[Fis] Book Presentation

Daniel Boyd daniel.boyd at live.nl
Sat Apr 9 17:37:19 CEST 2022

Dear Mariusz

While (or perhaps because!) your work is a fair distance from my own field of expertise, I found your conceptual framework intriguing. Herewith some of the thoughts it elicited. While they may be unexpected because they come from a different angle, hopefully a cross-disciplinary interaction will be fruitful.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics dictates the ultimate heat death of the universe (a state in which all 'contrasts' are erased). Its current state, fortunately for us, is teeming with differences (between entities, properties and interactions) which underlie all that is of importance to us. To take such contrasts as a unifying principle would therefore seem to be undeniable, if extremely ambitious! After all, the sheer diversity of contrasts takes us from the different spins of subatomic particles underlying the various elements to the masses of the celestial bodies determining their orbits around the sun; from the colours in a painting to the sounds of a symphony. Systemically, different patterns of contrasts underlie the distinctions between linear and complex systems. Contrasts also form the basis for the working of our sense organs, the perceptions derived from them, and the inner world of conscious experience. In each of these contexts very different classes of contrasts lead to different mechanisms and laws, leading me to wonder just what the 'underlying structure' is (beyond the observation that, ultimately, some type of contrast is always involved and that we tend to deal with such diverse contrasts in a similar way). Maybe your book provides an answer to this question that I am unable to find in this brief abstract: could you perhaps say something about this?

Moving on to more specific topics, I see that you equate the complexity of a system to a relationship between binary values (C = N²/n). While such as approach may work for discontinuous contrasts (e.g. presence/absence, information in digital systems) many naturally occurring differences are continuous (e.g. the electromagnetic frequencies underlying the colours of the rainbow). In neuroscience, while the firing of a neuron may be a binary event, the charge underlying this event is a dynamic continuous variable. My question: how does the concept of abstract complexity deal with continuous variables ("contrasts")?

I was also intrigued by your statement that "Beautiful are objects with high information compression" based on the reasoning "perceiving beauty, we save energy, the perception becomes more economical and pleasant". Intuitively, it seems odd to me to equate beauty to the lack of perceptive effort required. This would mean that the Pentagon (high regularity/compressibility) is more beautiful than the Sagrada Familia (low regularity/compressibility); and a single-instrument midi rendition of Bach is more beautiful than a symphonic performance. It seems to me that beauty often stimulates (gives energy) rather than just costing minimal energy. Much research has been done on the universal and culture-dependent perception of beauty: does this support your statement? see e.g. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01229.x which describes factors other than simplicity as necessary characteristics.
Musings About Beauty - Kintsch - 2012 - Cognitive Science - Wiley Online Library<https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01229.x>
Aesthetics has been a human concern throughout history. Cognitive science is a relatively new development and its implications for a theory of aesthetics have been largely unexplored.
By defining contrast as a distinction between entities or properties, it seems to come close as a definition to the type of information underlying physical entropy. That being the case, your approach would seem to resemble those who would give such information a comparable fundamental significance (e.g. Wheeler's "it from bit"). Could you say something about how you see the relationship between 'contrast' and 'information? Are they effectively synonyms?

Thankyou, in any case, for your contribution which certainly demonstrates the relationship between Value and Development 😉

Regards, Daniel Boyd

Van: Mariusz Stanowski<mailto:stanowskimariusz at wp.pl>
Verzonden: zaterdag 2 april 2022 19:23
Aan: fis at listas.unizar.es<mailto:fis at listas.unizar.es>
Onderwerp: [Fis] Book Presentation

Book Presentation
“Theory and Practice of Contrast: Integrating Science, Art and Philosophy.”
Mariusz Stanowski
Published June 10, 2021 by CRC Press (hardcover and eBook).
Dear FIS list members,
Many thanks for the opportunity to present my recent book in this list.

Our dispersed knowledge needs an underlying structure that allows it to be organised into a coherent and complex system.
I believe “Theory and Practice of Contrast” provides such a structure by bringing the considerations to the most basic, general and abstract level. At this level it is possible to define contrast as a tension between common and differentiating features of objects. It grows in intensity as the number/strength of differentiating and common features of contrasting structures/objects increases. Contrast understood in this way applies to any objects of reality (mental and physical) and is also an impact (causal force) in the most general sense. Contrast as a common principle organises (binds) our knowledge into a coherent system. This is illustrated by a diagram of the connections between the key concepts:

[cid:part1.3l4W85v9.rMeckTi6 at wp.pl]

Below are brief descriptions of these connections.

Contrast—Development When observing a contrast, we also observe the connection between contrasting objects/structures (resulting from their common features) and the emergence of a new, more complex structure possessing the common and differentiating features of connected structures. In the general sense, the emergence of a new structure is tantamount to development. Therefore, it may be stated that contrast is a perception of structures/objects connections, or experience of development. The association of contrast with development brings a new quality to the understanding of many other fundamental concepts, such as beauty, value, creativity, emergence. (Similarly, contrast as development is understood in Whitehead’s philosophy).

Contrast—Complexity In accordance with the proposed definition, when we consider the contrast between two or more objects/structures, it grows in intensity as the number/strength of differentiating and common features of contrasting structures/objects increases. Such an understanding of contrast remain an intuitive criterion of complexity that can be formulated as follows: a system becomes more complex the greater is the number of distinguishable elements and the greater the number of connections among them. If in definition of contrast we substitute “differentiating features” for “distinguishable elements” and “common features” for “connections”, we will be able to conclude that contrast is the perception and measure of complexity.

Note: Two types of contrasts can be distinguished: the sensual (physical) contrast, which is determined only by the force of features of contrasting objects and the mental (abstract) contrast which depends primarily on the number of these features. (This contrast can be equated with complexity). (The equation of contrast with complexity is an important finding for the investigations in: cognitive sciences, psychology, ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, axiology, biology, information theory, complexity theory and indirectly in physics).

Complexity—Information Compression Intuition says that the more complex object with the same number of components (e.g. words) has more features/information (i.e. more common and differentiating features), which proves its better organization (assuming that all components have the same or similar complexity). We can also say that such an object has a higher degree of complexity. The degree of complexity is in other words the brevity of the form or the compression of information. Complexity understood intuitively (as above) depends, however, not only on the complexity degree (that could be defined as the ratio of the number of features to the number of components) but also on the (total) number of features, because it is more difficult to organize a larger number of elements/features. In addition, the more features (with the same degree of complexity), the greater the contrast. Therefore, in the proposed Abstract Definition of Complexity (2011), we multiply the degree of complexity by the number of features. This definition defines the complexity (C) of the binary structure (general model of all structures/objects) as the quotient of the square of features (regularities/substructures) number (N) to the number of components or the number of zeros and ones (n). It is expressed in a simple formula: C = N²/n and should be considered the most general definition of complexity, among the existing ones, which also fulfils the intuitive criterion. (This relation explains what compression of information in general is and what role it plays as a complexity factor. This allows to generalize the notion of information compression and use it not only in computer science, but also in other fields of knowledge, such as aesthetics, axiology, cognitive science, biology, chemistry, physics).

Information compression—Development Our mind perceiving objects (receiving information) more compressed, saves energy. Compression/organization of information reduce energy of perception while maintaining the same amount of information (in case of lossless compression). Thanks to this, perception becomes easier (more economical) and more enjoyable; for example, it can be compared to faster and easier learning, acquiring knowledge (information), which also contributes to our development. Compression of information as a degree of complexity also affects its size. Complexity, in turn, is a measure of contrast (and vice versa). Contrast, however, is identified with development. Hence, complexity is also development. This sequence of associations is the second way connecting the compression of information with development. Similarly, one can trace all other possibilities of connections in the diagram. (The association of information compression with development brings a new, explanatory knowledge to many fields including cognitive science, aesthetics, axiology, information theory).

Development—Value Development is the essence of value, because all values (ethical, material, intellectual, etc.) contribute to our development which is their common feature. It follows that value is also a contrast, complexity and compression of information because they are synonymous with development. (The relation explains and defines the notion of value fundamental to axiology).

Value—Abstract Value About all kinds of values (with the exception of aesthetic values) we can say, what they are useful for. Only aesthetic values can be said to serve the development or be the essence of values, values in general or abstract values. This is a property of abstract concepts to express the general idea of something (e.g. the concept of a chair includes all kinds of chairs and not a specific one). It follows that what is specific to aesthetic value is that it is an abstract value (although it is difficult to imagine). (This is a new understanding of aesthetic value, crucial for aesthetics and axiology).

Contrast—Being Contrast or interaction is a concept prior to the concept of being because without interaction there is no existence. It follows that the basic component of being must be two objects/elements/components (creating a contrast) having common and differentiating features. (Understanding of being as a contrast is fundamental to ontology and metaphysics and worth considering in physics).

Contrast—Cognition The object of cognition and the subject (mind) participate in the cognitive process. The object and the subject have common and differentiating features, thus they create a contrast. Cognition consists in attaching (through common features) differentiating features of the object by the subject. In this way, through the contrast, the subject develops. It can therefore be said that cognition is a contrast of the object with the subject. (This is a new definition of cognition important for epistemology and cognitive science).

Cognition—Subjectivity The above understanding of cognition agrees all disputable issues (present, among others, in psychology, cognitive science and aesthetics) regarding the objectivity and subjectivity of assessments (e.g. whether the source of beauty is the observer's mind, whether it is a specific quality from the observer independent), because it shows that they depend on both the subject and the object, i.e. depend on their relationship—contrast.

Compression of information—Beauty Beautiful are objects with high information compression (a large degree of complexity/organization). Thanks to the compression of information, perceiving beauty, we save energy, the perception becomes more economical and pleasant which favours our development and is therefore a value for us. The example is golden division. Counting features (information) in all possible types of divisions (asymmetrical, symmetrical and golden) showed that the golden division contains the most features/information (an additional feature is well known golden proportion) and therefore creates the greatest contrast, complexity and aesthetic value.  (This explains the previously unknown reasons for aesthetic preferences, key to aesthetics, art theory, psychology, cognitive science and neuroaesthetics).

Development—Beauty Beauty contributes to development thanks to the economy of perception. Perception of beauty is accompanied by a sense of development or ease and pleasure of perception. (This explains the causes of aesthetic preferences).

Abstract Value—Beauty, Art Only beauty and art have no specific value but they express/have value in general (an abstract value). The objects that make up a work of art are not important, but their contrast-interaction, which results from the complexity of the artwork. (If we see a single object in the gallery, then the art is its contrast with the context - as in the case of Duchamp's "Urinal" or Malevich's "Black Square"). One can say that beauty and art are distinguished (defined) by two elements: abstract value and a large contrast. (This is a new and only definition of beauty/art that indicates the distinctive common features of all aesthetic/artistic objects, it is crucial for the theory of art, aesthetics, axiology and epistemology).

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