Using systems theory to do philosophy: One approach, and some suggested terminology.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis employs perspectives inspired by General Systems Theory to address issues in philosophy, including moral philosophy and philosophy of mind. I present an overview of a range of ideas from the study of physical systems that may be used to provide a firm physicalist foundation to explorations of some common questions in philosophy. I divide these topics into three categories: the Physical Category, the Relevance Category and the Signal Elements Category. I interpret concepts from General Systems Theory, including information and entropy, in a way that I believe facilitates their incorporation into philosophical discussion. I also explain various points arising from General Systems Theory, such as order and disorder, stability, complexity, and self-organisation, and show how ideas from these areas can be applied to certain philosophical problems. I explain relevance in terms of stability, in order to link these scientific perspectives to questions in moral philosophy. I suggest a possible physical foundation for a theory of morality, which takes the form of a variety of Utilitarianism, intended to balance the competing needs of open systems to manage entropy. Such a theory of morality must be capable of dealing with limitations arising from the physicality of information; I propose game theory as a solution to this problem. This thesis also covers issues connected to the above points regarding the nature of consciousness and communication. In particular, I examine the role of linguistic associations in consciousness; and some related features of language and other non-linear representational schemes.
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