Apithological Systems Theory: Learnings from Ecology


  • Will Varey


systems theory, ecology, epistemology, deutero-learning


Apithology is the field of study that considers the generative dynamics of living systems. A distinguishing feature of apithological praxis is the inclusion of the effects of the system dynamics of human thought. This involves the depiction of systems of thought as complex inter-linked hierarchies in multi-spatial arrangements. This generates distinctive questions for the framing of its observations.

One field which has considered the problems of epistemological choices in formulating similar observations is the discipline of systems ecology. The proposition of this paper is that the learnings gained from the field of systems ecology may inform a theory of praxis for apithological systems inquiries.

Bateson (1972) proposed that deutero-learning (i.e. Learning II) occurs when there is a progressive change in the rate of proto-learning (i.e. Learning I) by adaptation of learning to different contexts. The presence of proto-learning within one field of thinking (i.e. ecological systems) provides the opportunity for deutero-learning in the field of thought (i.e. apithological systems).

Extending from the study of ecological systems, five questions are noted as junctures for the selection of framing choices in the observation of complex systems. Using a criteria for philosophical coherence, a conjunction of natural and service systems is proposed. From this base, five category errors of thinking that change the quality of the results of those framing choices are identified.

Within this premise, specific learnings gained from the study of ecological systems are applied as deutero-learning opportunities and adapted for the study of thought-ecologies. To conclude, apithological principles applying those learnings are proposed for the observation of systems of thought.

From this analysis, five observational protocols are derived as requirements for the praxis of apithology. Reflections are provided on the systemic effect of coherency in the presence or absence of these five considerations on the human capacity for knowing and unknowing. This leads to a third-order insight in practice for the enablement of generativity in the ecology of human thought.

Author Biography

Will Varey

PhD Candidate, Murdoch University, Western Australia.



How to Cite

Varey, W. (2013). Apithological Systems Theory: Learnings from Ecology. Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2012, San Jose, CA, USA. Retrieved from https://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings56th/article/view/1821



Socio-Ecological Systems