Manuel Ferreira Patrício

(Rector of the University of Évora)


The Constructal Method of Adrian Bejan

In this Symposium on the Constructal Theory of Shape and Structure in Nature, the University of Évora is honoured by the presence of Professor Adrian Bejan, an outstanding academic personality and world-renown scientist, chiefly known for his capacity in conceiving and building innovative knowledge – a distinctive criterion of the true university academic.
Teaching is an act of the utmost human relevance. It consists of offering the other – the other fellow human – the knowledge that one possesses. That knowledge may, however, have been received from another source or it may have been one’s own creation: its possession may be external or internal.
To create, conceive or build knowledge by oneself is the highest intellectual pursuit attainable by a human being. To investigate is the nature of that activity and new knowledge is its fruit.
The University is, in that sense, the institution characterised by its vocation to generate new knowledge, new understanding, adding up to the human knowledge accumulated so far, either quantitative or qualitative. The history of the University is the history of such a calling.
Let us recall, on this occasion, the eminent personality of Aristotle, an exceptional constructor of knowledge, of understanding. He distributed knowledge into three classes: poietic knowledge, praxis knowledge and theoretic knowledge – diffluent, respectively, from poiesis, praxis and theoria, the three intellectual and structural classes that constitute activities of the human being. Poiesis is the activity of producing or making; praxis is the socio-moral activity of human interaction; and theoria is the activity of creating knowledge that enables proof and explanation, of what today we call ‘pure rational knowledge’ or ‘understanding’ (which, of course, does not exclude experience and experimentation).
The historic hour through which we are living is characterised by undervaluing the theoretic activity and maximal overvaluation of the poietic activity. It is in the class of theoretical acquaintance that scientific knowledge belongs. It is the class of theoretical scholarship the identity mark inscribed in the front of the University. There is no epistemological contradiction between theoretical, praxis and poietic acquirements, rather what exists is an epistemological hierarchy. The top of this hierarchy is occupied by theoretical knowledge. Within this perception of things, there is room for all interactions and mutual enrichments. The University is the House of Knowledge, where the triangle of knowledge categories and the dynamic hierarchy in which they organise, require and imply the strictest discipline. This is the idea of University we see glowing in the scientific work of Professor Adrian Bejan. This is the idea that, in my view, confers the most remarkable magnitude to the theoretical effort of Professor Adrian Bejan.
The work of every great creator always heralds in its origin one idea and is governed by that idea.  According to Professor Adrian Bejan, that idea refers to natural beings, whether living or inanimate. In both cases they are material systems. Every such system, either simple or complex, has form and structure. Incidentally, no material system exists without shape and structure, neither shape without structure nor structure without shape. The idea is that Shape and Structure are a constructional process of growth governed by a teleonomy, which subjects the Whole and the Unity of Purpose to all parts and moments in the process. The Whole is not merely the sum of the parts, the result of the sum and the concatenation of its parts. The Whole transcends the parts and the moments, which are what they become and organise themselves as finally assuming form and structure constrained or determined by the Whole which supposedly they should constraint or determine.
I believe that, in the Constructal Theory of Shape and Structure in Nature, we meet again Plato’s Theory of Ideas, which was, indeed, conceived to explain the Natural and the Sensorial World.
I believe that, in it, we also meet again the genial Goethe’s intuition in his ideation over the metamorphosis of plants and the nature of light.
Moreover, I believe that we find in Professor Adrian Bejan’s theory what was the nuclear intuition of the gestaltian  psychology – the Gestalt or Shape of Kohler, Koffka and Wertheimer, and of the gestaltian psychology–philosophy–pedagogy, holistic and topologic of Kurt Lewin: the one of the onto-genesis primacy of the Whole over the parts, which with Kurt Lewin lead to the ontological enlightenment of the almost, creative key to the change and growth of the natural reality, both the plainly natural and the psychic and gnoetical. The reality moves, moves towards, grows, it tirelessly takes shape and structure. And it moves because it is not exactly identical, but in fact almost identical. The Whole attracts it into Shaping and Structuring.
These are the fertile and fascinating scientific prospects, psychological and philosophical, that are apparent to me in the Constructal Theory of Shape and Structure in Nature, such as I was able to grasp from the kind and wisely didactic introduction that my esteemed colleague Professor Heitor Reis made of it in advance for me.
That is also why the thanks which I convey to Professor Adrian Bejan, on the behalf of the University of Évora, for being among us and for the fruitful collaboration he is offering us, goes, in both form and structure, beyond the course of words and protocol.  


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