Words From Norm Hirst

In loving memory of Norman F. Hirst  who continues through his life's work to inspire us to bend the arc of our moral universe towards love, and harmony, and justice. (1932-2012)

Norm's thesis emerging from his comprehensive and wide spectrum search for the role of values in science has given him both a history and experience with science of physics, information theory, logic, metaphysics and philosophy as well as mathematics and axiology that give him a perspective grounding from which he can leap, make quantum leaps into the unknown and feel at home – he shares here knowledge of this shifting reality from materialism to organism. 


 In his words he writes below of his living process to do so...


..Instead, I would discover through a lifetime of inquiry that physics and it's foundations in substance metaphysics and accompanying logics is totally inappropriate for applications to understanding life. Way down deep human knowledge developed in a way that became committed to errors that destroy life.

I had studied physics gaining experience with an actual science.  I studied the philosophy of science to help me understand science in general.  I studied mathematics to understand the driving force behind scientific inquiry.  I studied the theory of logic to understand the limitations of mathematics. I discovered the limitations of logic itself.  I then studied the most modern theory of formalisms and discovered that logic, as we know it, is simply one amongst many possibilities for doing meaningful formalisms.  What people today believe is rational is simply one choice. Believing that philosophy itself was a way of exploration I turned to it.  Mainstream substance philosophy offered a worldview, a metaphysics that further entrapped us.

Recent experiments of the past 20 years in physics and biophysics are producing results that cannot be explained with the traditional scientific materialism and substance philosophy. A new worldview is required. Not only is a new view of reality required, we also need to change protocols of inquiry to cope with it.


About Norm Hirst

Norm Hirst is co-founder of the Autognomics Institute and Autognomics Corporation; the first dedicated to the discovery and understanding the logos of life-itself, and the second to creating intelligent systems coherent with life-itself.

Norm took a road less traveled, delving into the foundations of knowledge from physics and mathematics to metaphysics, logics, biology and theology—and then into new findings in biophysics and quantum physics.  It all began when Norm was at MIT— following his tour of duty in the Korean War— that he became deeply concerned about the causes and destructiveness of war and when he met Robert Hartman, the founder of the first formalism of values.  Norm was inspired by Hartman and dedicated his life to more fully develop Hartman's science of values.

 Norm's search through the lens of science taught him the essential role of formalisms in the development of any science. He believed, at first, there might be other existing formalisms that could account for values and living processes. However, as he deepened his exploration, he became convinced that a new scientific paradigm would be needed, one going beyond the laws of physics and mechanism.

His five-decade inquiry is now revealing discoveries of fundamental life-itself organizing principles and the role values play in the development of life and the living domain.  He has found, in reality, there are two very different domains; the very familiar domain of matter, force, mechanisms and determinism of physics, and an unfamiliar domain; a living domain. This domain is one of living entities capable of forming, choosing and initiating acts independently of external forces. In this domain there is neither mechanisms nor determinism, instead there are creative organisms acting on the basis of values and coherence conditions to create it. What is being revealed is how living entities actually self-create and function.

In 1993 Norm co-founded The Autognomics Institute with a group of scholars from diverse disciplines in semiotics, process metaphysics, biology, anthropology, systems theory, autopoiesis, axiology and biophysics, and human development. Norm and his colleagues have been working to identify life-itself-organizing principles, develop protocols, criteria and new formalisms that can account for these newly discovered life-itself principles and to help usher in a new, scientific system for life-itself, and in turn provide further grounding the initial work of Robert Hartman.  The Autognomics Corporation was formed in 1996 to further develop projects coming out of the Institute.

Graduating with a degree in mathematics/physics at MIT, Norm worked in research laboratories at MIT, the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory, the Linguistic Research Center at University of Texas, Tracor, and United Aircraft, where he worked on such projects as interplanetary transfer orbits. Norm participated in the early creation of the computer industry through working at Digital Equipment Corporation, consulting to IBM Instruments and others such as GD Searle MediData, where he developed medical management systems and later formed his own software development companies with innovations for computer numerical machinery and smart interactive systems. He also holds patents for other smart technology based on Autognomics theory.

Norm presented his first paper on Value Research at the 3rd Conference on Value Inquiry in 1969 and was invited to attend The Gordon Conference on Autopoiesis, where he met Humberto Maturana. Norm studied logic at Yale with Alan Anderson, focusing on the logical properties of relevance, and with Fred Fitch on combinatory logics. He then went to the University of Texas to study metaphysics and the process theology of panenthesim with Charles Hartshorne.  Through discussions with Haskell Curry, founder of combinatory logics (not to be confused with combinatorics), Norm concluded that combinatory-like logics would provide the proper primitive logics life required.

In 1969, at the University of Texas, Norm joined a ten-year cross-disciplinary project at the Linguistic Research Center on the study of information theory as it applies to language translation. This project would lay the ground-work for Norm's work on Peirce's semiotics and a re-definition of "what is life?" Eugene Pendergraft headed that project and later would partner with Norm in both the formation of a private research business and the Autognomics Institute.

It was through Norm's wide experience with mechanistic technology and his investigation into scientific knowledge juxtaposed with emergent living processes research that Norm discovered the fundamental miss-match between living processes and mechanisms.
He has seen the limitation—when applied to life and the living domain — of the dominant scientific world-view: that of mechanism upon which the majority of today's sciences and technology rest, and despite its many triumphs in creating technology—it is a limited and incomplete worldview. While he believes technology can certainly be made more intelligent than what we have today, life is not computable and mechanisms cannot  achieve the intelligence of a living organism.

Now convinced that a fundamental knowledge-shift is occurring from scientific materialism to a new understanding of life and its laws, Norm today is dedicated to providing the foundations for this emerging world view and the creation of a new science of life-itself, explaining and integrating new scientific discoveries that go beyond materialism.  Norm proposes that materialism be superseded by a view of life, indeed the cosmos, as self-initiating and self-acting organism, and that matter is created from the logos of life-itself-energy and it encompasses all—both the physical and non-physical, the probable (materialism) and the possible (values). The seeds of war, he finds, result from ignorance of the laws of life-itself in which value laws are operative.  Ignorance of these laws has resulted in too much emphasis on the laws of probability. Without awareness of the intangible—but essential—laws of values, humanity has created a world focused on facts and probabilities, producing a fragmented, meaningless, world ready for war and destruction with a deep misunderstanding of the direction of technology.  Norm welcomes all to join in this vital work; a new world-view, creating solutions coherent with life-itself and a humane sustainable life knowing the most inclusive value of all - love.