Archive for the 'emergence' Category

Goofy outtake

September 20, 2014

I did indicate that Jordan took more than one picture of me yesterday.  Here’s what happened when he tried to make me laugh.  He succeeded — but for some reason that resulted in my closing my eyes.


I also noticed when I looked at the picture up on a computer screen that I blend right in with my home decor — did not think of that when I was getting dressed in the morning with no thought of doing this.  The wallpaper predates our ownership of the house, so I’m not sure it’s just that “those are my colors.”  The shawl colors matching the dining room colors (the room is behind me to my right) I can see as having to do with my particular taste.   I love sculptures in which the figures can be seen emerging from the block of stone or wood from which they are carved — maybe I’d like to think of this as a sort of live version of that.


Understanding God through social science?

October 29, 2011

I guess what I really mean is, “Understanding where to look for God, or how to understand God’s existence through social science,” but that seemed kind of long.

It’s nothing new, it’s in that (Noel) Paul Stookey song, “The Wedding Song,” it’s in the story of the blind men feeling the elephant: God emerges from our loving interactions with each other.

But the thought came to me that maybe people who don’t roll with this love notion or religious parable thing might be okay with seeing God as an emergent property, through a notion developed by the rational thinking people at the right institutions with the correct credentials — those people have their role to play, too.

If I don’t react well to seeing the divine left off the list, it’s similarly not okay for me to leave off these fellow seekers.

Being moved

October 2, 2011

I had this conversation with my dad the other day, about what lives on after we die, and it made me sad to hear him talk about what we might leave behind in the material world.  So I tried a sort of end-around.  What is the part of us that is moved by a great piece of music (he reviews operas and other music for the American Record Guide, and music has a central place in his universe)?  He ended up with some sort of thing that might emerge from a combination of emotional apprehension and intellectual apprehension combined.  I left it at that, at least for now.  If he’s considering that there may be something, anything of us that lives on after we die, I would consider that a big step; that I perceive that thing as separate and distinct from our emotional and intellectual apparatus seems of lesser importance.

My dad seemed to enjoy the conversation, and apparently reported as much to my mother.  But I know I can only take care of my own spiritual life, not anyone else’s, especially if they are not ready or willing to go beyond where they are.  If I get another opportunity to say something else to my dad, I probably will.  I don’t mind an argument back either (and this was more like a discussion; my dad can go ad hominem with the best of them, and this he did not do here); what I do mind (and again, this he did not do), is being drowned* by a person calling on me for help, and I am trying to learn that such people tend not to announce that that is what they are doing (and I suspect that some large proportion of them are completely unaware that that is indeed what they are doing).

*Drowning is probably the wrong metaphor — it’s more like being drained of what’s within.

Emergence, cont’d

August 15, 2011

I think the first thing I need to do is to find a better example or analogy than the disease of alcoholism, because while it allowed me to reference causation located in a realm we don’t completely comprehend, the example of alcoholic and family member doesn’t provide a case in which supervenience is clearly at issue.

How about kids getting into trouble, what is going on at the level of their individual behavior and what is going on when they interact with each other and when group properties emerge?

Much as parents would like to locate contagion in someone else’s child that then infects their own, I don’t think this is accurate.  People with similar issues tend to be attracted to each other (in order to learn from seeing themselves in each other), and I think these (similar) issues, however latent in the individual, are present in all of them at the start, ready to flower, so to speak.

So, suppose life is in some ways like stream-walking, and these kids are all walking in a stream together.  They all encounter a current of cold water, they all have similar footwear on, they all have a similar experience and express it similarly — a yelp of, “Hey, that’s cold,” as the cold current runs into the holes in their sneakers.  That would be my analogy to how kids wind up together doing similarly misguided things, let’s say cutting class and meeting by chance in the parking lot of the school — they’re all being simultaneously affected by a common stimulus to leave class without permission.  For me, it doesn’t matter how they might articulate the basis for their leaving class — they could sound like different bases and still be (differing) descriptions of the same stimulus — as if some of the kids in the stream perceived that cold current as an underground spring, others as effluent from a pipe, others as influx from a tributary.

So now we have a group of kids who are AWOL from school.   I’m going to jump to the speculation that they will do as a group something slightly different (like smoke behind the dumpster) from what they would have done as individuals — that supervenience thing, if I understand it: a group property — whatever emotional state lies behind the group activity of smoking —  emerges from their interaction.

As I understand it, the next issue is to understand that (or those) group property(ies) and whence it/they come — are they reducible to the individuals’ attributes, do they have an independent basis, is it something in between that is less straightforward than direct derivation from particular attributes but less unconnected than independent existence.

For me, and here I am going to strain my use of the stream analogy, all those group properties are brought forth by stimuli already existing in that cold current the kids walked into while they were stream-walking — some sort of amplification or processing as a group was required to discern these other aspects of the cold current that stimulate.  Because I think we are always processing input, and I think those streams of input have different octaves, so to speak, and that some of them are reflected by us only when we can reach those higher octaves through the voice of a group — but I think those overtones were in the stream of input from the start.  On the other hand, if all the individuals were immune to the stimulation of the input (the stream-walking kids had on their insulated waders), I don’t think the group voice would occur, although the inputs would still be there.  (I also think that there are also probably inputs in even higher registers than we usually ever hear, even in groups — maybe these are what are reflected in behaviors like genocide, when not just individuals but groups, too, are not wearing their waders, so to speak.)

I guess for me, the whole process begins with these currents, and that I haven’t yet seen addressed in these philosophical and sociological theories of emergence.  So, I’m not sure I’m disagreeing with the observation that group properties “emerge,” I think I just think that the explanation of what is going on is incomplete — only part of the entire process is being observed, from my perspective, because some of it, including its early steps, is not located in the physically observable.  At least, that’s my thinking about it now, maybe something else will become clearer to me as I continue to read and mull it over.

Post Script:  I just wanted to add that the concept of a quorum (or a minyan), that is, of a minimum of participants necessary in order to make a decision or a vote or a prayer effective, is rooted, I think, in a similar notion to what I have been trying to explicate above  (with respect to prayers, and even decisions and votes, we are trying to gain access to higher registers in what we experience as positive currents).

Emergence and other interpretative strategies

August 14, 2011

For reasons not entirely clear to me (beyond the vagaries of Googling), I found myself reading (the beginning of, so far) a journal article on the concept of emergence in philosophy of science and sociology, which also includes discussion of other concepts, like supervenience and reducibility.

The argumentation seems to start from a reference point of physical matter.  I think this probably points to the trouble I have with the approach more generally:  why are we starting with physical matter?  Because we perceive it more easily?  To me, what happens at the level of physical matter seems like so much scaffolding supporting something occurring simultaneously on other levels (an example of this kind of perspective would be my attitude to the competing details of Sham’s disappearance), and I am more inclined to believe that all the events are occurring as the result of the cosmic equivalent of solar winds — within a stream of some sort of force, a bunch of stuff is happening simultaneously, and we get caught up in causation theories about which level of activity is influencing which other level of activity, in part because we experience things in linear time.

Here’s an example of what I mean, which I choose although it may be controversial even so because I think it is familiar enough to have some explanatory helpfulness.   When alcoholism is conceptualized as a disease, it can be, and is in many contexts, seen to be affecting not just the person drinking but their family — it may even be referred to as a “family disease.”  It may be tempting to “blame” the alcoholic for this impact on other family members, attributing behavior in others to repercussions from the alcoholic’s behavior.  But this behavior in others can, and often is, seen as primary symptoms of the disease of alcoholism manifesting in someone else in a different way.  The “disease” is giving rise to both sets of behaviors, they are correlated, but one is not causing the other.  I’m not sure I need to get into what the “disease of alcoholism” may actually be in order to make the point that there can be a third-party cause that is distinct from the multiple symptoms in multiple people to which it gives rise.

The other thing I wanted to say, before I consider resuming reading the article (and finding out it addresses my concerns later on, perhaps!) is that it gives me the impression of taking a trip through somebody else’s (intellectual) imagination, with all kinds of logical possibilities as interesting scenery explored — logical possibilities that may or may not be true.  There are other ways of gaining understanding of things, just as driving the streets is one way to find a route from one place to another place, using a map another way to do this, and flying overhead yet a third.   My concern is that starting from the material and working our way up to other levels, by means of using our intellects, may well lead us into all kinds of erroneous ideas — things that are possible in some sense but aren’t actually the case.  Kind of like a mistaken interpretation of somebody’s taste from a sweater they are wearing, which turns out to be a gift from someone else.  But maybe this method has some advantages I am not seeing, perhaps because I don’t have sufficient fluency in it.