File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9807, message 18

Date: Wed, 15 Jul 1998 17:41:35 +0100
Subject: BHA: Emergence

Dear all,
Who was it who just raised a point about the relationship between
and psychology, or their objects? I can't find the message, not even
in the depths of TRASH.  Well, I always felt uneasy about the way
Andrew Collier has the relationship between levels in his book on
Realism and in his earlier book - I haven't the ref. to hand - something

about the structure of scientific thought. He has physiology at the
bottom, psychology emerging as a higher level, and sociology from that.
It always seemed to me that society and psychological processes must
emerge from the other, and both be constrained by (the multiple levels
involved in) embodiment. I liked the way Dyke writes in 'The
Dynamics of Complex Systems' : 'pathways through the possible.. are
by a plurality of interpenetrating constraints deriving from many
'levels' looping back and around each other' (1988:64).  (But Dyke
is reluctant to see 'levels' as real, i.e. as extra discursive, which I
don't agree with).; What I took from that was the possibility of levels
as not always simply hierarchically arranged. I proposed a tree with
branches, in which both psychological and social structures emerge from
physiological structures and from each other. I used that sort of
approach in my book 'Agency, Health and Social Survival' (1996), where I
was asking whether according to various psychological theories, certain
political outcomes were possible or likely.
In an extended review in Radical Philosophy, Andrew Collier disagreed
completely with the idea that psychological structures can constrain
what is socially possible.
I’ve now been reflecting on all this again in the light of this
section.  Roy gives four characteristics of emergent ‘higher levels’, as
I read it.  (1) the higher level is formed from the lower level - i.e.
we have a new sort of entity and yet nothing is added.  By this
criterion, social structures emerge from embodied agents, psychological
structures emerge from physiological ones, but not from social ones.
Andrew’s pole-like tree seems right.  (2) The lower level constitutes
the conditions of possibility of the higher level - both constraining
and enabling.  Now this relationship seemed to me to hold reciprocally
between social and psychological structures, but I think I was wrong.
Social structures are not the condition of possibility of the causal
powers of psychological structures (though evolutionarily this must be
the case), but they are the conditions of possibility for the
development, exercise and realisation of those powers in the realm of
the actual.  Psychological structures ARE the conditions of possibility
of the causal powers of social structures - that relationship holds in
the real AND in the actual.  (3) The higher level has distinct causal
powers, not deducible or inducible from the characteristics of the lower
level.  Here again the hierarchical relationship which has the social
emerging from the psychological does seem to hold.  (4) The higher level
has to be understood in its own terms before it can be explained by
reference to the lower level.  Again this seems to hold both ways round:
explanations, reductive or not, can go both ways.

I’ll be interested to hear the views of others on this.

All the best,

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