Many in science are disposed not to take biosemiotics seriously, dismissing it as too anthropomorphic. Furthermore, biosemiotic apologetics are cast in top-down fashion, thereby adding to widespread skepticism. An effective response might be to approach biosemiotics from the bottom up, but the foundational assumptions that support Enlightenment science make that avenue impossible. Considerations from ecosystem studies reveal, however, that those conventional assumptions, although once possessing great utilitarian value, have come to impede deeper understanding of living systems because they implicitly depict (...) the evolution of the universe backward. Ecological dynamics suggests instead a smaller set of countervailing postulates that allows evolution to play forward and sets the stage for tripartite causalities, signs, and interpreters—the key elements of biosemiosis—to emerge naturally out of the interaction of chance with configurations of autocatalytic processes. Biosemiosis thereby appears as a fully legitimate outgrowth of the new metaphysic and shows promise for becoming the supervenient focus of a deeper perspective on the phenomenon of life. (shrink)
Recognition that biological systems are stabilized far from equilibrium by self-organizing, informed, autocatalytic cycles and structures that dissipate unusable energy and matter has led to recent attempts to reformulate evolutionary theory. We hold that such insights are consistent with the broad development of the Darwinian Tradition and with the concept of natural selection. Biological systems are selected that re not only more efficient than competitors but also enhance the integrity of the web of energetic relations in which they are embedded. (...) But the expansion of the informational phase space, upon which selection acts, is also guaranteed by the properties of open informational-energetic systems. This provides a directionality and irreversibility to evolutionary processes that are not reflected in current theory.For this thermodynamically-based program to progress, we believe that biological information should not be treated in isolation from energy flows, and that the ecological perspective must be given descriptive and explanatory primacy. Levels of the ecological hierarchy are relational parts of ecological systems in which there are stable, informed patterns of energy flow and entropic dissipation. Isomorphies between developmental patterns and ecological succession are revealing because they suggest that much of the encoded metabolic information in biological systems is internalized ecological information. The geneological hierarchy, to the extent that its information content reflects internalized ecological information, can therefore be redescribed as an ecological hierarchy. (shrink)
Physicalism holds that the laws of physics are inviolable and ubiquitous and thereby account for all of reality. Laws leave no “wiggle room” or “gaps” for action by numinous agents. They cannot be invoked, however, without boundary stipulations that perforce are contingent and which “drive” the laws. Driving contingencies are not limited to instances of “blind chance,” but rather span a continuum of amalgamations with regularities, up to and including nearly determinate propensities. Most examples manifest directionality, and their very definition (...) encompasses intentionality. Contingencies, via their interactions with laws, can reinforce and maintain one another, thereby giving rise to enduring, ordered configurations of constraints. All of ordered nature thus results from ongoing transactions between mutualistic contingencies that constrain possibilities and entropic chance events that degrade order but diversify opportunities. Laws do not of themselves determine reality; interactions among contingencies do. For believers, the robust abundance of indeterminacies provides ample latitude for divine intervention, free will, and prayer. The priority of contingency also affords some insight into the meaning of suffering and evil. (shrink)
Mutual critique by scientists and religious believers mostly entails the pruning of untenable religious beliefs by scientists and warnings against scientific minimalism on the part of believers. John F. Haught has been prominent in formulating religious apologetics in response to the challenges posed by evolutionary theory. Haught's work also resonates with a parallel criticism of the conventional scientific metaphysics undergirding neo-Darwinian theory. Contemporary systems ecology seems to indicate that nothing short of a complete reversal of the Enlightenment assumptions about nature (...) is capable of repositioning science to deal adequately with the origin and dynamics of living systems. A process-based alternative metaphysics substantially mitigates several ostensible conflicts between science and religion. (shrink)
The respondent agrees with William Grassie that many windows on nature are possible; that emphasis must remain on the generation of order; that “chance” would better be recast as “contingency”; and that the ecological metaphysic has wide implications for a “politics of nature”. He accepts the challenge by Pedro Sotolongo to extend his metaphysic into the realm of pan-semiotics and agrees that an ecological perspective offers the best hope for solving the world’s inequities. He replies to Stanley Salthe that he (...) now agrees that the second law of thermodynamics is the overarching law of nature, but only when the duality inherent in of the concept of entropy is widely recognized. The respondent is enthusiastic over Jeffrey Lockwood’s extrapolation of process ecology to include the concept of “species” and over John Haught’s description of how the construct paves the way for a “theology of evolution” by recasting evolution as an unfolding “drama”. (shrink)
The laws of physics, because they are cast in terms of homogeneous variables, fall short of determining outcomes in heterogeneous biological systems that are capable of an immense number of combinatoric changes. The universal laws are not violated and they continue to constrain, but specification of results is accomplished instead by stable configurations of processes that develop in a nonrandom, but indeterminate manner. The indeterminacy of physical laws puts an end to Deist speculations and necessitates an alternative to the mechanical-reductionistic (...) metaphor for nature. An antithetical Heraclitan metaphysics, called ‘Process Ecology,’ entails a dialectic between centripetal creation and centrifugal decay in which nature, humanity and the Divine can all potentially participate. The dialectic can be quantified and tracked using information measures applied to networks of processes to allow for the statement and testing of falsifiable hypotheses. Creation no longer appears as an emergent enigma, but rather as a core phenomenon of Process Ecology that allows for free will, Divine intervention, intercessory prayer and a necessary tolerance for petty evil. No longer is ‘heat death’ the inevitable and only endpoint of the cosmos. Rather, the course of the universe may include as well the production of ‘perpetual harmonies’ akin to Teilhard’s ‘Omega Point.’. (shrink)
Mechanical reductionism, which deals entirely with homogeneous variables, will constrain and enable the activities of richly heterogeneous living systems, but it cannot determine their outcomes. Such indeterminism owes to problems with dimensionality, dynamical logic, intractability, and insufficiency. The order in any living structure arises via an historical series of contingencies that were selected endogenously by stable autocatalytic processes in tandem with, and usually in opposition to, conventional external influences. The development of living communities thereby resembles a Heraclitean dialectic between processes (...) that build up and those that tear down. Investigating this unconventional dynamic requires metaphysical assumptions that are complementary to those that have guided science over the past three centuries. The new dynamics can be represented in terms of weighted networks of interacting processes, which facilitate the statement of testable hypotheses. Network analysis thereby implements and tests ideas that heretofore could only be addressed as verbal propositions. (shrink)
Fourteen essays by former pupils of Calhoun, including G. A. Lindbeck, W. A. Christian, N. C. Nielsen, Jr., R. P. Ramsey, and A. C. Outler. The depth of scholarship that these former students have achieved as well as the generally high calibre of all the essays are ample evidence of Calhoun's pedagogical prowess. Most of the contributions are of theological import, and most are historically oriented as the title of the book suggests. Lindbeck's essay, however, "The A Priori in St. (...) Thomas' Theory of Knowledge," has direct philosophical relevance for those concerned over the "Transcendental" interpretation of Thomas' epistemology and metaphysics. Nothing is advanced over the arguments of Maréchal, Lonergan, and Rahner in favor of this interpretation, but this additional support in a new context lends strength to the thesis.—E. A. R. (shrink)
Process philosophy is said by some to be the future of American philosophy. This collection of essays, ranging from studies of Whitehead to Camus and Sir Muhammad Iqbal, extends the discussion far beyond the boundaries of North America. Several of the essays are of a more systematic character. Donald Hanks analyzes the category of process as a pre-conceptual principle used to organize experience into an intelligible pattern. Andrew Reck provides an analysis of the meaning and justification of what he considers (...) to be the ten ideas or categories requisite for a system of process philosophy. Charles Schmidtke argues that process philosophy faces a fundamental decision regarding whether the character of reality as process is given as an ultimate datum or whether process philosophy structures reality in accordance with the characteristic of creative becoming. Other essays in the volume are concerned with the concept of process in the work of a variety of philosophers, some of whom are less directly in the process tradition. Ramona Cormier analyzes the relationship of the process of experience to its unchanging aspect in connection with Camus’ concern for the meaningfulness of life and the limitations of rational inquiry. Bertrand P. Helm provides a study of James’ concept of time and Patrick S. Madigan a study of the concept of space in Leibniz and Whitehead. Whitehead’s understanding of the interaction of things provides the basis for R. Kirby Godsey’s study of the categories of substance and relation in Whitehead, and Robert C. Whittemore provides an introduction to the process philosophy of Sir Muhammad Iqbal, the little known poet-philosopher and sometime student of James Ward. James Leroy Smith’s article on Whitehead and Marx is a critical comparison of their political philosophies.—E.T.L. (shrink)
This paper is an extended discussion of RobertUlanowicz’s critique of mechanistic and reductionistic metaphysics of science. He proposes “process ecology” as an alternative. In this paper I discuss four sets of question coming out of Ulanowicz’s proposal. First, I argue that universality remains one of the hallmarks of the scientific enterprise even with his new process metaphysics. I then discuss the Second Law of Thermodynamics in the interpretation of the history of the universe. I question (...) class='Hi'>Ulanowicz’s use of the terms “random” and “chance” in his definition of process. Finally, I discuss what difference a relational and process metaphysics might make in addressing the political and practical problems in the twenty-first century. (shrink)
This is a review of the book Cultivating Original Enlightenment: Wŏnhyo's Exposition of the Vajrasamādhi-Sūtra, by Robert E. Buswell, Jr., published by the Univeristy of Hawaii Press. This volume, the first to be published in the Collected Works of Wŏnhyo series, contains the translation of a single text by Wŏnhyo, the Kŭmgang Sammaegyŏng Non.
The precise application of the term ‘heroic measures’ in the discourse of medicine and medical ethics is somewhat uncertain. What counts and what does not is, at the margins, a perpetually contentious issue. Basically, though, we can say that the term refers to the deployment of unusual technologies or treatment regimes, or of ordinary technologies or treatment regimes beyond their usual limits.
This article sympathetically explores the phenomenological pragmatism of Robert E. Innis in Consciousness and the Play of Forms and Pragmatism and the Forms of Sense. Disputing both the realistic view that perception underlies semiosis and deconstructionist reversals of this, Innis claims they are inextricably interwoven. He forges an alliance between pragmatists Peirce and Dewey, and Continental phenomenologists Polanyi, Bühler, and Cassirer, a "polyphony" that also yields a richly aesthetic critique of technology. By restricting his analysis to a methodological "frame," (...) Innis overlooks a metaphysical tension between Polanyi's realism and Cassirer's idealism, though potentially resolvable in Dewey's transactional philosophy. (shrink)
Elsewhere I have defended utilitarianism as a philosophy peculiarly well suited to the conduct of public affairs, on grounds of the peculiar tasks and instruments confronting public officials. Here I add another plank to that defence of ‘utilitarianism as a public philosophy’, focusing on the peculiar role responsibilities of people serving in public capacities. Such ‘public service utilitarianism’ is incumbent not only upon public officials but also upon individuals in their capacities as citizens and voters. I close with reflections on (...) how best to evoke appreciation of these utilitarian role responsibilities from officials and electors alike. (shrink)
Maximizing want-satisfaction per se is a relatively unattractive aspiration, for it seems to assume that wants are somehow disembodied entities with independent moral claims all of their own. Actually, of course, they are possessed by particular people. What preference-utilitarians should be concerned with is how people's lives go—the fulfilment of their projects and the satisfaction of their desires. In an old-fashioned way of talking, it is happy people rather than happiness per se that utilitarians should be striving to produce.
Although Darwinian concepts have largely been banned from the social sciences of the last century, they have recently seen a revival in several disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, or economics. Most of the current proponents of evolutionary theorizing in the social sciences avoid references to the older literature on social evolution. On that background, this article presents a contribution to Darwinist thinking in early American sociology that has mainly been overlooked in the literature. As the leading figure of the Human (...) Ecology Approach, which was established during the 1920s and 1930s, Robert Ezra Park drew heavily on evolutionary concepts to explain human evolution. A systematic presentation of these concepts in the light of the modern discussion on sociocultural evolution is given, followed by a conclusion about what can be learned from Park today. (shrink)
O presente artigo procura mostrar a crítica conservadora inglesa do século XVII às noções de liberdade natural e contrato originário, ao deslocar a origem do poder político para as relações afetivas estabelecidas pelos laços sentimentais de família que mantêm pais e filhos unidos. Mais exatamente, a legitimação política do poder teria como fundamento uma autoridade natural semelhante à relação verificada entre pais e filhos. Segundo essa teoria, cujo mais importante representante foi Robert Filmer, o fundamento da autoridade política não (...) é fruto de uma instituição arbitrária dos homens, mas uma necessidade introduzida por Deus, com o propósito de justificar as monarquias absolutistas. (shrink)
Robert Innis has performed an immensely valuable service for scholars in the fields of American philosophy, aesthetics, and semiotics. Not only does his comprehensive view of Susanne K. Langer’s opus show us its development, but this is the only book in English devoted solely to Langer. I hope it may help retrieve her considerable philosophical achievement from the penumbral, fading status it has today. Not only does Innis give us a close discussion of Langer’s philosophy, but he also presents (...) a running argument that she should be embraced as an “American philosopher” and semiotician who shares themes with Dewey and Peirce. This is significant insofar as Langer held herself aloof from the work of both Dewey and . (shrink)
In A Third Window RobertUlanowicz exposes the explanatory weaknesses of both classical and statistical methods in scientific inquiry. His book, however, does much more than that. While being completely grounded in empirical science, it also outlines a worldview, or a metaphysics, that renders intelligible the fact of chance and emergent novelty. Ulanowicz establishes his position by comparing his third window onto nature with two others conventional scientific approaches. The purpose of this essay is to point out (...) the value of Ulanowicz’s approach for improving the quality of conversation between science and theology. (shrink)
A review of Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition: Situating Animals in Hare’s Two-Level Utilitarianism, by Gary E. Varner. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. xv + 336. H/b £40.23. and The Philosophy of Animal Minds, edited by Robert W. Lurz. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. 320. P/b £20.21.