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What is Order?
What is order? We know that everything in the world around us is governed by an immense orderliness. We experience order every time we take a walk. The grass, the sky, the leaves on the trees, the ﬂowing water in the river, the windows in the houses along the street—all of it is immensely orderly. It is this order which makes us gasp when we take our walk. It is the changing arrangement of the sky, the clouds, the ﬂowers, leaves, the faces round about us, the order, the dazzling geometrical coherence, together with its meaning in our minds. But this geometry which means so much, which makes us feel the presence of order so clearly—we do not have a language for it.
In the world-view initiated by Descartes—and largely accepted by scientists in the 20th century—it is believed that the only statements which can be true or false are statements about mechanisms. These are the so-called “facts” familiar to everyone in the 20th century.
In the world-view I am presenting, a second kind of statement is also considered capable of being true or false. These are statements about the relative degree of life, degree of harmony, or degree of wholeness—in short, statements about value. In the view I hold, these statements about relative wholeness are also factual, and are the essential statements. They play a more fundamental role than statements about mechanisms.
Statements of Fact in the 20th Century
“One door frame is more harmonious and more in keeping with the life of the room than another door frame.” “One door creates more life in the room than another door.” “A pale yellow on this door has more life than a dark grey.” Within the canon of 20th century science, these are not considered statements which can be true or false. They are thought of as statements of opinion. As a matter of principle within the 20th century mechanistic view, statements of this kind may not be considered potentially true or false.
A New Concept of Life
So—my aim in this book is to create a scientiﬁc view of the world in which this concept —that everything has its degree of life—is well deﬁned. We can then ask very precise questions about what must be done to create life in the world—whether in a single room, even in a doorknob, or in a neighborhood, or in a vast region . . . .
I claim that this quality is not merely the basis for a distinction between beautiful things and ugly things. It is something which is detectable as a subtle distinction, in every corner of the world, as we walk about, in the most ordinary places, during the most ordinary events. It is a quality which changes from place to place and from moment to moment, and which marks, in varying degrees, every moment, every event, every point in space.
What we call “life” is a general condition which exists, to some degree or other, in every part of space: brick, stone, grass, river, painting, building, daﬀodil, human being, forest, city. And further: The key to this idea is that every part of space—every connected region of space, small or large—has some degree of life, and that this degree of life is well-deﬁned, objectively existing, and measurable.Cartesian Scientiﬁc Observation
- Objectivity is based on being able to share results
- Observations of limited events that are tied to limited and machine-like view of some phenomenon—creates a circumstance in which we all reach roughly the same results when we do the same experiments. This gives us a shared picture.
- Primarily sight, perhaps hearing, smell, and touch; and the recordings of machines
Alexandrian Scientiﬁc Observation
- The inner feelings of the observer are taken into account
- How does an observation increase or decrease the observer’s feeling of wholeness
- If this sort of observation can be reliably shared, it is as “objective” as Cartesian observation
- Alexander calls it the “Mirror of Self” test
The “Mirror of Self” test developed by Christopher Alexander is also discussed by J.A. Arnfinsen and N.A. Salingaros in this interview:
Please everyone, read the following paper by Richard P. Gabriel at IBM Research. It gives a VERY good introduction to the “Mirror of Self” test!
Let the “Mirror of Self” test guide your life, be always true to your feelings whatever people try to ridicule you! Remember that they are just poor people stuck in a mechanical world-view. This test is based upon scientific empirical findings, and is true! Don't let people mock you for your feelings! They are a true response upon the WHOLENESS of OUR world.
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