Sunday, March 25, 2012

The presuppositions of telelogical wholes

Some thoughts circulating in my brain follow from discussions in two IPS threads, “Enactive Realism” and “Spheres.”

Per Takaki implicit knowing seems to be embodied and enactive. That is, even though there is a higher order contextualizing it cannot exist without the lower parts that afford it. When such higher orders emerge then the lower orders are implicit to its explicit knowing. In other words, it is a bottom up system in that there is no higher order whole without its parts. In still other words, there is no totalizing whole that existed before manifestation that involves into the parts. The parts evolve into particular wholes, always set in specific contextualization, with the implicit arising from such evolution, not the other way around. We see this same notion of embedded, embodied and immanent objects in Bryant's dynamic, and uniquely particular, systems.

I don't pretend to understand what Joel means by his types of involution. When he talks of the "natural evolutionary process" for me it has connotations of an inherent teleos akin to Wilber's involutionary, morphogentic gradient. And the likes of Bryant (not sure about Takaki) seems to indicate that while there is a tendency toward ever-greater and more complex wholes it is completely contingent to forces "on the ground," as it were, that (in)form in creative and heretofore unknown ways; not from some implicit and pre-existing Whole or gradient.

Granted, we might say that this tendency to ever more complex wholes is in fact such a gradient, but it doesn't appear to be going to some particular (pun intended) end. And then there are specific examples of evolution that become less complex to survive in their particular environments (contexts), so I'm still not sure about this notion that complexity equals evolution. (For example, see Visser's paper "Some paradoxes of evolution.”)

Also consider Latour's article "The whole is always smaller that its parts." I've yet to read it thoroughly but it seems to indicate that wholes are not more but less complex than the parts. It seems wholes are redefined as overlaps between parts in a network, with the network being more of a diffuse rhizomatic, rather than integrated hierarchic, whole. It also seems this is indicative of Slot's work as well, given Latour's sympathy with it, but not sure about that at this point.

Takaki lays of the issue as one of integrating the representational divide of dualism via hierarchical enaction. Whereas Latour makes the issue the presupposition that there are hierarchical levels in the whole to begin with. For example:

“But is there an alternative to the common sense version that distinguishes atoms, interactions and wholes as successive sequences (whatever the order and the timing)... A monad is not a part of a whole, but a point of view on all the other entities taken severally and not as a totality.... What is so refreshing with the new habit of circulation is that they never end up tracing an entity as 'part of a whole;' since there is never any whole.... The reason is that ...there are, strictly speaking, no individual atoms...nor move from one entity —the substance— to its network —the attributes— you don’t go from the particular to the general, but from particular to more particulars” (7 - 8).

1 comment:

  1. The LaTour article is very interesting, but I think the main lesson to be drawn is that databases are flattening networks. There is nothing in them but horizontal connections, so of course one is not going to find support for a higher/lower distinction in them. Institutions are represented as no more than a series of linked pages, so how could they appear higher and more complex than their members?

    In real life, we all think and feel about institutions very differently from the way we think and feel about other individuals. In other words, real-life connections come in a great variety of qualities. The internet, so far at least, can't represent these distinctions.

    Also, I think they overstate the "mystery" of why the higher group should be virtual, yet stable, while the lower individual is real, yet transient. There are plenty of real higher entities, such as the body vs. its cells, or a cell vs. its atoms and molecules. Human societies appear virtual to us precisely because they are higher than any of their individual members; we aren't capable of perceiving them in the same way we perceive our bodies, other bodies, or the components of these bodies.

    As for evolution, no, complexity doesn't = evolution. It's simply one significant trend. Exceptions don't disprove the trend, any more than the fact that many people today are in poor physical shape invalidates the conclusion that a trend in athletics over the past century is stronger, faster and more enduring. The leading edge of evolution has increased in complexity. That doesn't mean that all trends are in that direction.


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