How Social System Program Human Behavior

Heylighen, F., Lenartowicz, M., Kingsbury, K., Beigi, S., Harmsen, T. . Social Systems Programming I: neural and behavioral control mechanisms


Social systems can be defined as autopoietic networks of distinctions and rules that specify which actions should be performed under which conditions. Social systems have an enormous power over human individuals, as they can “program” them, ..’ [draft p 1]. DPB: I like the summary ‘distinctions and rules’, but I’m not sure why (maybe it is the definitiveness of this very small list). I also like the phrase ‘which actions .. under which conditions’: this is interesting because social systems are ‘made of’ communication, which in turn is ‘made of’ signals, which in turns are built up from selections of utterances &c., understandings and information. The meaning is that information depends on its frame, namely its environment. And so this phrase above makes the link between the communication, rule-based systems and the assigning of meaning by (in) a system. Lastly these social mechanisms hold a strong influence over humans, even up to the point of damaging themselves. This paper is about the basic neural and behavioral mechanisms used for programming in social systems. This should be important for my landscape of the mind, and familiarization.


Humans experience a large influence from many different social systems on a daily basis: ‘Our beliefs, thoughts and emotions are to an important extent determined by the norms, culture and morals that we acquired via processes of education, socialization and communication’ [p 1]. DPB: this resonates with me, because of the choice of the words ‘beliefs’ and ‘thoughts’: these must nicely match the same words in my text, where I explain how these mechanisms operate. In addition I like this phrase because of the concept of acquisition, although I doubt that the word ‘communication’ above is used in the sense of Luhmann. This is not easy to critique or even to realize that these processes are ‘social construction’ and difficult to understand them to be so (the one making a distinction cannot talk about it). Also what is reality in this sense: is it what would have been without the behavior based on these socialized rules or the behavior as-is (the latter I guess)? ‘Social systems can be defined as autopoietic networks of distinctions and rules that govern the interactions between individuals’ (I preferred this one from the abstract: which actions should be performed under which conditions, DPB). The distinctions structure reality into a number of socially sanctioned categories of conditions, while ignoring phenomena that fall outside these categories. The rules specify how the individuals should act under the thus specified conditions. Thus, a social system can be modeled as a network of condition-action rules that directs the behavior of individuals agents. These rules have evolved through the repeated reinforcement of certain types of social actions’ [p 2]. DPB: this is a nice summary of how I also believe things work: rule- based systems – distinctions (social categories) – conditions per distinction – behavior as per the condition-action rules – rules evolve through repeated reinforcement of social actions. ‘Such a system of rules tends to self-organize towards a self-perpetuating configuration. This means that the actions or communications abiding by these rules engender other actions that abide by these same general rules. In other words, the network of social actions or communications perpetually reproduces itself. It is closed in the sense that it does not generate actions of a type that are not already part of the system; it is self-maintaining in the sense that all the actions that deifne parts of the system are eventually produced again (Dittrich & Winter, 2008). This autopoiesis turns the social system into an autonomous, organism-like agent, with its own ideintity that separates it from its environment. This identity or “self” is preserved by the processes taking place inside the system, aand therefore actively defended against outside or “non-self” influences that may endanger it’ [p 2]. DPB: this almost literally explains how cultural evolution takes place. This might be a good quote to include and cut a lot of grass in one go! Social systems wield a powerful influence over people, up to the point of acting against their own health. The workings of social systems is likened to parasites such as the rabies virus which ‘motivates’ its host to become aggressive and bite others such as to spread the virus. ‘We examine the simple neural reinforcement mechanism that is the basis for the process of conditioning whilst also ensuring self-organization of social systems’ (emphasis by the author) [p 3]. DPB: very important: this is at the pivot where the human mind is conditioned such that it incites (motivates) it to act in a specific way and where the self-organization of the social system occurs. This is how my bubbles / situations / jobs work! An element of this process is familiarization: the neural reinforcement mechanism.

The Power of Social Systems

In the hunter gatherer period, humans lived in small groups and individuals could come and go as they wanted to join or form a new group [p 3]. DPB: I question whether free choice was involved in those decisions to stay or leave – or whether they were rather kicked out – and if it was a smooth transfer to other bands – or whether they lost standing and had to settle for a lower rank in a new group. ‘These first human groupings were “social” in the sense of forming a cooperative, caring community, but they were not yet consolidated into autopoietic systems governed by formal rules, and defined by clear boundaries’ [p 4]. DPB: I have some doubts because it sounds too idealistic / normal; however, if taken for face value then this is a great argument to illustrate the developing positions of Kev and Gav against. In sharp contrast are the agricultural communities: they set themselves apart from nature and other social systems, everything outside of their domain fair game for exploitation, hierarchically organized, upheld with symbolic order: authorities, divinities paid homage to with offerings, rituals, prescriptions and taboos. In the latter society it is dangerous to not live by the rules: ‘Thus, social systems acquired a physical power over life and death. As they evolved and refined their network of rules, this physical power engendered a more indirect moral or symbolic power that could make people obey the norms with increasingly less need for physical coercion’ [p 4]. DPB: I always miss the concept of ‘autopolicing’ in the ECCO texts. Individuation of a social system: 1. a contour forms from first utterances in a context (mbwa!) 2. these are mutually understood and get repeated 3. when outside the distinction (norm) there will be a remark 4. autopolicing. Our capacity to cognize depend on the words our society offer to describe what we perceive: ‘More fundamentally, what we think and understand is largely dependent on the concepts and categories provided y the social systems, and by the rules that say which category is associated with which other category of expectations or actions’ [p 5]. DPB: this adds to my theory the idea that not only the rules for decision making and for action depend on the belief systems, namely the memeplexes, but also people’s ‘powers of perception’.

How Social Systems Impede Self-actualization

Social rules govern the whole of our worldview, namely our picture of reality and our role within it (emphasis DPB re definition worldview): ‘They tell us which are the major categories of existence (e.g. mind vs. body, duty vs. desire), what properties these categories have (e.g. mind is insubstantial, the body is inert and solid, duty is real and desire is phantasmagoric), and what our attitudes and behaviors towards each of these categories should be (e.g. the body is to be ignored and despised, desire is to be suppressed)’ [p 5]. DPB: I like this because it gives some background to motivations; however, I believe they are more varied than this and that they do not only reflect the major categories but everything one can know (or rather believe). They are just-so in the sense that they can be (seen or perceived as) useful for something like human well-being or limiting for it. They are generally tacit and believed to be universal and so it is difficult to know which of the above they are. ‘.. these rules have self-organized out of distributed social interactions. Therefore, there is no individual or authority that has the power to change them or announce them obsolete. This means that in practice we are enslaved by the autopoietic social system: we are programmed to obey its rules without questioning’ [ p6]. DPB: I agree, there is no other valid option than that from a variety of just-so stories a few are selected that are more fitting with the existing ones. For people it may now appear that these are the more useful ones, but the used arguments serve a mere narrative that explains why people do stuff, lest they appear to do stuff without knowing why. And as a consequence the motivation to do things only if they serve a purpose is itself meme that tells us to act in this way especially vis a vis others, namely to construct a narrative such that this behavior is explained. The rules driving behavior can be interpreted more or less strictly: ‘Moreover, some rules (like covering the feet) tend to be enforced much less strictly than others (like covering the genitals)‘ [p 6]. DPB: hahaa: Fokke & Sukke. Some of the rules that govern a society are allowed some margin of interpretation and so a variety of them exist; others are assumed to be generally valid, and hence they are more strictly interpreted, exhibiting less variety, leaving people unaware that they are in fact obeying a rule at all. As a consequence of a particular rule being part of a much larger system they cannot be easily changed, especially because the behavior of the person herself is – perhaps unknowingly – steered by that rule or system of rules. In this sense it can be said to hinder or impede people’s self-actualization. ‘The obstruction of societal change and self-actualization is not a mere side effect of the rigidity of social systems; it is an essential part of their identity. An autopoietic system aims at self-maintenance. Therefore, it will counteract any processes that threaten to perturb its organization (Maturana& Varela, 1980, Mingers, 1994). In particular, it will suppress anything that would put into question the rules that define it. This includes self-actualization, which is a condition generally characterized by openness to new ideas, autonomy, and enduring exploration (Heylighen, 1992; Maslow, 1970). Therefore, if we wish to promote self-actualization, we will need to better understand how these mechanisms of suppression used by social systems function’ [p 7]. DPB: I fully agree with the mechanism and I honestly wonder if it is at all possible to know one’s state of mind (what one has been familiarized with in one’s life experience so far, framed in the current environment), and hence if it is possible to self-actualize in a different way from what the actual state of mind (known or not) rules.

Reinforcement: reward and punishment

Conditioning, or reinforcement learning, is a way to induce a particular behavior. Behavior rewarded with a pleasant stimulus tends to be repeated, while behavior punished by an unpleasant stimulus tends to be suppressed. The more often a combination of the above occurs, the more will the relation be internalized, such that it can take the shape of a condition-action (stimulus-response) rule. This differential or selective reinforcement occurs in a process of socialization; the affirmation need to be a material reward, a simple acknowledgement and confirmation suffices (smile, thumbs up, like!); these signals suffice for the release of dopamine in the brain. ‘Social interaction is a nearly ubiquitous source of such reinforcing stimuli. Therefore, it has a wide-ranging power in shaping our categorizations, associations and behavior. Maintaining this dopamine-releasing and therefore rewarding stimulation requires continuing participation in the social system. That means acting according to the system’s rules. Thus, social systems program individuals in part through the same neural mechanisms that create conditioning and addiction. This ensures not only that these individuals automatically and uncritically follow the rules, but that they would feel unhappy if somehow prevented from participating in this on-going social reinforcement game. Immediate reward and punishment are only the simplest mechanisms of reinforcement and conditioning. Reinforcement can also be achieved through rewards or penalties that are anticipated, but that may never occur in reality’ (emphasis by the author) [ p 8].

The power of narratives

People are capable of symbolic cognition and they can conceive of situations that have never occurred (to them): ‘These imagined situations can function as “virtual” (but therefore not less effective) rewards that reinforce behavior’ [p 8]. Narratives (for instance tales) feature tales where the characters are punished or rewarded for their specific behavior. Social systems exploit people’s capacity of symbolic cognition using narratives, and hence build on the anticipatory powers of people to maintain and spread. ‘Such narratives have the advantage that they are easy to grasp, remember and communicate, because they embed abstract norms, rules and values into sequences of concrete events experienced by concrete individuals with whom the audience can easily empathize (Bruner, 1991; Heylighen, 2009; Oatley, 2002). In this way, virtual rewards that in practice are unreachably remote (like becoming a superstar, president of the USA, or billionaire) become easy to imagine as realities’ (emphasis by the author) [p 9]. Narratives can become more believable when communicated via media, celebrities, scripture deemed holy, &c.

Conformist transmission

Reinforcement is more effective when it is repeated more often. Given that social systems are self-reproducing networks of communications (Luhmann, 1995), the information they contain will be heard time and again. Conformist transmission means that you are more liable to adopt an idea, behavior or a narrative if you are communicated it by more other individuals; once adopted you are more likely to convert others to it and to confirm it when others express it. DPB: I agree and I never thought of this in this way: once familiarized with it, then not only can one become more convinced of an idea, but also can one become more evangelical about it. In that way an idea spreads quicker if it is more familiar to more people who then talk about it simultaneously. Now it can become a common opinion; and at that point it becomes more difficult to retain other ideas, up to the point that direct observation can be overruled. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet exist!

Cognitive dissonance and institutionalized action

People have a preference for coherence in thought and action: ‘When an individual has mutually inconsistent beliefs, this creates an unpleasant tension, known as cognitive dissonance; this can be remedied by rejecting or ignoring some of these thoughts, so that the remaining ones are consistent. This can be used by the social systems to suppress non-conformist ideas by having a person act in accordance with the rules of the social system but conflicting with the person’s rules: the conformist actions cannot be denied and now the person must cull the non-conformist ideas to release tensions [p 10]. ‘This mechanism becomes more effective when the actions that confirm the social norms are formalized, ritualized or institutionalized, so that they are repeatedly and unambiguously reinforced’ [p 10]. DPB: an illustration is given from [Zizek 2010]: by performing the rituals one becomes religious, because the rituals are the religion. This is an example of a meme: an expression of the core idea; conversely by repeating the expression one repeats the core idea also, and thereby familiarizes oneself with that idea as it becomes reinforced in one’s mind. But that reminds me of the idea of the pencil between the lips making a person happier (left to right) or unhappy (sticking forward). And to top it off: ‘Indeed, the undeniable act of praying to God can only be safeguarded from cognitive dissonance by denying any doubts you may have about the existence of God. This creates a coherence between inner beliefs and socially sanctioned actions, which now come to mutually reinforce each other in an autopoietic closure’ [p 10]. DPB: this is the role of dogma in any belief system: the questions that cannot be asked, the nogo areas, &c.

Distributed Intelligence

Heylighen, F. and Beigi, S. . mind outside brain: a radically non-dualist foundation for distributed cognition . Socially Extended Epistemology (Eds. Carter, Clark, Kallestrup, Palermos, Pritchard) . Oxford University Press . 2016


We approach the problem of the extended mind from a radically non-dualist perspective. The separation between mind and matter is an artefact of the outdated mechanistic worldview, which leaves no room for mental phenomena such as agency, intentionality, or experience. [DPB: the rationale behind this is the determinism argument: if everything is determined by the rules of physics (nature) then nothing can be avoided and the future is determined. There can be no agency because there is nothing to choose, there can be no intentionality because people’s choices are determined by the rules of physics (it appears to be their intention but it is physics talking) and there can be no personal experience because which events a person encounters is indifferent from the existence of the (physical) person]. We propose to replace it by an action ontology, which conceives mind and matter as aspects of the same network of processes. By adopting the intentional stance, we interpret the catalysts of elementary reactions as agents exhibiting desires, intentions, and sensations. [DPB: I agree with the idea that mind and body are ‘functions of the same processes’. The intentional stance implies the question: What would I desire, want, feel in his place in this circumstance, and hence what can I be expected to do?] Autopoietic networks of reactions constitute more complex superagents, which moreover exhibit memory, deliberation and sense-making. In the specific case of social networks, individual agents coordinate their actions via the propagation of challenges. [DPB: for the challenges model: see the article Evo mailed]. The distributed cognition that emerges from this interaction cannot be situated in any individual brain. [DPB: this is important and I have discussed this in the section about the Shell operator, who cannot physically be aware of the processes out of his own scope of professional activities]. This non-dualist, holistic view extends and operationalizes process metaphysics and Eastern philosophies. It is supported by both mindfulness experiences and mathematical models of action, self-organization, and cognition. [DPB: I must decide how to apply the concepts of individuation, virtual/real/present, process ontology and/or action ontology, distributed cognition and distributed intelligence (do I need that?), and computation/thinking/information processing in my arguments].


Socially extended knowledge is a part of the philosophical theory of the extended mind (Clark & Chalmers, 1998; Palermos & Pritchard, 2013; Pritchard, 2010): mental phenomena such as memory, knowledge and sensation extend outside the individual human brain, and into the material and social environment. DPB: this reminds of the Shell narrative. The idea is that human cognition is not confined to information processing within the brain, but depends on phenomena external to the brain: ‘These include the body, cognitive tools such as notebooks and computers, the situation, the interactions between agent and environment, communications with other agents, and social systems. We will summarize this broad scale of “extensions” under the header of distributed cognition (Hutchins, 2000), as they all imply that cognitive content and processes are distributed across a variety of agents, objects and actions. Only some of those are located inside the human brain; yet all of them contribute to human decisions by providing part of the information necessary to make these decisions’ [pp. 1-2]. The aim of this paper is to propose a radical resolution to this controversy (between processes such as belief, desire and intention are considered mental and other such as information transmission and processing, and storage as mechanical): we assume that mind is a ubiquitous property of all minimally active matter (Heylighen, 2011)’ (emphasis DPB: this statement is similar to (analogous to?) the statement that all processes in nature are computational processes or that all processes are cognitive and individuating processes) [p 2].

From dualism to action ontology

Descartes argued that people are free to choose: therefore the human mind does not follow physical laws. But since all matter follows such laws, the mind cannot be material. Therefore the mind must be independent, belonging to a separate, non-material realm. This is illustrated by the narrative that the mind leaves the body when a person dies. But a paradox rises: if mind and matter are separate then how can one affect the other? Most scientists agree that the mind ‘supervenes’ on the matter of the brain and it cannot exist without it. But many still reserve some quality that is specific for the mind, thereby leaving the thinking dualist. An evolutionary worldview explains the increasing complexity: elements and systems are interconnected and the mind does not need to be explained as a separate entity, but as a ‘.. mind appears .. as a natural emanation of the way processes and networks self-organize into goal-directed, adaptive agents’ [p 5], a conception known as process metaphysics. The thesis here is that the theory of the mind can be both non-dual AND analytic. To that end the vagueness of the process metaphysics is replaced with action ontology: ‘That will allow us to “extend” the mind not just across notebooks and social systems, but across the whole of nature and society’ [p 5].

Agents and the intentional stance

Action ontology is based on reactions as per COT. Probability is a factor and so determinism does not apply. Reactions or processes are the pivot in action ontology and states are secondary: ‘States can be defined in terms of the reactions that are possible in that state (Heylighen, 2011; Turchin, 1993)’ [p 7]. DPB: this reminds of the restrictions of Oudemans, the attractors and repellers that promote the probability that some states and restrict the probability that other states can follow from this particular one. In that sense it reminds also of the perception that systems can give to the observer that they are intentional. The list of actions that an agent can perform defines a dynamical system (Beer, 1995, 2000). The states that lead into an attractor define the attractor’s basin and the process of attaining that position in phase-space is called equifinality: different initial states produce the same final state (Bertalanffy, 1973). The attractor, the place the system tends to move towards is its ‘goal’ and the trajectory towards it as it is chosen by the agent at each consecutive state is its ‘course of action’ in order to reach that ‘goal’. The disturbances that might bring the agents off its course can be seen as challenges, which the agent does not control, but which the agent might be able to tackle by changing its course of action appropriately. To interpret the dynamics of a system as a goal-directed agent in an environment is the intentional stance (Dennett, 1989).

Panpsychism and the Theory of Mind

The “sensations” we introduced previously can be seen as rudimentary “beliefs” that an agent has about the conditions it is experiencing’ [p 10]. DPB: conversely beliefs can be seen as sensations in the sense of internalized I-O rules. ‘The prediction (of the intentional stance DPB) is that the agent will perform those actions that are most likely to realize its desires given its beliefs about the situation it is in’ [p 10]. DPB: and this is applicable to all kinds of systems. Indeed Dennett has designed different classes for physical systems, and I agree with the authors that there is no need for that, given that these systems are all considered to be agents (/ computational processes). Action ontology generalizes the application of the intentional stance to all conceivable systems and processes. To view non-human processes and systems in this way is in a sense ‘animistic’: all phenomena are sentient beings.


In the action ontology a network of coupled reactions can be modeled: the output of one reaction forms the input for the next and so on. In this way it can be shown that a new level of coherence emerges. If such a network produces its own components including the elements required for its own reproduction it is autopoietic. In spite of ever changing states, its organization remains invariant. The states are characterized by the current configurations of the system’s elements, the states change as a consequence of the perturbations external to the system. Its organization lends the network system its (stable) identity despite the fact that it is in ongoing flux. The organization and its identity render it autonomous, namely independent of the uncertainties in its environment: ‘Still, the autopoietic network A interacts with the environment, by producing the actions Y appropriate to deal with the external challenges X. This defines the autopoietic organism as a higher-order agent: A+XA+Y. At the abstract level of this overall reaction, there is no difference between a complex agent, such as an animal or a human, and an elementary agent, such as a particle. The difference becomes clear when we zoom in and investigate the changing state of the network of reactions inside the agent’ [p 14]. DPB: this is a kind of a definition of the emergence of organization of a multitude of elements into a larger body. This relates to my black-box / transparency narrative. This line of thought is further elaborated on in the COT, where closure and self-maintenance are introduced to explain the notion of autopoiesis in networks. Closure means that eventually no new elements are produced, self-maintenance means that eventually all the elements are produced again (nothing is lost), and together they imply that all the essential parts are eventually recycled. This leads to states on an attractor. Also see COT article Francis. //INTERESTING!! In simple agents the input is directly transformed into an action: there is no internal state and these agents are reactive. In complex networks an input affects the internal state, the agent keeps an internal memory of previous experiences. That memory is determined by the sequence of sensations the agent has undergone. This memory together with its present sensations (perceptions of the environment) constitutes the agent’s belief system. A state is processed (to the next state) by the system’s network of internal reactions, the design of which depends on its autopoietic organization. A signal may or may not be the result of this processing and hence this process can be seen as a ‘deliberation’ or ‘sense-making’. Given the state of the environment, and given the memory of the system resulting from its previous experience, and given its propensity to maintain its autopoiesis, an input is processed (interpreted) to formulate an action to deal with the changed situation. If the action turns out to be appropriate then the action was justified and the rule leading up to it was true and the beliefs are knowledge: ‘This is equivalent to the original argument that autopoiesis necessarily entails cognition (Maturana & Varela, 1980), since the autopoietic agent must “know” how to act on a potentially perturbing situation in order to safeguard its autopoiesis’. This is connected to the notion of “virtue reliabilism”, that asserts that beliefs can be seen as knowledge when their reliability is evidenced by the cognitive capabilities (“virtues”) they grant the agent (Palermos, 2015; Pritchard, 2010) [p 15]. UP TO HERE //.

Socially distributed cognition

In our own approach to social systems, we conceive such processes as a propagation of challenges (Heylighen, 2014a). This can be seen as a generalization of Hutchins’s analysis of socially distributed cognition taking place through the propagation of “state” (Hutchins, 1995, 2000): the state of some agent determines that agentś action or communication, which in turn affects the state of the next agent receiving that communication or undergoing that action. Since a state is a selection out of a variety of potential states, it carries information. Therefore, the propagation of state from agent to agent is equivalent to the transmission and processing of information. This is an adequate model of distributed cognition if cognition is conceived as merely complex information processing. But if we want to analyze cognition as the functioning of a mind or agency, then we need to also include that agent’s desires, or more broadly its system of values and preferences. .. in how far does a state help to either help or hinder the agent in realizing its desires? This shifts our view of information from the traditional syntactic perspective of information theory (information as selection among possibilities) (Shannon & Weaver, 1963)) to a pragmatic perspective (information as trigger for goal-directed action (Gernert, 2006)(emphasis of DPB) [pp. 17-8]. DPB: this is an important connection to my idea that not only people’s minds process information, but the organization as such processes information also. This can explain how a multitude of people can be autonomous as an entity ‘an sich’. Distributed cognition is the cognition of the whole thing and in that sense the wording is not good, because the focus is no longer the human individual but the multitude as a single entity; a better word would be ‘integrated cognition’? It is propose to replace the terms “information” or “state” to “challenge”: a challenge is defined as a situation (i.e. a conjunction of conditions sensed by some agent) that stimulated the agent to act. DPB: Heylighen suggests that acting on this challenge brings benefit to the agent, I think it is more prosaic than that. I am not sure that I need the concept of a challenge. Below is an illustration of my Shell example: an individual know that action A leads to result B, but no one knows that U →Y, but the employees together know this: the knowledge is not in one person, but in the whole (the organization): John : U V, Ann : V→W, Barbara : W→X, Tom : X→Y. Each person recognizes the issue, does not know the (partial) answer, but knows (or finds out) who does; the persons are aware of their position in the organization and who else is there and (more or less) doing what. ‘Together, the “mental properties” of these human and non-human agents will determine the overall course of action of he organization. This course of action moves towards a certain “attractor”, which defines the collective desire or system of values of the organization’ [p 21]. DPB: if I want to model the organization using COT then this above section can be a starting point. I’m not sure I do want to, because I find it impracticable to identify the mix of the ingredients that should enter the concoction that is the initial condition to evolve into the memeplex that is a firm. How many of ‘get a job’ per what amount of ‘the shareholder is king’ should be in it?

Experiencing non-duality

Using the intentional stance it is possible to conceptualize a variety of processes as mind-like agencies. The mind does not reside in the brain, it sits in all kinds of processes in a distributed way.

Individuation of Social Systems

Lenartowicz, A., Weinbaum, D., Braathen, P. . The Individuation of Social Systems: A Cognitive Framework . Procedia Computer Science (Elsevier), vol. 88 (pp 15-20) . Doi: 10.1016/j.procs.2016.07.400 . 2016


Starting point is formed by the Theory of Individuation (Simondon 1992), Enactive Theory of Cognition (Paolo e.a. 2010) and the Theory of Social Systems Luhmann 1996). The objective is to identify how AI integrates into human society.

1. Introduction

Social systems influence cognitive activities. It is argued that social systems operate as cognitive systems: ‘.. autonomous, self-organizing loci of agency and cognition, which are distinct from human minds and manifesting behaviors that are irreducible to their aggregations’ [p 15]. DPB: I like this (in bold, to end all others) way to formulate the behavior specific to the whole, as opposed to the behavior specific to the individuals therein. It is argued here that these systems individuate in the same way, and their mode of operation is analogous to, other processes of life. This paper does not follow some others that take a narrow approach to cognition starting at the architecture of the individual human mind; instead it presents a perspective of cognition that originates from a systemic sociological view, leading to a socio-human cognitive architecture; the role of the individual human being in the establishing of networks and their operation thereafer is reduced. The theory if based on the view of Heraklitus that ontologically reality is a sequence of processes instead of objects and with Simondon’s theory of individuation: ‘This results in an understanding of social systems as complex sequences of occurrences of communication (emphasis of the authors), which are capable of becoming consolidated to the degree in which they start to display an emergent adaptive dynamics characteristic to cognitive systems – and to exert influence over their own mind-constituted environment’ [p 16]. DPB: this reminds of my understanding of the landscape of Jobs, where Situations and Interactions take place as sequences of signals uttered and perceived.

2. Individuation of Cognitive Agents

The basis is a shift from an Aristotelian object oriented ontology to an Heraklitian process oriented ontology (or rather an ontogenesis); not individuals but individuation are the center-piece; no individual is assumed to precede these processes; all transformations are secondary to individuation: ‘Individuation is a primary formative activity whereas individuals are regarded as merely intermediate and metastable entities, undergoing a continuous process of change’ [p 16]. In this view the individual is always changing, and ‘always pregnant with with not yet actualized and not yet known potentialities of change’ [p 16]. DPB: His reminds me of the monadic character of systems: they are very near completion, yet never quite finished and always ready to fight the previous war. Local and contingent interactions achieve ever higher levels of coordination between their constitutive elements; the resulting entities become ever more complex and can have agency. Cognition can be seen as a process of sense-making; cognition can facilitate the formation of boundaries (distinctions). This is explained by the theory of enactive cognition that treats sense-making as a primary activity of cognition (Varela, Thompson & Rosch 1992; Stewart, Gapenne &Di Paolo 2010; De Jaegher & Di Paolo 2007). This idea is radicalized in this paper: sense-making is assumed to be bringing forth distinctions, objects and relations; sense-making precedes subjects and objects and it is necessary for their emergence; sense-making precedes the existence of consolidated cognitive agents to whom the activity itself would conventionally be attributed. DPB: this firstly reminds me of the phrase ‘love is in the air, even if there is nobody there yet’; ‘processes of individuation constitute a distributed and progressively more coherent (as boundaries and distinctions are formed) loci of autonomous cognitive activity’ [pp. 16-7]; also the process of individuation precedes the process of autopoiesis: the latter cannot exist as a work in progress, but individuation occurs also without autopoiesis; and so autopoiesis can only be a design condition of a process that has already individuated. In this way individuation is taken from its narrow psychological context and projected to a general systems application: ‘Sense-making entails crossing the boundary between the unknown and the known through the formation of tentative perceptions and actions consolidating them together into more or less stable conceptions (emphasis by the author)’ [p 17]. DPB: this is a useful working definition of sense-making; these processes are relevant not just for psychic and social processes, I believe they have their root (and started in some form once) as chemical and physical processes, for which the above terminology does not seem fully suitable; from that point on, these multitudes of elements ‘grew up’ together and became ever more complex. ‘Individuation as an on-going formative process, manifests in the co-determining interactions taking place within the heterogeneous populations of interacting agents. These populations are the ‘raw materials’ from which new individuals emerge. The sense-making activities are distributed over the population and have no center of regulated activity of synchrony. Coordination – the recurrent mutual regulation of behaviors is achieved via interactions that are initially contingent. These interactions are necessary for the consolidation of any organized entity or system’ [p 17].

3 Social Systems as Cognitive Individuals

By a social system is meant any meta-stable form of social activity. DPB: but what is meant with meta-stable. This is the Luhmann understanding of a social system. This paper demonstrates 1. the individuation of social systems and 2. identify social systems as the metastable individuals. Events that are the building blocks for social reality happen as single occurrences of communication, each consisting of: 1. a selection of information, 2. selection of the utterance, and 3. the selection of the understanding. DPB: this is as per my Logistical Model. If and only if the three selections are combined do they form a unity of a communicative event, ‘a temporary individual’. ‘This means that it distinguishes itself from its environment (i.e. any other processes or events) by the means of three provisional boundaries, which the event sets forth: (a) an ‘information-making boundary’ between the marked and the unmarked side of the distinction being made (Spencer Brown, 1994), i.e. delineating the selected information (marked – M) and the non-selected one (unmarked – Un-M), (b) a ‘semiotic boundary’ (Lotman, 2001) between the thus created signified (SD) and a particular signifier selected to carry the information (SR), and (c) a ‘sense-making’ boundary between thus created sign (SGN) and the context (CX), i.e. delineating the understanding of information within its situation (Lenartowicz, Weinbaum & Braaten, 2016)’ [p 17]. DPB: I am not sure what to do with those three selections; I have not used them and instead I am working with selection of some piece of information, while it is uttered, and while it is also perceived (made sense of). I must figure out whether (and how) to use this. Maybe ask ML to clarify how they connect to my logistical model, and especially the E and the B operators. It is important because it is a chain-link in a chain of events: ‘The three selections and corresponding boundaries of an event make the communication available to interact with or to be referred to by another communicative event constituted by another triple selection’ [p 17]. DPB: all this sounds a bit artificial and procedural and mechanical: how can this process come about in a natural way? Once recorded and remembered these elements become available for endless re-use independent of space, time and context (frame). In closed networks of communication, however, they have a tendency to converge into recurrent self-reinforcing patterns, such that the become established and difficult not to be associated with, even if in a negative form or critique. From the associations of these selected simple forms can arise complex individuated sequences, social systems. Through their interactions these systems gain and maintain coherence; as they recur the probability that the same pattern is repeated is higher than the probability that a completely new pattern is selected. Initially contingent boundaries become self-reinforced and stable. ‘On account of their repetition, a social system can be said to develop perceptions (i.e. reappearing selections of information and understanding), actions (i.e. reappearing selections of utterance) and conceptions (percept – action associations) that dynamically bind them. Each such assemblage thus becomes a locus of identifiable cognitive activity, temporarily stabilized within a flux of communication’ [p 18].

4. The Role of Human Cognition

The (three) selections individuating social systems are performed by other cognitive individuated systems. In a social system that is individuated to a level of stability and coherence, emerging patterns in that system further orient the selections made by people. And reciprocally the the psychic environment of the people facilitates the individuation of the social system by selecting new instances of communication that somehow fit the existing parts. Human beings are indispensable for the continuation of communication and hence for the maintenance of a social system, but they are incapable of influencing the social system in the sense that one seedling is incapable of influencing the amount of water in a lake. Only when a social system is at the early stages of its individuation and taking shape can it be influenced by individual people: a pattern of a large social system is confirmed by many other communications and also one different communication, that does not follow the pattern, doesn’t hold sufficient weight to change its course. ‘Taking into account a variety of powerful factors that guide all the linguistic activities of humans: (a) the relative simplicity, associative coherence, frequent recurrence of the cognitive operations once they become consolidated in a social system, (b) the rarity of context-free (e.g. completely exploratory and poetic) communications that is reinforced by the density and entanglement of all “language games” in which contemporary humans are all immersed in, and (c) the high level of predictability of human selection-making inputs observable from the sociological standpoint; it will be reasonable to set the boundaries of our modeling of he general phenomena of human cognition in such a way, which delineates the dynamics of two different kinds of individuating cognitive agencies operating at different scales: the human individual and the social system. Instead of reducing all cognitive activities to the human individual we can clearly distinguish cognitive agencies operating at different scales’ [p 19]. DPB: I like the three arguments above for the likelihood of patterns to appear in communication and also that human cognition is to some extent built with the(extensive) help of social systems, such that human cognition cannot be fully reduced to the individual itself, but also to the social systems in the environment of the individual.

Individuation of Social Systems

Lenartowicz M, Weinbaum DR (Weaver), Braathen P . Global Brain Institute, Free University Brussels . Social Systems: Complex Adaptive Loci of Cognition . Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 18(2) . 2016


Human social systems are concrete non-metaphorical, cognitive agents operating in their self-constructed environments. This theory is an integration of social systems theory (Luhmann) with enactive cognition theory (Di Paolo) and theory of individuation (Simondon). It is marked by a number of shifts in thinking about social systems: 1. becoming rather than being, 2. three-layered understanding of the environment where identities of social systems individuate, 3. a reactive rather than a responsive approach to adaptiveness and 4. social systems are cognitive systems. Social systems are complex individuating communicative interactions that together constitute cognitive agencies. DPB: the text says: ‘sequences of communicative interactions’: from the network perspective, the interactions will most probably not be sequential; they might be from the perspective of the individual agents; they surely are from the perspective of the individual unities of communication (which go ‘from hand to hand’). The discussion about individuation should be in interaction EINT? The relation of these agents with their environments (including other such agencies) can be clarified through the Hayek-Hebb-Edelmann perspective and the Maturana-Varela perspective of perturbation-compensation. The theory is demonstrated by an example of a NASA communication showing how ‘.. a social organization undergoes a process of individuation from which it emerges as an autonomous cognitive agent with a distinct and adaptive identity’ [p 1].


Social systems are seen as complex in the sense that they consist of many parts that interact in a non-simple way (such that it is not trivial to infer the behavior of the whole from the properties of the parts). They are seen as adaptive, because they operate in their environment maintaining a set of their characteristics invariant. But they are not seen as cognitive: 1) the cognitive capacity of the human mind is typically involved, which can be viewed in a black-box manner (to encompass the supposed cognitive qualities of the social system) and 2) when invoked for an entire social system there is a risk of using it in a mystical sense. DPB: would cognition not also be seen as requiring physical sensory machinery, and so where cognition is invoked and individual people, then, given that they avail of the machinery, it must be them providing the cognitive functionality? But this paper supports the claim that social systems are indeed cognitive; this is approached through a re-conceptualization of the concepts of complexity and adaptiveness. Social systems are seen as sequences of complex, individuating sequences of occurrences of communication (events); their operating is approached from the perspective on systems adaptation of Hayek-Hebb and from Maturana-Varela, each revealing a different and complementary facet of the operation of the system, resulting in an integrated abstracted model of individuating, autonomous, and distributed cognition.

Concept 1: Components

It is often assumed that the basic component of social systems is the human being. Luhmann however proposes that social systems consist of sense-making, meaning-processing communications. Properties of human beings (the contents of her mind) play a role only when they are expressed socially, else it remains in the social system’s environment. The Heraklitian shift from being to becoming was elaborated by Nietsche, Simondon, Deleuze, DeLanda, Bergson to emphasize that not objects but processes are the basic elements of systems (‘even the most solid objects are networks of processes’ [p 3]); if this is the case then much of the fabric of reality is overlooked by delineating objects; and we are looking at what is happening within them and among them; looking at actions instead of agents implies looking at differences in states instead of fixed states. From this perspective the agent is left out of the observation, not treated as a component but as a catalyser: ‘an aspect or part of a state that is necessary for the action to occur’ (Heylighen, 2011:8)’ [p 3]. If the ontology is changed from agents to actions then, in Luhmann’s approach, the focus is on communication and not on humans, a communication as a difference-making selection process: 1. selection of information, 2. selection of the utterance, and 3. selection of the (mis)understanding of information and the utterance (Luhmann 2002:157). Only if all three are present communication occurs. DPB: this is how i’ve modeled it and this is also how I have come to understand Luhmann. It is quite different from what I understood form the article Individuation of Social Systems. That difference is important and I must discuss it with Marta. With regards to the NASA example: this illustrates the emergence of a unit of communication; what would be a valid and illustrative example concerning the operations of a firm? The three selections are in this example made by (subjective and changeable) human minds, but this selection can be deferred to objects, machines, AI &c; the selective processes take place regardless the properties of the substrate (chemical physical &c.). When the three selections have taken place then the event of a communication has taken place: ‘Nothing is transferred – Luhmann claims – Redundancy is produced in the sense that communication generates a memory to which many people can lay claim in many different ways (2002:160)’ [p 5]. Operation of these three selections is often imprecise, ineffective, associative, incomplete and inadequate: it is in other words more often than not made up of just-so stories. Given that these communications events interact between them (and via human beings) then their properties are different from those of human agents. Examples of the effects between the selections are: 1. the selection of understanding in one communication event will constrain and be conserved in the following ones, 2. the selection of an utterance in one event will be retained, refused or refined in the following, and 3. adhering to a shared form (utterance) will prompt selection of understanding in a coherent way. These selections lead to sequences that may under the influence of individuation lead to pattern of which a few examples are: organizations, languages, nations, organizations, discourses, &c.

Concept 2: Individuation

Individuation is a primary (to what) formative activity, where individuals are always intermediate, temporarily stable entities, undergoing ongoing change: ’Individuation is a process where boundaries and distinctions that define individuals arise without assuming any individual(s) that precede(s) them. The nature of distinctions and boundaries is subtle: inasmuch as they separate subject from object, figure from background, and one individual from another, they must also connect that which they separate. A boundary, therefore, is not only known by the separation it establishes but also by the interactions and relations it facilitates’ [p 7]. DPB: perhaps another way to formulate this brings a different perspective: ‘A boundary is established by the interactions and relations it’s component’s properties facilitate through their attractions to some and repulsion from properties of other components’ in their environment and within the system itself. In this sense the boundary is a resultant from the myriad attractors and repellers that may exist all along the outer surface of the system. And that outer surface also has an important contribution to the capacity of the system to be distinguished by other systems’. For him (Simondon), the individual is a metastable phase within the a continuous process of transformation, ever impregnated with not yet actualized and not yet known potentialities of being. .. a plastic entity, an on-going becoming’ [p 7]. DPB: this is my monad; but I have never defined the ontogeny of a monad and a individuation process does that. How can this network of communications form an assemblage (DeLanda, 2006) of interacting components? Communication (three elements) results in temporary boundaries: 1. information selection: marked-unmarked (information), 2. semiotic: signified-signifier (utterance), and 3. sense-making: sign and context (understanding). DPB: I am still not sure about the use of these kinds of boundaries, but between brackets the link to the three selections.

Concept 3 Environment

An environment of people is topological, an environment of communications is semiotic. A tentative definition of a communication event is: ’Whatever the communication refers to and is being referred to’ [p 11]. The environment is not the surroundings of the communication process, but the semiotic space delineated by the three meaning-creating selections (utterance, information, understanding). The nouns in an utterance describe (or characterize) the environment of a communication. Once a communication event has taken place, any future event may refer to the initial one as its environment: The environment is not only what it refers to or what is being referred to, but also all the communications that perform the referring. The possibilities for a communication to be referred to are, in ascending order: gestures, speech, writing, social media. ‘Since all communications are endlessly available to be referred to, also the environments that they delineate become available endlessly. Each such an environment has a potential of becoming evoked by a following occurrence of communication and thus, by the means of repetition of such occurrences, has a potential of becoming more or less stabilised’ [p 13]. DPB: reference to the mechanism of the process of individuation, where it produces temporarily stable entities. When communications interact they individuate and become more entangled and so do their (partly shared) environments; and the more a shared environment, the other communications (hetero-reference) and the communication itself (self-reference) are referred to by the various communications, the more stable they can become. As a consequence some communications belonging to each other and they belong to a particular environment: ‘Thus, the whole socially constructed reality (Berger & Luckmann, 2011) comes into existence’ [p 13]. DPB: this is an important argument in the formation of a stable pattern as a system. ‘At some stage of the process of individuation, the locus of control over the boundary between the environment and the individuating sequence of communications (which at this point can be called a system) has started to be positioned within it. This way the Luhmannian social systems arise, which ‘have the ability to establish relations with themselves and to differentiate these relations from relations with their environment’ (Luhmann 1995 Social Systems:13) (emphasis by the authors’ [p 16-7]. DPB: the ontogeny of an assemblage of parts individuating up to the point that they become a system in the sense that they self-organize and then at some point they (it) may get to the point that they (it) become(s) autopoietic: assemblage > self-organized system > autopoietic system. I am not sure about the term assemblage, because it sounds a kind of designed (an assembly is put together), whereas it should be thrown onto a heap such that they come to stick into a group.

Concept 4: Adaptability

Social systems self-maintain their own coherence and identity through their own operations: when a change in the environment occurs, the systems adapts. According to the theory of Hayek-Hebb the system responds and according to Maturana-Varela the system reacts to a change in its environment. The responsive approach claims that the system develops a model of its environment as per a pattern in internal interactions; but this is known not to exist (perhaps something in a functional and abstracted way). The theory of reactive adaptation claims that the system is operationally closed: the operational responses only depend on internal processing and hence on the internal structure of the system, in turn depending on its internal states. If the environment changes then the state may change and the reaction at the next click changes.’It follows, that the system-environment interactions take place only in a way that allows just that: the system’s recursive production of its own identity pattern under ever-changing conditions. Whenever a change in the environment forces an internal shift in the system, the shift is compensated by some other internal changes’ [p 18]. DPB: not very new but well worded. The choice is for the reactive model, given its relevance for biological systems but its controversial status concerning its application for social systems. The center stage position for human beings is no longer required after the Luhmannian explanation of communication; the concept of systems autonomy is a sufficient theoretical justification for the perturbation-compensation mode of adaptation to be derived for social systems: ‘What is needed for such an application is merely understanding the dynamic of systems as structurally defined i.e. that they will not be able to produce any consequent behavior which is not not encoded already in their current structure and state’ [p 19]. DPB: disagree, there is n need for that, it has been shown to not be required.

Concept 4.1 Responsive adaptation

In terms of the Hayek-Hebb responsive adaptation model, the system’s internal model gets updated as a result of a change in the relations between the system and its environment: some get stronger, others weaker. The problem with this approach is that it takes the boundary between system and environment as a given, whereas that boundary can change because of the changes in the environment (the relation between the map and the mapped territory, the interaction between the map and the mapped &c.). The Hayek-Hebb theoretical approach does not allow tracking of the emergence of the boundary between an individuating sequence of occurrences of communication and its multi-layered environment.

Concept 4.2: Reactive adaptation

The ‘reactive adaptation’ approach posits that operational responses of a system in relation too external changes (perturbations) depend only o the inner structure and the state of the system and can only induce further changes to its inner structure and state’ [p 24]. In order to observe a reactive adaptation in sequences of communications, one observes how a communication X points at a previous communications Y using its selections as a rationale to understand how the systems refers to a perturbation in the environment. So, the reference of X to Y reflects the reaction of the system to the change in the environment. X and Y being related as per some criterion, ‘belong’ to the same sequence of communications. DPB: perhaps this is the sequence with the hooks between the events (as a commonality of flavor) that Marta mentioned to indicate the relation between memes and (the individuation of) communication? This theory predicts that a change in the environment leads to a sequence of communications. DPB: this reminds of the Wagensberg model, where a change in the environment leads to changes in the complexity of the system and/or of the complexity of the environment and also to an increase in the amount of information at the boundary. What needs to be addressed is how it can be known whether communications X and Y ‘belong’ to the same sequence of communications: this can be known by the signifier selecting the communications in the entire sequence. The above method of observation using the signifier renders the reactive adaptation method takes a more relaxed stance towards the signifier (someone claims that..), and hence it is much more suitable for the process ontology of social systems. ‘Should a pattern of reactive adaptation be detected in such a fluid realm, this may imply (prove) a temporary existence of an individuated sequence, coherent enough to display an adaptive behaviour’ [p 26]. DPB: I like this, it is a spot-on explanation of the way a firm can be start (while not yet founded) and already takes shape and represents a body of thought. ‘The fluid, processual milieu populated by various occurrences of communication is exactly where the boundaries of the individuating assemblages are formed. It happens by distinguishing between the communications that belong to or are owned by a specific system and those which do not’ [p 27]. DPB: this can explain more specifically how a firm is formed, namely that the ideas belonging to the organizing of the specific production plan are owned by the owners of the firm.

Concept 5: Cognition

This final argument is that social systems áre cognitive systems, and so the argument goes beyond a mere metaphor: ‘a communication-constituted social system is a cognitive system and its on-going constitution is a process of cognitive development (emphasis by the author)’ [p 28]. The argument is 1. that all individuating processes are cognitive processes (following the enactive cognition approach of DiPaolo e.a. 2010) and 2. this approach is used to ‘explicate the intrinsic cognitive nature of communication constituted social systems’ [p 28]. The activity of cognition is ‘naturally associated’ with agents in environments whose operation can be described as an on-going problem-solving activity. But how does this set-up of agents, objects and their relations in an environment emerge? Even though they might be vague and not (yet) fully clear, determined and they can merge or even disappear completely: ‘Crossing this, often unseen, boundary between the unknown and the known, the unformed and the formed is what we call sense-making. Sense-making is the bringing forth of a world of distinctions, objects and entities and the relations among them. Even primary distinctions such as ‘objective-subjective’ or ‘self – other’ are part of sense-making. A relatively new appearance on the sage of cognitive science, the so-called enactive cognition approach, regards sense-making as the primary activity of cognition. The term ‘enactive’, synonymous with ‘actively bringing forth’, makes its first appearance in the context of cognition in the book “The Embodied Mind” (Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 1992) and has since been the subject of many developments and debates (Stewart, Gapenne, and Di Paolo, 2010; Thompson, 2007; Di Paolo, 2006; De Jaegher and Di Paolo, 2007). A guiding idea of the enactive approach is that any adequate account of how the body (i.e. any embodied system) can either be or instantiate a cognitive system must take into account the fact that the body is self-individuating: […] By saying that a system is self-constituted, we mean that its dynamics generate and sustain an identity. An identity is generated whenever a precarious network of dynamical processes becomes operationally closed.[…] Already implied in the notion of interactive autonomy is the realization that organisms cast aa web of significance on their world. […] This establishes a perspective on the world with its own normativity [.] (Di Paolo, Rohde, and De Jaegher, 2010, pp. 38-9, 45). The enactive theory of cognition therefore incorporates the idea of individuation rather naturally as it asserts cognition to be an on-going formative process, sensible and meaningful (value related), taking place in the co-determining interactions (i.e. communications in our case) of agents and their environment (Di Paolo, Rohde, and De Jaegher, 2010)’ [p 28-9]. The concept of sense-making means 1. cognition as a capability of an already individuated system and 2. the individuation of cognition as intrinsic to cognition itself [p 29]. DPB: I believe this is all the same thing: it can have started with fluids or even gases that found themselves to cluster around certain attractors (and away from repellers) and to then form clusters of ever more complex molecules with regulating functionalities to form cells, small organisms &c. But before anything else the elements in each of the clusters must ‘make sense of’ their environment such that they can manage to be attracted by this or repelled by that. The formation of their regulatory functionalities = their organization = their self-individuation = their cognition. Concerning point 2 above: ‘The latter meaning of sense-making is the one corresponding to the acquisition and expansion of concrete cognitive capacities and it also generalizes the concept of cognitive development beyond its psychological context (Piaget, 2013) and makes it applicable to general individuating systems (Weinbaum & Veitas, 2014). Furthermore, in the broadest sense, every individuation process where boundaries, distinctions and relations are progressively determined, is a sense-making process and therefore is cognitive’ [p 29]. DPB: I fully agree. This is an important element in the understanding of the emergence of organizations and firms. Now I know how they come to be, and I already knew how they come to ‘pass away’. But the million dollar question is Why, what is the relation of these events of emerging and dying to the production of information on a cosmic scale, what is its utility? The theory of enactive cognition assets that a relatively stable and autonomous individual is required for sense-making: ‘In contrast, we argue that the broader understanding of cognition as sense-making precedes the existence of systems as already individuated identities (cognitive agents) and is actually a necessary condition to their becoming. Only that at this pre-individuated stage there is still no one for whom sens is being made’ [p 29]. DPB: this is a crucial argument. It is somewhat mistaken (or misleading), because it tacitly assumes that consciousness is required for the sense-making to take place. If the next step is also taken (or what is stated above is followed on) then the sense making is just the processing information in general; if it is about conscious systems, then that has the sense of the processing of the communication events by the mind. In other cases, it is the processing of information, such as the figuring out what to do by some chemicals leading up to the Beloesov-Zhabotisnsky reaction after a shock is administered, having found out that other chemicals are in the vicinity. ‘Our understanding of cognition derives from the broader sense of social systems as individuating systems that enact sense-making via on-going communications. .. Even more importantly, if cognitive development is intrinsic to cognition as argued by Weinbaum & Veitas (2014, 2015), cognizing is not only a core activity of social systems but also a vehicle for their evolution. Embodiment can be understood as a combination of the ‘raw material’ constituents, in our case communications instances, and their coordinated organization, in our case the way communications are related and associated reflecting complex distinct structures. The situatedness of a social system can be understood as the totality of its immediate interactions over already established boundaries. In other words, the situation of the system is the immediate circumstances of enacting its sense-making. Of course for social systems both embodiment and situatedness are distributed and fluid’ [p 30]. DPB: this reminds me of the Situations of the Logistical Model: I had defined them as the change of one meme in the mind of a person. If the sentence in bold above can be taken to mean the forming of a thought (for a person) then the meaning of the two definitions might not be far removed, because to enact its sense-making means to use a ‘tool for thought’ to make sense (process information) of the immediate environment (circumstance?). ‘In a communication-constituted operational domain, the process of individuation may be initiated by a difference of strength of association between a few contingent communications (see also (Weinbaum & Veitas, 2015, pp. 19-23)). A recurrent set of occurrences of communication which are more or less consistent and coherent constitutes a semiotic boundary or part of it’ [p 30]. DPB: this reminds me of my model of the associative relations between memes, connotations. This above does explain that they are contingent, and so there is no certainty or anything goes; it does not explain how these associations can gain strength &c.

Enacting – Structure and Agency

Lenartowicz, M. . How Social Forms Come Alive: The Enactive Workings of Discursive Positioning . Working Paper v.1. . 2017


This is an exploration of the possibility to conciliate the structure and agency dichotomy in social science through the use of positioning theory. The focus is on the structural-enactive aspect of discursive positioning: ‘I argue that the positioning theory precisely identifies the social act which creates and sustains social forms’ [p 1]. DPB: without having read the article yet, the phrase above reminds me of the action by which a Situation (a Bubble) emerges: And an utterance is performed, And an information is included, And a perception is performed, by the triple selection of which a communication comes into being (or it is replicated and hence becomes part of a sequence).

1. Introduction

Traditional scientific disciplines are founded in traditional ontology, and hence attempts to address issues concerning traditional ontology do not usually originate in those same traditional sciences. The reason is that their differentiated existence would come into question. As a consequence the concepts used in such a field of research ‘involve’ in an ever more differentiated manner, without questioning the all too general ontological basis. Some of the ontological assumptions are wrong according to Van Langenhove (Van Langenhove L. Innovating the Social Sciences . Vienna: Passagen Verlag . 2007) and conserved by their perpetuation. In summary the problem of the common ontology is a Newtonian/Euclidean/Humean approach, in summary: thinking is performed by solid objects, fixed in space and time, deterministically influencing one another by cause and effect relations. The structuralist view on the world still dominates, because of the ontological problem with the phenomena (institutions, organizations, nations, communities &c.) around which the disciplines of the social sciences are organized. ‘When explicitly discussing their formative mechanisms, social scientists now tend to point to language and its creations, such as texts, discourses, or stories. However, in order to do social science, they seem to have no other methodological choice but to enter and continue the language game themselves. The comprehension of the linguistic, symbolic composition of the social matter, thus, has not yet taken them far; it does not bear much consequence for their research methodologies, or, even more importantly, for their research questions (emphasis by the author)’ [p 2]. The issue is that all social thinkers have presupposed the existence of language to, then, given language, think about the nature of society. The role of this paper is to research the fundamental constitutive function of language: ‘I will address the need for a conceptual path to bridge the gap between the formative function of language and the shapes and forms that people perceive and interact with while participating in the social world’ [p 3]. A methodology is required to account for these steps: human cognition > language > language use > social actions > social structures. ‘Such paths must be sound enough to make sure that what appears at the other side of the spectrum is, indeed, the result of ‘re-assembling the social’ (Latour 2007) not a projection’ [p 3].

2. Typification of social forms

Allowing people to forge and sustain representations of reality, language also allows us to name these representations. By the means of such naming, what initially was merely an entwinement of actions that happened to be observed as resonating and corresponding with one another – a frequently seen pattern, a repetitively performed chain of action, or a cluster of certain observable features – becomes a social form (entity, structure, system, institution, organization, network, rule, role, etc.). Alfred Schutz, Thoman Luckmann, and Peter L. Berger call that naming typification (Schutz 1967, Schutz & Luckmann 1973, Berger & Luckmann 1966). Typification is an assignment of a symbolic signifier to mark a social form, or, as Rom Harré (1975) calls it, a social icon’ (emphasis by the author) [p 5]. DPB: ‘When it has a name it is probably dangerous’ Lenartowicz, private conversation]. Once some assemblage has individuated to the point that its repetitions become noticeable / perceptible it is ready to beget a name. A pattern of a sufficiently individuated assemblage is in this way typified and the typified thing is now a social form or a social icon. Once it is named or rather that its name has been repeated a couple of times it is a communication. The name through the communication reciprocally provides stability to the pattern also: now it clear what it is and what it does.

3. Discursive positioning (intentional, on purpose, purposeful, rational)

Through speech acts people can place themselves and be placed by others in a social world via the vehicle of their social persons. This is an effect of the perlocutionary force of an utterance (what social position does it point at), hidden behind the locutionary aspect (what is said) and the illocutionary aspect (what is it said for) [p 5]. The effect of these utterances in practical terms can be monitored using 1st and 2nd order cybernetics. DPB: this reminds me of the connotations: I can account for the locutionary aspect (1st order: information content) and illocutionary (2nd order: to charge the information / idea with a ‘spin’); the perlocutionary is strictly speaking the social version of an illocutionary aspect and as such it is a 2nd order observation; it relates to the cognitive connotation, namely the perceived importance of the information / idea by the group. Perhaps this is a link between social systems and how memes are enacted in people’s minds.

4. Form Mutability

The positioning theory originally focuses on the manners in which speech acts are used to affect and shape social persons and confine them to a set of (rightly or not) assigned attributes and powers. In the triadic conceptualization of Harré and van Langenhove (1999) social actions/acts allocate people to positions, which are construed in relation to a relevant storyline. In my understanding, a storyline is what I referred to above as a social form: a symbolically marked typification of a different scrap of the overall social reality. As a result, while focusing on persons and their thus constructed situations, the theory precisely captures yet another perlocutionary consequence of speech acts. Positioning modifies not only the relative situations of persons but also the state of the social form to which the position is attributed’ [p 6]. DPB: In this way the knife cuts both ways: the person is assigned a position and as her narrative, explaining the entitlement to that position, is in use harnessing her social position, the position it designates is also tested against the social reality the person – and her symbolic position – are in. ‘If we realize that the ‘fabric’ from which a typification of any social form can be carved is nothing else than the totality of all social acts that are available to be observed, an inclusion of the acts performed by one particular person to that selected group of acts is admittedly equally as a phenomenological, interpretative operation as was our previous delineation. Nonetheless, there is one significant addition: the act of including – that is, the act of positioning. Because this is a social (speech) act as well, it is added to the totality of all acts that are available to be observed. The social fabric is expanded by another know, another twist. .. By the means of positioning, by the embedding of a reflection of a person in a form, a single social action can now change the state of that form dramatically – in just one sentence, one gesture, or one grimace’ [p 7]. As all communication, positioning now has become alive and it has come to serve its own purposes: to connect the behavior of social systems and people as social beings through the dynamics of social forms: ‘People who position themselves at the conference podium behave so similarly that the question arises: is it not the social form itself that is acting and affecting the world?’[p 8].

5. Enaction of social forms (I guess I would use the term enactment)

Searle (1990) aptly claims the we-mode of speech – in which we socially act not simply as ourselves but as a part of a social arrangement – to be the very peculiarity of language that brings social ontology into existence’ (emphasis by the author) [p 8]. DPB: tis I find an interesting thought: the reflection or projection onto language of a social construct that includes not just myself, but any form of social construction that includes others too. That word is the reflection of the whole of social systems and it forms the basis for social ontology. ‘When our speech acts position us in a particular social locus, and especially if this happens by the self-positioning of the first order, perlocutionarily, we speak as apart of social entities – possibly almost indistinguishable in our agency from theirs. We speak ‘for them’, ‘as them’, and ‘on behalf of them’, driving what is to be done, why, and how from what the form is comped of already. The dynamic agency of social forms deployed in such a we-mode can no longer be considered merely phenomenologically. Another ontological status is needed’ [p 8]. DPB: I like this as an example of ho someone can speak on behalf of a firm, in any case in the various roles that people associated with firms can have. What distinguishes this theory from others, is that it shows that people, for whatever reason, can actively pursue to manage their position in the group of people they are included in. And then the million dollar question: ‘What is, then, the relationship between people and social forms? A good name for this seems to be enacting. People engage in performing actions, interactions with the world on behalf of a form, as if they were its components, when they are not. Thus, the psycho-social process of positioning and being positioned by others bears a structural consequence: a thus-enacted social form comes to be seen as acting itself’ [p 9]. DPB: I have used this term enacting for the acting out of memes: when people are motivated (set in motion) to act as per the memes they are guided by at some point. But is is not necessarily in a social context, any meme goes. This theory complements the social systems theory by identifying by which mechanism one communication connects to another. In addition enaction is argued to be 1. the fundamental feature of cognition and 2. the formative mechanism that precedes the individuation of all cognizing entities, and hence: ‘the state of being enacted opens up a path for the conceptualization of the emergence of an even stronger existence of social forms’ (emphasis by the author) [p 9].

SemioSphere and Cognition

Lenartowicz, M. . Creatures of the Semiosphere – A problematic third party in the ‘humans plus technology’ cognitive architecture of the future global superintelligence . Technological Forecasting and Social Change . January 2017


Human beings can exert selective pressure on emerging new life-forms. The theory of the Global Brain argues that the foreseen collective and distributed super-intelligence will include humans as its key beneficiaries. The collective architecture will include both humans and such new technologies. DPB: the selective pressure is on signals, the basic unity of communication: namely on the ‘utterances’ &c., information and understanding. According to Luhmann a social system is autonomous and this includes AGI development and GB. Humans can attempt to nudge and irritate these systems to change course, but the outcome of the evolutionary process cannot be known in advance and is therefore uncertain. This article serves to offers a new combination of existing theories: theory of adjacent possible (Kauffmann), semiosphere (Lotman), social systems (Luhmann), Theory of Intelligence (Heylighen). The history of the human species can be re-interpreted such that it is not the individual human being but the social systems that are the more advanced human intelligence currently operating on Earth.

Locating the Crown of Creation

To assume that the human being is the final feat of evolution, is, given its other accomplishments, indefensible. Only our feeling of self-importance makes us believe that we should (and will) remain around forever. Exposing that and theorizing about what comes next is therefore justified. ‘It seems now that we are starting to abandon yet another undue anthropocentric belief that the Artificial (DPB: including AGI), which is passing through our hands, is in simple opposition to the Natural and, as such, is excluded from the workings of evolution’ [p 2]. Because why is the passing through human hands be fundamentally different from the passing through a chemical or a physical process? There is no design condition with regards to size: ‘While the idea does appear fantastic when applied to human beings, for nature such shifts between scales – called meta-system transitions – Turchin 1977, Heylighen 1995) are nothing new’ [p 3]. This is extensively formulated in the theory of the global brain. The crux is an ever thickening and complicating network of communication that humans contribute to and process. According to the global brain the next stage in the evolution of intelligence ‘belongs to a complex, adaptive, cognizing network of interconnected agents: humans and technological systems (Heylighen 2015). A thinking, computing, analysing and strategizing, problem-spotting and problem-solving organ of the planet Earth herself’ [p 3]. DPB: it appears that there is no environment for an evolutionary stage where the entire (surface of) the Earth is occupied with the same; who performs the three selecting processes? An additional question is whether the passed-on crown will still be in our hands. Anthropomorphism is a constrain when thinking about these long term questions. Hence an alternative hypothesis: the social systems are the most intelligent systems on Earth at this point.

An Empty Niche in Hunter-Gatherer’s Eden

Genetically we belong to Eden’ [p 4]. Heylighen assumes that the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (a kind of a reference for the direction and level of adaptedness of human beings, the environment for which we are fit) is based on the hunter-gatherers era. Their fitness was supported by the development of language and other symbolic means of communication. These came about as a variation of the means for ‘exchanging useful information with others’ (Heylighen): ‘Thus, language has become a functional adaptation of the species and, by proving remarkably useful, it got selected to stay’ [p 5]. DPB: In this way language is a feat of biological evolution, adding to the fitness of people, namely through its usefulness. Luhmann’s view on language is that it serves a specific role in between the mind and the communication; that surely being one of his more foggy moments, language, from the moment the first ‘mbwa’ was repeated, came to be autonomous, and hence it was initially selected to stay because it added to the hunter-gatherer’s fitness, or, at least it was of some use and did not harm her enough to be selected away. But that provides sufficient space for language to develop itself in its particular evolutionary process (and not as per Luhmann’s special trajectory). The evolution of the swim bladder has had advantages for the fish and in addition it has created an ‘adjacent possible’, namely a new niche for particular bacteria. In the same vein, the development of symbolic means of communication have provided humans with a new feature, and has created an adjacent possible, ‘within which new designs of evolution could appear. And, what is most spectacular: this niche was created outside the biosphere, giving rise to what Yuri Lotman (2001, 2005) called the semiosphere’ (emphasis by the author) [p 6]. First, this proved to be a pragmatic form of signaling and coordinating of actions. Second it provided an increase of the representational capacity. Third, language enabled the building of relations between occurrences of communication, the semiosphere;’They could refer to, describe, interpret, and evaluate other occurrences of symbolic communication, which have happened before’ [p 6]. In that environment these components of communication, new evolutionary forms could assemble (DeLanda), individuate (Simondon 1992, Weinbaum&Veitas 2016), self-organize (Heylighen 1989, 2002) and evolve. And their evolution again created additional adjacent possibles to be occupied by yet other symbolic forms.

Individuation of the Semiospecies

Therefore, if we consider the development of language as giving rise to the (as yet) empty niche of the semiosphere, it would be the Luhmannian social systems what should be considered the newcomers – the novel forms of life, enabled to emerge and evolve by the adjacent possible’ [p 8]. DPB: I annoted here ‘sunfall’: sounds great but I forgot why. Otherwise it is a good quote to sum up what is explained in the previous paragraph. When it was empty, the semiosphere contained only individual instances of communication for single use, unentangled with other. ‘.. the ‘already not-empty’ semiosphere included also complex, lifelike entanglements of such instances, capable of the prolonged perpetuation of their own patterns and of exerting influence onto their own respective environments (Lenartowicz, Weinbaum & Braathen 2016)’ [p 8]. These entanglements take place as per the three selections of information, utterance and understanding (Luhmann 2002). When these selections are made then three distinctions are added to the semiosphere: the information making boundary between marked (the information that was selected to be included in the signal) and unmarked space (what could have been chosen but wasn’t; and remain available as an ‘adjacent possible’ for a next state), the semiotic boundary between the signified and the signifier (carrier of the information, the form or utterance) and the sense-making boundary between the created sign (and the context (the situation against which the understanding was selected, and harnessed because it was selected at the expense of other ways to understand it). DPB: whatever the signal is made of, once it is a sign (information uttered and understood) the next state of the communication is different from its previous state, but not so different that the communication stops. And hence it is individuating to ever more crystallize the communication monadically! The point Marta makes (and told me she introduced in the NASA article where I can’t find it back in) is that the concept of memes connects with this model: they are what it is that hooks the sequences of signals together to become a communication. I am trying to find a suitable example to illustrate this. ‘.. each of such couplings between two occurrences of communication may be seen as one occurrence ‘passing judgment’ – or projecting its own constitution – upon another. The combinatorial possibilities of how any single occurrence may be related to by a following one are multiple’ [p 10]. DPB: this reminds me of the idea that intention consists in fact of processes of attraction and repulsion. At every state the configuration of properties of the elements / parts is such that its relations seem to favor some and shy away from other possible future states, namely by causing an attraction to some and a repulsion from others. ‘In time, the interacting occurrences of communication form ever-complicating streams, in which each occurrence adheres to many others in multiple ways. Gaining in length, ‘mass’, and coherence, these strings form ‘metastable entities in the course of individuation whose defining characteristics change over time but without losing their long term intrinsic coherence and distinctiveness from their milieu’ (Lenartowicz, Weinbau & Braathen 2016)’ (emphasis by the authors) [p 11]. DPB: the remark about coherence reminds me firstly of the idea of connotations: loose, associative relations between signs. The semiosphere is the universe of all the occurrences of all the symbolic communication. It emerged at the first intentionally issued and understood symbol. DPB: can it be that this occurred at the first instance of 2nd order observation: the issuer of the signal observed and understood that her production of (what was turning out to be) a signal, brought about something in another person in the shape of a kind of behavior (or the lack of it: use your knife and fork!), remembered how to produce the signal, and hence deemed useful to do it again whenever that effect, namely the reaction in the other was desired by the issuer. Conversely now the perceiver understands that the issuer has a particular kind of behavioral reaction in mind whenever she issues that signal and so she remembers it also and when it it is perceived and understood in the future that kind of behavior can be produced (eat with knife and fork, but now very noisy). ‘But a semiosphere understood as a simple aggregate of all communicative occurrences happening in the world was bound to be ‘empty’, as a niche, as long as these communicative occurrences did not relate to one another. If they did not relate, they could not be conserved, and thus had to dissolve momentarily’ [p 11]. DPB: I interpret this as to mean that the the semiosphere could be filled only after it was possible to repeat the use of the signals, and I assume it also means that then it is required to start using them in each other’s context, such that they can be constructed by framing/deframing/reframing them (Luhmann 2002). The repetition allowed for individuation of language and communication to take place; stigmergy provided a memory for the objects and places of interest for the hunter-gatherers’ communities. ‘As a result, the boundaries of social systems were practically equal to the topological boundaries delineating the groups of people who were trained in their processing: if anyone was going to reinforce a certain communication by referring to it within the close circle of its eye and ear witnesses’ [p 13]. DPB: this is how we do things around here and if you act like this you surely can be only one of them. When the use of symbols occurred is uncertain, but at least prior to the earliest cave paintings 40ky ago.

A superintelligence which goes unnoticed

The above can be summarized in the statement that assemblages of symbols can self-organize and individuate into creatures of the semiosphere. Now the next step is the statement that these creatures behave intelligently, given that: ‘The thought experiment proposed here is different (to considering the preponderance of the intelligence of a group of people over that of a number of individuals, DPB). It is to consider the intelligence of the self-organizing streams communication delineated in such a way, which treats the human species as their environment’ [p 14]. DPB: I have referred to this condition of people in regards to their relation to communication or memeplexes as a substrate. Should I replace the more unfriendly substrate for environment? The definition of intelligence of Heylighen is used: ‘.. not abstract reasoning (agree DPB), thinking (this is Weaver’s approach, DPB), or computing (this is my approach, but meant in the sense of information processing). It is rather directing and coordinating the actions of an organism within its environment’ [p 14]. DPB: I am not sure of the relevance of the concept of intelligence for my research subject. As it is defined here it is similar to the capacity to anticipate, namely reduce the uncertainties from the environment. In the same vein it can be stated that intelligence is the processing of information from outside so as to steer the operations of a system so as to maintain its autopoiesis intact. The article refers to Heylighen 2014, who points at fitness, but I am not so sure about that concept: it is a constant: a level of performance of the internal operations which is required to have the smallest possible advantage in the real over the entities in the environment. I don’t know. The concept of environmental fitness might be explained by this model of three layers: 1. the environment which is referred to by the communication, 2. other occurrences of symbolic communication, and 3. substrate needed for the operating of the system, namely through uttering, memory, selection making, &c. ‘Once a communication is immortalized through writing, print, digitalization, or another for of recording, it may as well wait decades or centuries for its follower’ [p 16]. DPB: my annotations says stigmergy, but I don’t think that is intended with that concept. It reminds me of the way people can interact in my Logistical Model: there is no reason this should be ‘live’, or at the same location or even at the same time. In other words: to read a book is logically a way to interact with the author of the book. This admittedly feels asymmetrical, because it a one-way thing because you cannot talk back at the author to let her know your response. It is a signal that damages the reader but the not the other way around. And there is also no 2nd order observation in place. But: it is a signal, a meme changes state and so at least it is a bubble. ‘Symbols, narratives, context, and operational consequences can be always restored. This suggests that while, in the most general sense, the environmental fitness of any ‘semiocreature’ hinges on the ability to attract and tie successive occurrences of communication, this process does not have to be continuous nor instant’ [p 16]. DPB: I am curious about the ‘tying’: that is represented by my connotations. ‘What is less frequently realised is that the (re-)presentations are potentially stoppable at any time through a simple withdrawal of all reinforcing communication-making activity on the human side. But this seems to be about the only possible way of dismantling them, as occurrences of communication do reinforce the (re-)presentations of social systems even if they aim to criticize, challenge, or modify them. ‘Semiocreatures’ which are being spoken of are never dead’ [p 17]. DPB: this reminds of the saying that any publicity is good publicity. Also this is why some politicians remain popular for an unimaginable long time. Lastly this refers to the idea of familiarization: when referred to more often, an idea stays on top of mind, but if referred to less often it becomes less and less ‘readily available’ (paraat). Perhaps the idea is not realised so often (as per above) because according to Spinoza people can’t help themselves and they must talk. (With a reference to the ability to deal out stuff to people that are to the advantage of the dealer and not the person) ‘If intelligence is measured by the ability to safeguard and increase one’s own environmental fitness, when confronted with a ‘semiocreature’, we are quite fast to give it up’ [p 18].

Social Systems and Autopoiesis

Lenartowicz, M. . Linking Social Communication to Individual Cognition: Communication Science between Social Constructionism and Radical Constructivism . Constructivist Foundations vol. 12 No 1 . 2016

I wish to differentiate between between a social species in the organic, animalistic sense and the interconnectivity of social personas in social science’s sense. While the former expresses its sense structures, co-opting language and other available symbolic tools towards its own autopoietic self-perpetuation and survival, the latter (personas) self-organize out of the usages of these tools – and aggregate up into larger self-organizing social constructs’ [p 50]. DPB: I find this important because it adds a category of behavior to the existing ones: biological (love of kin &c.), the social (altruism) of the category that improves the probability that the organisms survives, and added is now externally directed behavior that produces self-organization in their aggregate. ‘If we agree to approach social systems as cognitive agents per se, we must assume that there will be instances, or aspects, of human expression that are rather pulled by the “creatures of the semiosphere”, as I call the autopoietic constructs of the social (Lenartowicz 2016), for the sake of their own self-perpetuation, than pushed by the sense-structures of the human self’ [p 50]. DPB: I like this idea of the human mind being attracted by some aspects of social systems (and / or repelled by others); a term that is much used in ECCO is whether ‘something resonates with someone’. The argument above is that a push and a pull exist and that in the case of the social, the semiotic creatures have the upper hand, over the proffered biological motivations. ‘The RC (radical constructivist) approach to human consciousness must, then, be balanced by the RC view of the social as an individuated, survival-seeking locus of cognition. The difference between the two kinds of organic and symbolic expressions of sociality, which are here suggested as perpetuating the two distinct autopoietic systems, .. has finally settled the long-standing controversy about whether social systems are autopoietic (..), demonstrating that both sides were right. They were simply addressing two angles of the social. Maturana’s objections originated from his understanding of social relatedness as a biological phenomenon (the organic social), whereas the position summarized by Cadenas and Arnold-Cathalifaud was addressing the social as it is conceived by the social sciences (the symbolic social). The difference here is not in the different disciplinary lenses being applied to the same phenomenon. Rather, it is between two kinds of phenomena, stemming from the cognitive operation of two kinds of autopoietic embodiments. For one, the social is an extension, or an expression, of the organic, physical embodiment of a social species. It does not form an operational closure itself. For the other, the social has happened to self-organize and evolve in a manner that has led it to spawn autonomous, autopoietic and individuating cognitive agents – the “social systems” about which Luhmann wrote’ [p 50]. DPB: this is a long quote with some important elements. First the dichotomy is explained between the social aspects of humans. Second the reason why Maturana was, of all people, opposed to the applicability of autopoiesis to social systems. Now it seems clear why. Third, embodiment is introduced: for the organic social, the social is an extension of the physical embodiment of the individual, but without the autonomy; for the other the social ís the embodiment, namely it self-organizes and evolves into autonomous systems. I like that: the organization at the scale of the human and the organization at the level of the aggregate of the humans.

The Way we are Free

‘The Way we are Free’ . David R. Weinbaum (Weaver) . ECCO . VUB . 2017

Abstract: ‘It traces the experience of choice to an epistemic gap inherent in mental processes due to them being based on physically realized computational processes. This gap weakens the grasp of determinism and allows for an effective kind of freedom. A new meaning of freedom is explored and shown to resolve the fundamental riddles of free will, ..’. The supposed train of thought from this summary:

  1. (Physically realized) computational processes underpin mental processes
  2. These computational processes are deterministic
  3. These computational processes are not part of people’s cognitive domain: there is an epistemic gap between them
  4. The epistemic gap between the deterministic computational processes and the cognitive processes weakens the ‘grasp of determinism’ (this must logically imply that the resulting cognitive processes are to some extent based on stochastic processes)
  5. The weakened grasp leads to an ‘effective kind of freedom’ (but what is an effective kind of freedom? Maybe it is not really freedom but it has the effect of it, a de facto freedom, or the feeling of freedom)?
  6. We can be free in a particular way (and hence the title).

First off: the concept of an epistemic gap resembles the concept of a moral gap. Is it the same concept?

p 3: ‘This gap, it will be argued, allows for a sense of freedom which is not epiphenomenal,..’ (a kind of a by-product). The issue is of course ‘a sense of freedom’, it must be something that can be perceived by the beholder. The question is whether this is real freedom or a mere sense of freedom, if there is a difference between these.

‘The thesis of determinism about actions is that every action is determined by antecedently sufficient causal conditions. For every action the causal conditions of the action in that context are sufficient to produce that action. Thus, where  actions are concerned, nothing could happen differently from the way it does in fact happen. The thesis of free will, sometimes called “libertarianism”, states that  some actions, at least, are such that antecedent causal conditions of the action are not causally sufficient to produce the action. Granted that the action did occur, and it did occur for a reason, all the same, the agent could have done something else, given the same antecedents of the action’ [Searle 2001]. In other (my, DPB) words: for all deterministic processes the direction of the causality is dictated by the cause and effect relation. But for choices produced from a state of free will other actions (decisions) are possible, because the causes are not sufficient to produce the action. Causes are typically difficult to deal with in a practical sense because some outcome must be related to its causes. This can only be done after the outcome has occurred. Usually the causes for that outcome are very difficult to identify, because the relation is  if and only if. In addition a cause is usually a kind of a scatter of processes within some given contour or pattern, one of which must then ‘take the blame’ as the cause.

There is no question that we have experiences of the sort that I have been calling experiences of the gap; that is, we experience our own normal voluntary actions
in such a way that we sense alternative possibilities of actions open to us, and we sense that the psychological antecedents of the action are not sufficient to fix the action. Notice that on this account the problem of free will arises only for consciousness, and it arises only for volitional or active consciousness; it does not arise for perceptual consciousness‘ [Searle 2001]. This means that a choice is made even though the psychological conditions to make ‘the perfect choice’ are not satisfied, information is incomplete or a frivolous choice is made: ‘should I order a pop-soda or chocolate milk?’. ‘The gap is a real psychological phenomenon, but if it is a real phenomenon that makes a difference in the world, it must have a neurobiological correlate’ [Searle 2001]. Our options seem to be equal to us and we can make a choice between various options on a just-so basis (‘god-zegene-de-greep’). Is it therefore not also possible that when people are aware of these limitations they have a greater sense of freedom  to make a choice within the parameters known and available to them?

It says that psychological processes of rational decision making do not really matter. The entire system is deterministic at the bottom level, and the idea that the top level has an element of freedom is simply a systematic illusion… If hypothesis 1 is true, then every muscle movement as well as every conscious thought, including the conscious experience of the gap, the experience of “free” decision making, is entirely fixed in advance; and the only thing we can say about psychological indeterminism at the higher level is that it gives us a systematic illusion of free will. The thesis is epiphenomenalistic in this respect: there is a feature of our conscious life, rational decision making and trying to carry out the decision, where we experience the gap and we experience the processes as making a causal difference to our behavior, but they do not in fact make any difference. The bodily movements were going to be exactly the same regardless of how these processes occurred‘ [Searle 2001]. The argument above presupposes a connection between determinism and inevitability, although the environment is not mentioned in the quote. This appears to be flawed because there is no such connection. I have discussed (ad-nauseam) in the Essay Free Will Ltd, borrowing amply from Dennett (i.a. Freedom Evolves). The above quote can be summarized as: if local rules are determined then the whole system is determined. Its future must be knowable, its behavior unavoidable and its states and effects inevitable. In that scenario our will is not free, our choices are not serious and the mental processes (computation) are a mere byproduct of deterministic processes. However, consider this argument that is relevant here developed by Dennett:

  • In some deterministic worlds avoiders exist that avoid damage
  • And so in some deterministic worlds some things are avoided
  • What is avoided is avoidable or ‘evitable’ (the opposite of inevitable)
  • And so in some deterministic worlds not everything is inevitable
  • And so determinism does not imply inevitability

Maybe this is how it will turn out, but if so, the hypothesis seems to me to run against everything we know about evolution. It would have the consequence
that the incredibly elaborate, complex, sensitive, and – above all – biologically expensive system of human and animal conscious rational decision making would actually make no difference whatever to the life and survival of the organisms’ [Searle 2001]. But the argument cannot logically be true and as a consequence nothing is wasted so far.

In the case that t2>t1, it can be said that a time interval T=t2-t1 is necessary for the causal circumstance C to develop (possibly through a chain of intermediate effects) into E. .. The time interval T needed for the process of producing E is therefore an integral part of the causal circumstance that necessitates the eventual effect E. .. We would like to think about C as an event or a compound set of events and conditions. The time interval T is neither an event nor a condition‘ [p 9-10]. This argument turns out to be a bit of a sideline, but I defend the position that time is not an autonomous parameter, but a derivative from ‘clicks’ of changes in relations with neighboring systems: this quote covers it perfectly: ‘Time intervals are measured by counting events‘ [p 9]. And this argues exactly the opposite: ‘Only if interval T is somehow filled by other events such as the displacement of the hands of a clock, or the cyclic motions of heavenly bodies, it can be said to exist‘ [p 9], because time is the leading parameter and the events such as the moving of the arm of a clock is the product. This appears to be the world explained upside down (the intentions seem right): ‘If these events are also regularly occurring and countable, T can even be measured by counting these regular events. If no event whatsoever can be observed to occur between t1 and t2, how can one possibly tell that there is a temporal difference between them, that any time has passed at all? T becoming part of C should mean therefore that a nonzero number N of events must occur in the course of E being produced from C’ [p. 9]. My argument is that if a number of events lead to the irreversible state E from C then apparently time period T has passed. Else, if nothing irreversible takes place, then no time passes, because time is defined by ‘clicks’ occurring, not the other way around. Note that the footnote 2 on page 9 explains the concept of a ‘click’ between systems in different words.

The concepts of Effective and Neutral T mean a state of a system developing from C to E while conditions from outside the system are injected, and where the system develops to E from its own initial conditions alone. Note that this formulation is different from Weaver’s argument because t is not a term. So Weaver arrives at the right conclusion, namely that this chain of events of Effective T leads to a breakdown of the relation between deterministic rules and predictability [p 10], but apparently for the wrong reasons. Note also that Neutral T is sterile because in practical terms it never occurs. This is probably an argument against the use of the argument of Turing completeness with regards to the modeling of organizations as units of computation: in reality myriad of signals is injected into (and from) a system, not a single algorithm starting from some set of initial conditions, but a rather messy and diffuse environment.

Furthermore, though the deterministic relation (of a computational process DPB) is understood as a general lawful relation, in the case of computational processes, the unique instances are the significant ones. Those particular instances, though being generally determined a priori, cannot be known prior to concluding their particular instance of  computation. It follows therefore that in the case of computational processes, determinism is in some deep sense unsatisfactory. The knowledge of (C, P) still  leaves us in darkness in regards to E during the time interval T while the  computation takes place. This interval represents if so an epistemic gap. A gap during which the fact that E is determined by (C, P) does not imply that E is known or can be known, inferred, implied or predicted in the same manner that  fire implies the knowledge of smoke even before smoke appears. It can be said if so that within the epistemic gap, E is determined yet actually it is unknown and  cannot be known‘ [p 13]. Why is this problematic? The terms are clear, there is no stochastic element, it takes time to compute but the solution is determined prior to the finalization of the computation. Only if the input or the rules changes during the computation, rendering it incomputable or irrelevant. In other words: if the outcome E can be avoided then E is avoidable and the future of the system is not determined.

.. , still it is more than plausible that mental states develop in time in correspondence to the computational processes to which they are correlated. In other words, mental processes can be said to be temporally aligned to the neural  processes that realize them‘ [p 14]. What does temporally aligned mean? I agree if it means that these processes develop following, or along the same sequence of events. I do not agree if  it means that time (as a driver of change) has the same effect on either of the processes, computational (physical) and mental (psychological): time has no effect.

During gap T the status of E is determined by conditions C and P but its specifics remain unknown by anyone during T (suppose it is in my brain then I of all people would be the one to know and I don’t). And at t2, T having passed, any freedom of choice is in retrospect, E now being known. T1 and t2 are in the article  defined as the begin state and the end state of some computational system. If t1 is defined as the moment when an external signal is perceived by the system and t2 is defined as the moment at which a response if communicated by the system to Self and to outside, then the epistemic gap is ‘the moral gap’. This phrase refers to the lapsed time between the perception of an input signal and the communicating of the decision to Self and others. The moral comes from the idea that the message was ‘prepared in draft’ and tested against a moral frame of reference before being communicated. The moral gap exists because the human brain needs time to compute and process the input information and formulate an answer. The Self can be seen as the spokesperson, functionally a layer on top of the other functions of the brain and it takes time to make the computation and formulate its communication to Self and to external entities.

After t1 the situation unfolds as: ‘Within the time interval T between t1 and t2, the status of the resulting mental event or action is unknown because, as explained, it is within the epistemic gap. This is true in spite the fact that the determining setup (C, P) is already set at time t1 (ftn 5) , and therefore it can be said that E is already determined at t1. Before time t2, however, there can be no knowledge whether E or its opposite or any other event in <E> would be the actual outcome of the process‘ [p 17]. E is determined but not known. But Weaver counter argues: ‘While in the epistemic gap, the person indeed is going through a change, a computation of a deliberative process is taking place. But as the change unfolds, either E or otherwise can still happen at time t2 and in this sense the outcome is yet to be determined (emphasis by the author). The epistemic gap is a sort of a limbo state where the outcome E of the mental process is both determined (generally) and not determined (particularly) [p 17]. The outcome E is determined but unknown to Self and to God; God knows it is determined, but Self is not aware of this. In this sense it can also be treated as a change of perspective, from the local observer to a distant more objective observer.

During the epistemic gap another signal can be input into the system and set up for computation. The second computation can interrupt the one running during the gap or the first one is paused or they run in parallel. However the case may be, it is possible that E never in fact takes place. While determined by C at t1 not E takes place at t2 but another outcome, namely of another computation that replaced the initial one. If C, E and P are specific for C and started by it then origination is an empty phrase, because now a little tunnel of information processing is started and nothing interferes. If they are not then new external input is required which specifies a C1, and so see the first part of the sentence and a new ‘tunnel’ is opened.

This I find interesting: ‘Moreover, we can claim that the knowledge brought forth by the person at t2 be it a mental state or an action is unique and original. This uniqueness and originality are enough to lend substance to the authorship of the person and therefore to the origination at the core of her choice. Also, at least in some sense, the author carrying out the process can be credited or held responsible to the mental state or action E, him being the agent without whom E could not be brought forth‘ [p 18]. The uniqueness of the computational procedure of an individual makes her the author and she can be held responsible for the outcome. Does this uphold even if it is presupposed that her thoughts, namely computational processes, are guided by memes? Is her interpretation of the embedded ideas and her computation of the rules sufficiently personal to mark them as ‘hers’?

This is the summary of the definition of the freedom argued here: ‘The kind of freedom argued for here is not rooted in .., but rather in the very mundane process of bringing forth the genuine and unique knowledge inherent in E that was not available otherwise. It can be said that in any such act of freedom a person describes and defines herself anew. When making a choice, any choice, a person may become conscious to how the choice defines who he is at the moment it is made. He may become conscious to the fact that the knowledge of the choice irreversibly changed him. Clearly this moment of coming to know one‟s choice is indeed a moment of surprise and wonderment, because it could not be known beforehand what this choice might be. If it was, this wouldn‟t be a moment of choice at all and one could have looked backward and find when the  actual choice had been made. At the very moment of coming to know the choice that was made, reflections such as „I could have chosen otherwise‟ are not valid  anymore. At that very moment the particular instance of freedom within the gap  disappears and responsibility begins. This responsibility reflects the manner by  which the person was changed by the choice made‘[pp. 18 -9]. The author claims that it is not a reduced kind of freedom, but a full version, because: ‘First, it is coherent and consistent with the wider understanding we have about the world involving the concept of determinism.  Second, it is consistent with our experience of freedom while we are in the process of deliberation. Third, we can now argue that our choices are effective in the world and not epiphenomenal. Furthermore, evolution in general and each person‟s unique experience and wisdom are critical factors in shaping the mental processes of deliberation‘ [p 19]. Another critique could be that this is a strictly personal experience of freedom, perhaps even in a psychological sense. What about physical and social elements, in other words: how would Zeus think about it?

This is why it is called freedom: ‘Freedom of the will in its classic sense is a confusion arising from our deeply ingrained need for control. The classic problem of free will is the problem of whether or not we are inherently able to control a given life situation. Origination in the classic sense is the ultimate control status. The sense of freedom argued here leaves behind the need for control. The meaning of being free has to do with (consciously observing) the unfolding of who we are while being in the gap, the transition from a state of not knowing into a state of knowing, that is. It can be said that it is not the choice being originated by me but  rather it is I, through choice, who is being continuously originated as the person that I am. The meaning of such freedom is not centered around control but rather around the novelty and uniqueness as they arise within each and every choice as one‟s truthful expression of being‘ [p 20]. But  in this sense there is no control over the situation, and given there is the need to control is relinquished, this fact allows one to be free.

‘An interesting result regarding freedom follows: a person‟s choice is free if and only if she is the first to produce E. This is why it is not an unfamiliar experience that when we are in contact with persons that are slower than us in reading the situation and computing proper responses, we experience an expansion of our freedom and genuineness, while when we are in contact with persons that are faster than us, we experience that our freedom diminishes.

Freedom can then be understood as a dynamic property closely related to computation means and distribution of information. A person cannot expect to be free in the same manner in different situations. When one‟s mental states and actions are often predicted in advance by others who naturally use these  predictions while interacting with him, one‟s freedom is diminished to the point where no genuine unfolding of his being is possible at all. The person becomes a  subject to a priori determined conditions imposed on him. He will probably experience himself being trapped in a situation that does not allow him any genuine expression. He loses the capacity to originate because somebody or something already knows what will happen. In everyday life, what rescues our freedom is that we are all more or less equally competent in predicting each other‟s future states and actions. Furthermore, the computational procedures that implement our theories of mind are far from accurate or complete. They are more like an elaborate guess work with some probability of producing accurate predictions. Within such circumstances, freedom is still often viable. But this may  soon radically change by the advent of neural and cognitive technologies. In fact it is already in a process of a profound change.

In simple terms, the combination of all these factors will make persons much more predictable to others and will have the effect of overall diminishing the number of instances of operating within an epistemic gap and therefore the  conditions favorable to personal freedom. The implications on freedom as described here are that in the future people able to augment their mental processes to enjoy higher computing resources and more access to information will become freer than others who enjoy less computing resources and access to information. Persons who will succeed to keep sensitive information regarding their minute to minute life happenings and their mental states secured and  private will be freer than those who are not. A future digital divide will be translated into a divide in freedom‘ [pp 23-6].

I too believe that our free will is limited, but for additional and different reasons, namely the doings of memes. I do believe that Weaver has a point with his argument of the experience of freedom in the gap (which I had come to know as the ‘Moral Gap’) and the consequences it can have for our dealings with AI. There my critique would be that the AI are assumed to be exactly the same as people, but with two exceptions: the argument made explicit that 1) they compute much faster than people and the argument 2) left implicit that people experience their unique make-up such that they are confirmed by it as per their every computation; this experience represents their freedom. Now people have a unique experience of freedom that an AI can never attain providing them a ticket to relevance among AI. I’m not sure that if argument 2 is true that argument 1 can be valid also.

I agree with this, also in the sense of the coevalness between individuals and firms. If firms do their homework and such that they prepare their interactions with the associated people, then they will come out better prepared. As a result people will feel small and objectivised. They are capable of computing the outcome before you do hence predicting your future and limiting you perceived possibilities. However, this is still a result of a personal and subjective experience and not an objective fact, namely that the outcome is as they say, not as you say.


Feyerabend, Paul . Against method (oospr London Verso), Tegen De Methode. Lemniscaat 2008 . ISBN 1993978-90-477-0031-9

Contra-inductie: hypothesen introduceren en uit te werken die niet stroken met goed bewezen thorriem en of met goed vastgestelde feiten.

Toename van theorieën: anything goes.

‘De creatie van één ding en de creatie van, plus het volledige inzicht in, een juist idee van het ding zijn heel vaak onderdelen van één en hetzelfde ondeelbare proces en kunnen niet worden gescheten zover het proces tot stilstand te brengen’ (p 55).

‘.. dat talen en de reactiepatronen die ze inhouden niet louter instrumenten zijn om gebeurtenissen (feiten, toestanden) te beschrijven, maar dat ze gebeurtenissen (feiten, toestanden) eveneens vormgeven, dat hun ‘grammatica’ en kosmologie omdat, een allesomvattende visie op de wereld, op de samenleving, op de situatie van de mens, die het denken, het gedrag en de waarneming beïnvloedt’ (p 179). ‘Volgens Whorf komt de kosmologie van een taal deels tot uitdrukking door het openlijke gebruik van worden, maar ze berust ook op classificaties die geen openlijk kenteken hebben (..) maar die werken (..) door een onzichtbare ‘centrale uitwisseling’ van aaneengeschakelde verbindingen, zó dat ze de andere woorden die de klasse kenmerken, bepalen’ (p 179). Whorf . Language, Thought and Reality . Cambridge, mass. 1956 . P121.

Omdat na de paradigmaverschuiving nieuwe maatstaven bij oude worden gevoegd, is er geen gemeenschappelijke maat meer en kan er geen logische dwingende reden gegeven worden om te kiezen tussen twee theorieën. Dit is het principe van de incommensurabiliteitsthese. En object of theorie kan beoordeeld worden vanuit verschillende classificatie systemen; die, ten overvloede, beide aansluiten bij de voorhanden stimuli. Een voorbeeld hiervan in de sfeer van perceptie is (iedere afbeelding met perspectief in feite, bijvoorbeeld blokje met kruisje / piramide vanaf de basis of vanaf de apex gezien?). ‘In al deze voorbeelden hangt het waargenomen beeld af van ‘mentale doodposities’ die naar willekeur kunnen worden veranderd (..). Mentale disposities kunnen echter verstarren door ziekte, ten gevolge van een opvoeding binnen een bepaalde cultuur, of vanwege fysiologische determinanten die we niet onder controle hebben. (Niet elke verandering van taal gaat gepaard met perceptuele veranderingen.) Onze houding tegenover andere rassen of tegenover mensen met een andere culturele achtergrond hangt vaak af van’verstarde’ disposities van de tweede soort: omdat we hebben geleerd gezichten op een gekke manier te ‘lezen’ velen we geijkte oordelen en komen we op een dwaalspoor.’ (p 182).

En nagels is de perceptie afbeelding van een object in het brein van iemand. En pseudonabeeld is een afbeelding van een object in het brein van iemand (zonder dat die persoon het object percipieert, bijvoorbeeld door te zien. De familie van concepten rondom een pseudonabeeld en de familie van concepten rondom een materieel object zijn incommensurabel: ‘.. deze families kunnen niet gelijktijdig worden gebruikt en er kunnen noch logische, noch perceptuele verbanden tussen hen eisen gelegd.’ (p 183). De vraag is of een volwassene opgescheept is met een stabiel perceptuele wereld en een daarmee gepaard gaand stabiel conceptueel systeem, dat hij op vele manieren kan wijzigen maar waarvan de hoofdlijnen voor altijd vastliggen. Of is het realistischer te veronderstellen dat veranderingen die incommensurabiliteit met zich meebrengen mogelijk zijn en aangemoedigd moeten worden om een hoger kennis niveau te kunnen bereiken.

Er zijn geen ‘neutrale’ objecten die in ongeacht welke stijl dan ook kunnen worden weergegeven en die de nabijheid van die stijl aan de werkelijkheid afmeten. In andere woorden: iedere afbeelding van een object is door de wol van een bepaalde stijl geverfd; geen enkel object ontkomt daaraan. De toepassing van deze gedachte op talen ligt voor de hand. ‘Daarom zouden we eigenlijk niet moeten zoeken naar de psychische oorzaak van een ‘stijl’, maar eerder moeten proberen de elementen ervan te ontdekken, de functie ervan te analyseren, haar te vergelijken met andere uitingen van dezelfde cultuur ) literaire stijl, zinsconstructie, grammatica, ideologie) om zo tot een schets te komen van het daaraan ten grondslag liggende wereldbeeld, inclusief een verklaring van de wijze waarop dit wereldbeeld de waarneming, het denken en de argumentatie beïnvloedt, en van de grenzen die het aan het ronddwalen van de verbeeldingskracht oplegt.’ (p 185). Een paratactische weergave betekent dat een afbeelding uit componenten wordt samengesteld, en zich sequentieel laat begrijpen. Het ‘leest’ als bijvoorbeeld: kind (rustig), Leeuw (woest), Leeuw eet kind. Er is geen organisatie tussen de componenten, dus de gelaatsuitdrukking van het kind verandert niet. De afgebeelde personen drukken geen natuurlijk besef uit van hun situatie. Dat is wel zo in het geval van een hypotactische beschrijving. Mensen in de oudheid zouden zich ook marionetten kunnen voelen die alleen afhankelijk zijn van externe invloeden. Zo’n realistische interpretatie van stijlen strookt met de stelling van Whorf dat talen, behalve instrumenten om gebeurtenissen te beschrijven, ergens gebeurtenissen vormgeven. Er bestaat dan een linguïstische grens aan wat er in een bepaalde taal kan worden gezegd, en die grens valt samen met de grenzen van het ding zelf. Hij zou verder reiken omdat niet-linguïstische representaties zijn inbegrepen. De realistische interpretatie is aannemelijk maar niet vanzelfsprekend, omdat de kunstenaar een ‘draai’ kan hebben gegeven. ‘De argumentatie (die nooit afdoend kan zijn) bestaat uit het wijzen op karakteristieke kenmerken in ver uitengelegen gebieden. Als de typerende eigenschappen van een specifieke stijl in de schilderkunst ook worden aangetroffen in de beeldhouwkunst en in de grammatica van de talen uit die tijd (en hier vooral in verborgen classificaties die niet eenvoudig te traceren zijn), als kan worden aangetoond dat die talen zowel door kunstenaars als door gewone mensen worden gesproken, als er in de talen filosofische principes zijn geformuleerd die verklaren dat de typerende eigenschappen kenmerken van de wereld zijn en niet slechts kunstmatig toegebrachte kenmerken, en er geen poging wordt gedaan de oorsprong van die principes te verklaren, als de mens en de natuur die kenmerken niet alleen in de schilderkunst bronnen, maar ook in de dichtkunst, in veel voorkomende spreekwoorden en in de gangbare rechtspraak, als de gedachte dat de kenmerken onderdelen zijn van de normale waarneming niet wordt tegengesproken door iets wat we uit de fysiologie of de waarnemingspsychologie weten en als latere denkers de typerende eigenschappen aanvallen als ‘dwalingen’ die voortkomen uit onwetendheid over de’ware weg’ , dan mogen we aannemen dat we niet slechts te maken hebben met technische mislukkingen en specifieke doeleinden, maar met een coherente levenswijze, en mogen we verwachten dat mensen die op deze manier leven de wereld op dezelfde manier zagen als wij nu hun afbeeldingen zien’ (p 190). NB: Hoofdstuk 16 beschrijft een procedure om een meme(plex) te destilleren uit culturele expressies. Hierboven de samenvatting. Deze mensen leven inderdaad in een wereld zoals die door hun kunstenaars wordt afgebeeld.

‘Aldus opgevatte kennis wordt niet verworven door inzicht te krijgen in een essentie achter de boodschappen van zintuigen, maar door 1) de waarnemer in de juiste positie te plaatsen ten opzichte van het object (het proces, de verzameling), door hem op de passende plaats in te voegen in het complexe patroon dat de wereld vormt, en door 2) de elementen bij elkaar te voegen die onder deze omstandigheden worden opgemerkt.’ (p 196).

‘Net als ieder ander object is de mens en uitwisselingsplaats van invloeden en niet zozeer een unieke bron van actie, een ‘ik’ (het ‘Cogito’ van Descartes heeft geen aangrijpingspunt in deze wereld, en met zijn argumentatie kan zelfs geen begin worden gemaakt.)’ (p 197).

‘Er zijn te veel dingen, te veel gebeurtenissen, te veel situaties (Ilias, 2.488), en die kunnen slechts enkele van hen nabij zijn (Ilias, 2.485). Maar ook al kunnen mensen geen volledige kennis hebben, ze beschikken wel over een flinke hoeveelheid ervan. Hoe rijker hun ervaring, hoe groter het aantal van hun avonturen, van de dingen die ze gezien, gehoord en gelezen hebben, des te groter is hun kennis.’ (p 208).

‘En heel wereldbeeld, en heel universum van denken, spreken en waarnemen wordt ontbonden’ (p214). NB bij de overgang van kosmos A naar kosmos B (paradigma). ‘Gezien vanuit A (en eveneens vanuit het gezichtspunt van enkele latere ideologieën) zijn al deze denkers, dichters en kunstenaars malende krankzinnigen. .. We hebben een gezichtspunt (theorie, referentiekader, kosmos, wijze van re-presentatie) waarvan de elementen (concepten, ‘ feiten’, afbeeldingen) opgebouwd zijn volgens bepaalde constructie principes. De principes houden iets in als een soort afsluiting: er zijn dingen die niet kunnen worden gezegd of’ontdekt’, zonder de principes te overtreffen (en dat betekent niet heen tegenspreken). Zeg die dingen, doe de ontdekking, en de principes worden buiten werking gesteld. Neem nu die constituent principes die ten grondslag liggen aan elk element van de kosmos (van de theorie), elk feit (elk concept). Laten we zulke principes universele principesvan de theorie in kwestie noemen. Universele principes buiten werking stellen betekent alle feiten en alle concepten buiten werking stellen. Laten we tenslotte een ontdekking, of een uitspraak, of een houding incommensurabel met de kosmos (de theorie, het referentiekader) noemen als ze enkele van de universele principes ervan buiten werking stelt.’ ( p 215).

‘Hoe wordt de irrationaliteit van de overgangsperiode (van A naar B, dpb) overwonnen? Ze wordt overwonnen op de gebruikelijke manier (zie punt 8 hierboven), dat wil zeggen, door de vastbesloten productie van onzin, totdat het geproduceerde materiaal overvloedig genoeg is om aan de rebellen toe te staan nieuwe universele principes te onthullen en aan alle anderen die te erkennen. (..). Krankzinnigheid verandert in psychische gezondheid, mits ze rijk genoeg en ordelijk genoeg is om het als een fundament van een nieuw wereldbeeld te functioneren.’ (p 216-7).

‘Op basis van wat is gezegd, is het duidelijk dat er de inhoud van A en B niet kunnen vergelijken. (..). .. :B feiten presenteren betekent de principes buiten werking stellen die bij de constructie van A-feiten werden voorondersteld. Al wat we kunnen doen, is B-afbeeldingen van A-feiten in B tekenen, of B-uitspraken over A-feiten in B introduceren.’ (p 217).

Appendix 2

‘.. en dat lijkt te impliceren dat sterk verschillende talen niet alleen verschillende ideeën voor waar aannemen om dezelfde feiten te ordenen, maar dat ze ook verschillende feiten voor waar aannemen. Het ‘linguïstisch relativiteitsprincipe’ wijst zo te zien in dezelfde richting. Het zegt ‘dat, in informele termen, gebruikers van Bert uiteenlopende grammatica’s door hun grammatica’s worden gericht op verschillende soorten waarnemingen en verschillende evaluaties van uiterlijk soortgelijke waarnemings handelingen, en derhalve geen gelijkwaardige waarnemers zijn, maar bij enigzins verschillende wereldbeelden moeten uitkomen. (..) en dat kan betekenen dat waarnemers die van sterk verschillende taalkundig gebruik maken onder dezelfde materiële omstandigheden verschillende feiten voor waar zullen houden, ofwel dat ze soortgelijke feiten op verschillende manieren zullen ordenen.’ (p 219).

‘Incommensurabiliteit verdwijnt wanneer we concepten gebruiken zoals wetenschappers dat doen, op een open, ambigue en vaak contra-intuïtieve wijze. Incommensurabiliteit is een probleem voor filosofen, niet voor wetenschappers, ook al kunnen de laatst laatstgenoemden psychologisch de draad kwijtraken door ongewone dingen’ (p 221).

Wetenschap moet politiek zijn, het moet historisch onderbouwd zijn (maar op een niet-theoretische manier), en niet epistemologisch onderbouwd.


‘Tot nu toe heb ik geprobeerd aan te tonen dat de rede, .., niet geschikt is voor de wetenschap en mogelijk niet heeft bijgedragen tot de ontwikkeling ervan. Zij moeten nu een keus maken. Ze kunnen de wetenschap behouden of ze kunnen de rede behouden; ze kunnen niet beide behouden’ (p 225).

‘De interacties en de resultaten daarvan hangen af van historische omstandigheden en variëren van geval tot geval. En machtige stam die een land binnenvalt, kan zijn weten opleggen en de inheemse tradities met geld veranderen, alleen maar om zelf te worden veranderd door de overblijfselen van de onderworpen cultuur’ (p 226) NB meer voorbeelden van wal en schip.

Naturalisme schiet tekort, omdat een tunnel ontstaat en alles uit het huidige wordt verklaard. Idealisme schiet tekort omdat de praktijk zich niet houdt aan de theoretische regels. Interactie schiet tekort omdat de twee werelden niet aansluiten, namelijk streng en ordelijk enerzijds en plooibaar en weerbarstig anderzijds. De aanvulling die nodig is is óf historisch onderzoek óf politieke actie. Hierover de volgende punten:

I tradities bestaan gewoon, goed noch slecht, II tradities krijgen pas al dan niet wenselijke eigenschappen in relatie met tot andere, III relativisme betreft tradities is verdedigbaar ergens redelijkheid en beschaafdheid IV iedere traditie heeft speciale middelen om volgelingen te werven, V Individuen of groepen die aan de interactie van tradities deelnemen kunnen een pragmatische filosofie aanvaarden bij de beoordeling van gebeurtenissen en structuren die zich aandienen VI Manieren om collectief een oordeel te vellen over een probleem zijn: geleide uitwisseling (alleen reacties binnen de kaders van een gedetailleerde traditie worden door deelnemers toegelaten) en open uitwisseling (de dit partijen gekozen aanpak ontwikkelt zich naar gelang het debat zich ontwikkelt) VII in een vrije samenleving hebben alle tradities gelijke rechten en toegang tot scholing en machtsposities VIII en vrije samenleving wordt niet opgelegd maar zal slechts ontstaan wanneer mensen en open uitwisseling aangaan en eventueel beschermende surfen indien al naar gelang van hun ontwikkeling IX debatten die de structuur van een vrije samenleving regelen zijn open en niet geleid X en vrije samenleving staat op een scheiding tussen wetenschap en samenleving.


‘Volgens het idealisme is het rationeel (juist, in overeenstemming met de wil van de goden, – of welke andere bemoedigende worden er maar worden gebruikt om de inlanders een rad voor ogen te draaien) om bepaalde dingen te doen – wat er ook gebeurt. Het is rationeel (juist &c) om de vijanden van het geloof te vermoorden, ad-hoc hypothesen te vermijden, de beheren van het lichaam te verachten, tegenstrijdigheden uit te bannen, progressieve onderzoeksprogramma te ondersteunen enzovoort.’ (p 243).

Volgens het naturalisme is de rede volledig bepaald door onderzoek. Te handhaven is de gedachte dat onderzoek de rede kan veranderen.

Naturalisme en idealisme in combinatie: ‘.. een leidraad die deel uitmaakt van de geleide activiteit en die daardoor wordt veranderd.’ (p 245). Dus het probleem is niet de interactie van een praktijk met iets anders wat van buitenaf komt, maar de ontwikkeling van één traditie onder de invloed van andere‘ (p 245). Onderzoek dat zich niet aan de te onderzoeken maatstaven houdt. De natuur is kwalitatief en kwantitatief oneindig: er is behoefte aan het principe van het toenemen van inhoud. Theorieën die een overvloedige inhoud hebben in vergelijking met wat er al is zijn te verkiezen boven theorieën die dat niet hebben.

‘Anderzijds handhaven wij de les dat de geldigheid, het nut en de adequaatheid van populaire maatstaven slechts kunnen worden getoetst door onderzoek dat zich niet aan die maatstaven houdt‘ (p 247).

Experimenten van ( Salvador Luria en Delbrück 1943) op de bron van adaptatie van de weerstand van bacteriën tegen het binnendringen van bacteriofagen hebben de theorie van Lamarck weerlegd.


‘Nu zijn methoden die niet uit gewoonte, zonder een gedachte te wissen aan de redenen daarvan, worden gebruikt, vaak gekoppeld aan metafysische overtuigingen’ ( p 255). NB metafysica is de wijsgerige leer die niet de realiteit onderzoekt zoals we die ervaren door middel van onze uiterlijke zintuigen (zoals de fysica), maar datgene wat boven de materie uitgaat, de totaliteit van al het gegevene.

‘Religie (..) zal lange tijd als een vitale kracht in de samenleving blijven bestaan. … Kan de religie niet worden vernietigd door de mensen die haar wellicht verwerpen. De spirituele zwakheid van het wetenschappelijke naturalisme is te wijten aan het feit dat het niet zo’n primaire bron van kracht kent.’ (EO Wilson In Human Nature . Cambridge Massachusetts . 1972 . p. 192 ev in Feyerabend p 260).

Ze (de toneelschrijvers, dpb) moeten in geen geval proberen ‘moreel gezag’ uit te oefenen. Moreel gezag, ten goede of ten kwade, verandert mensen in slaven, een slavernij, zelfs slavernij in dienst van het Goede of van God in eigen persoon, is de ellendige toestand die er bestaat.’ ( p 266).


‘De kunsten, zoals ik hen tegenwoordig zie, vormen geen domein dat van het abstracte denken is gescheiden, maar vullen het aan een hebben er behoefte aan hun mogelijkheden volledig te realiseren.’ ( p 2

Hannah Arendt

Verantwoordelijkheid en Oordeel . Vertaald van Responsibility and Judgment . 2003 . Shocken books . NY . ISBN 90-5637-573-3

Uit Persoonlijke verantwoordelijkheid onder een dictatuur.

Gehoorzaamheid bestaat niet voor volwassenen. Wat er gebeurt is met jouw instemming.

Enkele problemen uit de moraal filosofie

Kant: den Begriff der Tugend würde klein Mensch haben wenn er lauter unter Spitzbuben wäre.

De dief gelooft ook in rechtsbescherming.

Misschien zouden we beter af zijn als we onszelf zouden toestaan ons tot de literatuur te wenden, tot Shakespear of Melville of Dostojevski, waar we de grote schurken aantreffen. Ook zijn zijn wellicht niet in staat ons iets specifieke te vertellen over de aard van het kwaad, maar ze gaan het in ieder geval niet uit de weg.

Verantwoordelijkheid versus schuld als staatsburger en afwezigheid daarvan als statenloze burger. Als je de voordelen geniet dan ook verantwoordelijk voor de nadelen maar niet schuldig eraan.

Collectieve schuld stopt als je niet langer lid bent van de groep. Niemand kan zonder groep. Je ruilt één groep inclusief verantwoordelijkheden in voor een andere.

De vraag is niet of een burger goed is maar of zijn gedrag goed is voor de wereld waarin hij woont.

Vanwege hun goddelijke herkomst zijn de regels van het christendom absoluut. De sancties toekomstige beloningen en straffen.

Socrates zegt: beter kwaad ondergaan dan kwaad aandoen. Het politieke antwoord is dat kwaad de wereld uit moet een dat kwaad geen plaats mag hebben in de wereld.

De ‘ziel’ in religieuze taal is de ‘zelf’ in seculiere taal.

Het morele argument in de vorm van een Socratische stelling om niet ‘mee te lopen’: als ik doe wat van me wordt gevraagd (als de prijs voor deelname), hetzij uit louter conformisme hetzij omdat het de enige kans is op uiteindelijk succesvol verzet, dan zou ik niet langer met mezelf kunnen leven; mijn leven zou voor mij niet meer de moeite waard zijn. Daarom onderga ik nu veel liever kwaad, een betaal zelfs liever de prijs van de doodstraf als ik tot deelname wordt gedwongen, dan dat ik kwaad die een voortaan met een boosdoener moet samenleven. Bijvoorbeeld een moord. Het is subjectief door zijn afhankelijkheid van de bereidheid om te lijden. Het geldt alleen voor mensen die expliciet met zichzelf leven, die kortom een geweten hebben. De enige seculiere activiteit die daar bij aansluit is denken als een stilzwijgende dialoog tussen mij en mijzelf. Dan kan verbeelding worden ingezet om elke handeling die wordt gevraagd te representeren. Geen enkele individuele moraal cq gedragsnormen kan ons ontheffen van collectieve verantwoordelijkheid. Want verantwoordelijkheid nemen voor dingen waar we geen schuld aan hebben is de prijs die er betalen voor het feit dat we met anderen samen leven en dat het vermogen tot handelen alleen kan worden verwerkelijkt in een vorm van menselijke gemeenschappelijkheid.

Denken en Morele Overwegingen

Het kwaad kan ontstaan uit een onvermogen om te denken. ‘ Clichés, stereotiepe frasen, zich houden aan conventionele een geijkte vormen van expressie en gedrag hebben de maatschappelijk erkende functie ons te beschermen tegen de realiteit, tegen het beroep op onze weloverwogen aandacht die alle gebeurtenissen en feiten krachtens hun bestaan opwekken. Als we voortdurend aan die oproep beantwoordden, zouden we uitgeput raken;..’ (pp 162-3). Is ons vermogen te oordelen over goed en kwaad, mooi en lelijk, dus afhankelijk van ons vermogen te denken? Valt een onvermogen om te denken samen met de afwezigheid van een geweten? Zou denken de mensen kunnen conditioneren tegen kwaad doen?

Kant heeft denken (intellect) van kennen (rede) gescheiden. Nu kan kennis (ie religie) de rede niet meer in de weg staan, maar slechts de rede zichzelf. Als dat onderscheid verband houdt met het onderscheid goed-kwaad dan moet van één ieder worden geëist dat hij denkt. Dus volgens Kant is de rede, filosofie nodig om het kwaad tegen te gaan.

‘Want het is het belangrijkste kenmerk van het denken is dat het alle doen ontbreekt, alle gewone activiteiten, ongeacht welke. .. Handelen en leven in de meest algemene zin van inter homines esse, ‘onder mijn medemensen vertoeven’ – het Latijnse equivalent voor ‘in leven zijn’ – voorkomt beslist dat we gaan nadenken’ (p 165). Het object van denken is altijd een re-presentatie, iets dat niet feitelijk maar slechts in de geest aanwezig is en dankzij de verbeeldingskracht ”present’ kan stellen in de vorm van een beeld’ (p 165). Denken gaat over verschijningsvormen: ‘.. ; zolang we met hem samenzijn denken we niet aan hem-al kunnen we wel indrukken verzamelen die later voedsel voor ons denken kunnen worden; ..’ (p 166).

Betreft een begrip dat een wolk aan verschijningsvormen vertegenwoordigt: ‘Het huis in en op zichzelf, een ‘auto kath’auto’, dat huis dat ons het woord laat gebruiken voor al deze specifieke en zeer uiteenlopende gebouwen, wordt nooit gezien, noch door de ogen van het lichaam noch door die van de geest; ieder denkbeeldig huis, hoe abstract ook, dat een minimum aan kenmerken heeft om het herkenbaar te maken, is al een specifiek huis’ (p 171).

‘Het woord ‘huis’ is zoiets als een bevroren gedachte die het denken als het ware moet ontdooien als het de oorspronkelijke betekenis ervan wil ontdekken’ (p 171).

Het ligt in zijn (de wind baan het denken) aard om uit te wissen, als het ware te ontdooien, wat de taal, het medium van het denken, tot gedachten heeft bevroren – de woorden (concepten, zinnen, definities, leerstellingen) waarvan Plato de ‘zwakheid’ en onbuigzaamheid zo schitterend aan de kaak stelt in de Zevende Brief. De bevroren gedachten zijn zo handzaam dat ze slapend kunnen worden toegepast. Als je begint te denken verandert alles in wanorde. Het gevolg is dat denken en destructieve activiteit is ‘.. voor gevestigde criteria, waarden, maatstaven voor goed en kwaad, kortom op die gewoonten en regels die we in moraal en ethiek behandelen’ (p 173). Op die manier kan denken en einde maken aan de orde en tot ‘goddeloos gedrag’ leiden. Denken is voor alle credos gevaarlijk; niet denken lijkt aanbevelenswaardig maar door ze te beschermen tegen de gevolgen van denken houden ze vast aan bestaande gedragsregels. Als ze daar niet over denken beoordelen ze nooit de inhoud ervan en zijn die gemakkelijk af te schaffen al zijn ze werkbaar door iemand die een alternatief biedt.

Wrange vruchten

‘.. en het oog van de reclamemakers* is steeds minder gericht op de behoeften van de consument en steeds meer op de behoefte van de koopwaar om in steeds grotere hoeveelheden te worden geconsumeerd’ (p 241). *the term “Madison Avenue” refers specifically to the agencies, and methodology of advertising.

Vooruitgang: ‘Op weg zijn is het doel’, maar niet omdat dit ‘op weg zijn’ een eigen schoonheid of betekenis bezat. Juist niet meer op weg zijn, stoppen met verspillen, stoppen met steeds meer een steeds sneller consumeren, op een bepaald moment zeggen dat het genoeg is, zou de onmiddellijke ondergang betekenen. Deze vooruitgang, die vergezeld gaat van het onophoudelijke tumult van reclamebureaus, heeft zich voortgezet ten koste van de wereld waarin we leven, ..’.

‘De verschrikkelijke waarheid die uit het verhaal dat in deze (Pentagon dpb) Papers wordt verteld kan worden geconcludeerd, is dat het enige duurzame doel het imago zelf geworden was, ..’ (p 242).