The emergence of transcendental norms in human systems

Zygon 44 (3):501-532 (2009)
Terrence Deacon has described three orders of emergence; Arthur Peacocke and others have suggested four levels of human systems and sciences; and Philip Clayton has postulated an additional, transcendent, level. Orders and levels describe distinct aspects of emergence, with orders characterizing topological complexity and levels characterizing theoretical knowledge and causal power. By using Deacon's orders to analyze and relate each of the four "lower" levels one can project that analysis on the transcendent level to gain insight into the teleodynamic emergence of transcendent-level systems. I argue that cross-cultural interactions among human cultural-level systems results in the emergence of the "universal" transcendental norms historically characterized as the Greek Good, Beauty, and Truth. These norms require a dynamic existence that I characterize as the emergence of Spirit, using Josiah Royce's community of interpretation, and that I suggest provides a pragmatic clarification of Clayton's transcendent level. An understanding of those emergent norms clarifies ethical systems, highlights the importance of aesthetics in understanding scientific systems, and suggests the necessity of community in fruitful science-and-religion dialogue on human systems.
Keywords aesthetics   community of scholars   Terrence Deacon   emergence   emergent systems theory   ethics   human systems   orders of emergence   pragmatism   Josiah Royce   science and religion   systems theory   theology and science   transcendentals   transcendent level   universal norms
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