A Book Analysis of "The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living" by Fritjof Capra

Literature Review, 2011

14 Pages, Grade: A



Capra’s new understanding of life is premised on the study of living organisms His understanding is that life “grows inevitably out of increasing complex of cell molecular relationships”. It is these relationships that he regards as networks. It is on this premise that he believes that life is a chain of networks. In the book” The Hidden connections”, Capra considers these networks as the very essence of life. His view is that every living organism is interdependent and as such co-exists with other organisms for survival. Capra tries to conceptualize this network concept in living systems by presenting a framework integrating the biological, cognitive and social dimensions of life. By integrating these three dimensions of life, Capra tries to justify the essence of the interconnections that equally exist in various human and social organizations. He does so by providing a systematic approach to life’s critical issues which continue to have negative impacts on human and social organizations globally. This essay will therefore try to analyse Capra’s new understanding of life from a biological, cognitive, and social point of view. Our summary view of Capra’s new understanding of life shall then be provided.

The Nature of Life

Capra’s biologically view of life starts by his analysis of the cell. Capra emphasizes the point that all living organisms are made of cells and it is only through the cell metabolism processes that living organisms sustain themselves. This is the process of self - generation of living organisms. According to Capra, it is the distinctive individual function of each component in a living organism that makes it genetically possible for it to continually re-generate itself. He however argues that even though cells are made of various constituents, life is not found in these constituents but in the processes that interconnect these constituents. This is the more reason why Capra seems to emphasize the point of interdependence among living organisms. In his view, “no individual living organism can exist in isolation” (Schiffman, 2011). This means that all organisms in whatever form always interact with one another in various ways. Interactions between organisms may be for nourishment, reproduction, or protection and may benefit one of the organisms or both of them. These interactions exist in a form of networks. It is these networks of interconnections among living organisms that Capra refers to as “the hidden connections”. It is these interconnections and processes that operate in living organisms that Capra regards as the very essence of life.

When we relate the self – generation of cells in living organisms, we are made to equally agree to Capra’s assertion that the same may be applicable to social and organizational systems. However, we are recognizant to the fact that “life is not solely determined genetically but that there are other epigenetic factors that emerge in the process” (Schiffman, 2011). It is these factors, according to Capra, that react to both the physical and chemical contrast of particular environments. What is of essence here is the interaction between the living organisms and their environments. Living organisms by nature are environmentally linked. Our understanding is that living systems are habitant in different environments and their close relationships among themselves result from the environment in which they find themselves. These relationships connect living organisms systematically.

A family is a simplest example of a systematic form of interaction or connections. When we look at an individual person in a family, we see him/ her being surrounded by other family members who are found in his/her environment.Taking a family as a network of living organisms, we can find that all members of the family are interconnect or interact with each other in some way. In any ordinary family, children interact with the father for protection while the mother’s connection to the children might be for nourishment. The mother - father relationship could be naturally for family reproduction, nourishment and protection. This implies that every member of the family is connected to someone for the purpose of interdependence or co-existence. This is the survival extinct in living organisms. Any disturbances in these connections may have serious implications on the wellbeing of the family. In instances where the father of the house is the only breadwinner and in the event that he passes on, the family setup may be greatly disturbed eventually leading it to disintegrate. This is usually common in situations where the father in a family is solely dependent upon for every family provision. This is the biological dimension of life where living organism are understood to re-generate or re-create themselves through the network metabolism processes.

Santiago theory of Cognition

However, other than the biological dimension of life, Capra regards the cognitive dimension of life as a unique characteristic of living organisms. In the Wikipedia, “cognition is the scientific term for mental processes”. In other words, it is the term that is mostly associated to the mind. It is the mind that is central to information processing and knowledge application in living organisms. The major attribute of the mind is linked to the production and understanding of language which Capra regards as a unique mental function of living organisms. The concept of cognition, in Capra’s view, is another key characteristic of all life closely related to the human and social organizations. He argues that the interconnection between cognition and life is one important aspect in living organisms. In his understanding, every sphere of life has a cognitive connection and that all interactions of living systems with their environment are cognitive.

Although Capra prescribes to the Santiago theory of cognition which recognizes mental activity as key to every organizing activity of all living systems, his systemic view of the mind goes beyond the notion that the mind is only a “thinking thing but as a process where the entire structure of the organisation participates”.(Schiffman,2011). His view is that living systems, unlike non living systems, use their minds to perceive things. In his view, this “higher-order consciousness or reflective consciousness involves a level of cognitive abstraction that includes the ability to hold mental images. This ability in his view is what gives humans the ability to formulate a value system and act accordingly” (Schiffman, 2011)

Systematic Approach to life

What is prominent in the systematic understanding of life is the exhibition of similar patterns of organisation by different living systems. According to Capra, when this understanding is extended to the social domain, there is every possibility to “apply this knowledge of life’s basis patterns and principles of organisation and specifically the understanding of living networks to social reality” (Schiffman, 2011). However, this is not without the understanding that no universal principles of organization can be applicable to all systems in whatever form they can be. These are only assumptions which may only apply to varying situations.


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A Book Analysis of "The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living" by Fritjof Capra
( Atlantic International University )  (School of Business and Economics)
Seminar Cultural Development 1D
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book, analysis, hidden, connections, science, sustainable, living, fritjof, capra
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Stephen Gumboh (Author), 2011, A Book Analysis of "The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living" by Fritjof Capra, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/231159


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