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Overview of the Tree of Knowledge System
The Tree of Knowledge (T-o-K) System is an exciting new
approach to scientifically understanding ourselves and the world we live in. If
you take a look at the picture, what will likely jump out at you is how the
evolution of complexity is shown as four distinguishable emerging dimensions,
depicted in gray, green, red and blue. This new representation of complexity
provides the needed change in perspective that allows one to see how science
maps reality. As shown by the right hand side of the diagram, the four broad
domains of science correspond to the four dimensions of complexity (the physical
sciences map Matter, the biological sciences Life, the psychological sciences
Mind, and the social sciences Culture).
How are the dimensions connected? In the ToK System, theoretical “joint points” link the dimensions and provide a theory as to how the higher dimension emerged. There are four such joint points: 1) Quantum Gravity, which links Energy to Matter; 2) The Modern Synthesis links Matter to Life; 3) Behavioral Investment Theory links Life to Mind; and 4) the Justification Hypothesis links Mind to Culture. Why are there four separate dimensions of complexity, instead of just one? The short answer is that novel information processing systems emerged, each leading to a new dimension (genetic/Life, neuronal/Mind and symbolic/Culture).
The four dimensions are ontologically different categories of objects and causes, and this is a rather profound philosophical argument. Consider that Rene Descartes’ philosophical analysis is famous for its dualism. Matter and mind were conceived by Descartes as completely separate spheres of substance. Of course, modern scientific views have argued for a monistic position. Mind must be some form of matter because the problem of nonmaterial causality is philosophically insurmountable. The ToK System is monistic in the sense that Energy is seen as the ultimate common denominator, and the higher dimensions of complexity supervene on the lower dimensions.
However, the ToK simultaneously shows why everything isn’t just energy and matter, thus avoiding the classic problem of reductionism. The ToK System, in fact, posits that there are four separable classes of objects and causes: 1) the material (behavior of things like atoms, rocks and stars); 2) the organic (behavior of cells and plants); 3) the mental (behavior of animals like bees, rats and dogs); and 4) the cultural (behavior of people). Importantly, this categorical system aligns with thousands of years of common sense. Since the beginnings of culture and including great thinkers like Aristotle, humans have seen these four basic categories in nature. The ToK System finally gives us deep understanding as to why.