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3. The world of relation: SEM

This world of relation falls out from the raster of conventional reference schemes. I will therefore devote a few more paragraphs to its discussion. Whitehead is one worker who has developed the paradigm of the world as society and relations in his work "Process and Reality" (1969) [31]. His construction of the world system consists of entities, prehensions, processes, relations, and nexus [32]:

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

Whitehead (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.

(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 'nexus'). The ultimate facts of immediate actual experience are actual entities, prehensions and nexus. All else is, for our experience, derivative abstraction.

(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.

(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 [33] and the superject of its experiences... The ancient doctrine that 'no one crosses the same river twice' is extended. [34] 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.

(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.

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

(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.

Of course his notion of "society" (like a society of molecules) is not like that of a human society. Here, a more abstract principle is meant, an "analogous structure" as introduced by Salthe (1993, pp. 89-90):
Salthe (1993, pp. 89-90): [For example, take 'intentionality'.] My move will be the opposite; that is, to give back to nature itself such human attributes. This can be done using the logical form shown in figure 1.2. [p. 18]. We are searching for what Bigger and Bigger (1982) call "analogous structure". So, we can see that the 'intentionality' proper that we are all familiar with is a member of a more general class of characteristics implied by it. There is no label for that class - we might use {intentionality} for it. This is a member of the same category as intentionality proper, but it is a more general logical type. The class in which that is embedded would be {{intentionality}}, and so on... If we have intentionality, then our ancestors must have had {intentionality}, and theirs {{intentionality}}. In the logic of specification hierarchy we cannot avoid this conclusion. Viewed from the center of such a structure, nature looks very different indeed than it does from the perspective of philosophical mechanism.

The "analogous structure" of society as used by Whitehead is the principle of (inter-) relation and inter-dependence. 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, the hallmark of natural science and 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 .

A similar position is expressed in the present socio-informational position as expressed by Marijuán , 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' (1996: 90). And extending that further, we may even 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 Platon's Timaios (Platon 1988: 53 C, 54, 55). When we examine these passages, we find Platon describing there 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...

These example show that it is possible to establish a theoretical foundation for using the relational principle of society as a general principle, not only of human affairs, but as a general paradigm.

3.2. The SEMsphere

I will now come back to the world view of SEM, and introduce the SEMsphere, the world of social relation, language, and meaning.


3.2.1. The home of the unicorn

We now have to perform a crucial 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, and all need to be considered as valid.
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 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 (1990).

3.2.2. Lotman's semiosphere

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.

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.

The quotation shows that Vernadsky considered the biosphere as a system of societies of interrelated living beings. Vernadsky's terms for describing the biosphere is equivalent to Maturana's coupling of organisms through the medium. (Maturana 1982: 288), also Ziemke (xxxx: 18).

3.3. Paticca samuppada as first principle of cognition

The importance of the paticca samuppada as a cognitive a priori principle for the formation of the concept of the SEMsphere must now be presented. Joanna Macy has shown the equivalence of the fundamental principle of paticca samuppada in Buddhist philosophy to the core tenets of general systems theory. To connect this work to the general morphological theme of the present discussion, we need to understand the importance of the relation-process principle of paticca samuppada as a first principle of cognition (or a priori, following Kant , see Popkin 1956: 134). This will be expounded in the following paragraphs. The main literature reference on paticca samuppada is Macy (1991). Secondary references: Buddhadasa (1956-1992). Page number references, if not otherweise indicated, refer to Macy (1991). Macy focuses explicitly on the Buddhist theory of paticca samuppada (also referred to as dependent co-arising in her work), or mutual causality, the title subject of her book. For her 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:

( p. 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.

( p. 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...
Mavy cites the original account of Gotama, of his discovery when he became the Buddha of this epoch:
(p. 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.

( p. 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...

( p. 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:

(p. 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?

(p. 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.

(p. 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). Such a basic cognitive principle is here called a priori in a slight modifiation of the Kantian usage. The notion of a priori needs to be further clarified. Kant [35], in the diction of Popkin :

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 RMA [36] of the sensory and neuronal processes .
2) the SEMsphere conceptual and symbolic filters. [37]
3) Our individual disposition and action at that very moment when we cognize something [38].

There are two vital issues connected with the presentation of the paticca samuppada view. First is the the non-substantiality and the relation-process principle as fundamental a priori cognitive principle. One may also call it a cognitive attractor in the present neuro-biological usage (Spitzer 1996: 185-188, 338). The other is the meta-noia, or fundamental reorganization of perception. The for the Western science baffling, and un-understandable aspect of the Buddhist teaching has always been this factor of meta-noia, the "jump out of the system", which is unfortunately mostly labeled with a mystical term "enlightenment" or "awakening". We need to understand the basically Gestalt principle of fundamental (a priori) cognitive re-orientation that the Buddhist philosophy has not been able to formulate in concepts, but it has instead concentrated on the practical and pragmantic aspects how to bring about the meta-noia, the transmutation of the cognitive system, which brings about the meta-morphosis of the cognized world as its result. The Buddhist practice has presently two different ways to achieve this result: the mediative approach of the Theravada school, with the Vipassana meditation, and the "sudden enlightenment" approach of the Zen school. There had apparently been a third approach, called Madhyamika, in the school of Nagarjuna, which was a logical path. Unfortunately this school died out when the muslims conquered India and eradicated the Buddhist tradition there. So any information I have on this school must be inferred indirectly from the writings of Nagarjuna which can in effect be understood only after the meta-noia has taken place, and are completely unintelligible from the conventional mental position. Goppold (1994).

[31] The work appeared first in 1929.
[32] 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: nexus.
[33] See the formal equivalence of the following paragraph with the buddhist discussion of paticca samuppada, below.
[34] As was formulated by Heraklit, B 49a.
[35] ... Wo doch "der Verstand a priori niemals mehr leisten könne, als die Form einer möglichen Erfahrung zu antizipieren" (Kant, in Mittelstraß 1984: 1078).
[36] The Weltbildapparat of Konrad Lorenz and Rupert Riedl, the term ratiomorphic apparatus was coined by Brunsvik.
[38] As for example expounded by Heidegger in Sein und Zeit, (Mittelstraß 1984: 1078).

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