ISSN 2567-6458, 23.February 2023 – 23.February 2023, 13:23h
Author: Gerd Doeben-Henisch
This text is a translation from a German source, aided by the automatic translation program ‘www.DeepL.com/Translator’ (free version).
This text is part of the Philosophy of Science theme within the the uffmm.org blog.
The following text is a confluence of ideas that have been driving me for many months. Parts of it can be found as texts in all three blogs (Citizen Science 2.0 for Sustainable Development, Integrated Engineering and the Human Factor (this blog), Philosophy Now. In Search for a new Human Paradigm). The choice of the word ‘grammar’  for the following text is rather unusual, but seems to me to reflect the character of the reflections well.
Sustainability for populations
The concept of sustainable development is considered here in the context of ‘biological populations’. Such populations are dynamic entities with many ‘complex properties’. For the analysis of the ‘sustainability’ of such populations, there is one aspect that seems ‘fundamental’ for a proper understanding. It is the aspect whether and how the members of a population – the actors – are interconnected or not.
An ‘unconnected’ set
If I have ‘actors’ of a ‘population’, which are in no direct ‘interaction’ with each other, then also the ‘acting’ of these actors is isolated from each other. In a wide area they probably do not ‘get in each other’s way’; in a narrow area they could easily hinder each other or even fight each other, up to mutual destruction.
It should be noted that even such disconnected actors must have minimal ‘knowledge’ about themselves and the environment, also minimal ’emotions’, in order to live at all.
Without direct interaction, an unconnected population will nevertheless die out relatively quickly as a population.
A ‘connected’ set
A ‘connected set’ exists if the actors of a population have a sufficient number of direct interactions through which they could ‘coordinate’ their knowledge about themselves and the world, as well as their emotions, to such an extent that they are capable of ‘coordinated action’. Thereby the single, individual actions become related to their possible effect to a ‘common (= social) action’ which can effect more than each of them would have been able to do individually.
The ’emotions’ involved must rather be such that they do not so much ‘delimit/exclude’, but rather ‘include/recognize’.
The ‘knowledge’ involved must be rather that it is not ‘static’ and not ‘unrealistic’, but rather ‘open’, ‘learning’ and ‘realistic’.
The ‘survival’ of a connected population is basically possible if the most important ‘factors’ of a survival are sufficiently fulfilled.
Transitions from – to
The ‘transition’ from an ‘unconnected’ to a ‘connected’ state of a population is not inevitable. The primary motive may simply be the ‘will to survive’ (an emotion), and the growing ‘insight’ (= knowledge) that this is only possible with ‘minimal cooperation’. An individual, however, can live in a state of ‘loner’ for the duration of his life, because he does not have to experience his individual death as a sufficient reason to ally with others. A population as such, however, can only survive if a sufficient number of individuals survive, interacting minimally with each other. The history of life on planet Earth suggests the working hypothesis that for 3.5 billion years there have always been sufficient members of a population in biological populations (including the human population) to counter the ‘self-destructive tendencies’ of individuals with a ‘constructive tendency’.
The emergence and the maintenance of a ‘connected population’ needs a minimum of ‘suitable knowledge’ and ‘suitable emotions’ to succeed.
It is a permanent challenge for all biological populations to shape their own emotions in such a way that they tend not to exclude, to despise, but rather to include and to recognize. Similarly, knowledge must be suitable for acquiring a realistic picture of oneself, others, and the environment so that the behavior in question is ‘factually appropriate’ and tends to be more likely to lead to ‘success’.
As the history of the human population shows, both the ‘shaping of emotions’ and the ‘shaping of powerful knowledge’ are usually largely underestimated and poorly or not at all organized. The necessary ‘effort’ is shied away from, one underestimates the necessary ‘duration’ of such processes. Within knowledge there is additionally the general problem that the ‘short time spans’ within an individual life are an obstacle to recognize and form such processes where larger time spans require it (this concerns almost all ‘important’ processes).
We must also note that ‘connected states’ of populations can also collapse again at any time, if those behaviors that make them possible are weakened or disappear altogether. Connections in the realm of biological populations are largely ‘undetermined’! They are based on complex processes within and between the individual actors. Whole societies can ‘topple overnight’ if an event destroys ‘trust in context’. Without trust no context is possible. The emergence and the passing away of trust should be part of the basic concern of every society in a state of interconnectedness.
Political rules of the game
‘Politics’ encompasses the totality of arrangements that members of a human population agree to organize jointly binding decision-making processes. On a rough scale, one could place two extremes: (i) On the one hand, a population with a ‘democratic system’  and a population with a maximally un-democratic system.
As already noted in general for ‘connected systems’: the success of democratic systems is in no way determinate. Enabling and sustaining it requires the total commitment of all participants ‘by their own conviction’.
Basic reality ‘corporeality’
Biological populations are fundamentally characterized by a ‘corporeality’ which is determined through and through by ‘regularities’ of the known material structures. In their ‘complex formations’ biological systems manifest also ‘complex properties’, which cannot be derived simply from their ‘individual parts’, but the respective identifiable ‘material components’ of their ‘body’ together with many ‘functional connections’ are fundamentally subject to a multiplicity of ‘laws’ which are ‘given’. To ‘change’ these is – if at all – only possible under certain limited conditions.
All biological actors consist of ‘biological cells’ which are the same for all. In this, human actors are part of the total development of (biological) life on planet Earth. The totality of (biological) life is also called ‘biome’ and the total habitat of a biome is also called ‘biosphere’.  The population of homo sapiens is only a vanishingly small part of the biome, but with the homo sapiens typical way of life it claims ever larger parts of the biosphere for itself at the expense of all other life forms.
(Biological) life has been taking place on planet Earth for about 3.5 billion years. Earth, as part of the solar system , has had a very eventful history and shows strong dynamics until today, which can and does have a direct impact on the living conditions of biological life (continental plate displacement, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, magnetic field displacement, ocean currents, climate, …).
Biological systems generally require a continuous intake of material substances (with energy potentials) to enable their own metabolic processes. They also excrete substances. Human populations need certain amounts of ‘food’, ‘water’, ‘dwellings’, ‘storage facilities’, ‘means of transport’, ‘energy’, … ‘raw materials’, … ‘production processes’, ‘exchange processes’ … As the sheer size of a population grows, the material quantities required (and also wastes) multiply to orders of magnitude that can destroy the functioning of the biosphere.
If a coherent population does not want to leave possible future states to pure chance, then it needs a ‘knowledge’ which is suitable to construct ‘predictions’ (‘prognoses’) for a possible future (or even many ‘variants of future’) from the knowledge about the present and about the past.
In the history of homo sapiens so far, there is only one form of knowledge that has been demonstrably demonstrated to be suitable for resilient sustainable forecasts: the knowledge form of empirical sciences.  This form of knowledge is so far not perfect, but a better alternative is actually not known. At its core, ’empirical knowledge’ comprises the following elements: (i) A description of a baseline situation that is assumed to be ’empirically true’; (ii) A set of ‘descriptions of change processes’ that one has been able to formulate over time, and from which one knows that it is ‘highly probable’ that the described changes will occur again and again under known conditions; (iii) An ‘inference concept’ that describes how to apply to the description of a ‘given current situation’ the known descriptions of change processes in such a way that one can modify the description of the current situation to produce a ‘modified description’ that describes a new situation that can be considered a ‘highly probable continuation’ of the current situation in the future. 
The just sketched ‘basic idea’ of an empirical theory with predictive ability can be realized concretely in many ways. To investigate and describe this is the task of ‘philosophy of science’. However, the vagueness found in dealing with the notion of an ’empirical theory’ is also found in the understanding of what is meant by ‘philosophy of science.'
In the present text, the view is taken that the ‘basic concept’ of an empirical theory can be fully realized in normal everyday action using everyday language. This concept of a ‘General Empirical Theory’ can be extended by any special languages, methods and sub-theories as needed. In this way, the hitherto unsolved problem of the many different individual empirical disciplines could be solved almost by itself.
In the normal case, an empirical theory can, at best, generate forecasts that can be said to have a certain empirically based probability. In ‘complex situations’ such a prognosis can comprise many ‘variants’: A, B, …, Z. Now which of these variants is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ in the light of an ‘assumable criterion’ cannot be determined by an empirical theory itself. Here the ‘producers’ and the ‘users’ of the theory are asked: Do they have any ‘preferences’ why e.g. variant ‘B’ should be preferred to variant ‘C”: “Bicycle, subway, car or plane?” , “Genetic engineering or not?”, “Pesticides or not?”, “Nuclear energy or not?”, “Uncontrolled fishing or not?” …
The ‘evaluation criteria’ to be applied actually themselves require ‘explicit knowledge’ for the estimation of a possible ‘benefit’ on the one hand, on the other hand the concept of ‘benefit’ is anchored in the feeling and wanting of human actors: Why exactly do I want something? Why does something ‘feel good’? …
Current discussions worldwide show that the arsenal of ‘evaluation criteria’ and their implementation offer anything but a clear picture.
 For the typical use of the term ‘grammar’ see the English Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar. In the text here in the blog I transfer this concept of ‘language’ to that ‘complex process’ in which the population of the life form ‘homo sapiens’ tries to achieve an ‘overall state’ on planet earth that allows a ‘maximally good future’ for as much ‘life’ as possible (with humans as a sub-population). A ‘grammar of sustainability’ presupposes a certain set of basic conditions, factors, which ‘interact’ with each other in a dynamic process, in order to realize as many states as possible in a ‘sequence of states’, which enable as good a life as possible for as many as possible.
 For the typical usage of the term politics, see the English Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics . This meaning is also assumed in the present text here.
 A very insightful project on empirical research on the state and development of ’empirical systems’democracies’ on planet Earth is the V-dem Institut:: https://www.v-dem.net/
 Of course, one could also choose completely different basic concepts for a scale. However, the concept of a ‘democratic system’ (with all its weaknesses) seems to me to be the ‘most suitable’ system in the light of the requirements for sustainable development; at the same time, however, it makes the highest demands of all systems on all those involved. That it came to the formation of ‘democracy-like’ systems at all in the course of history, actually borders almost on a miracle. The further development of such democracy-like systems fluctuates constantly between preservation and decay. Positively, one could say that the constant struggle for preservation is a kind of ‘training’ to enable sustainable development.
 For typical uses of the terms ‘biome’ and ‘biosphere’, see the corresponding entries in the English Wikipedia: ‘biome’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biome, ‘biosphere’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere
 Some basic data for planet Earth: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth
 Some basic data for the solar system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_System
 If you will search for he term ‘Empirical Science’ you ill be disappointed, because the English Wikipedia (as well as the German Version) does not provide such a term. You have either to accept the term ‘Science’ ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science ) or the term ‘Empiricism’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism), but both do not cover the general properties of an Empirical theory.
 If you have a clock with hour and minute hands, which currently shows 11:04h, and you know from everyday experience that the minute hand advances by one stroke every minute, then you can conclude with a fairly high probability that the minute hand will advance by one stroke ‘very soon’. The initial description ‘The clock shows 11:04h’ would then be changed to that of the new description ‘The clock shows 11:05h’. Before the ’11:05h event’ the statement ‘The clock shows 11:05h’ would have the status of a ‘forecast’.
 A single discipline (physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, …) cannot conceptually grasp ‘the whole’ ‘out of itself’; it does not have to. The various attempts to ‘reduce’ any single discipline to another (physics is especially popular here) have all failed so far. Without a suitable ‘meta-theory’ no single discipline can free itself from its specialization. The concept of a ‘General Empirical Theory’ is such a meta-theory. Such a meta-theory fits into the concept of a modern philosophical thinking.