Self-organization, Individuation and Identity


Self-organisation is a process by which larger scale order is formed in a system through the promotion of fluctuations at a smaller scale via processes inherent in the system dynamics, modulated by  interactions between  the system and  its surroundings. The self in self-organisation presents certain problems: 1) What is the self that organises? 2) Why is it a self? 3) What is it for a process to be inherent to the system dynamics? 4) What does it mean for interactions with the surroundings to modulate rather than determine or control? Self-organisation appears to require a  sort  of  lifting  oneself  by  the  bootstraps  without  having  even boots  at the  beginning. Self-organisation thus appears to be an oxymoron, or at least a misnomer.

I address this problem by considering the logic of individuation for natural systems and their properties, arguing  for  the unique utility of a dynamically based unity  relation. This  is followed by a discussion of the exemplary Bénard cell convection, and some other cases that diverge in important respects. I finish with an analysis of the requirements for self organisation, and discuss how these requirements entail that self-organising systems are both self-producing and self-maintaining  in a clear and  important sense: the very process of self organisation  implies individuation of  the entity  formed.  I  conclude with  some  remarks on how more developed multilayered self-organising and self-interacting systems can  lead  towards autonomy and a  fuller sense of self control, near to, but not precisely what Maturana and Varela call autopoiesis.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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