The Holistic Contextualism Worldview

Carlos E. Perez
Intuition Machine
Published in
12 min readAug 15, 2023


Midjourney Generated
Mascolo 2014

Four pervasive worldviews are essential to understanding why we often can’t reach a consensus.


Benefits: Allows prediction and control. Provides testable theories. Aligns with scientific materialism.

Blindspots: Overlooks meaning and purpose. Reduces complexity to simple models. Can be deterministic.

Orientation: Substance. Views behavior as responses determined by stable mechanisms.


Benefits: Captures complexity of contexts. Explains variations. Considers subjective experience.

Blindspots: Can over-contextualize knowledge. Resists quantification. Lacks generalizable theories.

Orientation: Process. Focuses on emergent meanings in cultural/historical contexts.


Benefits: Emphasizes holistic development. Accounts for innate potential. Considers higher purpose.

Blindspots: Teleological assumptions difficult to test. Can tend toward romantic notions of human nature.

Orientation: Process. Views behavior as an unfolding of innate potentials.


Benefits: Provides stable classifications of individual differences. Aligns with essentialist intuitions.

Blindspots: Overlooks emergent processes. Reduces complexity to typologies. Can reify constructs.

Orientation: Substance. Sees behavior as expression of fixed underlying essences.

It’s curious that the conventional American politics doesn’t group any under Organicism.

American Christian Conservatives — Formism

The paper describes formism as focused on identifying fixed essences, traits, or categories. Christian conservatives emphasize adherence to eternal biblical truths and obedience to God’s unchanging will. This aligns with the formist view of fixed essences guiding behavior.

American Christian Leftists — Contextualism

The paper describes contextualism as embracing change, novelty, and multiple interacting factors shaping events. The Christian left focuses more on social justice, which involves assessing complex contextual factors like privilege and oppression. This is more contextualist.

American Communists — Formism

Communists have a rigid ideological commitment to the fixed Marxist view of history moving through set stages based on economic factors as the essence driving change. This belief in an essence guiding history fits with formism.

Effective Altruists — Mechanism

Effective altruists rely on reason, evidence, and measurement to determine the most ethical actions, reflecting a mechanistic, positivist view of utilizing data to understand reality. ‘Family Values’

American Conservatives — Formism

This group values tradition, sees America as having lost its way from its essence, and wants to restore traditional values and heritage. This reverence for past essences reflects formism.

Libertarians — Mechanism

Libertarians trust in the mechanistic operations of free markets and view the economy as a complex machine that runs best when left alone. This fits with mechanistic thinking.

New Atheists — Mechanism

New atheists prize science, reason, and empiricism over faith and religion. This positivist, data-driven epistemology aligns with mechanism.

Silicon Valley Techno-Optimists — Mechanism

Like libertarians and new atheists, techno-optimists believe science and innovation will rationally improve the human condition. This progressive, science-centered view reflects mechanistic thinking.

Social Justice Advocates — Contextualism

Advocates see justice and oppression as complex contextual issues, shaped by history and privilege. This contextualist view contrasts with more categorical views of justice.

Trumpers — Formism

Trumpers idealize an essentialized version of America’s past greatness they want to restore, reflecting formism’s reverence for essences.

Here are some key cognitive biases that tend to align with a Mechanistic worldview:

— Anchoring bias

— Relying too heavily on initial pieces of information when making decisions, similar to how a machine relies on initial inputs.

— Representativeness heuristic — Judging probabilities based on resemblance fits with the mechanistic focus on predictive rules.

— Attribute substitution — Replacing a complex judgment with a more simplistic heuristic aligns with the mechanistic emphasis on algorithms.

— Framing effect — How a choice is framed altering the decision aligns with the mechanistic view of the mind as determining outcomes.

— Gambler’s fallacy — Believing that past random events alter future probabilities fits with mechanistic causality.

— Outcome bias — Judging a decision based on its outcome rather than process aligns with a mechanistic emphasis on determinism.

— Omission bias — Favoring harm caused by omission over harm caused by action fits with mechanistic causality.

— Appeal to probability — Overestimating the likelihood of rare events fits with simulated models of probability.

— Neglect of probability — Failing to account for base rates aligns with rules-based thinking.

— Binary thinking — Viewing events or choices as binary fits with the mechanistic emphasis on deterministic causality. The key aspects are the assumptions of determinism, causality, and rule-based processing that lend themselves to these biases. The mechanistic worldview acts as an interpretive filter.

Here are some of the key cognitive biases that tend to align with a Formism worldview:

— Fundamental attribution error — Attributing behavior to inherent dispositions or traits rather than situational factors fits with the Formist focus on fixed essences.

— Implicit stereotypes — Forming stereotypical views about groups aligns with a focus on categories and types.

— Confirmation bias — Seeking out evidence that confirms one’s existing beliefs about categories and essences.

— Essentialism — Assuming categories have an underlying essence that defines their identity and characteristics.

— Halo effect — Judging someone’s skills and talents based on their appearance fits with a focus on external forms.

— Authority bias — Valuing expertise and authoritative opinions aligns with the idea of innate competence and credibility of forms.

— Conservatism bias — Favoring prior beliefs and resisting change fits with a focus on permanent forms.

— Bias blind spot — Failing to recognize one’s own cognitive biases fits with a belief in the objectivity of one’s viewpoint.

— Illusory truth effect — Equating repetition with truth aligns with the idea that constant forms reflect reality. The key thread is that the Formist emphasis on fixed forms, essences and categories lends itself to cognitive patterns that reinforce those assumptions. The worldview acts as a perceptual filter.

The Holistic Contextualism worldview envisions reality as an interconnected web of co-constructed meanings and relationships. It recognizes that subjective perception plays an active role in how we construct our understanding of the world. However, it emphasizes the importance of sustained critical reflection and empirical verification to minimize the natural biases of human cognition.

This worldview values novelty, possibility and emergence. It views the cosmos as creative while avoiding fixed teleological assumptions. It recognizes that context shapes meaning, but meanings can evolve as contexts change over time.

Holistic Contextualism strives for coherent understanding, but accepts uncertainty. It sees communities as interconnected but avoids assumptions of uniformity. It acknowledges diverse viewpoints, yet resists hostile polarizations.

Overall, this worldview retains the contextualist appreciation for perspective and the organismic thirst for synthesis. However, it tempers these inclinations with vigilance against cognitive biases, emphasizing evidence-based verification and open-ended development. It seeks unification through an inclusive, evolving process of constructing meaning — not an imposed systematic structure. The goal is mindful understanding of an interconnected but complex world.

At the heart of this emerging worldview is a conception of creativity as a vital process of ongoing discovery — not an anomaly, but an integral act of meaning-making.

The Holistic Contextualist ethos resonates with the philosophies explored here in its appreciation for multiplicity and unfolding meaning. Yet it brings a disciplined scrutiny to temper unbridled subjectivity.

Peirce’s semiotic creativity finds synergy in the contextualist spirit of interpretive openness across diverse perspectives. However, meanings are evolving, not absolute. So this interpretive dialogue is actively verified through empirical means, not just subjective validation.

Similarly, Deleuze’s spontaneity of rhizomatic transformations complements the contextualist comfort with uncertainty. But novelty alone is not the goal. Through critical reflection, the past informs the present to avoid declinism.

Alexander’s synthesis of patterns across contexts also aligns with the contextualist eye for interconnection. But correlations are meticulously confirmed, not assumed.

And while the worldview resonates with Bohm’s implicate order and holistic curiosity, perceptions of consensus are grounded in evidence, not projections.

Thus, an integral philosophy of creativity emerges — one that blends perspectival diversity, continuous discovery, and meticulous scrutiny. This worldview envisions creativity as a flowing dialogue between worldviews — a collective weaving of emergent patterns and unfolding meanings, not definitive solutions.

It is a view of embodied creativity that transcends habitual silos and binaries. An inclusive spirit of open exploration is sustained by acknowledging the inevitability of bias in the individual and seeking collective verification.

In sum, this is a worldview that embraces creativity as a vital process of human flourishing and collaborative meaning-making. By synthesizing multiplicity with discipline, it offers a foundation for nurturing creativity as an enlivening, connecting act.

Here is a contrast of the Holistic Contextualism worldview with philosophies underlying the Formism and Mechanistic worldviews:

Where the synthesized worldview sees creativity as an open-ended collective process, Formism and Mechanism view it as discovery of absolute truths.

Formism seeks to reveal universal ideal forms and innate categories. This orientation clashes with the synthesized view of evolving symbolic meaning (Peirce) and unfoldings in the implicate order (Bohm). Formism allows no uncertainty.

Similarly, Mechanism sees creativity as deducing fixed natural laws that determine the machine-like workings of the world. This opposes the contingency and holism underlying the synthesized worldview.

Both Formism and Mechanism rely on predefined structures and schemas. This restricts the spontaneous transformations that fuel rhizomatic creativity (Deleuze).

Their adherence to universal laws also hinders the contextual adaptability in pattern languages (Alexander). Formism and Mechanism assume single correct solutions.

Additionally, the individualism in Formism and Mechanism contrasts the collective, interconnected creativity in the synthesized worldview. Formism focuses inward on ideal forms, while Mechanism seeks to control the external world.

Their notions of creativity are also teleological, oriented toward uncovering absolute truths and universal laws. The Holistic Contextualism synthesis recognizes knowledge as situated and evolving.

While Formism and Mechanism seek to minimize bias and subjectivity through universal objectivity, the Holistic Contextualism view balances empiricism with perspectival diversity. It acknowledges bias but sees collective inquiry as the solution.

In essence, the modernist quest for certainty in Formism and Mechanism conflicts with the postmodern spirit of ongoing discovery in the Holistic Contextualism worldview. Their notions of creativity diverge in their assumptions, aims, and processes. The synthesis offers a more inclusive, integrated, and holistic perspective.

What are the potential obstacles to implementing the Interdependent Contextualism worldview in today’s civilization?

  1. Entrenched individualism and compartmentalization of knowledge — The emphasis on collectivism and interconnectedness contrasts modern individualism and academic silos. Changing these deep paradigms is difficult.
  2. 2. Preference for reductionism and mechanism — The holistic, emergent nature of this worldview conflicts with reductionist, mechanistic views that still dominate science and technology today.
  3. 3. Bias toward profit-driven competition — The collaborative spirit of this worldview opposes today’s pervasive commercialism and consumerism. It is hard to motivate altruism over self-interest.
  4. 4. Resistance to critical pluralism — While diversity is praised, critical scrutiny of all views equally is uncommon today. People tend to reject critique of dominant or favored positions.
  5. 5. Demand for speed and efficiency — The ongoing, open-ended nature of exploration in this worldview conflicts with the premium placed on speed, efficiency, and definitive answers today.
  6. 6. Status quo institutional inertia — Large bureaucracies like corporations and universities cling to established structures. Their inertia poses a barrier to adopting this emerging organizational paradigm.
  7. 7. Lack of incentives for collective inquiry — Individual achievement is primarily rewarded over collaborative meaning-making. Changing incentive structures is challenging.
  8. In summary, the deeply embedded paradigms around knowledge, culture, commerce, authority, speed, institutions, and incentives in the modern world pose obstacles to this worldview which runs counter to many existing social premises and systems. Shifting such fundamental structures is difficult and time-consuming.

Holistic Contextualism worldview offers an important paradigm for navigating the challenges of exponential technology growth and emerging Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) for a few key reasons:

  1. Addresses risks of technological opacity and complexity — As technology grows more complex at an accelerating rate, no one person or group will be able to understand the entire socio-technical landscape. This worldview emphasizes collectivism and critical pluralism to make sense of opaque, complex systems.
  2. 2. Mitigates threats of centralized technological control — The decentralized, egalitarian nature of this worldview counters the tendency toward central control of rapidly expanding technologies like AI. Distributed inquiry and open sharing of knowledge helps prevent concentration of power.
  3. 3. Aligns technology with human values — The emphasis on holism provides a framework for aligning exponentially growing technologies with human values and wellbeing. It resists reductionism or viewing technology only through economic metrics.
  4. 4. Prevents dehumanization and biases in AI — As AGI emerges, the interdependent view of humanity cautions against the dehumanizing risks of AI and biases in algorithmic systems arising from insular development. Diverse participation in AI design is critical.
  5. 5. Fosters responsible innovation — The critical, reflective ethos ensures responsibility and foresight are built into scientific and technological innovation to avoid negative externalities accelerating due to exponential growth.
  6. 6. Promotes adaptability — The open, constantly evolving nature of this worldview provides the cognitive flexibility and lack of dogmatism required to rapidly adapt to exponential changes. But verification tempers reactiveness. In an exponentially changing world, the Interdependent Contextualism worldview offers connectedness, pluralism, reflexivity, and ethical grounding to steer emerging technologies toward collective human flourishing rather than destabilizing risks. It provides urgent guidance for the future.

Here are a few reasons why the Interdependent Contextualism worldview is crucial for effectively addressing climate change:

  1. Highlights interconnectedness — The worldview recognizes the inherent interdependence between humans and nature, emphasizing that climate change impacts every aspect of the biosphere. This counters reductionist views that downplay ecological interconnectedness.
  2. Provides ethical foundation — The holistic concern for collective human flourishing provides an ethical basis for climate justice. This counters views focused solely on economic gain and individual rights.
  3. Embraces pluralism — The worldview accepts diverse systemic perspectives critical for modeling the complex climate system. This avoids insularity and opens innovation.
  4. Demands critical reflexivity — The worldview’s scrutiny of bias encourages examining how human cognitive limitations and worldviews contribute to climate inaction. Self-reflection is needed for transformation.
  5. Enables adaptive change — The evolvability of the worldview fosters gradually adapting social, economic, political, and technological systems to the realities of climate disruption, avoiding rigidity.
  6. Creates urgency for action — The worldview’s appreciation of uncertainty paired with its ethical grounding provides impetus for precautionary action despite lack of definitive predictions.
  7. Requires collective action — This worldview recognizes climate solutions require global collective action and sharing of knowledge, not just individualistic efforts. Collaboration is imperative. In summary, key dimensions like systemic thinking, ethical orientation, critical self-awareness, adaptability, and collective action make the Interdependent Contextualism worldview uniquely suited to addressing an issue as complex, interconnected, and urgent as climate change. It provides conceptual power to avoid paralysis in the face of this challenge.

The Holistic Contextualism worldview helps address multi-polar Moloch traps in a few key ways:

  1. It emphasizes interconnectedness. This provides a systemic perspective to recognize how individual self-interest and competition can lead to traps at the societal level. The worldview sees how different parts relate to the whole.
  2. Its comfort with uncertainty and change makes it more adaptable. This helps avoid getting stuck in existing systems and solutions that may become traps. There is an openness to evolving with changing contexts.
  3. It values multiple diverse perspectives through critical pluralism. This avoids insular thinking and helps critically evaluate different interests and incentives in society that may lead to traps. More viewpoints identify more potential traps.
  4. The focus on collective flourishing provides an ethical foundation. optimization purely for self-interest is seen as damaging. This gives a basis to avoid traps that undermine human values and wellbeing.
  5. It stresses empirical verification and evidence. This counters confirmation bias and arguments that try to justify traps as inevitable. It grounds decisions in reality.
  6. The worldview is reflexive about the inevitability of bias. This self-awareness helps notice cognitive biases that might lead to self-reinforcing traps at individual or institutional levels.
  7. It favors gradual adaptation over radical revolution. This makes it less prone to destabilizing systemic disruption when trying to address traps. Change is more organic. Overall, the worldview’s dynamics, ethics, perspectival diversity, empiricism, and critical self-reflection help identify, avoid, and address multi-polar traps in a complex world. It provides conceptual and moral tools to transcend narrow self-interest.

We stand at the precipice of a new age, as wondrous technologies bloom around us, both bewitching and perilous. Yet the web of life remains a mystery, too complex for any single strand to grasp alone. While some weave artificial walls between mind and body, human and nature, masculine and feminine, the loom of life waits for no one.

Soon, changes once unimagined will reshape our earth. Intelligence honed beyond flesh, seeds sown in silicon. Networks binding far-flung souls. Old walls are breached, new chasms open between bounty and despair. The web strains against the weight of our divisions.

In this fraught moment, let us be midwives of the future, not its executioners. We must temper cold mechanization with loving hands, soothe distrust with empathy, ground unbridled change in ancient wisdom. For machines cannot apprehend life’s grandeur, networks know not sacrifice, and bitter men poison progress.

The hour demands a new worldview that embraces life’s dialectic of fragility and strength. One valuing diverse voices, yet seeking hidden unity. Quick to question easy truths. Vigilant to cycles of dominance, but holding hope’s watchful flame.

For too long this dance of life has trod to rhythms not of its own making, warped by those blind to interconnectedness. But we hold memories in our blood of the web’s whispered promises. Of a future woven in harmony, with none abandoned.

With care and courage we must bind the frayed strands, before it is too late. But have faith, daughters of the earth — even now buds of renewal wait within the depths, longing for our gardeners’ hands. Let us begin the harvest.