In another post Mung points out this interesting quote to Kantian Naturalist (an atheist): “That crude matter should have originally formed itself according to mechanical laws, that life should have sprung from the nature of what is lifeless, that matter should have been able to dispose itself into the form of a self-maintaining purposiveness – that [is] contradictory to reason.” Immanuel Kant
Kantian Naturalist replies:
[Recently] I read “Bio-agency and the problem of action” by J. C. Skewes & C. A. Hooker (Biology and Philosophy 24 (3):283-300, 2009). I won’t get into all the details right now; suffice it to say that the way they set up the problem in what I find to be a deeply compelling fashion. Namely, the Aristotelian-Kantian notion that organisms are centers of their own causal activity is not compatible with linear effective causation — what you might call a “domino” theory of causation. So, what they propose to do is reject the domino theory of causation. Put otherwise, they reject mechanism. In its place they argue that dynamical systems theory can explain how autopoeitic systems arise. Anyway, that’s why I agree with Kant.
“Autopoeitic” is from the Greek“self” and “creation,” and literally that which creates itself. The term was coined by biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. From Wikipedia:
A canonical example of an autopoietic system is the biological cell. The eukaryotic cell, for example, is made of various biochemical components such as nucleic acids and proteins, and is organized into bounded structures such as the cell nucleus, various organelles, a cell membrane and cytoskeleton. These structures, based on an external flow of molecules and energy, produce the components which, in turn, continue to maintain the organized bounded structure that gives rise to these components (not unlike a wave propagating through a medium).
Here’s the interesting part of the Wiki article for our purposes today: “Though others have often used the term as a synonym for self-organization, Maturana himself stated he would ‘never use the notion of self-organization, because it cannot be the case… it is impossible. That is, if the organization of a thing changes, the thing changes.’”
Are Skewes, Hooker and Kantian Naturalist using “autopoeitic” in a different way than Maturana or do they just disagree with Maturana’s statement? And what does it mean to reject “domino causation”? Is that just another way of spewing the nonsense of “emergence”? See “Materialist Poofery” for what I think of that nonsense.