Edwina Taborsky


The papers in this issue of SEED are focused around ‘complexity’. Complexity is a term whose meaning is debated, but I will use it as a process that permits ‘the imaginary’ to become morphologically actual, even if that actualization takes millennia rather than seconds to emerge. A complex system is not simply an organized collection of discrete units; that is, a complex reality cannot be understood as an assemblage of actual bits. And, the common definition of complexity as ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts’ is inadequate, for this statement is neither a definition nor a description.

Readers may explore what I mean by the ‘imaginary becoming morphologically actual’ in the first paper in this issue of SEED. My paper ‘The Nature of the Sign as a wff, a well-formed formula’ outlines reality as a process of measurement, which produces ‘forms’ or wffs, i.e., Signs. The seven measurements of energy/matter include four spatial and three temporal modes and suggest that reality functions as a morphological differentiation developed by three linked sets of measurements: input, mediation and output. Some triads are mechanical and these cannot be considered complex systems. However, some triads include a particular measurement that enables an imaginary input into the emerging actualization, and these, I maintain, are complex systems.

The next paper in this issue explores theories about the actualization process understood as a dynamic of causality. Menno Hulswit’s paper ‘A Short History of Causation’ raises some important issues about morphological reality. Essentially, causality refers to an examination of ‘the observation that X emerges and exists as X’. Therefore it is intimately related to morphology. A key question that one must ask is whether the causes of an ‘individual sensible phenomenon’ permit the imaginary to function within the morphological form. There are two basic paradigms, the Aristotelian/Scholastic Conception, which permits imagination, and the Scientific Conception, which does not.

The Stoics and the medieval Christians inserted a necessary relation between a cause and its result. The imaginary, as unstable and a-morphous, became diverted to the miraculous – a force entirely out of the hands and minds of humans. Seventeenth century modernism abandoned morphological development, and “explanations by formal causation and final causation were rejected; the only valid explanations were by efficient causation”. This is a nominalist paradigm, operating only via the external interactions between ‘actual things’ acting in the ‘hic et nunc’. Morphology, understood as the contextual emergence of form, a form which is intimately attached to other forms and to the future functionality of the whole, is denied. Change becomes a question of mechanics, of ‘efficient causality’. Can imagination function in this paradigm?

In the Cartesian and the Hobbesian analysis, imagination does not exist, for ‘causation was only relevant to motion’ between already existent morphological forms. Our world becomes a mechanical world, a world without contextual attachments and reliant only on ‘the motions of different bodies’ which interact by kinetic contact and are, furthermore, necessary or random interactions. The transformation of final cause to an a priori determinism denied the possibility of the imaginary. Newton rejected these necessary causal interactions and developed the idea of cause, as something that makes X do something different. Therefore, formal and final and even material morphologies continue to be rejected. Kant tried to reintroduce a contextual causality; however, the scientific view that reduced causality to nominalist interactions, has continued to dominate our worldview – at least until the ambiguities of quantum mechanics.

This brings us to our third paper, ‘Contextual Dynamics’ by Koichiro Matsuno. In this paper, we are examining ‘the interrelated conditions of the contextual elements as an organized unity’. This, I suggest, moves us into the complex morphology of an Aristotelian causality. That is, ‘if we want to address motions or changes …the interrelated conditions in which something of interest occurs will become a subject matter of prime concern’. As Matsuno points out, Newtonian mechanics is ‘context-free’, but, classical mechanics does not work without ‘boundary conditions’. Boundary conditions, I maintain, refer to morphologies. Morphologies function within contextual interactions. So far, the imaginary need not enter the picture. But, Matsuno brings in the context of temporality, a concept ignored by most users of ‘only efficient causality’ for efficient causality operates strictly in the ‘hic et nunc’ of ‘present time’. But, if we again focus on an original cause, then, we must focus on the context – not the seventeenth century’s assertion of the contextual original cause as First Mover (God and necessary design), but a morphological context functioning in local space and time. Matsuno’s stabilization of dynamics by a system that carries causation ‘both in the forward and backward directions’ can be compared with my two global relations. The internal 3-2, Thirdness-as-Secondness, a measurement that functions internally, provides for future-oriented actual and imaginary morphologies. The external 3-1, Thirdness-as-Firstness, acknowledges current boundary realities as constraints. Importantly, Matsuno’s definition of causality is that it “can carry with itself some form of freedom or indefiniteness”. This, I suggest, is that imaginary force, and we therefore move into a mode enabling complexity, a mode of organization that adapts to local contexts and therefore, adds new morphological properties as it does so and the context thus becomes ‘the agency of supplying further causes of individualization” (Note: read morphologization’for ‘individualization’). Complexity permits innovation; as Matsuno notes, ‘our descriptive categories are still changing in time and cannot remain definitive’. What emerges here is the question of exactly ‘who’ or ‘what’ is causal to the emerging individualization. An external agency is one solution but Matsuno points out that in thermodynamics, the measurements are from within, they are internal – and this is counter to the classical causality focused only around external efficient causality. This internal causality, I suggest, is akin to the two internal relations posited within the analysis of a ‘wff morphology’ and because of both its freedom and its contextuality, the internal progressive measurement specifically permits the imaginary – which might be understood as ‘negative probability’. Note the importance of the internal contextual measurement (Plank’s context), which refers to ‘the persistent memory of the measurement internal to each quantum while distinguishing the movement in the present progressive mode from the one in the present perfect” – a mode which I suggest is comparable to my internal Thirdness-as-Secondness.

The organizational logic of this process involves internal space and a progressive temporality, a situation of both ‘movement in progress and movement perfected’. Argued in more depth in Matsuno’s paper, is the notion of a ‘material agency bridging the present progressive and the present perfect tenses’; that is, the bridge between the internal progressive and the external perfect instantiation. This, I suggest, is an argument about the Interface, coded as Secondness-as-Firstness (2-1) in my paper, and only briefly mentioned. The Interface is a vital area for future research and a special issue of SEED will be devoted to its exploration.

The next paper in this issue is by Aleks Jakulin, ‘Modelling Modelled’ and moves us further into a morphological analysis. This paper takes an approach based on an assumption of an already discrete existential reality, the agent, and examines how this agent ‘gets along’ in the world, by making models of that world. Jakulin sets up a modeling process, using four terms of utility, language, algorithm and data, which he compares with the Aristotelian causes of final, material, efficient and formal. Is a computer capable of complex learning or is it confined to mechanical processes? Is a model of reality best defined within a ‘frequentist probability’ which ‘takes the reality as inherently unpredictable but guided by a true model’ – which would enable the imaginary, or, is it best defined within a ‘subjective view’ which considers probabilities as resulting from a lack of knowledge – which would deny the imaginary.


Given these primary questions, we move onto a consideration of the different morphological identities of models – understanding a model as an abstract generalization of reality which enables both predictive legitimacy and continuity of type. A model, it is understood, enables a system to function in a continuity of type, for emergent instantiations are guided in their development within the formative constraints of that model. Therefore a model, whether internal or external, operates within formal and final causality.

Guido Ipsen’s paper on ‘Hybridity and Heterogeneity: the balance of interpretation’ looks at complexity as an aspect of contextuality. The data base is ‘culture’ and culture is examined as a relational rather than isolational reality. As Ipsen outlines semiosis, it is understood as a dynamic and contextual process that deals with signs as ‘phenomena’, which is to say, with all experienced reality. Therefore, culture as semiotic is itself a dynamic and contextual process. How does dynamics operate? Not by dyadic opposition or differences, which is merely a mechanical reaction and would result in a random universe, but within a triadic process that inserts mediation as an act enforcing symmetry amongst the equally obligatory asymmetry. Using a Peircean analysis, Ipsen examines the dynamics of symmetry and asymmetry within cultures. Symmetry is a result of ‘integration’, the ‘diffusion of codes in favor of the new whole’ and this requires that the differences among individual concepts can actually be mediated and diffused. But, symmetry induction as an ongoing process requires asymmetry or heterogeneity, which is always a contextual reality, and Ipsen concludes with the warning that there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ culture, for such could only exist in decontextualized isolation – and nothing can exist in isolation. Instead, what exists is a continuous interfacing of heterogeneous cultures transforming into hybrid modalities, which in turn, continue to affect other cultures.