ART AND ORGANISM


CHANGE
.
"all that is solid melts into air."
(Marx)

BIOLOGICALLY we are concerned with CHANGE at two levels -- individual development and evolutionary change. The former involves change within an individual as it grows and matures ... is inevitable in any organism that must cope with a changing environment. [development in A&O] assimilating or accommodating new experiences. It begins with conception and ends with demise. The later involves change between generations as organisms coping with the constraints of their environments communicate biologically relevant information to subsequent generations. . [evolution in A&O] ..

.

.


    CHANGE, TRANSFORMATION, TRANSPARENCY

    Although Life must be lived forwards, as Kierkegaard said, it must be understood backwards.[1] Memories and imagination are all we have.


    DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY.

    OUR MINDS ARE IN CONSTANT FLUX: With respect to COGNITION and PROXIMATE CAUSATION we must remain aware that every percept, every construct, reaches its place within an organism after being passed through the lenses ... or the Procrustean beds ... of every preceding percept or construct. It is trimmed or enlarged, sanitized or sullied, disfigured or disguised, all in the interest of assimilation or accommodation to all its predecessors We are creatures of these constructions


    EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY.

    OUR TRAITS ARE IN CONSTANT FLUX: Much as the mental constructs of any particular individual are filtered through all preceding constructs, all traits which are transmitted from generation to generation can only be understood in the light of the past roles of its central constituents as well as their allies and their adversaries, at every level of organization from biochemical to morphological. Every change in a trait, from imperceptibly slow through startlingly sudden and dramatic is built on millions of generations of precedent, millions of generations of each trait negotiating its place in the organism with a myriad of shifting alliances with other traits. An endless jostling of traits maximizing their functionality in the light of their host's prime NEED of the moment, and ultimately to self-actualize. "... the reasons for the evolutionary origin of a structure can rarely be found in the functions of its more elaborate, much later form. For example, feathers did not begin to evolve because of selection for the ability to fly. To put it another way (one that would have appealed to Stephen Jay Gould), exaptation is everywhere." (from Wallace Arthur's review of Perspectives in Animal Phylogeny and Evolution, by Alessandro Minelli (OUP 2009) in Science 323:717 .. complete review)


    ALL that is NEW ... every innovation of individual or species has the potential to affect biological fitness. "Transformatively new innovations "have to be emplaced in already existing organizational forms, social structures, and biographies. … they must be accepted and altered in such a way that they identify and meet latently present needs." So the shock of the new is conveyed and modulated through the arrangements and understandings of the old. Innovation is a process of mutual accommodation, its success dependent as much on societal receptivity and the quality of communication and integration with existing social forms as on the sacred spark of its inventor." --(Edw J Hackett reviewing Insatiable Curiosity by Helga Nowotny 2008 in Science16 Jan 2009 pp340-341)



.
"We all live on the great, dynamic web of change. It links us to one another and, in some ways, to everything in the past. And in the way that each of us influences the course of events, it also links us to the future we are all busy making, every second. No matter how remote all these links may seem, over space and time, they are real. No person acts without causing change on the web. Each one of us has an effect, somewhere, somewhen. Everybody contributes to the process. In some way, anything we do makes history, because we are history. The web is the expression of our existence, and of all those who went before us, and all who will come after us." (James Burke, from his book: 'The Pinball Effect'; via PhysLink July 15, 1998).


"There is a mode of vital experience--experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life's possibilities and perils--that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience "modernity." To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world--and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology: in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, "all that is solid melts into air." “All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” (Karl Marx, on modernity. Cited by Ken Wilbur in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; epigraph to chap 11). (Berman, Marshall. (1982) All That is Solid Melts into Air. Simon and Schuster, N.Y. 384 pp.)


CHANGE - FLUX - FLOW

transformative change


.


a case of jamais vu?
And you may ask yourself
“Well...How did I get here?”
And you may ask yourself
“How do I work this?”
And you may ask yourself
“Where is that large automobile?”
And you may tell yourself
“This is not my beautiful house!”


MEMORY: you can't know of change if you don't have memory and what is Déjà vu, jamais vu?


.

"Progress! Who wants progress? That's just what I like about Art ---the fact that there can't be any "progress" in it. For example --- in the seventeenth century there was Rembrandt, and nobody can improve on him, where as seventeenth-century technology now looks very crude to us . . ." (Solzhenitsyn, The First Circle, cited by Koestler, 1974)

.

“But the chief cause of our natural unwillingness to admit that one species has given birth to other and distinct species, is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps. The difficulty is the same as that felt by so many geologists, when Lyell first insisted that long lines of inland cliffs had been formed, and great valleys excavated, by the slow action of the coast_waves. The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations.” (Darwin)

.

“Change is one thing,” said Bertrand Russell, "progress is another. ‘Change’ is scientific, ‘progress’ is ethical; change is indisputable, whereas progress is a matter of controversy.” (1950 in Unpopular Essays)

"An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning." Sometimes a path must be blazed: "Never forget what I believe was observed to you by Coleridge, that every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished" (William Wordsworth, letter, 1807)


    (Max Planck (1858-1947) –and see science-truth) Max Planck, German physicist “who framed the quantum theory in 1900. His research into the manner in which heated bodies radiate energy led him to report that energy is emitted only in indivisible amounts, called 'quanta', the magnitudes of which are proportional to the frequency of the radiation. His discovery ran counter to classical physics and is held to have marked the commencement of the modern science. He received a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918. To learn more about Max Planck, visit: http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/5/0,5716,115045+1,00.html.”) see "prematurity and Uniqueness"
.
.


CHANGE and REINVENTION . . .


It was said that the ship Theseus (slayer of the Cretan Minotaur) commanded, was "preserved as a memorial. As the vessel aged, decaying planks were replaced with new ones; eventually, all the original timber was replaced. Philosophers know the story of Theseus's ship as a classic example of the problem of identity. What was the true identity of the ship, the shape or the wood?" -Michael Shermer more. -- A similar story is told of Jason, son of Aeson assembled the Argonauts, a crew of heroes from all over Greece. They set out in the Argo, largest ship ever made, to secure the golden fleece from the King of Colchis. It has been said that after their return, the Argo was placed in a place of honor for all to see, but over time, as planks got rotten, each was changed. Soon there was little of the original ship left . . . more

MEMORY “The protein filaments that give the cells their internal shape have a half-life of just a few minutes. And the receptor proteins that stud the synapses need replacing every few days. As Joe Tsien, a neurobiologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, says, the brain you have this week is not the one you had last week. Even the DNA needs to be repaired. So if "you" are essentially a pattern of synaptic connections, a tangled web of memories, then there is a big problem of how this pattern endures. ‘I don't know how people ever got this static picture of the brain," says Tsien. "A memory trace would have to be a dynamic thing just because of molecular turnover’ (John McCrone. 2003. Not-so total recall. New Scientist vol 178 issue 2393: pp 26-29.) [memory]




Glossary of terms in A&O




January 2010

[1] Kierkegaard note: "Life is lived forward but understood backward." This quotation occurs in various reported forms: e.g.: "life(history?)must be lived forward but can only be understood backward." Man kann das Leben nur rückwärts verstehen, doch leben müssen wir es vorwärts." "Life must be lived in the present and viewed from the past." "You can only understand life backwards, but we must live it forwards." In Kierkegaard's Danish this is: "Livet skal forstås baglaens, men leves forlaens". A literal translation is: 'Life is to be understood backwards, but it is lived forwards'. Kierkegaard is alluding to Carl Daub, 1765-1836, professor of theology at Heidelberg university. This is what Daub says [in 'Die Form der christlichen Dogmen- und Kirchen-Historie', Zeitschrift för spekulative Theologie, ed. Bruno Bauer, I-III, Berlin, 1836-38, I, 1836, p. 1]: "The act of looking backward is, just like that of looking into the future, an act of divination; and if the prophet is well called an historian of the future, the historian is just as well called, or even better so, a prophet of the past, of the historical". Kierkegaard repeats this thought of Daub, putting it together with the thought that life is "lived forward". Life can be interpreted only after it has been experienced, but the past informs one's understanding and grasp of the future.The allusion occurs in S.K. in several places. In Hong: KW I, From the Papers of One still Living, p. 78 and in Hong: KW VII, Philosophical Fragments, p.80. Also in: JP 1, A-E, entries 1030 and 1025]