Economies of Life: Patterns of Health and Wealth | Bill Sharpe (2010)

Economies of Life argues cogently that there is a ‘default assumption that there is only one economy in our lives – the economy which is the one based on money. Our position is that there are many economies, of which the one based on money is just one, and that they all contribute to the health and sustainability of our shared lives’. To extend this thinking, money is the currency of trade, and art is the currency of experience.

In his collection of five essays, Bill Sharpe uses the principles of ecological thinking to redefine our hitherto narrow understanding of terms like economy and value. The essays consider – with poetic sensitivity and intellectual clarity – what keeps each economy healthy, what sort of wealth each one accumulates and what sort of policies are most supportive of innovation and sustainability in a changing world.

Bill Sharpe and a small group of other IFF members, working with the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol, took as the starting point for their inquiry the question ‘Can we help people who fund the arts develop better policies if we use ecological thinking to understand how the arts work in society and in the economy?’

The insights resulting from Economies of Life offer an ecologically informed and dynamic framework for understanding creativity, the arts and how the arts should be funded into the future.

The Five Essays

  • Homo ecologicus, Homo economicus, Homo poeticus
  • Patterns of Shared Life
  • Art is the Currency of Experience
  • Economies of Life
  • Producing the Future

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Ontology of Observing: The Biological Foundations of Self-Consciousness and of The Physical Domain of Existence | Humberto R. Maturana (1988)

My purpose in this essay is to explain cognition as a biological phenomenon, and to show, in the process, how language arises and gives origin to self consciousness, revealing the ontological foundations of the physical domain of existence as a limiting cognitive domain. In order to do this I shall start from two unavoidable experiential conditions that are at the same time my problems and my explanatory instruments, namely: a) that cognition, as is apparent in the fact that any alteration of the biology of our nervous system alters our cognitive capacities, is a biological phenomenon that must be explained as such; and b) that we, as is apparent in this very same essay, exist as human beings in language using language for our explanations. These two experiential conditions are my starting point because I must be in them in any explanatory attempt; they are my problems because I choose to explain them; and they are my unavoidable instruments because I must use cognition and language in order to explain cognition and language.

In other words, I propose not to take cognition and language as given unexplainable properties, but to take them as phenomena of our human domain of experiences that arise in the praxis of our living, and that as such deserve explanation as biological phenomena. At the same time, it is my purpose to use our condition of existing in language to show how the physical domain of existence arises in language as a cognitive domain. That is, I intend to show that the observer and observing, as biological phenomena, are ontologically primary with respect to the object and the physical domain of existence.

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Two recent articles (Dell, 1985; Held & Pols, 1985a) have explored the problems created for the field of family therapy by a failure to use the term “epistemology” correctly – a failure that has produced a confusion between epistemology and ontology. The major problem is the contradiction of insisting, on the one hand, on the epistemological doctrine that there is no independent reality available to the knower and making, on the other hand, (ontological) claims about how the world really is (e.g., that the world operates by way of circular causality). This article examines Dell’s (1985) attempt, by appealing to Maturana’s doctrine of structure determinism, to resolve a version of this contradiction.

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The attempts to clarify (purify) the conceptual foundations of family therapy by means of “epistemology” have bred excitement, boredom, irritation and confu­sion. In the belief that at least the confusion can be alleviated, the present paper is offered as a study guide and something of a Rosetta Stone for translating the work of Gregory Bateson and Humberto R. Maturana. The paper demonstrates that Maturana’s work is highly compatible with that of Bateson. In addition, several major points of contrast are argued: (1) Maturana’s concept of structure determinism is an explicit ontological claim which directly implies an episte­mology, whereas Bateson delineated an epistemology, but never clearly developed a corresponding ontology; (2) structure determinism is a more general concept than Bateson’s concept of “mind” (i.e., cybernetic epistemology); (3) structure determinism deletes the remnants of objectivity from Bateson’s theory (i.e., “the difference that makes a difference”); and (4) Maturana’s concept of instructive interaction is a more general, nonsystemic version of what Bateson meant when he used the term “epistemological error.” Finally, it is claimed that the emphasis on epistemology has distracted proponents and detractors alike from the essential message of Bateson and Maturana: social systems and all human endeavor must be understood in light of our existence as biological entities that are coupled to a medium. The biological ontology implicit in Bateson’s writings and explicitly delineated in Maturana’s may (at long last) provide a sound foundation for the social and behavioral sciences.

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Social Philosophy and Oncology | G. Baruchello and E. Hjörleifsdóttir (2014)

McMurtry’s work offers a contribution to the understanding, as well as to development of standards for the measurement, of human well-being, so that progress and regress may be interpreted in ways that mainstream economic criteria neglect or fail to ascertain, both in theory and in practice. The importance of determining novel standards and indicators is considerable, and widely acknowledged by many academics and politicians (for example, the 2008–2009 Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission created by the French Government), but above all it is important to reconceptualise economic phenomena so as to re-orient them in line with life-based criteria.

First, it has already been highlighted that the type of ‘growth’ conceptualised and pursued in today’s global market has had systemic negative effects upon life at many levels, to the point of making possible the explanation of said implications by means of a cancer-based explanatory model. ‘Real capital’ as ‘life capital’ is both unseen and harmed by standard economic thought (CSC2013, p. 12).

Second, in the wake of the current economic crisis, the same global market has been proven equally unable to attain ‘growth’ on its own life-blind terms, that is, in terms of pecuniary aggrandisement for money investors and/or managers (cf. Crotty, 2000). ‘Real capital’ as sheer ‘money’ is not there either, especially if one considers that the vast meltdowns of the last few decades have been caused by speculative bubbles in exponentially ‘leveraged’ masses of currency without any ‘grounding’ in ‘a medium of exchange and capital’ such as ‘gold, labour, or livestock’ (CSC2013, p. 12).

The system’s inherent rationality, which economics textbooks presuppose, is to be seriously questioned, and that is what McMurtry’s work does, consistent with Castoriadis’ (2005a, p. 129) poignant characterisation of the Socratic role that philosophers are expected to play in genuinely democratic societies: the possibility and the ability to call established institutions and significations into question. Whether he will be listened to, we do not know. However, responding to a cancer diagnosis by avoiding what alone can work is fatal.

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The Century of the Self (2002) | Adam Curtis

To many in politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly, the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

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Prof John McMurtry – Winning the War of the World – Toronto Z-Day, 2014

John McMurtry shows that a false economic paradigm holds the world in thrall to a global corporate death system masked as market freedom. Liberation is explained as grounded in humanity’s repressed life-value code, life capital bases and civil commons organization which unify across distances and differences.

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The Still Unseen Mothering Life-Ground that Nurtures Us All: The Co-Creative Gifting Source of All Unknown Unknowns

Excerpts from: Vaughan, G. (2015). The gift in the heart of language: The maternal source of meaning. Mimesis. (pp. 40, 411, 424-429, 435-436)

“I also want to give you a typological gift. I believe that solving problems is a kind of gift-giving. The typological problem I want to solve is the one having to do with gender inclusiveness that is addressed in English at present by adding a slash to the gender pronouns he and she, as in s/he. I believe this is a disturbing slash, perhaps phallic and even violent. Including it in the feminine pronoun seems to include these masculine characteristics in the female. Instead, I propose using ‘: ‘ as a sign of nipples which both women and men have, but which directly recall the mother, as in s:he. With this I hope to show that both women and men can follow the maternal model, the model of the gift economy.” (p. 40)

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