Application XI: History: Contingent emergent materiality

Learn from history?

What view of history, more complete and more accurate, affords us the best view of the future? How do we counter Kierkegaard’s lamentful comment that we walk into the future facing the past? Recorded history is not satisfactory, riddled as it is by omissions (e.g., the fossil record) and saddled as it is by an inordinate emphasis on particulars of event, person and institution. What have we made of all the latter? How much do we actually know of the course of history? Of the core of history?

The emphasis on particulars led the Greeks to seek lawfulness (and understanding) in the frequency and regularity of those particulars – says Lewin, who objected to that search, but who continued to focus on the particular. What can we make of history with a more balanced focus, one that brings the generalities of the Nature of Things more prominently into the picture? (Because the Nature of Things’ generalities are not derived as universals from particulars, they are not troubled by omissions in the historical record nor biased by observer overemphasis on particulars.)

What is the essence of history – and not just the gist of histories? What are we talking about when history per se is the observed condition, when history is not this or that observational product, when history is not something done professionally? History as contingent emergent materiality (CEM) answers that question … and becomes itself a further, pointed question (: i.e., a hypothesis) in the wake of BFPS as a question about the Nature of Things.

Let’s begin with materiality. It gives expression to consequentiality per se, one of three general persisting conditions of the Nature of Things. It avoids the linguistic ambivalence of “matter” as both noun and verb. It gives expression to the consequentiality of both body and step implicit in behavioral entity (: the double crystal). For the behavioral entity, BE, both body and step are IN consequence and OF consequence.

(Materiality contrasts with philosophy’s materialism. It avoids the latter’s shortcomings: the closeted focus on bodies/entities [e.g., physicalism, substantialism] , the relegation of much consequentiality to mystery and the promotion of “existence” and not consequentiality as the question we should be asking about anything.

Materiality’s tie to consequentiality is not unfamiliar, as in “material witness.” It readily accommodates the consequentiality of capabilities along with those of capacity.)

“Big Bang” qua explosion presumes a behavioral entity. (And the wave-particle duality a peculiar BE?) The “universe” (whether thing or thingk) was a single BE before it also became a lot of BE’s. Materiality helps us to not lose sight of the step’s – i.e., of behavior’s – full consequentiality (, ), as too often happens when particulars of behavior are treated as properties of particular bodies. Steps are just as material as bodies. “Sticks and stones may break my bones…” can be proverb and ant-proverb precisely because BE’s are material in both respects.

Our world is more material now, in quantity and quality, than it once was, primarily because we have added compositional changes to circumstantial changes (II). How did it get that way? That’s where contingent and emergent come into the story of materiality.

Let’s start by looking to the Periodic Table, undeniably one of the great triumphs of scientific observation. But it is a fragment of history’s fabric. It falls short of telling the whole story of history, even though the part it tells, it tells very well. What it tells us is that the domains of physics (first) then of chemistry demonstrate emergent materiality: chemistry’s BE contingent on physics’ BE (allowing for the wave-particle duality – i.e., that a [physics'] BE may alternately present itself as one or the other of behavior or entity).

But the Periodic Table affords a cross-section of history. To fully realize the materiality of history we need a transverse (aka longitudinal) section, to see the emergent structuring in both body and step along its length (the woof without the warp). If we describe history in terms of scientific domains, as Comte did, the Periodic Table’s story of contingent emergence would have to continue on into the domains of biology (although geology shows a parallel CEM thread more clearly) and, for Comte, sociology. (He had astronomy prior to physics and chemistry, betraying, ala the Greeks, an affection for regularity – and for the order of things, not necessarily the Nature of Things.)

The historical thread of CEM is far more apparent in the inorganic BE (e.g., geology’s minerals, then rocks comprising several minerals) than it is in the organic BE. But it is in the organic BE that materiality has blossomed via step making and taking, where material richness is not in consequence merely of combination, but where composition has generated what seems an infinity of possible materiality, where the future is indeed a World of Possibility.

Staying with the scientific domain characterizations of history, the organic BE story line for CEM suffers because communication and cognition (App. III), where — and how — compositional change happens, are not well developed as sciences (of the possible) even though they loom large materially on the contemporary scene via technological developments (e.g., intellectual tools and communication media). (But, as we have seen [:S-P, : impediments; , ], those developments have serious functional shortcomings. They have not been invented with the principles of the Nature of Things in hand. They are much more cognizant [sic] of situational problems than of the forceful, fundamental BE behavioral problem , .)

CEM, we see, takes two paths through history, branching at inorganic and organic BE. History per se comprises both – whatever and whichever historians find more interesting or accessible. The complexity – i.e., the vastly increased, and still increasing, materiality – of particular things and thingks observed, some in contemplation of their coming into being, does not alter the CEM thread of history, however variant observers may be in their minding methods and foci of attention. CEM follows the course dictated by the behavioral problem [: Pbeh; ], but that course admits of equipotentiality and equifinality in accord with the Nature of Things’ partial order.

The “scientific” cross-sections of history celebrated by Comte in a pyramid, culminate in sociology. If we pursue this diagrammatically (which see), we should see not a pyramid but a cornucopia – with physics’ BE’s not the base but rather the basis: the beginning of materiality’s impressive expansion and expression of consequentiality, especially on the organic side of behavioral entities.

Further, we would modify Comte’s picture in some significant ways. As CEM expands, the whole panoply of the academy’s sciences would have to include the arts and humanities. They too help define what CEM has brought into being. (See HAS) Sociology would find itself in company with many other disciplines and fields which have an interest in humans and their behaviors, especially those concerned with communities as (ultimate?) embodiments of CEM and HAS (e.g., psychology, political science, social psychology [both varieties*], history, business, law, journalism, cultural anthropology, engineering, education, religion). Some of these teaching and research disciplines have sibling clinical faculties, where art and humanism can find more expression. There are also some development and research efforts, not just research and development efforts, with similar impetus – but often too little formal research training of the type that productive problem solving requires. (Note in this regard the unfortunate characterization of problem as puzzle.)

Materiality, with the advance of CEM, gets more and more behavioral – most obviously in the manifold of multi-step BE and then even more mindful BE – i.e., compositional – blossoming out of a past of one-step BE. Thus CEM tells us to look to the dynamics of evolution and development, first to see that they are viewed independently, then to examine their balanced, interdependent and complementary employment in our historical accountings. Recent human history has become more and more a developmental narrative. It might — it should — it will become ever more so if founded on a complete, unbiased understanding of the Nature of Things and its behavioral implications.

CEM thus says, with a view toward increased consequentiality, that we expand our notions of pragmatism, functionalism and positivism. (“Material pragmatism”? “Material functionalism”? “Material positivism”? Perhaps “cem-pragmatism”? Etc [with "cem-" to become a universal – and, by intent, metaphysical – prefix].) CEM says that BE, the double crystal core of history, has followed a more-and-more behavioral course, adding, and still adding, to the materiality – i.e., to the consequentiality – that is history. And it says the absolutely worst thing we could do is to establish, to institutionalize, behavior as just another academic department of science. It is, deservedly, everywhere to be found.


CEM says that a purely ahistorical accounting of any BE — whether individual, community, species, the world or the universe itself – is incomplete and inaccurate with respect to consequentiality and the Nature of Things. CEM is the way of the universe, itself a BE, the way of the world, and it is the way forward for humanity. Cognition and communication, the keys to compositional change, mark the frontier of our advance in this World of Possibility (courtesy of partial order and consequentiality). Their technologies, if better developed, will help us move ahead more productively. (They are the “new world” to the “old world” of physics and chemistry.)

On the CEM view of history we should reconsider not only human BE history and that history which might follow if we were to better prepare ourselves to bring more of the future into the present … we should also reconsider the history – and future –of other organic BE, principally those animal species whose acquaintance we court because they are, or seem to be learning to be, something like us. On the CEM view, they can be expected to become further realized in capacity and capability: say, more intelligent – but not necessarily in the same way and ways that humans have. CEM suggests that such species are on a developmental and evolutionary path of their own. Should we, can we, be more helpful in that regard and less enamored of seeing them in human terms, even to “humanizing” them?

We might find it helpful to remind ourselves that, on the CEM perspective, the so-called “universe” should be seen as expanding in more than the physical (cosmic) sense. Given what we know, this universe started as a BE and continues as a BE: not just as an entity but as a behavioral entity.** History and what it can tell us about the future makes better sense if we keep behavior in sight all along the path of CEM. Humans, individually and in community membership, are the most material of BE (e.g., the most profuse and variable in consequentiality). They are to our current knowledge the apex of the universe’s expansion. Whether they are the most consequential in any other (particular) respect is an open question. In any case the universe will continue to expand as a behavioral entity until, and unless, consequentiality as a general persisting condition of the Nature of Things fails to obtain.

The CEM perspective on history raises some questions that bear addressing. For instance:
  • Q.1. Is ahistorical accounting of BE an artifact of scientists having adopted a cross-sectional rather than a transverse analysis (sectors = sciences) – i.e., used a special case which misses some consequentiality?
  • Q.1a. What is behavior like in each of the CEM sectors? Do later sectors require additional kinds of principles? Does “string” (in “String theory”) as hypostasized multi-dimensional behavior have something more to tell us about behavior?
  • Q.1b. Does the transverse perspective also suggest that the force of BE’s behavioral problem (:Pbeh) belongs in the company of the more familiar four forces of physics? (See.) As does the persisting force of the Big Bang?#
  • Q.1c. Does this also suggest that we should give development equal due with evolution as dynamic processes in accounting the history of BE? (See.) A theory about populations may miss community developments – or the lack of them – that bear on those populations, but not just on them as populations – i.e., as aggregates.
  • Q.1d. While ahistorical reductionism (of entities) may satisfy cross-sectional sector observers, will we not need historical reductionism to completely satisfy CEM/transverse analyses of behavior?
  • Q.2 Is our familiar sense of “information” predicated on materiality, as in the consequentiality of pointing – in contrast to Information Theory’s technological equating of information with uncertainty?.)
  • Q.3. Is materiality a way we can bridge the gaps (of undiscovered and unrealized consequentiality) among science, art and humanism? (See, .)
  • Q.3a. Is materiality a way to bridge between “basic research” (: re the order of things”) and “applied research” (:Sbeh: re the efficacy of solution[s]) – as “applicable research”? (See.)
  • Q.3b. Is focus on materiality our best handle on “complexity” – i.e., the molecularity of both BE’s entity (body) and behavioral (step) structural units?
  • Q.4. Because compositional change marks the face and frontier of humanity’s and the universe’s expansion, should we not do more to prepare ourselves to compose – i.e., develop composition-relevant capacities and capabilities (especially technologies for cognition and communication to improve communities and languages, such as for all kinds of functional indicators) ? (Also see , , App. II-III, VII, IX, XII, .)##
  • Q.4a. Is there a molecular parallel for compositional CEM, such as suggested by ideational mechanics , to match the double helix core for biology’s CEM?
  • Q. 4b. Is there a possibility that a cross-sectional analysis of the biology sector (e.g., physiological aspects of behavior) will tend to impede the needed functional development in the cognitive, communicative, compositional and community sectors of CEM?


Learn from history? Yes, especially if we were to know it better in its generalities and not just in its particulars. Know thyself? Yes, if we know our history – all of it, all the way back to the beginning signs of consequentiality, and the way forward into future history.


*Departments of psychology and sociology commonly have their own, distinctive offerings of social psychology. But taken together they assert the materiality of the individual x community dynamics.

** “Behavioral entity” is infected by a serious (anti-double crystal) bias (, ). Linguistically, it should probably be rendered as a double nominative (e.g., “behavior-entity,” “behavior/entity,” or “behaviorXentity”) to avoid the relegation of behavior to property status. The abbreviation, BE, dims the bias to some degree – unless we express BE as “behavioral entity,” which, of course, is exactly what we do.

# Is “dark energy” perhaps the yet-unexpressed behavioral materiality of the universe qua BE— unexpressed excepting the accelerating expansion of the universe? (Energy, gravity, string … physicists characterize behavior in entity terms. Is that the way they see it too?)

## As these references (to other applications and to topics and comments) imply, the confluence of history and consequentiality (the former as a manifestation of the latter and of its companion general persisting conditions [partial order and discontinuity] of the Nature of Things) will bring further elaboration in subsequent additions to Many of the applications, for instance, could be relabeled and reviewed with a “cem-”prefix, as suggested above for cem-pragmatism.

(c) 2012 R.F. Carter


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