Chapter 7: Features of Serial Meaning
It was noted earlier that phenomena appearing to be constrained in some ways and unconstrained in others are compounds of purely connective and purely architective interactions, which have no features in common. The examples of serial meaning demonstrate that purely connective and architective interactions also have no serial meanings in common. Just as a phenomenon can be analyzed into component interactions that are either purely connective or purely architective, so too its serial meanings can be analyzed into those that are either purely connective or purely architective.
Different interactions of the same mode may share serial meanings, and an interaction of one mode may display several serial meanings of that mode, since these are often interdependent, as for example, the serial meaning of precise enumeration is dependent on the serial meanings of identity and separation. But interactions of different modes share no serial meanings.
In a compound phenomenon, one that is a mixture of connective and architective interactions, serial meanings may continue across adjoining interactions when they are of the same mode, but when the interactions are of different modes there can be no continuity of serial meaning because the different modes have no serial meanings in common. A birdbath's bowl at the top of its post continues the post's serial meaning of stasis but that serial meaning does not extend to any (liquid) water filling the bath. In a compound phenomenon, serial meanings are necessarily interrupted at junctions between interactions of different modes even though the interactions may be contiguous.
There is a significant consequence to this. Since the connective and architective modes have no serial meanings in common, serial meanings in one mode are meaningless in the context of the other, indeed not even recognizable as having meaning. To a (connective) wave or flood of water, for example, the (architective) distinction between a chair and a table that it sweeps along is lost. For a compound phenomenon, the serial meanings in components of one mode are meaningless in components of the other.
Even though serial meanings in one mode are meaningless in the context of the other, interactions in one mode can have consequences for interactions in the other, especially within a compound phenomenon. For example, a table swept along in a flood may well get hooked (architectively) to objects protruding from the riverbank and thereby alter the (connective) flow of the water, while why or how the table got hooked would be meaningless from the point of view of the water (since water can never get hooked).
Narratives of Serial Meaning
When a serial meaning continues across adjoining interactions of a compound phenomenon, as can happen when the interactions are of the same mode, I call it a serial narrative.
Though a serial narrative is interrupted when the adjoining interactions are of different modes, it may pick up from where it left off when a previously interrupted mode is resumed. Narratives can continue across interruptions - and do so apparently seamlessly - since in context of their own mode nothing meaningful happened during their interruption.
A narrative runs in its own mode only, but a compound phenomenon may have narratives running in both modes and skip between them as it skips between modes, with the narrative in each mode appearing seamless in its own mode while being meaningless - not even recognizable as being a narrative - in the other.
A disjunctive event may occur during an interruption to divert the course of a narrative or prevent its resumption. Such an event would appear inexplicable in the narrative's own context because whatever occurred during its interruption would be meaningless to it. In the narrative's mode, the event arises randomly, without reason. Of course, a disjunctive event may also occur while in its own mode which might not be so mystifying.
Fields of Serial Meaning
The serial meanings and narratives at different levels of an architecture can be very different. Objects emerging at higher levels have properties of their own, different to those of their constituent objects, and may interact using these properties in completely novel ways, displaying serial meanings completely different to those of their lower levels.
The serial meanings at the new level need not even be of the same mode, for as an object in its own right, the new object may engage in either mode of interaction depending on the environment it finds itself in. A carbon dioxide molecule, for example, may behave connectively in a gas with other carbon dioxide molecules even though it is an architective bond of carbon and oxygen atoms; or it could bond with the other carbon dioxide molecules into crystals of dry ice if the temperature was low enough.
Thus with each new level in an architecture a new field of serial meaning may emerge, in which the novel object engages in novel interactions with novel serial meanings. The new objects can be sequenced and arranged in novel ways, in which completely novel patterns can arise - both connective and architective - and in which novel games can be played.
As atoms emerge from nuclear aggregations, so the field of chemistry becomes available to them, which was not available to their component nucleons. Atoms can aggregate chemically in different ways to form different kinds of molecules, while the atoms' component nucleons - their protons, neutrons and electrons - had only the sub-atomic (non chemical) field of serial meaning to play in. Biology with its many fields of meaning emerge in turn from the aggregations of different kinds of molecules. 3D vision and its fields emerge from the biology of eyes and brains, while art and its playful fields emerge from vision, and so on. Interactions at the level of art have different serial meanings to those at the level of vision, while interactions at the level of vision have different serial meanings to interactions at the level of biology, and so on.
We can see fields of meaning in a connective sense as well. Though my eyes are only sensitive to a limited range of frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum, they let me "see" the objective environment in which I live - the trees, birds, houses and streets of my neighbourhood. Objects in that environment may be moving at frequencies both slower or faster than the range of electromagnetic frequencies my eyes are sensitive to, for example, as trees sway slowly in the wind, thereby opening to me another frequency and field of connective serial meaning.
Architectures aggregating along different paths will accumulate different fields of meaning, as new and diverse fields emerge with each level of aggregation. Nowhere is this more evident than in the diversity of fields following from different DNA molecules. However, not all the fields of meaning an aggregate accumulates are accessible to all its levels - the fields of meaning available at each level may not include those from its lower or higher levels.
The Organization of Serial Meaning
We have seen how objects at higher levels of an architecture control objects in their lower levels. The serial meanings in a higher architective level will also govern the serial meanings in its lower levels, not in the manner of control, but so as to maintain the integrity of the serial meanings at the higher level. Higher levels of an architecture have a semantic priority over their lower levels. Art may emerge from biological vision but the serial meanings in a work of art govern the serial meanings in the vision that beholds it. It is the art that directs the eye to the picture. I say that the serial meanings of higher levels in an architecture organize the serial meanings in their lower levels (and that serial narratives in the higher levels of an architecture organize the narratives in its lower levels) so as to maintain the integrity of the serial meanings at the higher levels.
(Michael Polanyi's "Life's Irreducible Structure" ## offers vivid examples of the hierarchical organization of meaning.)
Serial meaning in an architecture is thus layered in levels of organization in the same way that its objects are layered in levels of control. Both control and organization in an architecture occur in a top down direction. The lower levels may have created the higher levels but they neither control them nor organize their serial meaning.
While the objects in a higher level emerge from interactions in the level below, the serial meanings in the higher level do not emerge from the serial meanings in the level below. Rather, the serial meanings in the higher level spring from the novel capacities and interactions of the objects in that higher level. As has been pointed out, serial meanings in different levels of an architecture may even be of different modes.
Organization also differs from control in that the termination of a narrative at a lower level need not affect a narrative at a higher level, while disruption of objects in a lower level will disrupt the objects above them. A dynasty can continue after the death of a particular ruler, for example. Contrarily, termination of a higher level narrative would very likely affect lower level narratives, while disruption of a higher level object does not necessitate disruptions in the levels below.
Like control, organization occurs only between levels of an architecture, so the organization of serial meaning is not a feature of connectives. While serial meanings and narratives may be found in both connective and architective phenomena, the organization of serial meaning is a feature of architectures only. We should also note that it is only the architective serial meanings in an architecture that are organized by the serial meaning in their higher levels; connective serial meanings at lower levels are only organized to the extent that they are contained by elements of the architecture.
Purely connective phenomena feature neither emergence, hierarchical control of interactions nor organization of serial meaning. Intersecting serial meanings in a purely connective context overlay each other proportionately without organizing each other. Two radio programs broadcast at the same frequency will be garbled. It could be argued that the modulation of one wave by another of a different frequency so as to carry a signal is a connective organization of serial meaning. However, such modulation is an interference of the participating waves since the signal carries the serial meanings of all its contributing waves rather than having one serial meaning override any other. Each contributing serial meaning could subsequently be extracted from the modulated wave by using suitable filters, whereas once a serial meaning has been organized by higher levels of an architecture some of the original lower level serial meaning may not be recovered.
Interestingly, it could happen that an interference of waves or connectives serendipitously constellates into a meaningful signal or pattern that none of the contributing waves or connectives carry, resulting in a new serial meaning that is neither modulated nor organized.
In conjunction with their ability to code, store and copy information with fidelity, this capacity of an architecture to create higher levels having novel serial meanings which then organize their lower level meanings, facilitates them developing into self-sustaining, self-organizing functional structures such as living organisms. The fact that serial meanings in higher levels of an architecture do not emerge from the serial meanings in the levels below but appear spontaneously according to their novel properties and the environments they find themselves in, suggests that life could have emerged from matter, not simply as a series of complexifications, but as a result of novel and unexpected serial meanings emerging from architective aggregations.
It may happen, in fact is very likely, that as architectures step through a procession, the architectures at succeeding steps will be similar to the ones they have just replaced, allowing some narratives to continue in successive architectures while the architectures themselves do not. That is, at each step in a procession, some narratives of the resulting architecture continue narratives that were present in the preceding architecture despite the preceding architecture having been replaced. An architecture and its identity may be disrupted but some of its narratives may continue in an architecture that replaces it. In a dynasty, for example, narratives of the ruling family continue even though individual rulers have passed on.
I term a narrative that continues through a processing of architectures a processional narrative, and that it displays continuing themes.
A processional narrative is not itself an object or an architecture even though it arises through architective procession. Not being an object, it has no lasting identity (as I have defined it), but rather a collection of continuing and evolving themes. Not being an object, it cannot engage in interaction (as I have defined it) nor aggregate or exercise control, but it can organize the serial meanings and narratives of its contributing architectures to its themes. Not being an object, it cannot be disrupted but being a narrative it can be terminated. (Of course an object, such as a name or an icon, may be associated with a processional narrative, and that object can have an identity.)
When processional narratives are present in a functional organism I say that the organism is a processional organism. Our bodily organs are such processional organisms since they maintain their functional architecture even though the cells of which they are constituted die and are replenished. We as persons are such processional organisms since we continue a personal narrative even though our bodies are continually being renewed.
Though the topmost level of each architecture in a procession is at the apex of control in its own architecture it is not at the apex of that architecture's organization, for its serial meanings may yet be organized by a processional narrative. Conversely, though a processional narrative may be at the apex of organization of all its contributing architectures, it does not control any of them.
For a processional narrative to persist, it would probably require that the architectures making up the steps in its procession have similar if not the same properties - that their differences are minor - but if the procession involves many steps the final architecture may be very different to the original. An old man holds little resemblance to the baby he once was.
Processional narratives may also have a lateral dimension, in that the processing architectures may branch multilaterally at each step. For example, a person may have many children continuing their themes. Each child may then have many children. As the child architectures proliferate, the themes extend in multiple directions, each in a slightly different way but each instantiation continuing the parent's themes in some way.
It could be argued that a spore travelling through space and seeding on another planet (as proposed in ideas such as panspermia) would continue an architective narrative well beyond the architective limits of its originating planet, but this again only pushes the boundary of architective isolation further out without eliminating it, since there would ultimately be a limit to how far an object could travel (given the Einstein speed limitation) and the time a spore can remain viable.
Interactions vs Serial Meanings
Interactions and serial meanings, of whichever mode, are quite different.
Architective interactions have features like the creation and disruptions of objects, emergence of new and entirely different objects, changes in discrete steps, and hierarchical control; while connective interactions have features like susceptibility to change, integration, smooth movement, the hosting of waves and vibration, and superposition.
Serial meanings on the other hand, whether connective or architective, have features like narratives, themes and fields of meaning, and in architectures have levels by which meaning can be organized.
Importantly, while interactions of different modes can affect each other, the serial meanings of different modes are totally incomprehensible to each other.
Sentience necessarily involves a comprehension of serial meaning. The incomprehensibility of serial meanings in different modes means that a different kind of sentience is required to comprehend serial meanings of each mode.