3: Patterns, Objectivity and Truth
4: Patterns and Processes
The Pattern Library:
So far, PAC has been introduced as one epistemological system amongst others, has its own focus, (hopefully) strengths and weaknesses, and therefore acts like a lens with its own focal point (s). This raises the question how PAC compares to other epistemological systems (theories, frameworks, schools of thought), and under the premise of limited knowledge, they can only have their own specific strengths and weaknesses, which allow these systems to have their own focal points. With this, the whole issue of the 'science wars' becomes somewhat redundant, because we can see that the problem of epistemological systems is always related to the concept of everything; no epistemological system -under the premise of limited knowledge- can span a scope that includes 'everything'! So science's quest towards a 'theory of everything' will always be conveniently constrained to exclude morality and ethics, and other issues that are not in the standard repertoire of the 'hard' sciences, while likewise a weary postmodern claim that 'everything is relativist', 'everything is socially constructed', or 'everything is a power relationship' is pushing their own explanatory boundaries. 'Everything' has to become a concept that is highly suspect under the premise of 'limited knowledge' (for those with an interest in logic, this includes the concept of 'not', as 'not' often signifies a sort of 'negated (almost) everything). In PAC, this vast space that was once reserved for 'everything' (or 'for all') and 'not', now has been replaced with the concept of 'uncertainty', and the correct methodological attitude towards this wasteland is that we cannot make any statements about it (or, more correctly: the only statement we can make is that we cannot make any statement about uncertainty).
Epistemological systems weave thin threads of knowledge, weaving little truths with little truths, based on predefined truths and certain premises that start the epistemological production process. PAC is no different, and therefore it can only live up to its promise as a cross-scientific methodology if it allows transformations of one epistemological system to another. We had already seen that mathematics was 'integrated' in the methodology of PAC, because many mathematical concepts are patterns. Likewise, a statement in PAC, such as "A mass-bearing particle can observe (detect, model and act on) other mass-bearing particles" is a somewhat superfluous description that is much better served with Newtonian mechanics. But the main point is that both descriptions aim to tell the same story. Both epistemological systems create networks of concepts that represent threads of little truths, but one is a bit more efficient (for those who are trained to understand the ins and outs of that epistemological system) to predict new things and unearth hidden consequences; PAC can only humbly bow at the achievements of Newtonian physics, quantum mechanics and the likes. The main point that I want to make here, is that there are a lot natural philosophies, such as some forms of pan-psychism and so on out there, that all concentrate on hard to grasp concepts such as 'consciousness', 'intelligence' or 'life', while ignoring the pressing issue of how these natural philosophies relate to accepted epistemological systems such as Newtonian mechanics. These transformations -and the really good ones would bring something new to other systems as well- are also signs of a robust epistemological system (e.g. a methodology)!
And this brings us to a last premise of PAC. PAC follows a radical process-orientation. In PAC, our life-world is built up of patterns (structured selections of data) and processes that operate on these patterns. I'll be honest here, and admit that the notion of 'process' is poorly developed in PAC -that's why it's a premise, I can deconstruct this no more than the common-sense notion of what most of us consider to be a process. But I would think that a process is (the result of) a pattern that causes change, and therefore can act in a life-world. I can imagine that an act is always a temporal event, and the most likely explanation I can think of is that an event is a form, and thus the result of interferences of patterns. In other words, if patterns interfere they form, and some of these forms are eventful; they have a temporal quality.
Another way of looking at this, is that in order for patterns to interfere, they already must have a temporal quality (e.g. movement). In any case, we might say that some patterns are eventful, and thus have the ability to become a process, because they can interfere with other patterns. A special kind of process is one where the changes it causes feeds back onto itself. These patterns cause their own interferences, and therefore manifest certain forms of their own. Robert Ulanowicz (I believe) has written that matter is formed when hadrons are taken up in a process that feed back onto themselves, so if this is correct, then matter would be a form of a self-referential process (involving hadrons).
With this we have almost completed a sort-of natural philosophy (epistemological system) that is based on patterns, process and information (forms), and which allows transformations to other epistemological systems. I'll admit that this sort of abstract tomfoolery is for those who take a liking for this kind of stuff, and that most by now may be wondering what you can do with all this. so the next post, I promise, will be very, very practical as we introduce the first pattern of PAC!