[Fis] " How Molecules Became Signs" : Models, Signs and Reality

joe.brenner at bluewin.ch joe.brenner at bluewin.ch
Mon Feb 28 10:08:14 CET 2022

Dear Loet,
Thank you for your note and criticism, also received on the 26th , which I am happy to accept. It is in my approach, if anyone's, that differences and disagreements are to be given their proper value. What I try to keep in mind is that even dissimilarities are not fixed and final, but also change and evolve.
I am not sure whether the use of 'epi' will help. To say that something is epiphenomenal has the effect of emphasizing what separates it rather than links it to phenomena.
Similarly, the distinction between special and formal theories and the preference for the latter, although understandable,  does not seem absolutely necessary. For me it is not the formality that enables one to move between chemistry and economics but the general principles (which I suppose could be called formal) of the form of any change or motion of the components of phenomena from actual to potential. It would be very interesting for me to see whether all or part of the latter might be "framed mathematically", but its utility can be considered independently. 
Thank you and best wishes,
----Message d'origine----
De : loet at leydesdorff.net
Date : 26/02/2022 - 21:03 (CEST)
À : joe.brenner at bluewin.ch, deacon at berkeley.edu, fis at listas.unizar.es
Objet : Re: [Fis] "How Molecules Became Signs": Models, Signs and Reality
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 Dear Joe and colleagues, 
If you will allow my view at least for discussion, you will see that it has the dynamics necessary to handle more complex cognitive phenomena in human and social systems. These would include not only recursion but stasis and regression. Identification from an informational standpoint of the “molecules” undergoing change in the corresponding processes could follow a model very similar to yours.
 "very similar" is not sufficient for making an inference. The dissimilarities may also be important. 
 It seems to me that one can use the similarities as heuristics. The formal (non-substantive) models enable us to move from one domain to another, such as from biology to chemistry or even economics. For example, bifurcations can be expected to occur in the various domains. The reaction-diffusion mechanism can be considered as a common framework  for understanding this, because this mechanism is mathematically framed. The substantive differences can also be studied. 
 For information theory itself, this means that we can distinguish between special theories--e.g., economics or biology--of information and one or more formal theories. The latter abstract from the substance and are dimensionless (bits). The former are dimensionalized: for example, Joule/Kelvin for the case of classical physics. One can distinguish between domains in terms of what is communicated: for example, molecules in the case of biology or atoms in the case of chemistry. But these remain special theories.  The notion of a general theory (Bertalanffy) is no longer considered possible since the center is empty. Instead of "meta" one could use the Greek "epi": the formal theory matches to some extent the special theories. But puzzles remain; fortunately!
    Thank you again and best wishes,
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