Phenomenology of complexity

There are two approaches for understanding reality: The Cartesian and phenomenology. The first was introduced by Rene  Descartes (1596-1650 ) who applied rationality to understand reality. His declaration: “I think, therefore I am” implies that thinking is rational.  Three centuries later Heidegger (1889-1976) realized that Descartes’ seemingly straight forward  declaration, which seems to us so obvious, conceals a stumbling block. He therefore    asked, what does Descartes mean by his “am”?  and  concluded that reality ought to be studied from the “am” perspective, known as phenomenology. The term   was coined by his teacher and friend Edmund Husserl ( 1859-1938).    

Modern medicine still trots the Cartesian way, with unpleasant  consequences as illustrated by the following example on the relationship between effort (E) and heart rate (H). It is linear  H(E) = H(0) + b*E + error. H(0) stands for the resting heart rate,  b, for the slope of the line. The error term accounts for the fact that  observed data are spread around the ascending line.  In previous sections of this thread it was shown that “error” or noise does not exist as such in nature.  It is  a (rational) construct  to understand nature. Yet  the error term actually conceals some vital heart characteristics which ought to be expressed by a separate function f(x) so that H(E) = H(0) + b*E + f(x). Since f(x) is non-linear and chaotic, medicine lacks means to handle it and ignores it. This is where phenomenology steps in.

v. Iatrogenic Medicine

The first encounter of the exact sciences with phenomenology was shocking. The first fractal, the Koch snowflake (1904) was regarded as a monster curve. Later on it gained its respectability  within Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry (1975).  Then came Chaos, whose name reflects the horror of a physicist who is barred from reducing it to some elementary whatsoever. Why call it Chaos when in reality it is a manifestation of Heidegger’s “Dasein” and may be understood only by phenomenology.

Then came Wolfram (2002)  who conjured all kinds of complexities with CA. Apparently he is not aware of the phenomenology trap which lures even in his reductionistic NKS book. He classifies his constructs into four classes of behavior (p.231), which is clearly a phenomenological approach. Yet why only four? His class four is an Eden of fascinating structures (monsters). Why didn’t he classify it further? Since he was anxious to avoid the slippery slope leading to phenomenology. His credo is “I generate complexity  therefore I understand!” Does he really?  In view of the fact that the real issue is how to reduce complexity without losing its meaning.

v. Autopoiesis

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