File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9807, message 11

Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 23:48:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: BHA: emergence

Here are some miscellaneous questions and comments about emergence
as presented in section 2, mostly with particular attention to the
emergence of a conceptual and social dimension from the physical
and natural.
p. 49
1.   Emergence is a 1M category of non-identity -- ie the
conceptual and social are non-identical with the physical and
2.   Matter as autopoietic -- this was briefly raised before on the
list.  What does it mean here?
3.   What does it mean for emergence to be "a genuine ontological
analogue of Hegelian preservative determinate negation"?
4.   superposition or intraposition of the emergent level within a
preexisting one.  I don't get much significance to the distinction. 
The point is emergence; the metaphor of levels is only meant to
speak to that.  We can add more metaphors, e.g. "embedded within."
p. 50
5.   What is the "non-phenomenality of intentionality"? (to keep
myself honest)
6.   What is the meaning of this:  "Moreover, in real emergence the
processes are generally non-teleologically causal, only soci-
spherically conceptual; and the higher (ultimately, in Hegel,
absolute spirit or, to borrow Charles Taylor's felicitous
expression, 'cosmic Geist) does not posit, but is rather formed
from, the lower level."  For example, specifically, what is "only
socio-spherically conceptual"?
In general Dialectic seems filled to the point of impermissibility
with references that are gestures without much in the way of
explanation, e.g. "cosmic Geist," qualifies as one such, "Umwelt,"
used later (p55), is another.  I happen to have just read the
scholarly piece which is the historical source of the idea of
"Umwelt."  I'll give a brief explanation of that in another post. 
In general, one of the real contributions we can make to a
collaborative reading of this text would be if those with any
measure of expertise on a philosophical or other reference would
briefly comment.  E.g., Ruth, what about the reference here to
Charles Taylor?
7.   The last words of the asterisked footnote make clear that
Bhaskar uses agency for inanimate and animate matter alike.
p. 51
8.   Emergence as a dialectic of the real and the actual is to be
explained in Chapter 3.  This is provocative.
9.   Against dualism and reductionism:  the power of the social and
the conceptual are rooted in our complex biological constitution,
but their powers cannot be reduced to any such material basis or
condition of possibility.  Hunger, as desire, cannot be reduced to
the biology in which it is rooted.  So what are the ontological
implications here?
10.  How is it that the utterance of a statement of the theory of
eliminative materialism transforms the material world?  I mean
there are vibrations in air or ink left on a page, I understand. 
Is this all that is meant?  If not, what more is meant?
p. 52
11.  the "causal efficacy of reasons" (at the top) is ambiguous. 
This can mean either (1) the efficient causality of beliefs or (2)
the efficient causality of intentional agency or (3) causal
efficacy as final, efficient, material or formal.  The example of
scientists who co-determine the results of an experiment by their
intentional causal agency requires no more than (2) or (3) and not
(1).  But most readers would probably assume (1).  What is meant
12.  Most of us reading for the first or second time have trouble
keeping 1M, 2L, and 3E straight and one of the tasks of
collaborative reading would surely be to present a brief reminder
of what these mean and to explain how they are used.  Can someone
do this here?
p. 53
13.  The discussion of the base and superstructure here contains
what seems to me a very important perception.  For example,
historically one of the arguments against Marx's base
superstructure analysis is that it collapses in circular reasoning,
e.g. economic relations determine forms of ownership, but any form
of economic relations always presupposes a particular form of
ownership.  What Bhaskar says here is that there is nothing unusual
in the idea that the base provides a condition of possibility for
the superstructure while at the same time the superstructure sets
a condition of possibility for the base -- e.g. profit determines
whether the physical principles engaged in engineering are used,
but the physical principles of engineering determine the conditions
of possibility of profit.  As to the mental/natural relationship,
what you can imagine sets boundary conditions for what you can do,
but what you do is a condition of possibility for what you can
14.  What is the stuff about space time and what does it have to do
with emergence?
p. 55
15.  What is a perspectival switch?  What does it have to do with
16.  Emergent entities are a totality constituted by internal
relations.  It would make sense then to say that emergent from the
biological is a semiotic dimension constituted as a totality.  On
the one hand this is not "apart from the causal network" (p 51),
but on the other hand it is a totality presumably with internal
relations distinct from the causal network.  Then what exactly is
the relationship of the one to the other?  Or if they are not at
all distinct, then how do we describe, for example, the generative
structure of language, the operations of the linguistic network, in
exclusively causal terms?
I know, I know:  "a fool can ask . . . . "  On the other hand, for
all the questions I've asked, at least 9/10s of every iceberg, etc.
Howard Engelskirchen

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