GÜNTHER - 2000
A contribution in three parts
to the 100th aniversary of Gotthard Günther
Topic of Part 3:
"Zeit - Mehrzeitigkeit - Polyrhythmie //
Time - Polytemporality - Polyrhythmicity"
(see also Introductions to Part 1 and Part
by Eberhard von Goldammer
In the last chapter of his
book "THE NATURAL PHILOSOPHY OF TIME" Whitrow shortly summarizes
"...the history of natural philosophy is
characterized by the interplay of two rival philosophies of time - one
aiming at its 'elimination' and the other based on the belief that it is
fundamental and irreducible. The central point of dispute concerns the role
of time in the relation of man to the external world."
And Whitrow continues:
"According to Kant, time (like space) pertains
only to the perceiving mind and not to things in themselves. According to
McTaggart, series which in themselves are non?temporal appear to us as
temporal: in principle, the same set of objects are eternally (i.e.
´timelessly') there, the only change being in our consciousness from less
(and more confused) to greater (and clearer) awareness. I maintain, however,
that our conscious awareness of time is neither a necessary condition of our
experience, in the sense intended by Kant, nor a simple sensation, as Mach
believed, but an intellectual construction that depends not only on our
physical surroundings but also on the particular type of culture in which we
happen to live [italics from evgo]. Unlike McTaggart, most scientists
believe that our perception of time is based on an objective factor that
provides an external control for the timing of our physiological processes.
This external factor is what we call physical time, but what is the nature
of this 'universal' time?"
In the present
introduction to part_3 of the Günther_2000-special we will neither discuss
the philosophical question on the nature of a ´universal´ time nor the
different physical concepts of time such as given by the Einsteinian
relativity theory or by irreversible thermodynamics .
Within the present context, we only would like to point on part_1 and _2 of
the Günther_2000 series, where we shortly discussed that physical processes
can be described within a mono-contextural framework of logic, resulting in
a so-called ´positive language´ of description. In physical sciences there
is no need for a poly-contextural theory. In other words, Whitrow´s
´universal time´ results from a strict mono-contextural view of the world
- a physical world without subjectivity. From a poly-contextural scientific
point of view, however, the idea of an ´universal time´ is completely
meaningless. As long as scientific research is founded exclusively on
mono-contextural conceptions, its search for a ´universal time´ or a
´universal scientific theory´ (including living systems) will be a search
of the bottom in a bottomless barrel. In a mono-contextural scientific
conceptions ´live´ has to be pre-supposed as it is the case in today's
so-called life sciences such as biochemistry, molecular biology, etc. On the
basis of mono-contextural conceptions, time is a physical parameter in order
to describe a linear sequence of events of processes that belong - in
Günther´s parlance - to an intra-contextural description of a process. That
means, the physical concept of time (directed or not) only has a
definite meaning within one contexture and only under this condition the
principle of causality can be used without anomalies, i.e., it is possible
to speak from the past and the present as a linear sequence of events. It is
this concept of a linear sequential time that was banished by Heinz von
Foerster in "TIME AND MEMORY": 
"Dr. Whitrow said .. that we know little about
´memory.´ I whole-heartily agree but I would like to add that we know even
less about ´time´. The cause for this deficiency I see in the superior
survival value for all perceptive and cognitive living organisms if they
succeed to eliminate quickly all temporal aspects in a sequence of events
or, in other words, if ´time´ is abandoned as early as possible in the
chain of cognitive processes..."
Within the analysis
of the living present, the temporal coding in the brain, for example,
addresses a pivotal issue in modern cognitive neurosciences in order to
study the functionality of how ensemble oscillations and cooperative
transitions represent the outer and inner world of a living system .
In his contribution "RECONSTRUCTION OF SUBJECTIVE TIME ON THE BASIS OF
HIERARCHICALLY ORGANIZED PROCESSING SYSTEM" Pöppel (cf. ref. 4a)
"... Subjective time in the psychophysical
tradition has erroneously also been considered a continuous phenomenon.
However, if one analyses subjective phenomena in different temporal domains,
one is impressed by the great number of experimental observations on
discontinuous information processing. Apparent continuity of time is a
secondary phenomenon - actually an illusion - which is made possible by
discrete information processing on different temporal levels..."
This statement tells us
that the continuity of time has to be considered as an illusion and the
question arises what then is the concept of time if living systems are the
focus of scientific research? So far as this question is concerned, Varela
opens his discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences with the following
optimistic statement: 
"The question I wish to address is the following.
At face value, there are two kinds of time: inner time and physical
time. The first is the linear sequence of moments given by the clock we live
by, and the other is what we live in. Both are valid as sources of facts and
of scientific investigation. The first gives rise to well-developed physical
theories; the other, to human temporality, centered on the present and
manifesting as a threefold unity of the just-past and the about-to-occur. Both
can be developed in precise scientific detail [italics from the author]
Varela continues describing the situation in
experimental psychology of time and in modern cognitive neuroscience (cf.
"...Instead of a long historical discussion, let
me turn right away to a classic example that illustrates the situation very
well. This is the chromatic phi?phenomenon, where a red light followed by a
green light is shown at a specific temporal distance. The common perception
is that of an ´apparent´ jumping of the lights, but interestingly the
light changes color at midcourse! Unless we wish to assume a violation of
the direction of causality, we are forced to conclude that perceived
temporality is not simply isomorphic to linear time. Thus, this is a
paradigmatic example of the needed distinction of not a single, but at least
two kinds of time...."
Now we are confronted with a kind of complementary
conception of time, namely the "inner (or subjective) time" and
the "outer (or physical) time". This is a well known situation
reflecting more or less the very old conflict of the subject-object
dichotomy. For the experimentalists in life sciences, however, there are
only two ways left: either the "inner time" is considered as
result from the inner processualtity as a mental entity on one hand and
cannot be measured - and that was it; or the inner time is considered as a
physical entity and the inner processuality will be analyzed by comparison
with a standard process, - a clock. Within the usual mono-contextural
scientific conception no other alternatives exist. But we are still
confronted by the question, what is the difference between an outer and an
inner time, provided there exists something like time? In "TIME AND
MEMORY" von Foerster (cf. ref. 3a) gives an interesting comment that
clues to this question:
"...The conceptual construct of ´time´ is ...
just a by-product of our memory, which in some instances may use ´time´ as
a convenient parameter ? a tertium comparatum, so to say ? to indicate
synchronism of events belonging to two or more spatially separated
sequences. Of course, there is no need to refer to time in such comparison,
for it is always sufficient to take one sequence as ´standard´ and to
associate with standard events the events of another sequence..."
In other words, ´time´ as a by-product of our human
brain represents like ´space´ a category of description. Or quoting
Whitrow again, time is "an intellectual construction that depends not
only on our physical surroundings but also on the particular type of culture
in which we happen to live".
Von Foerster´s comment
reveals some further interesting aspects. If ´time´ has to be considered
as a conceptual by-product of the brain on one hand and on the other hand if
it is the brain that has to describe the brain's conceptual construct of
time, cognitive neuroscientists are hopelessly captured within a logical
circle. This circle can be blown up apparently only if life sciences
restrict their research efforts exclusively on physico-chemical processes.
But then the question arises, what about mental processes, such as, for
example, the development of conceptual construct of ´time´ ? In part_2 of
this series we pointed to the fact that mental processes cannot be described
without running into antinomies and ambiguities on the basis of a
mono-contextural linguistic frame, i.e, a ´positive scientific language´ .
Obviously there is a
principal logical problem involved - a problem which already has been
pointed out by W.S. McCulloch 1945 in his study "A HETERARCHY OF VALUES
DETERMINED BY THE TOPOLOGY OF NERVOUS NETS" :
"Because of the dromic character of purposive
activities, the closed circuits sustaining them and their interaction can be
treated topologically. It is found that to the value anomaly, when A is
preferred to B, B to C, but C to A, there corresponds a diadrome, or
circularity in the net which is not the path of any drome and which cannot
be mapped without a diallel on a surface sufficient to map the dromes. Thus
the apparent inconsistency of preference is shown to indicate consistency of
an order too high to permit construction of a scale of values, but
submitting to finite topological analysis based on the finite number of
nervous cells and their possible connections..."
A (logical) re-interpretation
of McCulloch´s study has been published in 1988/89 and is available from
the internet . It is amazing that McCulloch´s idea of
an heterarchical structure (of mental processes !) has been completely
ignored until today by the scientific mainstream of the cognitive
neurosciences. From a conceptual point of view, one even can state that
modern cognitive neurosciences have not yet reached the intellectual level
of McCulloch´s ideas published more than fifty years ago. A very good
example that confirms this statement is given by the discussion "TIME
AND THE OBSERVER: THE WHERE AND WHEN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BRAIN" 
which deals with temporal anomalies of the processuality of the
neurophysiological processes in the human brain. If heterarchical structures
occur within these processes - as described by McCulloch - one should expect
anomalies (in the sense of a logical paradoxes) given the interpretation of
the temporal structure of neural events being exclusively considered as a
hierachically stuctured processuality. This problem, however, has not been
discussed in "TIME AND THE OBSERVER...". There is no comment, no
reference which points to McCulloch´s fundamental considerations.
But it is not only
McCulloch´s "A HETERARCHY OF VALUES..." which has not yet been
reflected by the mainstream of cognitive neuroscientists, it is more or less
the huge amount of conceptual work developed at the BCL 
that has been ignored. One example is the work of Gotthard Günther, mostly
published in German, with the exception of some studies in English, e.g.,
"TIME, TIMELESS LOGIC AND SELF?REFERENTIAL SYSTEMS", published in
1967(!), which will be presented in part_3 of this series. A relatively
longer German version was published in 1966 .
In his paper Günther does not discuss the various
conceptual constructs of time instead he goes back to the sources of our
Western thinking and starts with a philosophical and logical analysis of
´time´. Therefore his contribution is still up-to-date although it has
been written more than thirty years ago.
article has no direct link to the problem of time in cognitive neurosciences
as mentioned above, we will try to bridge this gap. 
In order to give some insight into the timing problem of the neurosciences,
we will quote again to Varela´s contribution in "NATURALIZING
PHENOMENOLOGY" (cf. ref. 5b):
"... Even under a cursory reduction, already provided by the
reflections of Augustine and James, time in experience is quite a different
from time as measured by clock. To start with, time in experience presents
itself not only as a linear but also as having a complex texture ... a
texture that dominates our existence to an important degree ... this texture
can be described as follows: There is always a center, the now moment with a
focused intentional content ... This center is bounded by a horizon or
fringe that is already past ... , and it projects towards an intended next
moment ... These horizons are mobile: this very moment which was present
(and hence was not merely described, but lived as such) slips towards an
immediately past present. Then it plunges further out of view: I do not hold
it just as immediately, and I need an added depth to keep it at hand. This
basic texture is the raw basis of what I will be discussing in extenso
below. In its basic outline, we shall refer to it as the three-part
structure of temporality. It represents one of the most remarkable results
of Husserl's research as a result of phenomenological reduction ... "
This short excerpt from chapter II - entitled
"LIVED TIME IS NOT PHYSICAL-COMPUTATIONAL" - Varela characterizes
the time as ´complex texture´. It is obvious that it must be the
underlying processuality, which is of complex structure too, resulting in a
conceptual construct of time which necessarily has to be of some complexity.
But what is the meaning of ´complex structured´ processes or in Varela´s
words a ´complex texture´ of time? If McCulloch is right - and we are
convinced that he is right - then nervous activity has to be described as an
interplay of heterarchically and hierarchically structured processes which
only can be described - without the usual logical circles - in a
poly-contextural logical theory (for more details see ref. 8). From this
point of view the concept of time cannot be considered any longer simply as
a linear or sequential arrangement of events but rather as an ensemble of
poly-rhythmic events that yield an inner poly-temporality
(´Mehrzeitigkeit´) if considered in an inter- and intra-contexturally
structured processuality. We would like to emphasize that it is only the
intra-contextural time, i.e. within one contexture, which can be extracted
experimentally by comparison with a standard process - a clock. In other
expression, any measurement defines its own contexture, i.e. measurements
can only be considered as mono-contextural events. (cf. ref. 12).
In chapter III of Varela´s contribution the
following statement can be found which not only confirms our discussion but
also reveals the difficulties of any bottom-up analysis of brain functions
(cf. Varela, ref. 5b):
"... From an enactive viewpoint, any mental act is
characterized by the concurrent participation of several functionally
distinct and topographically distributed regions of the brain and their
sensori-motor embodiment. From the point of view of the neuroscientist, it
is the complex task of relating and integrating these different components
that is at the root of temporality. A central idea pursued here is that
these various components require a frame or window of simultaneity which
corresponds to the duration of lived present ...
... One of the main results of modern neuroscience is
to have recognized that brain regions are indeed interconnected in a
reciprocal fashion (what I like to refer to as the Law of Reciprocity).
Thus, whatever the neural basis for cognitive tasks turns out to be, it
necessarily engages vast and geographically separated regions of the brain.
These distinct regions cannot be seen as organized in some sequential
arrangement: a cognitive act emerges from the gradual convergence of various
sensory modalities into association or multimodal regions and into higher
frontal areas for active decision and planning of behavioral acts. The
traditional sequentialistic idea is anchored in a framework in which the
computer metaphor is central, with its associated idea that information
flows up-stream. Here, in contrast, I emphasize a strong dominance of
dynamical network properties where sequentiality is replaced by reciprocal
determination and relaxation time."
In this short introduction, we will not further
demonstrate and discuss the difficulties of modern cognitive neurosciences.
We would, however, state that it is in principle impossible to analyze
mental processes exclusively in a bottom-up fashion on the basis of
experimental sciences as it is the scientific program of today´s
neurosciences and its philosophical facet the neurophilosophy and/or
Part_3 offers the following contributions (as pdf files):
Time, Timeless Logic and Self-Referential Systems
This contribution was published in 1967 in Annals of
the New York Academy of Sciences (Vol. 138, p.397-406). In 1966 a somewhat
longer study entitled Logik, Zeit, Emanation und Evolution was published
by Günther in ´Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung des Landes
Nordrhein?Westfalen, Geisteswissenschaften, Heft 136, Köln und Opladen
and later Logik, Zeit, ... was reprinted in "Beiträge zur
Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik" (Band 3), Felix
Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1980.
Gotthard Günther and Heinz von Foerster
The Logic Structure of Evolution and Emanation
This contribution again is from the Annals of the New
York Academy of Sciences (Vol. 138, 1967, p. 874-891) and was presented at
the panel discussion.
Heinz von Foerster
Time and Memory
At the same panel discussion of the New York Acacemy
of Sciences (Vol. 138, 1967, p. 866-873) Heinz von Foerster lectured on
Time and Memory. It is not very difficult to see the connections between
von Foerster´s contribution and Günther´s Time, Timeless Logic ...
Diskussion zu: "Logik, Zeit, Emanation und Evolution"
Die This discussion was published together with
Logik, Zeit, Emanation und Evolution in 1966.
Since volume 3 of Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer
operationsfähigen Dialektik contains Logik, Zeit, Emanation und Evolution
we present the introduction to volume 3 of Beiträge...
Neue Tendenzen in der KI Forschung - Metakritische Untersuchungen über
den Stellenwert der Logik in der neueren
In part_2 we already started to present some studies
by Rudolf Kaehr and we continue this with an analysis of logical systems
published in 1980 in Stiftung Warentest.
Warren S. McCulloch
A Heterarchy of Values Determined by the Topology of Nervous Nets
Since McCulloch´s fundamental contribution from
1945 (Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics, 7, 1945, 89-93) has been
ignored by the neurosciences we offer this paper for discussion.
 G.J.Whitrow, "The Natural Philosphy
of Time", Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980 (2nd ed.)
 Prigogine and L.Antoniou, "Laws of
Nature and Time Symmetry Breaking", Annales of the New York Academy of
Sciences, 879 (1999) 8-28.
 _a) H. von Foerster, "Time and
Memory", Annales of the New York Academy of Sciences, 138(2) (1967)
_b) H. von Foerster, "Molecular Ethology: An Imodest Proposal for
Semantic Clarification", in: Molecular Mechanisms in Memory and
Learning, (G. Unger, ed.) Spartan Books, N.Y., (1970) 213-248.
 See for example:
_a) "Time, Internal Clocks and Movement", (M.A. Pastor, J.
Artieda, eds.), in: Advances in Psychology, Vol. 115, Elsevier Publ., 1996;
_b) "Temporal Coding in the Brain", (G. Buzsáki, R. Llinás, W.
Singer, A. Berthoz, Y. Christen, eds.), Springer Verlag, 1994; and
_c) "Naturalizing Phenomenology", (J. Petitot, F.J. Varela, B.
Pachoud, J.-M. Roy, eds.), Stanford University Press, 1999.
 _a) F.J. Varela, "A Dimly Perceived
Horizon: The Complex Meeting Ground between Physical and Inner Time",
Annales of the New York Academy of Sciences, 879 (1999) 8-28. and
_b) F.J. Varela, "The Specious Present: A Neurophenomenology of Time
Consciousness", in: Naturalizing Phenomenology, (J. Petito, F.J.
Varela, B. Pachoud, J.-M. Roy, eds.)
 A ´positive language´ is the result of
a mono-contextural linguistic frame of science.
 W.S. McCulloch, "A Heterarchy of
Values determined by the Topology of Nervous Nets", Bulletin of
Mathematical Biophysics, 7 (1945) 89-93 - re-printed in: W.S. McCulloch,
"Embodiments of Mind", M.I.T. Press, (1988) 40-44.
 _a) R. Kaehr, E. von Goldammer,
"Again Computers and the Brain", Journal of Molecular Electronics,
4 (1988) S31-S37. and
_b) R. Kaehr, E. von Goldammer, " Poly-Contextural Modeling of
Heterarchies in Brain Functions", in: Models of Brain Functions (R.M.J.
Cotterill, ed.), Cambridge University Press, (1989) 483-497.
 D.C. Dennett, M.Kinsbourne, "Time
and the observer: The where and when of consciounsness in the brain",
Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15 (1992) 183-247.
 BCL - Biological Computer Laboratory
BCL left behind a rich legacy. In its day, it was one of the
few education institutions teaching cybernetics. Between 1958 and 1975,
operating under 25 grants, the laboratory produced 256 articles and books,
14 master's these, and 28 doctoral dissertations. The topics covered
epistemology, logic, neurophysiology, theory of computation, electronic
music, and automated instruction.
 G. Günther, "Time, Timeless
Logic and Self-Referential Systems", Ann. N.Y.Acad.Sci. 138 (1967)
G. Günther, "Logik, Zeit, Emanation und Evolution" re-printed in:
Beiträge zur Grundlegung einer operationsfähigen Dialektik, Band 3 (Felix
Meiner Verlag, Hamburg, 1980 - ISBN 3-7873-0485-1)
 For more details we refer to a
forthcoming somewhat longer discussion that is in preparation.