Foundations of Science

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 345–356 | Cite as

The Self-Organization of Time and Causality: Steps Towards Understanding the Ultimate Origin

  • Francis Heylighen


Possibly the most fundamental scientific problem is the origin of time and causality. The inherent difficulty is that all scientific theories of origins and evolution consider the existence of time and causality as given. We tackle this problem by starting from the concept of self-organization, which is seen as the spontaneous emergence of order out of primordial chaos. Self-organization can be explained by the selective retention of invariant or consistent variations, implying a breaking of the initial symmetry exhibited by randomness. In the case of time, we start from a random graph connecting primitive “events”. Selection on the basis of consistency eliminates cyclic parts of the graph, so that transitive closure can transform it into a partial order relation of precedence. Causality is assumed to be carried by causal “agents” which undergo a more traditional variation and selection, giving rise to causal laws that are partly contingent, partly necessary.


Self-organization Cosmology Ontology Time Causality Order 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Evolution, Complexity and Cognition GroupVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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