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DNA. Computer-generated molecular model (left) and as observed by a Scanning Tunneling Microscope (right).
( After COVENEY & HIGHFIELD,1995, Frontiers of Complexity )
In this evolutionary and ecological context also (the species of) Man has evolved, starting about 2 or 3 million years ago.
Because of the meagre fossil record the origin and development of man is also only partially understood. But man being an integral part of the overall evolutionary and ecological processes on this planet is beyond doubt. In this respect he does not enjoy a special status. Although it seems that man, in his recent form, differs strongly from the rest of the organismic world, he may not be so different. It is us, while observing and comparing ourselves, who are emphasizing certain features, because they are utterly significant for us. These features are, among others, the possession of a culture. And this culture has, by way of feedback-loops, created features like articulated language, technology, art, science and philosophy. All this has to do with a strong development of social life ( but also many animal species have evolved a social way of life ). But we must investigate how fundamental -- in an ontological sense -- this capacity for creating a culture is, i.e. whether such a capacity is directly related to some categories (i.e. principles) of being (a human). Such a principle could be the self-consciousness possessed by human beings, giving rise to the capacity of creating a diversified culture, and so distinguishing man sharply from other organic beings. Self-consciousness thus seems to be an intrinsic cause of being a human, and accordingly it seems to be his specific Essence.
The Substance-Accident Metaphysics (as a theory of subsistent Totalities) is, as has been said, inspired by the existence of individual human beings. Every human being experiences himself as a subsisting entity, remaining the same, with changing determinations. So a general study of the phenomenon of being a human being, seems to be an appropriate point of departure -- which I have dubbed the practical point of departure -- for studying the organic Totality (i.e. the organic uniform, but not necessarily homogeneous, being, insofar as it is such a being). But then, because this is an ontological investigation, the long-standing philosophical problems concerning the Mind-Body relation directly present themselves. Is this mind, which we can loosely equate with self-consciousness, identical to the specific Essence of a human being (insofar as human being), or is it a derived phenomenon, derived from some more fundamental state of affairs? Is Mind material or immaterial? In philosophy, much, concerning the human mind, is already presupposed as being certain. So, for instance, its immateriality, and by consequence its incorruptability. This implies that the human mind belongs to a totally different domain of being than that of all bodily beings. The ontological status of Mind (and with it, man as such) is imagined -- following classical and neoclassical theories -- as being fundamentally different from that of all the other beings. But such a position is seldom subjected to a critical review on the basis of new empirical or theoretical data. Sometimes even the need and relevance of systematic observations is rejected. As a result pure conceptual, i.e. preconceived, constructions appear, in contrast with theories which are (at least partially) based on ' wildlife investigations ', i.e. investigations, concerning the what-and-how of the human mind, based on observation and experiment. Maybe it is useful to ponder a little longer about such a methodical contraposition.
Remark : In this Section we are dealing with irregularities in Nature. If we consider the phenomenological appearance of objects and events in Nature, we must admit the wide-spread occurrence of irregularities. But at a more fundamental level there must be laws underlying and producing these irregularities. So there is order and regularity in Nature, but this order, as being there without exceptions, is as such only present at the level of the relevant laws which can themselves produce irregular phenomena.
Also (biological) species are not clearly delimited, not only not in the evolutionary time-dimension, but also not in the ' horizontal ' dimension. A fine example of this is the sea-gull series (for details see NOTE 2). Even in the case of such neat things as crystals Nature allows for anomalies, like for instance in the phenomenon of Quasi-crystals (pseudo-crystals). True crystals can, because of purely geometric reasons, only exhibit 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 6-fold symmetries
(See the Essay on Crystals ). Only then they can be orderly over large distances, large, compared with the interatomic distances. But fairly recently ' crystals ' have been discovered with ' forbidden ' 5-fold symmetry.
Because the X-ray diffraction patterns show peaks every bit as sharp as those produced by perfect crystals they cannot be considered as amorphous solids, but because they cannot exhibit order over large distances they are not crystals either. So by consequence such solids are neither crystalline nor wholly non-crystalline, their Totality nature is intermediate.
. . . A pseudo-crystal, having a dodecahedral
. . . shape, ( After BALL, 1994 )
And (to make matters, concerning neat delineations, even worse) in Quantum Mechanics there seems to be no clear distinction between subject and object.
Today we know that most real beings, especially organisms, are dynamic entities, they are changeable and interact dynamically with their environment which is itself dynamic. But this dynamical behavior is regulated by laws, and we saw earlier that those laws reside at the lower structural levels (The ultimate special laws, regulating the generation of Totalities, reside at the level of atoms). They are immanent in particular properties of the system elements. Such a (Totality-generating) special law is not homonymous with the (phenotypical) whatness of that Totality, i.e. it is not identical to its product, and consequently cannot be named after the product. So the dynamical law, belonging to a particular human being is not (the same as ) the Idea HUMANITY. All this implies that the regulating 'authority' was not assessed correctly, but turns out only to be present in an implicit way and moreover in a decentralized way (if it were centralized it would be explicit) : It is the ultimate dynamical law residing in certain properties of the relevant atoms, and it is as such dispersed over a multitude of atoms, not residing in one of them, nor (generally) residing in only one species of them. So on the basis of these insights the regulating 'authority' -- the principle -- of a particular being, will not coincide with that being itself of which it is the principle, meaning that it is not some sort of idealized copy of that being. That principle has, as has been said, the form of a special law. This law is in fact the real (specific) Identity of that being. It is this (type of) principle that remains the same during all the changes of that particular thing. What we are looking for is something in or of a being (a thing), in the present context -- treating of organic beings, especially human beings -- for example (in or of) Socrates, that remains the same (not only similar) during all the changes in and on that being, and is at the same time regulating the form and behavior of that thing. Of course we have already established what and where this constant and regulating feature is, but we want to sharpen the discussion especially in relation to Man, and contrast that feature with high-level structures like for instance Self-consciousness which is considered by many to be the seat of that constant and regulating feature.
The overall structure, the tectology, i.e. the global internal form, determining, or implying, the overall external morphological form and, in addition to that, the behavior, of, say, Socrates, as seen at a high structural level, are the result of collective behavior of constituents-at-a-lower-level. They are what is nowadays called emergent phenomena. We can also call them epiphenomena. The mentioned global internal morphology of Socrates, his tectological structure NOTE 3, indeed remains constant, but here we don't have to do with a 'regulating authority' because it does not regulate, it is an effect of something that does regulate. And the emergent behavior of Socrates is not something that is constant, it continually changes. Thus the complex of these structures and behavior is not what we're looking for, namely the regulating constant feature in Socrates, his real (specific) Identity. And at the level of his cells and of his chemism, thus at a lower level, Socrates is also changing continually. Where then can we find his (specific) Identity(which should be constant and regulating)? Well, his DNA remains the same, and is indeed regulating, so this could be his identity. But we saw earlier that the DNA is a dynamic and concrete structure, directing, it is true, the processes of the body, albeit not without feedback from the body, i.e. from elements outside the DNA. So what is regulating the body, regulating its generation (from a fertilized egg-cell) and its maintenance and also its behavior, is indeed the DNA, + the structures that by means of their activities feed back to the DNA. But this regulating 'authority', so conceived, resides at lower levels of the organismic body. It is the regulating 'authority', it is true, but not the one that was envisaged by the classical theories. And as such it is not a principle, because it is a concrete morpho-physiological structure, nor is it the most fundamental entity regulating the particular being. It is, as has been found out earlier, the penultimate regulating structure. If we would nevertheless consider the DNA and its auxiliary apparatus as an ultimate 'law' controlling the generation and maintenance of that organic being, then the fertilized egg, which contains already the whole regulating structure, should be regarded as the INITIAL state of the dynamical system that generates the organic body. But this cannot be so because the fertilized egg IS already the organic body, be it in its first state. Although the fertilized egg-cell must indeed be considered as the first state of that particular organic body, it is NOT the initial state of the dynamical system, that generates this body in the first place. This dynamical system must be one that is going to generate the fertilized egg-cell, and so generates the organic body and letting it pass through several stages leading up to the adult form. Of course we could say that the fertilized egg-cell is generated by the parents. But they are also already organisms themselves. They can only be considered as representing just an earlier stage of the generation of the organism in question. So also the parents cannot be considered as the principles of that organism. Because the evolution of Life preserved all kinds of previous accomplishments in the form of information-bearing stable molecules, like DNA, there is now no actual need for Nature to generate an organismic body from primitive constituents, like atoms or simple molecules, she can generate them from parents. Life has at its disposal a large set of already crafted structures, i.e. of larger building blocks, so the "dynamical system" we spoke about does not actually operate, but must nonetheless be conceived as the 'generating' system, not insofar as that particular organic body is actually (at a time, somewhere) generated, but only insofar as it is CONSTITUTED. This is precisely what metaphysics (in its form of a Substance-Accident Metaphysics) is all about : it tries to uncover the intrinsic constitution of things, NO MATTER HOW THEY ARE ACTUALLY BEING GENERATED.
So the real principle of a being does not appear in the form of something, like HUMAN BEING, HUMANITY, etc, but in the form of a dynamic law, and is heteronymous (= denoted by a different name) with that something of which it is the principle. Indeed this Law is a constant feature as well as a regulating feature, moreover it is abstract, and thus can be considered as the 'regulating authority'. And this law should not be interpreted nominalistically -- i.e. it should not be interpreted as (being) just a concept, and so belonging not to something in reality, only expressing the way of knowing that reality, in this case by means of formulating our knowledge in the form of laws -- but (such a law will be interpreted) ontologically, i.e. as existing as such, and independently of our way of knowing it. Of course insofar as they are (just) formulations of proposed laws in the practice of Natural Science they are just concepts having their seat exclusively in the Mind. But these concepts should express how Nature really IS (how it is, independently of being known), and if they are correct then their significata (= that, in reality, whereto they are pointing, i.e. that, what they mean) are in some way present in the components of the natural system in question. If this way of being present has the form of a law, then the formulation of our knowledge in the form of laws cannot be interpreted as just a concept (i.e. just a way of knowing).
However, elements of a system interact according to their (relevant) properties, or natures. Those natures are supposed to remain constant (See for this supposition the beginning of the Essay on The Principle of Individuation, and also the Essay on The Species-Individuum Structure). And precisely this state of affairs allows a description in terms of natural dynamical laws. So it seems that such a law, as law, is only a way of formulating our knowledge, and so should be nominalistically interpreted after all.
However, we could just as well hold the reverse of this. We could say that in virtue of the laws, which are really and as such present in Nature, we can describe things (say, elements of a system) in terms of (their having) constant properties. So it appears that in this context properties and laws are equivalent. They refer to the same state of affairs in Reality. And as long as we do not consider the property or the law as actually existing wholly on its own, like some kind of thing, the property or the law cannot be interpreted nominalistically. Our concept of dynamical law directly corresponds to a real state of affairs existing independently of our knowing them. Such a law is not fully visible on the basis of the morphology and behavior of, say, an organism, because they reflect this law only partially. The particular morphology and behavior we observe is only one of many possible morphologies and behaviors allowed by such a law. Other initial conditions and, equivalently, other accidental perturbations, could result in different output patterns. What we see, observing an organism for example, is just one of the possible dynamical trajectories connected with that dynamical law.
Despite the abstract and potential nature of the ultimate dynamical law of a (supra-atomic) being, the law is real, because it is equivalent to certain properties of several atomic species, and these properties are themselves real.
To begin with, we will consider the Self, and also the Soul, in the context of Complexity and Self-organization. This is necessary, because the question is still about top-down or bottom-up, or, in other words (it concerns the question) : is the regulating ' authority ' holistic in nature, regulating on a global basis, or reductionistic, regulating on a local basis?
Remark: In our exposition of the Organism as a Totality, we also interpreted the fertilized egg-cell as already being a Totality. But it represents only the first stage of this Totality. The ensuing succession of states is a real generation in the sense of a transformation of one state into another. Moreover we have NOT interpreted the fertilized egg-cell as the first state of the dynamical system, but as an already progressed state, already far away from the initial system state. So the whole series of states is seen as a regular succession of states, according to some law, and so by consequence as a process, a generation. The embryological process presupposes the long evolutionary process that has supplied the appropriate building-blocks.
And thus the phenomenon of the human Soul, and with it of human self-consciousness -- probably the very climax of complexity -- is, by some, seen as the original immaterial (and because of this, non-generated, and indestructible) entity, that is, and was, as it (always) is, and which cannot be generated in a historical process from simpler states, by means of natural -- material -- processes.
BUT THERE IS MUCH THAT OPPOSES SUCH A POSITION, a position based on the assumption of the conservation of complexity.
A first objection comes from evolutionary theory : There are many indications that all complex organisms, including man, originated from simpler organisms, mediated by more or less small steps, wholly within the general domain of natural processes that ultimately have a physical and chemical nature, a transformation process from simplex to complex.
A second, and related, objection is the insight that simple systems can generate complex, or at least complicated, results. Said differently, simple rules (laws) can generate complex behavior. We see such a behavior in the case of a number of real physico-chemical systems, like the famous Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) Reaction (and here the result is not only complicated, but also showing a more or less organized nature) [See in the Essay on Non-living Dissipative Systems the BZ reaction]. Simple rules, generating complex behavior, is also encountered in abstract systems, ideal systems, like some Cellular Automata [See the Essay on Cellular Automata (CA)]. Also in the case of the generation of the Mandelbrot Set (the Mandelbrot fractal) one can legitimately speak about the generation of complexity. The Mandelbrot fractal itself is an incredibly complex object (in this case an Ideal object [See the beginning of the Essay on The Universal]), with more and more details appearing when one descends along the various size-scales, i.e. if one enlarges a region of it then more and more details become visible, and this phenomenon does never stop. The Mandelbrot fractal is infinitely detailed. Despite of this only about ten lines of program code are necessary (together forming the definition of the Mandelbrot fractal) to generate the fractal on a computer.
Detail of the Mandelbrot fractal
The complex result thus is generated by a simple rule (law). The complexity of the Mandelbrot fractal is directly visible by inspecting the form and structure of the fractal itself (the resulting image), but is also evident when we consider the large number of computing steps needed (in the real world corresponding to process steps). In this way one is able to quantify the complexity of a pattern, by recording the number of steps needed for the generation of that pattern (COHEN & STEWART, 1994, p. 19, and RUCKER, 1987, Mind Tools, pp. 301).
Remark: In fact we must admit that although the man-made (and because of this, well-defined) systems generate complication and even regular patterns, they are still far from ORGANIZING (in a strict sense) their constituents in such a way as we see accomplished in real organisms. But these took millions of years for that to achieve. The extrapolation we make from those man-defined (non-living) systems, although just extrapolations, are in my view legitimate.
So the " Form " does not come from ' above ', it is not, as being already fully-fledged, implemented on an empty material substrate, but comes from the ' bottom ', it is generated from the bottom and is immanent in physical matter. Only with hindsight can we describe a real being as a Matter-Form Composite, i.e. describe its (metaphysical) constitution, where "Matter" is Prime Matter, the principle of radical change and as such a principle of physical material existence. The matter-form composite is the Essence-in-matter of the thing, and as such, i.e. as a principle, it is embedded in a ' cloud ' of visible determinations. The foregoing considerations imply that the FORM (and also prime matter) is not directly visible. The Form, i.e. the Substantial Form, can only be made ' visible ' afterwards as a dynamical law, residing at the level of atoms (in the case of supra-atomic beings like man). The matter-form composite can be interpreted as that same law, but now implemented in matter, and generating the ' cloud ' of determinations, that constitute the phenotypic thing (being).
Let us summarize all this.
In the course of a philosophical quest concerning the Essence of things, one first of all sees, i.e. discovers, complexity in an (i.e. any) organism. And insofar as this complexity is represented by a constant (complex) pattern, consisting of structure, form (shape) and general behavior(al patterns), it was seen either as the Substantial Form itself, or as the homonymous effect of the centralized Substantial Form. This centralized Substantial Form is, for instance, HUMANITY (humanitas) in the case of a human being (The matter-form composite was indicated as HUMAN BEING (homo)).
Our investigations, however, showed that this complexity is not a homonymous counterpart of the Substantial Form, but generated by a non-homonymous principle, a (dynamical) law, i.e. generated by a natural process. This law, should now be interpreted as the Substantial Form, but this Form now does not reside at a high level, but at a low level (of the organism), and it is also not centralized. It is dispersed over the many physical constituents of the organism and works from the bottom up, generating the observable high-level complexity of the given organism. This holds also already for the penultimate law : The DNA + its auxiliary machinery : It resides at the level of the cells (which is a low level), and is present in every cell of the body.
The observable complexity, as visible at a high level, wholly belongs to the 'cloud of determinations' (of the Totality), a part of it being intrinsic, a part of it extrinsic. The dynamical law, all by itself, can then be equated with the (revised) Substantial Form. That same dynamical law, (but now as) implemented in matter, can be equated with the matter-form composite, generating the 'cloud of determinations'.
The origin, i.e. the generation, of (even) very complex and subtle organic functions (visible, and seated) at a high structural level, (an origin) TOTALLY WITHIN A NATURAL PHYSICO-CHEMICAL CONTEXT, is thus possible on the following grounds :
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