A New Approach to The Logical Theory of Living Systems

(Vortragsnotiz Chicago 1972, unveröff. Manuskript)*1)
Gotthard Günther
Let us begin with a mental experiment. We will assume a universe consisting of nothing but sounds, and a consciousness which is only aware of sounds and incapable of being aware of anything else, because there is nothing else in existence. This sound world we shall call a contexture, and the awareness of it a system of contexturality. A life existing in such a world might be a sequence of beautiful melodies interrupted by shrill dissonances. The concatenations of sounds which we call melodies we will name single contexts in contrast to the all-enveloping contexture of sound in general. The strange thing is that a conscious life existing in this world would paradoxically never know what ´sound´ is because there would be nothing it could compare with sound. And we know things only by their differences from other things. Now let us assume another world which consists only of tastes like sweet, sour, bitter etc. and a consciousness whose life would exhaust itself completely in the awareness of different tastes. Again we could not explain to a consciousness living in this taste world what ´taste´ is because taste is everything it knows. And these two worlds could not know anything of each other; a consciousness of mere tastes could never conceive what sound is, nor could a consciousness of nothing but sound understand if we talk to it about taste. Both are imprisoned in their respective contexturalities. Let us call these simple one-dimensional worlds elementary contextures.
However, there may be an creature that knows both taste and sound and can compare them from the vantage point of what we may call a compound contexture that comprises taste and sound. This creature would also have its world which for itself is an elementary contexture from which it cannot escape and outside which it cannot conceive anything in rational terms. In other words: what would be a compound contexture relative to taste or sound would be an elementary contexture relative to a level of consciousness that can compare isolated sound and taste within a more complex sound-taste world.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the distinction between elementary contexture and compound contexture is relative. And since we know from biological experience in the animal and human world that it is a place where we encounter organisms of ever increasing complexities capable of supporting systems of consciousness of steadily growing scope of awareness, we may say that the contextures we have been speaking of form a hierarchy such that every given contexture will be a compound contexture relative to the contextures below it but an elementary contexture relative to those above it.
We shall now ask which is the contexture of greatest reach that the human consciousness can encompass. It is designated by the ontological term of Being-in-general. To be or not to be, that is the basic question - which means that nothing outside of Being or beyond it is conceivable to us. And exactly like the consciousness which lived in a world of mere sound and could therefore never conceive what a sound is, we do not know what Being is and how it ever came about, since there is nothing we can compare it with. The world in which we live is to us an elementary contexture because all the variegated properties of individual contexts are held in this encompassing universal contexture of Being-in-general. Nevertheless there is something excluded from it, namely a consciousness which conceives the totality of this world of objective Being which appears in our judgment as an elementary contexture.
This, of course, raises the question: where does this seemingly ultimate consciousness originate that conceives the existing world as a whole? The classic tradition of philosophy has an answer for it and so have the great world religions. Permit me to remind you of the answer as it is given in Plato´s Dialogue Phaidon. Socrates has been condemned to death and explains to his friends who are keeping him company during his last hours that he is not afraid to die, for the human soul which is the ultimate subject of cognizance is nothing but a temporary guest in this world. It enters this vale of tears at the time of birth and leaves the world again when the body dies. There is - so religious belief insists - outside of the total contexture of this empirical universe an unconceivable and unfathomable Beyond which is the home of the soul and of Life Eternal. The nature of this realm is not comprehensible in rational terms and only the longing for a better and higher world can reach out to it.
This, of course, is mere mythology for the scientist and rational thinker, although it is a beautiful one. But there is a tiny rational core in it which we shall now divest of its irrational adornments provided by our emotions. It is the age-old wisdom that Life is an phenomenon which is - as we shall call if - trans-- or discontextural. It always transcends that which is objectively given. It is the basic difference between inanimate and merely objective systems on one side, and of living, subjectivity-endowed entities on the other side, that the first category, namely that of inanimate objects can always be described in the logical terms of an elementary contexturality; whereas living systems remain basically discontextural. It is an object; but it is also something utterly and inconceivably different from an object. There is no way to describe it as a contextural unit of thing-ness. We might say: it is a composition of different realms of merely potential objectivity where the actual objectivity of a specific domain may exclude the actualisation of another domain. The objectivity of - let us say - our human flesh and blood belongs to a different contexture than the subjectivity of the thoughts and concepts which our living awareness produces. And yet, what we perceive a mere subjectivity may be objective in a contexture of a higher order. Thus subject and object - although mutually discontextural - may belong to one and the same poly-contextural world. But the old distinction between body and soul is only a very crude example of the discontexturalities that pervade a living system. An organism is always a compound of a multitude of single contextures that are discontextural relative to each other. The functioning of the neurons of our brain belongs to a different contexture from that of the chemical processes inherent in our blood circulation. And these again are contexturally different from the mechanical activities of our muscles.
These general remarks should be sufficient to give a first, although a very vague thinking of what is meant by the terms contexture and contexturality. In order to be somewhat more precise let us now turn to a formal logical definition of contexture. A contexture is a logical domain which may be exhaustively described by the laws of two-valued logic. However, the application of these laws must be conducted in such general terms that the law of the Excluded Middle does not find a restrict