Alvarez De Lorenzana J. M. (2000) Closure, open systems, and the modeling imperative. In: Chandler J. & Van de Vijver G. (eds.) Closure: Emergent organizations and their dynamics. New York Academy of Sciences, New York: 91–99.
Natural systems cannot be closed to the environment. At the same time there is a necessity for closure in order to build the system. It is this quintessential tension between openness and closure that drives systems to unfold into further stages or levels of growth and development. In other words, the emergence of organization in natural systems is a result of cycles of openness and closure. There are two distinct and complementary ways by which a system will carry over closure while involved in a process of expansion across the environment. These two ways need to be expressed in any formal representation: (1) within a level this will be by means of transitive closure, which is additive; and (2) between levels (i.e., from one level to the next higher level) this requires algebraic closure, which is multiplicative. The former expresses space closure, whereas the latter expresses topological or time closure. The conjunction of these two closures generates a hierarchy of levels. Prior to, and outside of, the system lies semantic closure.
Bitbol M. (2012) Downward causation without foundations. Synthese 185(2): 233–255.
Emergence is interpreted in a non-dualist framework of thought. No metaphysical distinction between the higher and basic levels of organization is supposed, but only a duality of modes of access. Moreover, these modes of access are not construed as mere ways of revealing intrinsic patterns of organization: They are supposed to be constitutive of them, in Kant’s sense. The emergent levels of organization, and the inter-level causations as well, are therefore neither illusory nor ontologically real: They are objective in the sense of transcendental epistemology. This neo-Kantian approach defuses several paradoxes associated with the concept of downward causation, and enables one to make good sense of it independently of any prejudice about the existence (or inexistence) of a hierarchy of levels of being.
Context: Varela’s neurophenomenology was conceived from the outset as a criticism and dissolution of the “hard problem” of the physical origin of consciousness. Indeed, the standard (physicalist) formulation of this problem is what generates it, and turns it into a fake mystery. Problem: Such a dissolution of the “hard problem” is very demanding for researchers. It invites them to leave their position of neutral observers/thinkers, and to seek self-transformation instead. It leaves no room for the “hard problem” in the field of discourse, and rather deflects it onto the plane of attitudes. As a consequence, it runs the risk of being either ignored or considered as a dodge. How can we overcome this obstacle and restore the argumentative impact of neurophenomenology? Method: I propose a metaphysical compensation for the anti-metaphysical premise of the neurophenomenological dissolution of the “hard problem.” Yet, this alternative metaphysics is designed to keep the benefit of a shift from discourse to ways of being - this is the latent message of neurophenomenology. Results: A dynamical and participatory conception of the relation between body and consciousness is formulated, with no concession to standard positions such as physicalist monism and property dualism. This conception is based on Varela’s formalism of “cybernetic dialectic” and on a geometrical model of self-production. It is in close agreement with Merleau-Ponty’s “intra-ontology: an engaged ontological approach of what it is like to be, rather than a discipline of the contemplation of beings. Implications: Taking neurophenomenology seriously implies a radical shift in our way of tackling the “hard problem” of consciousness. There is no question here of theorizing about the neuro-experiential correlation but of including it in a chain of resonance and continuous research that amplifies our lived life. Even metaphysics partakes in this shift. Constructivist content: The article advocates a critical stance towards standard realist approaches to the science and philosophy of mind. A complete reversal of the hierarchy of ontological priorities between physical objects and consciousness is proposed, in the spirit of Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences. Then, the obvious but usually overlooked relation between being conscious and knowing consciousness is emphasized. Keywords: Neurophenomenology, phenomenology, consciousness, experience, mind-body problem, quantum mechanics, neutral monism, panpsychism, Merleau-Ponty.
Brier S. (2013) Cybersemiotics: A new foundation for transdisciplinary theory of information, cognition, meaningful communication and the interaction between nature and culture. Integral Review: A Transdisciplinary & Transcultural Journal for New Thought. Research & Praxis 9(2): 220–263. https://cepa.info/6405
Cybersemiotics constructs a non-reductionist framework in order to integrate third person knowledge from the exact sciences and the life sciences with first person knowledge described as the qualities of feeling in humanities and second person intersubjective knowledge of the partly linguistic communicative interactions, on which the social and cultural aspects of reality are based. The modern view of the universe as made through evolution in irreversible time, forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. This changes the way we conceptualize the problem and the role of consciousness in nature and culture. The theory of evolution forces us to conceive the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities together in one theoretical framework of unrestricted or absolute naturalism, where consciousness as well as culture is part of nature. But the theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of the meaning of communication seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in the development of our knowledge about evolution? Phenomenology and hermeneutics show the sciences that their prerequisites are embodied living conscious beings imbued with meaningful language and with a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary self- understanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural and historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness and therefore leaving it out of the story. Cybersemiotics proposes to solve the dualistic paradox by starting in the middle with semiotic cognition and communication as a basic sort of reality in which all our knowledge is created and then suggests that knowledge develops into four aspects of human reality: Our surrounding nature described by the physical and chemical natural sciences, our corporality described by the life sciences such as biology and medicine, our inner world of subjective experience described by phenomenologically based investigations and our social world described by the social sciences. I call this alternative model to the positivistic hierarchy the cybersemiotic star. The article explains the new understanding of Wissenschaft that emerges from Peirce’s and Luhmann’s conceptions.
Clark A. (2013) Perceiving as predicting. In: Mohan M., Bigg S. & Stokes D. (eds.) Perception and its modalities. Oxford University Press, New York: 23–43. https://cepa.info/7286
Excerpt: The main purpose of this chapter has been to introduce the notion of sensory perception as a form of probabilistic prediction involving a hierarchy of generative models. This broad vision brings together frontline research in machine learning and a growing body of neuroscientific conjecture and evidence. It provides a simple and elegant account of multimodal and crossmodal effects in perception and has implications for the study of (the neural correlates of) conscious experience. It also suggests, or so I have argued, a deep unity between perceiving and imagining. For to perceive the world (at least as we do) is to deploy internal resources capable of endogenously generating those same sensory effects: capable, that is, of generating those same activation patterns via a top-down sweep involving multiple intermediate layers of processing. That suggests a fundamental linkage between ‘passive perception’ and active imagining, with each capacity being continuously bootstrapped by the other. Perceiving and imagining (if these models are on the right track) are simultaneous effects of a single underlying neural strategy.
Clark A. (2013) Whatever next? Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36(3): 181–204. https://cepa.info/7285
Brains, it has recently been argued, are essentially prediction machines. They are bundles of cells that support perception and action by constantly attempting to match incoming sensory inputs with top-down expectations or predictions. This is achieved using a hierarchical generative model that aims to minimize prediction error within a bidirectional cascade of cortical processing. Such accounts offer a unifying model of perception and action, illuminate the functional role of attention, and may neatly capture the special contribution of cortical processing to adaptive success. This target article critically examines this “hierarchical prediction machine” approach, concluding that it offers the best clue yet to the shape of a unified science of mind and action. Sections 1 and 2 lay out the key elements and implications of the approach. Section 3 explores a variety of pitfalls and challenges, spanning the evidential, the methodological, and the more properly conceptual. The paper ends (sections 4 and 5) by asking how such approaches might impact our more general vision of mind, experience, and agency.
Questions concerning the nature and origin of living systems and the hierarchy of their evolutionary processes are considered, and several problems which arise in connection with formerly developed theories – the autopoiesis of Maturana & Varela, the POL theory of Haukioja and the earlier developed evolutionary theory of Csányi – are discussed. The organization of living systems, the use of informational terms and the question how reproduction can enter into their characterization, problems of autonomy and identity are included in the list. It is suggested that replication – a copying process achieved by a special network of interrelatedness of components and component-producing processes that produces the same network as that which produced them – characterizes the living organization. The information “used” in this copying process, whether it is stored by special means or distributed in the whole system, is called replicative information. A theoretical model is introduced for the spontaneous emergence of replicative organization, called autogenesis. Autogenesis commences in a system by an organized “small” subsystem, referred to as AutoGenetic System Precursor (AGSP), which conveys replicative information to the system. During autogenesis, replicative information increases in system and compartment(s) form. A compartment is the co-replicating totality of components. The end state of autogenesis is an invariantly self-replicating organization which is unable to undergo further intrinsic organizational changes. It is suggested that replicative unities – such as living organisms – evolve via autogenesis. Levels of evolution emerge as a consequence of the relative autonomy of the autogenetic unities. On the next level they can be considered as components endowed with functions and a new autogenetic process can commence. Thus evolution proceeds towards its end state through the parallel autogenesis of the various levels. In terms of applications, ontogenesis is dealt with in detail as an autogenetic process as is the autogenesis of the biosphere and the global system.
Hall W. P., Nousala S., Best R. & Nair S. (2012) Social networking tools for knowledge-based action groups. In: Abraham A. & Hassanien A. E. (eds.) Computational social networks. Part 2: Tools, perspectives and applications. Springer-Verlag, London: 227–255. https://cepa.info/881
Urban areas are administratively complex, and bureaucrats are often overburdened when they are working at or beyond what Herbert Simon called the bounds of their rationality. Decisions impacting community group members may be based on little genuine knowledge of issues. Groups concerned with particular issues may emerge in the community. Given their focus and interests, group members will collect and construct issue-related knowledge that can be assembled into proposals. However, it is often difficult for people to form such networks and discover what their various interested members know to construct the collective knowledge. Also, such community knowledge is often ignored by governing bodies and their bureaucracies. This chapter reviews this situation from deep theoretical, technological and practical points of view and shows how simple to use and freely available social networking tools in the cloud can be applied to effectively support knowledge based community action. Relevance: The theoretical framework for the paper begins with the sociological concept of “community action” in a complex systems hierarchy and considers the autopoietic construction of knowledge within emergent knowledge-based action groups. A Popperian evolutionary/constructivist epistemology is followed.
Hashimoto W. (2011) Autopoiesis, observation and informatics: Lessons from the development of autopoietic systems theory in japan. triple C 9(2): 414-423. https://cepa.info/3620
This article is concerned with redefining the notion of information from a perspective of systems theory. In recent years, the notion of information, which was closely related to the framework of old cybernetics, has been refined in parallel with the emergence of new cybernetics, especially second-order cybernetics and autopoiesis. The systemic view of new cybernetics provides us with the notion of “informationally closed system.” This notion is congruent with the epistemological implications of radical constructivism. In order to help understand this argument, we aim at highlighting the development of autopoietic systems theory in Japan. Autopoiesis has often been considered as a thoroughly closed system in Japan, where the relationships between autopoiesis and radical constructivism have frequently been overlooked. This is mainly because the importance which autopoietic systems theory originally attaches to the notion of observer and observation has been inadequately discussed, and autopoietic systems theory is regarded as distinct from second-order cybernetics and radical constructivism. However, they must be dealt with together, and Humberto Maturana should be given credit for his ontology of observing. Since the publication of his paper “Biology of Cognition,” Maturana has been attempting to explain the notion of observation as a biological phenomenon in his own way. Likewise, by taking into consideration the notion of observation, we can build a unified theory of information. Fundamental Informatics, which is being developed by Toru Nishigaki, outlines a unified approach to information by putting human observers at the center of his theory. Social and mechanical information is generated only when human observers conduct observations on the basis of biological information, and this mechanism of generation of information is discussed through the notion of “hierarchical autonomous system.” For an autopoietic organization to be realized, of course, no hierarchy of systems is required, but observers are likely to construct some hierarchy between two systems. The construction of certain hierarchies of systems by observers is of great use for the explanation of fictitious phenomena of information transmission.
Hejl P. M. (1994) Die Entwicklung der Organisation von Sozialsystemen und ihr Beitrag zum Systemverhalten. In: Rusch G. & Schmidt S. J. (eds.) Konstruktivismus und Sozialtheorie (DELFIN 1993). Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main: 109–132. https://cepa.info/5094
This chapter proposes a general model of social systems and – by doing so – shows that despite widespread prejudices sociological theory can and has to include epistemological questions. As a result of this insight, the traditional alternative between individuals (in the sense of psychology) and “the social” can be left behind. To achieve this goal the understanding of components and their relation to individuals are as central as the concept of organization. The argument of the paper is structured by a number of theses together with commentaries. They are intended to show the continuity of the issue (social systems both as constructs and as construing “actors”) at least since Durkheim. The chapter focuses on social systems in a constructivist theory of the social. To underline the specificity of social systems that function “as entities” because of similarities between their interacting participants (who therefore become “components”); it is proposed to characterize social systems as “synreferential.” The importance of the organization of social systems to explain the way systems function is finally made explicit with reference to the selectivity of the organization (the hierarchy versus heterarchy-problem, self-organization).