In this post I want to pause and reflect on where I've got to in beginning to characterise/define change. At a basic level, change can be defined as difference. Implicit in this is the importance of time, as for difference to occur, time is needed however brief or long. Further, change occurs at all spatial scales, and given its resultant spatio-temporal nature, it can generally be said to be ubiquitous, that the normal nature of reality is one of flow rather than of stability and immobility. Where these occur, they are the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, the existence of change suggests a universal reality of flow.
But if change is ubiquitous, what is the nature of that change? Change is wide ranging, with very different characteristics in different contexts. However, I argue here that all change is the result of process. Western philosophy has made a distinction between process and substance for well over two thousand years. The dominant view has been one of substance, that metaphysically the nature of reality is essentially stable, solid, and where change occurs, it is of secondary importance. But since Heraclitus, there has been a counter-argument that the world is in flux, and is primarily the result of processes; here, substance either does not exist, merely being temporary concentrations of process (hard processual view), or that at the very least, substance is of secondary importance to process (soft processual view).
Therefore, I want to propose that a first approximation of change as a concept is characterised by difference which occurs over time and which is the result of processes, often many at a time, entangled, to create that difference. These processes work at a multitude of spatial and temporal scales and can move between them as flows emerge.
These flows and tangles of process constitute the basis for systems. It is to the different types of system that I want to turn to next, by focusing on the interaction of processes in bringing about change. To do this, in my next post, I'll explore the idea of simple, complicated, complex and chaotic systems, and how we might begin to understand them through the interaction of the processes from which they are composed.