Seminar Francis Heylighen: Life is an adventure

 Life is an Adventure!

An evolutionary-cybernetic unification of narrative and scientific worldviews


ECCO Seminar, Sept. 2009

Francis Heylighen


The worldview of science is based on laws. Laws are supposed to be certain, independent of time, context or agent. The worldview found in literature, myth and religion, on the other hand, is based on stories. These relate a temporal sequence of actions taking place in a particular context with an uncertain outcome. While laws have the advantage of apparent universality and objectivity, stories are more intuitive and easier to assimilate and remember.

This talk argues that recent insights in the theories of evolution, cybernetics and complex adaptive systems [Heylighen, 2008] can help us to bridge scientific and narrative perspectives. These approaches are founded on the concept of agent, an autonomous system that acts on its environment in order to achieve its goals. Given the inevitable uncertainties (dangers, opportunities, surprises...) that a complex environment proposes, an agent's course of action can be conceived as an adventure. The agent can be seen to play the role of the hero in a tale of challenge and exploration that is very similar to the "monomyth", the basic storyline that underlies all myths, legends and fairy tales according to [Campbell, 1949].



Campbell, J. (1949): The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton University Press.  

Heylighen F. (2008): Complexity and Self-organization, in: Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, eds. M. J. Bates & M. N. Maack (Taylor & Francis)


Speaker bio