Advancing Human Knowledge, How?

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Advancing Human Knowledge, How?

By Norm Hirst 2003

Listening in to nature, systems of order beyond our current language or scientific worldview are being revealed about how living beings function. (Life is not chaos. The physical universe is not chaotic. There is a logic and order to it.)

There is a popular belief that science consists of a number of crystallized truths - laws and facts about the universe that are empirically verifiable. But science, like all human endeavors, is not infallible. There is no final scientific test for anything. Scientific discovery, like life, is a process, not a set of conclusions. It is a lifetime endeavor of constantly asking new questions…..

Scientists have a burning curiosity to know, striving to understand more and more about the great cosmic handiwork. With disciplined rigor of keen eyes, skilled hands, and trained minds, they behold nature in new ways in order to reveal previously unknown facets of the cosmic design. They arrive at fresh insights about the patterns of connections and regularly abandon old models and theories. ……

Perhaps the greatest obstacle that frontier scientists…face is political—the tendency for human systems to resist change, to resist the impact of new discoveries, especially those that challenge the status quo of the scientific establishment. (Excerpts from Beverly Rubik, LIFE AT THE EDGE OF SCIENCE, Publisher, Date)

How do we get beyond our present state of knowledge? The history of humanity is a history of transcending past states of knowledge. In the past a state of knowledge lasted so long it must have seemed there was no other way. Now change is occurring so fast that the current state of knowledge must seem a transient condition.

What do we mean by getting beyond our present state of knowledge? It would seem as if knowledge is constantly advancing. But by state of knowledge we mean something more fundamental than simply the totality of what is known. What we mean is current paradigms.

Paradigm, what do we mean?

Paradigm refers to those unstated assumptions that give meaning and validity to potential knowledge. For example physicians are trained to view the body as a biochemical machine. As a machine illness suggests that the machine is broken and someone has to fix it by known physical means such as by the addition of chemicals that alter the chemistry of the machine. Thus physicians turn to drugs. In contrast, the existence of energy flows carrying out the processes of self-creation may appear as nonsense to anyone who believes in biochemical machines. Thus alternative healing based on energy flows may be condemned as charlatanism.

It is important to understand this point. Every professional discipline, without exception, is based on a paradigm. Now we want to dig a little deeper. Every such paradigm is based on more fundamental paradigms. For example, all of the existing scientific paradigms are based on reductionism.

Reductionism is:

Reductionism simply means that a phenomenon is best understood by understanding an assemblage of its basic parts.  Thus has been the search in physics for most fundamental particles and their theory.  If you understand the most fundamental particles they can be assembled into atoms.  Atoms can be assembled into molecules.  Molecules can be assembled into cells.  Cells can be assembled into organs.  Organs can be assembled into organisms.  Thus you and I can be explained!  Well, of course it is nonsense. 

Even in computers the programmer who writes code need not have any understanding of circuits or chips. Vice versa, the circuit and/or chip designer need not have any understanding of writing programs. Circuits and programs are two different levels of logic, each complete in and of itself even though neither one would amount to anything without the other.

Reductionism needs revision: What about Aristotle’s “final” cause?

There is a lesson here. Reductionism needs revision. Aristotle proposed the doctrine of “final” causes, i.e., which things and events in the world can best be explained by some purpose or good to which they are conducive. If today’s biologist proposed a final cause he/she would be drummed out of the profession. But isn’t it possible that in multiple layers of divergent logic making up a single organism a higher layer’s logic places demands on a lower level. For example, a liver requires the cells that compose it to be quite different from the cells that compose an eye. Well, can we not consider the requirements of the higher level to be a final cause for the lower level. By contemporary thinking we cannot because the higher layer does not exist until the lower level exists to make it. There can be no liver until there are liver cells.

But now let us dig deeper still. However you think about it, there is the question of what form constitutes proper thinking. Do we have to think about things? Could we talk without ever using the word “thing”.

Now we are getting to the most fundamental level, i.e., the level of metaphysics and logic. At this level we can begin to understand the blinding limitations of our most fundamental paradigms and how they contribute to failure to understand values and life.

Values are operative in process. Process is how things come to be. It is in “coming to be” that values matter. Having become, it is what it is. Values can change nothing. As for logic, logic as it has been known since Aristotle makes no provision for time.

The fundamental assumption: Everything physical reduces to physics and chemistry. Ultimately physics and chemistry is all there is. Thus to understand the living theory must be based on extending physics and chemistry. We hear a lot about chaos theory and complexity theory. These theories are attempting to extend physics and chemistry. But so far no one has achieved a satisfactory theory of life.

Organization and Structure: an autognomics definition:

It is important to be mindful of the concepts of "organization" and "structure," used in this theory of living processes. By autognomic definition,

organization refers to those processes which create and maintain the structure. For any living entity the organization is invariant while the structure has plasticity. Put simply the organization processes do not change themselves, but are capable of changing the structure built around them to adapt to changing circumstances.

I don't believe anyone has ever discussed the details of organization as we are using the term. The general notion of invariant organization appears in discussions of autopoiesis, the biological theory of self-creation and self maintenance. However, the details of organizational processes are left to the imagination. Indeed, no one could have adequately discussed the details since the requisite logic has not been available.

Rosen gives a Heads Up:

In his book "Life Itself” Robert Rosen, a mathematical biologist, argues that a living organization must include its own Final Cause. Aristotle proposed four causes, Material Cause, Efficient Cause, Formal Cause and Final Cause. Rosen proposes to consider formal systems, logic, by viewing the axiomatic basis as material cause, the rules as efficient cause and proofs or derivations as formal cause. Note there is nothing in logic corresponding to final cause. Therefore, logic as it has been known is incapable of application to living systems.

In this impoverished state of logic, Final Cause has been banished from science. Any biologist who dared include Final Cause would be banished from his profession.

What is required to make sense of Final Cause?

Yet, what is required to make good scientific sense of Final Cause? What is required is the ability to formalize self-referential relations, relations of relations, entailments of entailments.

"Knowledge does not keep any better than fish."  ~Alfred North Whitehead 
Do take note of the radically anti-mechanistic nature of organisms. Mechanical systems work by a hierarchy of controllers and the controlled that returns the systems to set points. One can recognize such mechanistic systems in the predominant institutions of our society.  They are undemocratic and non-participatory.  Bosses make decisions and workers work, and in between the top and the bottom are “line-managers” relaying the unidirectional “chain of command”. Organic systems, by contrast, are truly democratic, they work by intercommunication and total participation.  Everyone works and pays attention to everyone else.  Everyone is simultaneously boss and worker, choreography and dancer.  Each is ultimately in control to the extent that she is sensitive and responsive.  There are no predetermined set points to which the systems have to return.  Instead, organisms live and develop from moment to moment, freely and spontaneously. … Mae-Wan Ho’s book, The Rainbow and the Worm, 1998

1. Foundations

1A. Organization: Concerned with the organizational requirements of autonomy based on the work of Robert Rosen in his book Life Itself. The organization is a system of relations, the relations generated as answers to “why” questions. Rosen reverts back to Aristotle’s four causes, i.e., material, formal, efficient and final cause. For an autonomous entity no “why” question can be answered by something outside the entity. Thus the organization is closed. Though final cause has been banished from science for some time now Rosen demonstrates that final cause is essential and it does not present the teleological problems that led to its banishment.

1B. Logic: This chapter breaks with twenty-five centuries of tradition. So much so that I am not sure it should be called logic. Traditionally logic has been based on propositions. Propositions are statements that can be considered true or false. Also rules for transforming propositions into new propositions provided that from true propositions one can not transform them into false propositions. This is known as consistency.

Today there are more than thirty known non-standard logics. Any or all of them may have applications in the living organization. This is an important research topic. However all of the non-standard logics have the general flavor of logic.

Here I propose a different notion. Through logical research there is now considerable sophistication regarding what might be called formal systems. Our concern here will be the ability of formal systems to express ideas which have never before been expressed and which can not be expressed in language or logics as we have known them.

Primitives of the formal systems will be functions and/or relations, not propositions. Truth-values will be irrelevant.

As a second step in building a science we begin constructing a formal theory of the subject matter, i.e., living processes. To compare this step with physics, first a formalism was developed, the calculus, and then specific laws relating to motion and gravity were expressed in the calculus. For this purpose we turn to some existing disciplines which are somewhere between having been philosophies and becoming science. Three such disciplines are autopoiesis, axiology and semiotics.

Autopoiesis: Two Chilean biologists, Maturana and Varela, founded Autopoiesis. It defines the conditions on process by which a living organism can both create and maintain itself in a state of autonomy in a constantly changing ecological niche.

From file:///C|/autopoiesis/EA.html#theory

Thinking’ is an observer-ascribed description invoked to explain the unobserved / unobservable process(es) by which a subject organism mediates the interplay of its sensor and effector interfaces from / to its medium.

 “When an observer observes two moments of the flow of the behavior of an animal, and it seems to him or to her that the second is logically derived from the first through some intervening internal process, while he or she cannot deduce the connection from the relational situation of the animal solely, he or she says that such animal thinks, and calls thinking the internal process that gives rise to the second behavior.” (Maturana, Mpodozis & Letelier, 1995, IV.6.)

However, ‘thinking’ (in the colloquial sense of a formulaic or algorithmic processing of propositional or logical elements) cannot be a constitutive component of autopoietic theory’s account for cognitive activity. This colloquial sense of ‘thinking’ entails the problematical notion of representation and ignores the structurally-determined dynamics of the organism which actually (in the explanatory framework of autopoietic theory) provide the basis for addressing this phenomenon.

“What the nervous system does while the animal is ‘thinking’, is to operate in its internal dynamics according to the structure it has at that moment as a result of the structural changes it has undergone contingently to the living of the animal ... According to this, the internal dynamics of that nervous system will give rise to successions of behavior that cannot but be logically or coherently connected between them in the context of the historical circumstances of the realization of the living of the animal. So, the expression “thinking” is a manner that the observer has of indirectly referring to the internal operation of the nervous system as it participates in the generation of behavior.”

Formal Axiology: Axiology is the theory of value. Here we choose the work of Robert Hartman who was transforming axiology from value philosophy to value science. His formal definitions of Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Systemic value and the laws relating them explain many puzzles.

Today values are not well understood because living process is not well understood. It is only in living process that values are operative.

“Axiology” simply means value theory. Formal axiology refers to the logic of value as proposed by Robert Hartman. That is, a distinct formal system is developed for application to values. It is a quite different formal system from, say, the mathematics of physics.

In our search for data we discovered the Union of International Organizations (UIA) in Brussels, Belgium. This organization, founded in 1910, has over 20,000 organizations as members and maintains databases that are quite amazing. They maintain a database of 1200 world problems, a human potential database showing several thousand approaches to human potential as proposed by different cultures and schools of thought and a database on values.

An interesting development in the world problems database is the tracking of connections between problems including the display of circularity. For example, problem A exacerbates problem B that exacerbates problem C which exacerbates problem A. This constitutes a reinforcing loop. In addition to tracking such loops, the database tracks the interconnection of such loops. Thus the world problems form a holistic network. This is in line with Autognomic theory, especially insights gathered from the contributions of autopoiesis to the theory. It is clear that attempts to solve the problems piecemeal will fail.

Needed to solve the world problems is an understanding of values which can lead to a coherent world wide human potential movement. But as the UIA argues, there is no such understanding of values. Their own studies list hundreds of value words, both positive and negative, along with value oppositions and some surprising empirical observations. For example, belief systems that combine both positive and negative values work better than belief systems dedicated to positive values alone. But they confess that a belief system everyone could agree to isn’t in the offing.

I realized forty years ago that these conditions were inevitable. That is why, forty years ago, I committed myself to do research leading to the requisite understanding of values. It is that research that led to Autognomics.

Many people believe that values are not rational, there is no logic to values, they are simply a matter of personal or cultural choice. I can understand people thinking this way. There is a logic of value, but it bears no resemblance to logics we have known.

We have often seen values clarification exercises in which the exercise is to rank order a list of value words. Of course, it is emphasized that there is no “right” order. People will differ. Of course they will differ since, from the value logic perspective, all the words on the list are typically from the same value class. To rank order them is nonsense.

To understand values requires changing from a thing perspective to a process perspective. A thing like perspective is exemplified by reductionism in science, i.e., getting down to the “mechanics” of the most fundamental particles to understand the world. As a corollary we might compare it to a fact perspective. Remember the phrase, “Just the facts mam”, popularized by Dragnet.

In the composition of reality we find both perspectives. There is both what there is and what is being done. Reality as available for our experience comes about in a cyclic process. First, there is what there is. Then there are acts made possible by what there is which create a new what there is leading to new possible acts. Each moment of “what there is” we call facts. The facts will make a spectrum of acts possible. The final choice of acts is based on values.

Logics we have known are appropriate to the mechanics of fact. Note the emphasis on propositions that are judged true or false. Note the emphasis on truth preserving rules. Note the emphasis on truth consistency. Of any given proposition p we can assert p or not p but never p and not p. A proposition can not be both true and false. Yet turning to values one can feel drawn to a value and simultaneously repelled by it. One can want something and not want it, all at the same time.

The logic of value is functional, not propositional. Propositions may be thought of as stating what is, i.e., fact. (The phrase “what is” is in need of qualification.) Functions express transformations. It doesn’t make sense to say that a transformation is true or false. Thus we need to rid ourselves of our past notions of logic and begin anew.

I suggest that different value words actually refer to different functions. Thus do they represent a different level of language from most words. Consider the word ‘good’. (By convention single quotes around a word indicate we mean to talk about the word as opposed to using the word.)

Philosophers have discussed the word ‘good’ for twenty-five centuries. So far the only one, to my knowledge, to see the logic of it was Robert Hartman. He defined ‘good’ as a relation between the intension and the extension of a concept where

   The intension of a concept is a set of attributes that make up the meaning of the concept.
   The extension of a concept is a set of objects to which the concept applies.
   ‘Good’ might be applied to a member of the extension if its attributes fulfill the intension.

For example, if one’s concept of chair has the attributes of a knee high seat with a back then an object one calls a chair is a “good chair” if it does have a knee high seat with a back. In contrast, if a knee high seat has no back then one might call it a “stool” unless one sees that the back is broken off in which case it would be called a “bad chair”.

Traditionally definitions of ‘good’ have been given in terms of states of affairs that someone considered good. Value has been defined as the greatest good for the greatest number. In this way there is clearly room for much difference of opinion. There will never be agreement with this approach.

On the other hand, Hartman’s definition is a formal definition. As such it can fit everyone’s notion of good. If people disagree about what is good Hartman’s definition points to the source. Based on experience they have formed different conceptual intensions. The disagreement ceases to be a matter of TRUTH, it becomes a difference of opinion.

While I agreed with Hartman’s brilliant contributions to what is known as formal axiology (value theory), I felt a sense of unease with their foundations. It seemed to me that values played their role in the processes of life. This led to the formation of Autognomics where we focus on the processes of life. The central question is whether or not the processes of life have a different logic from those logics we have known? If so, does it help us understand values?

The answers are a resounding “yes” to both questions. The logic of life involves much which the traditions of logical inquiry rejected. For example, self-reference and paradox. Also, the fact that the logic of life is creative rather than truth preserving. I suggest that the logic of life actually involves two complementary families of logics which function together to manifest life as we know it. One of those families of logics is the logic of value.

Central to the logic of life is the logic of sign processes or semiotics as put forth by Charles Peirce. While Peirce’s contributions are brilliant we must keep in mind that Peirce died in 1914. The kind of revolution we see today in functional logics was unknown to Peirce. Thus we are concerned with semiotics as extended by today’s functional logics.

Semiotics talks about signs as involving both an object and an interpretation. Thus we might reword Hartman’s definition. ‘Good’ now becomes a matter of sign interpretations. But this rewording is equivalent in the semiotic framework to Hartman’s wording in the more traditional philosophical framework. Thus Hartman’s insight remains in tact.

Hartman also argued that there are three kinds of value that he called Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Systemic. He advanced logico-philosophical arguments to show that Intrinsic was greater than Extrinsic and Extrinsic is greater than Systemic. Thus in a conflict of values Intrinsic should take precedence over Extrinsic and Extrinsic should take precedence over Systemic. This is a critical point because, if Hartman is right, it points to a major error in the human use of value arguments. Hartman called this error, “inversion of the value hierarchy”. Value arguments often invoke such words as “justice” which are Systemic value words. Such words are often proclaimed to be the highest value.

Inversion of the value hierarchy accounts for the greatest crimes against humanity committed throughout history. It accounts for religious persecution and ethnic cleansing. Hitler could not have happened without inversion of the value hierarchy.

While I agree with Hartman’s arguments, as with most philosophical arguments people might differ. Inversion of the value hierarchy needs more thorough grounding. Thus we are most anxious to show how the value hierarchy develops and functions in living processes. As a start I suggest we have a rich mix of logics already in semiotic theory. In terms of Peircian categories, the logic of firstness rejects the traditional rule of non-contradiction. The logic of thirdness rejects the traditional rule of excluded middle. In addition there are six levels of sign development by semiosis. I suspect each of the six will exhibit logical peculiarities.

As we are beginning to discover, social systems are composed of an interactive multitude of different processes each governed by a distinct logic. In our experience this is apparent as we consider the fallacies that have been committed in talking about values.

Some Axiological Fallacies: (p123) A fallacy is confusion of elements that ought to be distinct. In t he following “frames of reference” refers to distinct logics. For example, confusion of:

General frames of reference - the metaphysical fallacy, confusion of mathematics and axiology - religion has not withstood the test of science.

Specific frames of reference - the naturalistic fallacy, applying the frame of reference for one science to another such as ethics and psychology or chemistry and religion. When it is said that the good is pleasure or preference, or God’s will, or the interest of the proletariat, or a matter of human conduct, then we have respectively, confusions of ethics with psychology, theology, economics and sociology. (p124)

General with specific frames of reference - the moral fallacy, a fallacy of types confusing the general and specific. When it is said that goodness in general is the goodness of God, is the beautiful or the true, or the classless society confuses axiological value with theological, aesthetic, epistemological and sociological value respectively.

Either general or specific frames of reference with their subject matter - the fallacy of method, a logical confusion of types such as the scientist confusing his own behavior with the behavior of the subject matter.

Semiotics of Charles Peirce: Also, in terms of values one can see a relationship between Intrinsic, Extrinsic and Systemic values with the levels of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness of Charles Peirce’s semiotic process.

The main critical judgments of this Peircian perspective are:

  1. The biological context FOR man is that of an intelligent and language-using organism attempting to sustain itself in an environment which is partly supportive of, and partly hostile to, that attempt.
  2. There are no privileged starting points for any organism in its attempt to adapt. The organism can "set out" from nothing other than the state it happens to be in when it sets out to adapt.
  3. Clarity and precision in experience are results of analysis of consequences of an organism's attempt to adapt. Such results may not be thought of as primordial. They are basically corrective.
  4. To adapt, an organism must put forth effort. It is the insistence of experience over against organismic or human will, including surprise which confounds expectation, by which adaptation may be achieved. Effort and surprise are thus the fundamental means by which organisms attain a satisfactory state of adaptation.
  5. The situation in which one experiences the contrast between the ego and non-ego, the "other," is itself continuous. Awareness of oneself as ego, as other than the non-ego encountered, presents a double consciousness, whose relation is symmetrical. On the other hand, when something has a mode of being not merely in itself but over and against a second thing, the symmetrical relation through opposition takes on the quality named "existence" which belongs to fact. This existence is on BOTH sides of that duality

Empirical Perspective and applications:

Social Systems: All living systems may be thought of as social systems. Developing a theory of social systems involves using the new formal systems to bring into synthesis the various components discussed.

Social Systems: Creating environments for solving social problems.

The Union of International Organizations (UIA) in Brussels, Belgium, which has 20,000 organizations as members, maintains a database of 1200 world problems. An interesting development in the world problems database is the tracking of connections between problems including the display of circularity. For example, problem A exacerbates problem B that exacerbates problem C that exacerbates problem A. This constitutes a reinforcing loop. In addition to tracking such loops, the database tracks the interconnection of such loops. Thus the world problems form a holistic network. This is in line with Autognomic theory, especially insights gathered from the contributions of autopoiesis to the theory. It is clear that attempts to solve the problems piecemeal will fail.

According to UIA needed to solve the world problems is an understanding of values that can lead to a coherent worldwide human potential movement. But as the UIA argues, there is no such understanding of values. Their own studies list hundreds of value words, both positive and negative, along with value oppositions and some surprising empirical observations. For example, belief systems that combine both positive and negative values work better than belief systems dedicated to positive values alone. But they confess that a belief system everyone could agree to isn’t in the offing.

This chapter will show that such a belief system, a system everyone could agree to, is neither necessary nor desirable. Instead, what is required is to understand the axiological equivalence of diverse systems. This requires understanding the role of values in the life processes.

The question of the day is, “What do we do with all the complexity?”

This coherent theory of Life provides guidance for thinking and finding new action for social problems facing world leaders today.

In Business: Chapter based on Living Companies plus the history of Incord Inc.

In The Economy: The economy seems to be sinking. The Federal Reserve cuts interest rates. Temporary rallies follow. But nearly every day shows bad economic news. Are we headed for a recession? Or worse, are we headed for a depression? No one knows. Probably most of us would rather not think about it, since no one knows what to do about it!

In Health and Health Care: The cost of health care is rising out of control. Many patients are seeking alternative care even though such care represents out of pocket expenses as opposed to insurance coverage. The dollar drain into alternatives is forcing conventional medicine organizations to rethink their practices. It seems quite possible that insurance coverage of the alternatives would both improve health care and lower the costs. What should we do about it? No one knows!

In Schooling and Education: There is general recognition that our schools are failing. Some find the solution in longer hours and more discipline. Others find the solution in more freedom, democratic schools and home schooling. With the futures of our children at stake, what should we do? No one knows! Education: This chapter will discuss the impact of certain discoveries on education. For example, no living organism functions by stimulus-response; not even Pavlov’s dogs. Education only succeeds in response to an inner inquiry.

In the Justice System: Law: The United States is the only industrialized nation that imposes the death sentence. This, in spite of the fact that being convicted of a crime, or set free in our courts, is a crap-shoot. An adversarial system will produce winners and losers, not justice. Yet no one knows what to do about it! Nor is there good reason to believe that the death sentence serves justice or that it is a deterrent to future crimes. For that matter, does punishment make sense? No one knows!

Others to be added:

In technology development and ethics In Ecology management

Pointing to Solutions:

As applied to the Justice System: By comparing functional systems to language we will show the weakness of the justice system in its reliance on language. Also we will discuss how laws ought to be formed to be effective

As applied in International Relations: As an interesting example, consider how the United States and China have treated the problem of Taiwan with creative ambiguity of 25 years. Recently, President Bush has removed the ambiguity. The advantage of creative ambiguity is that it places the problem in firstness or intrinsic value. What ever happens, both sides can seek a possibility for resolution. Anything goes. No one has drawn a line in the sand. There is no need for confrontation. Accommodation is sufficient. But such a solution might well seem most unsatisfying to some. It is as if one has done nothing but leave it all to chance. Thus some, not really understanding the logic of values, will take a stand. This reduces a situation open to infinite possibilities to a very finite situation full of limitations and unavoidable confrontations. Of such inversions are wars made!

Values as applied to the Economy: Any activity, to be successful, has to have an appropriate mixture of all three types of value. If the mixture becomes unbalanced the activity will fail for mysterious reasons. Today’s economy is driven by money to the virtual exclusion of any other value. Money is a systemic value. For years managers have complained that quarterly financial expectations make it impossible to manage properly and to plan for and prepare for the future. The lack of offsetting intrinsic and extrinsic considerations creates an environment in which money considerations are strangling business and the markets. No amount of applied force from the outside, such as the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates will save the day. The typical solution is that the current economy will die, as in a financial depression. If we are to avoid such a Draconian solution leaders and economists need to start talking values

A new economy will be born with the proper mix of values. The only values managers and economists can do accounting on is money. New language and instruments (such as the Hartman Value Inventory) need to be developed to reflect intrinsic and extrinsic value changes in the organization allowing another form of accounting. Laws which force companies to emphasize short term benefits to stockholders over any other consideration need to be revised to reflect such changes.

The Natural Laws of Life as applied to Health Care: Health Care: Recent discoveries concerning the bioelectrodynamic properties of living tissue support ancient healing techniques such as acupuncture and Jin Shin Jyutsu, i.e., healing based on balancing energy flows. Also, as we come to understand living organisms we see they are definitely not machines. Thus the medical paradigm of biochemical machine will need replacement.

Unfortunately biology as we know it has been misdirected by the standard reductionist-Newtonian science paradigm. As a number of biologists, such as Robert Rosen and Mae-Wan Ho, have written, biology begins by a reductionistic destruction of the living organization. Yet it is the living organization that holds the keys to Life. Now such devices as ultrasound can non-invasively study the living organization. It is time to begin anew, and such a new beginning has already taken place in laboratories around the world.

Biology should be to health care what physics is to engineering. Unfortunately the condition of biology is described as follows: In his book “Life Itself” Robert Rosen, a mathematical biologist, said:

… there is no point at all in trying to approach biology from the familiar directions.  That is, not if one truly wishes to cope with the fundamental question, “What is life?”  Contemporary biology has concerned itself almost exclusively with the endlessly fascinating epi-phenomena of life, but the secrets are not to be found there, …

At the moment, biology remains a stubbornly empirical, experimental, observational science. The papers and books that define contemporary biology emanate mainly from laboratories of increasingly exquisite sophistication, authored by virtuosi in the manipulation of laboratory equipment, geared primarily to isolate, manipulate, and characterize minute quantities of matter.

In her book “The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms” Mae-Wan Ho, a biochemist said:

… Until quite recently, the typical way to study living organisms is to kill and f ix them, or smash them up into pieces until nothing is left of the organization that we are supposed to be studying.  This has merely reinforced the Newtonian mechanical view of organisms that has proved thoroughly inadequate to account for life.  The situation is changing now with great advances in the development of non-invasive technologies within the past twenty years.  We can ‘listen in’ to nature without violating her.

Thus there is no basic science to support health care or ways to guide insurance companies or lawmakers evaluating the alternative methods. When such a basic science is developed, we will begin to understand the healing powers of the body itself and the various natural modalities for working with those powers will become evident. (See addendum for proposals for research applying this new thinking to the above issues plus Education Reform, Ecology Protection, Ethics of Developing Technology.)

Thus, as we begin to think about our social problems from the perspective of living systems, it will no longer be true that “No one knows!”.

A Glossary of Terms required to read this book:

On Natural Law: The success of physics, and all the resulting technology, should convince us that natural law as it is discovered in physics is worth discovering. But what is natural law?

Natural law consists of relationships, or systems of relationships, that prevent chaos while not unduly inhibiting freedom.

As an example, consider Newton’s law that force equals mass times acceleration. This law prevents the chaos that would occur if everything were free to just fly about since nothing will move without an applied force. Imagine living through an earthquake with everything moving without apparent rhyme or reason. On the other hand, freedom is not unduly restricted since by applying appropriate force we can bring about any desired motion; even going off into space.

What the law of motion tells us is what has to be done to bring about any desired motion. If the only motion we desire is walking we don’t have to know anything since nature has equipped us appropriately. If we want to design a vehicle that will accelerate from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds then we need to apply the law to determine the force we must generate. But note that the law tells us nothing about whether we should, or should not, build such a vehicle. The law only tells us what we must do to bring about desired results.

On Natural Laws of Life:

Similarly I suggest there are natural laws of living process that explain values and what we must do to bring about desired results in any living domain. “Living domain” refers to transactions between living entities. Imagine the difference between giving a command to another person as opposed to giving a command to your computer. However, these natural laws cannot be developed in terms of mathematics as it is known today. These natural laws will require new logics and new mathematics, since no current mathematics allows for relations on relations.

The Laws of Values:

Beginning with a look at values of living process, we immediately see ways to address the complexity of social issues.

Are there natural laws of value? Yes, but don’t expect them to tell us what to value. There is no law saying gentlemen should prefer blondes. One’s values can be extremely personal. However, whatever one’s values there are lawful processes at work.

There are three kinds of value; intrinsic, extrinsic and systemic: Intrinsic values are aesthetic and/or unique. They defy description. Extrinsic values are practical values. As such they can be judged good or bad. Systemic values are laws or rules. Under systemic values judgements are right or wrong.

Remarkably, the three kinds of value are related to the three levels of semiotics; firstness, secondness and thirdness.

Firstness is where signs first appear. They are not quite real yet. They are entering as possibilities. Firstness is the realm of all possibilities. As such it revokes the standard logic law of non-contradiction since both a sign and its negation may enter as possibilities.. As the realm of all possibilities it is the source of intrinsic value.

Secondness is the domain of signs that have become semiotically real. In this realm they obey standard logic. Either the sign or its negation was chosen. Secondness corresponds to extrinsic value.

Thirdness corresponds to law or to signs of mediation. This realm revokes the standard logic law of excluded middle giving a logic of probabilities. Thirdness corresponds to systemic value.

The law of value places intrinsic over extrinsic and extrinsic over systemic. This law has been verified through the use of the Hartman Value Profile in a wide variety of cultures. Unfortunately our Western culture inverts this hierarchy leading to tragedy. The cause is the fact that systemic value is quite finite and easily understood and talked about. It seems so clear, so objective against the often times apparent linguistic vagueness of extrinsic and intrinsic value.

The Crisis in Mathematics:

Prior to the beginning of the 20th. Century, mathematicians proved theorems by methods that were actually logical intuitions that were never formulated as explicit principles. It was tacitly assumed that everyone had such intuitions and that they were reliable.

Around the turn of the century the discovery was made that perfectly sound arguments, from the intuitive point of view, nevertheless led to contradictions or paradox. As a result, a great deal of accepted mathematics was cast into doubt.

What happened as a consequence, mathematicians no longer trusted logical intuition. They began the process of making logic explicit and thus began the most intense period of logical research in the history of human kind.

Newtonian mechanism: We use the terms Newtonian and mechanical or mechanism as equivalent. The mechanical paradigm is based on mathematical language for describing “dynamical systems”. Although physics has advanced beyond Newton through the discovery of relativity and quantum theory, the basic mathematical tools remain Newtonian in character. This mathematical language has a built in duality representing a distinction between internal states and dynamical laws. Even relativity and quantum theory still use this framework though quantum theory requires a radical modification of what constitutes a state. Living systems have no such states. It appears as if resolving the problems of interpreting quantum theory, require different mathematics

What is science? Science is the study of change or process. Change can not be random or without order. If it were there would simply be chaos instead of us. Also, change can not be deterministic. If it were there would be no meaning, values would be irrelevant. Science discovers and expresses, brings into consciousness, those organizing principles which order but do not determine change.

Look! If I am going to walk there has to be friction between my feet and the ground or floor. If there were no friction it would be worse than trying to walk on ice. Yet friction does not determine if I will walk or where I will walk or how I will walk.

Science is formal theory development (sign or symbol system) applied to subject matter (philosophies). When you interpret the elements of a formal sign system with the elements of experience (subject matter), it leads to scientific understanding of that subject matter. Once significant understanding is developed, the theory can be applied and tested. If a single exception is found, the theory is rejected.

In science everything is synthetic. We explicitly create connections between elements of theory when we specify their properties. Theory requires following explicitly stated rules. This is called calculation.

In science we give up ordinary language in favor of calculating with formalized systems of signs. Through such a language of calculation we synthesize. Thus we have a closed loop: subject matter => linguistic analysis => fundamental insights>axioms => calculation => subject matter

“form of function”. To achieve a science we must find a way to express the “form of function”. Much has been written on “form and function”. But now we are concerned with the “form of function”. To be simple, if the function of a door is to plug up a rectangular hole the form of the door must be rectangular. Thus form and function go together. But the form of the door function is to open and close or to swing back and forth. Speaking a noun language we are more concerned with “what something is” rather than “what something does”. Our language is not well suited to the form of function. Even the most basic law of physics, Newton’s law, force equals rate of change of momentum, involves a relationship, equality, between a vector, force, and the time derivative, a calculus operation, on the product of a scalar, mass, and a vector, velocity. In English, this isn’t worth pursuing. And, until we could pursue it we walked, rode horses, and drove ox-carts. Today, we drive automobiles and fly to the moon.

In English, or any other language, there is much we can not talk about such as the “form of function”. Thus there is much we can not share. The yearnings of my heart are known only to me, and yours to you. But that is not the worst of it. If there can be no head without heart and no heart without head than the yearnings of my heart can, at best, be imperfectly fulfilled and imperfectly known to even me.

To achieve a science requires intellectual invention of a means for expressing the organizing laws of the forms of function of that which has remained a mystery in experience combined with an intense desire to penetrate the mystery at last and becoming free to soar to higher aesthetic realms.

Science requires both head and heart, and so do we. Thus my work may seem paradoxical. On the one hand I see rigor of thought and expression on a par with mathematics. On the other hand I see promotion of aesthetic experience on a par with music or poetry or spiritual enlightenment and the fulfillment of dreams. It seems fashionable today to distinguish between mind and heart. Mind can never know the reasons of the heart. There are many such dichotomies. Rational-Intuitive, Feminine-Masculine, Head-Heart. Many people would consider science to be rational, masculine and head centered. Many believe that what we need now is more intuitive, feminine and heart centered. Advocating science must seem to be some peculiar eccentricity. Yet that is what we are doing.

In life these dichotomies go together. There is no rational without intuitive, no intuitive without rational. There is no feminine without masculine and no masculine without feminine. There is no head without heart, no heart without head. And, we insist that science is rational-intuitive, feminine-masculine and head-heart.

.Philosophy and science are complementary methods of inquiry.

What is philosophy? It is observation of experience and trying to explain it by adapting ordinary language to make sense of it. I hold that philosophy and science are complementary methods of inquiry. In philosophy we use ordinary language to talk about our subjects. Through talking, we analyze.

What is theory? It is a whole system of related hypotheses and their consequences that reduce to a unity.


The Subject Matter of The Autognomics Inquiry is Life-itself and its processes, for which a necessary condition is autopoiesis (self- making ). Heretofore the study of living processes has been done as if they are allopoietic processes (machine processes).

What is life or life processes? Autopoiesis (self-making) is necessary but may not be sufficient to account for all the properties of life. Autopoiesis is necessary for life. Thus any attempt to understand life which leaves out autopoiesis will understand it as if it were a machine. Thus modern biology fails to understand life. Its understanding of a living organism is as if it were a machine of interconnected parts obeying laws fixed from the outside. Life is autonomic, i.e., it obeys self generated laws. A machine is allonomic, i.e., it obeys laws built in by the external builder.

Limits in Logic: To date, sciences have been based exclusively on mathematics born of extensional logics, i.e. formal systems of incomplete signs, entailing a symbol and its reference to something.

Alternatively, intensional logic, is based on a triadic system of complete signs, entailing a symbol, a reference to something, and a meaning.

LOGICS Defined: Intensional logic - logic with consequences based on meaning Extensional logic - logic with form (logic form) only

As of today there are no intensional logics. This division of logic resulting in the compulsive ignorance of intensional systems, is a malady screaming for attention. It impacts on all that we do. Even the so called information sciences, are based on logics that are totally devoid of meaning. We do not talk about it because so far no one has known what to do about it. As we begin to feel the pain caused of our ignorance, we begin to know the need for change.

The apparent limitation in the foundations of mathematics just referred to led to more research in logic being done in the last several decades than the entire previous history of human kind. Indeed, not just more but unimaginably more. Today we can conceptualize entirely different systems of logic, systems of logic which actually violate with impunity rules of logic which have held sway for 25 centuries. At the same time, we see evidence that human consciousness is evolving to the level of thinking in complete signs. These two conditions allow us use of intensional logics for the first time in history.

The following diagram illustrates the divisions of knowledge resulting from such use. Knowledge of intensional logics based on complete signs will allow the development of formal sign systems applicable to life itself. These sign systems in turn will allow a calculational rigor defining true life sciences.

FOUNDATIONS of Knowledge

  • extensional logic
  • intensional logic
  • mathematics
  • autognomics
  • physics
  • biology
  • non-life sciences
  • life sciences

Life science: We define life science to be concerned with any organization involving processes of life, i.e., self knowing (self referential) processes. We include single celled organelles to complex human organisms; individuals to societies and their community structures. We include bacteria, fleas, Fred's family, the Mormon Church, and the U.S. Government. We include the Autognomics Institute.

When we assess the scope of the coming life sciences it is shocking how little we know scientifically. Though many might claim that these life sciences already exist we claim that what exists is more accurately called empirical philosophies, a term used in the hard science childhoods of the turn of the century. This is not a put down. Empirical philosophy is a necessary precursor to science. Empirical philosophy can not become science until the necessary sign formalisms exist.

Science marries precision with meaning. It is the ongoing practice of saying precisely what we mean and meaning exactly what we say.

Thus, to produce a science, we need the pure theoretical work described above in addition to the insights and experience of those who work closely with life processes. They might be experts in psychology, religion, management, social work, as well as biology, genetics, or medicine. The list seems endless.

Inquiry Circles: One way to begin compiling these insights and experience is through what we call "inquiry circles." In the inquiry circles “frontliners” (people within fields who are pushing beyond current paradigm) are gathered together to discuss some topic. For example, violence prevention. At various points in the discussion hypotheses based on the theory as postulated so far are put forth for consideration. Does the hypothesis explain the frontliner’s experience? Does it suggest workable solutions? In addition to hypotheses, questions based on the theory are posed. Our experience with inquiry circles has often been startling. Following an hypothesis or questions the frontliners have suddenly understood new ways to think about the direction or outcomes of what they have been doing or what they might try.


About The Autognomics Institute as a living laboratory: As we study life we must be mindful of the fact that life need not be as it has been, nor need it be as we find it. What would a human being be whose life is filled with meaning as opposed to one who is coping with the denial of meaning?

In our life laboratories, if I may put it that way, we will strive for the transformative power of beauty, through the maintenance of focus on process. We will develop new rituals that honor the spiritual in its manifest power to create as well as heal. Enough of our life philosophies are based on experience with meaning impoverished lives. Let us discover what life, lived on a new plane can be.

As we come to understand life, at last, it will be possible to bridge art, philosophy, science and religion. In doing so we will be required to unflinchingly welcome into our processes of inquiry a great deal which will be considered unworthy by contemporary thinking.

One thing I want to avoid is the compartmentalization and fragmentation of typical academic institutions. Recently a visiting professor in the music department at a local college proposed a seminar on religion. His idea was disallowed because of objections from the department of religion.

I differentiate between organization and structure. If we consider ourselves functioning as the "genetic" code to begin the Institute, we soon realize the necessity to "try on" some structures to reflect that organization.

Envision a structure of three concentric circles. The outermost circle is a perceptual circle ,the middle circle is a conceptual circle, and the inner circle is an epi-theory circle. The three circles are connected with open, working lines of communication and axiological mediators. The purpose of this structure is to act in the observation, maintenance and response of life.

The outer ring is made up of connective agents, i.e. actors, mediators, and sensors. A connective agent might be a group of social workers involved in violence prevention. They act as both actors and sensors in this example. The mediator would be their inquiry circle. Rather than having departments dictated by tradition, the number and variety of connective agents would depend entirely on who wants to inquire about what. There can be no brakes put on inquiry!

It is the responsibility of the middle circle to conduct the inquiry circles. The job here is to continue with our past practice of working from theory to pose novel hypotheses and questions. Note that conducting the inquiry involves acting. These acts constitute inner acts of the Institute. The middle ring may have something analogous to committees made up of people with expertise and/or interest in various fields.

Now comes the inner ring whose job it is to conduct inquiry circles for the middle ring. I called this an epi-theory circle since its job involves the introduction of new ways of thinking, new logics, etc