ART AND ORGANISM

ORDER and HARMONY,
CHAOS and COMPLEXITY

". . . the religious life consists of the belief that there is an unseen order and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto"
Wm James 1902

Harmony and Order
ORDER is closely allied with HARMONY, indeed "harmony may be the most sensitive expression of order, and may indicate order when other measures are not available or the complexity of the order defeats normal cognition. "Harmony" is often evoked in the language of mystics

William James' comment on "the religious life" recalls the medieval ideal of harmony: "accord between the structure of the universe, the canons of the social order and the good of the individual." (Joseph Campbell (1972)


Harmony characterizes the smoothly functioning, mutually supportive components of any complex entity that is well adapted to its context. Dys- order implies real or threatened failure. Order has an attraction all its own, and disorder within limits is equally compelling. They are candidates for "natural" (as opposed to culturally or arbitrarily imposed) values.

The metaphor holds at many levels but is less common when we consider the psychic life, behavior, the psyche. Is it divided by circumstance or constitutional necessity?

But the world is not static and what we need are adaptive responses to environmental changes (including those of our own making).


Harmony as a State of Consciousness

Harmony and ego boundaries

Puppies, isolated since weaning, act as though they cannot distinguish internal from external sources of discomfort or pain. It appears to be a matter of boundaries and their development that helps puppies identify the apparent source of pain.

Have ego-boundaries formed to help us maintain order? In Freud's view, the boundaries of the human ego are at first, ill defined. In his thoughts about the necessary antagonism between the demands of instinct and the restrictions of civilization (Civilization and its Discontents, 1930), the all inclusive ego gradually separated itself from the world around it.

The use of tools, taming of fire, and gaining protection from the elements by constructing dwellings, gave prestige to the use of higher mental activities to overcome man's feeling of helplessness in the face of nature. This also engenders an adversary relationship with that same nature that was once incorporated into his ego. The whole organism is divided and its harmony cannot be heard.

Robert Browning sought harmony between passion and reason and this was extolled also in the political essays of Edmund Burke (1729-1797). His "Letters on a Regicide Peace" were published to encourage a British war on what he saw as the tyranny in the wake of the French Revolution:


Order and Science
Order also seems to be the essence of scientific thinking
Does this relate to TOE's (Theories of Everything) Grand Unifying Theories??

Anomalies. The great tragedy of science," wrote TH Huxley, is " the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact" (Biogenesis and Abiogenesis 1870) Anomalies are apparent exceptions. They can change everything. It is biological advantage to not change unless necessary -- what is often dopubt is the urgency of necessity ... if we must change we are dispiosed by nature and experience to making it as modest as possible: With respect to world views --paradigms-- we may allow small adjustments that characterize normal growth of knowledge and understanding (assimilations really, enabled sometimes by mere adjustments of vocabulary) to larger adjustments (accommodations that change the shape of a theory considerably and often force reconsiderations of old ideas or enable embracing new ones) to revolutions (paradigm shifts: a complete reconfiguration of the available data into a completely new paradigm). There are countless anomalies, had we the eyes or disposition to see them. There is a time to put asuide learning and act:
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To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” -- Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander.

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CASE STUDY in physics:

Perspectives ... PHYSICS: From Complexity to Simplicity by Sudip Chakravarty (in Science 8 February 2008 Vol. 319(5864):735-736)

A combination of positively and negatively charged current carriers may provide a key to understanding cuprate superconductors.

            HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
            POLONIUS: By th'mass, and 'tis like a camel indeed.
            HAMLET: Methinks it is like a weasel.
            POLONIUS: It is backed like a weasel.
            HAMLET: Or like a whale.
            POLONIUS: Very like a whale.
            --William Shakespeare
More than 20 years ago, Bednorz and Müller discovered superconductivity in copper oxides at remarkably high temperatures (1). Since then, physicists have struggled to understand the mechanisms at work. Recently, a set of experiments on cuprates in high magnetic fields (2-6) has completely changed the landscape of research in high-temperature superconductors (HTSs). In particular, the data suggest that the current carriers are both electrons and holes, when in fact the materials are "hole doped"--i.e., the current carriers should be positively charged. Moreover, the data cannot be reconciled with an important theorem about how electrons are organized in materials (7) unless one assumes that the signals arise from a combination of both holes and electrons. Until now, physicists have not been able to decide whether the cuprates, in Shakespeare's terms, are camels or whales; in fact, these experiments foreshadow a remarkable degree of simplicity in these complex materials


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Model of a paradigm shift


HARMONY and the LAWS of NATURE
"NATURE, to be commanded, must be obeyed"
Francis Bacon

similarly, Michel de Montaigne said that we should not get in nature's way because "she knows her business better than we do."


ERGONOMICS is in a real sense the science that seeks accord between nature and the needs of man. EDUCATIONAL ERGONOMICS -- "Education is the instruction of the intellect in the laws of Nature, under which name I include not merely things and their forces but men and their ways, and the fashioning of the affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in harmony with these laws." (TH Huxley). [quoted in my presentation, "MINDLESS POWER and the POWERLESS MIND." Society for Values in Higher Education, Conference on Stewardship and Opportunism: The Moral Roots of Accountability." University of Tennessee, Knoxville 16-18 April 1998]



IS HARMONY and ORDER contrary to nature? Arguably, the inexorable law of nature is that of thermodynamics -- the gradual movement of all existence to a condition of maximal DISORDER. IS ART, then, like LIFE itself, a brief respite from that flow? a bit of backsplash (as when water rushing one way hits an irregularity and a tiny bit of it is splashed in the opposite direction)?
Reconciling BIOLOGY and PHYSICS, LIFE and DEATH? Is life really contrary to the fundamental laws of physics? Some thinkers see the orderliness of life as an inevitable outcome of the laws of physics. Read Rod Swenson's 1997 essay in the Encyclopedia of Comparative Psychology [link]. " . . . in his seminal book What is Life? Schrödinger . . . (1944) attempted to draw together the fundamental processes of biology and the sciences of physics and chemistry. He noted that life was comprised of two fundamental processes; one "order from order" and the other "order from disorder". He observed that the gene generated order from order in a species, that is, the progeny inherited the traits of the parent. Over a decade later Watson and Crick (1953) provided biology with a research agenda that has lead to some of the most important findings of the last fifty years." [link].

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WORLD OF FLUX. "Schrödinger solved this dilemma by turning to nonequilibrium thermodynamics. He recognized that living systems exist in a world of energy and material fluxes. An organism stays alive in its highly organized state by taking high quality energy from outside itself and processing it to produce, within itself, a more organized state. Life is a far from equilibrium system that maintains its local level of organization at the expense of the larger global entropy budget. He proposed that the study of living systems from a nonequilibrium perspective would reconcile biological self-organization and thermodynamics. Furthermore he expected that such a study would yield new principles of physics." -- Schneider, E.D, Kay, J.J., 1995. Order from Disorder: The Thermodynamics of Complexity in Biology.


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ENTROPY and ORDER. "Order is a necessary condition for anything the human mind is to understand. Arrangements such as the layout of a city or building, a set of tools, a display of merchandise, the verbal exposition of facts or ideas, or a painting or piece of music are called orderly when an observer or listener can grasp their overall structure and the ramification of the structure in some detail. Order makes it possible to focus on what is alike and what is different, what belongs together and what is segregated. When nothing superfluous is included and nothing indispensable left out, one can understand the interrelation of the whole and its parts, as well as the hierarchic scale of importance and power by which some structural features are dominant, others subordinate." -- Rudolf Arnheim 1971. Entropy and Art: an Essay on Disorder and Order


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COSMOGENY: ORDER OUT OF CHAOS:

    COSMOS appears to be the harmony that emerges from disturbances in CHAOS, which is itself potential ORDER --and we seem to need to believe that (primordial) chaos is somehow subordinated to order: That one is the evolutionary successor of the other, that this succession is natural or was caused by god: The universe is predictable and we are thereby empowered: the universe is ORDERLY and its laws generally applicable. (But what are the exceptions?)

    LOGOS represents this order --it is the WORD at the heart of science and religion.
    Originally, Logos referred to "laws of nature" --fixed rules which create an order in the universe; he believed that the universe was rational and that its laws were knowable-- rather than a random, chaotic, erratic universe at the mercy of capricious gods that could be swayed by human prayer. But a generation or two later, Heraclitus (535-475 BC), used the term "LOGOS to represent the rational principle according to which the world was created. (the Greek "logos" approx equals the Latin "ratio"); and eventually, as Greek philosophers used the term it came to represent not only an abstract principle, but a personification of the principle --a rational, creative force in its own right. ISOCRATES (436-338 BC) said: It was logos which enabled us to perfect almost everything we have achieved in the way of civilization. For it was this which laid down the standards of right and wrong, nobility and baseness, without which we should not be able to live together. . . . By its aid we educate the foolish and test the wise. . . With the help of logos we dispute over doubtful matters and investigate the unknown. . . . If we sum up the character of this power, we shall find that no significant thing is done anywhere without the power of logos, that logos is the leader of all actions and thoughts and that those who make the most use of it are the wisest of humanity. (Isocrates, Antidosis 253-257; cited by Kimball 1988) --Find out more about HERACLITUS.

    (In Christian tradition, during Jesus lifetime , the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (the "first Christian theologian") was working to explain Jewish thought in Greek terms; He used the term "Logos" (rather than the more traditional "wisdom") to represent the rational, creative aspect of Yahweh. AND, he often metaphorically referred to "Logos" as the "image of God" or the "Son of God." A less benign view of logos was held by philosophers called Gnostic philosophers --and some of their views influenced the early Christians who called themselves Gnostics. The Gnostic sect believed the divine, spiritual, unknowable principle of the universe was Gnosis, which is remote from the ordered, organized world of matter (they believed that the material world, being made of matter, was thereby somehow evil: ORDER was knowable, GOD was not!). The creative rationality of LOGOS was the view of JOHN when he was writing his gospel in Ephesus (the same city that Heraclitus used that same word --logos-- to refer to the rational structure of knowledge ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, John 1:1). John deliberately EQUATED GOD and LOGOS in direct contradiction to the GNOSTICS. LOGOS is thus the central rational principle about the accessibility of the laws of nature and god to the mind of man; the central theme of religion and Science as we know them in the West.




    CREATION refers to something from nothing -- a "prerogative of the gods" [link to myths of creation]. Often in history, one could not be creative without acknowledging their debt to the sacred spirit within them, their "inspiration" or "enthusiasm."


COMPLEXITY: THE EDGE OF CHAOS


    The Sate Fe Institute has a "web site with a section titled 'The edge of respectability'—echoing the phrase 'the edge of chaos,' coined by SFI physicist Doyne Farmer—which openly describes this position within the scientific community. Many complex systems, and perhaps the institute itself, the metaphor suggests, should be poised at a "critical" point between disorder and order, a region suggested to maximize information processing. This is itself one of the most interesting, yet controversial, concepts to have emerged from complexity research."


    "... a complex system [is] 'a system in which large networks of components with no central control and simple rules of operation give rise to complex collective behavior, sophisticated information processing, and adaptation via learning or evolution.'"


from Science 23 April 2010 p430





Glossary of terms in A&O




05/05/2005