I would like to succinctly summarize my view of science. Some definitions [I note they draw on, but are not necessarily coterminous with, their usage by certain philosophical systems]:
Form: the what it is to be a thing. Form is potentially separable from, but not able to be instantiated without, matter.
Matter: that which constitutes the elemental parts of a thing; it is possible to replace the material of a thing yet retain its form. All matter exists as the matter of a form, there is no formless matter.
Substance: a thing which exists; it is the composition of form and matter.
Emergence: the formation of a thing via interaction between substances. It occurs as the descent by form into equilibrium.
Interaction: causally efficient action between substances.
Strata: class of substances which has some essential form of interaction.
A summary of my theory is that each substance emerges as the result of interaction within a given strata. When a form emerges, it emerges as a system which imputes a tendency of the materially constituent substrata towards its preservation. To put that less technically, a form exists as a system of parts which each influence the parts to act in such a way that the form exists over time, though every form remains subject to corruption.
This might seem a very no-nonsense approach, but it is not actually the metaphysical paradigm of modern science. Modern theory views emergence as a kind of causally efficient ascent; the parts cause the form. My theory views emergence as a causally formal descent; forms emerge because they are, metaphorically, downhill of their respective material constituents. The field of chemistry works as applied physics because chemical interaction is downhill of physical interaction. The “ascent” model gives the appearance that the mechanical operation of individual parts are the cause of substance, rather than it being that material parts in seeking equilibrium produce these forms. Chemicals emerge from physical interaction for the same reason that spheres emerge from the interaction of soapy water and gas. Form is a minima, rather than a maxima.
It is essential to note that my definition of matter is opposed to the modern usage by science. Under the modern paradigm, matter is strictly identical with the physical. Under my usage, while the physical is material, the material is not physical, in just the same way a square is rectangular while a rectangle is not square. Something is material if and only if it functions as the constituent part of a form. In this way, what we should instead say about the emergent relation between physics and chemistry is that “The physical is the material of the chemical.”
This is significant because, while it is true that the modern paradigm has effectively unified the study of chemistry and physics, it has found itself unable to unify other scientific theories by insisting on the equivalence of the material and the physical. By obviating this identification, we can go on to say that “For any given strata, it emerges as the interaction of material forms.” Given matter is not just the physical, we can say something like “Biological form emerges as the interaction of chemical forms,” where the chemical is the material of the biological.
In addition, because my theory proposes emergence as a formal descent, it is possible for something to emerge as a plurality of strata without requiring discretely temporal events. Whereas a conception of emergence which requires discrete efficient cause cannot have something emerge simultaneously as one form of interaction in addition to another form of interaction, there are some forms of interaction which emerge simultaneously and only become differentiated with material addition of the premergent form. For example, an atom possesses chemical properties, but these chemical properties become differentiated when you have more interaction between atoms. This is to say that the material always possesses characteristics of its potential composite strata, without necessarily manifesting those qualities in a way significant to the analysis of that strata. This will make more sense when I begin describing how different strata relate to each other.
All form is potential matter, while all matter is actual form. Interaction is always an interaction for the purpose of obtaining equilibrium. Equilibrium is never actually obtained, but approached asymptotically.
That is the briefest outline of my theory. I will apply it to presently understood forms of causal interaction to show why this approach is superior.
Because there is no matter per se, and further matter is not identical to physical interaction, we can begin to break down certain theory groupings. The field of physics includes, but is not exhausted by, the study of energy, temperature, mass, entropy, atoms, quarks, strings, black holes, universes, quanta, and so on. It should be noted that these examples are not examples of any one thing besides that they are grouped together into “physics.” Why should this be? What is the essential quality shared between these different phenomena? There is some aspect to the form of their interaction which unifies and makes them subject to their particular methodology.
From physical interaction, chemical interaction emerges. There is a trait of chemical interaction which serves to differentiate it from physical interaction such that the tools particularly suited to the description and explanation of the physical must at least by complemented by additional restriction on methodology. Some forms of interaction within the physical, because the chemical encapsulates this interaction and introduces a novel aspect to its strata not found in the physical, for this novel aspect manifests as physical interaction at equilibrium. This relationship between the physical and chemical can be taken as a model for how other strata relate. Emergent strata are possessed of, but not exhausted by, the traits particular to their matter.
In the way that chemical interaction emerges of physical interaction, biological interaction emerges of chemical interaction. Again, the chemical formally descends to the biological; the biological is in turn possessed of characteristics particular to the chemical, encapsulating but not exhausted by chemical interaction. The biological is differentiated from the chemical by a trait novel to chemical interaction, but this novel trait is always a formal potential quality of chemical interaction.
Now, usually by the modern scientific paradigm psychology is postulated as emergent from biology. Ontologically, this appear intuitive; if we are identifying biological form with chemical matter arranged in a particular way, then psychology appears to be biological form arranged in a particular way. This is where my doctrine of formal descendance plays a role. While the psychological is a strata which depends upon the biological and forms a part of its matter, the form of interaction is being made prior over ontological form. Biological interaction does permit the eventual emergence of the psychological, but the psychological does not immediately emerge from the biological.
I will note here that the relationship between the physical and chemical was a bit simplified in order to begin to draw the crucial analogy. The physical, it is worth noting, is not identical to one particular theory or phenomena, but references a set of related theories and phenomena. In this case, following my emergent classification, the physical itself should be further unpacked. The atomic is the immediate precursor of the chemical, however the atomic emerges of the subatomic, i.e. electrons, protons, and neutrons.
Electrons are, unlike protons and neutrons, not apparently divisible.* This suggests that protons and neutrons are not of the same strata as electrons. This is, under my theory, sensible, as it is not necessary that the matter of a form are all of the same strata. A human being, we note, is a substance formally constituted by multiple strata, such as iron [atomic], water [chemical], and mind [psychological]. But this gets ahead of ourselves.
Neutrons and protons, in turn, emerge as the interaction of simpler forms, such as quarks. These themselves may or may not emerge of even simpler forms, but it is not important to our analysis what those are. Crucial to note is that this theory is agnostic on whether there is any fundamental material level.
The strata to emerge of biological interaction is ecological interaction. Biological forms are the matter of an ecological form. Ecology is the form of relations that hold between biological forms for a given local space. Given biological forms can exist without significant ecological interaction, we say that ecology emerges of biology. Ecology depicts relations of predatory competition, while it is possible for biological forms to interact without this forming predatory competition [note that predatory competition in this case does not require actually eating prey, only the use of violence to compete for resources].
From the ecological form of interaction emerges the sociological form of interaction. Predatory competition gives way cooperation between individuals. This is not to say that predatory competition ever leaves society [society is not identical to sociological interaction; think socio-logic more than sociology the modern social science], but that cooperation involves a novel trait not found in competition, though there are also forms of competition augmented by elements of cooperation just as there are forms of atoms augmented by elements of chemistry. The sociological form of interaction is inherently potential to the ecological form of interaction which makes possible, but does not necessitate, the sociological form of interaction which involves cooperation.
Psychological interaction emerges from sociological interaction. By this account, psychology is developed in order to make better use of sociological interaction, by permitting the development of more complicated systems of relations. This is akin to the way ecological interaction is the precursor to the evolution of carnivores.
Beyond this further speculation may be made, but this is the basic outline of the theory. To be incorporated yet are certain key theories such as evolution or fields such as economics, but I am confident they could not be classified as forms of interaction rather than either descriptions of the process of strata over time or else seeing key insights be touched upon as limits on how interaction can develop. Something else could emerge from the psychological, perhaps the technological, which depends essentially upon and appears formally descendant of psychological interaction. In principle, there may be an infinite level of strata, all potential in the very lowest of strata and avoiding our observation for failing to significantly manifest themselves as a crucial element in present equilibria. Linguistic interaction, for example, might emerge of psychological interaction; it could be something even more general, such as signaling interaction, which is achieved in the sociological strata. At times, elements from a descendant form can influence the material strata in a way that material strata cannot effect on itself, such as how acidity, a chemical form of interaction, can corrode physical substances or domestication, a sociological form of interaction, can influence the evolution of biological species. Of note is the potential for a descendant strata to cause disorder in the substrata it depends upon, disordering itself in the process [such as how sociological interaction can corrupt the ecological substrata it depends upon].
I believe that evolution, which is presently applied as a theory particular to biology, might better be generalized further, of which the elimination of disorder and subsequent descent of remaining ordered systems over time is a property intrinsic to entropy. This process of evolution manifests itself through particular means in each strata, of which genes happens to be the causally efficient mechanism of encoding biological form. However, this process of the corruption of individuals such that relative disorder is selected out more rapidly than relative order and permitting the greater likelihood of the transmission of order also occurs on the level of the psychological [learning] and the sociological [culture].
There are, obviously, a number of kinks to be worked out, but I think this sufficiently illustrates the working principles of my theory to give us a start in making clearer and more certain descriptions of scientific knowledge.
- Forms act to obtain equilibrium.
- Emergence is formal descendance.
- A form may be constituted by multiple strata.
- All form is potential matter.
- All matter is actual form.