I. Causality and Emergence

Cause of Emergence or Emergence of Cause?

Irina Dobronravova

In order to discuss the problem of causality in connection with the problem of emergence, we have to define emergence. If we talk about the emergence of new integrity in synergetics. We have to regard unity through diversity as a process.

Emergence could be a process of self-organisation in the sense of the becoming of a new whole, making its parts the elements of we non-linear medium (the becoming of the parameter of order). It could be the dynamically stable periodical reproduction process of the self-organised, self-sustained whole (the movement of the parameter of order along the limit cycle). It could be the transition of the parameter of order to chaotic behaviour.

Altogether these above-mentioned phases of the evolution of a complex system create unity through diversity by themselves, because of the different features of this process in its different phases. Let me remind you that a system in a bifurcation point has a high sensitivity to small accidental influences, which can define its further destiny. Nonetheless, in the next phase much more intensive disturbance cannot destroy the dynamically stable existence of the self-organised system.

At me same time, though a choice in a bifurcation point is a choice by chance, it is a choice between two certain possibilities (there is a set of a few certain possibilities for the critical point in general). These possibilities are defined by attractors of the non-linear medium. And, just an appearance of such choice is by itself a sign of the integrity of the medium in which self-organisation takes place. This choice emerges together with the emergence of the parameter of order and only for the functioning of this parameter.

Prigogine spoke of so-called "long range order" (Prigogine, 1980) that characterises long-scale fluctuations. These are not small fluctuations that can be understood as derivations from average values of the microscopic characteristics of the medium's elements, which are destro

yed by collisions between near-by neighbours in their chaotic movement, that provide respective macroscopic parameters of the previous state, described by the thermodynamic curve until the critical bifurcation point emerges. We do not at all find the average values in the critical point; there are only two possible variants of coherent movement of the elements, corresponding to different values of the becoming parameter of order.


Thus, integrity is an immanent feature not only of self-organised systems, which are developing and becoming as a result of the historical choice between the two possible variants of coherent movement of the elements of the non-linear medium. The emergence of a set of possibilities for becoming parameter of order, is a sign of integrity in a synergetic way.

So, integrity and the presence of alternatives do not exclude, but pie-suggest each other. This is far-more evident for mediums in which both variants of choice can coexist. For each element of a medium only one choice is carried out (one of vortexes, for the molecule, the choice for one political parties for the citizen), but all possible variants can be realised in the entire medium. It is important that not any possibilities exist in a non-linear medium, but strictly certain ones, and just thismeans the emergence of integrity.

Such an understanding of integrity associates a similar understanding of integrity of a quantum mechanical system. In both cases we can theoretically reconstruct the set of possibilities that characterises the system as a whole. In both cases the possibilities appear themselves in further measurements or in further realisation of the non-linear dynamic. In both cases we are dealing with choice by chance. However, in quantum mechanics the choices are limited by statistical laws, where as in synergetic events choice exists besides regularities, defining the choice between them.

The meaning of integrity, characterised by the presence of the parameter of order, is preserved during all phases of the self-organisation processes. Even after the transition of the parameter of order to chaotic behaviour, you will find the. parameter of order. (Haken 2000) It will continue to define the coherent movement of many elements of the medium, although on the surface of being we can watch the destroying of previously integrative structures.

So the initial point of emergence of novelty is the emergence of the medium's integrity. It appears as an emergence of a set of possibilities for further choice by long-scale fluctuations. Prigogine called such fluctuations the cause of new order (Prigogine 1980). Then it is naturally to understand the previous state of the nonlinear medium in the critical (bifurcation) point as the situation of the formation of causes,

It can be understood in Hegelian terms of cause formation from the second part the "Science of Logic". Then choice by chance in the bifurcation point defines "real necessity", which "contains the chance" of the previous choice. So the choice


precedes the emergence of efficient cause. Non-linearity by itself can be considered as a ground of self-organisation and the critical value of the control parameter as its condition (Dobronravova 1997). Both ground and conditions determine the emergence of fluctuations as efficient causes of the becoming of the new wholes. For Hegel, the substance plays a role of cause so far as it has the power to "generate the action, the reality". (Hegel 1974:180)

Such an understanding gives us the opportunity of avoiding a paradoxical look at events, like considering a cry in the mountains as the cause of an avalanche. The emergence of a non-linear state of snow or stones as a ground of formation of the efficient cause of an avalanche provides accidental events, like a cry, with the meaning of a critical condition of choice by chance of the cause and the effect

It is strange to say that such a consideration fully corresponds with the understanding of efficient cause in classical physics, i.e. physics of Galileo and Newton. As is known, they only regard the cause for a change of movement and consider force as this cause. To change the state of mechanical movement power is needed. We have a similar situation in non-linear studies: to produce new structures we need power: a flood of energy that comes into the medium or is produced by it.

The problem of causality in synergetics can also be discussed in Aristotelian terms by using all the types of causes offered by Aristotle. Kurdumov (Kurdumov 1994) considers the attractors of non-linear dynamics as a sort of final cause. Material cause is evidentially corresponding to the far-from-equilibrium state that is typical for a non-linear medium and that comes along with streams of energy and entropy throughput in the open system. And formal cause can be adequately understood in the context of regarding all kinds of causes. The cry in the mountains can be regarded as the formal cause of the avalanche, if we take in account material and final causes. Then the efficient cause will be the result of the combined action of all other causes.

Despite the way of interpretation, shifting attention from cause of emergence to emergence of cause, we can avoid the consideration of the situation of bifurcation as an effect of the previous state. The previous state to bifurcation point is not a critical state yet and for the first bifurcation it is not even a non-linear one, so it cannot play the role of a cause to appearance of bifurcation. Klaus Brunner and Bert Klauninger (see their contribution in this book) have shown that attempts of regarding the previous state to bifurcation as its cause lead to a weak version of determinism. In my opinion a bifurcation point has to be considered as a point of the formation of causes. Here the system makes a random choice between two


equally probable solutions. It is the fluctuation, which "selects" one of two solutions of equations possible at a certain critical parameter value (condition), that can be understood as the cause, whose action is the formation of a coherent structure, i.e. the choice by the system of a certain evolutionary pathway. Hence the situation, where the choice may be both possible and random, is prior to the formation of the cause.

In dynamic chaos each step of the non-linear dynamic is connected with a critical point. Concerning the emergence of fractals in the area of the concurrence of different attractors, I am not sure if we can positively refer to Hegel or Aristotle in order to achieve a right formulation of the causality problem.

The determination of each step of non-linear dynamics with the help of iteration formulas in non-linear studies does not provide the possibility of long-term prediction due to the influences of small differences in parameter values (these differences already exist at least because of quantum fluctuations). However, the importance of Mandelbrot sets is general enough, so that the definiteness of possible variants of complex structures requests a comprehension, but may be it should not be obviously done in terms of causality.


Dobronravova, L (1997) Dialectic as a Means for Understanding Nonlinear Science, In: Dialectic, Cosmos, and Society, No. 10 (1997), pp. 7-15.

Haken, H. (2000) The Main Notions of Synergetics (Synergetic Paradigme). Moscow. Progress -Tradition. pp.28-56.

Hegel, G.W. F. (1974) Wissenshaft der Logik. Berlin. Academic

Kurdumov S.P./ Knyazeva E.N. Laws of Evolution and Self-Organisation of Complex Systems. Moscow. Nauka.

Prigogine, I. (1980) From Being to Becoming. San Francisco. W.H.Freeman and Company.


Dobronravova I. Cause of Emergence or Emergence of Cause?//Causality, Emergence, Self-Organisation. - M., 2003. - P.19-22.