First Summer School Program (The Montparnasse Initiative: School of Thinking)

The following is a summary of the first summer school program initiated by The Montparnasse Initiative: School of Thinking. This summer school program was held between July 12th and July 18th 2018 in Paris, France and hosted by the Center for Research and Interdisciplinary (CRI). The main aim of the summer school program was to prototype a curriculum that could be usefully applied within multi-institutional and multi/inter/a-disciplinary contexts. Thus this summer school program aimed to build on the initial prototyping workshop held between March 27th and 29th 2018 which focused on introducing core members and developing preliminary theoretical foundations allowing for the construction of concrete programs.

Video Summary: Prototyping the School of Thinking

Participants (alphabetical order):



Anne Snick Club of Rome
Balthazaar Tirosh
Cadell Last Vrije Universities Brussel (VUB)
Dirk Bruin
Gael Van Weyenbergh Meoh
Genevieve Cron
Gert-Jan Both Institut Curie
Gitta Peyn Formwelt
Helene Finidori University of Hull
Iwona Soltysinska Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego
Kevin Richman Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
Marta Lenartowicz Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
Rolf Pfister Ludwig Maximillian University of Munich (LMU)
Sayfan Borghini Holon Institute of Technology (HIT)
Stefan Blachfellner Bertalanffy Center for the Study of System Science (BCSSS)
Suzanne Dumouchel Center for European Research (CNRS)
Tjorven Harmsen Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space


Video: Thinking, Why Bother?

This first incarnation of the School of Thinking summer program focuses on central questions of purpose and meaning for the future becoming of thought. In the process of internalizing the nature of external appearances the human subject comes to confront the issue of self determination. Thought at this stage of realization comes to perceive a subtle double burden: (1) a deep awareness of its involvement in the creation of the world and (2) a persistent motion which continues beyond external internalization. Thus thought confronts new problems related to its own future creative potential and the radical nature of balancing an ethical freedom with moral social game building with others. In order to get a better understand how the members of our school related to purpose and meaning of creative potential, ethical freedom and social games we explored questions about the nature of knowledge, psychic-social construction and the desire or drive for self-realization.

Why engage with the world? Why not become reclusive?

How to generate meaning? How to stabilize meaning?

What is the nature of thought? What tools can aid thought in its drive?


There were a diversity of participants from the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, public and private sector. These participants perceived their purpose for joining the summer school in a multiplicity of forms:


Specific reasons:

The how of thinking

Embedding academic thought beyond schematized motion

Exploring the principles of thought related to rationality and emotions

Playing in a thought space beyond ‘one model’ (multi-model landscapes)

Experimenting with otherness and relationality as initiator for thinking

How to work with governments to build mindsets open for change and the new

Finding ways to engage citizens, society and co-creation of knowledge

Meaning and understanding of reality

Finding a shared conceptual ground for understanding reality

Trying to understand the nature of self, thinking and attachment

Demonstrating the convergence/divergence of science and spirituality

Understanding how processes of thinking create human world

Human and machine connection

How to pragmatically organize/re-organize firm dynamics in the information age

Exploring the principles of thought related to artificial intelligence

Building a shared language between humans and artificial intelligence

Understanding the place of the human within advanced socio-technological systems

These multiple purposes share the desire to further empower free thought or more deeply embed free thought into the creation of individual and group identities.


Prototyping Curriculum:

Core points:

  • Ancient-historical conceptualization of organ (brain) / thought correlation
  • Challenge of brain sciences for agential responsibility in the 21st century (free will, decision-making)
  • Scientific paradigm of information processing as fundamental to all levels of reality
  • Philosophical problematics of human brain difference/similarity in relation to the rest of the biological order (what makes us unique?)
  • Mysteries of consciousness, self, awareness, sensation and perception become an increasing challenge
  • Attempting to think the brain sciences from perspective of language, society, history in order to approach understanding of emergent causal effects on the brain

Video: The Machine


Core points:

  • Meditation and deep reflection as practice of returning ‘home’ (the true self as ‘best friend’)
  • Observing the observer as second order experimentation bridging a divide between science and spirituality
  • Linguistic relativity vis-a-vis second order observation (‘no universal language’, which means the subject cannot be externally objectified)
  • Self-realization that the most precious thing in the self is meaning creation and/or discovery in the process of becoming
  • Fundamental importance of direct experience for spiritual belief over external second hand symbolic interpretation
  • Learning how to build conceptualization that can allow coherent direction

Video: Welcome to Your Mind

Core points:

  • Tendencies of abstract thought to search for universal principles beyond spacetime
  • Abstraction necessary for communication (packets of meaning allowing coordination)
  • Humans as narrative creating species for collective meaningful orientation (usefully simplify an impossibly complex world)
  • Human knowledge by doing/changing/transforming world for our need (cognitive action)
  • Beauty of thought as iterative process that allows us to change direction of evolution
  • Science as limited by idealized mental models and inability to know nature in-itself (solutions for science: pragmatic function, epistemic utility, multiplicity of models)

Video: Facing the World

Core points:

  • Patterns within images are open to a multiplicity of interpretations
  • Power of subjectivity to abstract patterns and create stories/narratives
  • Playing with pattern interpretation important for self-exploration/discovery
  • Relation to images can be expressed on an individual emotional level
  • Relation to images can be expressed on a collective political level
  • Learning how to handle differences in processes of convergent interpretation requires an art of distributed thinking and open conversation

Video: The Patterns of Thought

Core points:

  • The importance of understanding the space of thinking before determinate content, variation or form emerge in the human subject (indeterminate thought space)
  • In thinking together variability and differences between individuals in the social group setting are inevitable due to relativity of individual experience
  • Psychodynamics of systems thinking enters domain beyond the rational: anxious systems (emotionally driven systems)
  • The feeling dynamics of a group (feeling knowledge) is necessary for any transformative social intervention
  • In group formation we can find sophisticated working groups (driven by internal motivation) and defense mechanism groups (driven by external reaction)
  • In all grouping phenomena we can see the emotional emergence of dependence on a leader figure, fight or flight or freeze, pairing, and uni-directional oneness.

Video: Colours and Intensities

Core points:

  • How to communicate with the other (human subject) to enhance thinking?
  • Dominant method of communication seems to be conquering the world in concept/narrative (winning over or losing to others, in an argumentative debate style)
  • Alternative method could be framed as speaking as listening and listening as speaking (supporting others in their self understanding)
  • In true identity or persona freedom with the other human subject we can allow and invite self inconsistency, incoherence and contradiction in our conceptualizations
  • We can grow by playing in forms and concepts that are indeterminate so communication and thinking can coincide
  • To understand the other human subject we must learn the language of the other (attempt to embody the logic of the other as we embody our own logic)

Video: Thought in Touch

Core points:

  • The origin of philosophy as the origin of thought and its relation to the existential problems and tensions of human existence
  • The founding gesture of thought is a meditation on existence and non-existence, presence and absence, something and nothing, 1 and 0, which comes to determine community life
  • Plato’s Academy was a thought community founded on the axiom of understanding geometrical structure, exclusive membership and dedication to ideal social existence
  • Epicurean communes were thought communities dedicated to cultivating long-term forms of happiness based on an understanding of the pleasure principle
  • Christian religion formed thought communities based on absolute relation to the truth as unity of God in order to formulate a historical destiny of thought to conquer death
  • The history of philosophy is the history of thought communities attempting to understand the nature of being and meaning of human existence, a tradition we carry today

Video: Story Time

Core points:

  • Internal states of high intensity make it difficult to think and interact (this requires an emotional ‘containment’ with the other)
  • Theory of irrationality can be interpreted as a defense against high emotional anxiety (emotional core corrodes or breaks down reason)
  • Anxiety as defense mechanism for a threat to ego stability and coherence (and can thus be considered contextually as a useful tool for the formation of a human subject)
  • Humans have unconscious needs for attention, love, recognition, approval in a psychodynamic systemic context
  • In contexts when unconscious needs are unsatisfied thought will tend to try to prove ‘one truth’ and attach with a ‘strong certainty’
  • Desires for emotional containment originate in infantile development (good/bad mechanisms of inner/outer projections) and can become expressed in adulthood

Video: Containing

Core ideas:

  • Dialectical thinking as eternity of historical reason (situated between deconstructive thought and metalinguistic thought)
  • Metaontology or ‘map as territory’ inscribes epistemology into ontology for analysis of symbolic order
  • Retroactivity allows present conceptualization to transform historical notions (e.g. reconceptualizing Platonic unity with movement, unconsciousness, and impossibility)
  • Dialectics as movement of reason in contradictory/oppositional existence (triadic logic: thesis, antithesis, synthesis; meta-triads of being, history, unconsciousness)
  • Dialectical formulas of contradiction/antagonism (A=B) structure analysis of dialectical horizon (science, politics, religion, philosophy, art, love and other forms)
  • Need for a return to serious metaphysics in order to resolve paradoxes of 21st century society/civilization

Video: Dialectical Thinking (in course) / Dialectical Thinking (YouTube) 

Core ideas:

  • Philosophy approaches basic questions related to the nature of thought itself
  • Epistemology as study of what we know and what we can know
  • Kantian turn: mind allows you to perceive and think time and space (a priori conceptualization)
  • Processes of thinking allows us to combine existing information into new information in a process of: observation → deduction → induction → abduction
  • Thought frontier mystery: how do we transform information and share insights?
  • Constructing reflective epistemological maps: networks of thought (mind map) to better understand our own conceptual territory (associations)

Core ideas:

  • Classical science based on reductionism with the idea that we could understand nature on a fundamental level by analyzing basic components/parts
  • Complexity science approaches phenomena dismissed by reductionist science (emergence, connectivity, adaptive systems, qualitative transitions)
  • Complexity is defined by deep uncertainty, contingency and robust dynamics (non-linear/non-mechanistic)
  • Emergence and open-ended universe points towards possibility of new causal structure (higher order phenomena are ontologically fundamental)
  • Origins of form in self-organization (local interactions forming whole), autopoiesis (circular event recreating itself), and complex adaptive systems (learning across time)
  • Networks as new geography allowing to conceptualize agent-medium interactions where actors build themselves and the world in feedback processes

Video: Complexity Thinking


Core ideas:

  • Patterns are how we perceive the world, in our own minds and in the minds of others
  • Pattern thinking is about sense-making, decoding/encoding our inner worlds and our boundaries with others
  • Patterns are the matter of our thoughts, the key elements to learning new information
  • Patterns can help us gain a clearer understanding of systems and complexity, on many different dimensions, levels and scales
  • Patterns can help us make new connections, form new creative ideas and allow us, escape negative habits and build positive habits
  • Patterns help us externalize our minds, enhance collective understanding and connect different forms of agency

Video: Pattern Thinking

Core ideas:

  • Power of thought in forming distinctions from a background
  • Deep thought does not stick on a distinction but can play with a multiplicity of distinctions in the same image/background
  • Circularity as a symbol and metaphor for self-observation against linear external observation
  • Beyond fighting for conceptual territory we need new languages and spaces for communication
  • Indeterminate forms (potentiality) are unpredictable: we don’t know what they are or what they will become (because they involve our own future transformations)
  • Space of becoming structured by 4 forms: marked, unmarked, undetermined, imaginary (we create the whole universe from this quadratic structure)

Video: Thinking in Complex Re-Entry Forms

Core ideas:

  • Scientific method and research design differ with respect to individuation because scientific method has pre-structure and research design is heuristic
  • Systems science emphasizes relational networks that form holistic units
  • Systems are organized in structural and functional hierarchies that operate at multiple scales of reality and at multiple levels of complexity
  • Systems evolve across time by encoding information that can be received or sent internally and with other systems
  • Systems are regulated by internal subsystems and also contain models of other systems in their environment
  • The observer in systems science (practitioner) is conceived of as within a loop relating to a situation with a framework and interacting with a methodology

Video: Systems Thinking

Core ideas:

  • Ikigai is a Japanese concept representing an attempt to structure ‘a reason for living’ by infusing meaning in being across the whole of a lifetime
  • Stabilizing meaning across a whole lifetime is balanced at the intersecting rings of passion (what you love to do), mission (what the world needs), profession (what you can be paid for) and vocation (what you are good at)
  • The structure of the rings are organized in such a way that if you remove one ring the other rings collapse in on themselves, revealing a formula of lack for why you need to balance all four dimensions of life
  • If you can’t integrate what you get paid for you will have no wealth; if you can’t integrate what the world needs you will feel useless; if you can’t integrate what you love you will feel empty; if you can’t integrate what you are good at you will feel uncertainty
  • YouTube lecture: structural geometry of Ikigai concept has parallels with the structural geometry of the imaginary-symbolic-real rings in psychoanalysis and the idea of impossible knots in quantum gravity
  • YouTube lecture: if we think the Ikigai concept from a psychological-physical perspective we can integrate the ‘reason for living’ of the human subject into fundamental theory

Video: Ikigai (in course) / Ikigai (YouTube)

Core ideas:


Core ideas:

  • Meoh is a proposal for a new socio-technological layer facilitating the emergence of a trust architecture capable of metastabilizing relations based on emotional resonance
  • The function of this trust architecture is situated in relation to an information age paradox of living in a world structured by high collective intelligence but low social resonance
  • We hope that this trust architecture allows for the creation of a new discourse about adaptability of hierarchical human organizations in a world of constant change
  • The first project for this trust architecture is planned to be developed in relation to a recommender system for European researchers (their publications and networks)

Working Paper:  Transformative Social Ecosystem Dynamics: A psychological architecture of emotional trust / Meoh



In our conclusions regarding the nature and experience of the event we engaged in an open discussion where everyone had a chance to ask a question to any participant in the circle. The general conclusion was that the event was a useful first attempt at generating a novel approach to deeply meaningful-purposeful communication and engagement with opportunity for future growth and maturation. The aim for the group was to create the space where the ‘human being’ could become front and center in the structural design of the project. Here the idea of the ‘human being’ becoming front and center in the structural design refers to the idea that the participants of the project will be able to express a stronger sense of self in relation to ideas and others, and develop a stronger capacity for free and critical thought.

However, many participants also felt that we had a lot of work to do in order to build coherence and direction in order to make this group something that could concretely add value to interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary academic and professional networks. In order to build coherence and direction we need to trust more in the emergence of a collective space where new forms of leadership and collaboration have a chance to become meta-stabilized across time. This process will require a lot of failure and mistakes, and will require an openness to inconsistency and incoherence where necessary to maintain the original directives of being a place for free human expression and exploration. If this organization becomes just another social system reproducing its goals at the expense of free human creative expression then we will have not succeeded in bringing for a qualitative difference that can make a real difference in our world.


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