THE STRUCTURE OF REALITY: AN EMERGENT HIERARCHY OF AUTONOMOUS LEVELS?
Keywords:Emergence, Hierarchy, Levels, Reality
This paper starts with a question: is the structure of reality a hierarchy of autonomous levels emerging from the increasing complexity of matter through evolution? I will critique this deeply held conviction in the field of systems science, and I will argue that a different world-image is possible. Indeed, I will suggest that my alternative world-image is a more accurate depiction of the structure of the universe. My argument will be unfolded in four parts. First, I will claim that the forerunners of the idea of emergent levels can be found in the British emergentist movement of the 1920s (Alexander 1920; Morgan 1923). Second, I will argue that the idea of hierarchical levels first enterer the biological world in the early 1930s (via the work of von Bertalanffy 1928 ) and was later in the 1950s extended to the rest of the cosmos (Bertalanffy 1949 ; Boulding 1956). Third, that the ideas of a ‘hierarchical order’ and ‘general systemology’ could have been suggested to Bertalanffy by Hartmann’s early “theory of categories” (1923, 1926). Fourth, I will introduce Hartmann’s “theory of fundamental categories” (1940), which is devoted to the structure of reality. Finally, in contrast to these ideas, I will argue for a structure of the universe that is not constituted by an emergent hierarchy of autonomous levels at all.