SWENSON: THE DEVELOPMENT OF SPACE-TIME

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relational ontology, energy, rod swenson, emergence,symmetry, continuum,conservation
FIGURE 2. A schematic for the conjunction capturing the generalized minimal ontology of an autocatakinetic system. The right side shows the circularity of the self-other relation and the one-way flow (time asymmetry) of the (time symmetric) conservation (left side) through which it is constituted or distinguished. (From Ref. 7, reproduced by permission of Erlbaum and Associates.)
FIGURE 2 shows the generalized conjunction capturing the minimal ontology of an autocatakinetic system.4,7 An autocatakinetic system is one that maintains itself "as an entity constituted by, and empirically traceable to, a set of nonlinear (circularly causal) relations through the dissipation or breakdown of environmental potentials (or 'resources') in the continuous coordinated motion of its components."(6)
It is the closure, or circularity of the autocatakinetic relations whereby the output works back on the input that defines and maintains the autocatakinetic system as a distinct entity, but one whose identity only exists and is maintained through its environment. When we talk of autocatakinetic systems, therefore, we are necessarily talking about a relational ontology. This makes the strategic methodologic point advertised in the introduction: that the discontinuum is only intelligible through an understanding of the continuum from which it emerges, arises, is a differentiation or production, and through which it is constituted. In different terms, it is the whole conjunction depicted in FIGURE I that must be included. This is in contrast to the Cartesian tradition with its various ramifications that attempt to invoke the self as existing independently from the other (or environment), as well as the more encompassing continuum itself (the left-hand side of the conjunction). For example, theories of perception, where what is perceived are "mental states" (the Cartesian circle), or its contemporary symbol-processing extension with the mind-as-computer model of cognitive science; and various closed-circle theories, or functionalist schemes in social theory, where a set of circular relations only refer back to themselves (2-4,8). From an a posteriori, or empirical standpoint no such systems exist in the the world other than in the minds of humans; and from an a priori standpoint, given the law of energy conservation (or time-translation symmetry that defines the event horizon of what is causally efficacious and/or knowable) such systems cannot exist. The dysfunctional theoretical consequences of what is often a transparent importation of Cartesian assumptions under other names has been addressed in more detail elsewhere (2,4,5,7,8). Among these consequences is the fact that such theories are essentially static or antievolutionary with no basis to explain or even to recognize origins and development. In a developmental world, one that is only deeply intelligible in the "'present progressive" (9,10), this itself is a fatal problem.