Page 146 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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also Vrana and Wheeler, 1992)
The realm of universal mind would have been during the “dark ages” of the “matter-radiation
soup” early in the Big Bang. This situation would have been vague in the sense that all
possible forms and configurations compatible with physical constraints would momentarily
appear anywhere and evaporate, mingling, changing, uniting, dividing, constantly replacing
each other locally in the way that thoughts seem to replace each other in the idle mind, some
of these being likely as well to prefigure future emergences in higher integrative levels as yet
unrealized.
In this perspective, all possibilities are present at first as fleeting configurations of
basic particles. The macroscopic configuration that finally did occur would have occasionally
been prefigured in its particulate aspects. In order to give history its due, we must allow that
other particulate configurations might have appeared today instead, and since only one
macrostate is possible given any microstate, other microstates will have gradually dropped
out as a result of events at higher levels, via top-down influence. This means that history as
we know it discards possible microstates as it accumulates. However, any macrostate might
be compatible with many possible microstates, and so we cannot in principle know which
microstate was finally being selected during macroscopic history. Top-down influence is
restrictive, but not determinative.
My general point here is that conceptual formats can lead our inquiries in certain
directions if we are open to the possibilities they present. The finalistic drive in the above
universal scene will have been the tendency toward more definite embodiments of material
and living systems at increasingly larger scales – an evolutionary
tendency
, therefore a
developmental process (Salthe, 1993). The role of the Second Law in this will have had to do
with the fact that not all energy gradients dissipate rapidly spontaneously, as by mass wasting
or diffusion. The steeper of such gradients, however, may be susceptible to the actions of
dissipative structures, and even very refractory ones can yield to the activities of living
systems (Salthe, 2010b). That is, the origin of life and the evolutionary tendency of biology
on Earth toward larger and more complex forms (e.g., Maynard Smith & Szathmary, 2005)
can be viewed as elicited by the Second Law acting as a final cause so as to produce a
plenitude of ever more effective dissipative structures.
To summarize, explanation by way of subsumption under a covering law opened up
the possibility of a causal explanation by reversing the process. In the particular case
examined, the causality could be seen to be finalistic. This could easily be mapped to
developmental processes more generally, whereby initially vague conditions will unfold into
ever more definite embodiment.
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