Chaos and Order
Full Title.or Meme
The Universe is a constant struggle of order against Chaos.
In The Function of Reason A.N.Whitehead claims that “History discloses two main tendencies in the course of events. One tendency is exemplified in the slow decay of physical nature…The other tendency is exemplified by the yearly renewal of nature in the spring, and by the upward course of biological evolution.” The ‘downward’ tendency is towards increasingly stable states of equilibrium (as exemplidin the Second Law of Thermodynamics), while the ‘upward’ tendency is towards increasing orders of complexity (as exemplied in biologicalforms of life). These tendencies can be found at all levels of being, from the day-to-daycycles of an individual organism to the evolution of the cosmos. Viewed cosmologically, forexample, the current cycle or phase of the universe suggests that the ‘downward’ tendency ismost prominent, but we can expect the upward tendency to have been more prominent in the distant past and to become more prominent again in the future.
The upward tendency is manifest in the active manner in which living things relate to theirenvironments; organisms not only adapt to their environments, they also “have progressivelyundertaken the task of adapting the environment to themselves.” This active transformative aspect of things is the expression of a “three-fold urge: (i) to live, (ii) to live well, (iii) to livebetter.” This three-fold urge is a central feature of the art of life First to be alive, secondly to be alive in a satisfactory way, and thirdly to acquire an increase in satisfaction.” It is here that Reason enters the picture, for the principal “
function of Reason is to promotetheArtofLife
.” Reason accomplishes this by serving as“the self-discipline of the origin ativeelement in history. Apart from the operations of Reason, this element is anarchic.”
- A.N. Whitehead, The Function of Reason (1929; reis., Boston: Beacon Press, 1958) ISBN