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Structure and Dynamics

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Reasons vs. Causes: Emergence as experienced by the human agent


Because they are in constant interaction with each other, human beings are often agents within emergent collective processes. Although they are then acting as particles in a field-type phenomenon, their awareness of what they are part of entails that they hold views about why they’re acting the way they do, these, they call “reasons.”

Should physicists dismiss such “reasons” as being illusory causes of events? “Reasons” are actually important explanatory factors of emergent phenomena involving human beings. Awakening and then responding to a catastrophic process will often signal a bifurcation in the physical emergent process. Coordinated behavior can interrupt a positive feedback by generating a counteracting negative feedback.

“Natural” laws were called after “legal” laws; in return, compliance to legal laws by human agents allows their behavior to appear organized, as if by a “natural” law. “Following a rule” conflates the logic of “causes” with that of “reasons” as it connects in phase space the “cause” at the origin (efficient cause) and the “reason” (final cause), the goal that is a representation of the end.

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