Reduction of Complexity by the Present - Point 10
Meaning is being created and destroyed continually but how? The answer given here is that the present moment and the unification of societies destroy possibilities and create new ones as well as do the same to the subset of meaning.
Consider the important society of personal awareness. Each new moment is inherently a decision (the old adage that "deciding to do nothing is also a decision") where the context of meaning is shifted in some way. This can be seen from a consideration of all the aspects in consciousness awareness which change from the effect of time elapsing which values them in either a positive or negative way. And it can be seen from studies of internal brain states which are continuing to run highly feedbacked neuronal pathways and chemical changes. But these are merely testament that nothing stands still and that changes are being continually made with some meaning lost and some meaning relationships gained or enhanced.
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At times in our awareness we erupt into action. All the possible avenues and all the meaningful ones we had indulged in just prior to this decision are collapsed into one that enfolds as a series relationships are effected. Meaning and possibilities are both destroyed and created even more than just with the drift of awareness. But the two reductions and creations of meaning are of a kind in being reductions of meaning by the present with only the action move being a more wholesale change of meaning connections.
This view of meaning evolution and its continual reduction and creation by the present with heavier rates of these through action gives a different and non-dualistic picture of the old problem of free will. It can be said that meaning or knowledge as a connection between a subject society and an object society are inherently an action because the meaning relationship is shaped from an actual or a potential behavior towards the object. It can be said that an object society which we know is one where the alliance is not one of incorporation like food into the body proper but left as alliance like a partial incorporation waiting for temporary use by the knower. It's a temporary appendage waiting for use by the knowing society. To know it or even to think about it is to temporarily flex this action muscle of the behavioral relationship. From the standpoint of personal awareness we have different meaning relationships that we can flex or act on. Each thinking about a choice is a partial action on that choice. And each thinking about a choice as we skip around our choices is either reinforced or not into a more complete action. Our knowledge relationships are then actions in potential that we act on in conflict with one another until one or another is reinforced enough to no longer be stoppable from the noise of other knowledge relationships. This can only happen in creatures like the higher animals which have so many response circuits that we have learned to cope with the conflicting circuits. And this is why one can observe animals making movements in one direction and then in another before finally being overcome by one of the choices. And similarly this is why people have characters of decision making where some stay hesitant and in conflict and others act precipitously with the first good meaningful choice that gets slight reinforcement.
But this view of free will is neither of the old categories of free or deterministic. It is not free in the sense of being able to see all the choices in the universe equally and clearly and being able to pick independently of our wants. And it is not deterministic in the sense of stimulus and response. It is both in that a stimulus provokes many responses from us as meaning societies which can proceed partially down many of these responses while changing meaning and then let the resultant reinforcement process of new and old meaning direct a resonance search that turns one response into a much less partial action. It is effectively free will and it allows all meaning relationships including metapatterns such as logic or past sequences to be used as actions which can be used as reinforcement patterns.
In the course of time for personal awareness whether ruminating or acting at the limit of physical capabilities the process remains the same. Meaning alliances with others are changing by being reduced or strengthened or reoriented. The present continually changes the society of subjectivity and the unity or disunity of its alliances. These changes range from the slight changes of the brain at rest with only chemical processes having their regular decay and repair rhythms to the abrupt changes from eruptive and decisive changes that involve great discontinuities with many alliances.
Subjective societies are formed from alliances made of potential actions which vie for concertedness or resonance among them into spikes of more actionable responses as the alliance societies change over time from within and without.
"The totality of references presented by a meaningfully intended object offers more to hand than can in fact be actualized at any moment. Thus the form of meaning, through its referential structure, forces the next step, to selection." Luhmann, Niklas. Social Systems. Stanford University Press. 1995. p. 60.
“The need to make a coherent, conscious scene out of seemingly disparate elements is seen at all levels and in all modalities of consciousness.” Edelman, Gerald and Tononi, Giulio. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter becomes Imagination. Basic Books. 2000. p. 26.
"A number of more recent writers have made a general distinction between instructive and selective mechanisms of change and adaptation (Changeaux, 1985; Piatelli-Palmerini, 1989). An instructive mechanism is one in which the environment interacts with the organism in a way that brings about a specific organic change. A selective mechanism is one in which variants are produced by the organism in an undirected way and are then subject to environmental selection." Godfrey-Smith, Peter. Complexity and the Function of Mind in Nature. Cambridge University Press. 1996. p. 87.
The conceptscape is contained in the lifescape, the web of all meaning, which is contained in the universe of possibilities. Always the unity of the present forces multiplicity into its reduction as possibilities are terminated. In the human sphere awareness and action are the two primary reductions into the present; both are possibilities realized. Life, in general, destroys complexity to arrive at the present thereby creating new potentials and relationships. Instead of “free will” life has taken a facsimile route of producing complex determinants in complex societies (organisms) with an integration mechanism to continually force the diversity into more unified action. Living in a society, struggling and surrendering in a body, is to have emotions, is to struggle and relax as the fit of one’s society into the larger society of the environment changes; it is to move in rhythms rather than to move with the conceptscape’s tempo of logic. The conceptscape is the creation of a collective society of semantic societies where complexity has been forged into shared relationships.
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Page updated 3/5/03