In this paper we provide some theoretical guidelines for the characterization of the specificity of biological systems in terms of organization and constraints. In the first place we advocate the view according to which a sound account of biological organization requires an appeal to emergent causation, and we propose a theoreti-cal justification of emergence against existing criticisms by consid-ering it as a causal power stemming from the relational properties of material configurations. Then, by interpreting constraints as a spe-cific form of this emergent causal power, we propose a distinction between the roles played by constraints in physical and biological systems. As a result we provide a possible definition of biological organization as a closed network of co-dependent and internally produced constraints.
Ellis R. D. (2006) Phenomenology-friendly neuroscience: The return to Merleau-Ponty as psychologist. Human Studies 29(1): 33–55. https://cepa.info/7308
This paper reports on the Kuhnian revolution now occurring in neuropsychology that is finally supportive of and friendly to phenomenology – the “enactive” approach to the mind-body relation, grounded in the notion of self-organization, which is consistent with Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on virtually every point. According to the enactive approach, human minds understand the world by virtue of the ways our bodies can act relative to it, or the ways we can imagine acting. This requires that action be distinguished from passivity, that the mental be approached from a first person perspective, and that the cognitive capacities of the brain be grounded in the emotional and motivational processes that guide action and anticipate action affordances. It avoids the old intractable problems inherent in the computationalist approaches of twentieth century atomism and radical empiricism, and again allows phenomenology to bridge to neuropsychology in the way Merleau-Ponty was already doing over half a century ago.
In this paper, we advocate the idea that an adequate explanation of biological systems requires appealing to organisational closure as an emergent causal regime. We first develop a theoretical justification of emergence in terms of relatedness, by arguing that configurations, because of the relatedness among their constituents, possess ontologically irreducible properties, providing them with distinctive causal powers. We then focus on those emergent causal powers exerted as constraints, and we claim that biological systems crucially differ from other natural systems in that they realise a closure of constraints, i.e. a higher-level emergent regime of causation such that the constituents, each of them acting as a constraint, realise a mutual dependence among them, and are collectively able to self-maintain. Lastly, we claim that closure can be justifiably taken as an emergent regime of causation, without admitting that it inherently involves whole-parts causation, which would require committing to stronger ontological and epistemological assumptions.
In this article, I study, from the point of view of the analytic philosophy of mind, the compatibility of students’ ideas studies (SIS) with radical constructivism (RC). I demonstrate that RC is based on a psychology of narrow mental states; that is, the idea that the mental content of an individual can be fully characterised without any reference external to her or him. I show that this fact imposes some severe restrictions to SIS to be incorporated into RC. In particular, I argue that only qualitative studies can comply with the requirement of narrowness. Nevertheless, I propose that quantitative works can be employed as sources of types in order to study token actual students. I use this type-token dichotomy to put forward an outline of a theory of the relation between school contents and mental contents. In this view, token mental contents regarding a given topic can be defined, and probed, only by resorting to typical school contents.