Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I came upon this free ebook, Complexity and Postmodernism by Paul Cilliers (Routledge 1998). From the introduction:
“Complexity and Postmodernism explores the notion of complexity in the light of contemporary perspectives from philosophy and science. Paul Cilliers contributes to our general understanding of complex systems, and explores the implications of complexity theory for our understanding of biological and social systems. Postmodern theory is reinterpreted in order to argue that a postmodern perspective does not necessarily imply relativism, but that it could also be viewed as a manifestation of an inherent sensitivity to complexity.
As Cilliers explains, the characterisation of complexity revolves around analyses of the process of self-organisation and a rejection of traditional notions of representation. The model of language developed by Saussure—and expanded by Derrida—is used to develop the notion of distributed representation, which in turn is linked with distributed modelling techniques. Connectionism (implemented in neural networks) serves as an example of these techniques. Cilliers points out that this approach to complexity leads to models of complex systems that avoid the oversimplification that results from rulebased models.
Complexity and Postmodernism integrates insights from complexity and computational theory with the philosophical position of thinkers like Derrida and Lyotard. Cilliers takes a critical stance towards the use of the analytical method as a tool to cope with complexity, and he rejects Searle’s superficial contribution to the debate.
Complexity and Postmodernism is an exciting and an original book that should be read by anyone interested in gaining a fresh understanding of complexity, postmodernism and connectionism.”
It seems that DeLanda's presentation "A new ontology for the social sciences" was later included in Intensive Science, in some cases verbatim.
While he accepts that we must “construct an ontology around the basic notion of emergent property, that is, a property of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, hence irreducible to those parts,” this is not an hierarchical mereological relation. This ontology must eliminate both Platonic essences as well as Aristotelian general categories or abstract classes. There is of course legitimate uses for general categories but the problem comes from their reification. His “flat” ontology therefore doesn't replace the nature of emergent wholes (a kind of hierarchy), just the emergent's claims to an essence and/or reified abstract class, which in both cases subsume the parts in its hegemonic inclusion. Flat in this case means both the constituent elements and the emergent entities retain their individual autonomy instead of one being completely subsumed or “integrated” by the other.
As an example he uses a species, which is neither an essence nor a general class, since “there simply isn't any core set of properties, any essence, which all the organisms which compose a species must have in common.” The difference then between viewing this mereology hierarchically is that it assumes an unchangeable “idea” underlying observed phenomenon, the abstract category within which they must fit nice and tidy. If the mereology is flat then each individual part is never subsumed within an abstract category, since its higher whole is also an individual and they “share” spaces on interaction.
Recall Bryant's strange mereology in TDOO:
"Here we encounter, once again, the strange mereology of onticology and object-oriented philosophy where objects can be nested in other objects while nonetheless remaining independent or autonomous of those objects within which they are nested. This mereology destroys organic conceptions of both society and the universe, where all substances are thought of as parts of an organic whole" (4.1).
Chapter 5.2 is devoted to this strange mereology.
Also see DeLanda's chapter 23 in The Speculative Turn, "Emergence, causality and realism." I like this quote, similar to the relation between multiplicity and unity:
"The terms ‘linear’ and ‘nonlinear’ are not a dichotomy. Rather than being a unique opposite, nonlinear patterns represent a variety of possibilities of which the linear case is but a limiting case" (383).
I also like this one from ECR, as we've lately been discussing mystical awe and how it can be essentialized:
"Realists must deal with the mystical feelings produced by the concept of singularity, a feeling not unlike that created by the concept of emergence. Maupertuis, a contemporary of Euler, went as far as thinking that singularities provided a mathematical proof for the existence of a rational god. So special care must be exercised not to make singularities into something transcendent and to rigorously maintain their immanent ontological status" (389).
I've been looking for connections with the recent posts to the kind of embodied realism of Lakoff and Varela. Chapter 24 in TST written by Protevi offers this:
"DG operationalize the notion of affect as the ability of bodies to form ‘assemblages’ with other bodies, that is, to form emergent functional structures that conserve the heterogeneity of their components.
For DG, then, ‘affect’ is physiological, psychological, and machinic: it imbricates* the social and the somatic in forming a ‘body politic’.... In this notion of assemblage as emergent functional structure, that is, a dispersed system that enables focused behaviour at the system level as it constrains component action, we find parallels with novel positions in contemporary cognitive science (the ‘embodied’ or ‘extended’ mind schools), which maintain that cognition operates in loops among brain, body, and environment" (394).
* The word imbricate affords a nice image of the type to which I've been referring, as in a partially shared space between two objects, as one tile that overlaps another.
I used that Deleuzian image in my recent paper, too: "On an individual level, how do we hold and interface with our chosen traditions? How might such an inquiry help further differentiate and individuate them in our lives, as uniquely flowering, wild ecologies? And how might it deepen their inter-relations, their folds and imbrications?"
From Protevi's "Deleuze, Guattari and Emergence" (there are no page numbers):
"If one were to stay with the perspective of synchronic emergence, one would indeed find a hierarchy of material systems, so that individuals on one level are components of emergent unities on the next level: cell, organ, somatic body, social body.... But the perspective of diachronic emergence shows that time scales of each level are staggered, so that what appears as a systematic unity on a specific level is an event, a process, from the perspective of another level with a longer time scale. We can call this heterochrony.... Finally, we need to think how DG enable us to think emergence ‘transversally’ in their concept of assemblages...which renders more complex the already complex notion of a heterochronous hierarchy sketched above.... Our three forms of emergence admit of some further nuances, as transverse emergence can be either homeostratic or heterostratic as well as synchronic or diachronic."
As if complexity wasn't complex enough already...
For now just a book reference, available at Scribd: Prigogine's Is Future Given? More later.
A few clips from the last reference:
"Science today is at a 'pre-historic' stage of development" (viii).
"We have shown that the difficulties in the classical formulation come from a too narrow point of view concerning the fundamental laws of dynamics (classical or quantum)" (8).
"For classical physics and for quantum physics there is no privileged direction of time. Future and past play the same role.... The traditional description is deterministic, even in quantum theory....but the results obtained...contain certainly a large part of truth....[but] these descriptions are based on a too restricted form of dynamics" (10).
To be continued...
More from IFG:
"It is remarkable that orthodox QM used classical integrable dynamical systems as a model.... For non-integrable systems the situation...is quite different....that is of systems for which we cannot construct a unitary transformation" (12-13).
"Integrable systems...refer in fact only to exceptional, ideal cases. We are living in a nature in which the rule is non-integrability" (16). That one has some serious implications reminiscent of ideal forms, etc.
In discussing some math with different premises (that I don't understand), he says it:
"has some very interesting new properties. First of all it is a non-local transformation. In other words, classically people were thinking in terms of points, but here we have to speak in terms of ensembles, collections of points. We cannot make a physics of points anymore, we have to make a physics of distributions.... This opens a whole new domain of classical and quantum physics" (15).
I'm reminded above about how a species is not a general category but is itself an "individual" and can only be apprehended by statistical distributions, not particular "points", as they do not share defining characteristics of some uniform whole.
This essay was recently shared on the Magellan group on Facebook. I've just dipped into it and it looks interesting (especially from my TSK-influenced perspective), but I share it here because Joel remarked on the consonance between the view in this article and Prigogine's (and his own) work.
Wow, just reading the summary I went whaaat? Unintelligible to me. After a search I don't see that Priogogine was cited at all, nor were any of his team at UT.