Ideas of Stuart Kauffman
If you are familiar with complex systems theorist Dr. Stuart Kauffman’s ideas you know he covers a broad range of disciplines and concepts, many in considerable depth, and with a keen eye for isomorphic and integrative principles. If you peruse some of his writings and other communications, please share with us how you see Kauffman’s ideas informing our focal interests: brain, mind, intelligence (organic and inorganic), and self-aware consciousness.
Do you find Kauffman’s ideas well supported by empirical research? Which are more scientific and which, if any, more philosophical? What intrigues, provokes, or inspires you? Do any of his perspectives or claims help you better orient or understand your own interests in our focal topics?
Following are a few reference links to get the conversation going. Please add your own in the comments to this post. If you are a member and have a lot to say on a related topic, please create a new post, tag it with ‘Stuart Kauffman,’ and create a link to your post in the comments to this post.
I’ll start with a comment on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ygHHHeRq0I Kauffman’s presentation runs from about the 37-min point to about the 1:08-hour point. In it, he presents an argument regarding how life can arise from self-organizing physical/chemical processes. He starts with an explanation of work as energy focused by constraints. Work can propagate in a sequence, creating more constraints that generate more work, etc. In autocatalytic systems, the chain returns to itself, keeping itself going (with inputs from outside itself). When self-organized into a work-constraint chain that closes on itself, as has been routinely demonstrated to emerge in conventional laboratory environments,… Read more »
“Reason is an insufficient guide for living your life. We need reason, emotion, intuition, sensation, metaphor. What just happened to the Enlightenment, where reason is our hero?” (5:20).
The clip presents concise biological (sunfish swim bladders) and economic (‘Facebook,’ which I take to refer to the massive behavioral data sets collected by social networks) examples of new possibility spaces (niches) created by evolutionary processes. If I understand the argument, it is that ‘epistemological’ developments result when evolutionary processes occur within knowable state spaces (all the variables and interactions could be known in advance of the evolved change), as when sunfish swim bladders evolved. ‘Ontological’ developments, in contrast, are truly emergent in that the state space can’t be known in advance and, therefore, these developments cannot be reliably foreseen… Read more »
I’m reading his 11/12/06 piece at Edge.org, “Beyond reductionism,” where he claims as of that date there was no theory that combined natural selection with self-organizing physical systems. I’m guessing that beside Kauffman there has been a lot of research since then on this symbiosis? References?
I’m enjoying the new God of science as our human participation in the creativity of the universe. And that there is more to humanity than physics, like emergence into more complex systems like meaning and ethics. It seems qualities like the latter are our gateway into the aforementioned creative participation. All of which is not strictly philosophical but based in complexity and developmental science. I also appreciate the split between epistemology and ontology, where reductionism holds in the latter but not the former. It is also the latter where his take is more ‘scientific.’ He also finds meaning, value and… Read more »
The Information Philosopher has a good intro to Kauffman’s work with references. http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/scientists/kauffman/