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10. Structures, General Systems Theory, Paticca Samuppada, and the Relation Principle

In this section, the material is reviewed that provides theoretical foundations for a generalized systematics of cultural pattern , the morphology.

10.1. Whitehead's Philosophy: the world as a system of societies

Whitehead's Philosophy is an introduction to a world view that is based on the Relation Principle .

10.1.1. Maintaining an active novelty of fundamental ideas illuminating the social system

(Encarta: Philosophy): Philosophy, Western (Greek philosophia, “love of wisdom”), the rational and critical inquiry into basic principles.

Western academic philosophical tradition is entirely based on written language. It is a cultural tradition whose main working materials are words and concepts and whose method consists of their systematic ordering (Whitehead 1966: 171-174). In the present context it is important to open avenues to deal with matters that are difficult, or even impossible, to cover in this way. Whitehead has mentioned one aspect of the problem:

Whitehead (1966: 173): There is an insistent presupposition continually sterilizing philosophic thought. It is the belief... that mankind has consciously entertained all the fundamental ideas which are applicable to its existence. Further it is held that human language, in single words or in phrases, explicitly expresses these ideas. I will term this presupposition, "The Fallacy of the Perfect Dictionary." ... The scholar investigates human thought and human achievement, armed with a dictionary. He is the main support of civilized thought... It is obvious that the philosopher needs scholarship, just as he needs science. But both science and scholarship are subsidiary weapons for philosophy...
The fallacy of the perfect dictionary divides philosophers into two schools, namely, the "Critical School," which repudiates speculative philosophy, and the "Speculative School" which includes it. The critical school confines itself to verbal analysis within the limits of the dictionary. The speculative school appeals to direct insight, and endeavours to indicate its meanings by further appeal to situations which promote such specific insights. It then enlarges the dictionary.

"It then enlarges the dictionary" is the salient point of Whitehead's statement in application to the endeavor of this study. But there are strong arguments for the case that there is no such thing as a fixed meaning in symbolization that could be put in a dictionary.

Whitehead (1966: 174): The use of philosophy is to maintain an active novelty of fundamental ideas illuminating the social system... If you like to phrase it so, philosophy is mystical. For mysticism is direct insight into depths as yet unspoken. But the purpose of philosophy is to rationalize mysticism: not by explaining it away, but by introduction of novel verbal characterizations, rationally cöordinated.

To open a way beyond verbal and written description, one must seek in different directions. At a time when alphabet based thinking had scarcely taken hold in ancient Greece, Heraklit (1976: B18) gave the valuable advice: " If you don't aim for the unexpected and the unthinkable, you will never find it: for it is untraceable and inaccessible ". It may be that there are "ideas" that have not been verbalized before, and that the 5000-year old dictionary of philosphical ideas of civilized humanity is as yet incomplete, because there exists no entry place for such things that may be thinkable, and imaginable, perhaps even doable, but there exist (as yet) no words for them. And moreover, there might even be essential "ideas" that can never be verbalized. Much work has already been accomplished in this direction in mathematics and music, which cover large areas that are difficult to verbalize, but there are probably more such domains.

10.1.3. Towards an unbiased perspective: the Extraterrestrial Observer E.O.

The following will be a Gedanken-Experiment. Let us imagine what it would be like to be in the enviable position of an entirely unbiased extraterrestrial observer who can watch the cultural patterns of humanity on this planet unfold throughout the last few hundred millennia on this planet and take snapshots of their development whenever she deems it useful:

Wilson (1975: 547): Let us now consider man in the free spirit of natural history, as though we were zoologists from another planet completing a catalogue of social species on Earth. In this macroscopic view, the humanities and social sciences shrink to specialized branches of biology; history, biography, and fiction are the research protocols of human ethology; and anthropology and sociology together constitute the sociobiology of a single primate species.

The proposal of the sociobiologist E.O. Wilson is interesting and useful for this Gedanken-Experiment, since he provides us with exactly that vantage position to view human cultures from an extraterrestrial point of reference. Seemingly, he allows us to take the stance of the "entirely objective and impartial observer" from outer space, who is not tainted by any anthropomorphic, anthropocentric or ethnocentric biases, studying the unfoldment of the planetary biosphere and in its later stages, the cultural domain, on the planet earth . In the honor of E.O. Wilson, I will call this the E.O. approach (short for the objective and impartial Extraterrestrial Observer ).

But the stance he presents, is not at all unbiased. Rather, the sociobiologist view introduces a cognitive bias of methodology, in the terms of Feyerabend (1975), (1993) [400]. The sociobiologist interpretation attempts to discuss society in terms of the natural science paradigm of biological organism . It tries to apply the existing scientific knowledge of biological organisms, which are built up of cellular components, constructed to the regime of a genetic plan as laid down in the DNA. An early statement of this view has been expressed (among others) by Spencer: "A society is an organism" (White 1975: 121). Further discussions of that paradigm are found in (Dawkins 1976, 1986), Lumsden (1981) and Koch (1989). It is also dealt with in the discussion by Leslie White, in the chapter "the emergence of the concept of cultural systems" (1975: 118-131). When worded like this as flat equivalence, this statement is bound to give rise to controversial and problematic consequences and applications (Benedict 1934: 230-232). The problem can be resolved when we slightly reformulate Spencer's original statement: "A society is like an organism". This will immediately give rise to the question "in what ways and features is a society like an organism?" It will become clear from the discussion of the systems approach to society below, how "A society is like an organism".

10.1.4. The E.O. as sociologist from Mars

In Wilson's sociobiologist natural science approach, it is necessary to let the sciences of the social species on Earth shrink to specialized branches of natural science. But for an objective and impartial E.O., this is not inherently the necessity. Therefore we take E.O. Wilson's proposal and completely reverse it, and we choose to interpret the planetary biosphere as a system of societies . We will now situate ourselves as visiting sociologists from Mars who are at complete liberty to interpret the planetary biosphere and everything in it, also the human world, as a system of societies. This view has been elaborated by Whitehead (1934) in his philosophy of organism as presented in "Nature and Life" and "Process and Reality" (Whitehead 1969). The term philosophy of organism , by which he labels his approach, is somewhat misleading, since it can easily and falsely be interpreted as an uncritical application of biological ideas. But Whitehead hadn't intended to mean it that way at all - just to the contrary.

10.1.5. Whitehead's view of the world as system of societies

(1934: 33): There is the animal life with its central direction of a society of cells, there is the vegetable life with its organized republic of cells, there is the cell life with its organized republic of molecules, there is the large-scale inorganic society of molecules with its passive acceptance of necessities derived from spatial relations, there is the inframolecular activity which has lost all trace of the passivity of inorganic Nature on a larger scale.

Whitehead worked out this paradigm [401] in "Process and Reality" (Whitehead 1969). [402] (All further references in this subsection from this work). Here, he constructs a world system consisting of entities, prehensions, processes, relations, and nexus[403] (1969: 24, 33):

Whitehead (1969: 24): Actual entities involve each other by reason of their prehensions of each other. There are thus real individual facts of the togetherness of actual entities, which are real, individual, and particular, in the same sense in which actual entities and the prehensions are real, individual, and particular. Any such particular fact of togetherness among actual entities is called a 'nexus' (plural form is written 'nex us'). The ultimate facts of immediate actual experience are actual entities, prehensions and nex us. All else is, for our experience, derivative abstraction.

Whitehead (1969: 33): An actual world is a nexus; and the actual world of one actual entity sinks to the level of a subordinate nexus in actual worlds beyond that actual entity.

Whitehead (1969: 34): It is fundamental to the metaphysical doctrine of the philosophy of organism, that the notion of an actual entity as the unchanging subject of change is completely abandoned. An actual entity is at once the subject experiencing [404] and the superject of its experiences... The ancient doctrine that 'no one crosses the same river twice' is extended. [405] No thinker thinks twice; and, to put the matter more generally, no subject experiences twice... In the philosophy of organism it is not 'substance' which is permanent, but 'form'. Forms suffer changing relations; actual entities 'perpetually perish' subjectively, but are immortal objectively.

Whitehead (1969: 117): The physical world exhibits a bewildering complexity of such societies, favouring each other, competing with each other. The most general examples of such societies are the regular trains of waves, individual electrons, protons, individual molecules, societies of molecules such as inorganic bodies, living cells, and societies of cells such as vegetable and animal bodies.

Whitehead (1969: 118): Thus a molecule is a subordinate society in the structured society which we call the 'living cell'.

Whitehead (1969: 114-115): The appeal to Plato in this section has been an appeal to the facts against the modes of expression prevalent in the last few centuries. These recent modes of expression are partly the outcome of a mixture of theology and philosophy, and are partly due to the Newtonian physics, no longer accepted as a fundamental statement. But language and thought have been framed according to that mould; and it is necessary to remind ourselves that this is not the way in which the world has been described by some of the greatest intellects. Both for Plato and Aristotle the process of the actual world has been conceived as a real incoming of forms into real potentiality, issuing into that real togetherness which is an actual thing. Also, for the Timaeus, the creation of the world is the incoming of a type of order establishing a cosmic epoch. It is not the beginning of matter of fact, but the incoming of a certain type of social order... of the hierarchy of societies composing our present epoch... The physical world is bound together by a general type of relatedness which constitutes it into an extensive continuum.

In the present context, a thorough discussion of Whitehead's work and its principles would be out of place since that would necessitate a dedicated philosophical study by itself. The main purpose here is to demonstrate that it is entirely possible to assume the culture neutral E.O. position of an extraterrestrial sociologist and interpret the whole of the universe in terms of a sociological discourse. Whitehead's work can be taken as philosophical starting position for this. The connection between his work and the later general systems theory workers is shown elsewhere.
->:STRUCTURAL, p. 130 , ->:SALTHE_STRUCT, p. 126

Of course his notion of "society" (like a society of molecules) is not the same as a human society . Here, a more abstract principle is meant, an "analogous structure" as introduced by Salthe. It is the principle of (inter-) relation and inter-dependence. [406] And by this, we could (with some additional work) arrive at the notion that even atoms and chemical compounds are to be considered as "societies" rather than as atomic (isolated or isolable) entities-in-themselves, which would consequently lead to a natural science based on the relation principle . A salient issue of the "society" view is the preference of connectedness and cooperation over isolation and competition, which are the hallmark of Neo-Darwinist discourse. (Montagu 1976: 43-44): "This aspect of cooperation was also formulated early in the biological field by Espinas (Des Societés animales), the Russian workers Kessler (On the law of mutual aid), and Kropotkin (Mutual aid: A factor of evolution)". It is also reflected in the conception of the biosphere in the work of Vernadsky.
->:BIOSPHERE, p. 117

A similar position is expressed in the present socio-informational position as expressed by Marijuán (1996: 90), ranging the full spectrum of phenomena from the 'society of vacuum' via the 'society of cells' and the 'society of neurons' up until the 'society of nations'. And extending that even further, we may arrive at a 'society of the universe' as envisioned by Teilhard de Chardin (1981: 264-267).

As Whitehead mentions above (114-115), we can find the origin of this line of thought in western philosophy in Plat on's Timaios (Platon 1988: 53 C, 54, 55). When we examine these passages, we find there Plat on describing the ultimate building elements of all matter as simple geometrical patterns, triangles, and polygons, and the derived spatial Platonic Solids . (Reale 1993: 488-496). This view of the ultimate composition of the universe is a different statement of the basic principle that the spatial geometrical relations of the atoms (i.e. the most basic configuration forms of the molecular society, in Whitehead's diction) are what defines the "nature" of chemical compounds. This is corroborated by present (bio-) molecular chemistry:

Kampis (1996: 122): By utilizing the geometrical form as a determiner of interactions, macromolecules recur to an open-ended set of variables, modulated by other molecules...

This gives an indication that it is possible to establish a way for using relation as a general epistemological principle, not only of human affairs, but for building one's world view, the Weltanschauung. This will be pursued in more detail in the following sections on the Semiosphere and Paticca Samuppada.

10.2. The Semiosphere


10.2.1. The home of the unicorn

We are now going to perform a Gedankenexperiment, and to perform it, we need the cooperation of the reader.
Dear reader: please create for yourself a mental picture of a lush green meadow by a forest, with a small creek running through it. Imagine the scene as vividly as you can or want. Imagine the sweet scent of the herbs, and the pleasant feeling of the warm wind as it caresses the leaves. Now, visualize in the center of that meadow a beautiful creature, with slender, lithe body, graceful like a deer, light in color, a unicorn. Imagine that unicorn as vividly as you can or want. See it strolling around the meadow, enjoying itself. Now, dear reader, I ask you the crucial question: Where does that unicorn live?

The answer has three stages, that we need to consider.
1) The first obvious answer is that it lives in that scenery that we just imagined.
2) The second answer is that it lives in the imagination, commonly also called the mind . But that is not all:
3) The third answer is that it lives in the Semiosphere (also called SEMsphere).
This realm is the domain of all mental projections that are intersubjectively {shared / exchanged}, mainly through the mechanism of language. The present usage is derived from Lotman.

10.2.2. Lotman's semiosphere

Lotman (1990) coined the term Semiosphere (here also called SEMsphere) for the realm of all mental projections that are intersubjectively shared or exchanged, mainly through language. The SEMsphere is also the world of relations between communicating organisms as viewed from the viewpoint of semiotics. In the following quotation, Lotman refers to the work of Vernadsky as influence to his concept.

Lotman (1990: 123): By analogy with the biosphere, (Vernadsky's concept) we could talk of a semiosphere, which we shall derive as the semiotic space necessary for the existence and functioning of languages, not the sum total of different languages; in a sense the semiosphere has a prior existence and is in constant interaction with languages. In this respect a language is a function, a cluster of semiotic spaces and their boundaries... Outside the semiosphere there can be neither communication, nor language.
The unit of semiosis, the smallest functioning mechanism, is not the separate language but the whole semiotic space of the culture in question. This is the space we term the semiosphere. The semiosphere is the result and the condition for the development of culture; we justify our term by analogy with the biosphere, as Vernadsky defined it, namely the totality and the organic whole of living matter and also the condition for the continuation of life.

The next quotation shows that Vernadsky considered the biosphere as a system of societies of living beings in quite the exact sense as Whitehead had expressed it in more philosophical terms in the section before [407].

Lotman, (1990: 125), [citing Vernadsky on the biosphere]: ... all life-clusters are intimately bound to each other. One cannot exist without the other. This connection between different living films and clusters, and their invariancy, is an age-old feature of the mechanism of the earth's crust, which has existed all through geological time.
The same idea is expressed more clearly again:
The biosphere has a quite definite structure which determines everything without exception that happens in it... A human being observed in nature and all living organisms and every living being is a function of the biosphere in its particular space-time .

10.2.3. The (not so private) world of the mind

We will now deepen our enquiry of the world of mental projections, the SEMsphere, with a quotation from Julian Jaynes:

Jaynes (1976: 1,2): O, WHAT A WORLD of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all - what is it?
And where did it come from?
And why?
Few questions have endured longer or traversed a more perplexing history than this, the problem of consciousness and its place in nature. Despite centuries of pondering and experiment, of trying to get together two supposed entities called mind and matter in one age, subject and object in another, or soul and body in still others, despite endless discoursing on the streams, states, or contents of consciousness, of distinguishing terms like intuitions, sense data, the given, raw feels, the sensa, presentations and representations, the sensations, images, and affections of structuralist introspections, the evidential data of the scientific positivist, phenomenological fields, the apparitions of Hobbes, the phenomena of Kant, the appearances of the idealist, the elements of Mach, the phanera of Peirce, or the category errors of Ryle, in spite of all of these, the problem of consciousness is still with us. Something about it keeps returning, not taking a solution. It is the difference that will not go away, the difference between what others see of us and our sense of our inner selves and the deep feelings that sustain it. The difference between the you-and-me of the shared behavioral world and the unlocatable location of things thought about. Our reflections and dreams, and the imaginary conversations we have with others, in which never-to-be-known-by-anyone we excuse, defend, proclaim our hopes and regrets, our futures and our pasts, all this thick fabric of fancy is so absolutely different from handable, standable, kickable reality with its trees, grass, tables, oceans, hands, stars - even brains! How is this possible? How do these ephemeral existences of our lonely experience fit into the ordered array of nature that somehow surrounds and engulfs this core of knowing?
Men have been conscious of the problem of consciousness almost since consciousness began.

As Jaynes points out, the question of consciousness has been brought up in many different guises throughout the ages. For the present study, it is not the aim to try to supply yet another approach to that eternal question of consciousness. Rather, this quotation was given to illustrate a grave fundamental and categorical error that Jaynes and many others writing or speaking on that subject have committed. The error lies in this statement: "And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue..." This is a logical fallacy, since Jaynes is selfspeakingly using the common interchange medium of written language to evoke that very same thought in our minds, and if you have followed the above Gedankenexperiment with the unicorn above, you understand it clearly. Language serves as an intersubjective projection mechanism, and by reading this very text that you are reading now, you are submitting yourself to my (the present author's) written language projections as much as I submitted to Jaynes' projection. But in the same token I rejected his expressed projection that these projections are private only. (This is basic logics. If there is a projection from one consciousness to another taking place at all, it cannot, by this very act, be private). They are not "speechless monologue" at all, but technically, subverbalizing, or going through rudimentary neuronal processes that have cut off the final motorics of the vocal apparatus. What is private, are our bodily feelings, pains, and joys. But the universe of words and concepts, the SEMsphere, is intersubjective and not private . Now, we, Julian Jaynes, I and you, dear reader, are engaged in an intersubjective triad of mental projections in the SEMsphere . And the fact that Jaynes wrote that piece of text sometime in the 1970's makes no difference to us, as little as that I wrote the Unicorn projection at a different time than now, this moment when you are reading it. In the SEMsphere, there exists no such time difference. Whenever we, by our projections, enliven these images, they are, outside of physical time and space, in the SEMsphere [408]. So, by the very fact that I could describe the unicorn's world to you and you recognized it, and you were able to follow my instructions, I have demonstrated to you that we are both partaking, in this little experiment, and completely unimpeded by spatial and temporal distance, in the SEMsphere [409]. And there is no question how real that is. By the very fact that we have just co-created this consensus reality, it exists . Even if you disagree with me, you must accept those statements that I have made at some other time, and at some other place, into your mind, here and now. In the diction of memetics, you must play a host to the memes that I have projected onto you. [410] This is the projection that I have created, and by reading it, you are alreading taking part in it, even if you disagree. In fact, humans have been doing this all the time in the last 5000 years, because when you have read my text, you were following my footsteps through the semantic universe of human cultural productions which have been recorded in writing in the last 5000 years of the current epoch, which I call the bibliosphere.[411] The question of how real the entities of the SEMsphere are, or better, of what logical category the reality of the SEMsphere is, needs to be dealt with, and we will return to this issue in:
->:ERT_TRIAD, p. 135

10.2.4. Symbol and Symbol System

The definition given by Leslie White serves to illustrate the essential aspects of the symbol:

White (1987: 274): A symbol may be defined as a thing or event, an act or an object, upon which meaning has been bestowed by human beings: holy water, a fetish, a ritual, a word. A symbol is, therefore, a composite of (1) a meaning, and (2) a physical structure. A symbol must have a physical form otherwise it and its meaning can not enter our experience - unless we are willing to accept the claims of telepathy and clairvoyance. But there is no necessary relationship between the meaning of a symbol and its physical basis...
The meanings of symbols cannot be grasped and appreciated (comprehended) with the senses... Symboling is trafficking in non-sensory meanings. And, be it repeated, no animal other than man can have, or be brought to, any comprehension of holy water or fetishes - or sin or sunday.

White (1987: 276): And because we symbol, we human beings can never experience the external, physical world precisely as non-human beings experience it.

Greek roots: symbolon: sign, indication, insignia, badge, portent, (Rost 1862,II: 459) and symballein: to cast together [412]. (Rost 1862,II: 457-8 ). In the present usage, an important meaning of symbol is the dynamic case. This is:
1) the time-dependent aspect of symbolization,
2) and movement patterns that are part of a (often ritual) performance as in many indigenous situations.
->:DYNAMIC_CMM, p. 203

Symbols appear only in context, the symbol system. For the present use in CMS, a definition will be given:

Symbol System : Any set of recognizable and repeatable shapes and performative expressions (which may be 2-d, 3-d, or 4-d [413]) that conveys meaning.

The meaning of meaning is dealt with in another section.

10.2.5. The SEMsphere

In the present usage, the term SEMsphere will be used as term that encompasses communication and symbolization in the most general sense. It implies extended meaning as to include non-language symbolic performance, like ritual (Staal 1989). In this, it is used in a slightly wider meaning than Lotman's semiosphere. Since humans are enveloped in this omnipresent SEMsphere, all their bodily (somatic) experiences are filtered through the symbolic mechanism. (See White, above) . Hoffmeyer (1996, 1997) has formulated the semiosphere view of recent biosemiotics research.

10.3. Paticca Samuppada, Buddhist philosophy, and General Systems Theory

This section contains material on the base structures and processes of the cognitive system. We will begin with a discussion of the work of Joanna Macy (1991) .[414] She presents a comparison of early Buddhist philosophy with General Systems Theory and workers who derive their methods from this source. Her sources of General Systems Theory authors are: Bateson, von Foerster, Jantsch, Maturana, Varela, Glasersfeld, Bateson, Varela, the founder Bertalanffy (1968), and Laszlo (1973). She concentrates her work on the different interpretations of the concept of causality in western and Buddhist thought. For her Buddhist sources, she concentrates on the very earliest scriptures of the Pali Canon, representing pre-Abhidharmaist thought, the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas (p. 2). Her reason for this is given in the introduction:

Macy (1991: 2): I focus on them, ... because their presentation of dependent co-arising [=paticca samuppada] differs from the Abhidharma in some subtle but significant ways, which, as I delineate in Chapter 3, have implications for our understanding of mutual causality. These differences are often overlooked since the Abhidharma has tended to influence later interpretations of Pali texts as a whole, and paticca samuppada in particular. While the later concept of emptiness (shunyata) in Mahayana Buddhism renewed the emphasis on radical relativity found in the early teachings, such similarities fall outside the focus of this book.

Macy (1991: 3): The expressions mutual causality , reciprocal causality , dependent co-arising , interdependence, and indetermination are, for the purposes of this book, taken as roughly equivalent in meaning. As to the term general systems theory , it is not a theory proper, in the sense of a single hypothesis about a given set of phenomena, so much as a coherent set of principles applying to all irreducible wholes. These wholes, be they molecule, cell, organism, personality, or social body, reveal common principles and properties that are amenable to understanding when we view them as self-organizing systems. What we have here is not a theory about general systems, but rather a general theory (or a set of principles) about systems, which allows their dynamics and characteristics to become intelligible...
Some thinkers prefer the term cybernetics for the concepts and processes pertaining to self-regulating systems... I broaden it to systems-cybernetics and use it interchangeably with general systems theory...

Her work shows how the relation principle in the Buddhist paticca samuppada philosophy is a first principle of cognition (or a priori , following Kant, see Popkin 1956: 134). This principle was discovered by Gotama, the Buddha, on his enlightenment. Mavy cites the original account of Gotama:

Macy (1991: 5-26), Samyutta Nikaya, II.91:
There arose in me vision, knowledge arose, insight arose, wisdom arose, light arose. Just as if, brethren, a man faring through the forest, through the great wood, should see an ancient path, an ancient road traversed by men of former days. And he were to go along it, and going along it he should see an ancient city, an ancient prince's domain, wherein dwelt men of former days, having gardens, groves, pools, foundations of walls, a goodly spot.

Macy (1991: 45), Digha Nikaya, II.36:
This were a matter hard to perceive, namely this conditionality, this paticca samuppada ... against the stream of common thought, deep, subtle, difficult, delicate...

Macy (1991: 38), Digha Nikaya, II.33:
I have penetrated this truth, deep, hard to perceive, hard to understand, calm, sublime, beyond logic, subtle, intelligible only to the wise. But this is a race devoting itself to the things to which it clings. ... And for such a race this were a matter hard to perceive, to wit, that this is conditioned by that ( ida paccayata paticca samuppado )...

When the Buddha contemplated the essential difficulty of understanding the paticca samuppada , he was tempted not to teach (p. 38). Macy cites Nyanatiloka (the Abhidharmaist scholar) as authority for the difficulty of comprehending the concept of paticca samuppada:

Macy (1991: 45): None of all the teachings of Buddhism has given rise to greater misunderstandings, to more contradictory and more absurd speculations and interpretations than the Paticca Samuppada, the teaching of the Dependent Origination of all phenomena of existence.

What is the reason for this essential difficulty to comprehend the essence of paticca samuppada, and why does it have such central importance?

Macy (1991: 28): Such words remind us of the limits of scholarship. No textual exegesis or conceptual elaboration can substitute for the training and psychological investment considered requisite for an understanding of paticca samuppada . We need, therefore, to be mindful that all conceptual treatments of dependent co-arising are by their nature limited and inadequate.

Macy makes clear the necessity for a crucial step to overcome the habitual modes of everyday perception and thinking. She expresses that to understand the paticca samuppada , a metanoia is needed, a fundamental re-organization of cognitive processes.
->:CULTURAL_BIAS, p. 192, ->:METANOIA, p. 136,

10.3.1. From Substance to Relation

Macy (1991: 45-46): By virtue of the universality and impersonality of the causal process it perceives, it has also been acclaimed as a milestone in human thought... The reciprocity of causal process is integral to the Buddha's teaching of paticca samuppada . It is inherent in the doctrine of anicca and the denial of a first cause, evident in the interdependence of causal factors, and reflected in the linguistic structures employed.
From Substance to Relation

This, the essential cognitive switch of perception from " Substance to Relation " is described (as much as that is possible at all in words) in the chapter of Macy's book from p. 46 on. She starts with an outline of the foundations of the common substance view of reality that is characterized by "entities-substances that can impinge on others and transmit properties to them." (p. 46), this is derived from ancient Greek philosophy. (For this see also the discussion of the Mae-phaisto in Faust[415]). In the following pages to (p. 64), Macy gives a view of the fundamental difference of the paticca samuppada view. Such a basic cognitive principle is here called a priori in a slight modifiation of the Kantian [416] usage. The notion of a priori needs to be further clarified:

Popkin (1956: 134 ): Our contacts with the experiential world supply the content of our knowledge, but our facilities supply the form in which we know it.

Now, the form in which we know the experiential world is determined by these factors:
1) the biologically given ratiomorphic apparatus (or RMA) of the sensory and neuronal processes.
2) the SEMsphere conceptual and symbolic filters ->:SEMIOSPHERE, p. 116.
3) Our individual disposition and action at that very moment when we cognize something [417].

10.3.2. The Ratiomorphic Apparatus (Weltbildapparat)

Riedl (1976-1987c) gives in his works the complete description of the philosophical foundations and the biological details of the EE (Evolutionary Epistemology) views how the Kantian a priori is based on a phylogenetic a posteriori , ie. what is a priori for the individual organism experiences is a result of the evolution. This biological cognitive equipment is called the ratiomorphic apparatus (RMA) (after Brunsvik) (Riedl 1985: 59), it is the neuronal and sensory cognitive equipment of the human organism (Riedl and Lorenz call it the Weltbildapparat) which sets an a priori phylogenetic condition for cognition. This is an unconditional a priori for the individual organism. It cannot evade the genetically programmed capabilities and limitations of its biological structure. Even if we are using technical instruments to extend our capabilities, we have to read those instruments with the senses we have. The RMA is the biological structure of the neuronal network. We also speak of the RMA filters in the present context.

The important factor is now to find the dividing line between the effect of the RMA filters and SEMsphere filters that are influencing human life in contradistinction to animal experiences. [418] There is a superimposition of filter effects, and the personal reality experienced is a result of
1) a neuronal autopoietic reality construction process (the RMA filters),
2) that arises in the structural coupling of individuals in a societal system. (the SEMsphere) and
3) the structural coupling of organisms leads to communication and self-reflexive consciousness.

This structural coupling can then be described as one further step in a recursive autopoietic self-organization of the social system on a higher level of organization. The same principle applies down from the (human) individuals into the prior levels of organic organization: Biological evolution has formed this equipment in the same autopoietic self-organization principle as the individual organism creates its own structures. This recursive hierarchical ordering has been described in detail in the works of Salthe (1985), Salthe (1993).
->:SALTHE_STRUCT, p. 126

10.3.3. Cognitive reorientation through a Gestalt switch

The important question is the degree of cognitive freedom that an individual has for applying the SEMsphere filters. That there is such a freedom is evidenced by the Gestalt flip pictures. Here the nervous system automatically performs a switch of filter functions which derive different meanings from the same set of stimuli.


Boring women, Gestalt picture

The neuronal mechanism operating in the recognition of the Boring Gestalt picture is described by Bösel and Pöppel:

Bösel (1987: 299): Die Boring-Frauen... Auf die Frage “Wie alt ist die abgebildete Frau?” kann man je nach Betrachter sehr unterschiedliche Antworten bekommen. Die Schätzwerte variieren intraindividuell zwischen 15 und 95 Jahren. Es handelt sich nämlich um ein doppeldeutiges Bild. Dabei stellt sich die Frage, welche Faktoren die Wahrnehmung der alten und welche die Wahrnehmung der jungen begünstigen. Durch kleine Abänderungen kann man das doppeldeutige Bild in die eine oder andere Richtung eindeutig gestalten. Werden Probanden zunächst mit einem derart retuschierten Bild konfrontiert, so nehmen sie im doppeldeutigen Bild verständlicherweise die Gestalt wahr, die auch das Eindeutige zeigt. [....] Man muß voraussetzen, daß die Bildinformationen selbst gestalterkennende neuronale Filter verändern.

Pöppel (1985: 67): In der modernen Wahrnehmungsforschung hat dieser Mechanismus der Interpretation von Reizgegebenheiten den Namen »Top-down« erhalten - im Gegensatz zu »Bottom-up«. Top-down heißt, daß von unserem Kopf oder besser vom Gehirn nach unten, also zu den Sinnesorganen hin, bestimmt wird, was wahrgenommen werden soll.

Pöppel (1985: 69): Die zahlreichen Gesetze über Wahrnehmung, die von den Gestaltpsychologen formuliert wurden, lassen sich zu einem Gesetz zusammenfassen, nämlich dem Prägnanzgesetz. Das soll besagen: Was immer in unser wahrnehmendes Bewußtsein gelangt, erscheint in einer »prägnanten« Gestalt. Wenn eine Reizsituation nicht eindeutig ist, dann wird sie aufgrund unserer Hypothesen so gestaltet oder umgestaltet, daß der ins Bewußtsein gelangende Inhalt klar und deutlich ist. Mit anderen Worten heißt das, daß es für den Erkennenden nie ein Chaos gibt, daß immer Etwas gegeben ist, denn das Bedürfnis nach Prägnanz ordnet das möglicherweise vorhandene Chaos im Sinne einer subjektiven Ordnung. In Hinblick auf das Jetzt bedeutet das: Was immer gegenwärtig ist, wird es dies zwar nur für eine kurze Dauer sein, dafür aber in prägnanter, klarer und deutlicher Form.

10.4. Neuronal Aesthetics, Cognition, Pattern, Autopoiesis

The current theories of neuronal network action and pattern cognition in human brains are described in Breidbach (1993), (1997) and Brock (NeuroAe), Brock (1994), Calvin (1989), (1991) (1996a), Edelman (1992), Gazzaniga (1989), Haken (1992), Maturana (1982-1994a), Pöppel (1978-1995), Riegas (1990), Roth (1996), Schmidt (1987, 1991), Spitzer (1996). Calvin (1996a) especially presents a theory describing actual spatial neuronal patterns in the brain that are responsible for the formation of meaning and concepts. The Gestalt processes play the essential role of pattern processes in the structural coupling of organisms. Gestalt recognition is the result of the neuronal processing when it is presented with a patterned set of stimuli, and that Gestalt manifests again as a pattern of neuronal excitation in that neuronal system. [419]

In the process of pattern recognition, a neuronal network enters a state of activity characterized by phase coherence:
Singer (1992: 58): Die oszillierenden Antworten räumlich verteilter Merkmale beginnen in Phase zu schwingen, wenn im Bereich ihrer rezeptiven Felder Konturen angeboten werden, die sich mit gleicher Geschwindigkeit in die gleiche Richtung bewegen. Besonders ausgeprägt ist diese Synchronisation zwischen Neuronengruppen, wenn diese von zusammenhängenden Neuronen aktiviert werden. Dieses bedeutet, daß sich Neuronengruppen, die sich an der Codierung einer durch die Kohärenz bestimmter Merkmale definierten Figur beteiligen, durch die Phasenkohärenz ihrer oszillatorischen Antworten auszeichnen. Das Ensemble von Neuronen wäre demnach nicht durch die verstärkten Antworten der einzelnen Mitglieder, sondern durch die Phasenkohärenz ihrer oszillatorischen Antworten definiert.

Now, we can apply this to the cognitive processes in general. With the SEMsphere filters, it is possible to perform a cognitive Gestalt switch that has two or more possible stable states for realizing complete world perception schemes. Applying the Gestalt switch with respect to the paticca samuppada , gives the following situation:

1) a redefining of essential logical categories of the SEMsphere filters is possible,
2) under which any and all experience is experience-d , and
3) involving the logical switch of cognition from fundamental "substance" orientation to fundamental "relation " orientation that has
4) been performed in the awakening process of the Buddha.
5) The fundamental cognitive reorganization thus represented is called metanoia,[420] and it is
6) within the ontogenetic (individual learning experience) RMA capability of the human organism and can be supported by its genetic ratiomorphic apparatus base.

See also Macy (1991: 193-212). A person who is experiencing existence from this position , will experience being-in-relation as profound emotional realization, and this will be the only conceivable attitude towards everything that she experiences as "being-other-but-not-quite-distinct-from-myself". Cognitively and epistemologically, the Buddha's achievement has been a successful break-out from an otherwise unreflected succession of habitual perceptional reference frames that are reproduced in the perpetual autopoiesis of the social system.

Landow (1992: 29): This ... requires that one first recognize the enormous power of [our present world views], for only after we have made ourselves conscious of the ways [they] have formed and informed our lives can we seek to pry ourselves free from some of [their] limitations...

10.4.1. Autopoiesis of the Cultural System and structural coupling of organisms

The autopoietic formation of social systems is described in Berger (1990), Luhmann (1993), Maturana (1987, 1991), Schmidt (1987), (1992), and Sprondel (1994). The constituents and the whole of a social system stand in reciprocal structural coupling with each other, in other words, they are enmeshed in a relationship system . This relationship system is the "substance" of a social system. Its "matter" is communication: Luhmann (1993: 191-241): "Kommunikation löst Kommunikation aus."

Luhmann (1993: 166-167): Wir müssen uns jetzt der Frage stellen, wieso das Problem der doppelten Kontingenz »sich selbst löst«; oder weniger zugespitzt formuliert: wie es dazu kommt, daß das Auftreten des Problems einen Prozeß der Problemlösung in Gang setzt. Entscheidend hierfür ist der selbstreferentielle Zirkel selbst: Ich tue, was Du willst, wenn Du tust, was ich will. Dieser Zirkel ist, in rudimentärer Form, eine neue Einheit, die auf keines der beteiligten Systeme zurückgeführt werden kann...
(167): In dieser Einheit hängt die Bestimmung eines jedes Elements von der eines anderen ab, und gerade darin besteht die Einheit. Man kann diesen Grundtatbestand auch als eine sich selbst konditionierende Unbestimmtheit charakterisieren: Ich lasse mich von Dir nicht bestimmen, wenn Du Dich nicht von mir bestimmen läßt. Es handelt sich, wie man sieht, um eine extrem instabile Kernstruktur, die sofort zerfällt, wenn nichts weiter geschieht. Aber diese Ausgangslage genügt, um eine Situation zu bilden, die die Möglichkeit birgt, ein soziales System zu bilden. [....] Dieses soziale System gründet sich mithin auf Instabilität. Es realisiert sich deshalb zwangsläufig als autopoietisches System. Es arbeitet mit einer zirkulär geschlossenen Grundstruktur, die von Moment zu Moment zerfällt, wenn dem nicht entgegenwirkt wird.

Luhmann (1993: 157-158): Ein soziales System baut nicht darauf auf und ist auch nicht darauf angewiesen, daß diejenigen Systeme, die in doppelter Kontingenz stehen, sich wechselseitig durchschauen und prognostizieren können. Das soziale System ist gerade deshalb System, weil es keine basale Zustandsgewißheit und keine darauf aufbauenden Verhaltensvorhersagen gibt. Kontrolliert werden nur die daraus folgenden Ungewißheiten in Bezug auf das eigene Verhalten der Teilnehmer. [....]
(158): Die Unsicherheitsabsorption läuft über die Stabilisierung von Erwartungen, nicht über die Stabilisierung des Verhaltens selbst, was natürlich voraussetzt, daß das Verhalten nicht ohne Orientierung an Erwartung gewählt wird.

Maturana (1991: 293): In dem Maße, wie ein soziales System das Medium darstellt, in dem sich seine Mitglieder als lebende Systeme verwirklichen und in dem sie ihre Organisation und Angepaßtheit aufrechterhalten, in dem Maße wirkt sich das soziale System notwendig als eine Selektionsinstanz für die strukturellen Veränderungen seiner Komponenten und folglich für deren Eigenschaften aus. In dem Maße jedoch, in dem ein soziales System faktisch durch diejenigen Lebewesen gebildet wird, die es durch ihr gemeinsames Verhalten erzeugt, sind es de facto gerade diese Lebewesen, die als Komponenten des sozialen Systems durch ihr Verhalten die Eigenschaften der Komponenten eben dieses sozialen Systems selektieren.

Maturana (1987: 224): Immer wenn ein Beobachter die Interaktionen zwischen Zweien oder mehreren Organismen so beschreibt, als würde die Bedeutung, die er den Interaktionen zuschreibt, den Verlauf dieser Interaktionen bestimmen, gibt der Beobachter eine semantische Beschreibung...
Als sprachlich bezeichnen wir ein ontogenetisches kommunikatives Verhalten (d.h. ein Verhalten, das in der ontogenetischen Strukturkoppelung von Organismen entsteht), welches ein Beobachter semantisch beschreiben kann.

Recursive interactions lead to coordination of behavior which consists in the conditioned structural coupling of organisms:
Maturana (1987: 226): Es kann in der Tat zahllose Weisen geben, auf die rekursive Interaktionen, die zu einer Verhaltenskoordination führen, zwischen Individuen hergestellt werden (wie z.B. «Tisch», «table», «mesa»). Was dabei relevant ist, ist die Koordination der Aktivität, zu der sie führen, und nicht die Form, die sie annehmen. Tatsächlich entstehen sprachliche Bereiche als ein kulturelles Driften in einem sozialen System, dem - wie beim genetischen Driften der Lebewesen - kein Entwurf zugrunde liegt.

Repeated recursive interactions lead to the stabilization of communication patterns in the form of signs:
Maturana (1987: 227): Wenn die Sprache entsteht, dann entstehen auch Objekte als sprachliche Unterscheidungen sprachlicher Unterscheidungen, die die Handlung verschleiern, die sie koordinieren. So koordiniert das Wort »Tische« unsere Handlungen in Hinsicht auf die Handlungen, die wir ausführen, wenn wir mit einem »Tisch« umgehen. Der Begriff »Tisch« verschleiert uns jedoch die Handlungen, die (als Handlungen des Unterscheidens) einen Tisch konstituieren, indem sie ihn hervorbringen.

The whole ensemble of social coupling gives rise to the social context (Maturana 1987: 251-254), which has been called the SEMsphere : ->:SEMIOSPHERE

Maturana (1987: 252): So kommt es also, daß das Auftreten der Sprache beim Menschen und des gesamten sozialen Kontextes, in dem sie auftritt, jenes (soweit wir wissen) neue Phänomen des Geistes und der Selbstbewußtheit als die intimste Erfahrung der Menschheit erzeugt. Ohne eine geeignete Geschichte von Interaktionen ist es unmöglich, am menschlichen Bereich teilzuhaben... Gleichzeitig ist Geist als Phänomen des In-der-Sprache-Seins im Netz sozialer und sprachlicher Koppelung nichts, das sich in meinem Gehirn befindet. Bewußtsein und Geist gehören dem Bereich sozialer Koppelung an, und dort kommt ihre Dynamik zum Tragen.

On this base of the autopoietic self-organization principle of society, Salthe (1985) and (1993) works out a general theoretical structural model of hierarchically nested systems. Salthe describes his principle in those words:

Salthe (1985: 8-9): This book is about structures. They are held to have ontological primacy. The changing forms and relationships of entities not only reveal these structures, and even perhaps cause them to exist in measurable ways, but are also controlled by them. That is, the things in the world form a system... I will presume that no change of form or process can occur that violates the structural rules of the system of our world.

This model allows us to formulate the notion of the diachronic aspect of societal patterns, which is the question for the structure of the cultural transmission. Cultural patterns display a certain stability over time, but they also change. And what actually is change of cultural patterns, and by which processes they change, needs to be treated in more detail.

Most of the material on autopoietic entities existant derives from observation of biological organisms, as the work of Maturana (1987) exemplifies. In the biological case, we have the by now well researched principle of genetically based formation, that helps us explain some of the principal mechanisms why organisms display the kind of self-similarity across generations that we can actually observe. Even the extent and the details of how the genetic mechanism determines this is still quite up to debate, as might be exemplified by the discussion in Salthe (1993: 251-267) on the differences between the neo-Darwinian (E.O. Wilson, Dawkins) interpretation and various alternative viewpoints like developmental (Salthe) or organismic (Whitehead) and its descendant, general systems (Bertalanffy, Maturana).

Salthe (1993: 266): For both Hegel and Whitehead, the organism was the fundamental kind of entity in the universe. If we have eschewed materialism, and if we are unwilling to leave materialism behind, this seems to be the available attitude. Historically, organicism in biology (Bertalanffy 1933; Haraway 1976) was generated partly by the realization that vitalism made sense only in the context of mechanicism (Bertalanffy 1933; Van der Veldt 1943) and partly by the nonintelligibility of mechanism itself in the face of biological phenomena. The arrangement of organic matter became for organicists the source of life's phenomena, and the study of relations rather than of matter became the focus, giving rise in the event to general systems theory (Bertalanffy 1968), and, I believe, contributing as well to structuralism (Piaget 1970a; Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974) .

[400] The cognitive bias of Wilson is the natural scientific one. It is based on a specific set of assumptions embedded in the basic assumptions on wich the natural sciences operate. Specifically, following the Cartesian reductionism as outlined in "On Method", Descartes (1637), Dennett (1991: 3, 6, 8-9, 29-35). This means that all compound and complex phenomena are to be studied by recursively dissecting them into their simpler component phenomena, and so on, until one reaches the simplest components that can be understood as atomic elements, whose combination yields the phenomena of the next higher order. This essentially results in the natural scientific hierarchy of physics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, sociobiology, and ethology that Wilson refers to.
[401] In the Kuhnian sense. For further discussion of the relevance of the Kuhnian notion of paradigms in the social sciences and anthropology, especially as an answer to the approaches of sociobiologists like Wilson, see: Samuel (1990: 1-5).
[402] The work appeared first in 1929.
[403] Connexion, combination, intertwinement, gr.: synapsis, symplexis
For lack of the original character in the text: "u" with a bar "-" on top, this is writing is substituted here: nex us.
[404] See the formal equivalence of the following paragraph with the buddhist discussion of paticca samuppada , below.
[405] As was formulated by Heraklit (1976), B 49a.
[406] ->:SALTHE_STRUCT, p. 126, ->:RELATION_PRINCIPLE, p. 121
[407] The idea of a global networked system of organisms has been taken up and elaborated by Howard Bloom. It is available on the WWW under:
-> (URL)
[408] This interesting time-transcending capability of SEMsphere entities is also being touched in the discussion of the immortality of the soul and the property of cultural patterns as immortality complexes. ->:IMMORTALITY_COMPLEX, p. 137, ->:IMMORTAL_SOUL, p. 243
[409] To make this more precise: there are a few limitations, one of them being the paper that holds the message. If the paper is gone, the message is gone also. That is the question of the durability of the CMM which will be treated later. The other limitation is of course, in order to partake in that shared SEMsphere reality, we must speak the same language and write and read the same (alphabetic) script. More on this under: ->: TECHNO_FACTOR, p. 155
[410] ->:MEMETICS, p. 248
[411] ->:BIBLIOSPHERE, p. 195
[412] The connection of the word symbolon with symballein is illustrated by this tale from ancient Greece: A group of friends prepared to arrange a confidential meeting of each other's friends of friends in a house in a different city. Since the "friends of the friends" didn't know each other, they chose the following method to keep the circle of trustees secure: they took a pottery vessel (a krater) and smashed it to pieces. Then they handed out these pieces to their respective friends. At the day of comm-union, those people who had received a piece of the broken vessel (a shard), handed it in to their (unknown) host in that house in that city. And as the broken and distributed (diaballein) pieces of the krater reassembled into a form that was once a whole, the common intention under which these pieces were distributed, could re-emerge also.
[413] 4-d means a dynamic display systematically changing in time. This is also covered under the name of kinemorphae in the section on performative CMM.
->:KINEMORPHAE, p. 205
[414] Secondary references: Buddhadhasa (1956-1992). Notes: Sanskrit and Pali terms are both written in simplified latinized transcription. ->:SPELLING, p. 106
[415] ->:WORLD_FOUNDATIONS, p. 39
[416] ... Wo doch "der Verstand a priori niemals mehr leisten könne, als die Form einer möglichen Erfahrung zu antizipieren" (Kant, in Mittelstraß 1984: 1078).
[417] As for example expounded by Heidegger in Sein und Zeit , (Mittelstraß 1984: 1078).
[418] ->:SYMBOL, p. 119
[419] Roth (1996: 258-261); Brock: (URL)
[420] ->:METANOIA, p. 136

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