Up/down causation

Degrees of freedom

Figure 3.3 A biological hierarchy suggesting that interactions with the environment and finally the semiotics determine the development of the ecosystem (from Nielsen, in press, with permission from Elsevier).

kinds of communicative and cognitive process, i.e., semiotics in a wide sense. This represents the ultimate layer of realizing ecosystem openness.

Thus at each layer of the biological hierarchy we meet a new side of ontic openness. Interactions between hierarchical levels may, as indicated, take place in both upward and downward directions. The traditional view is that as we move up the hierarchy we are narrowing the number of possibilities; therefore, as O'Neill et al. (1986) state, hierarchies are systems of constraints, which only are able to provide system regulations at steady-state conditions. Whenever rare events or system transformations occur the hierarchies are broken, and uncertainty takes place in a broad extent. Emergence due to ontic openness always exists but is just realized in other ways that are not covered by the reductionist view.

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