All organisms behave, but, as far as we know, only humans also explain behavior. Organisms routinely destroy other organisms for various reasons, but only humans ask why. One answer is “hatred.” Clearly it is not necessary to hate another organism in order to destroy it, but the idea is commonly invoked as an explanation for human violence. Has this always been the case with us humans? Or is “hate” (and other explanations of behavior) some kind of evolutionary adaptation? If so, what kind of evolution is involved in the development of explanations, and how might they serve to support individual and/or species survival? In other words, what are some of the epistemological roots of “hate” and what are some of the ontological’ consequences of constructing such an explanation?
I claim that concepts such as competition, evolution of the fittest and regulation through hierarchical constructs are all attributions we make to nature based on our culture. I think these concepts, and others of like ilk, are the results of a particular manner of emotioning, sensing and acting that is now common to most of our modern cultures. Once attributed to nature, we use these concepts as grounding premises, or as justification, to continue the manner of emotioning, sensing and acting which gave rise to them. I see this as a disquieting circularity, a blindness, that results in a way of being that we do not want, but feel compelled to. However, since we have the ability to reflect on our beliefs and to consider whether we want the consequences of maintaining them, I also see the possibility of living in a manner that we find more ethical and more pleasurable.
The unsolved problem of induction is closely linked to “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences” (Wigner 1960) and to the question “why the universe is algorthmicly compressible” (Davies 1960). The problem of induction is approached here by means of a constructivist version of the Evolutionary Epistemology (CEE) considering both, the perceived regularities we condense to the laws of nature and the mathematical structures we condense to axioms, as invariants of inborn cognitive and mental operators. A phylogenetic relationship between the mental operators generating the perceived and the mathematical regularities respectively may explain the high suitability of mathematical tools to extrapolate observed data. The extension of perceptional operators by means of experimental operators, i.e., by means of measurement devices) would lead to the completion of the classical world picture if both the cognitive and the physical operators are commutable in the sense of operator algebra (quantitative extensions). Otherwise the physical operators will have invariants which no longer can be described in classical terms, and, therefore, would require the formation of non-classical theories (qualitative extension), exceeding the classical world picture. The mathematical analogon would be the algorithmic extension of elementary mathematical thinking exceeding the axiomatic basis previously established according to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. As a consequence there will be neither a definitive set of axioms in mathematics, nor will be there a definitive theory of everything in physics.
Excerpt: Concluding that cognitive structures and instruments are unconditional or arbitrary because they are not, and cannot be derived from external boundary conditions, is mistaken, since internal boundary conditions must also be taken into account. Firstly, there are the developmental constraints of cognitive evolution itself; cognitive as well as organic evolution is subject to what has been evolved before. Cognitive evolution in our time, therefore, would find rather limited degrees of freedom. Further, cognitive instruments exert themselves in continuous co-evolution with organic instruments for meeting organically defined needs and requirements. This means that cognitive systems cannot be explained by reference to what is called their object, but only through their organic genesis. This justifies efforts made to look for a closer relationship between cognitive and organic evolution.
It is shown that the method of operational definition of theoretical terms applied in physics may well support constructivist ideas in cognitive sciences when extended to observational terms. This leads to unexpected results for the notion of reality, induction and for the problem why mathematics is so successful in physics. A theory of cognitive operators is proposed which are implemented somewhere in our brain and which transform certain states of our sensory apparatus into what we call perceptions in the same sense as measurement devices transform the interaction with the object into measurement results. Then, perceived regularities, as well as the laws of nature we would derive from them can be seen as invariants of the cognitive operators concerned and are by this human specific constructs rather than ontologically independent elements. (e.g., the law of energy conservation can be derived from the homogeneity of time and by this depends on our mental time metric generator). So, reality in so far it is represented by the laws of nature has no longer an independent ontological status. This is opposed to Campbell’s ‘natural selection epistemology’. From this it is shown that there holds an incompleteness theorem for physical laws similar to Gödels incompleteness theorem for mathematical axioms, i.e., there is no definitive or object ‘theory of everything’. This constructivist approaches to cognition will allow a coherent and consistent model of both cognitive and organic evolution. Whereas the classical view sees the two evolution rather dichotomously (for ex.: most scientists see cognitive evolution converging towards a definitive world picture, whereas organic evolution obviously has no specific focus (the ‘pride of creation’).
The purpose of this paper is to offer a critical approach to the theory of autopoiesis in order to see how it challenges mainstream Darwinism. In the first part of the paper, I characterize Darwinism from the concepts of natural selection, heredity, reproduction, and evolution. This characterization is absolutely schematic, and I hope not controversial at all, since my aim is to provide a general background for the discussion of the rest of the paper. The second part presents the main tenets of the theory of autopoiesis, also paying special attention to the concepts of natural selection, heredity, reproduction, and evolution. The third and final part considers some criticisms that have been directed against the theory and suggests some new ones. As I said, my intention is to offer a critical approach, so that I pretend to assess neither autopoiesis nor Darwinism. The assessment, it seems to me, would be a matter of scientific debate – not properly of philosophy. Therefore, given that my approach attempts to be a conceptual clarification, my contribution to the contemporary debate about Darwinism is twofold. On the one hand, I show that conceptually autopoiesis constitutes an important challenge to Darwinism, but on the other, I also show that some fundamental aspects of the theory appear to be both epistemologically and empirically problematic, which perhaps helps to understand why autopoiesis is not widely accepted in mainstream Darwinism.
Excerpt: The term embodiment suggests a return to the body (or to a physical or perceivable realm) of something that was (but should not be) previously separated from it. This phenomenon can be found in a wide range of contexts; for example, abstract entities, such as computer programmes, may acquire dynamics when executed in material devices; theoretical ideas can become operative when put in relation to practical or contingent situations; or, similarly, when considered as properties of bodies (including brains), mental capacities recover a physical nature. The return we refer to has an explanatory character: it is motivated by an assumption that embodiment may throw light upon areas where disembodied explanations are unsatisfactory. Many scientific and philosophical traditions have postulated privileged realms (e.g. Platonic worlds) deprived of materiality, dynamics, interactions or praxis for explanation, but they priorise the know that in front of the know how and may thus side-step the more complex problems. This is the reason why it is important to explore a differently motivated epistemology, one able to approach phenomena in their original embodied situations. Then, a claim for embodiment would not be a demand for a restitution, but an urge to start from the beginning, from the things themselves.
The contribution of the theory of autopoiesis to the definition of life and biological theory affirms biological autonomy as a central notion of scientific and philosophical inquiry, and opposes other biological approaches, based on the notion of genetic information, that consider reproduction and evolution to be the central aspects of life and living phenomenology. This article reviews the autopoietic criticisms of genetic information, reproduction, and evolution in the light of a biology that can solve the problem of living organization.
The question of whether or not evolutionary explanations are, in fact, logically of the same type as explanations in, say, mechanics or physics has hardly been touched upon. I shall argue that they are not of the same type, that they are based on a different conceptual framework, and that the relationship between sociobiology and the “remainder of science” is, therefore, a peculiar one.