Theories of System Coupling

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Reply Sat 7 Nov, 2009 12:36 pm
... with dynamic systems theory becoming more and more widespread in philosophy and science, old topics such as cybernetics, emergence, and downward causation are being dusted off and revisited ... DST discussions of downward causation seem to be leaning toward the idea that downward causation is precisely the constraints a whole places upon its parts by way of its dynamic organization of those parts (Alicia Juarrero) ... such constraints "select" (amplify?) one or more behaviors of a part over and above the behavioral repertoire of that part ... as I have not read Juarrero's work (only snippets of it in other works), I cannot really say if she elaborates just how such selection physically takes place, but I think that if she did that it would be of such importance that it would have been one of the quoted snippets ... the absence of such an elaboration screams for a theory of how organization selects behaviors ... other philosophical work appears to be taking steps toward that (Scott Kelso and David Engstrom) - the work on "coordination dynamics", the dynamics of coupled systems, where such couplings result not in fixed behaviors but rather in behavioral tendencies ... Kelso and Engstrom express this in a philosophy of the "complementary nature" - that is, when two systems couple the result is not a fixed combination of their behaviors but rather behavioral tendencies that roam the behavioral continuum that lies between the two ... while this looks like a step in the right direction, it still seems to be an incomplete accounting ... for example, look a water ... oxygen particles are dynamic systems with certain properties (flammability); hydrogen particles are dynamic systems with certain properties (flammability) ... according to the philosophy of the complementary nature, the coupling of oxygen systems with hydrogen systems should result in behavioral tendencies somewhere between the two, i.e., flammability ... however, this is obviously not the case ... so my current inclination is that a theory of system coupling needs to address the impacts that the coupling has upon the constituent systems ... these impacts would be the result of the enlistment of selected components from each system to enact the coupling ... and by being enlisted in the coupling, these components would no longer be (fully) available to the original systems - which implies that the original systems would no longer be the original systems! ... so on the one hand, if the components enlisted to enact the coupling were minor players in the behavior of the original systems, then we would see approximately what Kelso and Engstrom describe - the complementary nature (the whole is the sum of its parts) ... but on the other hand, if the components enlisted to enact the coupling were major players in the behavior of the original systems, then the resulting continuum of tendencies would be between two systems that are not the original systems (and could be wildly different from the original systems) ... so when oxygen systems and hydrogen systems couple together by sharing outer-shell electrons (which are known to be major players in the chemical behavior of the elements), the resulting continuum of tendencies has at one end a new system that use to be oxygen but is no longer, and at the other end a new system that used to be hydrogen but is no longer ... that the coupling between these systems has resulted in novel systems being introduced into the world (something-not-oxygen, and something-not-hydrogen) explains the emergence of the novel properties exhibited by the combined system (water) ... that the coupling between these systems has resulted in novel systems being introduced into the world (something-not-oxygen, and something-not-hydrogen) goes beyond what Juarrero ever conceived for downward causation, in that the constraints imposed by the combined system (that is, by the coupling) do not simply select or amplify one or more behaviors of a part over and above the behavioral repertoire of that part - it can actually change each part and introduce novel repertoires of behaviors! ... and all of this is "simply" a result of how it is that systems become coupled ... add cybernetic feedback into the fray (a system is in part its own cause), and things really get wild Smile ...

Anyhoo, where I'm going with this is that, being relatively new to wading into philosophical waters, I was wondering if anyone out there is familiar with any existing philosophical theories that could be construed as "Theories of System Coupling" ???
 
 

 
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