BACK TO BASICS
We’ve all heard of Isaac Newton’s contributions to science - especially his three laws of motion. From these three excruciatingly simple laws, we have been able to derive the sciences that enable buildings to be built, planes to fly, cars to be driven and rockets to put people on the moon. We need an analogous simplicity to understand cognition.
My piece I Am Culture is a more poetic expression of my ideas.
The Law of Association of Habits
There is a law in this succession of ideas. We may roughly say it is the law of habit. It is the great "Law of Association of Ideas," - the one law of all psychical action. - Charles Sanders Peirce
Towards the end of last century (late 1900s), several strands of theory have been established to study the nature of consciousness. Ken Wilber has provided a description of these, and he has also identified the need to provide an over-arching, general theory that will integrate all these views. My website is a summary of my own efforts aimed at that very objective, which I had begun in 1990.
In December of 1997, I found that my ideas were consistent with the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce and the more recent field of biosemiotics (Biosemiotics Home Page and Jesper Hoffmeyer's Home Page). Up until then, I had not heard of these interpretations. And so while my ideas have always been consistent with biosemiotics, the language I first began to use was different - it incorporated the definitions of the many strands that have been evolving around that time - for example, I used the word “autopoiesis” to emphasise the process of choice-making characteristic of every living entity.
Recent revelations in genetics concerning the numbers of genes of humans versus "lesser" organisms have renewed concerns regarding the applicability of mainstream interpretations based in genetic determinism.
Contrary to the reductionist methods of genetic determinists, my own approach is one of synthesis across several disciplines and, as such, its emphasis is on consistency. We are at a point in our history where we are going to have to settle on some rather simple truths. The truths will need to hang together - they will need to be consistent with our observations, and empirical/experimental verification will be among the tools used in our synthesis. We need to be rigorous in our application of consistency to confront anomalies that don't quite hang together. Ours will be a rigour that demands discipline in the search for answers as to why people behave as they do - and by discipline, it is meant that if an answer cannot be found, then no answer will be contrived. We can no longer rely on reassurances from genetic determinists that the answers lie in the genetic code. We will look to empirical/experimental verification to support our observations, not to define them.
I will begin by looking at generalisations about living entities that we can rely on to be axiomatic. This will lay the foundations on which we will consistently ask the right questions, thereby avoiding category errors. I will then present the body of my unpublished paper.
What are some basic truths about living systems that we must confront in order to understand them? What are these basic truths without which there can be no further ado? Has autopoiesis theory (or any other theory) confronted these fundamentals? If they have not, then they will have difficulty attaining consistency.
Here is a list of principles relevant to living, biosemiotic systems that I regard as axiomatic.
See what I'm doing here? I'm trying to establish a framework from which principles of life are observable at every level. I'm trying to attain consistency. My proof lies not in the empirical results of repeatable experiments, but in the consistency of my observations.
- Principles of consciousness are simple. Analogous to Newton's three laws of motion. You cannot have complexity without simplicity;
- We exist. Our existence provides its own proof of the existence of simple, determinable, underlying principles. “All” we have to do is find out what they are;
- The key principles are fully generalisable, from the lowest to the highest levels;
- Things that are inexplicable to our current way of thinking must have logical, rational explanations. What we have to do is change our assumptions - a paradigm shift. For example, the EPR effect (quantum physics) is one that might be comprehensible through reanalysis of our assumptions of what “self” actually means;
- Choice-making is a characteristic of all life;
- Everything is process. The language we use to describe it must be consistent;
- Nothingness and infinity (infinite choice, infinite possibility) must be a part of the model, and must make sense within the context of the model.
From these axioms, we are now in a position to flesh out the basis for a general theory of cognition. I introduce a paper that I originally wrote in 1994:
A Biosemiotic Model of Cognition
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