DRAFT long term project

1927 German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote his most important book entitled Sein und Zeit Being and Time. It strongly influenced existentialism, hermeneutics and deconstruction. Heidegger’s Dasein is uniquely characterised by the openness of its way of Being. Google books

“With the ‘cogito sum’ Descartes had claimed that he was putting philosophy on a new and firm footing. But what he left undetermined when he began in this ‘radical’ way, was the kind of Being which belongs to the res cogitans, or—more precisely—the meaning of the Being of the ‘sum’. (Heidegger 1962: 46).”

1853 American novelist Herman Melville (1819–1891) wrote the short story entitled “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” which first appeared in two parts in Putnam’s Magazine. His character is

1849 Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) book entitled The Sickness Unto Death was published. In it he described soul sickness and the relational self:

“The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation [which accounts for it] that the relation relates itself to its own self; the self is not the relation but [consists in the fact] that the relation relates itself to its own self. Man is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short it is a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two factors. So regarded, man is not yet a self (Kierkegaard 1849) [Through a process of becoming. . .] “By relating itself to its own self and by willing to be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the Power which constituted it.”

1843 Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) book entitled Fear and Trembling was published.

1781 German philosopher Immanuel Kant published his book entitled Critique of Pure Reason. Tsutomu Ben Yagi (2009) argued that,

“For Kant, being self-conscious implies having experience and recognising that as one’s own (ibid.: 152-153). Based on his analysis, Kant thus arrived at the transcendental unity of apperception as the highest function of the mind which unites one’s experience under one subsisting subject. Though Kant’s exposition is quite different from that of Descartes’, he still maintains the idea that formal deduction provides legitimate knowledge for us (ibid.: 13-14, 25-26).”

1641 1641 René Descartes published his treatise entitled Meditations on First Philosophy in Latin “Meditationes de prima philosophia, in qua Dei existentia et animæ immortalitas demonstratur.” He began work on the Meditations in 1639. Descartes argued that our essence lies the state of being conscious. We are thinking beings res cogitans (Meditation 2). Extended objects/things res extensa (books, plants) are not conscious. It is argued that Descartes failed to fully explain the fundamentally characteristic of res cogitans.

René Descartes’s diagram illustrating dualism. According to Descartes, the pineal gland (shown here behind the eyes) transmitted messages from the eyes to the muscles mechanically. The pineal gland became the bridge material/physical (body) and the non-material/immaterial/non-physical substance/world/universe (mind). Through the pineal gland stimuli/inputs passed via sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the mind. Descartes mind and body

Selected Webliography and Bibliography

Heidegger, M. (1927). Being and Time. (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans.) San Francisco: Harper.

Heidegger, M. (1982). The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. (A. Hofstadter, Trans.).
Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Heidegger, M. (2000). Introduction to Metaphysics. (G. Fried & R. Polt, Trans.). New
Haven: Yale UP

Lorentzen, Jamie. 2010. Sober Cannibals, Drunken Christians: Melville, Kierkegaard, and Tragic Optimism in Polarized Worlds

Yagi, Tsutomu B. 2009. “Beyond Subjectivity: Kierkegaard’s Self and Heidegger’s Dasein.” Perspectives: International Postgraduate Journal of Philosophy. University College Dublin.

“Tsutomu Ben Yagi’s paper ‘Beyond Subjectivity: Kierkegaard’s Self and Heidegger’s Dasein’ (2009) considers the departure made from classical notions of subjectivity by these thinkers. He argues that their temporalisation and finitisation of subjectivity leads away from a metaphysical understanding of subjectivity and moves towards a more existential understanding that breaks most successfully from the history of metaphysics with Heidegger.”

A Note on the author of The Varieties of Religious Experience

“The road by which William James (1842-1910) arrived at his position of leadership among American philosophers was, during his childhood, youth and early maturity, quite as circuitous and unpredictable as were his father’s ideas on the training of his children. That Swedenborgian theologian foresaw neither the career of novelist for his son Henry, nor that of pragmatist philosopher for the older William. The father’s migrations between New York, Europe and Newport meant that William’s education had variety if it did not have fixed direction. From 13 to 18 he studied in Europe and returned to Newport, Rhode Island, to study painting under the guidance of John La Farge. After a year, he gave up art for science and entered Harvard University, where his most influential teachers were Louis Agassiz and Charles W. Eliot. In 1863, William James began the study of medicine, and in 1865 he joined an expedition to the Amazon. Before long, he wrote: “If there is anything I hate, it is collecting.” His studies constantly interrupted by ill health, James returned to Germany and began hearing lectures and reading voluminously in philosophy. He won his medical degree at Harvard in 1870 (28-years-old). For four years he was an invalid in Cambridge, but finally, in 1873, he passed his gravest physical and spiritual crises and began the career by which he was to influence so profoundly generations of American students. From 1880 (38) to 1907() he was successively assistant professor of philosophy, professor of psychology and professor of philosophy at Harvard. In 1890, the publication of his Principles of Psychology brought him the acknowledged leadership in the field of functional psychology. The selection of William James to deliver the Gifford lectures in Edinburgh was at once a tribute to him and a reward for the university that sponsored the undertaking. These lectures, collected in this volume, have since become famous as the standard scientific work on the psychology of the religious impulse. Death ended his career on August 27th, 1910 (Gutenberg project).”

“Keep alive in your hearts
the feeling of confidence
that the light of knowledge
will inevitably dispel
the clouds of ignorance,
the conviction
that concern for justice
will ultimately conquer
hatred and enmity.
[… The] proper response to oppression
is neither to succumb in resignation
nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor.
The victim of oppression
can transcend it
through an inner strength
that shields the soul
from bitterness and hatred
which sustains
consistent principled action.” UHJ 2009

There is such a contrast between the use of the term “principled action” when used here for healing the human spirit and the way it is used in writings referring to doing ethics, applied ethics, ethics talk. Is it about words or deeds?

“Keep alive in your hearts” calls to all of us to sustain consistent principled action freed from bitterness and hatred even when oppressed, refuse to resign to victimization,  be careful not to respond to oppression by taking on the characteristics of the oppressor, struggle to continue to believe that knowledge will overcome ignorance, that justice will conquer injustice, nurture and maintain  inner strength that will sustain us through the most ethically distressing dilemmas of our lives, nurture confidence when you feel doubt, seek knowledge instead of vengeance. This far transcends concepts of ethical codes and minimal ethical standards.

“Some people confuse acting in good conscience with “doing ethics”. While personal good conscience is necessary for acting ethically, it is not sufficient.  There is also confusion of so-called “codes of ethics’ which are really codes of professional etiquette – for instance, between physicians or between lawyers – or which define unprofessional conduct, with codes of ethics properly so-called. Just because certain conduct does not breach professional norms, does not necessarily mean that it is ethical […] “Doing ethics”, especially by an ethicist, requires one to undertake an informed structured analysis that will assist in the identification and prioritisation of the full range of values relevant to, or affected by, the various decision options that are open in any given situation. It is inevitable that one’s own values come into play, but they should be identified as such and the other people involved advised of this. I sometimes imagine that “doing ethics” can be compared with opening a beautiful, intricately painted fan. The struts are the different schools of ethics, or the fundamental bases of the alternative analyses that could be used. The fabric that joins the struts may display one or several scenes. When we all agree on the outcome, although we do so for different reasons, we are choosing a different location in the one scene. When we disagree on the outcome, we are identifying several scenes and arguing that one scene is fundamental and should take priority in setting the overall tone or interpretation of the painting that the artist has portrayed on the fan, and that the other scenes must be interpreted in light of this. We all need to learn how to do ethics, even if we do not always succeed in doing this. “Doing ethics” is not a simple task; it is a process, not an event; and, in many ways, no matter in which capacity or context we do ethics, it is a life-long learning experience. The most important requirement, however, is that we all engage in that process, that is, we all participate in “ethics talk” (Somerville 2006).

Sometime prior to 1995, Pulitzer Prize winning author N. Scott Momaday, met with Kauffman and others in northern New Mexico to discuss fundamental issues facing humanity. It was here that Momaday argued that the central issue to be confronted was the reinvention of the sacred. He used as his example a recently returned Kiowa shield that had been stolen after the Civil War. Kauffman compared the human potential to recover a sense of worth through the “new sciences of complexity” to a recovery of a sense of the sacred (Kauffman 1995 AHU :4) that is not mystical but scientific. 

Kauffman’s response to Momaday concerns for reinventing the sacred, was to argue for an intellectual revolution, an expanded intellectual base to face the challenges inherent in the emergence of a world civilization which will be a highly pluralistic global community governed by an evolved form of democracy. This new intellectual base with include a new way of seeing and thinking about “origins, evolution, the profound naturalness of life andn its myriad patterns of unfolding.” Kauffman’s reinvented sacred is based on the assumption that this highly pluralistic society will require the highest “natural form of governance.” He argued that the “laws of complexity” that he and his colleagues at the Sante Fe Institute have uncovered, suggest that democracy has evolved as perhaps the optimal mechanism to achieve the best attainable compromises among conflicting practical, political, and moral interests.”  Further he argued that this evolved pluralistic democratic society is not just a human creation but is part of the “natural order of things.” 

My questions here concern the imprecise morphing of concepts of the sacred with a sense of self-worth presumably based on intellectual solutions that will somehow overcome the global democratic deficit.

The democratic deficit (prior to Obama 2009-01) did not evolve due to an intellectual deficit regarding the benefits of pluralistic democracy. It declined because we lost trust in knowledge management in many fields including science and governance.  The ontological certitude enjoyed by governing bodies at all levels in democratic systems in the 1950s was replaced by a growing scepticism that spread throughout all of our social institutions (Beck 1992 Risk Society). Has that been factored into the computer models? Kauffman’s colleague, physicist and computer scientist Roger Jones, who developed software program that used complexity theory to simulate the entire insurance industry, was as unprepared as everyone else with 911. He had to reconfigure his models. See Mackenzie (2002-02-01).

“Most biologists, heritors of the Darwinian tradition, suppose that the order of ontogeny is due to the grinding away of a molecular Rube Goldberg machine, slapped together piece by piece by evolution. I present a countering thesis: most of the beautiful order seen in ontogeny is spontaneous, a natural expression of stunning self-organization that abounds in very complex regulatory networks. We appear to have been profoundly wrong. Order, vast and generative, arises naturally (Kauffman AHU 1995: 25).” 

Although Kauffman’s work at the Santa Fe Institute, prior to 1995, included building elaborate computer models simulating the emergence of life forms on earth, the formation of his own consulting firm seeded with $6 million in 1996-7 led him to reconfigure his computers to modelling complexity as per the requirements of contracts with the US defence and dozens of Fortune 500 companies. My questions therefore is for whom is he an apologist? 

When he declares that the laws of the new sciences of complexity prove that the world of nature, and its constituent systems, has an inner scientific (not mystical or spiritual) force (vitality?) which endows it with a propensity for self-organized order which naturally will emerge from chaos, it is helpful perhaps to attempt to trace the evolutionary origins of his ideas and the practical as well as theoretical areas which have been the focus of his research. 

“Before his arrival at SFI, Stuart Kauffman (1991) discussed what he called “antichaos”, which is very similar to the concept of self-organization (Prigogine and Stengers 1984). In his view, however, entering chaos is not necessarily the next step. Instead Kauffman contended that life occurs most abundantly at the “edge of chaos.” This is generally described as complexity (Kauffman 1995), where a system exists on this edge, turning back to its steady state following multiple adaptations. In other words, many systems may adapt to the new environmental demand but may expend so much energy in navigating chaos that they have no energy left for negotiating other adaptations or even minor perturbations. On the other hand, by maintaining itself on the edge of chaos, the system’s energy requirements are more reasonable, and at the same time the complexity generated there is sufficient to make “just good enough adaptations” (Sulis 1995). Therefore, chaos, or the edge of chaos, seems to be the necessary transition state with which a system must flirt in order to better adapt to the environment (Butz 1997:64).”

Kauffman and his colleagues created elaborate computer models to simulate the dynamics of complex systems such as cellular activity, urban ecologies, natural ecological systems, financial markets and simulation games. One wonders why none of these digital/virtual scenarios did not better prepare us for the credit chaos, the mortgage meltdown and the US financial crisis that is now orbiting the globe? Could it be that ethical concerns such as greed vs generosity, dishonesty vs honesty, are difficult to place in an algorithm? 


1982 This Mandelbrot set (available through wiki commons) revealed strange, complicated structures buried deep within simple equations, simple definitions. It has become popular for its aesthetic appeal as well as a mathematical breakthrough. It is a set of points in the complex plane, whose elaborate boundary forms a fractal because it never simplifies at any given magnification.

1637 Descartes, R. (1637). “Discourse on the Method,” in J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, and D. Murcoch, eds., The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, volume 1, 109-76. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

1664 Descartes, R. (1664). “Treatise on Man,” in J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, and D. Murcoch, eds., The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, volume 1, 799-108. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

1793 French Revolution keywords: emerging democracy, 

1700s Jean Baptiste de Lamark (1744 – 1802) used the term vitalism to explain a species’ ability to adapt through evolution.

1815 Swedish chemist Johan Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848) proposed that organic compounds were produced under the influence of a vital force and so unlike chemical compounds were incapable of being prepared artificially. However, in 1828 German chemist Friedrich Wohler (1800-1882) synthesized the organic compound urea from the purely inorganic ammonium cyanate. vitalism,

1834 French physicist and mathematician, polymathematician, André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836), used the term cybernétique to denote the sciences of government in his classification system of human knowledge. Ampère one of the main discoverers of electromagnetism (thus ampere, a unit of measurement of electric current).

1820 Scots-born political philosopher, historian, psychologist, educational theorist, economist, and legal, political and penal reformer James Mill (1773–1836) was the collaborator and ally of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham’s theory of utilitariamism eclipsed the elder James Mill’s theories as did the writings of his eminent son John Stuart Mill.  James Mill believed that  man was a progressive being who required education in order to progress. His didactic, racist, biaised writing has been solidly critiqued since the early 19th century. His racist comments on the Hindu religion and India during the period of British expansionism, are the most well-known. adopted a form of utilitarian rationalism in his “Essay on Government” (1820). “Experience,” says he, “if we look only at the outside of the facts, appears to be divided on this subject. Absolute monarchy, under Neros and Caligulas, under such men as the Emperors of Morocco and Sultans of turkey, is the scourge of human nature. On the other side, the people of Denmark, tired out with the oppression of an aristocracy, resolved that their king should be absolute; and, under their absolute monarch, are as well governed as any people in Europe.”deduced from first principles that a constitutional monarchy was not the highest natural form of governance. keywords: natural form of governance. 

1821 Lord Byron wrote: “Matter is eternal always changing but reproduced and as far as we can comprehend Eternity Eternal and why not mind? Why should not the Mind act with and upon the Universe? as portions of it act upon and with the congregated dust called Mankind?” keyword vitalism,

1823 Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote in his essay entitled Mill on Government that, “Nothing is more amusing or instructive than to observe the manner in which people who think themselves wiser than all the rest of the world fall into snares which the simple good sense of their neighbours detects and avoids. It is one of the principal tenets of the Utilitarians that sentiment and eloquence serve only to impede the pursuit of truth. They therefore affect a quakerly plainness, or rather a cynical negligence and impurity, of style. The strongest arguments, when clothed in brilliant language, seem to them so much wordy nonsense. In the mean time they surrender their understandings, with a facility found in no other party, to the meanest and most abject sophisms, provided those sophisms come before them disguised with the externals of demonstration. They do not seem to know that logic has its illusions as well as rhetoric,—that a fallacy may lurk in a syllogism as well as in a metaphor. Mr. Mill is exactly the writer to please people of this description. His arguments are stated with the utmost affectation of precision; his divisions are awfully formal; and his style is generally as dry as that of Euclid’s Elements. Whether this be a merit, we must be permitted to doubt. Thus much is certain: that the ages in which the true principles of philosophy were least understood were those in which the ceremonial of logic was most strictly observed, and that the time from which we date the rapid progress of the experimental sciences was also the time at which a less exact and formal way of writing came into use.”  […] “The first chapter of [Mill’s 1820] Essay relates to the ends of government. The conception on this subject, he tells us, which exists in the minds of most men is vague and undistinguishing. He first assumes, justly enough, that the end of government is “to increase to the utmost the pleasures, and diminish to the utmost the pains, which men derive from each other.” He then proceeds to show, with great form, that “the greatest possible happiness of society is attained by insuring to every man the greatest possible quantity of the produce of his labour.” To effect this is, in his opinion, the end of government. It is remarkable that Mr. Mill, with all his affected display of precision, has here given a description of the ends of government far less precise than that which is in the mouths of the vulgar. The first man with whom Mr. Mill may travel in a stage coach will tell him that government exists for the protection of the persons and property of men. But Mr. Mill seems to think that the preservation of property is the first and only object. It is true, doubtless, that many of the injuries which are offered to the persons of men proceed from a desire to possess their property. But the practice of vindictive assassination as it has existed in some parts of Europe—the practice of fighting wanton and sanguinary duels, like those of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which bands of seconds risked their lives as well as the principals;—these practices, and many others which might be named, are evidently injurious to society; and we do not see how a government which tolerated them could be said “to diminish to the utmost the pains which men derive from each other.” “Therefore, according to Mr. Mill’s very correct assumption, such a government would not perfectly accomplish the end of its institution. Yet such a government might, as far as we can perceive, “insure to every man the greatest possible quantity of the produce of his labour.” Therefore such a government might, according to Mr. Mill’s subsequent doctrine, perfectly accomplish the end of its institution. The matter is not of much consequence, except as an instance of that slovenliness of thinking which is often concealed beneath a peculiar ostentation of logical neatness. Having determined the ends, Mr. Mill proceeds to consider the means. For the preservation of property some portion of the community must be intrusted with power. This is Government; and the question is, how are those to whom the necessary power is intrusted to be prevented from abusing it?”

1858 Louis Pasteur published his classic work “Mémoire sur la Fermentation Appelée Lactique” in which reported his empirical demonstration empirically that fermentation ” ‘life without air” only occurs when living cells are present; cells only carry out fermentation in the absence of oxygen, leading him to conclude that fermentation was a “vital action”. Vitalists like Pasteur appealed to demonstrations that living organisms originate from living organisms: there is no spontaneous generation. Pasteur showed that heated organic matter remained sterile unless contaminated but that, if contaminated, the previously heated material sustained life. This supported the conclusion that new life-forms only emerge from existing ones and provided additional evidence for the vitalist claim that living organisms are inherently different from non-living entities (Bechtel and Richardson 1998). vitalism,

1859 Darwin’s Origin of Species marked the beginning of an intellectual revolution that ultimately resulted in the establishment of the autonomy of biology (Mayr 2002).

1883-1885 German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote “Yea verily, I say unto you: A man must have Chaos yet within him To birth a dancing star. I say unto you: You have yet Chaos in you” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (sprach Zarathustra). Nietzsche wrote the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra in only ten days in a period of social isolation in which he was plagued by suicidal thoughts (by 1889 he exhibited symptoms of insanity). Nietzsche created a fictional protagonist Zarathustra, based on the Persian prophet of Zoroastrianism, to mimic a biblical style. Although wrongly described as a spiritual odyssey, the trope of Thus Spoke Zarathustra is irony. It lies somewhere between philosophy and literature because of its poetic, ambiguous and  paradoxical nature. Just as his protagonist taught that humans can become the transfigurer of own own consciousness and life through poetry, Nietzsche’s poem was his attempt to make sense of his own chaos. Through Zarathustra, he demonstrated how humans can excise and annihilate insidious unchallenged truth-claims accepted through a herd mentality by a radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth. Nietzsche opposed what was being done in the name of organized religions in the late 19th century particularly the threats and promises of eternal life as a reason to follow narrow religion dogmas. Humans exemplified by the Übermensch can endlessly affirm their own existence. He wrote about tragedy as an affirmation of life. He described the creative force that humans can claim from chaos, where pure creativity is born. Nietzsche seemed to be seeking a justification for abysmal eternally recurring suffering in the world without recourse to life after death. He sought responses to nihilism, fear of the abyss by expanding on human will power and human capacity to overcome fear.  

1907 French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) wrote Creative Evolution. Bergson, one of the most famous and influential French philosophers of the late 19th century-early 20th century, introduced the concept of élan vital, (vital impetus or vital force) as a “hypothetical explanation for evolution and development of organisms, which Bergson linked closely with consciousness. It was the existence of this vital force, which made people at that time believe that they were not able to synthesize organic molecules. It was believed by others that this essence (élan vital) could be harvested and embedded into an inanimate substance and activated with electricity, perhaps taking literally another of Bergson’s metaphorical descriptions, the “current of life”. Although his international fame reached cult-like heights during his lifetime, his influence decreased notably after the second World War. While such French thinkers as Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, and Lévinas explicitly acknowledged his influence on their thought, it is generally agreed that it was Gilles Deleuze’s 1966 Bergsonism that marked the reawakening of a wide and growing interest in Bergson’s work. Deleuze realized that Bergson’s most enduring contribution to philosophical thinking is his concept of multiplicity. Therefore, due to Deleuze’s realization, a kind of revitalization of Bergsonism has been going on since around 1990.” wiki vitalism

1914 Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch (1867–1941), eminent embryologist and a leading twentieth-century proponent of vitalism published The History and Theory of Vitalism., This is Driesch’s synoptic discussion of vitalism in which he explained the “life of an organism in terms of the presence of an entelechy, a substantial entity controlling organic processes (Bechtel and Richardson (1998).”

the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1874–1948) posited an élan vital to overcome the resistance of inert matter in the formation of living bodies.

1948 American theoretical and applied mathematician, Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) wrote, “Information is information not matter or energy” in his publication entitled Cybernetics (1948: 155). Wiener is considered to be the founder of cybernetics, “a field that formalizes the notion of feedback and has implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology, philosophy, and the organization of society.” (a wiki) Following WWII Wiener broke new ground in cybernetics, robotics, computer control, and automation. He was a strong advocate of automation to improve the standard of living, and to overcome economic underdevelopment (awiki).

1965 C.G. Hempel argued “that the fault with vitalism is not that it posits entities which cannot be observed, but that such explanations ‘render all statements about entelechies inaccessible to empirical test and thus devoid of empirical meaning’ because no methods of test, however indirect, are provided (1965: 257 cited in Bechtel and Richardson (1998).”

1966 French philosopher Gilles Deleuze published Bergsonism in which he revitalized Bergson’s concept of élan vital (1906) by using it to denote a substance in which the distinction between organic and inorganic matter is indiscernible, and the emergence of life undecidable. Unlike its usage in 19th century vitalist debates, élan vital is not a mystical, elusive force acting on brute matter.

1970 Conway developed his widely cited cellular automation called the Game of Life or Life. One interacts with the Game of Life by creating an initial configuration and observing how it evolves. The game made British mathematician John Horton Conway “instantly famous, but it also opened up a whole new field of mathematical research, the field of cellular automata … Because of Life’s analogies with the rise, fall and alterations of a society of living organisms, it belongs to a growing class of what are called ‘simulation games’ (games that resemble real life processes) (Gardner 1970-10). ” 

1970s “By the late 1970s some scientists truly believed that the `end of science’ was at hand. After all the major conceptual foundations had been laid earlier in the century: quantum mechanics and relativity in physics, Darwinism in biology. Particle physics was putting the finishing touches on the `standard theory’ which explained the structure of matter in terms of strange things called `quarks’ (Lancaster 1993).”  Biologist May found odd population fluctuations in simple ecologies. Physicists Farmer and Crutchfield discovered extremely strange behaviour in simple pendulums. Their emerging discipline is now familiar to most with a passing interest in science as chaos theory (Lancaster 1993)” which is now part of a larger scientific discipline called complexity theory. 

1973 Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela published “Autopoiesis and Cognition: the Realization of the Living” in which they introduced the term autopoiesis auto – αυτό (Gr.) for self- and poiesis – ποίησις  (Gr.) for creation or production, to describe the fundamental dialectic between structure and function. This is the main published reference on the term autopoiesis. “An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network (Maturana andVarela, 1980:78).” “[T]he space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system on the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection (Maturana and Varela 1980:89).” The biological cell is an example of an autopoietic system while an automobile factory is an example of an allopoietic system. Living cells are composed of biochemical components are are organized into bounded structures which auto-produce the components which maintain the organized bounded structure that gives rise to these components. An allopoietic system uses components to generate an organized structure which is something other than itself. 

1975 Holland, J. H. 1975 [1992]. Adaptation in Natural and Arti cial Systems. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Second edition.

1970s Christopher Langton, “a part-time bluegrass guitarist, part-time programmer, part-time college dropout, spent most of his time on the fringe of the college scene around Cambridge and Boston following the conceptual scent of vague ideas about adaptation and self-organisation through browsing through bookshops and taking the odd course. The scent eventually led Langton to invest in an Apple II and begin experimenting himself. Fascinated by the spidery, life-likeness of these “cellular automata” structures, Langton discovered the work of Stephen Wolfram. Wolfram had found that there were four possible types of cellular automata rules. Class I were “doomsday rules”: no matter what initial seed, all the cells would die within one or two time steps. Class II rules were marginally more interesting: any initial seed would quickly form into a set of static, pulsating blobs. Class III were the other extreme completely: the patterns they produced were so frenetic, there appeared to be no order or predictability. Class IV rules were the most unusual and strange: these rules did not produce static structures, or chaotic patterns. What was they produced were complicated structures that split, grew and mutated: “Game of Life” falls neatly into this category (Lancaster 1993).” 

1982Physical science is a metaphor with which the scientist, like the poet, creates and extends meaning and value in the quest for understanding meaning and purpose… [T]he humanities are concerned with questions of existence, meaning, value and beauty – matters which all of us feel to be essential, integral, human. It is ironic and tragic that we have come to feel that physics is not deeply motivated by those same human issues (Jones 1982).” See also Polyani’s tacit knowledge in terms of discovery. 

1982 Ernst Mayr in The Growth of Biological Thought, an acclaimed general introduction of the history of biology from early Greeks to the 20th century, claimed that vitalism “virtually leaves the realm of science by falling back on an unknown and presumably unknowable factor (1982: 52).”

1982 Chris Langton began a Ph.D. on the new subject, which he began calling “Artificial Life” at the University of Michigan? (Lancaster 1993). He coined the term. 

1982 Mathematician B. B. Mandelbrot published The Fractal Geometry of Nature which revealed strange structures buried deep within simple equations.

1984 Prigogine, Ilya; Stengers, Isabelle. 1984. Order out of Chaos. Flamingo.    

1984 Farmer, D.; To oli, T.;  S. Wolfram, Eds. 1984. Cellular Automata: Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Workshop. North Holland, Amsterdam.

1984-04 Santa Fe Institute, was founded in 1984 by George Cowan to develop the new scientific discipline, complexity theory, which looks at complex systems and their environments in much the same way as chaos theory.  Scientists at SFI talked of experiencing “a new way of seeing the world”. SFI is interdisciplinary including economists, physicists, administrators, biologists, and mathematicians in research. They defined complexity as “a chaos of behaviors in which the components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 293). Other founders (source?) include David Pines, Stirling Colgate, physicist Murray Gell-Mann, Nick Metropolis, Herb Anderson, Peter A. Carruthers, and Richard Slansky.

1984 In his article entitled “Universality and complexity in cellular automata” published in Physica D, Wolfram introduced a dynamical classi cation of cellular automata behavior closely allied to that of dynamical systems theory. He speculated that one of his four classes supports universal computation.”

1984 Wolfram, S. Ed. 1986. “Theory and Applications of Cellular Automata.” World Scienti c. Singapore.

19?? (Waldrop 1992), Chris Langton at the Santa Fe Institute, proposed the following interesting equation (demonstrated for cellular automata but likely to apply to other areas): chaos = order = chaos. The arrows in this equation are meant in the sense of phase transitions in the same way as ice can become water and then steam. A complexity phase was found to exist between order and chaos. Langton defined complexity as the line of balance, or transition point, between order and chaos, partaking of both (source).

1986 Stephen Wolfram began the Center for Complex Systems at the University of Illinois to develop the new scientific discipline, complexity theory, which looks at complex systems and their environments in much the same way as chaos theory. They defined complexity as “a chaos of behaviors in which the components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either” (Waldrop, 1992, p. 293)

1986 Craig Reynolds “made a computer model of coordinated animal motion such as bird flocks and fish schools. It was based on three dimensional computational geometry of the sort normally used in computer animation or computer aided design. I called the generic simulated flocking creatures boids. The basic flocking model consists of three simple steering behaviors which describe how an individual boid maneuvers based on the positions and velocities its nearby flockmates.” emergence, simulation,

1980s The birthplace of complexity theory is the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit think tank, where Kauffman joined forces in the mid-1980s with computer scientist John Holland, economist Brian Arthur, mathematician John Casti, and physicist Murray Gell-Mann. “It was an intellectual blowout,” Kauffman says. “It was staggeringly fun and exciting and ebullient. We were studying the science of complex adaptive systems, and none of us knew what we were talking about.”

1987 Christopher Langton (1949- ) is an American biologist and one of the founders of the field of artificial life. He coined the term in the late 1980s when he organized the first “International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems” (otherwise known as Artificial Life I) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1987. “Artificial Life studies man-made systems which exhibit behaviours characteristic of natural living systems”, wrote Langton, in the introduction to Artificial Life in 1987. Langton firmly believed that these patterns and processes of life, could somehow be “abstracted” from a `real’ biological system. Using a computer analogy: “life” is the “software”: the processes, the instructions that use whatever “hardware” is available: the mitochondria, cells or DNA. During this time Langton had discovered that others had smelt that crazy, elusive scent and their numbers were growing (Lancaster 1993).” 

1989 Nicolis and Ilya Prigogine defined complexity as the ability of a system to adapt to its environments,  “to switch between different modes of behavior as the environmental conditions are varied  (1989:218) ”. Is Ilya Prigogine one of its founders of the theory of complex systems, or complexity theory that deals with the application of computers to evolution?

1990 Niklas Luhmann published his Essays on Self-Reference in which he adapted Maturana and Varela’s concept of autopoiesis to explain social systems. 

1990 J. P. Crutch eld and K. Young. “Computation at the onset of chaos.” In W. H. Zurek, editor, Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information, pages 223-269. Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, CA. “onset of chaos” 

1990 The phrase “edge of chaos” was coined by Christopher Langton. life at the edge of chaos???

1992 Waldrop, M Mitchell. 1992. Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and ChaosViking Press. 

1992 Lewin, Roger. 1992. Complexity: Life at the Edge of ChaosMacmillan.

1992 Complexity theory was considered to be a new scientific discipline which investigates complex systems and their environments in much the same way as chaos theory. Complexity is “a chaos of behaviors in which the components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either” (Waldrop, 1992:293). “The tremendous amount of a system’s energy that is required to navigate chaos is an idea that scientists at the Santa Fe Institute have been pondering (Levy 1992; Waldrop 1992) cited in (Butz 1997:64).”

1993 “The ideas of complexity theory seemed to many of these scientists to hold the promise of uniting two previously disparate trends in science: reductionism (the descendant of Newtonianism) and vitalism. Reductionism holds that a complete description of any science can be found by understanding the “bits” that make it up. Vitalism maintains that there is some “unanalysable” `elan vital’ or `life force’ which is responsible for the wonderful organisation in life (Lancaster 1993).” 

1995 “Mathematical biologists (e.g., Eigen; Kauffman), studying evolution, generally have a different understanding of the origin of order compared to Mayr or Monod. Self-creation of essentially new, unpredictable and irreproducible characteristics cannot be modeled mathematically. Formal models of evolution are always essentialistic, in that they define a “space” of possible “biological states”, e.g., DNA sequences of a given length. Possible transitions between these states, mutations and recombinations during the replication of these sequences, mimic the dynamics of evolution. By means of a fitness function, relating each possible sequence to a fitness value, the survival of the fittest can be simulated. Evolution within such a model means to find the sequence or a set of sequences with maximal fitness values for a given situation. Mathematical models of evolution mimic essentialistic evolution, the unfolding of inherent potentials determined by the specific form of the fitness function. Today’s mathematical models of evolution are limited by the drastic simplifications necessary to keep the problem mathematically tractable. Nevertheless, even using highly simplified models helps to understand important aspects of evolution (Kauffman, 1995) and to address certain more simple subproblems theoretically (Eigen, 1993) as well as experimentally (Biebricher, et al., 1993; Biebricher and Luce, 1993) (Von Kitzing, Eberhard. 2001).” Eberhard von Kitzing obtained his masters degree in theoretical physics in the field of general relativity and his doctorate in biochemical evolution at the Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie in Göttingen. He is currently researching molecular neuroscience at the Max-Planck-Institut für Medizinische Forschung in Heidelberg.

2002 “Defining structure and detecting the emergence of complexity in nature are inherently subjective, though essential, scientific activities. Despite the difficulties, these problems can be analysed in terms of how model-building observers infer from measurements the computational capabilities embedded in non-linear processes. An observer’s notion of what is ordered, what is random, and what is complex in its environment depends directly on its computational resources: the amount of raw measurement data, of memory, and of time available for estimation and inference. The discovery of structure in an environment depends more critically and subtly, though, on how those resources are organized. The descriptive power of the observer’s chosen (or implicit) computational model class, for example, can be an overwhelming determinant in finding regularity in data (Crutchfield 1994).” emergence, objectivity,

1995  “Darwinism Evolving is a history of ideas about biological diversity and evolution, from Aristotle to the present day. The last part of the book is an account of some recent developments, and an attempt to forecast the future. Most of this review will be concerned with the final section, which seems to me mistaken. I must therefore start by saying that I found the historical part well informed, and full of valuable insights. The ideas discussed are fundamental, not only to biology, but also to our view of our relationship to the rest of the natural world. The last twenty years have seen an explosion of scholarship centered on Darwin, by historians and philosophers. The book is an admirable summary of, and addition to, that scholarship (Smith, John Maynard 1995-03-02).”  

1995 Stuart A. Kauffman published At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity A in which he described a “major scientific revolution has begun, a new paradigm that rivals Darwin’s theory in importance. At its heart is the discovery of the order that lies deep within the most complex of systems, from the origin of life, to the workings of giant corporations, to the rise and fall of great civilizations. And more than anyone else, this revolution is the work of one man, Stuart Kauffman, a MacArthur Fellow and visionary pioneer of the new science of complexity. Kauffman brilliantly weaves together the excitement of intellectual discovery and a fertile mix of insights to give the general reader a fascinating look at this new science – and at the forces for order that lie at the edge of chaos.” In this book Kauffman cited Fisrt Nations author Scott Momaday, a Pulitzer Prize winner, “We must reinvent the sacred in the modern world”. Kauffman response was, “I hold the hope that what some are calling the new sciences of complexity may help us find a new place in the universe, that through this new science, we may recover our sense of worth, our sense af the sacred”.

1996 CALResCo site on Complex Systems Research and Education, was launched to integrate interdisciplinary information about Complex Systems, too complex for Newtonian analysis and too simple for Statistical averaging. Complex Systems Research, using simulations and iterations, for example, explore the infinite space of possible systems in a way not previously feasible as computer resources became more powerful and more accessible.

1996 Stuart Kauffman switched from his focus on experiments to create new life to developing computer models to help executives make more money. He founded BiosGroup with funds of $6 million provided by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. Even though complexity theories were challenged by many even Kauffman’s friend and mentor, evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith, who described computer modeling as “fact-free science.” There was a great interest in the monetization of Santa Fe Institute’s research on complexity theory. See Mackenzie (2002-02-01).

1997 Michael R. Bütz published his book entitled Chaos and Complexity: Implications for Psychological Theory and Practicein which he argued that there was an acceptable “scientific” explanation for the inherent complexity and richness of the human experience of change. He traced three decades (1967-1997) of studies to describe nonlinear dynamics (chaos theory, complexity theory). and explores the implications of chaos/complexity theories for psychology and the social sciences. He “describes the benefits psychology can glean from using ideas in chaos theory and applying them to psychology in general, individual psycho-therapy, couples therapy, and community psychology, and also considers possible directions for research and application.” See Amazon.com “There is a curious phenomenon among scientists today [1997] and others who often seem to use anthropomorphic terminology to describe how a system organizes itself. They often seem to emphasize how a type of collective communication transpiring across the system even in discussing chemical reactions, biological structures, soliton waves in rivers and oceans, physics, and even astrophysics (Gleick 1987; Maturana and Varela 1992; Prigogine and Stengers 1984; Sinnott 1966; Tonge 1974). It seems that these scientists may be harkening back to vitalism in philosophy or making a pitch for the strong form of the anthropic cosmological principle (Barrow, J. D. 1988; Barrow and Tipler 1986). In the current zeitgeist, this idea seems necessary to consider. The debate between those who believe in an elan vital or vital force and the Drieschs’ entelechy (Levy 1992:21) seems to be ongoing. Even prominent individuals working with artificial life (like Langton, … continue to wrestle with vitalism (Levy 1992:107). In actuality this is no small matter for scientists studying artificial life because, in essence, their theory is based on the idea of a bottom-up collective cellular activity. The obstacle of vitalism stands squarely in the path of demonstrating such a hypothesis. Although a solution is not posed here, one is encouraged to consider that self-organization simply can emerge from a “complex enough stew” and not be terribly efficient. Consequently, vitalism is a matter than both wet perspectivists and artificial perspectivists will have to confront at some time in the future. Noting how life can emerge from the collection of enough stuff and that it wants to happen, as Kauffman is quoted as stating – what does this have to say of cognition? Is the brain similar to some perbiotic stew, or is it more refined and rational? (Butz p.30).”

1997 Roger Jones began developing a software program called Insurance World, which uses complexity theory to simulate the entire industry. Jones is cofounder of the consulting and software-development firm Complexica Inc. Jones worked for 17 years as a physicist and computer scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he was invited to join a group of complexity theorists  at the Sante Fe Institute, who build elaborate computer models to simulate the dynamics of complex systems as diverse as cities, rain forests, and the stock market. See Mackenzie (2002-02-01).

1999-01 John Casti and Roger Jones founded Complexica “to develop intellectual property through consulting relationships with corporate clients and to commercialize that intellectual property by creating spin-offs or partnerships that focused on targeted vertical markets. Complexica created three such relationships.” 

2002 The mathematical development of theories underlying emergent behavior were introduced.

2002 Ernst Mayr, co-founder of the modern evolutionary synthesis and a critic of both vitalism and reductionism, , stated: “It would be ahistorical to ridicule vitalists. When one reads the writings of one of the leading vitalists like Driesch one is forced to agree with him that many of the basic problems of biology simply cannot be solved by a philosophy as that of Descartes, in which the organism is simply considered a machine…..The logic of the critique of the vitalists was impeccable. But all their efforts to find a scientific answer to all the so-called vitalistic phenomena were failures.… rejecting the philosophy of reductionism is not an attack on analysis. No complex system can be understood except through careful analysis. However the interactions of the components must be considered as much as the properties of the isolated components (Mayr 2002).” keywords: vitalism, vis vitalis (force, power, physical force, moral power; Lebenskraft (die): n. vitality, power, energy, strength, liveliness, vigor, power to live, life force, energy within a living being,

2003 NuTech Solutions Completes BiosGroup Acquisition. Stuart Kauffman and Robert MacDonald joined NuTech Solutions’ Board of Directors. By 2002 BiosGroup had already done more than 50 projects for Fortune 500 clients. “BiosGroup is the world leader in applying the science of complexity and complex adaptive systems to the simulation, modeling, and solving of difficult problems for government organizations and Global 1000 corporations. BiosGroup has raised more than $20 million in venture capital financing from Ernst & Young, Procter & Gamble Company, and Ford Motor Company; and has build a client list of over 50 major corporations, including Air Liquide, Boeing, the Nasdaq stock market, Southwest Airlines, SAP, Société Générale, Texas Instruments, Unilever, and the United States Department of Defense. BiosGroup founder Dr. Stuart Kauffman, and BiosGroup Chairman Robert MacDonald, have also joined NuTech Solutions’ board of directors. A leading theorist in complexity science since the early 1980’s, Dr. Kauffman was a founding scientist of the Santa Fe Institute and a consultant to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where significant early work on “chaos theory” was conducted. Dr. Kauffman is also a MacArthur Fellow and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also the author of several highly regarded books on complexity science, including “At Home in the Universe” and “Investigations.” “The science of complexity and complex adaptive systems is having a positive impact on business and government. The combination of BiosGroup and NuTech Solutions will accelerate the commercialization of the science and will result in more products that use the science to solve problems facing decision makers,” said Stuart Kauffman (source).” BiosGroup “alone employs some 50 scientists, including researchers who once specialized in solar neutrinos, epileptic seizures, and remote sensing. See Mackenzie (2002-02-01).”

2004-12-31 John Casti and Roger Jones company Complexica merged with its daughter company, CommodiCast, Inc. CommodiCast is currently focusing on the Pharmaceutical and Finance verticals. 


Who’s Who

Christopher Langton (1949- ) is an American biologist and one of the founders of the field of artificial life. He coined the term in the late 1980s when he organized the first “International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems” (otherwise known as Artificial Life I) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1987. In the 1970s Christopher Langton, “a part-time bluegrass guitarist, part-time programmer, part-time college dropout, spent most of his time on the fringe of the college scene around Cambridge and Boston following the conceptual scent of vague ideas about adaptation and self-organisation through browsing through bookshops and taking the odd course. The scent eventually led Langton to invest in an Apple II and begin experimenting himself. Fascinated by the spidery, life-likeness of these “cellular automata” structures, Langton discovered the work of Stephen Wolfram. Wolfram had found that there were four possible types of cellular automata rules. Class I were “doomsday rules”: no matter what initial seed, all the cells would die within one or two time steps. Class II rules were marginally more interesting: any initial seed would quickly form into a set of static, pulsating blobs. Class III were the other extreme completely: the patterns they produced were so frenetic, there appeared to be no order or predictability. Class IV rules were the most unusual and strange: these rules did not produce static structures, or chaotic patterns. What was they produced were complicated structures that split, grew and mutated: “Game of Life” falls neatly into this category (Lancaster 1993).” 

Stuart Alan A. Kauffman (1939-) cyberneticist, wiki “is an American theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher concerning the origin of life on Earth. He is best known for arguing that the complexity of biological systems and organisms might result as much from self-organization and far-from-equilibrium dynamics as from Darwinian natural selection, as well as for proposing the first models of Boolean networks.” Kauffman presently holds a joint appointment at the University of Calgary in Biological Sciences and in Physics and Astronomy, and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy. He is also an iCORE (Informatics Research Circle of Excellence) [1] chair and the director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics. In 1996, Kauffman started BiosGroup, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based for-profit company that employs complex systems methodology to attempt to solve business problems. BiosGroup was acquired by NuTech Solutions[2] in early 2003. As of 2003, Kauffman was a director of NuTech which is no longer doing business. Kauffman has been increasingly important in management theory. His NK model, and the idea of epistatic links, have been used to describe the way information is shared in a firm.” wiki

Santa Fe Institute, (SFI) a non-profit research institute dedicated to the study of complex system through the development of a new kind of scientific research community, that emphasizes multi-disciplinary collaboration in pursuit of understanding the common themes that arise in natural, artificial, and social systems.

Santa Fe Institute, under the Core Research, Adaptive Computation and External Faculty Programs, and by the University of California, Berkeley, under contract AFOSR 91-0293. Thanks to Doyne Farmer, Jim Hanson, Erica Jen, Chris Langton, Wentian Li, Cris Moore, and Norman Packard for many helpful discussions and suggestions concerning this project. Thanks also to Emily Dickinson and Terry Jones for technical advice.

Buckminster Fuller, a cyberneticist,

Niklas Luhmann, a cyberneticist

Humberto Maturana, a cyberneticist

Talcott Parsons, a cyberneticist

Francisco Varela, a cyberneticist,



Faceted categories or faceted tagging:

Subject-based taxonomies:
Content-based taxonomies: Complex systems scientists
Behaviour-based taxonomies:

Folksonomy or ethnoclassification: my key words: far-from-equilibrium dynamics, far-from-equilibrium dynamics vs Darwinian natural selection, complex systems, self-organization, epistatic links, NK model,

Webliography and Bibliography

February, 2006.

Pete Becker.

Bechtel, William; Richardson, Robert C. 1998. “Vitalism.” In Craig, E. Ed. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Bütz, Michael R. 1997. Chaos and Complexity: Implications for Psychological Theory and Practice. CRC Press. Taylor & Francis.

Crutch eld, James P.;  Young, K. 1990. “Computation at the onset of chaos.” In Zurek, W. H. Ed. Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information. pp. 223-269. Addison-Wesley, Redwood City, CA.

Crutchfield, James P. 1994. “The Calculi of Emergence: Computation, Dynamics, and Induction.” “Special issue on the Proceedings of the Oji International Seminar: Complex Systems — from Complex Dynamics to Artificial Reality.” Physica D.

Dennett, Daniel C. 1991. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Dennett, Daniel C. 1995. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York: Simon & Schuster. 

Dennett, Daniel C. 2003. Freedom Evolves. New York: Penguin Books. 

Depew, David J.; Weber, Bruce H. 1995. “Darwinism Evolving.” MIT Press.

Farmer, Doyne; To oli, T.;  S. Wolfram, Eds. 1984. Cellular Automata: Proceedings of an Interdisciplinary Workshop. North Holland, Amsterdam.

Gardner, Martin. October 1970-10. “Mathematical Games: The fantastic combinations of John Conway’s new solitaire game “Life””. Scientific American. 223: 120–123.

“Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch.” 2009-01-25. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia.com.

Driesch, H. 1914. The History and Theory of Vitalism. London: Macmillan.

Fish, Stanley . 2009. Stanley Fish: God Talk“. New York Times.

Jones, Roger S. 1982. Physics as MetaphorUniversity of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis

Hayles, N. Katherine. 1991. Chaos and Order: Complex Dynamics in Literature and ScienceUniversity of Chicago Press. 

Hempel, C.G. 1965. “Studies in the Logic of Explanation”, in C.G. Hempel (ed.) Aspects of Scientific Explanation, and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. New York: Free Press.

Holland, J. H. 1975 [1992]. Adaptation in Natural and Arti cial Systems. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Second edition.

Kauffman, Stuart A. 1993. The Origins of Order, (p311,312). Review.

Kauffman, Stuart A. 1996-08-08. Self-replication: Even peptides do it. Nature 382.

Kauffman, Stuart A. 1995.  At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity. Oxford University Press.

Kauffman, Stuart A. Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion.

Lancaster, Alex. 1993. “Life at the Edge of Chaos.” 

Langton, Christopher. 1987. >Artificial LifeAddison-Wesley. 

Langton, ChristopherG. 1990. >“Computation at the edge of chaos”. Physica D. 42.

Langton, ChristopherG. 1990. “Computation at the edge of chaos: Phase transitions and emergent computation.” Physica D, 42:12{37, 1990.

Lewin, Roger. 1992. Complexity: Life at the Edge of ChaosMacmillan.

Niklas, Luhmann. 1990. Essays on Self-Reference. Columbia University Press. 

Macaulay, Thomas Babington. 1823. [1829-03, 1823, 1860]. “Mill on Government.” Miscellaneous Writings. 1 in Macaulay, Thomas Babington. 1860. The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay. 1. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts. 

Mackenzie, Dana. 2002-02-01. “The Science of Surprise.” Discover Magazine.


Mandelbrot, B.B. 1982. The Fractal Geometry of Nature. W.H. Freeman and Company.


Maturana, Humberto R. ; Varela, Francisco. 1973 [1980. Autopoiesis and Cognition: the Realization of the Living. Robert S. Cohen and Marx W. Wartofsky (Eds.).  Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 42. Dordecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co.

Maturana, Humberto R. ; Varela, Francisco. Tree of Knowledge.   

Mayr, Ernst. 1982. The Growth of Biological Thought. Harvard, NY: Harvard University Press.

Mayr, Ernst. 2002. “The Walter Arndt Lecture: The Autonomy of Biology.”

Mill, James. 1820a – 1825. Government. First published in the Supplement to the 4th, 5th & 6th editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1816-1824) and reprinted in James Mill: Essays & Etc.

Mill, James. 1820b – 1825. Jurisprudence. First published in the Supplement to the 4th, 5th & 6th editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1816-1824) and reprinted in James Mill: Essays & Etc.

Pasteur, L. (1858) ‘Mémoire sur la Fermentation Appelée Lactique’, Annales de Chimie Ser., 52: 404–18; partially reprinted and translated as ‘Pasteur’s Memoir on Lactic Fermentation’, in J.B. Conant (ed.) Harvard Case Histories in Experimental Science, Harvard, NY: Harvard University Press, 1970. (Pasteur’s classic work.)

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1883Thus Spake Zarathrustra.

Mitchell, Melanie; Crutch eld, James P.; Hraber, Peter T. 1994. “Dynamics, Computation, and the Edge of Chaos: A Re-Examination“. In G. Cowan, D. Pines, and D. Melzner. Eds. Complexity: Metaphors, Models, and Reality. Santa Fe Institute. Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proceedings. 19. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Prigogine, Ilya; Stengers, Isabelle. 1984. Order out of ChaosFlamingo. 

Waldrop, M Mitchell. 1992. Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and ChaosViking Press. 1992.

Wolfram, S. 1984. “Universality and complexity in cellular automata.” Physica D. 10:1-35.

Wolfram, S. Ed. 1986. “Theory and Applications of Cellular Automata.” World Scienti c. Singapore.

Von Kitzing, Eberhard. 2001. The Origin of Complex Order in Biology: `Abdu’l-Bahá’s concept of the originality of species
compared to concepts in modern biology. Evolution and Baha’i Belief. Kalimat Press: Los Angeles.


which world religions get excluded?

Washington Post's blog On Faith: which world religions get excluded?

When I began to become enraptured with Web 2.0 I wanted to find ways to use intelligent, emerging instruments from the semantic web to continually improve findability and search optimization of resources I had gathered over many years, even if my own PC broke down and all my back up systems failed, and my own memory became faulty, or . . . I had hoped that blogging would help me remember where I put things that might someday be useful again.

The catalyst for “Folksonomy: optimizing soul searching” was a question regarding how absent categories impose their presence through their very absence. Faced with closed field category/subcategory options offered by Digg for example, under which I had to place my article, etc I struggled between philosophy or society, finance or economics, environment or politics.

I have also found it enlightening to find under which categories my own Creative Commons blogs, articles, posts and images might appear.

As my own sites grow organically, my categories and parent categories constantly need to be reformulated; new tags added and others deleted or merged. The goal is efficiency and elegance in the ungainly word of “findability” or search engine optimization, potent instruments in the semantic web.

At times I am frustrated by the absence of categories that exclude entire populations and conversations. Recently I came across a site hosted by the Washington Post. In their About page they describe how they use the limitless space of the online world to host a blog entitled “On Faith” which invites “intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful,fruitful, intriguing and constructive conversation-among specialists and generalists about the things that matter most, religion, the most ancient of forces, the most pervasive yet “least understood topic in global life.”

I read comments and the post from David Grant, a junior at Virginia Tech who commenting on his visit to the Baha’i gardens in Haifa,Israel-Palestine (which has recently been named as an International Heritage Site) remarking on the broad reach of the Baha’i religion. “Where else on Earth could you find a family from the Bible Belt, a pair of South Africans currently working in Japan, and a crew of Peruvians all heading to say their prayers at the same spot?”

I wanted to search “On Faith” for more strings on the Baha’i but realized that Baha’i World Faith was not offered in their pop-up menu of “List Posts by Topics” which did include: Anglican, Atheist/Agnostic, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Earth-based Spirituality, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Evangelical, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Mainline Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, Native American religion, Protestant, Quaker, Sikh, Taoist, Wiccan.

As of February 2008 there were 5,000,000 Baha’is in the world and 159,692 Baha’is in the United States. I couldn’t find a figure for either Taoist or Wiccans but one site at least claimed that in 2001 there were c. 34,000 Wiccans in the US.

Baha’is promote tolerance and moderation and are anxiously concerned with the social issues of the time in which they live. Baha’is around the globe contribute to civil society at locally, regionally, nationally levels on issues and programs related to World Religion Day, interfaith relations, religious freedom, Race Unity Day, race unity, elimination of prejudice, advancement of women (CEDAW), human rights, among others. Baha’is have offices at United Nations as NGO are are prominent in international forums as invited participants acknowledged for civil moderate behaviour in the most volatile situations. Recently the U.S. Bahá’í U.N. representative Jeffery Huffines received a Friendship Award for his work “promoting cultural understanding throughout the world and at the UN Headquarters” and for serving as a “positive, guiding force” to all. It is surprising that Baha’is seem to be largely absent from this forum.

The categories offered under “List Posts by Topics” are confusing since some are parent categories for the others. The Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical are all followers of Christ and are all therefore Christians. Which discussions take place solely under the name of Anglican, Mainline Protestants and Episcopal? In terms of the semantic web it would be far more useful to provide a theme-based “List of Topics” that is inclusive of all the groups and religions mentioned. Tags could be used to facilitate searches for a Quaker, Sikh or Baha’i or Catholic perspective, for example. I would recommend that the blog architects revisit and update their taxonomy using principles of folksonomy: what users do with words.

Years of working with research materials leads to a way of thinking with categories, subcategories; key words (tags); abstracts, descriptions, key concepts, timelines, references in .eml or similar formats. The semantic web revs up that process with powerful tools. So my blogs are always a work in progress, process works.

My own personal blogs are experimental and while I am very conscientious about what is here, I can claim no professional authority in any one field.

At this time in my life I feel as if I live outside linear time. Blog stats soar up suddenly for no apparent reason on a blog posted weeks or month ago. So I tidy it up a little. Then the graph drops sharply again with no apparent reason. I don’t need to try to control it.

Outside linear time, I could just pick up threads begun months ago on Milton Friedman, the social history of Inuit, media objectivity or what we do in the name of such concepts as “memory work” or “everyday life.” Through creative commons I could share all my teaching, learning and research resources without having to shorten them, tidy them up or make them ready for someone else’s deadline. Take what you need and leave the rest. I would still work as hard as I could to maintain my own standards particularly in investigating , acknowledging and referencing sources of information, images, etc.

As I am creating, writing, coding, snurling, twittering, blogging, and uploading to wikipedia, social bookmark accounts, my blogs or others’ etc I have absolutely no trust in anyone.

I post knowing that anything I have shared can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, misread. It can be rejected, ignored, criticized. It can be copied and pasted without my name attached. I license all my work under the Creative Commons License 3.0 SA-NC-BY but I know it cannot be enforced in most cases.

So why bother?

What I do is not based on my need to trust others in cyberspace. I do not feel as though I am an embodied link in an embodied network in linear time and space.

This is even more than that. If I use the semantic web effectively, a searcher who is not “now” from a geographic location that is not “here” can still find my arrows, my markers, hotwords and icons, index-mouse-clicks that might just help them a little in their search. Maybe I will be that searcher.

It is more important to me to work hard at providing information that is not misinformation, trying hard to be as close to the truth as is possible, to use the most powerful arguments from the most reliable texts available to me at any given time.

I am not an anthropologist nor a journalist; I am definitely not a churnalist. My responsibility to me and therefore to others in this network or not, is to post that which I believe to be useful in a way that allows others to follow a trail of truth claims should they choose.

Thirteen years ago Francis Fukuyama in Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995) questioned predictions that the Internet, the computer to computer communication network, unleashed from restrictions imposed by its creator, the Department of Defense, would herald a new organizational network constituted by small firms and individuals that would prove to be superior to large, hierarchical corporations and anarchical market relationships (Fukuyama 1995:195). Fukuyama argued that network efficiency depended on reciprocal moral judgment [1], “a high level of trust and the existence of shared norms and ethical behaviour between network members (Fukuyama 1995:195).” He contrasted the necessity of that network users share social responsibilities and obligations with hackers and other users who were “free spirits hostile to any form of authority . . . vulnerable to certain forms of normlessness and asocial behaviour.”

Fukuyama furthered argued that the Internet is a community of shared values using the concept similar to Shumpei Kumon’s notion of “consensus/inducement-based exchange.” He felt that Internet users in the 1970s and 1980s (mainly government and academic researchers) internalized unquestioned shared values. The Internet could be kept low-cost if users respected certain ethical standards.

In 1994 two lawyers broke the Internet’s code of ethics and bombarded news groups with advertisements for their services (Fukuyama 1995:196). The lawyers were not breaking any written laws and were not shamed into retreat. However, the sheer quantity of hate mail they receive, forced their server shut down.

Although the monitization of all things Internet is well underway, there is also exponential growth in cyberworld capital [2] which like cultural capital or academic capital can facilitate access to certain privileges. I am aware of ways in which users of social networking sites strategize to optimize search engine findability, to increase their hits, statistics, and cyberworld capital.

I am not certain if the success in accumulating cyberworld capital or monitizing all things Internet is made more efficient by trust?


1. Fukuyama compares network as community concept to the Japanese concept of keiretsu and its western reincarnation in American conglomerates like Gulf + West + ITT. keiretsu depends on a high level of trust.

2. Some measure cyberworld capital in terms such as “authority” as with Technorati. Others self-identify as A1bloggers.

Digitage on Barbara Kruger's Nature/Culture Barbara Krueger’s (1983) “We Won’t Play Nature to your Culture” somehow comes to mind when reading Žižek on nature/culture.

During breaks I would walk through empty rooms to discover changes curators had made in their spaces. I was a teenager when I began to feel at home in the silent, often light-filled buildings that held public art collections. I was annoyed by, resented, then was intrigued by, read about, studied, spent time with pieces that came to be my favourites. Visual artists were deeply informed about and experimenting with emerging, complex theories, cultural studies, political philosophy . . . academics did their best to avoid them until it became impossible to do so.

Reading Slavoj Žižek’s Organs without Bodies is a lot like my non-linear NGC meanderings in the 1990s. His writing provokes me but there is enough brilliance there that makes me keep his book in the reading stand beside my monitor, opened at different pages on different days. He is not a lazy thinker. Each page is like a hypertext reader indexing a myriad of artists, philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs. He discusses Hawkins, Hegel, Heidegger and Hitchcock with equal comfort because he has actually ‘read’ and analysed’ their work.

I was drawn to his chapter section on hyphen-ethics more because of the probing, unsettling questions it raises than because of his conclusions. It will be one of those recurring themes that will be part of my own lifelong teaching, learning and research.

“What is false with todays discussion concerning the ethical consequences of biogenetics is that it is rapidly turning into what Germans call Bindenstrich-Ethik, the ethics of the hyphen – technology-ethics, environment-ethics, and so on. This ethics does have a role to play, a role homologous to that of the provisional ethic Descartes mentions at the beginning of his Discourse on Method: when we engage on a new path, full of dangers and shattering new insights, we need to stick to old established rules as a practical guide for our daily lives, although we are well aware that the new insights will compel us to provide a fresh foundation for our entire ethical edifice (in Descartes case, this new foundation was provided by Kant, in his ethics of subjective autonomy). Today, we are in the same predicament: the provisional ethics cannot replace the need for a thorough reflection of the emerging New (Žižek 2004:123).”

“In short, what gets lost here, in this hyphen-ethics, is simply ethics as such. The problem is not that universal ethics gets dissolved in particular topics but, on the contrary, that particular scientific breakthroughs are directly confronted with the old humanist “values” (say, how biogenetics affects our sense of dignity and autonomy). This, then, is the choice we are confronting today: either we choose the typically postmodern stance of reticence (let’s not go to the end, let’s keep a proper distance toward the scientific Thing so that this Thing will not draw us into a black hole, destroying all our moral and human notions), or we dare to “tarry with the negative (das Verweilen beim Negativen),” that is, we dare to fully examine the consequences of scientific modernity with the wager that “our Mind is a genome” will also function as an infinite judgment (Žižek 2004:123-4).”

“The main consequence of the scientific breakthrough in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of its construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is thus “desubstantialized,” deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called “earth.” Biogenetics, with its reduction of the human psyche itself to an object of technological manipulation, is therefore effectively a kind of empirical instantiation of what Heidegger perceived as the “danger” inherent to modern technology. Crucial here is the interdepedence of man and nature: by reducing man to just another object whose properties can be manipulated, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right. Humanity itself relies on some notion of “human nature” as what we inherited and was simply given to us, the impenetrable dimension in/of ourselves into which we are born/thrown. The paradox is thus that there is man only insofar as there is inhuman nature (Heidegger’s “earth”). (Žižek 2004:124).”

Slavoj Žižek is a dialectical-materialist philosopher and psychoanalyst. He also co-directs the International Centre for Humanities at Birkbeck College. The Parallax View appeared last year.

Webliography and Bibliography

Žižek, Slavoj. 2004. “Against hyphen-ethics.” Organs without Bodies: on Deleuze and Consequences. New York/London: Routledge. pp. 123-132.

Titles >> Subtitles: Organs without Bodies >> on Deleuze and Consequences >> Consequences >> Science >> Cognitivism with Freud, Autopoiesis, Memes, Memes Everywhere, Against Hyphen-Ethics, Cognitive Closure?, “Little Jolts of Enjoyment”,

folksonomy: cultural studies, theory, philosophy, Deleuze, globalization, democracy, democratization, war on terror, Joan Copjec, biogenetics, hyphen-ethics, capitalism, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Derrida, Daniel Dennett, ethics, Ethical turn, Habermas, Kant, Laclau, Levinas, Lacan, Varela, religion, Pascal, Spinoza, The Quite American, Hegel, Heidegger, Massumi, Fukuyama, liberal democracy, Self, personhood, ethics, mind/brain, mind body, psychoanalysis, nature/culture, technology, mind and consciousness,

More by Slavoj Žižek:

Žižek, Slavoj. 2003. “Bring me my Philips Mental Jacket: Slavoj Žižek welcomes the prospect of biogenetic intervention.” London Review of Books. 25:10. May.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. “Attempts to Escape the Logic of Capitalism.” Review of Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts by John Keane.” London Review of Books. 21:21. October 28.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. ‘You May!’ London Review of Books. 21:6. 18 March.


April 8, 2008

Friedrich's Antithesis

In 2004 just before I became totally lost in my cybernarcosis, cyberdeliria, enraptured by the deep internet I played with the digital image of the foremost German Romantic landscape painter David Casper Friedrich’s (1774-1840) Wanderer Overlooking the Sea of Fog (1818 ) His anti-classical work was part of a new synthesis of art, philosophy, and science focusing on the natural world which seemed somehow embued with the spiritual experiences of life. Friedrich’s timeless depiction of a wanderer looking out over a sea of fog evokes the journey of life towards higher more difficult summits. I enjoy the irony that the man depicted in his original image was a mere warden, not a world traveller. David Casper Friedrich gained the admiration of the poet Goethe, “the initiator of the tradition of the Bildungsroman, the novel of formation” (more). “In Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship the protagonist undergoes a journey of Bildung, or self-realization” (more).

    “With interventions into man’s genetic inheritance, the domination over nature reverts into an act of taking-control-over-oneself, which changes our generic-ethical self-understanding and can disturb the necessary conditions for an autonomous way of life and universalistic understanding of morals (Jantschek 2001 cited by Habermas cited in Žižek 125).”
      Bildung is the painful struggle to form/educate one’s natural dispositions through which an individual develops his/her moral identity.
      Žižek summarized Habermas’ concern with biogenetics argued that biogenetics threaten a vital concept of moral identity formation based on the painful lifelong struggle (Bildung) to realize one’s innate potential while educating one’s natural dispositions. Direct biogenetic interventions render the notion of such an education meaningless. Also, at an intersubjective level

      tag cloud: biogenetics,

      Webliography and Bibliography

      Habermas, Jurgens. Lecture. Marburg.
      Jantschek, Thorsten. 2001. “Ein ausgezehrter Hase.” Die Zeit. July 5.
      Žižek, Slavoj. 2004. “Against hyphen-ethics.” Organs without Bodies: on Deleuze and Consequences. New York/London: Routledge. pp. 123-132.