Between Chaos and Order

This is an attempt to collect the fragments and ideas scattered around on this site, and provide a more focused overview of the intuition behind them, into what resembles a central thesis (in other words, my “crackpot” page). I hope the reader will excuse the vagueness and lack of rigor in the presentation. I will also try to update this page from time to time, but no guarantees.

First, I will present some basic assumptions and concepts.

Monism

The idea of existential monism is simple: All things that exist are ultimately part of the same Universe. In other words, existence cannot take place outside of the Universe, and everything that is somehow connected to the Universe is actually part of it. For example, a “multiverse” could only exist if embedded into some larger existential framework, which would then be the true ultimate reality.

This does not necessarily mean that the Universe as a whole is understandable, or that the whole is in every way similar to its parts (in other words, homoiomereia). Indeed, many of the so-called “God paradoxes” can be translated into equivalent “Universe paradoxes”. (For example “If God created everything, what created God?”, “If the Universe was created in a Big Bang, what happened before it?”)

Synechism

The word synechism was coined by C. S. Peirce, derived from greek synecheia, meaning “continuity”. In the context of monism, it expresses the idea that form and matter are ultimately connected, not just in the sense of hylomorphism, but also in a more continuous way.

The Actuality of Time

Time is present in every moment of our lives, but its true nature is still mysterious. As humans, we live our short lives between birth and death, and though we are aware of both past and future, we can only act in the ever-changing now.

Where science has uncovered many ancient mysteries, modern physics has managed to make the nature of Time even harder to understand; Whereas Galileo and Newton could assume all of existence behaving deterministically like a clockwork under a cosmic universal time, we now know that there is no universal time, not even on Earth (the relativistic errors are very small, and do not affect our daily lives, as long as your GPS is programmed correctly).

My personal feeling is that Philosophy of Mind is entangled with the Philosophy of Time, and any “hard problem” in one of them cannot be solved without solving it also in the other.

Chaos and Order

In mythology, Chaos (χάος) was the initial state of all that exists, or rather, what there “was” before there was anything. It is therefore the ultimate openness of possibility, where nothing has yet been decided. Order (κόσμος) represents the resting state of the Universe, the natural equilibrium of opposing forces (ἁρμονίᾳ), where every thing is maintained in its rightful place and trajectory. Ultimate cosmic order therefore determines the final destiny of everything, where everything has already been decided.

The world in which we live in appears to us neither completely deterministic nor completely random, it is somewhere between the extremes. There is also a natural asymmetry, between being fully open to possibility, and being completely closed. This asymmetry is very similar to the asymmetry of perceptual time, where the future is full of possibility, and the past is closed.

Randomness, a huge topic in itself, has colloquially been equated with Chaos for a very long time. This is mostly because mythological Chaos is not compatible with the non-creation of matter/energy. Randomness-as-chaos therefore represents open possibility of form, given limited quantity of total matter/energy. Both Chaos and Order appear in gradations in everyday reality.

Since 1980s, the word chaos was abducted into the buzzword “Chaos Theory”. Its popularity has since dwindled, mostly replaced by the study of “Complexity”. The idea of “Chaos Theory” was the observation that a purely mathematical process that is simple and mechanical can produce wild and unpredictable results. This observation was not made before computers became largely available, because humans cannot calculate as fast and as reliably as computers. Anyway, the use of the word chaos in this site has nothing to do with Chaos Theory.

Non-creation and non-destruction

The earliest surviving record of the observation that nothing is really created or destroyed is, to my knowledge, in the fragments of a poem addressed by Empedokles of Akragas to his student Pausanias. The idea itself is most likely much older than that.

In more modern terms, nihil oritur, nihil interit assumes the existence of physical constants, quantitative units that do not change with time. Assuming matter-energy equivalence, it expresses the first law of thermodynamics. At a more theoretical level, it is a result of symmetry and invariance, and Noether’s theorem.

The relationship to the nature of Time is rather obvious: change is only possible to observe relative to non-change. Qualitative changes are possible in the presence of quantitative non-change.

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