Kai Hahlweg

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis is concerned with two interrelated sets of problems: (1) How can we have knowledge in a universe of processes? (2) How can knowledge be improved, and how is scientific progress possible?;To address the epistemological question in conjunction with the ontological is not a common approach in contemporary philosophy of science. I therefore begin the dissertation by arguing that these two areas of philosophy are intimately interrelated, and that the one-sided concentration on epistemological issues has led to an unsatisfactory account of the nature of knowledge. In particular it has led to a conflation of epistemology with methodology. I argue that methodologies carry with themselves certain presuppositions concerning the nature of the world and of human beings.;I suggest that we should attempt to construct a philosophical system within which epistemology and ontology mutually support one another. Insights derived from modern science provide us with a basis for the construction of such a system.;I begin this task by arguing that scientific knowledge can be viewed as an extension of perception. Relying on insights derived from Gregory and Piaget I emphasize the constructive characteristics of our perceptual system and argue that they find their counterpart in the constructive nature of modern science.;Having outlined a constructivist view of knowledge I turn to the discussion of the ontological issues.;I propose as an alternative the adoption of a metaphysics of processes. I outline such an ontology, basing my model upon ideas derived from Prigogine's research on dissipative structures and Pattee's investigation of hierarchical organization. I explain how dissipative structures create stability in an instable world and link this insight to the constructive features of our perceptual and conceptual systems.;The resulting model shows how knowledge is possible in the strange world of processes which we probably inhabit. It further shows how knowledge can be improved and what progress through evolution means. This issue is pursued in greater detail in the last part of the Dissertation There I expound Waddington's cybernetic model of evolutionary change and show how it finds its counterpart in cognitive evolution.



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