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Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
Isaiah Berlin
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
C. Lloyd Morgan
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
 
Ludwig von Bertalanffy

Ludwig von Bertalanffy was an Austrian-born biologist who developed the idea of General Systems Theory, arguing that systems as a whole had properties and perhaps even laws, that were different from, and could not be reduced to, the properties and laws of their components. Others had recognized systems in various ways, often claiming that they are "more than the sum of their parts." Bertalanffy promoted the idea of "organicism," that systems of many kinds should be treated as organisms with multiple hierarchical levels. Like Ernst Mayr, Bertalanffy believed that holist biological models might be better models for systems than mechanistic reductionist models.

Bertalanffy was skeptical that Darwinian evolution, based on random chance variations, could explain all of biology.

From the standpoint of science... the history of life does not appear to be the result of an accumulation of changes at random but subject to laws. This does not imply mysterious controlling factors that in an anthropomorphic way strive towards progressive adaptation, fitness, or perfection. Rather there are principles of which we already know something at present, and of which we can hope to learn more in the future. Nature is a creative artist; but art is not accident or arbitrariness, but the fulfilment of great laws,
Many nineteenth-century biologists were "vitalists," as was philosopher Henri Bergson with his élan vital. Like vitalism, Bertalanffy's organicism appears to incorporate some kind of non-physical and as yet undiscovered new force of nature.

General Systems Theory is a form of emergence theory. Emergence was implicit in the work of the work of John Stuart Mill and explicit in "emergentists" like George Henry Lewes (1875), C. Lloyd Morgan (1912), Samuel Alexander (1920), and C. D. Broad (1925).

Many scientists had known for decades before Bertalanffy that living systems somehow avoid the inevitable degradation suffered by physical systems, according to the second law of thermodynamics. Instead of approaching thermodynamic equilibrium (complete chaos and maximum entropy, living systems maintain themselves in a high state of order (or information). Earlier thinkers had called this a "dynamic equilibrium," but Bertalannfy called it "flow equilibrium," inventing the German word Fliessgleichgewicht," which was later translated into English as "steady state." In his 1932 book Theoretische Biologie, he described living systems as open systems that exchange matter and energy with the environment.

More important than the new terminology, Bertalanffy in 1940 described what was happening in a way made famous five years later by Erwin Schrödinger in his book What is Life?, namely that energy is not enough, it must be energy with low (or negative) entropy, or what Bertalanffy correctly called "free energy.".

Bertalanffy wrote:

In open systems we have not only production of entropy due to irreversible processes, but also import of negative entropy. This is the case in the living organism which imports [consumes nutrients with] complex molecules that are high in free energy. Thus, living systems, maintaining themselves in a steady state, can avoid the increase of entropy, and may even develop towards states of increased order and organization.

In What is Life?, Schrödinger would say that "life feeds on negative entropy." Schrödinger described this as "order out of order" that distinguishes life from the "order out of chaos" exhibited by many complex physical systems studied today.

In terms of information philosophy, living systems are complex information-processing systems. They feed on other information-rich living systems. Living systems can be described as having a form or shape through which passes information-rich matter and energy with low entropy. The incoming matter and energy exit the living system as matter and energy, but now with high entropy. The information input is degraded in the process of maintaining the living system in its highly ordered information state.

Bertalanffy may have been the first biologist to fully appreciate this aspect of living systems. He also appreciated that the main difference between biological and physical systems was that the information content of biological systems means that they have a memory of the past or a "history," unlike most physical things.

The Historical Character of Life
Organisms are characterized by three principal attributes: organization, dynamic flow of processes, and history. As has been stated before, "life" is not a force or energy that, like electricity, gravity, heat, etc., is inherent in, or can be imparted to, any natural body. Rather it is limited to systems with a specific organization. Equally characteristic is the continuous flow and the pattern of processes in the organism.
Konrad Lorenz said that properties that are a priori in the individual were a posteriori in the species
And finally, every organism originates from others of the same kind, and carries traits of the past, not only of its own individual existence but also of the history of the generations which preceded it. We shall later try to define the living organism in terms of its fundamental characteristics as a "hierarchical order of systems in a steady state." This definition, however, omits an important characteristic about which we can say little in an exact way, but which must not be completely lost from sight.

In physical systems events are, in general, determined by the momentary conditions only. For example, for a falling body it does not matter how it has arrived at its momentary position, for a chemical reaction it does not matter in what way the reacting compounds were produced. The past is, so to speak, effaced in physical systems. In contrast to this, organisms appear to be historical beings.

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