Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Evolution, involution, and telos

In Integral philosophy there are the concepts of "evolution" and "involution." Simply put, evolution is the process from the bottom up where something smaller becomes something more complex while involution is the process from the top down where something greater is reduced to its component parts.

While the heart is an organ in the human body with additional organs and tissues,  the human body can't be reduced to simply the heart alone. While and individual is part of a family including additional individuals, the family is more than just one individual.

There are parts to the whole which transcend any one of its parts and as a system of interdependencies is more than just the mechanics of functioning of the autonomous parts. This idea of transcendence is a challenging idea.

This discussion of the structure of emergence is meant to show that evolution has a definite direction. It’s not a straightforwardly linear direction like the arrow of time, but evolution has been evidently moving toward “something more” throughout most of its history, despite occasional setbacks and regressions. Some scientists have defined this direction of advance as “greater complexity,” but this rather thin description does not capture the radical nature of what is actually transpiring. Considered as a whole, the direction in which evolution is moving is best described as the direction of transcendence itself. Each step of sustainable emergence demonstrates what it means to “go beyond.” And the most significant kinds of evolutionary emergence—the three big bangs—demonstrate this movement toward transcendence most dramatically. The primordial emergence of the original big bang transcended the “singularity” out of which it appeared by giving rise to space-time, energy-matter, and probably the laws of physics themselves. Similarly, the emergence of life, while made out of matter, transcended matter alone by bringing an entirely new kind of reality into the universe—the reality of intention. The emergence of humanity likewise gave rise to a transcendent new reality in the form of self-awareness and the ceaseless striving for higher levels of goodness.

McIntosh, Steve. Developmental Politics: How America Can Grow Into a Better Version of Itself (pp. 107-108). Paragon House. Kindle Edition. 

That paragraph alone is worth the price of the book. If a person reads nothing else, this paragraph should be read and discussed so that it can be understood. At the end of the discussion whether one agrees or not is a matter of faith. Does one believe in the "telos". Does life have some purpose? Does it evolve? If so, to what end?

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