Universal Rules, Epistemology, and Law

Use this philosophy forum to discuss and debate general philosophy topics that don't fit into one of the other categories.

This forum is NOT for factual, informational or scientific questions about philosophy (e.g. "What year was Socrates born?"); such homework-help-style questions can be asked and answered on PhiloPedia: The Philosophy Wiki. If your question is not already answered on the appropriate PhiloPedia page, then see How to Request Content on PhiloPedia to see how to ask your informational question using the wiki.
Post Reply
User avatar
Astrocyte
New Trial Member
Posts: 1
Joined: October 8th, 2017, 8:53 pm

Universal Rules, Epistemology, and Law

Post by Astrocyte » October 8th, 2017, 10:04 pm

What is the relationship between these three ideas - universal rules, epistemology, and law?

By universal rules, I mean "the habits of nature". To say that something happens again and again in the same way is to observe a habit of nature, which may otherwise be termed a "universal rule".

By epistemology, I mean what is generally meant: how we know. Nature, or the way matter self-organizes from the planck scale upwards (i.e. quarks upwards) has profound implications for the field of epistemology, or "how humans know".

Law relates to the subject of interpersonal relations, as well as our relationship to the natural world. In an ideal sense, law should reflect the furthest attainment of a society's scientific understanding of a particular issue, but as Adam Benforado documents in his book 'unfair', there is a very large gap between what the empirical sciences suggest to be the ontological nature of human knowing, as well as the epistemological consequences this has for the legal profession, and how the law actually functions in todays world.

In any case, the above dialectic is meant to give the reader a sense of what I think the empirical sciences into the human mind are saying about the nature of this mind of ours, and how this understanding conflicts with the commercial individualism of most human societies.

In origin of life studies - a field of biology which explores how life began - human beings are beginning to get a microscopic view of how chemical dynamics become living processes. There are two schools of thought here; one, expressed in books like What is Life: How Chemistry becomes Biology, by Addy Pross, champions an RNA origin based upon studies by Gerald Joyce which shows that an individual RNA molecule can transform a pool of nucleic acids into replicas of itself, after which, the two individual strands grow at exponential rates, leading to an evolution of RNA sequences based upon which RNA strands best dissipate heat (or maintain low entropy).

This view has a 'magical' quality to it, inasmuch as life is far more than just RNA's, even if RNA's can be abstracted and considered as a "replicator-catalyst", life still requires other ingredients, such as a phospholipid membrane. RNA theorists seem to be putting the cart before the horse, or said differently, the "replicating" quality over and above the "catalytic" quality of a general metabolic energy dynamic.

Other theorists like Harold Morowitz considers it more likely that a core-metabolic pathway formed around and for the purpose of relaxing constraints:

“We begin with the ecosystem as a level of organization, which we believe supersedes the importance of the organism for both the earliest stages of origin, and certain aspects of long term organization of the biosphere and constraints on evolutionary dynamics within it. We then consider the problem of how to classify kinds of biological order. A typological classification of metabolism reflecting their energetics and synthetic chemistry (as opposed to a cladistic classification reflecting historical paths of descent) captures constraints from reactivity and network structure in both organisms and ecosystems, and we believe reflects laws of composition that were central before the advent of genetics and the historical contingencies to which genetic systems are subject.

We observe that the universal features of biochemistry at the ecosystem level are contemporaneous with, or antedate, the oldest mineral fossils on earth. Whereas the rock record effectively vanishes across the horizon to the Hadean eon, the profusion of life expressing the universals of metabolism provides a signature from antiquity that is the strongest it has ever been." - The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: the emergence of the 4th geosphere; Eric Smith and Harold Morowitz, pg. 38, 2016, Cambridge Press.


Morowitz picture places the TCA cycle in particular as an example of an 'ecosystem property' which operates within the cell as the primary selection pressure, so that, if activity with the external world passes a certain metabolic threshold, the system is driven to mutate certain genetic components to better correlate with, and so adapt ones system to a new configuration with the environment.

A metabolic first worldview reflects the fact that life seems to be more about a propagating chemical/thermodynamic process, rather than a propagation of some abstract "replicating" element. On the other hand, this is not to deny the fact that a replicating element is indeed transmitted, and that the genetic component (DNA) of cells is indeed the 'sink' which chemical events ultimately act upon, and so it is here, more than anywhere else, that a chemical systems "logic" can be encrypted, or abstracted away, from the actual metabolic intermediates of the life process. The issue, as almost all issues are, relates to complementarity: metabolism may have started the process, but it is the unique thermodynamically stable qualities of nucleic acids which allows the information of the system to be meticulously held and transmitted again and again, albeit, via the catalyizing and building functions (amongst other properties) of proteins.

The purpose of the above example is to highlight the significance of these sorts of studies for how human beings understand themselves; after all, are we not also made of cells which are governed by the same chemical logic probed by origin of life researchers? Just as metabolism, or process, 'selects' replicating material, is something similar also happening at the psychological level - with affect, or feeling, 'selecting' the styles, ways and manners of idealized identity states? The scientist is an example of a very successfully replicating identity state - and for good reason: it passes the litmus test of human minds each attempting to understand reality in ways that are not arbitrary but objective, dependable, and inviolable: a common referent for each of us to base our knowing from.

One wonders given, how "holoierchical" biological processes are, that we are not too far away from a) a disaster of unimaginable proportion (see Donald Trump), and b) a final reckoning with what we are - chemically, thermodynamically, symmetrically: we may finally be forced, at least those of us who can read and appreciate philosophical and scientific arguments (i.e. think reasonably) which may just be a correlation process between an outside process, and how it should be represented ideationally (i.e. linguistically), to recognize that feelings and affects - embodied experience - is the "selection process" which drives our thinking, in the same way that metabolism drives genetic processes.

This is a very big reckoning, because it basically says "individualist theories are wrong", "digitalist fantasies of the singularity are wrong", and basically, and above all, we can't know reality completely, because language is only able to approximate reality: it is not a stand-in for it.

The work of systems biologists like Stuart Kauffman shows why life cannot be considered anything but a dynamic that maintains itself at the edge of chaos i.e. at an energetic level where a past ordering dynamic can be replicated or changed based upon the slightest of disturbances created by environmental interactions. It is an attuning process between the integrated unity of the replicating system (cell) and the significance of the electrodynamic stimuli that affect or act upon the membrane and proteins of the cell wall.

At the mental level, I'm guessing its only a matter of time before the psychological events within our head are given a sort of "substantiality" by being considered as an example of a "replicating" element which, given certain contextual conditions within the mind, are 'selected'. But just as in the case of the cell, where a core metabolic pathway is treated as the driving element i.e. the element sensitive enough to adapt to changing conditions based upon its ability to best relax the stresses on the whole system, as Morowitz/Smith write,

"Ultimately, however, all strategies that survive in the long term must do so under competitive pressure. Strategies that deviate in core metabolism from the paths of least resistance, even by small degrees, take on fitness costs either in energy demand, overcoming of side-reactions, maintenance of enzyme specificity, or other basic physiological functions. Because core metabolism carries such high-flux as the source of all biomass, even small-costs per reaction are amplified when they occur in the core-network." - The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: the emergence of the 4th geosphere; Eric Smith and Harold Morowitz, pg. 201, 2016, Cambridge Press.



Something exactly symmetrical to this description happens in us emotionally. Affects from one context 'seep' into another context, and no matter what we tell ourselves, the reason we said what we said had everything to do with the way a prior interaction from a prior context affectively directed our attention in ways that were "costly" for our interlocutor. But nevertheless, isn't the confabulation an example - albeit, a suboptimal one - of the system of our mind "selecting" material that would most easily 'dissipate' the uncomfortable generated in us when we fail to attune to something another person said? Affective reactions, like chemical reactions, are the "selecting" pressure on the systems dynamics. Indeed, it would seem to be a no-brainer to assume some hierarchical connection between the function of our mind as an intermediary between the object of our body and other bodies, and the chemical dynamics which organizes us: this is, after all, why I am writing this thread: because I believe there is a continuity between mind and matter such that events at the smallest scale and events at the highest scale are holographically integrated via a singular biosemiotic process whereby a triadic dynamic turns each enclosed system (the vacuole may be essential to formal causation) into a whole that is capable of interpreting molecular, and later on, social information, into signals that stand for coherent or incoherent information, and adapting to such signals accordingly.

One day, then, society - via law - will have to contend with a new worldview which situates human existence in a very different ontological and epistemological context, whereby the phenomenon of life is not so much taken for granted, and even more importantly, the capacities of human beings understood as emergent properties of environmental affordances: that is, a time period where humans actually acknowledge and come to terms with the deterministic laws and rules (dynamical, autocatalytic cycles) which frame how it is we know (through affects, or feelings) which in turn engenders a psycholinguistic narrative that seeks to 'make coherent' the affects that our felt.

Post Reply