a. ‘The Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University, Condition forSustainable Development’, Rencontres Transdisciplinaires No 12, February 1998.

------------------------b. “Gödelian Aspects of Nature and Knowledge”, in Gabriel Altmann and Walter A. Koch(ed.), Systems - New Paradigms for the Human Sciences, Berlin - New York, Walter deGruyter, 1998, pp. 385-403.

------------------------a. “Hylemorphism, Quantum Physics and Levels of Reality”, in DemetraSfendoni-Mentzou (ed.), Aristotle and Contemporary Science, New York, Peter Lang, 2000, Vol.I, pp. 173-184. Introduction by Hilary Putnam.

-------------------------b. “Um Novo Tipo de Conhecimento – Transdisciplinaridade”, in Maria deMello, Vitória de Barros and Américo Sommerman (ed.), Educaćao eTransdisciplinaridade I, UNESCO and Triom, Brasilia, 2000, pp. 13-30.

-------------------------“Fundamentos Metodológicos do Diálogo Transcultural”, in Edgar de AssisCarvalho and Terezinha Mendonća (ed.), Ensaios de Complexidade 2, Porto Alegre, Editora Sulina,2003.

-------------------------“Toward a Methodological Foundation of the Dialogue Between theTechnoscientific and Spiritual Cultures”, in Liubava Moreva (ed.), Differentiationand Integration of Worldviews, Eidos, Sankt Petersburg, 2004.

Basarab Nicolescu (ed.),Transdisciplinarity – Theory and Practice, Hampton Press, Cresskill, New Jersey, 2005(forthcoming).

Helga Nowotny, “ThePotential of Transdisciplinarity”:

Patrick Paul, Formation du Sujet et transdiciplinarité, L’Harmattan, Paris-Budapest-Torino, 2003.

Patrick Paul and Gaston Pineau (ed.), Transdisciplinarité et formation, L’Harmattan, Paris-Budapest-Torino, 2005.

Wolfgang Pauli, Physique moderne et philosophie, Albin Michel, Paris, 1999, translated from theGerman by Claude Maillard.

Jean Piaget, “L’épistémologie des relations interdisciplinaires”, in LéoApostel et al. (1972).

Jean-Louis Revardel, L’univers affectif – Haptonomie et penséemoderne, Presses Universitaires de France,Paris, 2003.

Templeton Foundation

Julie Thompson Klein, Walter Grossenbacher-Mansuy, Rudolf Häberli, AlainBill, Ronald W. Scholz and Myrtha Welti (ed.). Transdisciplinarity : Joint Problem Solvingamong Science, Technology, and Society - An Effective Way for ManagingComplexity, Basel -Boston – Berlin, Birkhäuser Verlag, 2001.

 “Transdisciplinary PhD Theses”

“Venice Declaration”

Richard Welter (ed.), Transdisciplinarité – Un chemin vers lapaix, CNRS Editions, Paris, 2005.

* Published in Moving Worldviews - Reshapingsciences, policies and practices for endogenous sustainable development, COMPAS Editions,Holland, 2006, edited by Bertus Haverkort and Coen Reijntjes, p. 142-166.

[1]Apostel et al., 1972.

[2]Piaget, 1972, p. 144.

[3]Duguet, 1972, p. 13.

[4] Jantsch, 1972 a, p. 108. The sameideas are expressed in Jantsch, 1972 b.

[5] Lichnerowicz, 1972, pp. 130-131.

[6] Ibid., pp. 127.

[7] Alain Caillé, in “Guerre”, 1996.

[8] Nicolescu, 1985.

[9] “Charter”.

[10] Descombes, 2004.

[11] Heisenberg, 1989, p. 269.

[12] Idem,pp. 363-364.

[13] Nicolescu,1996.

[14] Gibbons, 1994.

[15] Nowotny, 1994 and “The Potential ofTransdisciplinarity”.

[16]Thompson Klein et al., 2001.

[17] Nicolescu,1985, 1986, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002.

[18] Morin,1999.

[19] Galileo,1956, 1992.

[20] Galileo,1992, p. 192.

[21] Nicolescu,1996.

[22] Nicolescu,1996, pp. 54-55.

[23] Freire, 1968.

[24] Nagel andNewman, 1958.

[25]Husserl, 1966.

[26] Camus etal., 1998.

[27]d'Espagnat, 1981.

[28]Nicolescu, 1982, pp. 68-77.

[29] Nicolescu, 1985.

[30] Heisenberg, 1998.

[31] Idem., p. 166.

[32] Ibid., p. 258.

[33] Ibid., p. 372.

[34] Idem, p. 261.

[35] Badescu and Nicolescu (ed.), 1999.

[36] Lupasco, 1951.

[37] Heisenberg, 1971, pp.241-242 ;

[38] Paul, 2003.

[39] Newberg et al., 2001.

[40] Idem, p. 63.

[41] Ibid., p. 51.

[42] Ibid., p. 48.

[43] Nicolescu, 1996, 1998, 2000.

[44] Morin,1977, 1980, 1986, 1991, 2001.

[45] Cicovacki,2003.

[46] Nicolescu(ed.), 2005.

[47] “Locarno Declaration”, 1997.

[48]  “CIRET-UNESCO  Project”, 1997.

[49] Delors, 1996.

[50] Harvey and Lemire, 2001.

[51] Bot (ed.), 2005.

[52] Gardner,1999.

[53] Damasio,1999.

[54] Revardel,2003.


[56] de Mello,2000.

[57] de Mello,2003.

[58] Bertea,2003.

[59] Demol(ed.), 2003.

[60] Paul andPineau (ed.), 2005.

[61] “The Flame”, 2003.

[62] “Transdisciplinary PhD theses”.

[63] Bambara,2002.

[64] Loisel,2005.

[65] Boisvert,2005.

[66] Eccles,1989.

[67] Nicolescu,2004.

[68] Annecke and Swilling, 2004.

[69] Morin and Kern, 1993, p. 109.

[70] Welter (ed.), 2005.

[71] Gablik, 2004. The first edition waspublished in 1984.

[72] Pauli, 1999, chapter “Science andWestern Thinking”, p. 178. Thischapter was first published in 1955, in Europa –Erbe und Aufgabe, Internazionaler Gelehrtehkongress,Meinz.

[73] Nicolescu,1996.

[74] Nicolescu,2003.