Gestalt theory and synergetics: From psychophysical isomorphism to holistic emergentism

Philosophical Psychology 7 (2):211-226 (1994)
Gestalt theory is discussed as one main precursor of synergetics, one of the most elaborated theories of self-organization. It is a precursor for two reasons: the Gestalt theoretical view of cognitive order-formation comes dose to the central ideas of self-organization. Furthermore both approaches have stressed the significance of non-linear perceptual processes (such as multistability) for the solution of the mind-brain problem. The question of whether Gestalt theory preferred a dualistic or a monistic view of the mind-body relation is answered in that there was a preference for dualism in epistemological questions and for monism in the mind-brain relation. The latter was attained by the concept of psychophysical isomorphism. This concept, although widely misunderstood in many respects, was criticized on the basis of neurobiological findings. One main objection was the neglect of the importance of the elementary neurophysiological processes. A distinction between macroscopic and microscopic brain processes seemed to be required. This idea was taken up in synergetics which postulates a bottom-up and top-down interaction between these two levels. Macroscopic order emerges from elementary brain processes and, at the same time, has a backward slaving effect to the microscopic level In the light of such holistic emergentism, the question whether macroscopic order states might be attractors for psychological meanings is discussed
Keywords Cognition  Epistemology  Gestalt  Holism  Isomorphism  Metaphysics  Synergetics
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DOI 10.1080/09515089408573120
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