Commonplaces M-Z

Commonplaces A-L

These two pages are readings which were important to me over a considerable period. Several of the authors cited here are little respected today (Whitehead, Prigogine, maybe even Stephen Jay Gould) and others have never been very well known (Harre, Hexter, Gunnell). A few of them are dead ends and false starts — I now think that quantum physics should be left to quantum physicists.

A few topics show up again and again — the mutual definition of self and society, the irreversibility of time and contingency of the future, the failure of the attempts to reduce human affairs to Science which were the background of my early education, and more generally, the neglect of “practical philosophy” and “rhetoric”, the historical, contexted, embedded uderstanding of human reality.


MacIntire, Alisdair. After Virtue, Notre Dame, 1981

“But in every case the rise of the managerial expertise would have to be the same central theme, and such expertise, as we have already seen, has two sides to it: there is the aspiration to value neutrality and the claim to manipulative power.” p. 83

“I want to argue that there are four sources of systematic unpredictability in human affairs, The first derives from the nature of radical conceptual innovation…. The invention of the wheel cannot be predicted….” p. 89

“[T]he unpredictability of certain of his own future actions by each agent individually generates another element of unpredictability as such the social world…. insofar as the observer cannot predict the impact of his future actions on my future decision-making, he cannot predict my future actions any more than he can his own…. Another way of making the same point would be to note that omniscience excludes the making of decisions.” p. 91-2

“A third source of systematic unpredictability arises from the game-theoretic character of human life.” p. 92

“I now turn to the fourth source: pure contingency. J.B. Bury once followed Pascal in suggesting that the foundation of the Roman Empire was the length of Cleopatra’s nose: had her features been perfectly-proportioned, Mark Anthony would not have been entranced…. One does not have to accept Bury’s argument to see that trivial contingencies can powerfully influence the outcomes of great events….” p. 95


Mead, George Herbert, On Social Psychology, Chicago, 1964

“It is the characteristic of the self as an object to itself that I want to bring out. This characteristic is represented by the word “self”, which is a reflexive, and indicates that which can be both subject and object.” p. 201

“The unity and structure of the complete self reflects the unity and structure of the social process as a whole.” p. 208

“The organized community or group which gives to the individual his unity of self can be called the “generalized other”.” p. 218

“The man who says “This is my property” is taking the attitude of the other person. The man is appealing to his rights because he is able to take the attitude which everybody else in the group has with reference to property, thus arousing in himself the attitude of others.” p. 226

“Of course we are not only what is common to all; each one of the selves is different from everyone else; but there has to be such a common structure as I have sketched in order that we may be members of a community at all…. Selves can exist only in definite relationships to other selves. No hard-and-fast line can be drawn between our own selves and the selves of others, since our own selves exist and enter as such into our own experience only insofar as the selves of others exist and enter as such into our experience also.” p. 227

“The ‘I’ then, in this reflection of the “I” and the “me”, is something that is, so to speak, responding to a social situation which is in the experience of the individual. It is the answer which the individual makes to the attitude which others take toward him when others take an attitude toward him. Now the attitude he is taking toward them is present in his own experience but his response to them will take a novel element. The “I” gives the sense of freedom, of initiative.” p. 232*

“The fact that all selves are constituted by or in terms of the social process and are individual reflections of it — or rather of this organized behavior pattern which it exhibits and which they prehend in their respective structures — is not in the least incompatible with, or destructive of, the fact that every individual self has its own peculiar individuality, its own unique pattern. Because each individual self within the process reflects in its organized structure the behavioral pattern of that process as a whole from its own particular and unique standpoint within that process, it thus reflects in its organized structure a different aspect or perspective of this whole social behavior pattern from that which is reflected in the organized structure of any other individual self within that process. This is similiar to every monad in the Leibnizian universe which mirrors that universe from a different point of view and thus mirrors a different aspect or perspective of that universe.” p. 234

“The individual, as we have seen, is continually reacting back against this society. Every adjustment involves some sort of change in the community to which the individual adjusts himself. And this change, of course, may be very important.” p. 235

“It is that “I” which we may said to be continually trying to realize, and to realize through the actual conduct itself. One does not ever get it fully before oneself. Sometimes somebody else can tell him something about himself that he is not aware of. He is never sure about himself, and he astonishes himself about his conduct as much as he astonishes other people.” p. 236

“Values do definitely attach to this expression of the self which is peculiar to the self; and what is peculiar to the self is what it calls its own. And yet this value lies in the social situation and would not be apart from that social situation. It is the contribution of the individual to the situation, even though it is only in the social situation that the value is obtained.” p. 240

“The situation in which one can let himself go, in which the very structure of the “me” opens the door for the “I”, is favorable to self-expression. I have referred to the situation in which a person can sit down with a friend and say just what he is thinking about to someone else. There is a satisfaction in letting oneself go in this way. The sort of thing that in other circumstances you would not say and not even let yourself think is now naturally uttered. Should you get in a group which thinks as you do, you can go to lengths that may surprise you. The “me” in the above situations is definitely constituted by the social relations. Now if this situation is such that in opens the door to impulsive expression, one gets a peculiar satisfaction, high or low, the source of which is the value which attaches to the expression of the “I” in the social process.” p. 241


Meyer, Michel, Questions and Questioning, de Gruyter, 1988.

Meyer, Michel, From Logic to Rhetoric, John Benjamins, 1986.

Meyer, Michel, Of Problematology, Chicago, 1995.

Meyer, Michel, Rhetoric, Language, and Reason, Penn State, 1994.

Meyer, Michel, “Dialectic and Questioning: Socrates and Plato”, American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 17, #4, Oct. 1980, pp. 281-9.

Meyer, Michel (ed.), De la Metaphysique a la Rhetorique, U. Bruxelles, 1986.

“In fact, questioning died with Socrates, not without reason we shall see, and philosophy turned into ontology…. Answers will be considered in themselves, as judgments…. The consequence was that to be an answer became an accidental and inessential feature of knowledge, while the property of being a judgment was the characteristic which was to count in the first place…. Ever since, discovery and progress in knowledge have been considered as a matter of logic and conclusive argumentation — as if progress were not already taking place when the scientist raises the questions to be solved.” p. 281-2

“Whence the new role of recollection: to shift the problem of the acquisition of knowledge from questioning to ontology. The problem of the acquisition of knowledge becomes that of the relationship between the sensible and the non-sensible, the latter being the Form.” p. 289

“Science as a Questioning Process: A Prospect for a New Type of Rationality”, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, vols. 131-2, 1980, pp. 48-89.

“Science is a questioning process, and if its language is to be described, it must be done in terms of answers and not statements.” p. 53″

“Science progresses by asking questions and then answering them, and even if we were to make the whole process the result of inspiration, it would not alter the fact that results, wherever and however they arise, are so in virtue of being answer to questions.” p. 83

Meyer, Michel, “Problematology and Rhetoric”, in Golden and Pilotta, pp. 119 — 152.

“What is then a real question? A question that can be solved and eliminated thereafter. All those that cannot be solved are not real questions…..A question means a real problem if it has a solution, and the solution suppresses what is problematic. The question disappears once it is solved, as in science; when questions do not disappear, as in metaphysics, they do not represent real problems.” p. 129 [not Meyer’s own opinion]

“In other words, what is explicit, being an answer, raises the question of which question it is the answer to”. p. 139

“The context contains the questions and the “out-of-the-question”, if we can say so, which are the presuppositions of the question.” p. 140


Natanson, Maurice, and Johnstone, H., Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Argumentation, Penn State, 1965.

(Natanson): “If you argue you choose to open yourself to the risk of discovering in the argument that the argument has a fundamental structure that has, in turn, profound implications for your own being.” p. 15

(Natanson): “As a critique of suppositions, philosophy is a reflexive discipline, i.e., it not only takes for investigation objects and problems external to it, but it also seeks to understand itself.” p. 100

(Natanson): “…. [T]he philosopher is trying to uncover something about himself…. Persuasion, however, will be treated as the dialectical transformation of the self through indirect argumentation.”


Nelson, Megill, McCloskey (eds.), The Rhetoric of the Human Sciences, Wisconsin, 1985.

Nelson, John, “Seven Rhetorics of Inquiry”, in Nelson, et al, 1985).

“In part, therefore, my argument is also a plea to rethink relations between the academy and the polity. In particular it is a plea to put the postmodern university into a more direct and responsible contact with ethics and politics. In some respects it is a proposal to ethicize and politicize the human sciences. But mostly it is a recommendation to improve how the human sciences are already ethicized and politicized.” pp. 409-410

“Forgetting how logics are artifacts of rhetorics, even the latest of modern epistomologies end in perplexity. At best, they generate ironies born of the modern quest for a scientific rationality that could be disembodied, unemotional, noncontextual, and apolitical — but still could comprehend human beings”. pp. 413-414

“Textbooks on method in the social sciences…. seldom acknowledge the manifold temptations to fraud, perhaps because modern methods and institutions are supposed to prevent all but the occasional cases that will swiftly be detected and set to aright. They neglect issues of ownership, profit, and proper uses of research. They fail to contemplate the possibility that whole schools or disciplines could become subtly corrupted. But worst, they do not even rcognize that the procedures and standards of disciplines are constructs of ethics.” p. 428


Odin, Steve, Process Metaphysics and Hua-yen Buddhism, SUNY, 1982″An event is in fact a substance with unique and irreducible selfhood in that it is a self-creative experience constitutive of its own novel and aesthetic unity.” p. 73


Parfit, Michael, “Before Noah, there were the Lake Missoula Floods”, Smithsonian, April, 1995, pp 46-75


Peirce, Charles Sanders, ed. Buchler, Philosophical Writings, Dover, 1955.

“Tychism must give birth to an evolutionary cosmology”. p. 339

“The Darwinian controversy is, in large part, a question of logic. Mr. Darwin proposed to apply the statistical method to biology. The same thing has been done in a widely different branch of science, the theory of gases. Though unable to say what the movements of any particular model would be on a certain hypothesis regarding the constitution of this class of bodies, Clausius and Maxwell were yet able, eight years before the publication of Darwin’s immortal work, by the application of the doctrine of probabilities, to predict that in the long run such and such a proportion of the molecules would, under given circumstances, acquire such and such velocities…. In like manner, Darwin, while unable to say what the operation of variation and natural selection in any individual case will be, demonstrates that in the long run they will, or would adapt animals to their circumstances.” p. 7


Perelman, Chaim, and Olbrechts-Tyteca, L., The New Rhetoric, Notre Dame, 1969.Only the existence of an argumentation that is neither compelling nor arbitrary can give meaning to human freedom, a state in which reasonable choice can be exercised….. It is because of the possibility off argumentation which provides reasons, but not compelling reasons, that it is possible to escape the dilemma: adherence to an objectively and universally valid truth, or recourse to suggestion and violence to secure acceptance of our opinions and decisions. p. 314

Perelman, Chaim, The New Rhetoric and the Humanities, D. Reidel, 1979.

Perelman, Chaim, Justice, Law, and Argument, D. Reidel, 1980.

Perelman, Chaim, Le Champ de L’Argumentation, Brussels, 1970. (Needs proofreading against original and addition of accents).

“Les oppositions que l’on peut noter entre demonstration classique et loqique formelle d’une part, argumentation d’autre part, peuvent, semble-t-il, se ramener a une difference essentielle: le temps ne joue aucun role dans la demonstration; celui-ci, par contre, est, dans l’argumentation, primordial. Au point que l’on peut se demander si ce n’est pas l’intervention du temps qui permet de distinguer le mieux l’argumentation de la demonstration.” p. 41

“[U]ne demonstration de logique modale, une demonstration visant d’affirmer, a partir de certains evenements, peuvent etre considerees comme intemporelles aussi longtemps que l’on ne fait pas intrevenir dans le calcul, soit un agent avec sa liberte, soit un evenement contingent qui modifie le deroulement prevu…..En effet, l’action argumentative, aussi bien que l’action que vise a declencher l’argumentation, sont le fait d’agents. La personne intervient ainsi a tout coup; avec sa stabilite, mais aussi avec sa faculte de choix, sa liberte creatrice, les aleas de son comportement, le precarite de ses engagements. La adhesion de la personne aux theses qu’on lui presente n’est pas simple enregistrement des results acquis par l’argumentation; les theses adoptees peuvent etre remaniees, modifiees, afin d’etre mises en harmonie avec d’autre croyances; de nouvelles structurations peuvent etre realisees pour permettre d’adherer pleinement a ce qui est propose.” p. 42

“L’action de l’orateur est un aggresion, car elle tend toujours a changer quelque chose, a transformer l’auditeur.” p. 43

“Liee a tous les changements qu’entraine le temps, changement de la personne, changement du conteste argumentatif, l’argumentation n’est pas definitivement close…. Mais, d’autre part, etant un action, l’argumentation se situe dans des limites limites temporelles strictes. La duree d’un discourse est souvent miniteusement reglee; la attention de l’auditeur ne peut indefinement se prolonger; l’urgence de la decision empeche que l’on poursuivre les debats, meme si les incertitudes n’ont pas ete dominees….” p. 44

“Il y a deux manieres possibles de faire echapper les donnees a toute influence de contexte: en isolant le systeme artificiellement, ou bien encore en considerant qu’il doit couvrir la totalite du cosmos….. Mais ni l’un ni l’autre de ces deux facons de preserver les donnees, n’est utilisible dans l’argumentation. En effet, celle-ci a pour caracteristique que l’on ne peut determiner a priori ce qui est relevant…. au cours meme de l’argumentation, s’introduiront, qu’on veuille ou non, de nouvelles premisses.” p. 48

“Si demonstration s’est liberee du temps en isolant, du contexte, un systeme, elle a tente aussi de liberer de l’influence du temps sur les instruments utilises. Tout son effort vers l’univocite est une maniere de figer le temps. Ce qui revient a dire qu’elle se libere de langage. Elle devient rien que langage, ou pas de tout langage, comme il plaira, celui-ci etant fixe une fois pour toutes. Elle supprime l’influence du symbole sur le symbolise et reciproquement. L’argumentation par contre est essentiellement un acte de communication. Elle implique communion des esprits prise de conscience commune du monde en vue d’une action reelle….” pp. 49-50.

“D’autre part, les notions non formelles sont toujours “ouvertes” en ce sense qu’une situation est toujours susceptible de se produire qui exigera de nouvelles specifications: la notion doit pouvoir etre adaptee a ce role imprevisible. Parfois c’est au cours meme d’une argumentation et par leur insertion dans celle-ci que les notions se transforment et que se creent de nouvelles configurations qui prennent rang dans la pensee.” p. 50 *

“Arguments de direction, arguments du gaspillage ne prennent leur sense que d’une perspective temporelle. Mais le temps ainsi invoque, de meme que celui que l’on fait intervenir quand on raisonne sur les effects et les causes, les mobiles et les motifs, n’est du temps plein que dans la measure ou les modifications qu’il introduit sont, a la fois, ineluctable et, d’une certaine maniere, contingentes ou tout au moins imprevisibles, ne peuvent etre decrites completement dans le vocabulaire et avec les connaissances presentes.” p. 52

“La pensee courante, aussi bien que la pensee scientifique, a cree des objects stables, les choses avec leurs properties, les structures comme expression des relations. L’argumentation ne manque pas de s’en servir egalement. Toutefois dans le mesure ou elle est action, inseree dans les temps, elle ne peut pretendre figer ainsi tous ses objets. Sans doute a-t-elle cree des facteurs de stabilite partielle: la notion de personne, dans son opposition aux actes, est le prototype d’une de ces creations qui permettent, a la fois, de conserver la spontaneite, la variete, l’imprevisibilite des actes et neanmoins de donner a l’agent un caractere de permanence suffisant pour qu’on puisses l’inserer dans les raisonnements. De meme la notion d’essence, dans son opposition a ce qui n’est qu’accident, est un procede de stabilization, calque sur la rapport de la personne a l’acte.” p. 55


Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation, Beacon, 1957

“Man under the name of labor, nature under the name of land, were made available for sale…. The fiction that labor and land were produced for sale was consistently upheld. But the commodity fiction disregarded the fact that leaving the fate of soil and people to the market would be tantamount to annihilating them….”p. 131-2


Prigogine, Ilya, Order Out of Chaos, Bantam, 1984.”We believe that it is precisely this transition to a new description that makes this moment in the history of science so exciting. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that it is a period like the time of the Greek atomists or the Renaissance, periods in which a new view of nature was being born.” p. 2″

“Primary” laws control the behavior of single particles, while “secondary” laws are applicable to collections of atoms or molecules. To insist on secondary laws is to emphasize that the description of elementary behavior is not sufficient for understanding a system as a whole.” p.8

“As we shall see, the second law corresponds to a selection rule, to a restriction of initial conditions that is then propagated by the laws of dynamics.” p. 16″One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is a flight from everyday life with its painful harshness and wretched dreariness, and from the fetters of one’s own shifting desires. A person with a finer sensibility is driven to escape from personal existence and to the world of objective observing and understanding.” p. 20

“One widely-studied example was the three-body problem, perhaps the most important problem in the history of dynamics. The moon’s motion, influenced by both the earth and the sun, is one instance of this problem. Countless attempts were made to express it in the form of an integrable system until, at the end of the nineteenth century, Bruns and Poincare showed that this was impossible….Although this discovery was not clearly understood at the time, it implied the demise of the conviction that the dynamic world is homogeneous, reducible to the concept of integrable systems. Nature as an evolving, interactive multiplicity thus resists reduction to a timeless and universal scheme.” p. 72

“What is remarkable that, despite their exceptional character, integrable systems dominated science until the 1950’s, and they still constitute the main subject of most mechanics textbooks. Their great historical role and their undoubted pedagogical value are certainly a partial explanation of this paradoxical situation.” p. 93

“In dynamics, a system changes according to a trajectory that is given once and for all, whose starting point is never forgotten (since initial conditions determine the trajectory for all time). However, in an isolated system all non-equilibrium situations produce evolution toward the same kind of equilibrium state. By the time equilibrium has been reached, the system has forgotten its initial conditions — that is, the way it had been prepared.” p. 121

“Irreversible processes have an immense constructive importance: life would not be possible without them” p. 125

“How, for example, could Darwinism — the statistical selection of rare events — be reconciled with the statistical disappearance of all peculiarities, of all configurations, described by Boltzman. As Roger Callois asks, “Can Carnot and Darwin both be right?”” p. 128

“The processes that define chemistry — chemical reactions characterized by reaction rates — are irreversible through and through.” p. 131″

“Order through fluctuations” models introduce an unstable world where small causes can have large effects, but this world is not arbitrary.” p. 206

Indeed, history began by concentrating mainly on human societies, after which attention was given to the temporal dimensions of life and geology. The incorporation of time into physics thus appears as the last stage of a progressive reinsertion of history into the natural and human sciences.” p. 208

“For many years physicists remained reluctant to accept such a “historical” description of cosmic evolution…. The whole story appears as another irony of history. In a sense, against his will, Einstein has become the Darwin of physics. Darwin taught us that man is embedded in biological evolution; Einstein has taught us that we are embedded in an evolving universe. Einstein’s ideas led him to a new continent, as unexpected to him as America was to Columbus.” p. 215

“Demonstrations of “impossibility” have a fundamental importance. They imply the dicovery of an unexpected intrinsic structure of reality that dooms an intellectual enterprise to failure…. Thermodynamics, relativity, and quantum mechanics are all rooted in the discovery of impossibilities, limits to the ambitions of classical physics. Thus they marked the end of an exploration that had reached its limits. But we can now see these scientific innovations in a new light, not as an end but a beginning, as the opening up of new opportunities.” p. 216

“All description thus implies a choice of the measurement device, a choice of the question asked.” p. 224

“No single theoretical language articulating the variables to which a well-defined value can be attributed can exhaust the physical content of a system. Various possible languages and points of view about the system may be complementary. They all deal with the same reality, but it is impossible to reduce them all to one single description. The irreducible plurality of perspectives on the same reality expresses the impossibility of a divine point of view from which the whole of reality is visible…. the real lesson to be learned from the principle of complementarity, a lesson which can perhaps be transferred to other fields of knowledge, consists in emphasizing the wealth of reality, which overflows any single language, any single logical structure.” p. 225

“Thus the paradox: the reversible Schroedinger equation can be tested only by irreversible measurements that the equation is by definition unable to describe…. Schroedinger’s equation does not describe a separate level of reality; rather it presupposes the macroscopic world to which we belong.” pp. 228-9

[Einstein speaks]: “Michele has left this strange world just before me. This is of no importance. For us convinced physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” p. 294

“As long as the second law is considered to express only improbability, it had little theoretical interest. You could always hope to overcome it with sufficient technical skill. But we have seen that this is not so. At its root is a selection of possible initial states…. it is only after the symmetry-breaking that any probabilistic interpretation becomes possible.” p. 297

“It is only the unification of dynamics and thermodynamics through the introduction of a new selection principle that gives the second law its fundamental importance as the evolutionary paradigm of the sciences….The world of dynamics, be it classical or quantum, is a reversible world. As we have emphasized in Chapter VIII, no evolution can be ascribed to that world; the “information” expressed in terms of dynamical units remains constant. It is therefore of great importance that the existence of an evolutionary paradigm can now be established in physics — not only on the level of macroscopic description, but also at all levels.” p. 297

“Today we believe that the epoch of certainties and absolute oppositions is over. Physicists have no privilege whatever to any kind of extra-territoriality…. In his Themes Merleau-Ponty also asserted that the “philosophic” discoveries of science, its basic conceptual transformations, are the result of negative discoveries, which provide the occasion and starting point for a reversal of point of view. Demonstrations of impossibility, whether in relativity, quantum mechanics, or thermodynamics, have shown us that nature cannot be described “from the outside” as if by a spectator. Description is dialogue, communication, and this communication is subject to constraints that demonstrate that we are macroscopic beings embedded in the physical world.” p. 299

“Classical science denied becoming, natural diversity, both considered by Aristotle as attributes of the sublunar, inferior world. In this sense, classical science brought heaven to earth. However, this apparently was not the intention of the fathers of modern science. In challenging Aristotle’s claim that mathematics ends where nature begins, they did not seek to discover the immutable concealed betneath the changing, but rather to extend changing, corruptible nature to the boundaries of the universe. In his “Dialogue Concerning the Two World Systems” Galileo is amazed at the notion that the world would be a nobler place if the great flood had left only a sea of ice behind, or if the world had the incorruptible hardness of jasper….” p. 305

“The questions we have investigated have led us to emphasize aspects that differ considerably from those to which Kuhn’s description applies….The past one hundred years have been marked by several crises that correspond closely to the description given by Kuhn — none of which were sought by scientists. Examples are the discovery of the evolving universe. However, the recent history of science is also characterized by a series of problems that that are the consequences of deliberate and lucid questions asked by scientists who knew that the questions asked had both scientific and philosophic aspects.” pp. 308-9

Prigogine, Ilya, Exploring Complexity, Freeman, 1989.

“Suppose now that because of some perturbation, the pattern of oscillation — the normal heartbeat rhythm — is upset. Since the human system is subject to a great many perturbations every day, if the heart functioned as a pendulum does, fibrillation [failure of the heart to beat regularly] could well have occured in the embryo, before birth. But the heart is not like a pendulum [i.e., the heart is not a conservative, reversible system], it does not “remember” the effect of a perturbation by permanently changing its pattern of oscillation; if no permanent damage has occured and the cause of perturbation is removed, the heart resumes its normal rhythm.” p. 20

“But in a nonlinear system adding a small cause to one that is already present can induce dramatic effects that have no common measure with the amplitude of the cause.” p. 59

“Beyond a critical value, denoted by gamma, we find that the state on this branch has become unstable: the effect of fluctuations or small external perutbartions is no longer damped. The system acts like an amplifier, moved away from the reference state, and evolves to a new regime… this is the phenomenon of bifurcation….” p. 71

“[A]ll conservative systems [reversible, timeless] are structurally unstable, since the presence of small dissipative terms (like a small friction in a pendulum) qualitatively alters the phase portrait by conferring the property of asymptotic instability to certain preferred solutions, the attractors.” p. 98

“The most clear-cut case of selection arises when the symmetry-breaking bifurcation is a unique, non-repeatable event. One example is the selection of matter over anti-matter which, once performed, leads the universe to a point of no return beyond which it is impossible to imagine a different realization — at least at a time scale of 20 billion years.” p 145

“Beyond its specific applications to combustion-related problems, the phenomenon of bifurcations in time provides a new model of differentiations and evolutions that have a purely internal origin in non-equilibrium systems. Indeed, the system need not be continuously disturbed for this purpose by the external world. … Rather, the deviations of the dynamics from equilibrium that are created temporarily are sufficient to induce, during some time interval, an interval differentiation: during the slow periods of the evolution, fluctuations endow the system with a variety of states visited with some probability, but the initial state remains dominant; the occurence of the fast stage then entrains some of these states at such a high rate that they soon lose track of the common ancestor, thereby producing a new clone of their own.” p. 178

“Indeed, the instability of motion associated with chaos allows the system to explore its state space continuously, thereby creating information and complexity.” p. 192

“The property of asymptotic stability which permits a system to forget accidental perturbations does not apply to conservative dynamical systems.” p. 195

“In the world of unstable dynamical systems we can only look through a “window” in the outside world. We witness here the breakdown of the ideal of complete knowledge that has haunted Western science for three centuries.” p. 197

“As noted by Norbert Weiner: in any world within which we can communicate, the direction of time is bound to be uniform and irreversible.” p. 197

“Randomness presents an adaptive value in the organization of the society.” p. 233″What is the best balance between fluctuations, which allow discoveries, and accurate determinism, which allows immediate exploitation?” p. 235

“Contrary to the molecules, the actors in a physico-chemical system, or even the ants or the members of other animal societies, human beings develop individual projects and desires. Some of these stem from anticipations about how the future might reasonably look and from guesses concerning the desires of other actors…. In other words, is past experience sufficient for predicting the future, or is a high degree of unpredictability of the future the essence of the human adventure, be it at the individual level of learning or at the collective level of history making? The developments outlined in the preceding chapters suggest that the answer to this question should lean toward the second alternative.” p. 238


Ricoeur, Paul, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences, Cambridge, 1980.

“Fiction and poetry intend being, not under the modality of being-given, but under the modality of power-to-be.” p. 142

“Ultimately, what I appropriate is a proposed world. The latter is not behind the text, as a hidden intention would be, but in front of it, as that which the work unfolds, discovers, reveals. Henceforth, to understand is to understand oneself in front of the text.” p. 143

“The most fundamental difficulty, however, has not yet been discussed. It concerns the impossibility of exercising a critique which would be absolutely radical — impossible, because a radically critical consciousness would require total reflection.” p. 238

“We belong to history before telling stories or writing history. The game of telling is included in the reality told. That is undoubtedly why, as we have already said, the word “history” preserves in many languages the rich ambiguity of designating both the course of recounted events and the narrative that we construct. For they belong together.” p. 294


Rorty, Amelie Oksenberg Rorty, The Identities of Persons, California, 1976.

Rorty, Richard, Consequences of Pragmatism, Minnesota, 1982.

“James, when he said that “the true is what is good by way of belief”, was simply trying to debunk epistemology; he was not offering “a theory of truth”.” p. 97

“What people do believe is that it would be good to hook up our own views about democracy, mathematics, physics, God, and everything else, into a coherent story about how everything hangs together. Getting such a synoptic view often does require us to change radically our views on particular subjects. But this holistic process of readjustment is just muddling through on a large scale.” p. 168

Rorty, Richard, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton, 1981.

“Physicalism is probably right in saying that we shall someday be able, “in principle”, to predict every movement of a person’s body (including those of his larnyx and his writing hand) by reference to microstructures within his body.” p. 354

Sabini, John, and Silver, Maury, Moralities of Everyday Life, Oxford, 1982.”In condemning another, one asserts that the other’s behavior is in violation of what is taken to be a preexisting mutually-binding rule. The difficulty in this is that, as the labelling theorists suggest, such rules crystallize in the process of their application to particular people in particular circumstances.” p. 43

“Kelley’s model, then, isn’t an adequate account for what it means for an evaluation to be a true or false. It’s more like a rule of thumb for simple cases. But a rule of thumb can’t show that when people seem to be assessing truth they are really locating causes. And convincing us that assessing an evaluation is really finding its cause is what he and like theorists must do if they are to convince us that evaluations, tout court, are reactions. And they can’t.” p. 215

“The notion that people respond to the meaning of something is only troubled by circularity if it is offered as a general principle; in any particular case the circle is broken as long as the objective but particular meaning is supplied from the details of the situation. Our approach relies on the shared assumptions of commonsense actors in particular situations instead of Kelley’s, or any, general theory. Of course, we don’t account for these particular assumptions — because we can’t.” p. 226


Sahlins, Marshall, Practical Reason and Culture, Chicago, 1976.

“So far as the concept or meaning is concerned, a word is referable not simply to the external world but first of all to its place in the language — that is, to other related words. By its difference from these words is constructed its own valuation of the object, and in the system of such difference is a cultural construction of reality. No language is a mere nomenclature. None stands in a simple one-to-one correspondence of it own terms with “the” objective distinctions. Each bestows a certain value on the given distinctions and thereby constitutes the objective reality in another quality, specific to that society.” p. 63

“Against this background, Boas’ odyssey “from physics to ethnology” becomes significant as founding an opposition within which anthropology has cycled these many years. As George Stocking (1968) so well describes it, that was a journey of many years in which Boas passed from a monistic materialism to the discovery that “the seeing eye is the origin of tradition”; a journey of many stages in which he discovered that for man the organic does not follow from the inorganic, the subjective from the objective, the mind from the world — and in the end, culture from nature. The first steps were taken within physics itself. In his dissertation on the color of seawater, Boas remarked on the difficulty of determining the relative intensity of lights that differed slightly in color. Quantitative variations in the object did not evoke corresponding variations in the subject. Boas was later to repeat this experiment at the linguistic level, when with Northwest Coats informants he discovered that sounds considered the same by speakers of one language might be heard as completely different by speakers of another, and vice versa as each perceived in the discourse of the other the distinctions appropriate to his own.” p. 65

“The ecological functionalism puts culture in double jeopardy. It is threatened with liquidation because it cannot be specified as such by natural reasons, and because consideration of its specific quality would invite in reason of a different nature. The crisis then becomes ontological in its proportions. Culture is then exchanged for “behavior”. Its concrete qualities are only the appearance of “bodily movements” whose wisdom is their bodily effect. Ontology thus recapitulates methodology. And anthropology loses its object. The properties of culture having been ignored in the practice of its explanation, it is presumed that these properties have no autonomy value as such — which is a rationalization of the fact that the explanation cannot account for them….” p. 89

“All three types of practical reasoning have also in common an impoverished conception of human symboling. For all of them, the cultural scheme is the sign of other “realities”, hence in the end obeisant in its own argument to other laws and logics. None of them have been able to exploit fully the anthropological discovery that the creation of meaning is the distinguishing and constituting characteristic of men — the “human essence” of an older discourse — such that by processes of differential valuation and signification, relations among men, as well as between themselves and nature, are organized.” p. 102

“But then, Evans-Pritchard had already developed the essentials of a true cultural ecology in his work on Zande witchcraft (1937). Why, he asked there, do essentially rational people like the Azande, who know that their garden was lost to trampling elephants or their house to fire, nevertheless blame their neighbors and kinsmen and take appropriate magical actions of defense or retaliation. The answer he came to was that the social effect did not follow from the natural cause. Although it may be a property of fire to burn a house, it is not the property of fire to burn your house. Or again, the answer might be brought specifically to the cultural level: it is not the nature of fire to burn a house; fire only burns wood. Once incorporated into the human realm, the action of nature is no longer a mere empirical fact but a social meaning. And between the property of fire to burn wood and a man’s loss of property, there is no commensurate relation.” p. 114

It would seem, however, that the main problem of “reductionism” besetting modern structuralism has consisted in a mode of discourse which, by giving mind all the powers of “law” and “limitation”, has rather placed culture in a position of submission and dependence. The whole vocabulary of “underlying” laws of the mind accords all force of constraint to the mental side, to which the cultural can only respond, as if the first were the active element and the latter only passive. Perhaps it could be better said that the structure of the mind are not so much the imperative of culture as its implements.”” pp. 122-3

“The error was to surrender this reason to various practicalities and then be forced to decide how one set of requirements is reflected in the relations devoted to another — the economic to the social, the social to the ideational, the ideational to the economic. But it follows that a retotalization is not effected merely by considering material goods, for example, in the context of social relations. The unity of the cultural order is constituted by a third and common term, meaning…. As a specific corollary: no cultural form can ever be read from a set of “material forces”, as if the cultural were the dependent variable of an inescapable practical logic. The positivist explanation of given cultural practices as necessary effects of some material circumstance — such as a particular technique of production, a degree of productivity or productive diversity, an insufficiency of protein or a scarcity of manure — all such scientific propositions are false.” p. 206

“Or to look at it the other way around, selection as a “limit of viability” is a negative determination, stipulating only what cannot be done, but licensing indiscriminately (selecting for) anything that is possible. So far as the definite properties of the cultural order are conceived, the laws of nature are indeterminate. For all their facticity and objectivity, the laws of nature stand to the order of culture as the abstract to the concrete: as the realm of possibility to the realm of necessity, as the given potentialies to the one realization, as survival to the actual being.” p. 209

“[I]n Western culture the economy is the main site of cultural production. For us the production of goods is at the same time the privileged mode of symbolic production.” p. 211

Sahlins, Marshal, Islands of History, Chicago, 1985.”And because signs are engaged by interests in projects, thus in temporal relations of implication (not simply simultaneous relations of contrast), their values are risked, so to speak, syntagmatically as well as paradigmatically. Such interested uses are not imperfect merely, by relation to Platonic cum cultural ideals, but potentially inventive. We have seen how Hawaiian chiefs were able to recognize their traditional mana in the fancy goods of European merchants, as opposed to the coarser stuff or domestic utilities. The goods offered in trade were factored according to the chiefs’ self-conceptions. By an interested metaphor on celestial brilliance, whose logic was motivated in the traditional culture — as discovered, however, in the existing situation by a certain intentionality — the meaning of mana was changed.” p. 151


Shotter, John, “Social Accountability and Self Specification” (in Gergen and Davis.)”I shall not, however, propose any new theories; in fact, my approach will be an implicit argument for the repudiation of theories in any attempt to understand the workings of everyday social life.” p. 167″The different constraining and enabling influences upon us of our diffferent ways of talking, of our different modes of accountability, can only be appreciated by us comparing and contrasting them from the different positions of involvement in them that we can have within our social ecology — and that is what I shall try to do. There is no Archimedean point to be had.” p. 168

“This “double” or reflexive concern is crucial, for, while other scientists do not have evaluations or interpretations placed upon them by their own subject matter, social scientists do. While social scientists may claim third-person, external observer status for themselves in their conduct of their studies, (the position of uninvolved outsiders), such claims cannot be sustained. The nature of moral entailments in social life are such that it just is not up to individuals to assert their own moral statusses: part of what it is to have such a status is that it is conferred upon one by others.” p. 169

“Reports assume in those to whom they are addressed a capacity to understand them; they leave the addressees untouched, unmoved in their being (they motivate no particular action upon their part). Tellings, on the contrary…. work as indicators of future action; they are used to produce changes in people’s behavior; they tell them something, not of something. Rather than an epistemological device, they have an ontological function.” p. 169

“Thus as tellings, our ways of talking about ourselves can work, not only to relate us in certain ways to other people, but to constitute or structure our being as living in this or that relation to others.” p. 170

“I want to argue that there is no such things as a “self” within people to be investigated. And that if we feel a necessity to refer to an “inner self” in explaining people’s conduct, that is because, in formulating and accounting for our experiences in a way that makes sense within our current dominant social order (an individualistic and scientific order), only talk from a third-person, external-observer point of view is officially authorized.” p. 171

“This view as to the power of scientific modes of investigation is clearly partial and limited, however. For the conduct of science rests upon the prior possession by all of us of a much more basic form of knowledge — let me call it simply “practical common sense” knowledge” — in terms of which scientific activities themselves are conducted and in terms of which they must make sense”. p. 174

“This illustrates another way in which our approach to our own self-understanding through theories is deficient: they lead to fragmentation, not integration. Currently, there is a near chaos of different theories about ourselves all clamoring for survival. Could an all-encompassing theory be devised to encompass them all? No. For it is in the nature of what theories are that, even if they were all “good” theories (in the sense of producing, when applied, the results they predict), they still could not be combined into one good theory. For as Marie Jahoda…. has pointed out, “each contains an extra theoretical element: the choice of the basic question the theory is meant to illuminate.”” p. 176

“It is here that the difference between theories and accounts becomes acute: accounts may depict the value choices involved; theories suppress them, that is, they are rendered “rationally invisible”…. As Winch points out, theories do not express their own principles of ordering; they do not, so to speak, apply themselves…. The main drift of what I have been arguing is this: that in our attempts to understand ourselves we have been somewhat blind (rationally blind) to the fact that in our everyday lives we are embedded within a social order which, morally, we must continually reproduce in all the mundane activities we perform from our place, position, or status within it. This blindness has been induced in us by the necessity to account for all our experiences in terms both intelligible and legitimate within our current social order, an order which is both individualistic and scientistic. As a result, we have concentrated far too much attention upon the isolated individual studied from the point of view of an uninvolved observer.” pp. 176-7

“[A] discourse works to reconstitute in its conduct, both a certain social order and a corresponding psychological makeup in those who are conducting it, that prevents them from fully describing the nature of the world in which they operate. For the nature of a discourse is not, primarily, to represent a world, but to coordinate diverse social action.” p. 179

“What Reddy objects to in the “”conduit metaphor” [for communication] is its current historical inappropriateness, and he offers as an alternative to it the “toolmaker’s paradigm”, which is essentially the paradigm that I have already been using previously, that is, that communication has an active formative function, working to specify further something already partly specified.” p. 180″The strangeness of the hermeneutical process is that the situation or context in which things come to be seen as the things they are, is articulated at the same time as the entities within it acquire their identity; the two develop together. As such, it is an originary process, a process in which the “whatness” of a situation is appreciated — the construction of an initial grasp upon a circumstance prior to any critical reflection on it, and in which critical reflection can be grounded.” p. 183

“For rather than within the deep, forever private, inaccessible domains of the “self”, the ultimate sources of many of our “privately initiated acts” should be sought literally, in our society (i.e. directly), rather than metaphorically, within the “selves” we are each supposed to possess (or do they possess us?) If so — if we do seek their roots in our social history — their origins would not be inpenetrable so much because of their “deep and inaccessible privacy”, but because of their being spread out in a “nonlocatable”fashion.” p. 186


Siu, R. G. H., Ch’i: A Neo-Taoist Approach to Life, MIT, 1974.

“Man’s primary impact today is no longer based only on his personal and real presence but also extends to the virtual presences he can create….. The real performers [of the opera Tosca] appeared at only one place at the time, while the virtual performers were heard [on the radio] simultaneously thousands of miles apart in thousands of different places….[During intermissions, recordings of deceased singers were played, and old recordings of the actual performers were played as they were interviewed]. The real singer would listen to the virtual singer of himself twenty years earlier. It seemed as if the clock of time flowed backward and he met himself along the way….Since virtual presences have as real an effect as real presences for many purposes, those nations with the greatest capabilities for the virtual also have the greatest potential for power and influence. Conversely, those nations which emphasize real presences do not fare so well materially….” pp. 42-6


Spencer-Brown, George, Laws of Form, Dutton, 1979.

“All we have to show is that the self-referential paradoxes, discarded with the theory of types, are no worse than similiar self-referential paradoxes, which are considered quite acceptable, in the ordinary theory of equations.The most famous such paradox in logic is the statements “This statement is false”….. “Of course, as everyone knows, the paradox in this case [the square root of minus one] is resolved by introducing a fourth class of number, called imaginary, so we can say that the roots of the equation above are plus or minus i, where i is a new kind of unity that consists of the square root of minus one. What we do in Chapter 11 is extend the concept to Boolean algebras, which means that a valid argument may contain not just three classes of statement, but four: true, false, meaningless, and imaginary. The implications of this, in the fields of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and even physics, are profound.What is fascinating about the imaginary Boolean values, once we admit them, is the light they apparently shed on our concepts of matter and time. It is, I guess, in the nature of us all to wonder why the ubniverse appears just the way it does. Why, for example, does it not appear more symettircal? Well, if you will be kind enough, and patient enough, to bear with me through the argument as it develops itself, in this text, you will I think see, even though we begin it as symmetrical as we know how, that it becomes, of its own accord, less and less so as we proceed.” p. xv-xvi.”It is the theme of this book that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart.” p. xxix”There can be no disctinction without a motive, and there can be no motive unless contents are seen to differ in value. If a content is of a value, a name can be taken to indicate this value.Thus the calling of the name can be identified with the value of the content.” p. L”It may be helpful at this stage to realize that the primary form of mathematical communication is not description, but injunction. In this respect it is comparable with practical art forms like cookery, in which the taste of a cake, though indescribable, can be conveyed to the reader in the form of a set of injunctions called a recipe.” p. 77″In a proof we are dealing in terms which are outside of the calculus, and thus are not amenable to its instructions. In any attempt to render such proofs themselves subject to instruction, we succeed only at the cost of making another calculus, inside of which the original calculus is cradled, and outside of which we shall again see forms which are amenable to proof but not demonstration…..A demonstration, we remember, occurs inside a calculus, a proof outside. The boundary between them is thus a shared boundary, and is what is approached, in one or the other direction, according to whether we are demonstrating a consequence or proving a theorem.” p. 93-4

“Even the analogy of seeking something cannot, in this case, be quite right. For what we find, eventually, is something we have known, and may well have been consciously aware of, all along….. In discovering a proof,we must do something subtler than search. We must come to see the relevance, in respect to whatever statment it is that we wish to justify, of some fact in full view, and of which, therefore, we are already constantly aware. Whereas we may know how to undertake the search for something we can not see, the subtlety of the technique of trying to “find” something which we already can see may more easily escape our efforts” p. 95

“If the weakness of present-day science is that it centers around existence, the weakness of present-day logic is that it centres around truth…. to experience the world clearly, we must abandon existence to truth, truth to indication, indication to form, and form to void….” p. 101

“Thus we cannot escape the fact that the world we know is constructed in order (and thus in such a way to be able) to see itself…. But in order to do so, evidently, it must first cut itself up into at least one state which sees, and at least one other state which is seen. In this severed and mutilated condition, what it sees is only partially itself. We may take it that the world undoubtedly is it self (i.e. is indisticnt from itself) but, in any attempt to see itself as object, it must, equally undoubtedly, act so as to make itself distinct from, and thus false to, itself. In this condition it wi;; always partly elude itself.” p. 105

“To any person prepared to enter with respect into the realm of his great and universal ignorance, the secrets of being will eventually unforld, and they will do so in a measure according to his freedom from natural and indoctrinated shame in his respect of their revelation…..To know and arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity,Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what one needs to know.” p. 110 


Streng, Frederick, Emptiness, Abingdon, 1967.For Nagarjuna the pursuit after final answers regarding the nature of Ultimate Reality was sophistry…. For him, these “final answers” were not to be found because there were no essential self-determined questions. Since there were no “one to one” correlations between concepts and their supposed referents, the inquiry into the nature of things is endless.” p. 87


Toulmin, Stephen, The Uses of Argument, Cambridge, 1958.”This inquiry has, I hope, illustrated one thing: namely, the virtues of the parallel between procedures of rational assessment and legal procedures — what I called earlier the jurisprudential analogy.” pp. 41-2

“The only real way out of these epistemological difficulties is (I say) giving up the analytic ideal. Analytic criteria, whether of conclusiveness, demonstrativeness, necessity, certainty, validity, or justification, are beside the point when we are dealing with substantial arguments. At this point the question of relevance, which we put aside earlier, is inescapable. Certainly substantial arguments often involve type-transitions in the passage from data and backing to conclusions: all this means is that we must judge each field of substantial arguments by its own relevant standards. The fundamental error in epistemology is to treat this type-jump as a logical gulf. The demand that all claims to knowledge should be justified analytically, and the rejection of all those which cannot be so justified, are the first temptations to which this error leads; and the next step is to set out, in the hope of remedying the situation, on the weary trail that leads by way of transcendentalism and phenomenalism either to skepticism or pragmatism. Give up the idea that a substantial step in argument represents a logical gulf, and both logic and theory of knowledge can then turn to more fruitful problems.” p. 234

“No doubt, if our intellect and senses were sharper, less of our predictions would in fact prove mistaken; but however much sharper they became, we would be as far as ever from getting away from the “liability” in question. Let our intellectual and sensory equipments be perfect, the future will remain the future and the present the present — only in a timeless universe would there be no possibility of reconsidering our judgements in the light of later events.” p. 238 (?Discovery of Time?)

Toulmin, Stephen, Cosmopolis, The Free Press (Macmillan), 1990.

“[O]ne aim of the 17th-century philosophers was to frame all questions in terms that rendered them independent of context; while our own procedure will be the opposite — to recontextualize the questions these philosophers took the most pride in decontexting.” p. 21

“The “modern” focus on the written, the universal, the general, and the timeless — which monopolized the work of most philosophers after 1960 — is being broadened to include once again the oral, the particular, the local, and the timely.” p. 186

“Yet, one might argue, these practical debates are, by now, not “applied philosophy” but philosophy itself.” p. 190

“Claims to certainty, for instance, are at home within abstract theories, and so open to consensus, but all abstraction involves omission, turning a blind eye to elements in experience which do not lie within the scope of a given theory, and so guaranteeing the rigor of its formal implications…. The axioms of Modernity assumed that the surface complexity of nature and humanity distracts us from an underlying order, which is inrinsically simple and permanent. By now, however, physical scientists recognize as well as anyone that natural phenomena in fact embody an “intrinsically simple” order only to a limited degree; novel theories of physical, biological, or social disorder (or “chaos”) allow us to balance the intellectual books.” pp. 200-1

Toulmin, Stephen, and Goodfield, Jane, The Discovery of Time, Harper and Row, 1965.

“Both Aristotle and Plato toyed with [the hypothesis that] once every few thousand years, the sun moon, and planets returned to the same relative positions, and began to follow again the same cycle of configurations; and so perhaps the cycle of political fortunes also had its own definite period, keeping the recurring cycles of political change in step with the movement of the heavens. If that were so (Aristotle remarked) then he himself was living before the fall of Troy as much as after it; since, when the wheel of fortune had turned through another cycle, the Trojan war would be reenacted and Troy would fall again. ” p. 54

“The physical sciences had stood aside from the historical revolution which had transformed the rest of natural science, taking it as axiomatic that certain aspects of the world remained fixed and permanent throughout all other natural changes; and though by the mid-twentieth-century, the list of these timeless enitities — or “eternal principles” as the Greeks had called them — is much shorter than it was in 1700, the existence of unchanging physical laws, at least, is still recognized as one enduring aspect of the natural world.During the eighteenth century, the orthodox picture of physical Nature was that stated by Isaac Newton at the end of the Opticks. This involved permanent features of five different kinds…. During the twentieth century, the list of changeless physical entities has drastically shortened…. Newton’s original five categories have thus been cut down to one: the fixed Laws of Nature…. The outstanding question now is, whether the Laws of Nature themselves — the last ahistorical features of the physicist’s world-picture — will in their turn prove to be subject to the laws of time….” p. 247-250 


Varela, Francisco, Principles of Biological Autonomy, North Holand, 1979.

“The relations that define a machine [here = “life form”!] as a unity, and determine the dynamics of interactions and transformations that it may undergo as such a unity, we call the organization of the machine. The actual relations that hold between the components that integrate a concrete machine in a given space we call its structure.” p. 9

“The autopoietic process, however, is closed in the sense that it is entirely specified by itself, and such simplification [i.e. our scientific description of their behavior] represents our cognitive relation to it, but does not operationally reproduce it…. What makes this system a unity with identity and individuality is that all the relations of production are coordinated in a system describable as having an invariant organization. In such a system any deformation at any place is compensated for, not by bringing the system back to an identical state in its components such as might be described by considering its structure at a given moment, but rather by keeping its organization constant as defined by the relations of production that constitute autopoiesis.” pp. 25-6

“In fact, the dominance of control views in contemporary systems theory makes it closer to a theory of system components that to one of systems as unities (totalities).” p. 90

“The wholeness of a living system is, in everyday encounters, construed as unpredictability. The more difficult it is to reduce a system to simple input / output control. the more likely it is that we will deem it alive.” p. 103

Varela, Francisco; Thompson, Evan; Rosch, Eleanor, The Embodied Mind, MIT, 1993.

“Here, however, we come upon an interesting difference between Western rationalism and the rationalism embedded in the Abidharma. In the latter, the designation of basic elelments as ultimate reality, we are told, was not an assertion that the basic elements were ontological entities in the sense of being substantially existent. Surely this is an interesting case study — we have here a philosophical system, a reductive system, in which reductive base elements are postulated as ultimate realities but in which those reductive realities are not given ontological status in the usual sense. How can that be? Emergents, of course, do not have the status of ontological entities (substances). Might we have a system here in which the basic elements are themselves emergents?…..The relationship between consciousness and mental factors [in Abidharma] seems remarkably similiar the the relationship between Minskian agencies and agents. The contemporary Tibetan scholar Geshen Rabten puts it thus: “The term ‘primary mind’ denotes the totality of a sensory or a mental state composed of a variety of mental factors. A primary mind is like a hand whereas the mental factors are like the individual fingers, the palm and so forth. The character of the primary mind is thus determined by its constituent mental factors.’ A hand is an agency of which the fingers, palm, etc., are agents; it is also an agent of the body. These are different levels of description; neither agent nor agency could exist without the other. Like the hand, we could call the primary mind an emergent.” p. 118

“It should be noted that such histories of coupling [histories of living forms in relation to their environment] are not optimal; they are simply viable. This difference implies a corresponding difference in what is required of a cognitive system in its structural coupling. If this coupling were to be optimal, the interactions of the system would be (more or less) prescribed. For continuing to be viable, however, the system must simply facilitate the continued integrity of the system (ontogeny) or its lineage (phylogeny). Thus once again we have a logic that is proscriptive rather than prescriptive; any action taken by the system is permitted as long as it does not violate the constraint of having to maintain the system and/or its lineage. Yet another way to express this idea would by to say that cognition as embodied action is always toward something that is missing; on the one hand, there is always the next step for the system in its perceptually-guided action; on the other hand, the actions of the system are always directed toward situations that have yet to become actual.” p. 205

“How do I know when a cognitive system is functioning adequately? When it becomes part of an ongoing existing world (as the young of every species do) or shapes a new one (as happens in evolutionary history)…. “Much that appears [in this answer] has hitherto been absent from cognitive science — not just from cognitivism but from present-day, state-of-the-art connectionism. The most significant innovation is that since representations no longer play a central role, the role of the environment as a source of input recedes into the background. It now enters into explanations only when systems undergo breakdowns or suffers events which cannot be satisfied by their structures….” p. 206


White, James Boyd, “Rhetoric and Law” in Nelson, et. al.

“The third aspect of legal rhetoric is what might be called its ethical or communal character, or its socially constitutive nature. Every time one speaks as a lawyer, one establishes for the moment a character — an ethical identity, or what the Greeks called an ethos — for oneself, for one’s audience, and for those one talks about, and proposes a relationship among them….. The law is an art of persuasion that creates the objects of its persuasion, for it constitutes both the community and the culture it commends.” pp. 303-4

“It is the true nature of the law to constitute a “we” and to establish a conversation by which that “we” can determine what our “wants” are and should be. Our motives and values are not on this view to be taken to be exogenous to the system (as they are taken to be exogenous to the economic system) but are in fact its subject. The law….. is a process by which we make ourselves by making our language”. p. 311

White, James Boyd, The Legal Imagination (abridged ed.), Chicago, 1985.

“One could describe institutions as separate ways of organizing experience through language (different language systems, if you will), each of which defines experience and people in its particular way. One might speak of the institution as a game set up on a permanent basis; and a simple definition of roles is typical of institutions, as it is of games. Each institution seems to use its own particular labels without regard for other possible ways of talking about people.,,,The institutional way of talking about people is not simply a matter of the use of excessively abstract characteristics such as the social security number; sometimes, in fact, the institution’s concern is with a very wide range of capabilities and experience, as in the Navy’s idea of a good officer or the corporations’s idea of a good president….. The ordinary person comes to see that the official institutional views of mankind are impossible, and does not take them with complete seriousness. Yet he does not entirely reject them, and one might say that the important ingredient of maturity is the ability to live with institutions without ending up sounding like one.” p. 165


Whitehead, Alfred North, Process and Reality, The Free Press, 1978.”

“Creativity” is the principle of novelty. An actual entity is a novel entity diverse from any entity in the “many” that it unifies.” p. 21

“Becoming” is the transfer of coherence into coherence…. “Determination” is analysable into “definiteness” and “position”, where definiteness is the illustration of select universal objects, and “position” is a relative status in a universe of actual entities.” p. 25

“But eternal objects, and propositions, and some more complex sorts of contrasts, involve indecision in their own natures .” p. 29

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