Prologomena of Life-itself Science

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Hypotheses Composite Philosophy for Living Processes and Organisms, where we are finding the logos of life-itself. Norm Hirst

In my process of discovery, my experience led me to conclude there was something profoundly wrong with the way life was understood and lived. I believed the problem involved values. I discovered that understanding values required understanding life itself. Understanding life itself and values has been my sole focus for fifty years. I have been greatly troubled by seeing the emphasis put on the so-called physical world as if that were the home of reality. To me reality, including physical reality, is the creation of life-itself. We put forth here a hypotheses composite philosophy for living processes towards the belief it is now possible to begin creating formalisms to create a science of life and the living process. It is our hypotheses that on every hierarchal level in living entities, the same kind of processes will occur and can be recognized as universal living processes.

We are looking at omni present intangible living processes that combine and remove. Omni present living processes are not seen because they are always operative.

We call this emergent Paradigm the Life-itself Paradigm (See Robert Rosen)

Life-itself – is structured energy in the Sea of Dirac (space), a primordial matrix that creates the physical universe that is a living entity. Life is primordial activity. Within this living entity (infinite because there is no other) are many hierarchal societies of living entities all connected and interacting. You may think of yourself as a single entity, but in fact you are a society of cells.

Life is a creative process. Life is sui generis. That is unique and in a class by itself. It cannot be compared to or explained by physics. Life is fundamental.

It is thought that first the world of inert matter was created, that inert matter is fundamental. That world was either created by random processes, or by some form of intelligence. Choosing random processes is about as enlightening as saying some form of magic, we really don’t know. There is no way to do any form of observation to check out the random process approach. The most we can do is some probability calculations. The results persuade me to give up the idea. (Probability and statistics are not the same.) Choosing intelligence is equally unrewarding unless we can find some intelligent agent. Inert matter cannot do anything except move in response to external forces. Physics is the science of the motion of inert bodies under external forces. There is nothing in physics able to turn its will into self-generated actions. Thus physics can be done in mathematics. Mathematics consists of symbol systems. Symbols are dyads, i.e., two things coupled in a relationship. For example, the word cat and the class of feline animals.

In suggesting that life is fundamental I am suggesting that arrangements of inert matter are produced by living processes. Living processes are processes combining entities that both have a will and can turn it into action. Such processes require sign systems. Signs are triads, i.e., three things united by a relationship. Two are the same as in symbols. The third is the sign’s meaning. Thus with signs we can distinguish, in context, cat as feline, earth moving equipment, cat boats, catamarans, whips, prostitutes, etc. Sign systems were developed by Charles Peirce, 1839-1914, as semiotics.

Requisite forms for dealing with Living Processes: But that is still not going to be adequate for dealing with living processes. Classical logics, the 30 new logics known today, and Peirce’s logic have inherited subject-predicate forms of proposition, i.e., classifying forms such as x is Y, x is round, x is a ball. In short logics show their linguistic heritage. I don’t believe living processes speak human languages except for some of the living processes of humans.

After years of studying logic I have reluctantly come to agree with Whitehead. Remember he was the co-author with Russell of “Principia Mathematica” in which they demonstrated how mathematics could be derived from logic. Together they wrote three large volumes. Ultimately the project was shown to be seriously flawed with the publication of Godel’s incompleteness theorem. The last thing Whitehead wrote appeared in his festschrift volume. “… Logic, conceived as an adequate analysis of the advance of thought, is a fake.” He applied this notion to attempts to achieve exact statements in philosophy and science, “The exactness is a fake.”

He also points out:

“Abstraction involves emphasis, and emphasis vivifies experience, for good, or for evil. … This is the abstraction involved in the creation of any actuality, with its unity of finitude with infinity. But consciousness proceeds to a second order of abstraction whereby finite constituents of the actual thing are abstracted from the thing. This procedure is necessary for finite thought, though it weakens the sense of reality.”

A conclusion, he points out:

“What I am objecting to is the absurd trust in the adequacy of our knowledge. The self-confidence of learned people is the comic tragedy of civilization”

My point up to here explains why I say life is “sui generis”. There is virtually nothing to turn to for help in understanding life. I suggest, for foundations to build on, process metaphysics and an epilogic known as combinatory logic. I prefer to call it combinator logic so it is not confused with combinatorics in mathematics.

I believe metaphysics goes together with a style of logic. Logics, as we have known them, are suited to substance metaphysic. Neither, nor both, can account for a living reality. Over the years I have read many attempts to over come the deficiencies in logic. Truth valued combinations of subject predicate propositions can not work for life.

Life does not arise out of inanimate matter. Inanimate matter arises out of life.

An ability of life is forming habits. Every living entity learns by finding effective acts. An act is effective if it produces the result the living entity intended in doing the act. If sufficiently similar conditions occur again the living entity will repeat an effective act. With enough repetitions the act will become habitual. Inert matter is a locus of such strong habits that there appears to be no life left in it.

Life is not a thing. It is a creative process. Creative processes require multiple processes that are interdependent and interactive.

Things can be referred to as nouns. They are like a lump of something that can be named, defined and described, once and for all time. Since languages are typically noun based they are handy for talking about things. But life is not a thing. Verb languages may be better suited but even they will not suffice. Creative processes require multiple processes that are interdependent and interactive. Each creative moment is based on facts as initial conditions, possible values and finally decision.

Life is creative processes. It cannot be understood or managed or survive on the basis of one system. In contrast computers can be seen as one process, sequential step by step as programmed from beginning to completion. Parallel processing does not change this. In parallel processing a single process is segmented into different segments that can be run on separate processors simultaneously. The results are then combined into one process. For life imagine, as an analogy, a building full of computers. They are all running different programs looking at different aspects of the same reality. Based on values they are all cooperating to combine their knowledge to help each one decide what proper action would be for it. Life requires variety and diversity. Thus we are all born with a different identity.

All living entities are self-creating, i.e., autopoietic

The point is that all living entities come into being as a whole entity and grow into maturity as a whole entity unlike machines that are assembled piece by piece by some other. There is a distinction between being autonomic, obeying self-law, and allonomic, obeying some other’s law. Machines are allonomic, they obey the laws built in by external agencies. There is no way for any other to build in the internal laws of a living entity. We cannot know the inner laws of another person, thus we should not judge.

In living entities, their acts can create new forms of order. Thus living entities do not approach reality in a machine-like fashion that is always limited to the current context of order. Living entities must change and adapt constantly to evolving forms of order and this requires values as opposed to cause and effect as guiding force.

Autopoiesis requires self-awareness and self-reference.

Self-reference is required for self-awareness. Self-reference wreaks havoc on traditional logic. It invalidates truth-values and the ideas of consistency. No living organism can be consistent. Thus life is vibratory. This mistaken belief in consistency leads to Jung’s "dark side."

Self-reference introduces paradox invalidating conventional logic.

I have often heard that people are not logical. By conventional logic, that is certainly true however, people are quite rational but rational by different kinds of logic. There are modern logics that allow for such apparent paradox.

This means the ancient prohibitions against inconsistency are invalid except in particular circumstances. The idea that we should behave consistently is impossible since life is vibratory. Jung’s dark side is unnecessary.

The apparent paradox is resolved by oscillation.

The paradox is that opposites can both be true, i.e., A, and Not A. This is resolved by letting them alternate over time.

Life is vibratory.

Thus life cannot be consistent. Resolutions affirm ideals we promise ourselves to live by. Unfortunately the vibratory nature of life makes it impossible leading to a sense of failure and loss of self-esteem. Thinking that one must be consistent also leads to Jung’s notions of the dark side.

Living entities are manifest with an invariant identity. Identity refers to the process specifications by which their autopoiesis occurs. We might say biological identity or genetic identity. For example, as cells are produced for our bodies they are produced with unique characteristics that identify them as our cells.

Living entities are created as a single whole. There are no parts.

It seems as if there are parts. We have hearts, brains, kidneys, livers, etc. But they are not truly parts as in machines. Consider the heart as a pump. It is known to day that it is much more than just a pump. How ever think machines for a moment. Pretend there is a machine with a pump pumping some required fluid. Barring the pump breaking it will pump as it was designed and built to pump. Now suppose a critical pipe is about to burst if the pump doesn’t slow down. In a machine the pipe will burst. If the machine were an holistic entity the pump would know it had better slow down and generate alarm signals for maintenance.

It takes nerve messages some time to get around. Not much, maybe only a millisecond, .001 second. On that basis I had doubted that the body could really be holistic which I thought of as complete simultaneity throughout the body. Then in 1992 Mae Wan Ho discovered that living tissue is liquid crystalline. That permits such rapid communication that whole body simultaneity is possible.

Modern medicine is divided into specialties and a fragmented view of what is occurring. The effects of holism are likely not seen.

Living entities are born into unknown environments to which they must learn and adapt.

I have often heard that animals live by instincts, only humans live by intelligence. Living in Maine where we have had much more opportunity to observe wild life makes that old belief seem preposterous. Since there is no way to know what the environment will be throughout their life times there is no way they can be preprogrammed with instinct. Adapting requires intelligence.

To permit learning and adaptation the identity processes allow for structural plasticity.

An example is growing new synaptic connections throughout our life as we learn.

Survival depends on learning effective acts. An act is effective is an act or set of acts resulting in what was intended

This hypothesis stems from the discoveries of autopoiesis that reverse traditional theories of perception. What is required is an embodied brain capable of acting on the world. Meaning is supplied by the intent to act combined with reports from the senses. The senses are not just passive sensors. They are directed to seek certain results. If the results satisfy the intent of an act, the act becomes part of the organisms repertoire.

The traditional theories of perception have passive senses, sensors, feeding information to the brain. The brain makes sense of it and stores it as representations of the external reality.

When carefully examined the traditional theory is impossible. This is also the theory on which artificial intelligence work has been based that explains the failure of artificial intelligence.

Life is creative processes. It cannot be understood or managed or survive on the basis of one system. In contrast computers can be seen as one process, sequential step by step as programmed from beginning to completion. Parallel processing does not change this. In parallel processing a single process is segmented into different segments that can be run on separate processors simultaneously. The results are then combined into one process. For life imagine, as an analogy, a building full of computers. They are all running different programs looking at different aspects of the same reality. Based on values they are all cooperating to combine their knowledge to help each one decide what proper action would be for it. Life requires variety and diversity. Thus we are all born with a different identity.

To maintain its uniqueness a living entity must distinguish itself from its environment. See the logic of distinction in Brown’s “Laws of Form”.

Distinguished, living entities must be autonomous. This means they follow their own internal law. There is simply no input mechanism to change their internal operations. Force may change their external acts. They will rebel as soon as the force is removed. The rebellion may have dangerous consequences for whoever applied the force. This might help to understand terrorism and ways to prevent it.

Autonomy implies organisms are closed to information. Information is not a commodity. For example, say I send you a packet of information. “The five primitive combinators can be replaced by just two, K and S.” Got it! No, of course you don’t. Unless you have studied combinators it doesn’t mean a thing. If you had studied combinators I wouldn’t need to tell you unless you were just starting out and had not gone beyond the five primitive combinators.

In my experience I don’t remember people thinking about information being a commodity until the publication of “The Mathematical Theory of Communication” by Shannon and Weaver. The theory is only about detecting and correcting signal errors as in missing bits in digital communication.

In organisms, informare, formed within, replaces information. As a living entity our experiences include talking to one another. We begin to connect the sounds with experience. When we are spoken to we associate what is said with our own experience. We may also form concepts, abstractions, etc. Thus we think we can communicate. Sometimes it happens, but it is an iffy process that takes great care.

A living entity can only know and do what its own living history has provided.

A living entity cannot violate its identity.

Now we begin to see many consequences such as a person cannot be controlled, may not be able to fulfill arbitrary expectations, that there is no possibility of literal language and we all live in different realities.

A living entity has maximum freedom of action subject only to coherence conditions within its living context

Coherence from coheres – to stick together. Coherence means compatible habits of acting. Coherence can be quantum coherence to axiological coherence..

Living acts are never the result of cause and effect as in physics. They are acts chosen on the basis of values. For the simplest entities the only choice may be to act or not act. For humans the choices may be a very complex variety

Values are internal experiences

For humans there are three kinds of experience, aesthetic, practical and correct. These are named intrinsic, extrinsic and systemic. These form a hierarchy in which I>E>S

Living organisms are self-aware, self motivated actors. Thus they are totally outside the domain of current scientific thinking. Current scientific thinking is either classification, as in creating a taxonomy, or causal dynamics. In the case of causal dynamics it is assumed it must be both quantitative and predictive.

Classification tells us nothing useful for understanding living organisms. Classifications are based on external physical properties. They tell us nothing about internal awareness or motivations. By causal dynamics I mean motion due entirely to external forces.

Since living organisms are self-aware and self-motivated we give up on prediction. As for quantitative I believe that is a mistaken notion. Science involves mappings into some form of order. Numbers were a convenient form of order to begin with. However, they are clearly not the only form of order.

Now if we are going to have a science of life we need to ask what we expect of it. Since living organisms are self-motivated actors we are not going to predict behavior as we might from a robot. Nor are we going to be able to control people. We are not even going to consider it. But what we can do is begin to understand what is possible.

Here we are concerned with all living organisms and the environment they create.

Is the ecosystem a living organism? The evidence indicates that it is. If so, what is now being learned about the way living organisms function raises troubling questions. Is our abuse threatening its life? If it dies we will have no life support system. If, as now it appears to be, living organisms manage their energy requirements in terms of diversity of life forms the ecosystem needs biodiversity. The loss of species is not just an aesthetic problem.

Is an economic system a living system? Some economists are claiming that they can not understand economics with the old scientific paradigms. They need a living system theory of economics. As with the ecosystem economies need economic diversity. Ultimately globalization will bring about the end of the world’s economy.

Physicians think of our bodies as biochemical machines. They are not machines. There is no similarity to machines. Nor are they purely biochemical. This belief in machines has stymied the progress of medicine. Physicians today can rarely cure anything. Medical interventions are work arounds. They remove symptoms but they do not return the body to normal healthy functioning. As we understand living organisms more fully medical care will more resemble what is portrayed on Star Trek. It will utilize the generation and application of fields that will guide the body back to health.

Our bodies are processes, not things. We are in denial about what is most obvious. Think and observe! Picture our bodies ever changing from birth to maturity to old age. We don’t need maintenance people to install updates. The body is a process of constant re-creation. Generally it re-duplicates itself.

Now we need to explore what kind of process and how do we express it.


What we have to say about living process does not fit well in language. Why should it? Language is intended to communicate about more practical matters. We need to resort to formalisms. Unfortunately few people have experience with formalisms outside of physicists and mathematicians, and they don’t have experience with the kind of formalisms we now need.

Formalisms are used to express the generation or creation of forms. Thus formalisms feature acts. For example, start with 0. Add one to produce a result. Repeat! Add one to the result. Keep repeating!

Those simple instructions represent the creation of the whole infinite order of integers.

All the formalisms known today produce an order of things. The integers are things.

To understand life and living organisms we need a new style of formalism. We need formalisms to produce orders of acts.

The philosophical basis is process metaphysics, not substance metaphysics. That is, fundamental concepts are concepts of acts, not objects. To put it another way, we work with verbs, not nouns. This rejects subject-predicate forms of logic.

This also rejects the typical emphasis on truth. Life is creative rather than truth preserving. Rather than subject-predicate propositions judged by their truth-values, we turn to combinations of acts judged as to the effectiveness. Effectiveness is a value judgement.

The driving force of life is to achieve harmonized (coherent) variety and diversity. The measure of value is proportional to the measure of diversity and the measure of coherence.

A process is a combination of acts, though combination is a rather weak word. Perhaps we should speak of a society of acts or a nexus of acts. Envision acts embedded in acts. Envision acts relating acts. Envision an organism as a society with many foci of sub-societies acting simultaneously and driven by coherence.

Substance metaphysics has forced upon on us worldviews precluding values. With a few exceptions, the literature on values is rather ridiculous. Values are not things. They are conditions on living processes.

I said that living organisms are self-knowing and self-motivated. Everything that today’s science deals with effectively is simply the passive result of causal interactions. A living organism has to choose. A living organism begins with a single act of manifestation.

In semiotics it is thought that an organism prepares to act based on deduction, particularly in thirdness where knowledge of laws becomes available. By deduction it calculates what is likely to be next in the world of its experience. No doubt this is part of the truth. But for a living organism that has to choose there is the need to be sensitive to the totality of what is possible and out of that totality what is most desirable. Thus we enter the realm of values that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been adequately explored.


1: All life is connected – connected by both EMF and quantum potentials

2: All living entities are autonomous, so they can differentiate subject only to coherence

3: All living entities operate by electromagnetism – see liquid crystalline nature

4: All living entities are complex in the Rosen sense – no largest model, they are not machines

Not being machines exposes the reasons for dangerous side effects in medical treatment and limitations of the medical paradigm.

5. All living entities are self referential

6: Self-referential implies self-observation and awareness

7: Self-referential violates classical logic – leads to paradox resolved by oscillation

8: Living entities survive by learning effective acts – not representations as in talking

9: Living entities exhibit invariant organization and structural plasticity

The computer like distinction between hardware and software can illustrate this. The hardware is unchanging but what it does depends on values given by the software. But don’t take this illustration too seriously. A physical organism can change itself. For example changing synaptic connections. Also there is the issue of the liquid genome, I await the book

10: For living process space is fractal. Space time as we have known it does not apply

11: Physics is not basic to life. The science of living process is basic to physics

12: Living process is social, i.e., carried out by democratic societies of cells.

13: The society is called a nexus. “Regnant nexus” replaces the notion of controllers

14: Regnant nexus are transient as required

15: Process results from individuals acting to introduce coherent novelty

16: At all levels from atoms to the universe life forms societies

15: Truth conditions (knowledge) become important in predicting the effectiveness of acts

10: But oscillation can undermine truth conditions – leading to fear and conflict

11: Reality for a living organism is a co-creation of knowledge and the external context

12: The external context always involves both poles of categorical contrasts

13: Reality is created by choosing one or the other pole – thus reality is always limiting