Publication 3183

Hardy C. (2001) Self-organization, self-reference and inter-influences in multilevel webs: Beyond causality and determinism. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 8(3): 35–59. Fulltext at
Von Bertalanffy stated that, at a certain threshold of complexity – namely when numerous forces are simultaneously interacting – systems” dynamics belong to a class other than causal mechanism, whether linear or circular. My objective here is to develop Von Bertalanffy’s point and to sort out a class of systems, the multilevel web, in which various forces or subsystems interact simultaneously within and across levels. Webs thus exhibit dynamical evolution through the cooperation and co-evolution of processes. I focus on two instances of multilevel web – the human mind, and small groups of people and show that cognitive webs demonstrate creative self-organization, as well as plural self-reference and free-will. I argue that, in multilevel webs, the variety and the complexity of forces interacting simultaneously instantiate inter-influences between connected elements/processes, so complex that they render causality irrelevant as a formalism. Webs’ inter-influences are fundamentally non deterministic, and they reach beyond causal mechanisms. However, simpler mechanisms such as linear cause-effects and circular causality may exist as component processes, enmeshed in the ensemble of interactions of the more complex system. In the first and second sections I present cognitive and social webs and sort out their properties.

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