To emerge, to order

July 18, 2014.  Until Anne Mei and I started driving around this summer to visit colleges, I had been blogging on the theme of how we imagine and how we order when we hurt.  I was also working on the theme of the pain of aphasia and the aphasia of pain.  The “aphasia of pain” is my summary of Elaine Scarry’s view in her widely cited book, The Body in Pain.  All the posts to date on these themes may be found under “the three kiss-offs” in this archive link.

Because of our travels, most recent posts have been comments about current events under the new index category “Driving today.”  Even though I have not been writing much about philosophical issues lately, I have been working on them, including listening to podcasts, as I mentioned in my post about the impermanence of things.

Some modern philosophers and scientists look at the processes of change from the perspective of what they call “emergence.”  As might be expected, I prefer the verbal forms “to emerge” and “emerging.”  We have seen the process of emerging before in Melzack’s neuromatrix of pain, and in the specific processes of thirst, anger and grief.

In the series of posts about imagining and ordering, I have distinguished between imagining orders that are given (e.g., religion) and imagining as a way of ordering (e.g., art).  We will revisit these distinctions and even go back to Piaget’s original distinction between imagining and ordering to question how much they are both processes of emerging.  Note that the title of this post is “To emerge, to order” not “To emerge to order.”  We are talking about the infinitive “to order,” not “order” as the object of the preposition “to.”

These considerations will help in our examination of how we make our “selves” under the topic of “Whoever you are, I love you.”

In preparation for these discussions, I recommend the Radiolab podcast on “Emergence.”  Some philosophers and scientists dismiss talk of emergence as mystical bull honky.  I think this podcast helps bring the concept of emergence down to earth.  It does this in a seemingly disorganized way that, in fact, embodies a process of emerging.

One question that this podcast raised in my mind was whether “emerging” is just a way of describing change or if it actually explains changing.  The doubt that “emerging” explains anything lies behind some of the scepticism concerning its utility for philosophy, not to speak of science. That doubt, in turn, raises the issues of how explaining differs from describing and why we try to explain processes like pain.





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