Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Integral Objects

Following are more excerpts from out ongoing discussion of OOO at IPS, from the most recent posts:


Recall this post on Varela and teleology. An autopoeitic object might increase its complexity in response to a perturbation in order to adapt, yet is it necessary to ascribe teleos to this increase in complexity? It seems Bryant would agree with Varela on this point.

TDOO, 3.3:

In Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, DeLanda remarks that ‘[s]ingularities [...] influence the behaviour [of objects] by acting as attractors for [their] trajectories.’ Here it is crucial to note that the concept of attractors is not a teleological concept. Attractors are not goals towards which a substance tends, but are rather the potentialities towards which a substance tends under a variety of different conditions in the actualization of its qualities…. In this respect, DeLanda's attractors are extremely close to Bhaskar's generative mechanisms developed in A Realist Theory of Science.”


“The point here is that, if we don't attend to the regime of attraction in which the autopoietic system develops, we fall prey to a tendency to treat local manifestations as strictly resulting from innate factors in the system, rather than seeing them as results of an interaction between both system-specific properties of the system and perturbations from the environment that are translated into information which then selects system-states. Here the conclusion seems to be that development does not have any one particular attractor in the teleological sense.”


I was just addressing the capacity of systems to self-transform and evolve in response to 'perturbations,' which is what I thought you were asking about.  This doesn't require an in-built telos, in my understanding.  Are you saying something more than this, that you think it is important also to include a teleonomic component in the description of objects?  (This is the direction David Bohm went at the end of his life...)

The existence of an evolutionary drive -- an inherently creative impulse to improve, to grow and become better and better, or fuller and fuller -- is a view Cohen is promoting in his Evolutionary Spirituality.  It seems lots of Integrally-related folks out there are agree with him.  I don't expect you're suggesting something like this, though, so would you mind saying more...?

Just fishing at this point. I'm trying to understand how the dynamic systems theorists frame these leaps of complexity without teleos.


I don't recall his specific arguments -- I'm just dipping in to this again right now -- but here's McIntosh's argument for telos or 'purpose' in evolution.


And as I recall, without citation at this point, an autopoietic system in adapting to environmental changes doesn't necessarily have to increase in complexity but could do the reverse in order to survive, i.e, 'evolve.' Hence evolution per se is not tied to increased complexity.

Update: See this, for example. And Visser's article.

This is interesting, from chapter 4.1 of TDOO: 

“Because systems constitute their own elements it follows that 'systems of a higher (emergent) order can possess less complexity than systems of a lower order because they determine the unity and number of elements that compose them,' along with the relations among these elements.”

McIntosh admits that most physical, biological and social scientists decry teleos to evolution but his only argument is to reduce all of them to "cultural relativism," i.e., the mean green meme 'argument.' I also question his thesis that after 'proving' progress in the cultural domain adds weight to the proof for biological progress.

Now I agree with him that democracy is an advance over feudalism, but that's when we contextualize the parameters being human freedom. It's another thing though to say that human freedom is in-built into the fabric of the universe as some kind of involutionary given or even gradient. Or that humanity is moving therefore towards ultimate liberation. That it is on that trajectory is indeed an evolutionary path but said path is not inherent but rather man-made.

M is right that 'progress' was used by Enlightenment thinkers to rationalize colonialism and environmental degradation. Hence the rise of pomo to challenge progress. Per the usual kennilingus he says pomo only focuses on the disasters and threw out the dignities. The dignities he lists though sound more to me like the pomo movement's achievements, not modernism's. And to solve pomo he takes the usual Hegelian and kennilinguistic move of transcend-and-include.

It is exactly here that perhaps kennililnguists can learn from the OOO* instead of reducing them too into the camp of the green meme. But it seems unlikely to me because that would require them to give up the Hegelian dialectic so critical to their AQAL 'hyperobject.'

*Like Bryant above, who accepts "higher emergent order," yet not in the way McIntosh does.

Another thing strikes me about the telosiacs: they always place themselves on the leading edge of evolution. If there was no teleos they couldn't rationalize their special place in leading the way for the rest of us schmucks. This is another thing to learn from OOO, it's narcissism-reducing response to such not just anthoropomorphism but cream-of-the crop frothy egde-ism.

I also find it interesting that the kennilinguist evolutionists in general favor some version of capitalism while the likes of OOOers like Bryant favor democracy.

Also McIntosh (and kennilinguists generally) uses holonics to rationalize his dialectic. But as we've seen with Bryant, while he too accepts mereology is it of a different variety.


This relates to something I've been intending to discuss in relation to Cohen's new book, which I've been reading.  I won't discuss it in detail here, other than to note that it, too, sounds the "we're the leading edge of the universe" note.  There are actually aspects of his book I appreciate, but I do not see justification in it for the mounds of (seemingly uncritical) praise and unqualified endorsement of it from many in the "evolutionary spirituality" field, including McIntosh.  It has made me think, something's really wrong here.

I have appreciated the observation by folks such as Sagan, Berry, Swimme, Primack, and others, that there is cause for wonder and awe, when we realize that we do represent a seemingly rare occasion where the universe has become aware of itself: where not only self-awareness has emerged, but more recently, a capacity to look back at the whole evolutionary sweep, from  the scattering clouds of hydrogen atoms to the birth of galaxies to the emergence of life in all its forms, including us.  This emergent view is nowhere near total or exhaustive -- likely still just a dim glimmer, and of course still open to revision -- but there nevertheless has been an explosion in empirical knowledge about the physical universe (its present scope, its distant origins, its evolutionary or developmental journey) in relation to which we can rightly stand in awe.  These are momentous, possibly culture-defining discoveries (if folks like Swimme and Primack are right).  To acknowledge and appreciate this, or even to wonderingly proclaim that we are an example of the universe "becoming aware of itself," is one thing; but to move from there to proclaiming that the evolution of the whole universe has therefore led, purposefully and intentionally, to one's present worldview, to one's present cultural and spiritual agenda, is quite another.  That's going too far, in my view, and that's what I see a number of folks in the Integral and Evolutionary crowds doing.

Concerning using holonics to justify the Integral dialectic, yes, I agree -- that seems to be problematic, if only because the holonic (transcend-and-include) view is partial and incomplete.  I agree that OOO is offering a new way to think about mereology.  I'm not entirely on board with the OOO approach yet, but I appreciate the creative thinking they are doing in this area.  And Bonnie's onto-logics looks like a good corrective, too,  to Integral's over-reliance on holonics, with her emphasis on a range of different generative processes or 'mechanisms,' beyond the transcend-and-include variety (which is the Integral mainstay).


Which of course is an invaluable OOO criticism leveled against correlationism, of which such ironic narcissism running rampantly amok is but one symptom. (Poetic rhetoric, that.)


I agree.  Though, ideally, at least, I think Integral has the philosophical resources to deal with the correlationism charge, given that it at least acknowledges the Myth of the Framework as being as problematic as the Myth of the Given.  In practice, however, there has been more focus on the Myth of the Given, and in that regard, Integral thought does appear to mirror correlationist thought to some degree.

I say, "to some degree," because, as I understand the argument against correlationism, one of the problems of correlationism is apparently its insistence that a world without men, without humans, is unthinkable.  OOO ontology, as Bryant says, wants to posit a world where humans are beings among beings, not the Monarchs of Being.  An Integral, enactive, post-metaphysical approach, as I understand it, does not have an issue with imagining a "world without men."  It is not species-centric*.  But it does suggest that "worlds" (defined as fields of meaningful distinctions or possibilities for interaction) ex-ist only for sentient beings (here, imagining even atoms as sentient beings, to the extent that atoms are able in some way to register, respond to, and interact with objects and forces outside of themselves; the idea is not that atoms think about, or have emotional responses to, the world).

What do you think?

* Panikkar's cosmotheandric approach is more problematically correlationist than the Integral project

Just a passing thought: Wilber uses the word, exist, with an emphasis on its etymology -- to ex-ist or "stand forth."  Therefore, the word includes an implicit '-for' within it: that which ex-ists is that which stands-forth-for.  Ex-istence, then, would be relational, and this could be contrasted with another quality of objects, which OOO emphasizes -- that of a polar movement, to 'withdraw,' to 'stand-back' and be hidden-from.  To my knowledge, Bryant doesn't use the word 'exist' as the polar opposite of withdrawal; rather, he describes withdrawal as a characteristic of existent objects.  But it might be useful to make this polar distinction, since an emphasis on withdrawal does seem to call for a recognition of 'standing-forth-for' as well.


Remember this post from p. 11 of this thread, from chapter 2.2 of TDOO:

“Substances are not defined by contraries or opposites, but simply are what they are. This, of course, is not to suggest that substances do not come into being or that they cannot pass out of being, only that they do not admit of opposed or contrary terms. An individual ncane toad does not have an opposite. Rather, if there is contrariety, it exists only in the domain of qualities. Later, when discussing local manifestation and virtual proper being we will see that there is reason to doubt that contrariety is a genuine ontological category. Insofar as substances are not constituted by their relations, insofar as relations are not internal to their terms, it follows that substances cannot be dialectical in either the relational sense or the sense of contrariety. Contrariety, if it exists, exists at the level of qualities, not substances. It is only through an erasure of substances, through a reduction of substances to their qualities, through the gesture of actualism as discussed in the last chapter, that it can be supposed that substance is dialectical.”

It appears that an object doesn't "exist for," at least in totality. And its substance is not to be considered in contrast with, or complimentary to, its actualizations, since it is only on the level of the actual that complimentarity comes into being. In a way substance is like khora, as the condition for complimentarity but itself not a participant. In a way it's like Kennilingam's contention that the causal doesn't enter into the relative realm of complimentarity and hence is not a compliment to the relative realm but its 'cause.' Except that there are differences between khora and the causal realm (recall this thread). Also recall early on in the thread, Bryant's article on Derrida.

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