General System Theory: Towards the Unification of Science
Keywords:general systems theory, unity of science, emergence, materialism, metaphysics, substances, unity of opposites, ontology, beings, individuation
This paper questions two core assumptions pervading the field of General Systems Theory (GST) in order to preserve the ideal of the unity of science advocated by its founding fathers. The author claims that an ontology of levels based on unquestioned emergentist and materialist assumptions leads to a disunity of systems. A metaphysics is proposed to inform GST which is based not on logics but on the nature of reality in order to transcend four antinomies of thought and explain the unity of systems.
It is claimed that reality is animated by an internal force that permeates the entire universe, an endless craving for being referred as the will. The will manifests in the universe in the form of substances which have a dialectical character and a pluralist personality. Besides the metaphysical law of the unity of opposites, the author postulates a set of ontological laws that regulate the manifestation of substances in the universe: individuation, continuity, linear gradation and recursivity.
In addition, each substance constitutes a different kind of being. Together, all beings configure the ontological levels of reality that come into existence when the substance constituting a being is dominated by another substance. Furthermore, once substances come into existence in the form of beings, their craving for being is transformed into a will to immortality. However, since beings are nested unified totalities constituted by composite substances, this gives rise to an internal conflict between beings because they all have the same hunger for immortality. Fortunately, there is always a dominant substance that provides unity to the composite and a dominant being that directs the activity of the unified totality.
Therefore, beings don’t live autonomous or independent lives but interact with other beings belonging to the same unified totality constituted by other substances. This explains the interaction between the ontological levels of reality. Moreover, beings display multiple forms of interaction. There are upward, downward, sideward and outward interactions between beings of the same or of a different kind, belonging to the same or to a different unified totality.
Finally, it is claimed that the form of individuation of a being is shaped by the dominant being that directs the activity of the unified totality.