SOCIAL TOPOLOGY

Sorry to see Vicente unsub.

In the case of the nervous system that leads to an informationally
closed system. . .

Vicente suggests that this viewpoint reflects an important contribution
with far reaching consequences. I wish I had the opportunity to learn
what Vicente thinks these consequences are. That's 'cause *I agree* largely
with the observation.

Let me share with you briefly what I think the contribution is: First, it is
a contribution to the fields of ontology, epistemology, and methodology.
Namely, it pulls inside out the traditional views of a given, single reality
with a stable list of things that really exist; it pull inside out the
science of gathering knowledge about this reality and its things; and it
severly upsets our views about how to enact ways of practicing the science
of knowledge-building.

Perhaps what I mean by "pulls inside out" will become clear if I start with
epistemology. BTW, this idea of informationally closed systems also attacks
correspondence epistemology, and ultimately, the Lockean notion of the mind
as a tabula rasa to be imprinted (presumably) through careful attention with
an accurate *representation* of what's out there.

But informational closure seems to close the door on any idea that we might
be creating *representations* of things out there with our perceptual
machinery. And, what if that's practically accurate? What if, instead,
nervous activity resulted in the necessary and sufficient signal processing
to allow adequate behavior or structural change in the face of perceptions
of changes in the perceptual surround? Why does this signal processing have
to *represent* anything to result in behavior of the autopoietic system
adequate to the continuation of autopoiesis? I can't think of a reason why
it should. Rather, I can imagine that such signal processing (as we call it
from the land of the observer) could take any form whatsoever that might be
appropriate to the triggering of sturctural changes effective in sustaining
autopoiesis--those structural changes being selected from among the range of
possible behavioral processes.

In summary, it seems reasonable to me that an autopoietic system need not
*represent* anything to itself other than its own states, insofar as those
states--the system's variety--are able to meet perceived disturbances in a
way that continues autopoiesis. This way of looking at it seems to me to
pull epistemology inside out, insofar as it ceases to be concerned with
matching or corresponding its bits of knowledge with some accuracy quotient
relative to the discovery of attirbutes of things out there in the medium.
It is totally concerned with its own structural plasticity and the
arrangements of its states so that autopoiesis continues. Does this make
sense?

Hmmm. Getting too long, that's why I started with epistemology. For
ontology--very briefly--there seems to develop an ontological attitude which
I have come to call "arealism." It's not a thoroughgoing skepticism like
that of von Glasersfeld, since I don't know that things aren't really out
there despite my inability to know whether they are or not (in an
informationally closed system). But the attitude *does* open the door to
acknowledging indefinitely many existing realities--not just the one I
believe in. This idea I'm getting at was a big point that John Dewey tried
to make. Reality and the things that populate it can be very different
closed system to closed system. No one reality is the true for all systems
because this concept does not compute--it is nonsense. Autopoietic systems
interact within their medium (for the observer) in ways that either sustain
autopiesis or not. If there are beliefs about reality caught up in this
process the "reality" is in support to the epistemological project, not the
other way round. Arealism is simply the profession of lack of concern for
whether realism is true or not--in a general or idea sense. Likewise,
anti-realism misses the point too.

I'll leave methodology for another post.

best wishes, jeff

Jeff Dooley
dooley@well.sf.ca.us