Might I suggest that the notion of an "anticipatory" system is of use here?
Rosen made a very careful distinction between "final cause" and teleology in
order that we might have an operative causal notion to use in these situations.
The distinction from teleology is far from trivial. The final cause can be
attributed to those aspects of a system which use an inbuilt "model" of
themselves and their environment to "anticipate" future events by responding at
the moment. These can be quite easily identified in most complex systems. The
example I like is in the glycolytic pathway where an enzyme far down the chain
becomes activated in the presence of the very first substrate in the chain. This
terminology is a paraphrase of Stryer's text.
Alexei Sharov wrote:
> Hi, Luis!
> >OK, I see your point. The problem is that you can always ascribe a "goal" to
> >a dynamic event: e.g. the ball "wants" to reach the bottom of the hill,
> >rather than the ball follows the law of gravity. I prefer to reserve
> >semiotics to systems when one can observe actual symbolic behavior
> >(dynamical incoherence, small set of symbols, etc). I am afraid that if we
> >settle for semiotics as a modeling language that we prefer in some cases
> >(such as goals of enzymes), then we must embrace pan-semiotics because
> >anything following physical law can be described semiotically -- as much as
> >we can ascribe spirits to anything. Therefore, I restrict semiotic models to
> >systems that possess actual symbol systems, not just some kind of sign
> Yes, we ascribe goals to events, but there is also a method to test if our
> understanding of system's goal corresponds to its actual internal goal
> (which is not observable directly). First, this goal should be beneficial for
> the system, i.e., it should increase its chances to survive and reproduce.
> Your ball example does not fit this criterion. Second, a system should be
> able to modify its behavior in order to reach the goal. If we put a ball in a
> small hole on the slope, will it be able to jump out and continue its fall?
> Of course it is easier to simply separate systems into symbolic and
> non-symbolic based on our intuition. But this approach does not help us to
> understand the origin of symbols.
> The idea that enzymes have goals does not lead to a pan-semiotic view.
> Each enzyme is an element of a self-reproducing system that includes the
> gene that codes this enzyme. Enzyme functions (goals) increase the rate of
> self-reproduction within a community of other genes in a cell. Many enzymes
> are able to change their function in response to environmental changes, and
> these changes are often adaptive. Enzymes have several discrete conformation
> states that can be viewed as a primitive "code".
> So, there is a big difference between balls and enzymes, and a much smaller
> difference between enzymes and organisms.
> Alexei Sharov Research Scientist
> Dept. of Entomology, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061
> Tel. (540) 231-7316; FAX (540) 231-9131; e-mail email@example.com
> Home page: http://www.ento.vt.edu/~sharov/alexei.html
> Posting to firstname.lastname@example.org from Alexei Sharov <email@example.com>
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