The Theory and Practice of Third Phase Science

  • Kenneth C. BauschEmail author
Part of the Translational Systems Sciences book series (TSS, volume 1)


Systems thinkers often regard groups and communities as collective thinking entities. And collective thinking itself is layered upon a social fabric of norms and traditions. The ways that groups and communities think and make decision together is closely linked to their group identities, and change is difficult. Sometimes, however, innovation in the deep structure of collective thinking becomes essential. This happens when complexity reaches a threshold beyond which informal deliberations fail to produce effective understandings and collective action. Gerard de Zeeuw advanced the understanding of collective thinking when he introduced the concept of Third Phase Science in 1997. His thought was summarized in non-specialist language by Bausch and Flanagan. In the Western world view, we have come to see things as well-defined objects that are separate from us. In Indigenous and Eastern cultures, the separation is more subtle. These cultures see human beings as being enmeshed in a universal web of life. This article presents the bare bones of De Zeeuw’s thought, describes some of its roots, and shows some applications that (perhaps unconsciously) illustrate is use. It traces these applications as art and as science.


Contextualized object Dialogic design Domain of science model First, second, and third phase science Immersed observer 


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for 21st Century AgorasCincinnatiUSA

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