New Paper on Change and Diachronic Emergence in “G. Minati, M. Abram, E. Pessa (Eds.)(2012). Methods, Models, Simulations And Approaches Towards A General Theory Of Change”

Emergent Processes as Generation of Discontinuities

Published in: G. Minati, E. Pessa, M. Abrams (eds.) (2012). Methods, Models, Simulations and Approaches Towards a General Theory of Change. Singapore: World Scientific, 135-146. 

Leonardo Bich, Gianluca Bocchi

Dipartimento di Scienze della Persona and Post-Graduate School of Anthropology and Epistemology of Complexity, University of Bergamo, P.le S.Agostino 2, 24129 Bergamo, Italy

Abstract: In this article we analyse the problem of emergence in its diachronic dimension. In other words, we intend to deal with the generation of novelties in natural processes.  Our approach aims at integrating some insights coming from Whitehead’s Philosophy of the Process with the epistemological framework developed by the “autopoietic” tradition. Our thesis is that the emergence of new entities and rules of interaction (new “fields of relatedness”) requires the development of discontinuous models of change. From this standpoint natural evolution can be conceived as a succession of emergences — each one realizing a novel “extended” present, described by distinct models — rather than as a single and continuous dynamics. This theoretical and epistemological framework is particularly suitable to the investigation of the origin of life, an emblematic example of this kind of processes.

Keywords: diachronic emergence, constructivism, hierarchy theory, non-algorithmic processes, origin of life.


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  • "To say that a system is complex […] is to say that we can describe the same system in a variety of distinct ways […]. Therefore a system is simple to the extent that a single description suffices to account for our interaction with the system; it is complex to the extent that it fails to be true." (Robert Rosen, 1978)
  • “Complexity is not an intrinsic property of a system nor of a system description. Rather, it arises from the number of ways in which we are able to interact with the system. Thus, complexity is a function not only of the system’s interactive capabilities, but of our own”
    (Robert Rosen, 1985)

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