Saturday, November 10, 2007

II. Exposition

Aristotle defines metaphysics as “a likely story.” But how likely is the story I have just told? Recent work in chaos theory, fractal geometry, and self-organizing dissipative structures, quantum physics, cosmology, time, evolution, and game theory suggest my story – or one very similar – is very likely. Christian Fuchs points out that the elements of a system

first enter a chaotic state, in which they repulse each other. Chaos, noise and instability mean a disordered movement of the elements of a complex system. But this repulsion is one that turns into attraction, because the elements interact, there are processes of ordering and selection, i.e. attraction takes place as the emergence of a coherent whole and new quality. Synergies between elements of a physical system are not due to some higher, eschatological force; they take place and result in emergent order due to the ability of matter to structure itself. Patterns as forms of coherent movement result from information generation in dissipative systems. The emergence of order (patterns) from noise in physical systems is due to the synergetic co-operation, i.e. productive interactions of the system’s components. (TripleC 1(1): 7)

Understanding the universe as a complex self-organizing system shows us how the initial rapid expansion of the universe likely occurred. The theory of self-organizing dissipative structures can help us understand cosmology. My story is likely too because it explains all the different levels of reality with one theory, and it explains how those different levels of reality are different. It shows how one can get variety from unity. The Scottish philosopher Hutcheson defines beauty as variety in unity. Since this story shows how one can get a universe that has both unity and variety, the fact that this story gives us a beautiful universe also makes it a likely story, as any story that gives us either universality alone or plurality alone is an unlikely story for the reasons of being incomplete, and therefore not beautiful.

Now that I have established the likelihood of my story, I should perhaps explain the necessity of telling it. Art and literature are complex systems of the same sort, but of a different kind and higher complexity, as the other constituent parts of the universe. Art and literature resemble every other part of the universe, regardless of scale, but at the same time they are hierarchically more complex than every level below them. So I must first establish the likelihood that the universe is both fractal and hierarchical before I can discuss art and literature as fractal and hierarchical, as dynamic systems. As such, works of art and literature have emergent properties, which make them more than their constituent parts – which includes the creator(s) of the work(s). But if we are to understand why we need to create works of art and literature, we will need to understand those constituent parts – while understanding that the farther we descend the hierarchy, the less it helps us understand those things above them on the hierarchy. Knowing quantum physics will not help us understand any work of art or literature (unless the creator of the work was familiar with quantum physics and used that knowledge to create metaphors in their works). But understanding the self-organization of quantum particles into more complex systems with emergent properties will, since art and literature are invariant on that scale – they too are self-organized complex systems with emergent properties. Two views of the universe – either as identical regardless of scale, or non-hierarchical, or as hierarchical – is agonally reconciled in this view, since the universe is shown to be both identical regardless of scale and as hierarchical. The new levels in the hierarchy are created as contradictions multiply in the lower levels, until a new complex level is created – while the contradictions remain in the system in an agonal relationship. The Hegelian view of synthesis is brought together with the Nietzschean view of an agonal relationship between opposing elements/views, in a way that is itself a combination of agon and synthesis, or synthesis through agon. It is by understanding the universe this way, as an evolution of self-similar self-organizing complex systems, that the “two cultures” – science and the arts and humanities – can finally be reunited. “The man of science calculates the numbers of the laws of nature; the artist gazes at them. In the one case, conformity to law; in the other, beauty” (Nietzsche, TL 155). In this work, I plan to do both. Humankind is the bridge from the scientifically-knowable world to the world of art, literature, and philosophy.

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