Chaos theory and dynamical systems
John O'Brien (JOBRIEN@UCS.INDIANA.EDU)
Sat, 6 Nov 1993 16:54:34 CDT
following sociological article for list readers.
Schwalbe, Michael L. 1991. "The Autogenesis of the Self," Journal of
the Theory of Social Behavior 21(3):269-295.
Schwalbe's approach, in a nut shell is to conceive of `self' as a
non-linear, dynamical system originating through non-social forces. It
is a bio-materialist adaptation of chaos theory to the formation of
human `self' (in the social psychological sense - though the concept does
not apply cross-culturally).
I recommend the article in that Michael has produced a succinct,
well written, lucid account of a practical application of Chaos theory
that could analogously be applied to anthropoligical studies.
In essense . . .
Autogenesis is the term for the self organizing process which occurs
prior to a level of development for the individual which would allow
symbolic interaction, and cultural meaning systems to come into play in
traditional SI terms.
Consciousness and self are seen as emergents that naturally come from
the tension between human biology and communal life.
The paradigm discusses the structural features of an open system and
its tendency to self organize when caught up in an energy flux.
Systems are seen as inherently dynamic energy transformation regimes
that co-evolve with their environment, and that organize and regulate
themselves in accord with physical laws.
`Self' is seen as a manifestation of these energy flows, AND OF THE
INFORMATION CAPTURED BY THE FLOWS.
In short, nonlinear dynamical systems are seen as NOT closed systems
of interacting discrete objects that are the concern of positivistic
Newtonian paradigms, rather nonlinear dynamical systems are open to their
environments. They act iteratively on their own output, and exhibit
stability only when they are far from equilibrium.
This last point directly address Dwight Reed's comment on an earlier
post that human beings have the remarkable characteristic of being able
to change the system that they are involved in. That characteristic is
exactly the characteristic that dynamical systems approaches are meant
Continuing, `selves' are said to emerge and evolve according to
More on this topic in a later post. I only note that, while the
approach may be relevant to Anthropology . . . Schwalbe's biomaterialist
explanation does not correspond with the basic assumptions of Construct
Realism, as I have addressed it. The primary difference has to do with
the fact that Construct Realism does not propose any necessarily isomorphic
relationship between biological brain organization, and the level of mind
or world view. The only assumption made in construct realism is that
the processes that apply at one level `map' to other levels of human
organiztion. This does not discount the biological or material, it simply
eliminates the reductionistic tendency to assume that biological and
material are the locus of prime cause.