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. A recent theory utilizing concepts from physics and neurophysiology proposes that God can be conceptualized within the theory of integrative levels.[1]

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.


  1. ^ Nikoletseas, Michael M. (2014). Deus Absconditus – The Hidden God. ISBN 978-1495336225.


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