The Organism – synopsis/povzetek

Book overview

Below is a list of links to individual sessions:

Author’s preface & Introduction

first

second

third and fourth

fifth

sixth

seventh

eighth & ninth

tenth

eleventh & twelfth

concluding remarks

Povzetek tematik

Z barvami je označeno, iz katerega poglavja je vzeta posamezna točka:

predgovor in uvod

prvo

drugo

tretje in četrto

peto

šesto

sedmo

osmo in deveto

deseto

enajsto in dvanajsto

α) Metodologija

  1. Zavzemanje za pozitivna dejstva v znanosti.
  2. Plodovitost kot kriterij primerjave metodologij oz. epistemologij.
  3. Metateoretske obveze – problem kriterijev.
    • a) Kaj določa del in kaj celoto? Kaj je enostavno in kaj kompleksno?
    • b) Kaj je vzročnost? Katere vrste vzročnosti najdemo onkraj linearne?
      • i) npr. vzročnost v behaviorizmu vs. v nevroznanosti
  4. Kako znanstvenikova metodologija vpliva na genezo dejstev (v kolikor privzamemo, da slednja obstaja)?
    • a) cf. Fleck, Kuhn
  5. Brezpredsodkovnost znanosti – kakšna je vloga hipoteze v znanosti? Bi znanost lahko delovala povsem brezpredsodkovno, tj. brez hipotez?
  6. Kaj pomeni opisovati pojav?
    • a) Kriterij razlikovanja po Heideggru: belonging together vs. belonging together.
    • b) Aditivni vs. transformativni pristopi
      • i) slednji za opisovanje kompleksnih sistemov, kjer prihaja do faznih preskokov
  7. Kako opisovati organizem?
    • a) Goldstein je kritičen do močne sinteze in analize – do celote ne moreš priti s seštevanjem delov, ker šele celota določi dele.
      • i) indukcija v biologiji vodi v naivni empirizem;
      • ii) dedukcija pa v spekulativni spiritualizem/vitalizem.
    • b) Uporaba znanstvenih modelov v fiziki vs. v biologiji.
      • i) Biološki Gestalti (= pomenski) zahtevajo specifično pojmovno mrežo, fizični Gestalti (=brezpomenski) pa ne. (cf. β.2.č) Biologija je utelešena vednost in ne ustvarjanje modelov.
    • c) Po Goetheju se vsi organizmi s svetom povezujejo na enak način (enotnost-dvojnost kot temeljna dinamika živega).
      • i) Biološko znanje [Urbild – prototip] nastaja v procesu biologovega usklajevanja s svetom.
      • ii) Vednost je vselej že znotraj normativnosti – nastaja ob adekvatnem usklajevanju biologa s svetom. Vednost sicer pogosto poskuša vzpostavljati neke lastne (redundantne?) normativnosti (v znanosti).
      • iii) Schau – fenomenološko opazovanje, ki vodi v uvid (rezultat ni zgolj fragmentiran opis partikularnosti).
        1. Po enakem kopitu deluje denimo učenje vožnje s kolesom.
      • iv) Do kje seže biološka vednost? Če opredeljevanje bioloških fenomenov poteka skozi samoaktualizacijo, biolog vselej opredeljuje le sebe.
      • v) Je dobro ali slabo, da Goldstein preučevanje živih bitij osnuje na razumevanju človeka? Je antropocentrizem nujno slab?
      • vi) Kaj je znanstveni opis po Goldsteinu? (cf. δ.3.b)
        1. Antropocentrizem: z dobrim poznavanjem konstant pri človeku lahko razumemo tudi konstante pri drugih organizmih.
        2. Enotnost-dvojnost (Goethe).
  8. Ali bi Urbild lahko služil kot plodovito opisovalno sredstvo povsod v znanosti?
    • a) Kako bi se v tem primeru oblikovale kategorije razumevanja in
    • b) kaj bi to pomenilo za ontologijo preučevanega predmeta?
    • c) Urbild – prototip, vselej zgolj približek, v primerjavi s končnostjo teorij vsega

β) Narava oz. bistvo organizma

  1. Kaj je normalno vedenje?
  2. Skladnost med znanstveno opazovanimi lastnostmi in lastnostmi, pomembnimi za organizem
    • a) Kaj bomo opazili, je odvisno od zmožnosti naše metodologije.
    • b) Kako veljavni so sodobni biološki koncepti
      • i) in na njih temelječe postavke normalnega oz. patološkega?
    • c) Opisovanje organizma z dinamično-morfogenimi parametri, ki usmerjajo njegovo samoaktualizacijo.
    • č) Goldsteinova kritika Gestalt psihologije. Kot kriterije za dober Gestalt (Prägnanz) organizma predlaga privilegirane vedenjske vzorce, ki jih določimo z opazovanjem organizma. Tako opredelimo njegovo optimalno vedenjsko, duševno in fiziološko stanje. Organizem se organizira po konstantah, ki so določene z njegovim bistvom. (cf. α.7.b, β.3.a)
      • i) V ugodnih pogojih je lik na ozadju stabilen – normativno stanje. V neugodnih pogojih pride do dvoumnosti.
        1. Stabilnost je povezana z občutkom realnosti.
      • ii) Razlika med normalnim in patološkim je v zmožnosti prehajanja med normativnimi stanji.
    • d) Ali je Goldstein funkcionalist?
      • i) Kaj je funkcija?
        1. Vitalna normativnost povezuje funkcijo s celoto organizma.
    • e) Kaj je za organizem relevanten dražljaj?
      • i) Je v zaznavi sinestezija posebnost ali pravilo?
  3. Kako lahko vemo, da je organizem po Goldsteinu normativen?
    • a) Organizem se izpopolnjuje. (cf. β.2.č)
    • b) Organizem (oz. človek?) je zmožen vstopati v sfero neposrednosti.
  4. Problem zamejitve med organizmom in svetom – kaj je tu celota?
    • a) Morda je sfera neposrednosti posameznikov način vstopa v širše celote od lastne individualnosti.
      • i) Adekvatna okolja so pri človeku dana skozi kolektive.
        1. Kaj je anomalno? Do kje sega celota kolektiva?
        2. V kolikšni meri lahko posameznik realizira nek projekt, če se ravna po družbenih prisilah (ki so večinoma restriktivne), v primerjavi z ravnanjem po individualnih normah?
        3. Ali ima oznaka anomalnega vpliv na vznik patološkega?
        4. Izguba narave z izgubo možnosti udejstvovanja.
        5. Vključevanje anomalnih posameznikov v družbo.

γ) Samoaktualizacija

  1. Po Goldsteinu je dejaven organizem = samoaktualizirajoč se = živ.
  2. Središčenje
    • a) Vsak organizem skuša ohranjati najvišji atraktor, ki ga je zmožen – bližje mu je, bolj je osrediščen.
    • b) Plastičnost središčenja pri človeku
      • i) Človek je najbolj centriran, ko je decentriran, tj. ko je zmožen preklapljati med različnimi okolji.
  3. Kakšno je razmerje med tesnobo in samoaktualizacijo?
    • a) Antifragilni sistemi – nanje zunanje motnje ugodno vplivajo. Eden takih sistemov je organizem.
      • i) hormeza – “progressive overload”
        1. stanje zanosa (flow) = pozornost, ki ni niti tesnoba niti dolgčas
          • a) Goldstein: “užitek napetosti”
          • b) Merleau-Ponty in Canguilhem: domena živosti je domena polariziranosti
          • c) Pozornost je vzdrževanje optimalne napetosti, ki omogoča samoaktualizacijo.
  4. Je samoaktualizacija končna kot pri Freudu, Schopenhauerju, Franklu in v theravadskem budizmu ali je v horizontu, spremenljiva, kot pri Goldsteinu, Maslowu in v mahayanskem ter zen budizmu?
    • a) Samoaktualizacija po Goldsteinu ni gon (kot pri Schopenhauerju).
      • i) V naravi ni negativnosti.
      • ii) Je samoaktualizacija potemtakem protipol strahu pred praznino?

δ) Evolucija in človek

  1. Kaj določa razliko v kompleksnosti med organizmi?
    • a) Primerjava med performansom in refleksom: prvi je vpet v proces usklajevanja organizma s svetom, drugi ni.
    • b) Razlika v stopnji osrediščenosti med vrstami.
    • c) Samoaktualizacija vs. gon po preživetju
      • i) kakšna razlika je med obema pri različnih vrstah?
      • ii) oba sta pomembna za evolucijo – sta njeno “gonilo”
  2. Je narava teleološka?
  3. Ali Goldstein zavrača idejo filogeneze?
    • a) Kaj pravi o evoluciji? Ali se živa bitja spreminjajo skozi čas? Kako misliti Urbild v kontekstu evolucije?
      • i) Razvrščanje živih bitij po funkciji in ne morfološko?
    • b) Alternativa Goldsteinovemu pristopu (cf. α.7.c.vi): tudi razumevanje “višjih” organizmov skozi “nižje” bi moralo biti mogoče, glede na to, da so del zemeljske zgodovine obstajala zgolj “nižja” bitja.
    • c) Goldsteinu se gre morda pri vprašanju evolucije bolj za adekvaten metodološko-epistemološki okvir in ne toliko za dejanske razlike med živimi bitji.
  4. Ali je sploh kaj, kar dela človeka posebnega?
    • a) Kako razširjeno je abstraktno vedenje med živimi bitji?
      • i) Kakšen je odnos med abstraktno naravnanostjo in sfero neposrednosti?
      • ii) Vpliv intencionalnosti na pomen dejanja – večznačnost dejanj.
Tree hugger, Tyriobapta torrida, in Niah National Park, Sarawak, Malaysian part of Borneo

Thematic synopsis

Colour code for chapters:

Author’s preface & Introduction

first

second

third and fourth

fifth

sixth

seventh

eighth & ninth

tenth

eleventh & twelfth

α) Methodology

  1. Goldstein aims for positive facts in science.
  2. Having taken the fruitfulness of a methodology as a criterion for its adequacy, does that suffice for it to be recognized as a principal norm in the comparison of methodologies/epistemologies in general?
  3. Metatheoretical commitments and the problem of criteria.
    • a) What defines something as a part? Why do we find the parts to be more meaningful than the wholes? Why do we ascribe the qualities of clara et distincta to a ‘simple’ reflex but not to the ‘complex’ totality of the organism? 
    • b) What is causality? What are its implications? Given that the notion of it usually makes us think of linear causality, how can we reconceptualize it so that it would refer to different possible types of causality?
      • i) we, for instance, discussed the types of causality in behaviorism vs. in neuroscience
  4. How does the scientist’s methodology influence the genesis of facts (presuming that the facts are not simply given)?
    • a) cf. Fleck, Kuhn
  5. Could science function without the hypotheses, being unprejudiced at its very outset? Should the hypotheses be testifiable in each and every case? What is the turning point for the hypotheses to become disadvantageous for the scientific progress and what characterizes a hypothesis as disadvantageous?
  6. What does it mean to describe?
    • a) Heidegger pointed out two possible ways of differentiation: belonging together vs. belonging together.
    • b) Aditive vs. transformative approaches
      • i) the latter are used in describing complex systems, i.e., systems with phase transitions
  7. How to describe an organism?
    • a) Goldstein criticizes the use of stronger synthesis and analysis in biology, arguing that the whole cannot be obtained through summation of its parts, since it is impossible to know what the parts are without the whole.
      • i) induction in biology results in naïve empirism;
      • ii) deduction leads into speculative spiritualism or vitalism.
    • b) We compared the scientific models used in physics and biology.
      • i) To describe living Gestalten (= Gestalten that project meanings into the world), a specific net of concepts is required for each individual Gestalt – a model can only be constructed based on a particular organism for that organism exclusively. Physical Gestalten (= Gestalten that do not have an Umwelt) can be adequately described by generalized models. (cf. β.2.d) Biology is not a construction of models but an embodied knowledge.
    • c) Goethe suggested that every living being forms a relationship with the world in the same way, namely, through a fundamental dynamic of unity/duality.
      • i) Biological knowledge consists of prototypes [Urbilden] that are developed in the process of biologist’s coming to terms with the world. 
      • ii) As such, knowledge is always normative (it is a product of biologist’s adequate Auseinandersetzung) and not the opposite, as in the case of various sciences that (redundantly?) try to establish their own terms of normativity.
      • iii) Schau is a phenomenological method that results in an insight and thus yields more than a fragmented description of particularities.
        1. The procedure is essentially no different from the acquisition of any performance by learning. Goldstein offers an analogy with learning how to cycle.
      • iv) One could, however, question the scope of so defined biology: given that the biologist’s self-actualization is their sole means of determining the living phenomena, do they ever determine any organism other than themselves?
      • v) Taking human as a point of reference in our biological research, we risk adopting an anthropomorphic attitude. However, is the latter necessarily disadvantegeously biased, as we make it seem?
      • vi) What would Goldstein consider as a scientific description? (cf. δ.3.b)
        1.  In describing human performances, he proposes the usage of constants. These shape the rhythms unique to each individual. Through understanding the constants in ourselves, we are able to, though not in an entirely objective way, obtain an insight into the constants in other living creatures.
        2. Unity-duality (Goethe).
  8. If we used Urbild as a tool for description in sciences in general
    • a) how would the categories of understanding then be formulated, and
    • b) how would that shape the ontology of the subject matter?
    • c) Urbild, a prototype, offers a scientist no such certainty as the final theories (= theories of everything) do. The nature of the observed organism is becoming intelligible in a manner similar to a limit; therefore, the objective of our research must no longer be its closure. The progress is not linear but dynamic; it is a perpetual series of insights, i.e., holistic transformations of knowledge (Gestaltungen followed by Umgestaltungen).

β) Nature/essence of the organism

  1. What is normal behaviour?
  2. Are the features of organisms that stand out to us as scientific observers the same as those that are highly relevant to these organisms themselves?
    • a) The reason we ascribe importance to certain aspects of organisms is often based on our methodological capacities of observation.
    • b) One could cast doubt on a number of contemporary biological concepts
      • i) as well as on the postulates about normal and pathological derived from them.
    • c) To comprehend the nature of an organism we must observe its life form (i.e., the figure-ground form) in a moment of its encounter with the world. We can then notice the formation of the dynamic-morphogenic parameters for its self-actualization.
    • d) Goldstein’s critique of Gestalt psychology. In order to make the principle of good Gestalt (Prägnanz) better applicable to living beings, he suggests taking the privileged behavioural patterns for its criteria. By thoroughly observing an organism, its optimal behavoural, psychical and physiological states may be discerned. The organism organizes itself according to the constants that are defined by its nature. (cf. α.7.b, β.3.a)
      • i) In favourable conditions it forms a stable figure-ground formation. Lability in perception (the Gestalt shift) appears in unfavourable conditions.
        1. A stable organismic Gestalt gives rise to its perception of the world as real.
      • ii) Normal organisms are different from pathological ones in their possession of several distinct normative states, between which they are able to shift.
    • e) Is Goldstein a functionalist?
      • i) What is a function? What qualifies a state or a process in an organism to be considered a function? 
        1. According to Goldstein (and the holistic-organicist approaches in general) the function is coupled with a living whole of an organism by means of its vital normativity. Therefore, the structures on a suborganismic level are bearers of functions/functionality only indirectly (silentily inferring the role of a certain function for the entirety of an organism). 
    • f) What is a relevant stimulus for an organism?
      • i) Is synesthesia aberrant or fundamental for perception?
  3. What is, in Goldstein’s terms, characteristic of a normative organism?
    • a) A normative organism aspires toward perfection, honing its performances – and therefore actualizing itself. (cf. β.2.d)
    • b) A normative organism (or. human?) is capable of entering the sphere of immediacy.
  4. An organism can only live if it comprises a whole with its environment. But how is this whole delimitated and why do we usually refer to the whole of the organism as to its body?
    • a) The sphere of immediacy might be the organism’s means of entering the wholes that exceed its individuality.
      • i) Adequate environments for people are created by the collectives – superindividual structures like the educational and healthcare institutions, etc. Instead of coming to terms with the world, we do so with artificial (one could even say laboratory) milieus.
        1. What is anomalous? How broad is the scope of collectives – where are their limits?
        2. Is a project that a person carries out in accordance with the social constraint (which is, for the most part, restrictive) comparable in its fruitfulness to an intentional implementation of one’s individual affective norms?
        3. Can a certain condition turn pathological if the society contextualizes it as anomalous? (The case of our discussion was the manifestation of schizophrenia in different societies.)
        4. We construct an identity for ourselves based on our projects. When we are no longer able to enact them, we lose our nature.
        5. We discussed the possible ways of including the anomalous individuals into the society.

γ) Self-actualization

  1. Goldstein characterizes an organism capable of action as = self actualizing = living.
  2. Centering
    • a) Each organism aims to maintain its optimum attractor (a stable field of normativity) – a more centered organism keeps itself closer to its attractor, compared to a less centered one.
    • b) Plasticity of centering in human
      • i) Human beings are best centered when we are decentered, i.e., when we are capable of switching between different environments.
  3. What is the relationship between anxiety and self-actualization?
    • a) Antifragile systems – they benefit from the disturbances. Organisms are among such systems.
      • i) hormesis – progressive overload
        1. flow state = the level of excitation that neither brings forth anxiety nor incites lethargy – a complete absorption in the activity one is performing
          • a) Goldstein: “the pleasure of tension”
          • b) Merleau-Ponty and Canguilhem: life is a domain of polarity
          • c) Focus is the maintenance of the optimal tension that makes self-actualization possible.
  4. Should we consider self-actualization to be determinate as described by Freud, Schopenhauer, Frankl and the Theravada tradition, or as a horizon, indefinite and thus ever-malleable, as described by Goldstein, the Maslow’s pyramid and the Mahayana and Zen traditions?
    • a) In Goldstein’s opinion, self-actualization is not a drive (compare with Schopenhauer’s interpretation).
      • i) There is nothing negative in nature.
      • ii) Is self-actualization thus the polar opposite of the fear of emptiness?

δ) Evolution and human

  1. By what criterion do we distinguish between simpler and more complex forms of life?
    • a) A comparison between a performance and a reflex: the first contributes to the organism’s coming to terms with the environment, while the latter does not.
    • b) There is a difference in species’ degree of centeredness.
    • c) Self-actualization vs. self-preservation
      • i) in what ways are they distinct from each other in different species?
      • ii) Self-actualization plays an equally important role as the self-preservation in the propulsion of evolution.
  2. Is nature teleological?
  3. Is Goldstein an opponent of phylogenetics?
    • a) What is his stance on evolution? In which way does he perceive the changes in the genetic lineages over time? Could one refer to the concept of Goethean prototype in the evolutionary context?
      • i) The criteria for explaining the interspecific differences ought to amount to each species’ distinct functional conformation and not to the nuances in their anatomy.
    • b) An alternative to Goldstein’s approach (cf. α.7.c.vi): comprehension of “higher” organisms by first understanding the “lower” ones should certainly be possible, since , for the first few historical epochs, only the “lower” beings existed on Earth.
    • c) We should be careful not to mistake the epistemological order for ontological when discussing Goldstein’s stance on evolution. While he himself remains unclear on the domain he pertains to in the debate on phylogeny, we assumed that he was primarily interested in developing an adequate methodological and epistemological basis for describing an organism.
  4. Is there any trait of which we could say that it uniquely pertains to humans?
    • a) How common is the abstract behaviour among the species other than ours? While it may not be universal across living beings (e.g., it is hard to imagine it in unicellular organisms), it is debatable whether we can proclaim it as a unique characteristic of humans. 
      • i) Does the abstract attitude contribute to the constitution of the sphere of immediacy, and if it does, how?
      • ii) Intention can render different meanings to two physiologically/behaviouraly identical acts.

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