Logic is about the way things happen. Indeed the way things must happen. But as
they teach in Epistemology 101, we don't know the world
We only model it. So logic is just our model
of causality. And there can be different models for different
In these logic pages, I do three things. Mainly, of course, I want to outline a model of organic logic. That is something new (even if its roots are ancient). But I also need to put organicism in context by talking about its competition – ordinary mechanical logic. Or what I call RAMML. That is, reductionism, atomism, mechanicalism, monadism and locality. Yes, good old cause and effect logic may seem a simple causal model. But only because it is so everyday familiar. Mechanicalism is in fact based on its own rather intricate set of assumptions about the world.
Then I devote some space to the philosophical principles of modelling as well – because plenty of people have never done Epistemology 101 and so are unclear about why it could be OK to have more than one "true" model of causality. But first let's get stuck into the story of organic logic.
Organic logic breaks neatly into
three components because, when anything happens, there
must of course be the “1, 2, 3” of a
beginning, a middle, and an end. Some kind of initial conditions, a
process that is the change, and then the outcome which is when
things finally seem to have settled and so stopped happening.
Here is a quick
introduction to the 1, 2, 3 tale of vagueness,
dichotomies and hierarchies that are the three essential components of
organic sequence of development.
In fact organic logic is more intricate. As the diagram suggests the three stages are themselves divided in varying degrees, so that they have a oneness or monadicity, a duality, and then a triality. Scholars of Peircean semiotics will recognise this as Peirce's interpretive system of firstness, secondness and thirdness. But everyone else only needs to notice the nesting of threeness here. You have the beginning, middle and end needed to tell a causal tale. But then there is also a change in the structure of things during this progression so that there is a singleness at the beginning, a duality as things happen, and then a triadic state of balance marking the final outcome.
As we shall see, mechanical logic instead assumes the story to be one of a sequence of events rather than a progression or development. The starting position is monadic, and so is the end state. There is no increase in the essential complexity. Instead change becomes almost no change because it is merely a meaningless rearrangement of the simple. Though that said, the inadequacies of the mechanical view (when describing complex systems such as minds and universes) often does lead to the twoness of a dualistic split. A kind of proto-dichotomy.
This is then a first distinguishing mark. Organic logic is irreducibly monadic, dyadic and triadic. All three ontological alternatives work together to make the system. Next let's sketch a quick picture of these three before, during and after phases.
- for the
organicist, all happenings originate from the one
kind of stuff. But it is
not the usual idea of a stuff that we
think of as a suitable departure point for development – one
is substantial or crisply
existent. Instead it is some kind of vague stuff, a
nothingness that is also an
everythingness. In other words, a state of pure potential.
Anaximander, the first proper philosopher, called it the apeiron. The boundless, the unlimited. Plato talked about the chora. Aristotle talked about potential, and about being and becoming. Peirce seems to have been the first to call it vagueness. In modern philosophy there is a lot of discussion of semantic vagueness, using the familiar example of the sorites paradox. But the vagueness we mean here is ontic vagueness – an actual vague state of reality.
Vagueness is a beautiful idea. Mechanical thinking always demands crisp beginnings. The origins of something like a universe or a mind must lie in something already definite. Something with concrete existence itself. This leads to an ugly choice between things like minds and universes either having to have existed forever - to be eternal and uncreated - or to have winked into being out of nothingness. Out of a void. And for no particular reason. But vagueness is like a state of everythingness. It is a raw potential that is poised equally between existence and non-existence. It is doing everything and nothing. And yet it must eventually become a something.
So with vagueness as the starting point, reality can swim into crisper being with a gentle ease. Abruptness is done away with. Well, abruptness in the logic. The actual event of taking shape may be swift, as it is with a phase transition or other forms of symmetry breaking.
Vagueness is a subtle as well as beautiful concept. It is easy to misunderstand on first meeting, but eventually it is sure to grow on you.
2) Dichotomies - if vagueness is the ground from which things spring, the dichotomy is the twoness that results from splitting this ground. It is the phase transition or symmetry breaking step.
The idea of asymmetric dichotomisation is the real focus of this site. I am arguing that when you boil down organicism to its causal core, it is all about the driving force of a dichotomy. The dichotomy makes the separation that then also results in an integration, a mixing of what just got moved far enough apart to become semiotically (that is, meaningfully) different.
3) Hierarchies - the third component of organicism is the triadic structure of the hierarchy. As Stan Salthe argues, a hierarchy is formed from the minimal structure of two limits of contrasting scale and the interactions that take place between these two limits. Salthe calls this model the basic triadic system (BTS).
Like a sandwich, you have a top and bottom plus a jammy filling. The top level is the global scale, which is also the realm of the large, the continuous, the causally constraining. The bottom level is the local scale; the realm of the small, the discrete, the causally constructing. The middle ground is the filling in of all the possible scales in-between. In an ideal world - one that has had the time to go to the heat death of thermal equilibrium - this middle ground will be flat. Geometrically empty. A void in other words.
If vagueness is the starting point for any organic development, the hierarchy is the natural destination. It is the way all things must end. And if vagueness is a kind of ultimately disorganised everythingness, then the hierarchy is a kind of completely organised nothingness. It would be for example an infinitely large universe with nothing much left in it apart from some ultracold blackbox photons, a faint residue of Beckenstein radiation.