September 14, 2009

From Pre-rational to Meta-rational?

Cognitive Levels of Evolution: From Pre-rational to Meta-rational

By Francis Heylighen

The principle of natural selection is taken as a starting point for an analysis of evolutionary levels. Knowledge and values are conceived as vicarious selectors of actions from a repertoire. The concept of metasystem transition is derived from the law of requisite variety and the principle of hierarchy. It is defined as the increase of variety at the object level, accompanied by the emergence of a situation-dependent control at a metalevel. It produces a new level of evolution, with a much higher capacity for adaptation.

The most important levels are discussed, with an emphasis on the level characterizing man as distinct from the animals. An analysis of the shortcomings of this "rational" system of cognition leads to a first sketch of how the next higher "meta-rational" level would look like.

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