State of the art reasoned analysis of complex social-economic systems

Kauffman is saying that the following sort of analysis is useful, in fact essential, but also inherently incomplete and insufficient:

From Ostrom, Elinor, Marco A Janssen, and John M Anderies. 2007. Going beyond panaceas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104, no. 39: 15176-15178, p. 15178:

The study of the governance of SESs [social– ecological systems], and of sustainability science more generally, is an applied science like medicine and engineering, which aim to find solutions for diverse and complex problems. In diagnosing problems, the applied scientist examines attributes of a problem, layer by layer, and focuses on traits that are thought to be essential in a particular context. When an initial solution is adopted, considerable effort is made to dig deeply into the structure of the problem and to monitor various indicators of the system. On the basis of this information, applied scientists change their actions and learn from failures. The study of SESs, however, is not yet a mature applied science, but as the articles in this special feature attest, excellent research that can form the foundation for a mature applied science does exist.

Diagnosing the multiple processes occurring in complex, nested SESs is far more challenging than recommending a favorite cure-all solution to a simplified picture of all fisheries, all forests, or all terrestrial ecosystems. If sustainability science is to grow into a mature applied science, we must use the scientific knowledge acquired in the separate disciplines of anthropology, biology, ecology, economics, environmental sciences, geography, history, law, political science, psychology, and sociology to build diagnostic and analytical capabilities.

So, what sets of attitudes, skills, and experiences are appropriate for engaging with these problems, for being an effective, ethical actor and public leader? What practice, in the Buddhist sense? The answer calls for bringing together the analytic and the reasoned with the ethical and the poetic (are these the right terms?). We return to the question of the relationship between contemplation and action, of the ultimate and historical dimensions, of emotion and logic, heart and head, body and spirit, the necessity to become whole. This is expressed in the Shema, yes?

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