The Systems Flip


Starting from the Possible, undifferentiated potentiality, the living world constructs itself.  This is the systems view, the evolutionary view of history.  Without trying to explain it, the origin of time in big bang, the world begins in Chaos and any organization is local or short lived.  There are no names or membranes, only undifferenciated capacity.  We take it as a given that this level is grounded on the unknowable ground of being, and the source of all that is.  Whatever you call it, this, the source of all being is both timeless and unlimited.  All being derives from this and therefore contains an infinite potentiality within it.


This unity divides into multiplicities as membrans form systems are differenciated and later identified when a self, an object or an I, creates a membrane between self and other.  Now from self and other there is a third, the connection or relationship between them, the third is the membrane which we can associate with the sign.  This echelon of systems capacity is where the expressive power of systems appear, as new possibilities of symbolic expression and evolution become possible.


All of this is inherent possible in the first echelon, and the first is the source of the creative capacities of our now differentiating systems.  The emergent echelons do not supercede the lower ones, but simply add capacities to what was already present.  They were possible, but unexpressed in the previous one.  The world has to evolve to a certain point where it gains the capacity to differentiate into systems, and this capacity to differentiate, and later with the emergence of language to know your own soul and self as other. The emergence of a new level or even a whole new eschelon creates a new space for beings with this new capacity to interact in complex ways continually evolve more capacities and new levels.  This echelon involves the capacity to evolve, and its wealth comes from the expressive capacity of its naming systems (languages).


Many levels and systems of expressive capacity had to evolve before we get to digital information systems, but we can see how it is exists in potential within the core of human language that has been with us for as long as we have been human.  The way we have described this it starts with physical processes that give is quarks, atoms, electrons and on up to molecules, planet, galexies, then includes whole hierachies for living systems. Semiosis, the processes described in a paragraph above as the emergence of the second eschelon is identifiable at many levels in the evolving and emerging world living system (Gaia?), and we can see it n the building up from DNA, RNA and amino acid based languages and eventually to social systems and human culture. In some ways, the rest of the eschelons are just elaborations of this, what we could call the semiotic eschelon. We can see that nature has already evolved quite a diversity of systems, or more properly, subsystems of a unified world system.  Each of the languages spoken within this highly patterned if seemingly chaotic world of sign is constantly interacting and co-evolving with the other parts it encounters.


It isn't that human culture and language are unique in having language, but in being a creature of language. For most other systems the languages are part of the operations, not facilities for self-understanding.  We see ourselves as differentiated from the world, other than the world, in a way that other creatures are not.  We don't just get named, we do the naming in the domain of human language and culture.


The frog doesn't go after the fly by thinking up hunting strategies, evolution did that for her and her brain has recognition circuits that trigger a self-correcting (learning) program that feeds the frog.  The monkey goes after the bright colored fruit because this is an evolved signal between monkeys and fruit trees, not because it understands why any of this is so.  It has fears that are evolved from signals that allowed its ancestors to escape a predator.  Language gives humans a new evolutionary space, culture and history, and written language and other tools enhance the evolutionary capacity of human language and culture.  We have similar evolved biological capacities, but we also have abilities to supress the instinctual responses with learned behaviors, and to contemplate the learning process and what is to be learned.


Peircean three part nature of signs:

  • Interpreter - The system or being interpreting the sign.
  • Sign - The sign itself and the way the sign's physical attributes point to the symbolized
  • Symbol - What is symbolized, which is never contained by the sign or even what it seems to point to.





These are very close to 1) self, 2) membrane and 3) other of the Nameable wealth eschelon.