My interest in China was rekindled several years ago by an invitation to a conference, "Modernization, Globalization and China's Path to Economic Development," to he held in Hangzhou, July, 2002. The conference was organized by Cao Tian Yu, a philosopher of science at Boston University and his wife Lin Chun of the London School of Economics--both deeply concerned about the future of China. It was attended by a number of Western Leftists (Samir Amin, Perry Anderson, Robin Blackburn and myself), by (...) China specialist Joseph Fewsmith, by representatives from Singapore, Taiwan and India, by representatives from China's developing "New Left," (among them Wang Hui, whose book China's New Order was recently published by Harvard University Press1), by the president of Hangzhou College of Commerce (where the event was held) and by three retired, once prominent government officials, among them Du Runsheng, a principal architect of China's agricultural reform of the late 70s, early 80s. (shrink)
Griffiths and Russell D. Gray (1994, 1997, 2001) have argued that the fundamental unit of analysis in developmental systemstheory should be a process – the life cycle – and not a set of developmental resources and interactions between those resources. The key concepts of developmental systemstheory, epigenesis and developmental dynamics, both also suggest a process view of the units of development. This chapter explores in more depth the features of developmental systemstheory (...) that favour treating processes as fundamental in biology and examines the continuity between developmental systemstheory and ideas about process in the work of several major figures in early 20th century biology, most notable C.H Waddington. (shrink)
Developmental systemstheory (DST) is a wholeheartedly epigenetic approach to development, inheritance and evolution. The developmental system of an organism is the entire matrix of resources that are needed to reproduce the life cycle. The range of developmental resources that are properly described as being inherited, and which are subject to natural selection, is far wider than has traditionally been allowed. Evolution acts on this extended set of developmental resources. From a developmental systems perspective, development does not (...) proceed according to a preformed plan; what is inherited is much more than DNA; and evolution is change not only in gene frequencies, but in entire developmental systems. (shrink)
Developmental SystemsTheory (DST) emphasises the importance of non-genetic factors in development and their relevance to evolution. A common, deflationary reaction is that it has long been appreciated that non-genetic factors are causally indispensable. This paper argues that DST can be reformulated to make a more substantive claim: that the special role played by genes is also played by some (but not all) non-genetic resources. That special role is to transmit inherited representations, in the sense of Shea (2007: (...) Biology and Philosophy, 22, 313-331). Formulating DST as the claim that there are non-genetic inherited representations turns it into a striking, empirically-testable hypothesis, driving the sort of investigations that are only now beginning to appear in the scientific literature. DST’s characteristic rejection of a gene vs. environment dichotomy is preserved, but without dissolving all potentially explanatory distinctions into an interactionist causal soup, as some have alleged. (shrink)
According to the standard view in philosophy, intentionality is the mark of genuine action. In psychology, human cognition and agency are now widely explained in terms of the workings of two distinct systems (or types of processes), and intentionality is not a central notion in this dual-system theory. Further, it is often claimed, in psychology, that most human actions are automatic, rather than consciously controlled. This raises pressing questions. Does the dual-system theory preserve the philosophical account of (...) intentional action? How much of our behavior is intentional according to this view? And what is the role of consciousness? I will propose here a revised account of intentional action within the dual-system framework, and we will see that most of our behavior can qualify as intentional, even if most of it is automatic. An important lesson will be that philosophical accounts of intentional action need to pay more attention to the role of consciousness in action. (shrink)
I examine explanations’ realist commitments in relation to dynamical systemstheory. First I rebut an ‘explanatory indispensability argument’ for mathematical realism from the explanatory power of phase spaces (Lyon and Colyvan 2007). Then I critically consider a possible way of strengthening the indispensability argument by reference to attractors in dynamical systemstheory. The take-home message is that understanding of the modal character of explanations (in dynamical systemstheory) can undermine platonist arguments from explanatory indispensability.
In the first section of this paper I argue that the main reason why Daniel Dennett’s Intentional SystemsTheory (IST) has been perceived as behaviourist or antirealist is its inability to account for the causal efficacy of the mental. The rest of the paper is devoted to the claim that by emending the theory with a phenomenon called ‘empathic resonance’ (ER), it can account for the various explananda in the mental causation debate. Thus, IST + ER is (...) a much more viable option than IST, even though IST + ER assigns a crucial role to the phenomenology of agency, a role that is incompatible with Dennett’s writings on consciousness. (shrink)
In this paper the central ideas and history of the theory of complex systems are described. It is shown how this theory lends itself to different interpretations and, correspondingly, to different political conclusions.
Dynamical systemstheory (DST) is gaining popularity in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. Recently several authors (e.g. J.A.S. Kelso, 1995; A. Juarrero, 1999; F. Varela and E. Thompson, 2001) offered a DST approach to mental causation as an alternative for models of mental causation in the line of Jaegwon Kim (e.g. 1998). They claim that some dynamical systems exhibit a form of global to local determination or downward causation in that the large-scale, global activity of the (...) system governs or constrains local interactions. This form of downward causation is the key to the DST model of mental causation. In this paper I evaluate the DST approach to mental causation. I will argue that the main problem for current DST approaches to mental causation is that they lack a clear metaphysics. I propose one metaphysical framework (Gillett, 2002a/b/c) that might deal with this deficiency. (shrink)
Besides their skepticism about universal reason and universal morality, the Frankfurt Schools of Critical SystemsTheory and Critical Theory share basic assumptions: (1) the thinking in societal-systemic, institutional concepts, which transcend simple reciprocal relations by dint of their complexity; (2) the assumption that society is based on fundamental paradoxes, antagonisms, antinomies; (3) the strategy to conceptualize justice as a contingent and transcendental formula; (4) the form of immanent (and not morality-based, external) critique as an attitude of transcendence; (...) (5) the aim of societal (and not only political) emancipation in an ‘association of free individuals’ (Marx). The article focuses on those parallels and aims to conceptualize a critical turn-around of autopoietic systemstheory. (shrink)
Dual-process theories hold that there are two distinct processing modes available for many cognitive tasks: one that is fast, automatic and non-conscious, and another that is slow, controlled and conscious. Typically, cognitive biases are attributed to type 1 processes, which are held to be heuristic or associative, and logical responses to type 2 processes, which are characterised as rule-based or analytical. Dual-system theories go further and assign these two types of process to two separate reasoning systems, System 1 and (...) System 2 – a view sometimes described as ‘the two minds hypothesis’. It is often claimed that System 2 is uniquely human and the source of our capacity for abstract and hypothetical thinking. This study is an introduction to dual-process and dual-system theories. It looks at some precursors, surveys key work in the fields of learning, reasoning, social cognition and decision making, and identifies some recent trends and philosophical applications. (shrink)
A new advanced systemstheory concerning the emergent nature of the Social, Consciousness, and Life based on Mathematics and Physical Analogies is presented. This meta-theory concerns the distance between the emergent levels of these phenomena and their ultra-efficacious nature. The theory is based on the distinction between Systems and Meta-systems (organized Openscape environments). We first realize that we can understand the difference between the System and the Meta-system in terms of the relationship between a (...) ‘Whole greater than the sum of the parts’ and a ‘Whole less than the sum of its parts’, i.e., a whole full of holes (like a sponge) that provide niches for systems in the environment. Once we understand this distinction and clarify the nature of the unusual organization of the Meta-system, then it is possible to understand that there is a third possibility which is a whole exactly equal to the sum of its parts that is only supervenient like perfect numbers. In fact, there are three kinds of Special System corresponding to the perfect, amicable, and sociable aliquot numbers. These are all equal to the sum of their parts but with different degrees of differing and deferring in what Jacques Derrida calls “differance”. All other numbers are either excessive (systemic) or deficient (metasystemic) in this regard. The Special Systems are based on various mathematical analogies and some physical analogies. But the most important of the mathematical analogies are the hypercomplex algebras, which include the Complex Numbers, Quaternions, and Octonions, with the Sedenions corresponding to the Emergent Meta-system. However, other analogies are the Hopf fibrations between hyperspheres of various dimensions, nonorientable surfaces, soliton solutions, etc. These Special Systems have a long history within the tradition since they can be traced back to the imaginary cities of Plato. The Emergent Meta-system is a higher order global structure that includes the System with the three Special Systems as a cycle. An example of this from our tradition is in the Monadology of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz. There is a conjunctive relationship between the System schema and the Special Systems that produce the Meta-system schema cycle. The Special Systems are a meta-model for the relationship between the emergent levels of Consciousness (Dissipative Ordering based on the theory of negative entropy of Prigogine), Living (Autopoietic Symbiotic based on the theory of Maturana and Varela), and Social (Reflexive based on the theory of John O’Malley and Barry Sandywell). These different special systems are related to the various existenitals identified by Martin Heidegger in Being and Time and various temporal reference frames identified by Richard M. Pico. We also relate the special systems to morphodynamic and teleodynamic systems of Terrence Deacon in Incomplete Nature to which we add sociodynamic systems to complete the series of Special Systems. (shrink)
Does systemstheory need rethinking? Most social scientists would probably say no. It had its run, was debated critically, and found wanting. If at all, it should be treated historically. Why then might systemstheory need rethinking, as the title of this symposium claims? The reason is that, unlike in the natural and biosocial sciences, any conception of system in the social sciences has remained suspect in the wake of problematic Parsonian and cybernetic systems theories. (...) The premise of this special issue is that abandoning conceptions of systems has imposed a high price on the social sciences: a lack of ontologies and methodologies that are both philosophically profound and scientifically defensible. It has left social scientists who choose to ignore ontology in their theoretical and empirical work defenseless against enterprising settlers from a variety of humanities and social science disciplines who attack mainstream work with—often simplistic and naïve, but nevertheless fundamental—philosophical arguments, whether anti-scientific postmodernists or pseudo-scientific rational choice theorists. The goal of this special issue is to showcase new and original work that contributes to a rethinking of systemstheory by taking the conception of systems seriously. This introduction offers a programmatic statement of a systemic ontology and methodology as well as a brief general outline and examples of what a systems-based approach in the social sciences entails. Key Words: systemstheory systemism systemic approach complexity theory self-organization emergentism paradigms social mechanisms Mario Bunge. (shrink)
SystemsTheory and Scientific Philosophy constitutes a totally new approach to philosophy, the philosophy of mind and the problems of artificial intelligence, and is based upon the pioneering work in cybernetics of W. Ross Ashby. While science is humanity's attempt to know how the world works and philosophy its attempt to know why, scientific philosophy is the application of scientific techniques to questions of philosophy.
It is often claimed (1) that levels of nature are related by supervenience, and (2) that processes occurring at particular levels of nature should be studied using dynamical systemstheory. However, there has been little consideration of how these claims are related. To address the issue, I show how supervenience relations give rise to ‘supervenience functions’, and use these functions to show how dynamical systems at different levels are related to one another. I then use this analysis (...) to describe a graded approach to non-reductive physicalism, and to critically assess Davidson’s arguments for psychological anomaly. I also show how this approach can inform empirical research in cognitive science. (shrink)
About the book: This book explores the idea that we have two minds - automatic, unconscious, and fast, the other controlled, conscious, and slow. In recent years there has been great interest in so-called dual-process theories of reasoning and rationality. According to such theories, there are two distinct systems underlying human reasoning - an evolutionarily old system that is associative, automatic, unconscious, parallel, and fast, and a more recent, distinctively human system that is rule-based, controlled, conscious, serial, and slow. (...) Within the former, processes the former, processes are held to be innate and to use heuristics that evolved to solve specific adaptive problems. In the latter, processes are taken to be learned, flexible, and responsive to rational norms. (shrink)
Here, for the first time, development studies encounters the set of ideas popularly known as 'Chaos Theory'. Samir Rihani applies to the processes of economic development, ideas from complex adaptive systems like uncertainty, complexity, and unpredictability. Rihani examines various aspects of the development process - including the World Bank, debt, and the struggle against poverty - and demonstrates the limitations of fundamentally linear thinking in an essentially non-linear world.
A systemstheory for chemistry is proposed in order to provide a general framework, which covers different theoretical approaches used in the molecular sciences.The basic elements of systemstheory are introduced and discussed.By construction, this systems chemistry offers classification and categorizationschemes that will help to identify the range of applicability of certain theoretical approachesas well as to find yet unanswered fundamental questions. Consequently, it will be of value not only to thosewho want to understand and (...) study the structure of chemistry, but it might also be of importance to daily research in chemistry. (shrink)
The significance and potential of systemstheory and complexity theory are best appreciated through an understanding of their origins. Arguably, their originator was the Russian philosopher and revolutionary, Aleksandr Bogdanov. Bogdanov anticipated later developments of systemstheory and complexity theory in his efforts to lay the foundations for a new, post-capitalist culture and science. This science would overcome the division between the natural and the human sciences and enable workers to organize themselves and their (...) productive activity. It would be central to the culture of a society in which class and gender divisions have been transcended. At the same time it would free people from the deformed thinking of class societies, enabling them to appreciate both the limitations and the significance of their environments and other forms of life. In this paper it is argued that whatever Bogdanov's limitations, such a science is still required if we are to create a society free of class divisions, and that it is in this light that developments in systemstheory and complexity theory should be judged. (shrink)
This article contributes to the revision of the concept of system in social theory using complexity theory. The old concept of social system is widely discredited; a new concept of social system can more adequately constitute an explanatory framework. Complexity theory offers the toolkit needed for this paradigm shift in social theory. The route taken is not via Luhmann, but rather the insights of complexity theorists in the sciences are applied to the tradition of social (...) class='Hi'>theory inspired by Marx, Weber, and Simmel. The article contributes to the theorization of intersectionality in social theory as well as to the philosophy of social science. It addresses the challenge of theorizing the intersection of multiple complex social inequalities, exploring the various alternative approaches, before rethinking the concept of social system. It investigates and applies, for the first time, the implications of complexity theory for the analysis of multiple intersecting social inequalities. Key Words: complexity theory inequality intersectionality social theory. (shrink)
As anthropology becomes more interested in consciousness and its numerous states, and with a slowly increasing appeal to neuroscience for insights and explanations of consciousness, there is an understandable interest in the components of consciousness and how they combine into alternative states in different sociocultural settings. One of those components should be the complexity of information processing producing the knowing aspect of consciousness. The author introduces an approach to this aspect in the form of conceptual systemstheory, a (...) neo-Piagetian model of cognitive development, which has been used to good effect to explain information processing in social situations but heretofore neglected by anthropologists. The neuroanthropological underpinnings of CST are discussed, as is the range of potential applications to ethnological and ethnographic problems. (shrink)
There is contrast to the belief that all energy and matter came into existence after the Big Bang. If we wish to understand the way the Greeks and other philosophers view our environment, we need to study the data that was collected by them. This book sees our portrayal of reality as having its departure point in concrete systems by which means of conceptual systems result in abstracted systems. This data must be sorted and information must now (...) be surveyed, structured, and analysed to find qualities and connections between the different aspects systems thinking. This has led to the theory for 'Living Systems'. It gives examples of applications which a basis for further studies of systems can be formed. The Internet now provides a major advantage to the retrieval of statistical information and opens a means for the future exploration and verification of how systems work. (shrink)
Dynamic systemstheory is a way of describing the patterns that emerge from relationships in the universe. In the study of interpersonal relationships, within and between species, the scientist is an active and engaged participant in those relationships. Separation between self and other, scientist and subject, runs counter to systems thinking and creates an unnecessary divide between humans and animals.
We define a mathematical formalism based on the concept of an ‘‘open dynamical system” and show how it can be used to model embodied cognition. This formalism extends classical dynamical systemstheory by distinguishing a ‘‘total system’’ (which models an agent in an environment) and an ‘‘agent system’’ (which models an agent by itself), and it includes tools for analyzing the collections of overlapping paths that occur in an embedded agent's state space. To illustrate the way this formalism (...) can be applied, several neural network models are embedded in a simple model environment. Such phenomena as masking, perceptual ambiguity, and priming are then observed. We also use this formalism to reinterpret examples from the embodiment literature, arguing that it provides for a more thorough analysis of the relevant phenomena. (shrink)
Philosophers of science have used various formulations of the "random mutation--natural selection" scheme to explain the development of scientific knowledge. But the uncritical acceptance of this evolutionary model has led to substantive problems concerning the relation between fact and theory. The primary difficulty lies in the fact that those who adopt this model (Popper and Kuhn, for example) are led to claim that theories arise chiefly through the processes of relatively random change. Systemstheory constitutes a general (...) criticism of this model insofar as it demonstrates the necessity of supplementing this mechanism with the non-random influences exercised by the internal organization of a system on its own development. (shrink)
A fundamental link between system theory and statistical mechanics has been found to be established by the Kolmogorov entropy K. By this quantity the temporal evolution of dynamical systems can be classified into regular, chaotic, and stochastic processes. Since K represents a measure for the internal information creation rate of dynamical systems, it provides an approach to irreversibility. The formal relationship to statistical mechanics is derived by means of an operator formalism originally introduced by Prigogine. For a (...) Liouville operator L and an information operator $\tilde M$ acting on a distribution in phase space, it is shown that i[L, $\tilde M$ ]≡KI (I=identity operator). As a first consequence of this equivalence, a relation is obtained between the chaotic correlation time of a system and Prigogine's concept of a “finite duration of presence.” Finally, the existence of chaos in quantum systems is discussed with respect to the existence of a quantum mechanical time operator. (shrink)
In this paper, I address the question of what the Developmental SystemsTheory (DST) aims at explaining. I distinguish two lines of thought in DST, one which deals specifically with development, and tries to explain the development of the individual organism, and the other which presents itself as a reconceptualization of evolution, and tries to explain the evolution of populations of developmental systems (organism-environment units). I emphasize that, despite the claiming of the contrary by DST proponents, there (...) are two very different definitions of the ‘developmental system’, and therefore DST is not a unified theory of evolution and development. I show that the DST loses the most interesting aspects of its reconceptualization of development when it tries to reconceptualize evolutionary theory. I suggest that DST is about development per se, and that it fails at offering a new view on evolution. (shrink)
In this article, I examine Luhmann’s, Bunge’s and others’ views on emergence, and argue that Luhmann’s epistemological construal of emergence in terms of Totalausschluss is both ontologically flawed and detrimental to an appropriate understanding of the distinctive features of social emergence. By contrast, Bunge’s rational emergentism, his CESM model, and Wimsatt’s characterization of emergence as nonaggregativity provide a useful framework to investigate emergence. While researchers in the field of social theory and sociology tend to regard Luhmann as the sole (...) representative of systemstheory, the latter has been characterized by its diversity, and the writings of such systems theorists as Mario Bunge deserve more attention from social researchers than they receive at present. Finally, this article suggests that the perennial debate over methodological individualism and holism in social science may make real progress if such ambiguous terms as reduction and reductionism are elucidated before they are employed. (shrink)
In this article, I address the question of what Developmental SystemsTheory aims at explaining. I distinguish two lines of thought in DST, one that deals specifically with development and tries to explain the development of the individual organism, and the other that presents itself as a reconceptualization of evolution and tries to explain the evolution of populations of developmental systems. I emphasize that, despite the claim of the contrary by DST proponents, there are two very different (...) definitions of the “developmental system,” and therefore DST is not a unified theory of evolution and development. I show that DST loses the most interesting aspects of its reconceptualization of development when it tries to reconceptualize evolutionary theory. I suggest that DST is about development per se, and that it fails at offering a new view on evolution. (shrink)
This paper proposes that neurodynamic system theory may be used to connect structural and functional aspects of neural organization. The paper claims that generalized causal dynamic models are proper tools for describing the self-organizing mechanism of the nervous system. In particular, it is pointed out that ontogeny, development, normal performance, learning, and plasticity, can be treated by coherent concepts and formalism. Taking into account the self-referential character of the brain, autopoiesis, endophysics and hermeneutics are offered as elements of a (...) poststructuralist brain (-mind-computer) theory. (shrink)
Developmental systemstheory (DST) is a general theoretical perspective on development, heredity and evolution. It is intended to facilitate the study of interactions between the many factors that influence development without reviving `dichotomous' debates over nature or nurture, gene or environment, biology or culture. Several recent papers have addressed the relationship between DST and the thriving new discipline of evolutionary developmental biology (EDB). The contributions to this literature by evolutionary developmental biologists contain three important misunderstandings of DST.
The author discusses Niklas Luhmann's concept of ethics and morals. Therefore he sketches the main traits of Luhmann's theory of systems (e.g. the terms autopoiesis, system and environment, code and programme). From the system-theoretical point of view, ethics are characterized as the reflexive theory of morals. Morals are described as the communication of regard or disregard. The author shows which consequences follow from this concept by discussing problems concerning several subsystems at the same time. The problems of (...) Luhmann's theory of morals and ethics are demonstrated by analyzing the concepts of risk and responsibility. Finally, the author demands that ethics should be understood even more as social ethics which reflect upon their social foundation in a more consequent way. (shrink)
Part I [sections 2–4] draws out the conceptual links between modern conceptions of teleology and their Aristotelian predecessor, briefly outlines the mode of functional analysis employed to explicate teleology, and develops the notion of cybernetic organisation in order to distinguish teleonomic and teleomatic systems. Part II is concerned with arriving at a coherent notion of intentional control. Section 5 argues that intentionality is to be understood in terms of the representational properties of cybernetic systems. Following from this, section (...) 6 argues that intentional control needs to be seen as a particular type of relationship between the system and its environment. (shrink)
The Developmental SystemsTheory (DST) presented by its proponents as a challenging approach in biology is aimed at transforming the workings of the life sciences from both a theoretical and experimental point of view (see, in particular, Oyama  2000; Oyama et al. 2001). Even though some may have the impression that the enthusiasm surrounding DST has faded in very recent years, some of the key concepts, ideas, and visions of DST have in fact pervaded biology and philosophy (...) of biology. It seems crucial to us both to establish which of these ideas are truly specific to DST, and to shift through these ideas in order to determine the criticisms they have drawn, or may draw (e.g., Sterelny et al. 1996; Griesemer 2000; Sterelny 2000; Kitcher 2001; Keller 2005; Waters 2007). (shrink)