Sunday, August 05, 2012

Symbiotic Spontaneous Orders

Randall Collins' discussion of modern natural science in The Sociology of Philosophies is very interesting, and I think both accurate and enlightening.

He argues that modern science is "a distinctive form of social organization which I shall call rapid-discovery science," which emerged as a new network alongside that of philosophy.

Rapid-discovery science is actually two networks, "one of scientific and mathematical researchers, and in symbiosis with it a second network comprising genealogies of machines and techniques which generated an ongoing stream of new phenomena for scientific research" (382). Indeed, the laws of thermodynamics were discovered because of the invention of the steam engine, not the other way around.

What Collins is identifying is the emergence of "a kind of cyborg network" in this symbiosis. There had always been technology and, as such, a technological spontaneous order. And there had always been natural science and, thus, a scientific order. But the two interacting together really drove scientific discovery. More, this technological innovation also resulted in the rapid expansion of the catallaxy -- economic growth boomed. In a real sense, the market economy is also a kind of cyborg network. Each co-creates the other, and drives further growth.

We can thus see that science, technology, and the market economy are intimately tied together -- but perhaps not as many think. They are coevolutionary, co-creating spontaneous orders.

Why is it that these are able to become symbiotic with such explosive growth? Could others? Artists would love to think their orders could become symbiotic with the catallaxy and create a better order, but I suspect not. The artistic orders are more tied in with the moral order -- they are symbiotic. And all of these are thus "a new problem in philosophical space" which spurs "reconceptualization on a higher level of reflexivity" (382).

But now we are facing an interesting connundrum. What connects science, technology, and the market? What connects the arts, the moral order, and philosophy (I would place it in a similar triple-stranded symbiotic order with art and morals)? Is this not a somewhat modified version of C.P. Snow's separation of the sciences and the humanities, and never the twain shall meet? If we were not witnessing a further synthesis of science with the artistic and the moral orders insofar as science is now being used to understand the underlying structures of these orders, we are seeing bridges built. It will be interesting to see where this new symbiosis takes us.

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