Philosophical Assumptions about Evolution in a Nutshell

[From my writing project on Big History, some philosophical assumptions about evolution and our current choices as a species in the ‘Human Age’/Anthropocene.]

Philosophical Assumptions in a Nutshell


The Origin, the moment of the universe’s creation lies both in time, in some unimaginably distant past, and in this very instant, this timeless now. And we are it.

Evolution is a spontaneous, self-organizing, self-transforming, self-transcending process of the universe that can be perhaps usefully divided into the succession of Matter (or cosmos), Life (or Earth) and Mind (or humanity).

Evolution evolves. (This is also known as ‘emergence’). Successive new levels open up new and higher dimensions and ‘laws’ or ‘codes’ of reality that both incorporate and transcend previous levels.

As evolution and history, time is accelerating. (Yet: no time without Timelessness).

As evolution and history, space is complexifying and differentiating. (Yet: no forms without Emptiness).

Evolution and history have a general direction or trajectory, but no purpose or end or ‘pinnacle’.

The general trajectory of evolution is increasing complexification, differentiation, universalisation, consciousness, autonomous interdependence.

Evolution is neither linear nor uni-linear. It is spiralling, meandering, multi-linear, sometimes regressive, yet also converging on a general trajectory.

Evolution evolves from sentient Matter and conscious-feeling Life to history and reflective Mind.

Evolution and history can be arbitrarily but perhaps usefully divided into Nine Great Waves from Atom to Postmodern Mind (Matter: Atom, Star, Planet; Life: Cell, Organism, Ecosphere; Mind: Premodern, Modern, Postmodern).

In evolution the later development is contained as a potential in the earlier.

In evolution the later development is on balance more complex and differentiated and relatively ‘free’ or autonomous than the earlier, not ‘better’.

The more complex-differentiated later development usually incorporates and transforms the earlier and is in that sense ‘higher’, ‘deeper’ and relatively more ‘free’ or autonomous, but not ‘better’.

In a ‘dominator hierarchy’, a later development attempts not to dialogically incorporate, transform and transcend, but rather to monologically suppress and dominate an earlier development (often seeing itself as ‘better’); this attempt always causes great suffering to both developments.

Paradoxically, every complexification-differentiation, especially in the realm of Mind, may both open a new dimension and also involve a de-differentiation or simplification. Thus every innovation may involve a significant loss, every ascent a descent.

The 5:95 ‘tip of the iceberg’ rule. The more complex/differentiated higher development often exists in a much smaller ratio compared to the earlier less complex/differentiated (5:95%, 10:90%).

The earlier often then becomes the later development’s often unconscious ‘base’, ‘foundation’, ‘infrastructure’, ‘life support system’, ‘unconscious’.

Matter: 5% visible matter to 95% ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’. Life: 5% visible species to 95% invisible/bacterial species, 5% mammals to 95% non-mammal animals, 10% human genes to 90% bacterial genes in the human genome. Mind: 5% verbal content to 95% non-verbal content in human communication.

The higher-later, more differentiated development is more vulnerable to dissociation, pathology and extinction than the more fundamental lower-earlier.

Any extinction of the lower-earlier development destroys the higher-later (but not vice versa).

Destructions and extinctions are evolution’s means of self-organizational innovation, overcoming stagnant stabilities.

Every evolutionary entity is a part-whole (‘holon’), i.e. both a whole made of incorporated lower parts and itself a lower incorporated part of another higher whole.

Each holon is also interdependent within complex horizontal webs of other holons (‘systems’).

This whole vertical-horizontal structure of nested part-wholes or ‘holons’ can be called a ‘holarchy’.

This universal holarchy or holarchical universe has no end or beginning, no ‘top pinnacle’ or ‘rock bottom ’, no final ‘foundation’ or ‘ultimate’. It stretches infinitely and eternally ‘up’ and ‘down’. (This proposition is also known as ‘turtles all the way down, and up.’)

This way of interpreting the universe and evolution is thus neither atomism not holism, neither modern reductionism nor premodern spiritualism, but rather postmodern ‘integral thinking’ synthesising science and transcultural spirituality.

Paradoxically, all stages or waves of evolution in the universal holarchy are equidistant from, and expressions of, the Origin.

Origin, Mind

Origin is not a ‘point’ or ‘event’ in time or space, and thus beyond beginning/end, birth/death. Origin is the Non-Dual and Unconditioned.

Origin is thus paradoxically both inexpressible and everyday mind/Original Mind. Origin is also known both as Tao, the Non-Dual, Godhead, and as enlightenment, unknowing, ‘nirvana’, ‘original nature’.

Cosmos (Matter) is simple, Mind is complex. Emerging from cosmos, Mind integrates cosmos.

External complexity/differentiation is internal complexity/differentiation (‘as without, so within’), two sides of the same coin.

Evolution is thus also a process of increasing interiority of feeling and consciousness, of Mind.

Mind is not a material, measurable entity but rather meaning-making emerging from, integrating and transcending Life and Matter.

Mind is the material-biological brain’s ‘emergent’, the most complex-differentiated known entity in the universe.

Self-reflecting Mind is the universe becoming conscious of itself, self-reflecting itself. Knower (‘inside’) and known (‘outside’) are not separate but rather unified pattern-in-process. You are it.

Mind as meaning-making is not the realm of science and quantification but of the arts, humanities and interpretation (hermeneutics), of contemplation.

The Anthropocene Choice

The universal trajectory is from evolutionary self-organisation of Matter and Life to historical self-organisation and self-management of Mind and society on a universal, global scale.

The current choice before Mind in evolution is that between business-as-usual in an unconscious, oligarchical and technocratic Anthropocene (‘posthumanism, ‘dataism’, man-machine merger) or else a conscious and participatory Anthropocene.

This is a choice between blind business-as-usual and civilizational breakdown and destruction or democratic transformation and breakthrough: an evolutionary leap to conscious global self-organisation and One World consciousness.

The globally participatory Anthropocene of One World does not technocratically or ‘post-humanly’ deny and dominate biological evolution and the important living legacies of the premodern and modern.

Rather One World consciousness seeks to integrate into the postmodern both the humility of ecological awareness and biological embeddedness and all the best of the premodern and modern, of science and transcultural spirituality.


An integral perspective seeks to move from either/or to both/and, from polarisation to complementarity.

Both science and the arts/human sciences are needed to make sense of evolution, history and our current crisis point.

Science and the arts/human sciences (including history) operate according to different but complementary methodologies, the ‘scientific method’ and ‘hermeneutics’.

The scientific method is based on empirical measurement of aspects of reality seen externally as surface objects without interiority or depth (‘facts’). Hermeneutics is based on intersubjective meaning-making and interpretation of aspects of reality seen as qualities, interiorities, values (‘meanings’).

Both scientific method and hermeneutic practice are in essence anti-dogmatic, anti-authoritarian, democratic.

While hermeneutics is no science and can make no validity claims based on quantification, experimental evidence and falsification, its validity claims are based on the intersubjective negotiation and shifting consensus of educated peers, as are a great part of the validity claims of science.

Neither science nor hermeneutics can be reduced to the other. To reduce the field of science to hermeneutics would be the ‘anything goes’ of subjectivist relativism or nihilism, while to reduce the field of hermeneutics to science would be the ‘Gradgrind facticity’ of reductionist scientism and positivism.

Science deals in information (data) and external-causal understanding. Hermeneutics deals in internal-acausal understanding (meaning), knowledge and wisdom.

Hermeneutics is a ‘higher-deeper’ level of Mind: interpretation can incorporate scientific information, while scientific information (data) cannot incorporate interpretation as a dialogic, intersubjective practice. While there can be an interpretative history of science, there can be no science of history or interpretation.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on August 8, 2018.

5 Responses to “Philosophical Assumptions about Evolution in a Nutshell”

  1. Lots to digest Peter, wonderful stuff.

  2. Hey Dave, really good to hear from ya, comrade. How’s it bitin’ in Montana? Heat and fires changing any public conversations maybe?

  3. Just beautiful Peter…all of it…

    “Rather One World consciousness seeks to integrate into the postmodern both the humility of ecological awareness and biological embeddedness and all the best of the premodern and modern, of science and transcultural spirituality.”

    So, balance, right?…now/how to get there…i’m still hoping climate change could be the catalyst…

  4. Thanx Kristi. Yep, climate chaos, still hoping too…Have you read Naomi Klein’s latest ‘No is Not Enough’? Arundhati Roy calls it ‘an ordinary person’s guide to hope. Read this book’, Chomsky: ‘urgent, timely, necessary’, Varoufakis: ‘a manual for emancipation.’ Lotsa good stuff in there from her democratic eco-socialist perspective…

  5. no, i haven’t read that one…read “this changes everything” tho…i’ll have to check it out…!

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