Self-Referential Complex Systems and Aristotle's Four Causes

Self-Referential Complex Systems and Aristotle's Four Causes

Aleksandar Malecic (University of Nis, Serbia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8592-5.ch012


In this chapter the author addresses a need for inclusion of all four Aristotle's causes (material, efficient, formal, and final) in modern science. Reality of modern physics (beyond Newtonian physics) and science of consciousness (and life and society) should include all four causes and tangled hierarchies (no scientific discipline is the most fundamental – the starting point for the author was Jung, then Rosen, and Aristotle was included much later). The four causes resemble rules for a machine or software (computation that “glues” everything together (Dodig-Crnkovic, 2012)), but a non-deterministic “machine” not replicable in a different medium. “Self-reference” from the title includes self-awareness, something seemingly not possible without final cause. On the other hand, this recognition of our (presumed) non-determinism and freedom might remind us to be even more self-aware and anticipatory. Computation, communication, networking, and memory as something technology is good at could contribute to that goal.
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There is vast literature on philosophy, theory of everything, and system theory. While these attempts are worthy in their respective domains, it is interesting that for instance Troncale’s (2013) ambition is to search for the theory of everything in system theory rather than physics. The approach in this text is similar to Troncale’s (see also McNamara and Troncale (2012)), but different in realization. Instead of looking for common denominators and axioms of reality, the idea is to look for anomalies. Since graphs, tables, and explications are used instead of theorems and equations, this is more an attempt to tell the story of everything than define the theory of everything. The reader’s self-awareness will be invited to see itself as a part of the description and a methodology akin to story-telling (see Juarrero (1999) on hermeneutics and consciousness) seems to be the only way to really include consciousness in the explication as it goes. Is this approach less scientific than those aforementioned? Let’s take for example strange loops. No axioms and smallest components (or, in the spirit of this book, parts of a machine) will bring you closer to a strange loop through the concept of four causes or elements. In order to identify a strange loop, you just happen to be in the middle of it. Consider Heidegger on the four causes, as “fallen from heaven” (Heidegger, 1977). (Ed.: as indicative of the fact that this is our cosmology, because this is our place in the cosmos, the frame of our situation.) There is no beginning and end, everything is overlapping and “in the middle” from within a strange loop. It has been a challenge to write about strange loops, and hopefully we can avoid getting stuck in a noose.

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