Philosophies traditionally start with a metaphysics: a theory of the essence of things, of the fundamental principles that organize the universe. Metaphysics is supposed to answer the question "What is the nature
of reality?" (see Metaphysics, introduction). But we cannot answer this
question without first understanding what is the meaning of metaphysics, if any, and in what respect metaphysics differs from science, which tries to answer similar questions but through more concrete methods.
Metaphysics is traditionally subdivided in ontology, the theory of being in itself, and cosmology, the theory describing the origin and structure of the universe.
In a traditional systems philosophy "organization" might be seen as the fundamental principle of being, rather than God, matter, or the laws of nature. However it still begs the question where this organization comes from. In our evolutionary-systemic philosophy, on the other hand, the essence is the process through which this organization is created.
Therefore, our ontology starts from elementary actions, rather than from static objects, particles, energy or ideas. These actions are the primitive elements, the building blocks of our vision of reality, and therefore remain undefined. Actions are in not general not deterministic but involve an element of freedom. A sequence of actions constitutes a process. Our ontology is thus related to the process metaphysics of Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin. Its historical origin can be traced back even further to the development from Kant to Schopenhauer.
Relatively stable "systems" are
constructed by such processes through the mechanism of variation and selection. This leads to the spontaneous emergence of more complex
organizations during evolution: from space-time and elementary
particles, to atoms, molecules, crystals, DNA, cells, plants, animals,
humans, and human society and culture (see the history of evolution). This developmental sequence provides us with a basis for our cosmology. Because of this self-organization of the universe, there is no need to posit a personal God, distinct from the universe, as an explanation for the observed complexity.
Events of emergence are the
"quanta" of evolution. They lead to the creation of new systems with
new identities, obeying different laws and possessing different
properties. In such systems, the behaviour of the whole depends on the behaviour of the parts (a "reductionistic" view), but the behaviour of
the parts is at the same time constrained or directed by the behaviour
of the whole (a "holistic" view). (see downward causation)
A fundamental type of emergence is the "meta-system transition" , which results in a higher level of control while increasing the overall freedom and adaptivity of the system. Examples of
metasystem transitions are the emergence of multicellular organisms, the emergence of the capacity of organisms to learn, and the emergence of human intelligence.
See further: Turchin's paper on Cybernetic Metaphysics.