A schematic of the conjunction capturing the 'minimal ontology' of the epistemic act. The left side represents the conservation (time-symmetry), that which is neither self nor other but out of which the self-other relation is constituted in the one-way flow. The right side shows the circularity of the self-other relation and the one-way flow (time-asymmetry) of the conservation through which it is constituted or distinguished. (From Swenson, 1997c. Copyright 1997 Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates. Used by permission).

or 'world', entailed by the epistemic act. It undermines the Cartesian assertion of a decontextualized (or "solipsistic") self collapsing otherwise possible worlds into a vastly reduced subset of real world possibles where the onus becomes "justifying" a possible world with a decontextualized self instead of the usual other way around. It sets tolerances on the minimal intentional (or cognitive, or epistemic) system, or the constitutive logic of ecological relations. The fundamental 'directedness towards", or sine qua non of intentionality, the intentional content of the epistemic act, is the directedness towards the production of the self-other relations by which the space-time extension, or objectification (literally the "existence") of the self is constituted. Everything else with apparent intentional content, to the extent that it occurs (e.g., thoughts, representations, symbols, rules), in order that it has intentional content, ultimately serves, is contextualized by, parasitic upon, or differentiates, or develops (phylogenetically and ontogenetically) out of these relations (Swenson, in press a, b, c; see also Matsuno, in press).


The previous section asserted that there are entailments which make a decontextualized view of inentionality or the epistemic act (of cognition, perception-action, and so on) untenable. It provides support for the increasing number of voices raised against decontextualized views, and that argue variously instead for a contextualized, dynamic, or embodied theory of the epistemic dimension (e.g., Johnson, 1987; Lakoff, 1987; Talmy, 1988; Thelan, 1995; van Gelder & Port, 1995). This does not dissolve the problem of "universal contextualization" however. The a priori claim does not, in different terms, automatically solve the a posteriori problem. The fundamental "problem of the two incommensurable rivers", as noted above, remains. End-directed ordering dependent on meaning, or, in different terms, intentional content directed toward space-time extension, the "signature" of ecological relations, or the "river" that flows uphill is entirely anomalous or appears to negate the river of physics which runs down to disorder (e.g., Fisher, 1958/1939). A robust theory ecological relations, or a truly dynamical,or "embodied" theories of the epistemic dimension must eliminate this problem. If the a priori and a posteriori do not, in effect, collapse to the same subset of possible worlds then one of them must be wrong, and the 'Problem of Parmenides' remains.

Symmetry, Broken-Symmetry and the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics

The laws of thermodynamics are special laws that sit above the ordinary laws of nature as laws about laws or laws upon which the other laws depend (Swenson & Turvey, 1991). It can be successfully shown that without the first and second laws, which express symmetry properties of the world, there could be no other laws at all. The first law or the law of energy conservation which says that all real-world processes involve transformations of energy, and that the total amount of energy is always conserved expresses time-translation symmetry. Namely, there is something that unifies the world (constitutes it as a continuum) which if you go forward or backward in time remains entirely the same. It is, in effect, through this conservation or out of it that all real-world dynamics occurs, yet the first law itself is entirely indifferent to these changes or dynamics. As far as the first law is concerned, nothing changes at all, and this is just the definition of a symmetry, something that remains invariant, indifferent or unchanged given certain transformations, and the remarkable point with respect to the first law is that it refers to that which is conserved (the quantity of energy) or remains symmetric under all transformations.
Although intuited at least as early as the work of the Milesian physicists, and in modern times particularly by Leibniz, the first law is taken to have been first explicitly "discovered" in the first part of the last century by Mayer, then Joule, and later Helmholz with the demonstration of the equivalence of heat and other forms of energy, and completed in this century with Einsteins's demonstration that matter is also a form of energy. Figure 2 shows a famous experiment devised by Joule to demonstrate it.

The experiment devised by Joule to demonstrate the conservation of energy. When a constraint is removed, potential energy in the form of a suspended weight is converted into the kinetic energy of a moving paddle wheel in a container of water sealed against other inflow or outflow of energy. The moving paddle wheel heats the water by a precise amount consistent with the falling weight. (From Swenson, 1997a. Copyright 1997 JAI Press. Used by permission).