Integrative level

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An integrative level, or level of organization, is a set of phenomena emerging on pre-existing phenomena of lower level. Typical examples include life emerging on non-living substances, and consciousness emerging on nervous systems.

The main levels usually acknowledged are those of matter, life, mind, and society. These are called strata in Nicolai Hartmann's ontology. They can be further analyzed into more specific layers, such as those of particles, atoms, molecules, and rocks forming the material stratum, or those of cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems forming the life stratum.

The sequence of levels is often described as one of increasing complexity, although it is not clear whether this is always true: for example, parasitism emerges on pre-existing organisms, although parasites are often simpler than their originating forms.

Integrative levels are discussed variously in the work of many philosophers, although few have dealt with this notion in a systematic way; among them are Samuel Alexander, Alfred North Whitehead, Conwy Lloyd Morgan, George Conger, John G. Bennett, Ervin Laszlo, Joseph Needham, James K. Feibleman, Nicolai Hartmann, James Grier Miller, Ken Wilber, and Roberto Poli. Ideas connected to levels can be found in the works of both materialist philosophers, like Friedrich Engels, and anti-materialist ones, like Henri Bergson.

Integrative levels, or the disciplines focusing on them, form the main classes of several knowledge organization systems, including Roget's Thesaurus, the Bliss bibliographic classification, the Colon classification, and the Information coding classification. Their use as the basis of a general classification of phenomena has been especially studied by Douglas Foskett for the Classification Research Group, and by the Integrative Levels Classification project.

References[edit]

  • Alexander S., Space, time and deity, London, 1920
  • Blitz D., Emergent evolution: qualitative novelty and the levels of reality, Kluwer, 1992
  • Conger G.P., The doctrine of levels, Journal of philosophy, 22: 1925, 12, p. 309-321
  • Feibleman James K., Theory of integrative levels, British journal for the philosophy of science, 5: 1954, 17, p. 59-66
  • Foskett D.J., The theory of integrative levels and its relevance to the design of information systems, Aslib proceedings, 30: 1978, 6, p. 202-208
  • Hartmann N., Die Aufbau der realen Welt: Grundriss der allgemeinen Kategorienlehre, De Gruyter, 1940
  • Hartmann N., New ways of ontology, Greenwood Press, 1952
  • Morgan C.L., Emergent evolution, Williams and Norgate, London 1923
  • Needham J., Integrative levels: a revaluation of the idea of progress, in Time: the refreshing river: essays and addresses, 1932-1942, Allen and Unwin, London 1943, p. 233-272
  • Novikoff A.B., The concept of integrative levels and biology, Science, 101: 1945, p. 209-215
  • Pettersson M., Complexity and evolution, Cambridge University Press, 1996
  • Poli R., Levels, Axiomathes, 9: 1998, 1-2. p. 197-211
  • Poli R., The basic problem of the theory of levels of reality, Axiomathes, 12: 2001, 3-4, p. 261-283