Subj: Bertalannfy's personal library and letters for sale
Date: 4/5/04 8:11:37 PM Central Daylight Time
From: (elohimjl)
To: (Rob McElroy)
CC:, (wolfgang hofkirchner), (Mark Davidson), (M.Yolles ntl), (Jennifer Wilby)



Dear Rob,


I thank your message April 2, 2004 where you have expressed "I have recently discovered the personal library of Dr. Ludwig von Bertalanffy, which I am planning on selling."


Besides you have written some essential statements describing your finding:


"There are six banana boxes full of books, pamphlets, and papers,... probably weigh upwards of 300 pounds


...found a detailed type-written bibliography of everything Bertalanffy wrote throughout his career


the six boxes contain just about everything he ever published, plus scores of books by other authors. be sold to an institution where it could be appreciated and researched as a whole"


you have noticed that "many insights can be gleaned from examining a great thinker's library" having in mind that "Bertalanffy is known as the Father of Systems Theory and was a Nobel prize nominee"


After reflecting for a while on the these statements the suggested examination appears indeed quite encouraging because you have also mentioned: "Also contained in the boxes, were approximately 400 personal letters, which Bertalanffy either sent or received throughout his 49-year career (1923-1972). The letters all relate to his professional career and are primarily correspondences with other scientists, doctors, institutions, etc. The very detailed index -- lists the subject of each letter, plus it is cross-referenced by author."


In addition you commented that "There are also many books (20+)"


Then, you have concluded saying: "There is enough information here for someone to write a new book about Bertalanffy"


Finally you asked me: "Please email me if you have an interest in purchasing the collection"






Consequently, as I am interested in the bibliography and letters that Bertalanffy and his wife left for encouraging those of us who may have the chance of having access to this material, to get new insights from his way of thinking, I might essay to imagine what could be the price of the six banana boxes full of books, pamphlets, and papers... weigh upwards of 300 pounds comprising 400 personal letters, and many books (20+)


Could we make an appraisal assuming a certain value for every pound of weigh, and a prize for every letter and another prize for every pamphlet, paper and book.


It will be certainly improper to argue that a pound of weigh may cost 1 or 10 or 100 dollars. Neither seems proper to simply assume that a letter could be priced for 1 or 5 or 10 dollars. Even in the case books, pamphlets and paper I cannot dare to suggest that each ought to be priced for 10 or 20 or 50 dollars


Definitely, I recognize that I do not have any experience in searching on my own how much should cost to purchase the whole collection, mainly because during my whole life I never have learnt to get more money than what I required for surviving together with my wife (a first one) and four children in México city and together with a second wife and other four children in Krems, Austria.


What else could I do about my interest in purchasing the collection after recognizing that we have managed to live in Austria since 1992 when due to particular circumstances I decided to get my pension from Instituto Politécnico Nacional where I was a professor on Systems Engineering.


Though I was originally invited to come to Austria as guest professor for a project "Cultural Aspects of Automation" pretty soon I encouraged myself to continue exploring the meaning and use of Systems Thinking in searching how to improve the situation of the human society as I tried for the Mexican society several years before. However, it was in the 90's when started for me to be frankly evident the deterioration of the whole civilizing adventure due inevitably to his inhuman tendencies. Something that I did not notice properly when I first read "Robots, Men and Minds" published by Bertalanffy in 1967.


Anyhow my interest to continue learning from Bertalanffy thinking is enormous and continuously grows because I have been able to recognize his humanitarian concern following apparently the way of thinking of Lewis Mumford and Aldous Huxley. A concern that was developed while sharing some views with Kenneth Boulding, Anatol Rapoport and Ralph Gerard who participated in the creation of the Society for General Systems Research in 1954 (it has been transformed in the actual ISSS).


Therefore, I must say openly that it was in Austria - around 1996 - when I discovered the personality of Bertalanffy due in a large measure to the excellent work carried out by Mark Davidson who wrote "UNCOMMON SENSE. The Life and Thought of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, father of General Systems Theory"


So far so good about my personal interest in learning from Bertalanffy contributions


On the other side it appears certainly quite sensible your statement "I would personally like to see the entire collection stay together, and be sold to an institution where it could be appreciated and researched as a whole"


Therefore I dare to consider that perhaps the best perspective has been already conceived by Wolfgang Hofkirchner who has commented in a message that this bibliographic material would provide "the foundations for establishing something like a bertalanffy center for the study of systems thinking - an idea i have been revolving around since our bertalanffy conference."


The comprehension and support given by Wolfgang Hofkirchner of Institute of Design and Technology Assessment (Institut für Gestaltung- und Wirkungsforschung) of Vienna University of Technology, and also the ways he has followed for searching sponsors has made possible:


1) The celebration of the Bertalanffy Aniversary Conference in Vienna (November 2001) in order to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of his Birthday.


2) the creation and maintenance of the website
which intends to disseminate the humanitarian concerns of Ludwig von Bertalanffy who created the Systems Thinking for being used through Top ==> Down approach in order to make possible on purpose a wholistic appraisal of the main human concerns. It is against the assumptions that have proliferated since the time he was alive that have been generated by the robot model of man. A model based on many diverse simplistic simplifications that are making more and more identify what could be the purpose of human beings on Earth conceived by themselves.


3) the operation of
as an Open Forum for making possible to examine how to develop and even make functional the thoughts expressed not only by Bertalanffy but also by many other enlightened minds who have recognized the growing failure of our magnificent (?) civilization.


However, several other intentions seem to justify the presence of the Bertalanffy's papers, pamphlets and books, and his correspondence in Vienna, the town where he was born, was educated, was teaching, was doing research till 1948. Though you are right in saying that "There is enough information here for someone to write a new book about Bertalanffy", in my view the bibliographic material and letters that you have found (in the University at Buffalo, NY ?) will be the best support for the development of the seven aims that we started to examine in the Bertalanffy Anniversary Conference in November 2001.






The main original intention was to recognize once again that Bertalanffy, more than three decades ago, identified some sources of the causality that has generated numerous and always larger problems which altogether, in the year 2001, are clearly recognized as the worst crisis ever faced by humankind. Today, it is already urgently indispensable to create, in our magnificent but also incongruous homosphere, radically new cultural circumstances and social conditions for helping all humans, one way or another but humanely, to create in every society a New Image of Man and Woman that may propitiate the gradual integration of a very new HUMANELY minded Anthropology. This new conception of man is necessary because most humans are increasingly facing the danger of being decerebralized through all kinds of technologies invented in order to convert masses of people into happy automatons that will 'behave' in the ways prescribed by the industrial-military-political establishment as if it were the scientific culmination of many different kinds of empiric actions, carried out during the last civilizing millennia, in order to use the common people as slaves, serfs, servants, lackeys, workers, soldiers,... human resources for building one civilization after another that had unexpectedly collapsed.


This New IMAGE is needed for encouraging everywhere the emergence of humans learning to individually develop their personalities - in accordance with ethical, ethological, biological and ecological criteria - for building a WAY FORWARD for humankind towards the Creation of a Sustainable Society. From now onward, this is the main challenge for humans who voluntarily accept to play a responsible role on the Earth, willing to learn to be conscious enough of the terrestrial possibilities that make possible to design, implement and maintain human purposes, and to be sufficiently aware not only of the fact that these possibilities are not granted forever, but firstly for recognizing the growing tragedy that is causing the impact of civilizing actions on the Ecosphere, where it is located the Biosphere that until today, but certainly not tomorrow, has supported the anarchistic aggrandizement and nonsensical expansion of one homosphere where billions of human resources are employed for sustaining a civilized way of life that has become, during the 20th century, frankly unsustainable, due mainly to the growing number of people living in miserable conditions.


The possible collapse of the whole civilization will unavoidably become soon a real perspective, unless humans reverse the trends of the prevailing civilization through a very new Entrepreneurship Spirit that may emerge from Business based on Bertalanffy's General Systems Weltanschauung; complemented by public services engaged in rebuilding a new homosphere where decision makers and common people must cooperatively and effectively contribute to deal with the global problems: unemployment, emigration, misery, hunger, starvation, drug-addiction, modern slavery, sexual abuse of children and women, transplantation of organs of people that were condemned to death... which altogether are the causes of a very quick disruption of civilizing requirements. and degeneration of the dynamical features of intended civilizing processes.


The crisis that humankind faces at present, which is de facto the extreme degradation of the human conditions engendered by the colonization that started 500 centuries ago has been very seriously aggravated in this year 2001 by the reaction of some gentlemen (comprised ladies and dames who keep supporting the men's aggressiveness) who have decided to use the super-modernized warfare in order to eliminate all the terrorists who presumably have made up their mind in order to re-create the conditions for a ritual purification of patriarchal societies. The warfare that has determined the sanguinary course of the whole civilization from its very beginnings continues being the stimuli that increases the depravity of modern strategists searching how to develop new and more effective chemical, biological, nuclear,... weapons for destroying the enemies of the human society, but these enemies are already inside the human society. Peace Research as a particular application of general systems thinking is the option that may widen the views of responsible scholars in their search to comprehend the dynamics of conflicts, aggressiveness and eventually wars in order to cooperatively cope with them.


For tackling properly these five human concerns it is necessary the development of two other methodological contributions suggested by Bertalanffy:


Firstly the Development of Perspectivism, as a Systems Epistemology, which aims firstly at making explicitly evident how the validity of knowledge depends on the PERSPECTIVE from which that knowledge is perceived and secondly at making clearer how the disciplinary and mutidisciplinary validity as a way of getting closer and closer, though diversely, to the 'absolute truth' of every aspect of the whole reality. Obviously all the perspectives, as views explicitly expressed of a certain aspect of the reality, are valid. At the same time none of them is more authentic than the other. This perspectivism is the proper alternative between nihilism - the rejection to make an effort towards the absolut truth because it is something impossible to reach - and absolutism - the dogmatism that has generated the scientism, which assigns value to nothing but science itself; and has produced the bloodstained fanaticism in religious and political actions


The Bertalanffy's perspectivism in practice oblige every learned person, while learning, to be aware of his/her relative ignorance, and to recognize that using his/her brain to the utmost he/she must increasingly try to be aware of the limits of his/her (human) powers of cognition, because "perception is not a reflection of 'real things' [but rather] is an interaction between knower and known". It means that the result of every observation is partly the result of the viewpoint and methodology of the observer. The Perspectivism as Systems Epistemology is derived from the belief that all what seems to be objective perception of real facts and events is filtered by the biological features of the observer and his/her psychocultural achievements.


Secondly the theoretical development and oractical implementation of "Wholism (or Holism) as the of building the way forward into the 21st century". It aims at searching further how human beings may and also should learn to develop their way of thinking for clearly seeing the forest before they may start dealing with one or another tree; and also for grasping the meaning of a tree before trying to handle one of the leaves or a flower or a fruit. This intention takes into account that the Bacon's experimental method and the Galileo's resolutive or analytic method which made possible the emergence of the scientific method against the methaphysical approach (apparently holistic) of the middle Ages have caused an increasing number of larger difficulties to the evolvement of human thinking which intrinsically searches first to get a gestalt, global, molar, integrative, organismic, synergistic,...or holistic or wholistic.view of the reality. Humans could not survive if they were not capable of getting immediately holistic insights about their concerns. But humans may and perhaps even should push ahead the evolvement of their thinking recognizing (W)Holism as an indispensable step.

(W)Holism is an approach that transcends both the metaphysical approach of the Middle Ages and the scientific method, which has shown during the last century that the successful conquest and transformation of natural resources carried out by masses of people employed as human resources generates huge and quite undesirable effects (wrongly qualified as side ones) that make its assumed positive contributions more and more questionable. (W)Holism is potentially more than just a global, integrative or gestalt view that simply states that the "whole is more than the sum of its parts" or that 'everything is interrelated with everything else." Its belated emergence as a truly organismic and synergistic view of life on this planet has started to help an increasing number of researchers, scholars and experts to recognize that wholes and parts are all moulded into an inseparable multi-levelled continuum, a living matrix. The ecosphere, the biosphere, the homosphere, the forest, the tree, the leaves, the cells in the leaves, the living beings,... and the molecules are integral components of a substance composed of matter-energy-information which human beings should not continue dividing unilaterally for making short term monetary and financial profits. At present, humankind faces global problems reaching a crisis point. The main reason for this is that prevailing decision-making processes completely ignore the need for respecting a wholeness required to counteract the devastating consequences of 'scientific' fragmentation.






I have been personally engaged in the development of these seven subjects though this work has been delayed by my assumption that I could have done something else in order to contribute to modify the kind of decision making that during the last two years are leading humankind to an apocalypse built de facto through the reasoning of empowered humans and the passive adaptability and resignation of the masses.


I must mention that this intention of mine has also delayed the translation to Spanish of Uncommon Sense written by M. Davidson


I apologize for this long message, but I thought it would be advisable I express my views about the Bertalanffy's personal library that you are selling, though I personally have not financial possibilities. I apologize as well for those arguments of mine that could be consider arrogant.


Best regards