All naturally emergent forms, from electrons to galaxies and from microorganisms to human cultures – all things that can be understood in terms of force and structure – confront the scientific mind with an unresolved question. The laws of physics dictate that in isolated systems, entropy will always grow or remain constant. Simplified: everything that exists in isolation falls apart. I often hear it even further simplified: everything eventually disintegrates, entropy has the final word.
In reality however quite the opposite seems to be happening. When we reason from the Big Bang, then from this beginning matter has evidently structured itself more to constantly increasing degrees – first into atoms, then into molecules, later into living cells, and eventually into this miracle of complexity, the human. And humans keep organizing further into even greater structures: tribes, groups, nations, united continents. This is happening directly against the tide of entropy. The concepts “reality” and “isolated system” do not appear to be compatible.
It is clear that entropy is constantly present – it erodes that which organizes, it causes creatures to die and countries to fall apart. But rather than that entropy is to be taken as a basic principle, it appears to be a secondary phenomenon, dependent on the existence of structures. After all, in a state of complete chaos there would be nothing to disintegrate, and since disintegration is the only meaning of entropy, entropy quite simply exists by virtue of structure. We can thus conclude that the law of entropy is preceded, sustained even, by another law – the tendency of things to exist. This may seem like a simplistic formulation, but it is the disciplined elimination of unnecessary assumptions that enables us such a basic observation.
There is something highly peculiar about the behavior of every atom as well as every living being. Let’s start with the atom. An atom consists of a positively charged core with around it a periphery of negatively charged electrons. The core is held together by nuclear forces, the strongest type of force that is known to man. When such a core splits – when the nuclear force is relieved from its function to keep the aromic core together – the force is released in what we know as nuclear energy. The ”shaking loose” of the nuclear forces in one kilo of uranium is enough to erase an entire city.
The force that holds together the atom appears theoretically irreducible. The same goes for the other forces that hold things together – the electromagnetic and gravitational forces. All these forces are implicit in the definition of the matter to which they belong. We might as well say that the matter belongs to the forces, rather than that the force belongs to the matter. There is no matter without these forces. And since there is no entropy without matter, these forces are a more fundamental reality (“law”) than entropy.
But what is a “force”? There are several kinds. We can exert force on something. One moving object can collide with another moving object and change its course. Such forces are constantly in effect as entropy. I will call this type of force destabilizing force. Such forces are subservient to the forces which are responsible for the stability in the first place. I could name these nuclear-, electromagnetic- and gravitational forces stabilizing forces. I could however also do something radically different.
Instead of understanding such phenomena in terms of forces, I could simply observe that an atom has the tendency to stay in existence. Much force is required to split the atom – to neutralize the atoms tendency to continue existing as itself. Equally, a lot of force is required to neutralize the tendency of a human being to continue existing as itself. We can observe that a human and an atom share this quality: they tend to use all the force they have at their disposal to keep themselves in existence. This tendency thus mobilizes the force. If the tendency wasn’t there, neither the stabilizing nor the destabilizing forces could be observed, or said to exist. We can consequently say that, fundamental to the principle force, there is a principle of a tendency: the tendency of a thing (a force-containing being) to continue existing as itself.
This way of thinking prompts an interpretation of being or the universe as consisting of beings, subjects. Atoms belong to this category as humans do, so when I say subject, I do not necessarily mean a conscious entity, but simply something that behaves on behalf of itself. The structure of a subject is understood as a mechanism whereby substance is assimilated in terms dictated by the character or nature of this subject. This assimilating is an active selecting, a ”valuing”, a value-attributing. This valuing requires a standard, a ground- or fundamental value. This ground value is the “self” of the entity. This ground-value/self is constantly established by a fundamental mechanism that keeps itself in existence by restricting its interactions with the outside world to the type that keeps its selection-standarcd continuous. This consistent selectivity is the ground of the tendency of things to continue existing as themselves.
You will notice the logical circularity that describes the physical/actual circuitry. This pholosophical approach pertains to epistemology as well as to ontology. In ontological terms, the circularity/circuitry is a things tendency to expand itself by appropriating that with which it comes into contact in such away that the integral structure of the thing is mantained or strengthened. This way of observing clarifies why that which exists (matter, beings, things with the tendency to keep themselves together) does persist – because it makes clear that anything that does not have this quality (a mechanism whereby a standard is maintained that keeps this mechanism operative and continuous) can not maintain structural constancy, can not continue to exist, and thus does not actually exist.
This idea has been developed under then name value-ontology. The reason for this is that the concept value, as in valuing/estimating/selecting, describes most accurately what is generally occurring in a context including at once the (sub)atomic, organic and moral-cultural levels. We speak explicitly of value when we indicate that which is important or necessary to us as humans, but we also use the concept of value when we speak of what is required for the existence of an atom (the terms of a scientific formula signify fixed or mutable values). The concept value is fundamental to both exact-scientific as moral-psychological understanding.
The eminence of the concept value is easy to justify, as value is the central concept of conceptual understanding, of language, of logic. It only makes sense that a fundamental conceptual understanding has to be in some level an explication of understanding itself. And all understanding that we have is a construction of different values which have been connected in a certain way (e.g. by grammar, poetry, humor, mathematics). The one who causes these connections on a conceptual level is man, who establishes values and compares them. He does both this establishing and connecting on the basis of a standard, or fundamental value which is nothing more or less than his own deepest nature; the nuclear force or core-tendency of his being.
In this way man gives expression to something that has already been shaping the universe as physics describes from its beginning – the “self-valuing”, the holding-itself-as-standard, the quality of things that enables them to contact other things in terms of themselves-as-ground-value, and the inability to act otherwise.
According to this understanding, existence is in its deepest ground conservative. What it conserves, maintains, is the fundamentally positive valuation of itself. The term “(it)self” refers here directly to this positive valuing.
In the case that this self-valuing is maintained at all cost, we can easily observe that, in a dynamic and changing world, self-valuing conservatism can often exist only as progression. Progressivism is simply an entities inability to hold itself as a ground-value for his future existence without adapting to changing circumstances. For example, an increased knowledge of himself and his environment forces an individual to behave differently if he is to still consider (value) himself as “good” (positive). This is why knowledge is often rejected in the name of some “old good”. This evidently leads to isolation. And an isolated system inevitably falls apart.
What follows is that conservativism (maintaining self-value as standard) and progressivism (creating and embracing of new values) are parts of the same thing. They are facets of the same ground-activity. They are two expressions of the supreme tendency of an entity to continue to exist as this entity. In the progression of time-space the quality of self-preservation is constantly being “naturally selected”, developed and strengthened. This is logically necessary, as everything that does not, or does only to a lesser degree have this quality to persist as itself does not persist, but disintegrates and its raw materials are absorbed by something that does have the quality, or has it to a more powerful degree.
We are thus faced with a paradox. To be able to maintain itself, an entity must adapt. To keep adapting, an entity must maintain itself. Then what does “adapting” mean? It means “interpreting changed circumstances in terms of self-value” or “submitting circumstances to the tendency to exist as an entity”. This mutually transformative process relies on the principle of self-determination, and can be understood as value-creating. This is the only alternative to isolation and disintegration.
The conclusion is liberating: from the beginnings of the the world as we know it up to the present moment, only value-creating natures have persisted. And in the future it will be no different.