• gurugeorge
    330
    I'm not sure how comfortably the idea can be transferred from biology to philosophy, maybe it's too specific to biology? (And wouldn't Hegel's philosophy be the most obvious example of a similar sort of idea in a philosophical context?)

    In the classical (Artistotelian) conception, possibility is constantly being transformed into actuality (by other actualities), and the constant actualization of possibility is used to explain how, on the one hand, being can change, and on the one hand, how the essence/nature (of things) is circumscribed. Both possibility and actuality are real, they exist, and everything latently has its own possibilities (rather than them all being separately stuck in the "Platonic locker room," as you so felicitously put it).

    So, any object is actual in one form (in the form we perceive it), but it also has a limited range of other possible forms (that limited range being its particular essence or nature), which can be actualized only by the causal impingement of something else that's actual.

    IOW, in the Aristotelian conception, possibility is a third option inbetween being (actuality) and nothing, and being has the two modes of possibility and actuality, its actual way of being here and now, and the range of (possible) actualities it can transform into, which await actualization by other actualities.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    I'm not sure how comfortably the idea can be transferred from biology to philosophy, maybe it's too specific to biology?gurugeorge

    One of the cool things about the idea of adjacent possible is precisely that it actually has been already taken up in contexts outside the biological: the author of the article I cited in the OP, Steven Johnson, employed the idea in the context of technological innovation, to great effect (it's also why I used the microchip and the locomotive as examples). I think the idea of the adjacent possible is made particularly clear in the context of biology because it's so concerned with tracing out the evolutionary paths that species take in the movement of historical time, which allows for a particularly clear-eyed approach to questions of modality - but I don't think that really grants it any particular conceptual privilege; just a pedagogic one.

    With Hegel, I'd be hesitant to assimilate his thought to this because of there's alot of weird shit going on with the aufhebung ('sublation') which I suspect would take alot of conceptual fiddling about to align just-so, but I'm not quite prepared to do that right now. As for Aristotle - while I think he made a step in the right direction in aligning the potential with matter and thus with the sensible rather than the supra-sensible (as in Plato), he still subordinated potentiality to form (morphe) in a way which I don't think is congruent with the understanding of 'the adjacent possible'. I think there's more resonance in both Leibniz and Kant on this score, although both in their different ways. All of which is to say that I think there's definitely room to think about the idea independently from it's biological roots.
  • gurugeorge
    330
    I just remembered another philosopher who might be useful for triangulation on this: Karl Popper. Towards the end of his life he developed the metaphysical-cum-physics notion of "a world of propensities", which was "a programme for a theory of change ... which would allow us to interpret any real state of the world as both an actualisation or realisation of some of the potentialities or propensities of its preceding states, and also as a field of dispositions or propensities to realise the next state."
  • Pax Minoica
    1
    Everything in the OP seems unobjectionable, but I don't see why it's at odds with modal logic.
  • Akanthinos
    778
    Everything in the OP seems unobjectionable, but I don't see why it's at odds with modal logic.Pax Minoica

    Not to answer for StreetlightX, but to me, modal logic overmines (as per Graham Harman's usage) the concept of possibility when it leaks over into ontology. And because I hold epistemology and ontology to be codetermined, this contamination is pretty much unavoidable.

    Modal logic is fine when it serves the exclusive purpose of mapping the behaviour of modal expressions. The problem comes from the seemingly inevitable need to relate Possible World Semantics with ontological observations. Which, to be fair, wasn't (imho) the objective of either Kripke or Lewis.
  • Janus
    5.2k
    To identify something is to recognize it as distinct from everything else, which is to assign to it a specific character, and this is to individuate it. "Identification", and "individuation", are two different ways of describing the very same act.Metaphysician Undercover

    Individuation is not an "act", or at least it is not an act performed by the subject. Individuation is an objective reality that allows for the subjective act of identification. Differentiation leads to difference, which is individuation. Individuation allows for identification, which gives rise to the idea of identity.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k

    I think the suffix "ation" indicates an act. If this act is not carried out by a subject who individuates something from that thing's environment, then what does carry out this act? An object cannot individuate itself.
  • Janus
    5.2k


    Who carries out the acts of precipitation, adaptation, conflagration, (non-human) propagation, prolongation...and so on?

    Objects are individuated by constitutional difference as I said before. If there were no individual differences between things we would not be able to differentiate them in the first place, would we?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    Who carries out the acts of precipitation, adaptation, conflagration, (non-human) propagation, prolongation...and so on?Janus

    These examples are irrelevant. We are talking about the act of individuation, what this consists of, not what some other types of acts consist of. That's just changing the subject.

    Objects are individuated by constitutional difference as I said before. If there were no individual differences between things we would not be able to differentiate them in the first place, would we?Janus

    The assumed existence of differences does not constitute individuation. The differences must be judged, distinctions must be made, in order that there is individuation. It is the act of judging the differences which creates an individual. This is very evident from the fact that the very same differences can be judged in different ways, therefore the same things individuated in different possible ways. I can look at my lawn as an individual lawn, or I can look at it as individual blades of grass.

    This is fundamental to arithmetic. 1 signifies an individual, 2 signifies an individual, 3 signifies an individual. 1, and 1, and 1, are three distinct individuals, but they are said to be equivalent to this individual, 3. The same individual, 3, can be represented in countless different ways, which are all equivalent yet different. These are some of the many possibilities, "5-2", "2+1", "9/3", etc..
  • Janus
    5.2k
    These examples are irrelevant.Metaphysician Undercover

    I think the suffix "ation" indicates an act. If this act is not carried out by a subject who individuates something from that thing's environment, then what does carry out this act?Metaphysician Undercover

    They all possess said suffix. They are counterexamples to your baseless claim.

    The differences must be judged, distinctions must be made, in order that there is individuation.Metaphysician Undercover

    You have it arse about. Individuation is not imposed on a seamless porridge of matter by making distinctions. Any distinction we make could be nothing but arbitrary unless it is due to real differences. It is difference, singularity, which constitutes individuation.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    They all possess said suffix. They are counterexamples to your baseless claim.Janus

    You said "Individuation is not an act, at least...". I said "the suffix "ation" indicates an act". That you can give examples of many "ation" words which are not acts carried out by a subject is irrelevant to whether individuation is or is not an act carried out by a subject.

    Do you agree that "individuation" refers to an act? If so, we might proceed to discuss what sort of act it is.

    Any distinction we make could be nothing but arbitrary unless it is due to real differences. It is difference, singularity, which constitutes individuation.Janus

    As I said, "real differences" does not constitute individuation. A difference between here and there does not mean that here and there are separate individuals. Difference is not individuation. Is individuation an act? Difference is not an act.

    What makes you think that a human act of individuation would necessarily be arbitrary? So long as there are reasons for the distinctions which are made, the distinctions are not arbitrary. The reasons for some individuations might even be what you call "real differences". Clearly there are reasons why we individuate the way that we do, so there is no need to invoke arbitrariness.

    You haven't provided any argument as to how individuation could be any sort of act other than some sort of act of judgement. It seems quite obvious that you have no such argument. Obviously it is your claim which is baseless.
  • Janus
    5.2k


    You said the suffix indicates an act ( presumably an act carried out by a subject); I also presumed that it was the suffix in "individuation" that is the part that you take to indicate such an act. Otherwise if you just want to say that "individuation" indicates such an act; you are begging the question, or merely emphasizing one possible interpretation of the term; an interpretation which is clearly not the predominant one.

    A difference between here and there does not mean that here and there are separate individuals.Metaphysician Undercover

    This seems like blatant sophistry, you are morphing the terms of the discussion. Of course here and there are not separate individuals, but two separate individuals cannot both be here in the sense of occupying precisely the same region of space. So the difference involved in spatial location is clearly a necessary element of individuation.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    Process. Individuation is a process.
  • Janus
    5.2k


    Yes, that's right, but it's certainly not a process that is entirely dependent on humans.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    presumably an act carried out by a subject);Janus

    You should interpret as written, without adding your own presumptions.

    This seems like blatant sophistry, you are morphing the terms of the discussion.Janus

    You don't seem to know how to read very well. I use explanatory terms to help you to understand

    So the difference involved in spatial location is clearly a necessary element of individuation.Janus

    Why would you say it's necessary? Individuation may be based on all sorts of things. Just because difference in location is commonly used as a principle for individuation doesn't mean that it always is, making it a necessary element. Different individuals can be at the same place, at different times.

    Further, there are all sorts of instances where individuals overlap in spatial location. My example of a blade of grass, and the lawn, is an example of spatial overlapping of individuals. The earth is an individual, and the solar system is an individual, and they are both right here.
  • Janus
    5.2k
    Different individuals can be at the same place, at different times.Metaphysician Undercover

    They cannot be at precisely the same place even at different times. In any case it should have been obvious that I was referring to being at the same place at the same time.

    Nothing else there to respond to, so....
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    Individuation is a process.StreetlightX

    Yes, individuation is a process which gives existence to an individual. But that process is not the ever changing world, through which things come into being and perish, it is the process whereby human minds determine the boundaries of things. Individuation requires boundaries and the human mind assigns these.

    They cannot be at precisely the same place even at different times. In any case it should have been obvious that I was referring to being at the same place at the same time.

    Nothing else there to respond to, so....
    Janus

    Clearly, as my examples show, different individuals are at the same place at the same time, depending on how one individuates. So you're still making baseless claims without substance. You've provided no argument at all, just a failed attempt to back up your claim with examples
  • Janus
    5.2k


    More sophistry, MU.

    So, you think the world is utterly homogeneous, undifferentiated until the human mind comes along and carves it up? No constraint on the way the mind carves things up from nature at all?

    I said that two individuals cannot inhabit precisely the same region of space simultaneously, and you reply with the lame objection that, for example two individuals could be in the place at the same time "depending on how one individuates". What, you mean like two people could be in the same room? As I said this is mere sophistry; but at least its kinda funny... :rofl:
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4k
    So, you think the world is utterly homogeneous, undifferentiated until the human mind comes along and carves it up? No constraint on the way the mind carves things up from nature at all?Janus

    Do you not understand that there are differences, and then there is the recognition of differences? These two are completely different. The latter is referred to as differentiation, and it is a human act. The former is just a general reference to an assumption of something called difference. To differentiate, just like to individuate, is what human beings do. How can you believe that something has differentiated between the differences prior to something like a human being actually differentiating? The existence of difference does not constitute differentiation, but differentiation is to determine a constitutive difference.

    I said that two individuals cannot inhabit precisely the same region of space simultaneously, and you reply with the lame objection that, for example two individuals could be in the place at the same time "depending on how one individuates". What, you mean like two people could be in the same room? As I said this is mere sophistry; but at least its kinda funny...Janus

    I guess you forgot to read my other examples? More evidence that you do not read very well. It appears like anytime you can't understand what another has written you declare it as sophistry and pass over it. So instead of understanding that human beings individuate by observing real differences in the world, you insist that if it's human beings which individuate, then they must do it in a random way. But that's complete nonsense, as your entire discourse here has been.
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