A Tutorial

Part Eight

Kent Palmer, Ph.D.

copyright 1996 Kent Palmer, all rights reserved

published on the email list on 960127


In the last section we suggested that there was a functor between the meta-levels of Being and the structure of autopoietic theory. This hopefully established the fundamental value of an ontological investigation of the foundations of Autopoietic Theory. This will free us to begin a deeper and more far reaching investigation of the ontological implications of the fragmentation of Being. It has been suggested that perhaps the terminology of Modern Ontology is somewhat cryptic and we need to make it more plain. Every discipline has its special vocabulary and modern ontology is no different. We stick to the vocabulary of the philosophers who have inagurated this discipline because we wish to remain attached to that tradition. We are merely extending their momentus discoveries by finding a way to move from one kind of Being to the next in a progression that encompasses all the kinds of Being. And in fact I believe that their terminology is quite clear and very precise to those who wish to expore this highest frontier. To summarize the steps of the meta-levels are are seen as follows:


meta-level zero = beings, things, entities, stuff


meta-level one = Pure Presence - present-at-hand - pointing

meta-level two = Process Being - ready-to-hand - grasping

meta-level three = Hyper Being - in-hand - bearing

meta-level four = Wild Being - out-of-hand - encompassing


Endless Illusion generated by ideational processes


If we just speak in terms of meta-levels then once we have established ontological difference then it is possible to move through the meta-levels of Being despensing with any other terminological distinctions. This is recomended to those who want the pleasure of rediscovering the levels of Being for themselves. Each level has its own emergent qualites as the unity of Being bifurcates thorugh the symmetry breaking process. Anyone should be able to verify those properties on their own. Once Being has been established as it is in all the Indoeuropean languages to some degree it is possible to track the process of its fragmentation into meta-levels quite easily. Merely take Being which means persistence of things and begin thinking what each meta-level might be. It is clear that if Being is persistence then the first symmetry breaking must mean becoming which is the mixture of Being with Time in the way Heidegger imagined. In other words at the meta-level it takes time for Being itself to Be. As soon as we add Being and Becoming together then we have what Henry called Ontological Monism and the two fused together have been called the Monolith because they seem to include everything that is both static and dynamic and it presents us with a self-grouding whole. But if we attempt to move from here to the next meta-level then it is necessary to realize that The Being of Beings own Becoming is very different from the Monolith. In fact, what we see is that it must be whatever establishes the difference between Static Being and Dynamic Becoming. Whatever is establishing that difference never appears itself. And we recognize it in the sementation of the process of becoming and in the discontinuities in the differentiation of Static Being. This has been called Hyper Being following Merleau-Ponty's recognition of the Hyperdialectic between Process Being and Nothingness. It has been called DifferAnce by Derrida who talks about the differing and deferring of the distortion that appears in manifestation at the level of traces. It has been called -B-E-I-N-G- (crossed out) by Heidegger in his essay "On the Line" written for Ernst Junger. In that essay Heidegger tells us we must strive to dwell in the line itself, where Junger has told us that we must cross over the line in "The Worker." The line could be thought of as the distinction between the static and dynamic aspects of Being. It is the point where Levinas talks about Ethics and Metaphysics collapses together and in which we need to bear the minstrations of the Other. Finally if we move to the next meta-level we see that on the one hand there is the monolith that is both static and dynamic and on the other hand there is the difference that allows us to distinguish the static from the dynamic. This difference between differAnce and the Monolith is a meta-difference. If we move to this final meta-level we begin to explore the Being of the -B-E-I-N-G- and the Monolith taken together. This is what Merleau-Ponty called Wild Being. It is what Deleuze and Guattari called the desiring machines upon the body-without-organs and embedded in the socius in ANTI-OEDIPUS . It iswhat John S. Hans called the PLAY OF THE WORLD. It is what Plotnitsky has called hetergeneous interaction and interactive heterogeniety of the meta-complementarities in COMPLEMENTARITY. This rarified form of Being distinguishes between what Henry calls THE ESSENCE OF MANIFESTATION and manifestation itself. Where Hyper Being was a difference between things at the trace level, Wild Being is a lack of difference due to the fact that discontinuity and discontinuity have become chaotically mixed as has order and disorder and all other fundamental distinctions due to the fact that they are verging on non-dualistic fusion. But still at this level there are phases that seperate the limits of the dualisms and these phases are reversible with each other and form a chiasmic bridge between the dualities. Plotnitsky's phrase "interactively heterogenious and heterogeneous interactivity" is a sign of this reversiblity.

Hopefully it is clear from this line of reasoning that anyone can think through the meta-levels of Being once they know that they exist. So it is not necessary to have a specialized ontological vocabulary for them, but it sure helps to have the sholders of the masters to stand upon. Thus we may instead look at the kinds of Being in terms of modalities of our being-in-the-world as Heidegger did. We have four fundamental ways of relating to the world. The present-at-hand mode is when we take a frozen picture of the world of some kind such as when we gloss it in the ideational process. The ready-to-hand as Heidegger has shown us is the modality of technology which is hidden beneath our projection of the present-at-hand. So for instance when we are writing a letter with a pencil our mind is on what we are saying, the ideas flowing onto the paper not on the pencil. But when the pencil breaks then our attention shifts suddenly to the instrument of writing and away from what we were trying to say. This ability to ignore the technological infrastructre is based on a completely different mode that we have by which we relate to the technologial mechanisms that underly what we are doing. The in-hand mode is described by Merleau-Ponty at the end of THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION as the expansion of being-in-the-world. In that book Merleau-Ponty showed that the psychological counterparts of the present-at-hand was pointing and of the ready-to-hand was grasping. Similarly Levinas showed that the psychological counterpart of the in-hand is bearing, as in bearing up under the burden placed on us by the Other, as seen in the minstrations of our mothers when we are too little to resist or know anything other than what ever is done to us by our parents. We must note the slightly passive tone of the phrase "ready-to-hand" and contrast that with the more active tone of the phrase "in-hand." When the tools are in our hand they are transformed by need and necessity. Thus the hammer might be called upon to act as a screw driver or a wrench in some special situations. When the tools are in-hand they are liable to transform due to the exengencies of the situation. We can think of the in-hand as the transformation of the tools under our grasp as we bear down on them and as they bear us up within the world. When the tools are in-hand the walking stick may transform into the reigns of a horse, which may transform into the reigns of a chariot, which might transform into the steering wheel of an automobile, which might transform into the throtle of a train, which might transform into the instruments of a plane, which might transform into the controls of a rocket ship. In other words tools in-hand continually transform as our being-in-the-world expands. Merleau-Ponty gives the example of the guitarist who's instrument becomes part of him or the blind man whoes stic becomes an extension of his senses. Tools in-hand become the means of expanding our ability to explore and master our worlds. This capacity for being-in-the-world to expand is a different modality from that of the mere ready-to-hand. The ready-to-hand technologies support the present- at-hand work without changing either themselves or that work. The most that can happen is that they break down. But the in-hand allows us to achieve continuously new capacities by ever new technologies that are continually chaning in our hands. Software is an example of the kind of meta-technology that appears with the in-hand modality of being-in-the-world. Software allows us to integrate other technologies together an make them more than any of them cold be separately. Finally we realize that technologies do not just change in predictable ways as when we add together known technologies to gain some new capability greater than either of them could provide. But there are actually emergent events that discontinuously transform technologies. These moments of spontaneous generation or radical emergence indicate the existence of one final mode of being-in-the-world I call the out-of-hand. When things get out-of-hand then we know we have entered into Wild Being. Catestrophic changes occur to the technological base that are impossible to predict before hand and cause us to rewrite history afterword. These discontinuous changes may occur at any of the levels of our cultural tradtion:


theories (Feyerabend AGAINST METHOD)


epsitemes (Foucault THE ORDER OF THINGS)

epochs of Being (Heidegger)

existence = emptiness

Genuine emergence is more than just combining things that already exist together. Radical emergence has been described by G.H.Mead in THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE PRESENT as discontinous transformations of the tradition which cannot be predicted in which something completely new comes into existence for the first time and which causes us to rewrite history. He notes that this capacity to produce and sustain genuine emergence is the hallmark of the social. When the novum that inagurates a new epoch occurs then things are completely out-of-hand and a catistrophic transformation of the world in which we live occurs sweeping across everything at the level of the tradition that it effects.

We can in fact identify three kinds of emergence:

Artifical emergence which is when things that already exist are recombined to yield something new.

Chiasmic emergence which is when a combination occurs that is unexpected between things that already exist and that this is combined with random events in such a way that something unprecedented is created that goes beyond the pre-existent ingrediants.

Genuine emergence which is a spontansious generation of something that has never existed before out of nothing. It may be based on the existence of things that already exist but moves beyond everything that exits by opening up an new dimesion of novelty that is orthogonal to everyting that exists prior to the radical emergent event.

The out-of-hand is the modality that makes possible the radical emergence of spontaneous generation. The in-hand tools recombine in our hands to give us new capacity but when things get out-of-hand is when there are catestrophic changes to the whole technological base of the tradtion. One example is the technological singularity that Venor Vinge believes will occur when machines get smarter than us. This is a hypothetical example but a potent one.

[Author's Note: psych equivelanets??????]