Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 5, No 2 (2009)

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Complexity, Sustainability, Justice, and Meaning: Chronological Versus Dynamical Time

Horacio Velasco

Abstract


Abstract: It is shown that time may be appreciated in at least two senses: chronological and dynamical. Chronological time is the time of our naïve acquaintance as transient beings. At its most extensive scale, it corresponds to history encompassing both the abiotic and the biotic  universe. Dynamical time, deriving from classical mechanics, is the time embraced by most of the laws of physics. It concerns itself only with present conditions since it is held that that the past may be reconstructed from the present (literally) and the future predicted from the present, a position known as Laplacian determinism.

 

Nonlinear dynamics has shown the fallacy of this supposition because, of necessity, the concrete values that may be assumed in the variables of the equations of motion constituting the laws of physics (i.e. the present or starting conditions) as a result of the spontaneous or intentional interaction of subject (or measuring) systems and of object (or measured) systems, cannot be of infinite precision. Indeed, even if they could be, it is not at all clear that they would permit Laplacian determinism because of what is thought to be the ubiquity of K-flow dynamics in nature in which even infinite past information leading to the present cannot yield prediction of the future. In consequence, nonlinear dynamics, in rebellion against dynamical time, generates a primitive form of history distinguishing past, present, and future that may be termed nonlinear dynamical hysteresis.

 

When nonlinear dynamics came to be complemented with semiotic modulation through the implement of symbol-mediated language (a complementation subsequently termed semantic closure) as first instantiated through the communicating (as opposed  to merely dynamically interacting) molecular complexes of the cell, what can be termed semiotic hysteresis was born. The paper attempts to show that indefinitely evolving complexity, sustainability, justice, and meaning are indissolubly bound with chronological time in the sense of semiotic hysteresis (as afforded initially by non-cognitive semantic closure and subsequently, at least one hopes, by cognitive semantic closure): This semiotic hysteresis yields the indefinite evolutionary time of the living condition—including culture.

 


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