Many times I've read about machines or processes being described as a collection of only physical states and not as a set of 'interacting' processes. A physical STATE is not a process which might have time-dependent or order-dependent qualities; that is a dynamic process with important properties that are not fully 'realised' until they interact in the 'entire' system in a specific scheduled fashion after certain other 'required' actions have occurred.

Maybe some important dynamic processes that are not reducible to physical states and that are not time or order dependent should be considered as basic qualities for system analysis. And not just a linear sequence of 'static' qualities that can not capture important time-dependent traits of a system. Could Scientific analysis be missing this point of view?

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    Why does this question have close votes? It asks about a longstanding debate in 19th-21st C philosophy, with antecedents back to the ancients. Anyway, see for starters plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-philosophy Jan 25 '15 at 16:27
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    @ChristopherE It is a long debate, but the question doesn't specifically ask about historical arguments and neither about specific answers. "Could this be true" is awfully broad and opinion-based.
    – iphigenie
    Jan 26 '15 at 11:08
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    I agree that the question seems kinda vague and doesn't bring up any specific problem or proposed solution. However, the questioner might be interested in this arxiv.org/abs/1210.7439.
    – alanf
    Jan 26 '15 at 13:07
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    I interpret “Could x be true?" as a request for whether there are any notable arguments for the claim that x. And that doesn't strike me as too broad. Though the terms of the question are vague and don't connect yet with philosophers' terms, that's how we should expect learners' questions to be sometimes—precisely when they're not yet sure who's made the arguments and in what terms. Jan 26 '15 at 13:22
  • Are there invariant processes in Nature or 'within' Physics?? For instance the laws of physics involve various sets of processes that will occur in a predictable order. I mean one set of processes may happen with many slight variations but the general pattern of events is like an invariant schematic for the set of processes involved. All the different ways the set of processes can occur because of the slight variations is like an equivalence class of process-sets. Each equivalent to the other. So a set of processes can be considered invariant even with slight variations involved.
    – 201044
    Feb 3 '15 at 6:42

Both state and process are important in science:

  1. Isn't evolution a process?

  2. Big-Bang cosmology is paradigmatically a process; especially when considered against Hoyles steady-state universe.

  3. Quantum Mechanics is theorised as Quantum States and an Equation of Evolution.

  4. Category Theory focuses on process (morphisms) against the state (sets)

  • I would add engineering where process are equally (and sometime even more) important. Circuit Theory, Control Theory, Signals and Systems, Estimation Theory etc are examples from electrical and electronics engineering. So and to some students too) much processes, dynamics, transient, steady-state analysis...
    – mami
    Jan 26 '15 at 21:10

I am not exactly sure what you mean, so I am going to do some argued guessing about the most lucid part of your question.

Many times I've read talk about machines or processes being described as a collection of physical states and not a set of 'interacting' processes.

You could adopt such explanation, but you would still have to axiomatically define a process or take it as a primary term. The problem with processes is that they are very hard to grasp. You might want to refer to David Hume and his Skeptic Problem in which he discovers that causality cannot be found anywhere in the world, nor it cannot be proven. I think this is the case with all processes.

We could be able to show specific stages at a given time, or collections of stages if we treat them roughly enough, but no one anywhere in science, scholarship, or everyday life can actually depict a process. We use the word "process" as if it were an actual, labellable object, whilst it is at best a functional construct. Founding science, or engineering on something we doubt if it even exists just does not seem a good strategy.

States of things are the most reliable points of reference we have. Processes are mere propositions. I believe it is rather reasonable to focus on the former.

  • Many computer programs that can solve basic question in Math or Calculus will probably have certain standard subprograms for handling say derivatives or matrices; these standard programs that might be in many types of computers could be considered non-reducible time-dependent processes. So any 'basic' computer with these 'standard programs' ,these programs are like necessary 'invariant' processes of the computer that enable the computer to 'do' the basic math. If one 'reduces' these programs what is left wouldn't work.
    – 201044
    Jan 28 '15 at 6:54
  • A functioning A.I. system might be better analysed with its behavioral algorithms by viewing its important processes as irreducible elements of the whole system and not just the collections of 1's and 0's of the relevant programs.
    – 201044
    Feb 8 '15 at 4:52
  • Any process that is 'time-dependent' , that is all its necessary 'sub-events' and 'sub-processes' must be precisely or near-precisely timed as to when they occur and with what 'degree' inherent qualities can not be considered only a sequence of moment-to-moment static events.
    – 201044
    Feb 16 '15 at 4:35
  • About 'states of things are the most reliable points of reference'. What about an important program running in a computer system that help's to keep the whole system functioning. This program or necessary 'process' can not be thought of as ONLY a sequence of states. It is time- dependent and order- dependent; where some subsequence of states might only be valid in a specific order. And some other subsequence of states might depend on some ' internal' scheduling.
    – 201044
    May 31 '15 at 8:36
  • What is a state anyway? A mental state is really a whole 'set' of interacting processes with some observable invariant qualities. For instance the mental state of 'anger' is a 'set' of many interacting emotional processes specific to a given person. Yet there are some 'semi-invariant' qualities that are identifiable over many individuals when 'in' an angry mental state. But it should be called a mental process , not a state.
    – 201044
    Sep 25 '15 at 16:01

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