Monday, January 05, 2015

Forms of Culture

The mind-brain debate by some is extended to a consciousness-mind-brain debate, where the brain can be seen as the biology upon which the mind emerges, and the holistic functioning of the mind gives way to a whole called consciousness. An analog chain of construction could be made in the social, as a culture - society - individual trichotomy. Individuals are the participants on which society emerges, and the holistic functioning of societies creates wholes called culture. 
This reentrant construction of culture could be depicted using Spencer-Brownian Laws of Form:

New wholes of the individual are invented by identification; deconstruction of the known results in new wholes of an individuum. New wholes of society are created by interaction; deconstruction of status quo results in new games. New wholes of culture are created by belonging; deconstruction of the modus vivendi results in rituals. Thus individual, society and culture have their own as well as shared histories.
This trichotomy can similarly be constructed for consciousness:

New wholes of the brain are constructed by sensing and motion; deconstruction of perception results in new forms and actions. New wholes of the mind are construted by combination and repetition; deconstruction of thoughts results in knowledge and skill. New wholes of consciousness emerge from attending; deconstruction of attention results in awareness and volition. 
Culture and consciousness thus have their own developmental trajectories. This model has interesting implications when thinking about societies and culture. I'll attempt a quick discussion.
One, particular groups may never cause "cultural collapses" as is sometimes argued by conservative members, unless they obtain the power to break the society as a whole. Similarly, the causal contribution of elites is questionable. 
Two, a substantial degree of stability ("normal interaction") is necessary for culture to be constructed upon society, or the only remedy is a meta-culture of change (cf. Thomas Kuhn's concept of "normal science").
Three, advances in cultural paradigms will not happen linear, but in stages ("extraordinary ritual" similar to "extraordinary science"), when known rituals repeatedly lead to conflicts of belonging. 
Four, if holistic functioning of society is not achieved, and thus new culture cannot emerge, the system must continuously grow (refine itself) to be stable, and it will oscillate in games of opposing positions once it hits saturation (cf. the dynamics of the Logistic Map).
Many of our societies are or have been entering states of saturation that produce these oscillations. At the same time, globalization rapidly changes societies' compositions pointing towards a culture of change to replace traditional cultures. Wars have often reset the counter in oscillating societies, establishing a new phase of growth. This cut defers real resolutions that transcend to a new, integrated whole, but instead just starts the current game over. Holistic integration without the possibility to destruct the system required for real progress, but also without hierarchical or central control over society. The latter was a big mistake in socialism, actually reducing it to its parts, and increasingly is a problem in capitalism driven republic democracies, reducing them to their oligopolistic subsystems.