Both the quantum physicist and the poet make prescient guides to living into the mystery, the unsettled, the unknown. Never simple abstraction, such exploration has material consequences for how we live and make the world; it opens new ways and doors to examine what it means to be a self and to work towards justice together. Reaching out to explore intimacy, interconnection, and intra-action, to feel the touch and hear the voice of the void, the quantum physicist feminist theorist Karen Barad writes from within and deeper into the quantum indeterminacy that is the space of all possibility. In this lecture, we will follow Barad into the inhuman and the infinite, finding the vastest of multitudes in the smallest particle, and spirited ghosts teetering in the void.
To explore how molecules became signs I will ask: “What sort of process is necessary and sufficient to treat a molecule as a sign?” This requires focusing on the interpreting system and its interpretive competence. To avoid assuming any properties that need to be explained I develop what I consider to be a simplest possible molecular model system which only assumes known physics and chemistry but nevertheless exemplifies the interpretive properties of interest. Three progressively more complex variants of this model of interpretive competence are developed that roughly parallel an icon-index-symbol hierarchic scaffolding logic. The implication of this analysis is a reversal of the current dogma of molecular and evolutionary biology which treats molecules like DNA and RNA as the original sources of biological information. Instead I argue that the structural characteristics of these molecules have provided semiotic affordances that the interpretive dynamics of viruses and cells have taken advantage of. These molecules are not the source of biological information but are instead semiotic artifacts onto which dynamical functional constraints have been progressively offloaded during the course of evolution.
Keywords Autogenesis · Information · Constraint · Interpretation · Scaffolding · Virus
Seven parameters are described that distinguish three hierarchically nested system dynamics that are characteristic of partially-bounded open subsystems. These are used to characterize the transition from self-organized inorganic to self-regulated living systems which exhibit self-synthesis, self-reproduction, and self-reconstitution in response to damage. This analysis demonstrates that yoked self-organizing processes that generate each-others’ boundary conditions can produce a form of co-dependent unity that exhibits these end-directed properties. A simple empirically testable molecular model system — an autogenic virus — is described for exploring these dynamical properties.
Keywords: organism, constraint, dissipative processes, self-organization, morphodynamics, autogenesis, MEPP, virus
We face systemic problems — economic, political, social, and environmental ones all wound up together. Effective solutions are emerging in all of these domains, but we lack a reliable systemic perspective to weave them together. I believe Energy Network Science (ENS) can provide the sound, systemic framework we need to address our systemic problems. ENS’s study of the energy laws of growth and development can help restore our economies and our souls by: (1) Helping us rediscover the truth and power of free-enterprise democracy; (2) Giving us the tools and concepts we need to build healthy Democratic Free Enterprise Networks (DFENs), the kind that have always formed the sinews of American vitality; (3) Providing precise quantitative measures and targets for healthy development that seem quite unimaginable in the current milieu. This is the story of how these gifts change our view of how to rebuild economic vitality and restore the dream.
KEYWORDS: Balancing resilience & efficiency, energy network analysis, free enterprise democracy, quantitative measures of economic health, regenerative economics.
Language has been granted too much power. The linguistic turn, the semiotic turn, the interpretative turn, the cultural turn: it seems that at every turn lately every “thing” — even materiality — is turned into a matter of language or some other form of cultural representation. The ubiquitous puns on “matter” do not, alas, mark a rethinking of the key concepts (materiality and signification) and the relationship between them. Rather, it seems to be symptomatic of the extent to which matters of “fact” (so to speak) have been replaced with matters of signification (no scare quotes here). Language matters. Discourse matters. Culture matters. There is an important sense in which the only thing that does not seem to matter anymore is matter.
Evolution did not stop with life per se. At the very least it built brains from which sprang minds from which sprang consciousness, the greatest of the world’s many mysteries. This chapter takes up the question of brains, minds and consciousness. The not-so-surprising implication here, is that these greatest of creation’s wonders are also part of the story. No longer in long, slow, cycles of blind self-organization, somehow the Great Ordering Oneness found a way to build a system which consciously shapes the world and itself as if by plan. More self-aware and more potentially powerful than anything that has ever existed, thinking beings are a world-transforming force in their own right.
This paper shows how the Energy System Sciences provide the theoretical backbone and empirical substance we need to connect findings from across the human and natural sciences in a way that is practical, rigorous, and heart-warming at the same time. Our premise is that the same energy science that explains systemic health in ecosystems can be used to create an empirical explanation of systemic health in human systems too. This integrated understanding of planetary health directly addresses the underlying socio-economic drivers of today’s crises in a rigorous yet emotionally compelling picture of how to save civilization socially, economically and environmentally.
Born in Toronto in 1939, the third son of a prominent Canadian barrister, McMurtry was educated as tuition-free scholar-athlete at Upper Canada College (1951–57). He then read English (1957–61 BA) at Trinity College, University of Toronto, graduating with A standing while receiving the Clough Memorial Trophy (Outstanding Athlete Award) during his B.A. Subsequently, McMurtry starred as professional football player for Calgary Stampeders during his Master’s studies in philosophy (1961–62, MA awarded 1963), to which he brought his rare experiences as an elite athlete, developing thereafter philosophy of sport and competition qua areas of original research (e.g. McMurtry 1974 & 1983) and, more deeply, ground-breaking critiques of self-maximising games as a general model of rationality (e.g. economic and contract theory; cf. McMurtry, 1984b, 1997b, 2011 & 2012).
At about one o’clock, as I was working on a lecture, an email notification popped up. John McMurtry, path-breaking Canadian philosopher, my doctoral dissertation supervisor, and critical interlocutor and friend for 25 years had died.