Sketches on time, events, emergence, and methodological thinking

(this is a place saver for me to develop later in the text I’m developing). Working on my manuscript has led me to a number of questions and concepts that intersect in ways that aren’t fully clear to me yet. Emergence sits at the core of this discussion, and the gap between the role and experience of the agent and emergent events generates new problems and avenues. Today, people are questioning again what is firm and unchanging and what is transient as former constants get tossed aside in society’s reorganization. Things like bringing production back to the US, renewed social democracy, the loss of unemployment benefits in some regions, etc., stand as shocking sign posts to many (let alone the disruptions in places like Greece, Turkey, Brazil, etc).

Alongside emergence and problems of action and cognition is the issue of time. The gap between our experience and intervention in the world and the unfolding of events occurs through time, and specifically through change across time. Parallel with emergence, there is a gap in the unfolding of time between the perception and reaction to time by agents and the events themselves. How do agents perceive the continuity of events versus ruptures? Both the seeming immortality of finite processes (say the american standard of living) and the continuity of systems that some perceived to be nearing their end (when capitalism turns crisis into regeneration for example) create mental dissonance with actors navigating their own history.

This is to say our responses to time is often, usually, not in accordance with changes and that changes themselves are mediated in our own agency. The intuitive way of thinking about action and cognition (with it’s starkly demarcated individualization of practical reasoning) distorts the way in which our responses and actions are codetermined in crucial instances by emergent ones. I need a good thought experiment that could lay this out more clearly, but for now it is enough to raise that actions within time and events are not radically open, but bounded sets of possible actions. An account of group agency is necessary to unlock these gaps and give a good analysis of time, events, and emergence.


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