Prigogine and Stengers

Nobel prize-winning physicist Ilya Prigogine “The End of Certainty” (1996, 1997 English 2nd Ed.) is a book recommendation (by David Morey, fellow Pirsigian) I read in 2002.

I say “read”, but my very brief dismissive reference then didn’t amount to much, amidst a brain dump of chaotic early reading:

“Ilya Prigogine – The End of Certainty. – Disappointing, given the guy’s credentials and the title – seems mainly a packaging of Chaos and Complexity. Will need to re-read once I’ve followed some of the references further.”

I’ve no recollection of re-reading it until the last few days (more on which later) – but I can see the follow-up references included the excellent philosophical works of Heisenberg and Schrödinger.

My only other reference back then (2003) was to note that Prigogine had been a participant at the “Einstein Meets Magritte” conference in 1995 at which Pirsig had delivered his “Subjects, Objects, Data and Values” paper. Literally just before Prigogine’s book was published.

Anyway between then and now, I’ve made only one passing reference to Prigogine – a trivial reference in a draft (but important topic) essay that got side-tracked by a meta-argument about disagreement and credibility – weird!

But somewhere along the line, I did actually read it before now. I can tell because whilst annotating the current read I am annotating my previous – naïve –  marginal / highlighting annotations.

Isabelle Stengers has been on the unread reading list recently, but I’d never noticed how much she had been a Prigogine collaborator until this read. In the original 1996 (French) edition she had in fact been co-author, but had apparently asked to be removed from co-authorship of the 1997 translation – more weird!

Suffice to say, I am finding the current read absolutely fascinating. It is full of things important to my thought journey. Systems thinking as a response to complexity. The inevitability of evolution of life and intelligence. The entropy-as-ignorance / knowledge-as-neg-entropy views as more fundamental than any quantum / relativity physics. And a strong Carnot and Gibbs emphasis before Boltzmann and later systems thinkers.

Again, I’ll probably not do any further “review” now before returning it to shelves of half-unread books, but it’s now full of notes I’ll need to incorporate into my wider writing.


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