question for philosophers

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Postby shinton » Fri Oct 13, 2006 11:28 pm

I do my fair share of computer programming and it is often desiriable within computer programming as it is in algebra to "abstract out" as many pieces as you possibly can. The idea is typically the more general the form, the more versatile in a given situation. In the process of abstraction, specificity is compromised, but the power of being able to generally specify offsets this lack of specificity...the details will be filled in as they are needed.

Then we get to "essence". Essence, in my opinion, is not much different than what the programmer attempts to do. The goal is to "abstract out" what can be extracted out hoping to get at some "pure" piece of the puzzle. The "isness" of the thing. The problem is, one can abstract ad infinitum. Maybe I get bored with my C++ description and decide I'd rather have the statement generalized such that it is conducive for use also in Ruby. That's one more step. Have I moved it closer to its "true being"? I'm not so sure about that.

Chaos theory might be a helpful analogue here. Essentially, the fractal nature of the theory allows us to keep drilling down or up as we please seeing bigger and smaller pieces as we so desire. At any particular level I'm not sure we can say, "Ah HA! HERE is the essence of "treeness", and if we do it is surely arbitrary because what we are doing is potentially recursively infinite.

Supposing that those pieces renew themselves in exactly the same configuration to me, presents no dilemma. For all I know, each day the entire world is built anew. Maybe every second the world is built anew. It doesn't matter because the configuration in which it is built does not seem to vary and all indications point to it being old. Reassembling things exactly as they are even with new pieces if one is not aware of it doesn't particularly make that much difference to the thing in question. It's only at the point that those pieces are reassembled DIFFERENTLY that things become weird...and this is the case for human beings. We don't have a "new pancreas" exactly. We have a pancreas with a few more "faults" than it had before. We call this aging, and for all the things that are the "same" about us as we age, there are at least as many things that are different.
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Postby dumbernmud » Sun Oct 15, 2006 5:20 pm

I personally see no reason to posit an essence to anything. Why can't there be infinite particulars? I suppose it was the use of mathematical systems, symbols, for representing things and quantities, that led the first thinkers to propose a "universal" or "essential" idea of something, in this case, the symbol and number. Since they used single variants several times over, the numbers became a priori to the quantities and things they represented.

I'm not understanding your point. Are you suggesting essence requires mathematics as its qualifier, or am I missing what you're saying?

I think of existence as data. Everything is data and data is everything. Data has no meaning to cognition till it's formulated into information and meaning (that and what). This same structure applies with equal force (to my thinking) both material objects and essense. Triangularity possesses a specific whatness in comparison to circularity, and in this context all those particulars triangularity applies to become its meaning or whatness. Of course, triangularity is most often thought of as a meaning associated with specific things that have three sides.

My question is, how can something that's 'not real' be found to have the same cognitive structure as something that's 'real'?


in the matter of autopeiesis, the article you provided states, "Although the major force involved in life is the electromagnetic force (the chemical bonds between the atoms in organic molecules of life are electromagnetic forces), the electromagnetic force itself is NOT life.
Furthermore, there is no credible scientific evidence supporting the existence of a "fifth force" or "vital force" as vitalists and new age writers contend....
Instead, from the view of complexity, life is not a force but a process. In complexity ,life is as an emergent property of a system. That is, life is not a property of a system's parts but emerges as a result of the (nonlinear) interaction of its parts. The pattern & process of interaction are called autopoiesis & cognition.
Thus, autopoiesis is the pattern by which life emerges in dissipative systems; cognition is the very process of life itself."

This is puzzling to me. On the one hand, to first dismiss the existence of a vital force apart from scientific evidence...then to posit life as a 'pattern' which emerges from processes involved in a complex system fails to make any real distinction to me between 'life force' and 'pattern' beyond an exercise in semantics.

On the other hand, I've been toying with an 'oar in the water' example as a way of thinking about existence which I realized yesterday also has some interesting parallels with the notion of autopoiesis. Briefly, it seems to me that the interaction of dissimilar modes of matter (oar (solid) applied to water (liquid) creates a non-material force (propulsion). Supposing that all the features of existence operate in [and are a process of] essence emerging from complex material interactions as subsets of this same simple process, it seems to bear some similarities to autopoeisis as it's explained in the article. Consciousness as an emergent dynamic from the myriad subsets at cellular level of the 'oar in the water' formula sure seems similar.

Tracing the process backwards appears to lead to a necessary first or uncaused cause, which poses no problem to me but would to others, I'm sure.
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Postby Ierrellus » Sun Oct 15, 2006 5:33 pm

We all shed our skins, sloughing off what is no longer necessary or essential, that is, if we hope to survive. Shedding dead or decaying ideas is the best a philosopher can hope for. Nothing necessary can be shed without compromising what is necessary for existence. Luckily for us nature abhors a vaccuum and uses all discards for construction material for new creatures. Hopefully, dead or decaying ideas can become fertilizer for newer, more relevant takes on our experience of existence.
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Re: question for philosophers

Postby Jakob » Mon May 13, 2019 11:29 am

dumbernmud wrote:Hi,

I'm a new fan of philosophy (in my old [middle] age), and am trying to figure out what principle governs the reduction of something's parts while the thing remains what it is....i.e., what principle describes the ability to suffer the loss of certain components while remaining the same essential thing.

For example, I understand that skin cells die at a rate by which the entire skin of a human being can be said to be totally replaced in seven years. (Going from memory here, may not be fully accurate.) Yet the human being remains the same essential being and is unchanged by the process.

What philosophic principle explains this phenomena?


It didn't exist when this question was asked, but value ontology addresses it efficiently. ... e-ontology
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