Cosmic Evolutionary Theory

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Cadell Last:


"What is the function and purpose of humanity? Are we mere epiphenomena, here for the blink of a cosmic eye, destined to perish on a universal stage that did not expect us and does not need us? Is the historical process really directionless and meaningless with no escape and no hope for a higher state of humanity in relation to each other and the universe? This is where cosmic evolutionary theory has a chance to re-organize our perspective and provide new insight. Throughout the development and evolution of our local universe there has been an interconnected growth of complexity from physical, chemical and bio-logical systems, as well as cultural and technological systems. This growth of complexity appears to open up new possibilities for the exploration of new relationships and new opportunities for experience in the universe. When we consider humanity from this perspective we find that our scientific focus shifts towards the human system which now occupies a frontier position of highest complexity and cognition. Consequently, we are capable of directing the future of evolution, and whatever emergent possibility could stem from our uniquely cultural and technological activities. Or said in another way, whatever ‘act’ comes next in the ‘cosmic drama’ it will emerge from within the domain of collective human social values, cultural creativity, and our exploration of latent technological possibility. In this way the universe gives the appearance of internalizing its future potentiality within a network of billions of biocultural nodes that in aggregate represent a phenomenon capable of producing yet another level of complex organization. This perspective does not succumb to the trap of anthropocentrism as I am not arguing that humans are ‘reclaiming centrality’. Instead I am making the philosophical argument that humans could represent an important process in the context of the growth of local complexity that is part of a much larger ‘multi-local’ cosmic phenomenon. Of course this is speculative but it is entirely plausible that cosmic evolutionary theory has application on a universal scale, with other analogous levels of local complexity developing via a type of ‘universal culture’. Therefore, in this attempt to understand the deep future, I do not attempt to specifically focus on understanding the role of mysterious impersonal forces such as dark energy and dark matter, but rather seek to understand how intimately familiar processes related to culture, technology, language, and mind could reshape the universe and/or possess a cosmic function in the operations of the cosmos itself, consequently adding new dimensions of purpose to our lives today and hope for a higher future. In short, we stand on the frontier of cosmic evolution and a future of tremendous possibility unforeseen by most historical humans."



"In order to approach questions of totality today perhaps we should first consider utilizing the philosophical worldview of cosmic evolution. This worldview has been most frequently deployed for the tasks of both articulating notions of technological singularity [46] and situating human development in a cosmic context [47]. The cosmic evolutionary worldview attempts to build a philosophy that can approach an integrated holistic view of totality as opposed to the fragmented reductionist view [48] (Figure 1). Thus, in contrast to the approaches of reduction and fragmentation the cosmic evolutionary approach focuses on a holistic integration of all phenomenon as unified in which totality is analyzed from the beginning of known processual dynamics to the present moment [49,50]. In this view we cannot understand totality without explaining the evolution of all networked phenomena on all scales of reality [51]. For example, instead of separating the world of physics which focuses on particle interactions and fields of force, and the world of chemistry which focuses on chemical interactions and autocatalytic cycles; a holistic and integrated view focuses on understanding the shared dynamic processes that connect the world of physics and the world of chemistry in an emergent multi-level hierarchal interaction [52–54]. The most recent attempts to develop holistic and integrated general theories of fundamental importance can be found in theories of self-organization that emphasize the spontaneous emergence of complex order from local interactions [55,56]. Thus cosmic evolutionary theory may be usefully applied in order to integrate an analysis capable of understanding the futures horizon of technological singularity where we predict an emergent order from the spontaneous local interactions of scientific networks internal to general society [57]. In this evolutionary philosophy human beings (and life and mind in general) can be meaningfully situated within the totality of cosmic processes of a multi-level hierarchal interaction, as opposed to being de-centered by multiple perspectival shifts (i.e., Copernicus, Darwin, Freud) internal to reductionist and fragmented science [58]. For example, in the cosmic evolutionary worldview the astrophysical singularity origin of the universe which gave rise to matter-energy and spacetime is not only an event that can be framed and resolved by quantum cosmology [59], but also an event that can and may need to be connected historically through dynamic processes of change that are giving rise to an emergent global civilization in the 21st Century.

These processes of change can be conceptualized in terms of a chain of rising complexity that generates qualitatively novel regimes of emergent order [61]. This is perhaps a more productive way to understand totality as opposed to classical conceptualization between different epistemological fields of study; or even between different ontologies of nature-culture, materialism-idealism. These regimes of emergent order can in turn be studied structurally from the simple origin of fundamental sub-atomic particles mediated by the forces of nature to the modern world of complex cognitive and social interactions mediated by the forces of ideation [62]. The logical next step would be to understand the nature of the rise of complexity and its ontological ordering consequences in relation to contemporary civilizational dynamics.


In the human symbolic realm this potential aim appears existentially on the ideational horizon in the form of universal ideality (i.e., dreams, fictions) [77]. These dreams or fictions can either represent attractive or repulsive virtuality that exist phenomenologically but do not exist in the actual as observable. In other words the reality of this virtuality is only as a potentiality of consciousness in the sense of a state space with capacities that depend on the finite actual for embodied and embedded motion. For example, for both human individuals and collectives a dream or fiction structures the becoming of process, which can either relate to the individuation of a self-consciousness or the collectivization of a symbolic system. Thus, dreams and fictions in the human world are not merely epiphenomenal but fundamental to the emergent development of our realm. In their most extreme and powerful metaphysical expressions dreams and fictions may be described as future-oriented desires driving repetitive distinctions (divisions) attempting to form higher connections (unities). On the terms of individual self-consciousness this may be conceived of as something like the ‘overman’ (higher self); and on the terms of collective social systems this may be conceived of as something like ‘utopia’ in secular context (higher civilization), and ‘heaven’ in transcendental context (higher being). In all cases we are dealing with the nature of the highest or deepest values, purposes, and meanings as emergent basins of attraction which structure phenomenal historical becoming. This cosmic evolutionary philosophy as foundational worldview could challenge our dominant cosmological conceptions grounded in thermodynamics of an imminent tendency to universal disorder (Figure 5). In this philosophy the immanence of higher orders may be currently absent, existing only as an invisible potentiality internal to and dependent on the actual intensities and qualities of a future qualitative phase transition (Figure 6). Furthermore, these actual intensities and qualities of a future qualitative phase transition could be driven by psychosocial processes that are equally fundamental to lower order reductionist physical models of reality that cannot approach the irreversible temporality of complex ordering phenomenon. Or it could be that reductionist physical models are necessary conceptual structures for the actualization of the next qualitative phase transition. The clear location of this new complex order should be concretely related to basins of attraction of the differentiated distinctions related to human beings (divisions) and the way in which their psychosocial intensities and qualities are coordinated and constrained in integrated connections (unities). In the global technological singularity literature the future divisions are often represented as artificial general intelligences and the future unity is often represented in terms of distributed digital networks [78,79].


We have attempted to build a cosmic evolutionary philosophy and situate within this philosophy the fundamental dynamics of ideational motion on the horizon of universal process. Now we will attempt to situate ideational motion within a higher order theory of consciousness that can approach totality. In this theory of consciousness, we place less emphasis on the physical instantiation of consciousness within a materialist foundation and instead place more emphasis on historically-engaged phenomenal understanding as it relates to a fundamental truth of unified reality. In other words, this analysis is less concerned with whether consciousness is produced by neuronal activity, or by the quantum level of being, or by some other unknown physical mechanism; and is more concerned with the phenomenal activity of psychosocial forces as they relate to the historical search for the truth of reality. In building this theory of consciousness, our analysis will forward a different perspective then most reflections since it will offer an emergentist mental theory, as opposed to a scientific reductionist theory or philosophical transcendentalist theory, seeking to understand totality in terms of its relevance to the meaning of human existence. This approach to totality is different than most contemporary theories because, instead of explaining totality in terms of the mechanics of sub-atomic reality or the eternal absolute, we are explaining totality in terms of general ideational motion engaged in history (like in the analysis of the physics community). Thus, we are interested in a totality capable of helping us understand how frames of reference and their conceptual transformations will be generally effected by scientific epistemology (artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, quantum computation, etc.). In this way, we seek to emphasize the hard work of an emergent unity or integration via collective historical processes of human individuation. Consequently, this theory of consciousness aims to elucidate a central dynamical narrative and value structure of being that is both grounded in cosmic evolution as a universal process (as emphasized in Part 2) and future-oriented towards a meaningful synthetical higher order level of ideational order (as emphasized in Part 3). The first step in constructing a theory of consciousness with relevance to universal history is to situate our understanding within proper historical context. In order to move in this direction, let us first consider the main metaphysical systems of thought that have structured the history of philosophy. These main metaphysical systems of thought will be broadly classified from the Western perspective as ancient, modern, and deconstructionist metaphysics. In this general classification, we can say that ancient metaphysics structured the development of civilization in its predominantly agricultural phase; modern metaphysics structured the development of civilization in its predominantly industrial phase; and deconstructionist metaphysics has structured the development of civilization in its predominantly informational phase. Thus, these metaphysics represent the logical ideational substructure of civilization at different moments in the collective becoming of self-consciousness in universal history. Information 2018, 9, 78 19 of 28 In this analysis, we will pragmatically utilize the dynamical triadic structure of the imaginary-symbolic-real from Section 3 in order to situate our analysis of each major phase of Western civilizational metaphysics. Here, the imaginary as theoretical abstractions, the symbolic as enacted transformations and the real as concrete actualization in its general psychosocial manifestation are applied to different historical conceptions of unity. From all three phases, we can generalize the human mind as situated on the level of the symbolic order because self-consciousness is a narrative construct organized with a symbolic architecture capable of enacting historical transformations. However, what is considered imaginary (i.e., a theoretical abstraction) and real (i.e., a concrete actualization) will fundamentally change in all three major movements of civilization from ancient to modern to deconstructionist:  The ancient metaphysical structure considers as ‘real’ the ‘eternal ideal’ or God, and considers as ‘imaginary’ the ‘physical world’ or nature. Consequently, in ancient metaphysics, we get philosophies built around the ideals of a transcendent supernature that is primary in constituting the physical world and primary in relation to the human mind. Thus, ancient metaphysical systems forward the hypothesis that human beings come from an eternal ideal superspace before birth, return to an ideal superspace after death and are structured-constrained by an ideal superspace during existential (sexual-personal-creative) development.

 The modern metaphysical structure considers as ‘real’ the ‘physical world’ or nature, and considers as ‘imaginary’ the temporality of the ideal.

Consequently, in modern metaphysics, we get philosophies built around the natural world governed by eternal physical laws and ideas that have no ‘transcendental’ reality outside of their constitution in history. Thus, modern metaphysical systems forward the hypothesis that human beings come from nature before birth, return to nature after death, and are structured-constrained by the laws of physics during existential (sexual-personal-creative) development.

 The deconstructionist metaphysical structure considers as ‘real’ the ‘secular power’ structures of society, and considers as ‘imaginary’ the various possible interpretations of the ‘physical world’. Consequently, in deconstructionist metaphysics, we get philosophies built around the negation of social systems that seek to totalize human existence and distort our relation to the natural world. Thus, deconstructionist metaphysical systems forward the hypothesis that human beings come from social systems, return to social systems after death and are structured-constrained by social systems during existential (sexual-personal-creative) development. This broad analysis of metaphysical totality structures aims to situate consciousness as something that is constituted by the symbolic order and constantly re-structuring its transformative state of being in relation to different notions of what is an imaginary theoretical abstraction and what is the most real concrete actualization throughout its collective development in universal history. In the ancient real, we can say that what consciousness developed in relation to was fundamentally the power of the theological and the transcendental. In the modern real, we can say that what consciousness developed in relation to was fundamentally the power of the scientific and the natural. In the deconstructionist real, we can say that what consciousness developed in relation to was fundamentally the power of the social and the self-analytic. Thus, in all systems, we get fundamentally different notions of totality as eternal unity: transcendental ideality, physical laws, or secular power. In ancient metaphysics, totality is already closed and complete in the ideal real of supernature or God of religion; in modern metaphysics, totality is already closed and complete in the material real of natural laws of physics; and in deconstructionist metaphysics, totality is already closed and complete as a multiplicity of systems of social power (all of which represent different relativistic totalities). However, all of these metaphysical systems are unable to account for a totality where conscious reality is constituted by multiple observers becoming in asymmetrical temporal relation to ideal-real attractors independent of a transcendent superspace, physical laws or secular power. In other words, they fail to account for the general imaginary-symbolic-real triad in its own historical motion, which transcends the ancient, modern, and deconstructionist forms. Thus, for a conscious real on the level of universal history visions of totality related to a transcendental superspace, physical laws, or secular power all become a part of the same dynamical and general conscious real structuring the becoming of open and incomplete individuating observers searching for the truth of being in a unified eternal structure. In this way, the most real, or the most concrete actualization, is an absence of ‘something’ that emerges because of and depending on symbolic observers’ enacted transformations in history. This brings us towards a potential to formulate a theory of consciousness that can approach the real in-itself as an absence of something that emerges internal to the realm of symbolic observers. This formulation will attempt to structure a transmodern metaphysics derived from the dynamical motion of the general imaginary-symbolic-real structures (Figure 12). In a transmodern metaphysics, we aim to both synthesize historical forms of totality and approach technological singularity from an individuated perspective as an emergent unity produced as a general consequence of subject-object division. This would potentially allow us to construct a central narrative and value structure of being for consciousness. "


More information

* Article: Cosmic Evolutionary Philosophy and a Dialectical Approach to Technological Singularity. By Cadell Last. Information 2018, 9, 78; doi:10.3390/info9040078