School of Thinking
At the most fundamental level, many of the problems we face are the unfortunate outcome of the malpractice of thinking. Whichever complex problem one may consider –be it ecological, societal, political, economic, organisational, personal etc.– one will likely find that it persists due to the clashing of incompatible or inadequate manners of thinking. Even when these are genuinely well intended and strongly self-justified, they often inadvertently contribute to composite problematics.
The inadequacies of our thinking are deeply entrenched in the way that we, humans, perceive the world, ourselves in the world, and how we interact with it. Our professional, educational, cultural and metaphysical systems strongly dispose us towards outlining sharp boundaries, separating objects from backgrounds, ’us’ from ‘them’, defining identities and carving out what is to be of significance from what can be dismissed, disposed of, or exploited. Such dispositions result in oversimplifications which are often apparent to us in the thinking of others, but much less in our own thinking. Yet, they are omnipresent. Once cohered by logical reasoning, anchored in captivating symbolism and encoded in algorithms, such simplifications turn into cages: mental, emotional, operational… Moving beyond them becomes literally unthinkable. We may repeat the mantra of ‘thinking outside the box’, we may praise critical, independent, creative and disruptive thinking, but these get deployed only in as far as they prove usable for the affirmation of our respective, deeply rooted worldviews.
Our intelligence has limits which are not always obvious and once we fail to address the complexity of a state of affairs we are confronted with, we quite seamlessly simplify it to fit to our limitations by introducing instead of it crude, black-and-white representations. In order to address the formidable challenges of our times; in order for humanity to move forward, ordinary intelligence is therefore not sufficient. As societies, organisations, teams and individuals we need to progressively muster intelligence that is extraordinary — and make it our new norm.
For that, key influencers, leaders and managers, intellectuals and artists, politicians and activists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, need to bring the quality of their individual thinking to the top of their priorities. This understanding, however, cannot be thrown in the face of ‘corporations and institutions’, or delegated to any other reified ‘faulty other’. Thinking, changing one’s mind, cannot be externally prescribed, it must be intimately carried out by the thinker her- and himself.
Simply put, the much needed leap in the quality of thinking across global society will not happen if the responsibility for achieving it continues to be disowned and projected out. The practice of thinking is too impactful, its consequences too potent, for us to afford not to continuously refine and advance our own minds. For exactly this purpose the VUB has created a novel academic project — Welcome to the School of Thinking!
Center Leo Apostel (CLEA)
The School of Thinking programme is organised by CLEA: a transdisciplinary research centre at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), which focuses on bringing together the different scientific, social and cultural disciplines. CLEA was founded in 1995, under the impetus of the Belgian philosopher Leo Apostel. Apostel saw the purpose of CLEA in integrating the results of the different disciplines so as to counteract the apparent fragmentation of ever more specialised approaches, and in attracting a variety of talented researchers from the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and engineering to work together in an a-disciplinary academic environment. CLEA is internationally recognised as a unique, transdisciplinary research centre with a steady output of high-quality innovative publications. The main focus of CLEA research programme is transitions between ‘different layers of reality’ (e.g., quantum, physical, chemical, biological to cognitive and social), general metasystem transitions, creative processes, processes of self-organization and emergence.
The programme is managed by the team:
- Programme Director: Dr. Maciej Świeży;
- Workflow Chairman of The Fellows: Gys Godderis, M.A;
- Educational Council (Onderwijsraad): Prof. Francis Heylighen (Chair), Dr. Marta Lenartowicz, Dr. Weaver D.R. Weinbaum, Prof. Jean Paul Van Bendegem, Prof. Yoni Van Den Eede, Lotte Van Lith, Iwona Sołtysińska, Jailee Rychen, Jessie Eggers, Sacha Moens, Herwig Nulens, Joris De Kelver, Veerle Meurs, Nathalie Degraide, Gys Godderis, and Dr. Maciej Świeży.
VUB researchers and affiliated experts teaching at the Postgraduate School of Thinking in the Iota Year (2020/21).
Former students affiliated with the School of Thinking programme in the 2020/21 academic year. The Fellows carry out a collaborative workflow aimed to advance their expertise in selected heuristics and frameworks of thinking.