• Dfpolis
    553
    The discussion deals with three intimately related issues:
    1. The separation of objective and subjective data by the fundamental abstraction of natural science.
    2. The intentional nature of the laws of nature.
    3. How an intentional understanding of the laws of nature resolves the mind body interaction problem
  • Marchesk
    2.4k
    I don't understand #2. What makes the laws of nature "intentional"? Can you explain intentionality? I understand it as a mental attitude where propositions are about something.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    With regard to the first point, the Fundamental Abstraction of natural science: Every act of knowing is both objective and subjective. It involves both a known object, and a knowing subject. When we begin natural science we choose to focus on the object to the exclusion of the subject. We care what Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Hubble saw, not about their subjective experience in seeing it. So the fundamental abstraction leaves behind any and all data on the subject as such. As a result the natural sciences are bereft of the data required to address human subjectivity, awareness and intentionality.

    The second point of discussion deals with the laws operative in nature, as opposed to what we may call "the laws of physics," which are approximate descriptions of the laws operative in nature.

    (1) We explain things by immaterial laws of nature. Asking, “What is the law of conservation of mass/energy made of?” betrays a category error. Natural laws are not made of particles or fields, but are immaterial principles operating through­out the cosmos.
    (2) These laws are immanent, operating in matter, and transcendent, depending on no single species or instance of matter, but controlling all matter regardless of constitution or properties.
    (3) The laws explain things here and now because they act here and now. If laws did not act, we could never experience their effects. For energy to be conserved here and now, the law of conservation of energy must act here and now. The explanation is a concur­rent, co-existing cause, not a Humean prior event. “Explanation” has two meanings. One is a word string describing a causal structure. The other is the cause so described. We are discussing causes in nature.
    (4) These laws are aspects of reality, not fictions. Laws of nature are not invented, but discovered. While the laws of physics are human products, the realities they approximately describe antedate humans. If they did not, they could not explain the evolution of either the universe or life.
    (5) Since the laws explain why energy, momentum, and elec­­tric charge remain constant, science requires explanations not only for changes, but also for constancy.

    A pivotal thesis is that the laws of nature are essentially intentional. One way to see this is to reflect on what I call "Logical Propagators."

    Logical Propagators: Logical propagators are propositions or judgments allow­ing in­for­ma­tion about one space-time point to be applied to another. Using conser­vation laws to explain a stone’s existence required our premises be true at the time and place of their application. It is inadequate for a law to be true at another time or place. To be effective, an explanation must be operative when and where applied. Consider an argument whose premises are only true some­times. For a conclusion to follow, the major and minor prem­ises must be true simultaneously. If one premise is true now and the other later, the conclusion is unsound. For example:
    All now in the room can hear Mary. (Time specific)
    John will be in the room tomorrow. (Time Mismatch)
    John can hear Mary. (Invalid)
    This is invalid because of the temporal mismatch. There is noth­ing profound here.

    Still, we routinely draw conclusions true at one time from data true at another. Scientists and engineers make predictions, and we base our lives on past experience and future expectation. Whenever we do this, we rely on logical propagators. Consider:
    All in the room when Mary speaks can hear her. (Timeless)
    Mary now intends to speak in the room tomorrow. (Logical Propagator)
    John will be in the room tomorrow. (Time matched)
    John can hear Mary tomorrow. (Valid)
    The second premise uses a fact today to make an assertion about tomorrow. It is because Mary now intends to speak tomorrow that we can validly draw the conclusion. Absent her committed intention, the conclusion would be as unsound as before. Logical propagat­ors link information at two times.

    While propagator propositions are in the logical order, they express a reality transcending a single time. In asserting existence (“There is a ball”) or a property (“The ball is rubber”), we are saying something true at one time. A committed inten­tion, however, points to future information. It is a present tendency with a path to fruition. If we are careful, we can call real tendencies “logical propagators.” They control the develop­ment of earlier material states into later ones, but are not material states. They are logical because they transform information. They are propagators because they propagate information from one time to another.

    There are two species of logical propagators: commit­ted intentions and natural laws. If Mary commits to speaking tomorrow, she will speak to­mor­row. If billiard balls or quanta are in state S1 at t1, then, by the laws of nature, they will be in state S2 at time t2. Both predictions are true ceteris paribus (other things being equal), be­cause unforeseen factors may intervene. Mary could die. An earthquake could upset the billiard table. A cosmic ray could disrupt a quantum system. Humans are more complex, so more things can intervene, but the principle is the same.

    Since com­­mitted intentions and natural laws are two species in the same dynamic genus, this is not a metaphor, but a shared dy­nam­ic. The time-development of human behavior under committed intentionality and that of physical systems under natural laws equally play out immanent dispositions or logical propagators. Both allow us to predict future information from present information. Both express immaterial principles in ob­­servable behavior.

    What is the observable sign of intentionality? Is it not a systematic time development ordered to ends? This is how naturalists understand intentionality. Eliminativists’ theory-theory is based on human inten­tions and natural laws having a common dynamic so that intentions become theoretical constructs for behavioral prediction. (Goldman 1993: 351-8). Dennett (1987) argues that phys­­­ical systems be­­have exactly as though expressing inten­tions. Dawkins (1989) writes of the selfish intent of genes. Shared dynamics is a fact relied upon by naturalists.

    Another way of seeing the intentional character of the laws of nature is to employ Franz Brentano's analysis of intentionality as characterized by "aboutness." As my intention to go to the store is about effecting my being in the store, so the laws of nature are about effecting the sequence of states predicted by physics.

    Reflection:
    Given Hume’s critique of causality, our grasp of time-sequenced causality is not adequately based on observing physical events. However, it is warranted by our experience of willing. Being aware of our own committed intentionality and its subse­quent incar­nation, we expect analogues in nature. Contrary to de­terminists who give time-sequenced causality prior­ity over voli­tion, will is the prime analogue and causality deriva­­tive. Associ­ation plays a role, but, as Hume noted, asso­cia­­tion does not warrant necessity. The idea of causal con­nec­tion over time derives from our experience as agents.

    I will continue with point 3 in a later post.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    I was writing my post when you asked about point 2. I hope that it provides a satisfactory answer.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Every act of knowing is both objective and subjective. It involves both a known object, and a knowing subject.Dfpolis

    Do you think a Thomas Aquinas would have made that statement? You see, I think not. I think the awareness of ourselves as knowing subjects, separate from the domain of objective facts, is one of the hallmarks of the modern period. Whereas the hylomorphic dualism of Aquinas assumes that the intelligible forms of things are known directly by the intellect, or 'received into the intellect', in a way that transcends the apparent duality of subject and object (per this blog post); not that Aquinas would have expressed such an idea, as again, I don't think that the medieval mind was self-aware in the way that the modern mind later became as a consequence of the upheaval represented by Galileo and Copernicus.

    My understanding of 'eliminative materialism' and its related denial of the subjective, is that it is a consequence of this awareness of the separateness of the knowing subject from the object of analysis. And that this comes sharply into focus with the foundation of modern science, and its assumption of the distinction of 'primary qualities', which are those qualities that are subject to exact mathematical analysis, and 'secondary qualities', which are associated with the subject.

    The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. — Thomas Nagel

    Mind and Cosmos pp. 35-36

    So, Dennett's 'eliminativism' is a direct consequence of the application of this paradigm to 'the subject' - which is why that he claims that consciousness itself is an illusory construct of the 'unconsciously competent', physical components of the brain.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    A pivotal thesis is that the laws of nature are essentially intentional.Dfpolis

    Well, yes and no. The laws don't cause material events in the sense of a willing, planning, intending mind. So they can't be essentially intentional in the usual psychological definition of intentional. It can only be some kind of analogy.

    It is also true that physics needs to recognise final cause in some proper fashion. The one thing we have learnt about the Big Bang universe is that it was born with an inherent general direction. It has a thermodynamical arrow of time.

    Also, pure determinism can't be correct. Quantum theory shows that probabilistic spontaneity is part of the equation. And so at best, the "laws" speak to generalised constraints on action. Events can be directed towards propensities, but they can't be absolutely controlled.

    So physics knows that the classical Newtonian/mechanical model of "cause and effect" is the coarse grain view, not the fundamental view. But the job then is to expand the classical metaphysics just as far as needed to make more sense - not jump all the way over to a mentalistic or idealistic metaphysics.

    So the metaphysical project - from a physicalist point of view - would be minimalist. Let's recognise that classicality is the coarse-grain picture. Now how do we incorporate the "intentionality" without claiming that the universe is like a brain making intelligent, personal, particular choices?

    A broad difference between physical intentionality (propensities or teleomaty) and mindful intentionality (biological functionality, or psychological purpose) is that physical intentionality is a matter of historic constraint. A system develops a record of its past as some kind of memory. And that history constrains all further free possibility. The physical future is still free - a matter of unconstrained accident - but also a freedom that is shaped into some definite set of likelihoods.

    Then psychological intentionality is quite different in that it involves a model of the physical world which allows the anticipation of its future states. And so, by being able to predict the propensities of the world, an observing self becomes included in the future outcomes of that world. The self becomes a player who can act to constrain outcomes, even at a future date, so as to serve locally particular goals.

    So physics is just history. A state of constraint limiting freedoms. And psychology is anticipation. A self with purposes is being inserted into this more basic equation so that self-serving actions can be added to the evolving mix.

    I think you are aiming to conflate the two stories. Physicalism - seeking to make a minimal expansion to its causal metaphysics - would agree that finality has to be part of its fundamental story now. But it can already see how psychological finality is its own semiotic story. It is discontinuous with the physicalist picture in the important regard of introducing a modelling relation with the world.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    The second point of discussion deals with the laws operative in nature

    ...
    (2) These laws are immanent, operating in matter, and transcendent, depending on no single species or instance of matter, but controlling all matter regardless of constitution or properties.

    ...
    (3) The laws explain things here and now because they act here and now.
    Dfpolis

    What do you mean when you say that these laws are "operative"? You say that the laws are immaterial yet they operate, acting to control matter.

    Here's a comparison. Human beings obey laws. They know and understand laws, and act to control themselves in a way which conforms to the laws. In this way they act to control human beings from within their own minds. However, we still have the option of disobeying the laws, if we so choose. So this "acting from within", is really the individual acting in choice to follow the laws. The laws are actually passive, not acting at all.. Is this the same way that matter is controlled by laws? Does the matter know and understand the laws, choosing to obey the laws, but still maintaining the capacity to disobey?

    If this is not the way that these laws operate, or act, to control matter from within, how else could they act to enforce themselves from within the matter?
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    the job then is to expand the classical metaphysics just as far as needed to make more sense - not jump all the way over to a mentalistic or idealistic metaphysics.apokrisis

    Keep coming....you’re getting there.....
  • Galuchat
    482
    (1) ...Natural laws are not made of particles or fields, but are immaterial principles operating through­out the cosmos.
    (2) These laws are immanent, operating in matter, and transcendent, depending on no single species or instance of matter, but controlling all matter regardless of constitution or properties.
    (4) These laws are aspects of reality, not fictions. Laws of nature are not invented, but discovered.
    — Dfpolis

    The Laws of Nature are immaterial, transcendent and immanent, principles which act (operating, controlling). So, they are independent of, and determine, existence. From a theological standpoint, they can be equated (or at least associated) with God.

    Generally, law (mass noun) is a set of constraints and freedoms which control action. So, laws act; constraining and/or permitting (i.e., controlling) action performed by objects (phenomena and/or noumena).

    For example:
    1) Human Positive Law controls human action.
    2) The Laws of Nature control natural action.

    (3) The laws explain things here and now because they act here and now. If laws did not act, we could never experience their effects. For energy to be conserved here and now, the law of conservation of energy must act here and now. The explanation is a concurrent, co-existing cause, not a Humean prior event. “Explanation” has two meanings. One is a word string describing a causal structure. The other is the cause so described. We are discussing causes in nature. — Dfpolis

    The Laws of Nature are an explanation (cause) of existential change and/or stasis. Then are they efficient cause?

    A pivotal thesis is that the laws of nature are essentially intentional. One way to see this is to reflect on what I call "Logical Propagators."...Logical propagators are propositions or judgments allowing information about one space-time point to be applied to another. — Dfpolis

    If the observable sign of intentionality is "systematic time development ordered to ends" (efficient cause), what is final cause?

    They (logical propagators) control the development of earlier material states into later ones, but are not material states. They are logical because they transform information. They are propagators because they propagate information from one time to another. — Dfpolis

    I understand data transformation with reference to mathematical function (correspondence) and the process of encoding/decoding, but would appreciate a definition of "logic" in terms of data transformation which works for both the Laws of Nature and human committed intentions.

    For example:
    Logical Propagators control material development across time. So, "logic" in this context would be defined as: a rational (measurable and/or reasonable) principle?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    The Laws of Nature are immaterial, transcendent and immanent, principles which act (operating, controlling). So, they are independent of, and determine, existence. From a theological standpoint, they can be equated with God.Galuchat

    If these laws are immanent, within matter, as dfpolis claims, and they act within every piece of matter, how is it possible that the very same law acts (having causal impact) within each piece of matter throughout the entire universe?

    You say that these laws can be equated with God, but I think that they are inconsistent with God. Such laws would cause all matter to move in a deterministic way, but God allows that we have free will, so the two are inconsistent. Which do you think is the case then, is all matter controlled by laws inherent within, in a deterministic way, or is there freewill, allowing matter to be moved according to the intentions of the freewilling being?
  • gurugeorge
    517
    We care what Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Hubble saw, not about their subjective experience in seeing it.Dfpolis

    Eh, we still don't care.
  • Galuchat
    482
    Such laws would cause all matter to move in a deterministic way, but God allows that we have free will, so the two are inconsistent. — Metaphysician Undercover

    I see in this scheme: constraint and freedom, determinism and indeterminism.
  • Pattern-chaser
    655
    We care what Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Hubble saw, not about their subjective experience in seeing it.Dfpolis

    Eh, we still don't care.gurugeorge

    You may not. This seems to be the central point of this thread, and it's the point you wish to dismiss. That's something of a shame, isn't it? :confused:
  • Dfpolis
    553
    Do you think a Thomas Aquinas would have made that statement?Wayfarer

    Yes, I think he would.

    I think the awareness of ourselves as knowing subjects, separate from the domain of objective facts, is one of the hallmarks of the modern period.Wayfarer

    Consider:
    As stated above (Articles 1 and 2) a thing is intelligible according as it is in act. Now the ultimate perfection of the intellect consists in its own operation: for this is not an act tending to something else in which lies the perfection of the work accomplished, as building is the perfection of the thing built; but it remains in the agent as its perfection and act, as is said Metaph. ix, Did. viii, 8. Therefore the first thing understood of the intellect is its own act of understanding. This occurs in different ways with different intellects. For there is an intellect, namely, the Divine, which is Its own act of intelligence, ... And there is yet another, namely, the human intellect, which neither is its own act of understanding, nor is its own essence the first object of its act of understanding, for this object is the nature of a material thing. And therefore that which is first known by the human intellect is an object of this kind, and that which is known secondarily is the act by which that object is known; and through the act the intellect itself is known, the perfection of which is this act of understanding. For this reason did the Philosopher assert that objects are known before acts, and acts before powers (De Anima ii, 4).
    -- Summa Theologiae Ia, q. 87, art 3.

    You're right that, beginning with Descartes, philosophers have posited that we know our mind independently of knowing the other; however, this isn't what Aquinas and I are doing. I'm following Aquinas in saying that in knowing the other we can grasp that we have the power to know. ("that which is first known by the human intellect is an object of this kind, and that which is known secondarily is the act by which that object is known.")

    In other words, every act of knowing has two objects. One, (the objective object), is the thing we seek to know, say an apple. The other (the subjective object) is what our act of knowing the objective object reveals about ourselves -- e.g. that we can and are seeing, that we can and are being aware. In the Fundamental Abstraction we fix on the objective object to the exclusion of the subjective object.

    Aquinas assumes that the intelligible forms of things are known directly by the intellectWayfarer

    No, he does not assume "that the intelligible forms of things are known directly." He follows Aristotle's analysis in De Anima, saying that we know material objects via the senses -- by abstracting intelligible features from phantasms (bound sensory representations). He says explicitly that we have no direct knowledge of essences -- knowing them only by sensible accidents.

    And that this comes sharply into focus with the foundation of modern science, and its assumption of the distinction of 'primary qualities', which are those qualities that are subject to exact mathematical analysis, and 'secondary qualities', which are associated with the subject.Wayfarer

    The modern mind-body problem begins with Descartes, who antedates Newton and whose mathematical physics is a joke. The distinction of primary and secondary qualities seems to start with Locke -- long after Descartes..

    Nagel Has a poor grasp of the history of science -- accepting mythic over documentary history. A good remedy would be reading in the history of medieval science. good starting point. James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution is a good starting point, despite missing a few critical points. Medieval physicists developed mathematical concepts (such as inertia and instantaneous velocity) essential to classical physics -- providing the foundation on which Galileo and Newton built.

    So, there's nothing about a mathematical approach to the material world that gives rise to either Cartesian duality or the modern mind-body problem. The actual cause is Descartes's profound ignorance of the tradition -- leaving him to work out both physics and philosophy de novo.

    It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. — Thomas Nagel

    Nagel sees an important point here, but, I think, mischaracterizes it. Leaving out the subjective is a rational methodological move, but no more "essential" than the willing suspension of disbelief in watching a drama.

    Dennett's 'eliminativism' is a direct consequence of the application of this paradigm to 'the subject'Wayfarer

    I agree that Dennett is applying this paradigm; but it is utterly irrational to think, as Dennett does, that the paradigm is adequate to the full range of reality.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    Well, yes and no. The laws don't cause material events in the sense of a willing, planning, intending mind. So they can't be essentially intentional in the usual psychological definition of intentional. It can only be some kind of analogy.apokrisis

    My logical propagator argument shows that the laws of nature are in the same genus as human intentions, not the same species. My comparison with human committed intentions is certainly an analogical argument. Still, since the analysis does not address the issue of an intending mind, we need to be agnostic as to their origin and its character.

    Quantum theory shows that probabilistic spontaneity is part of the equation.apokrisis

    This is a common misunderstanding. Quantum theory restricts probability to observations and asserts that states evolve deterministically between observations. (E.g. P. A. M Dirac, Quantum Mechanics 4th ed. p. 108) Since there could be no observations before the advent of intelligent observers, quantum theory sees the evolution of the universe and of life up to recent times as completely deterministic.

    not jump all the way over to a mentalistic or idealistic metaphysics.apokrisis

    It is not my intention to do so. Recall that I said that all knowing involves both a known object and a knowing subject.

    A system develops a record of its past as some kind of memory. And that history constrains all further free possibility. The physical future is still free - a matter of unconstrained accident - but also a freedom that is shaped into some definite set of likelihoods.apokrisis

    The model physics finds adequate today is that all of the past is summed up in the present physical state (with no detailed "memory" of how that state arose). Future states are completely determined by the laws of nature acting on the present state. There are no "probabilities" involved unless one wishes to predict a measurement (observation).

    by being able to predict the propensities of the world, an observing self becomes included in the future outcomes of that world. The self becomes a player who can act to constrain outcomes, even at a future date, so as to serve locally particular goals.apokrisis

    We agree. The question is how to form a coherent understanding of both physics and personal agency.

    think you are aiming to conflate the two stories. Physicalism - seeking to make a minimal expansion to its causal metaphysics - would agree that finality has to be part of its fundamental story now. But it can already see how psychological finality is its own semiotic story. It is discontinuous with the physicalist picture in the important regard of introducing a modelling relation with the world.apokrisis

    I am not seeking to conflate anything. Broadly, I'm saying that physicalism (as opposed to physics) is an instance of Whiteheads Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness -- that it confuses an abstraction (resulting from the Fundamental Abstraction of natural science) with the complex concrete reality from which it is abstracted. We have two disjoint abstractions -- the objective world of physics, and the subjective world of Cartesian mind. What we need is to understand is how the concrete world bridges these abstractions. In other words, the mind-body problem is not a problem of the lived world, but of confusing our abstractions with reality.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    What do you mean when you say that these laws are "operative"? You say that the laws are immaterial yet they operate, acting to control matter.Metaphysician Undercover

    I mean that they inform future states. Of all the metaphysically possible future states only a determinate future state is actualized at a given time. As information is the reduction of possibility, the laws inform successive states of the cosmos.

    So this "acting from within", is really the individual acting in choice to follow the laws. The laws are actually passive, not acting at all.. Is this the same way that matter is controlled by laws? Does the matter know and understand the laws, choosing to obey the laws, but still maintaining the capacity to disobey?Metaphysician Undercover

    We have no evidence to suggest that matter is aware, let along aware of the laws of nature. Because of the Fundamental Abstraction rational agents are not adequately accounted for by physics. Thus, it is not surprising that we act in ways not described by physics.

    If this is not the way that these laws operate, or act, to control matter from within, how else could they act to enforce themselves from within the matter?Metaphysician Undercover

    We know, as a contingent fact, that matter exhibits an orderly dynamics, which by analogy with human ordinances, we call "obeying laws." This does not imply either awareness or choice on the part of matter. Asking how the laws work is like asking what dynamics links the dynamic of a system to the system it is the dynamics of. That kind of question misunderstands what "dynamics" means.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    The Laws of Nature are immaterial, transcendent and immanent, principles which act (operating, controlling). So, they are independent of, and determine, existence. From a theological standpoint, they can be equated (or at least associated) with God.Galuchat

    They do not determine "existence," but the time-development of material systems.

    However, the relation to God has deep historical roots. Jeremiah, who introduced the idea of fixed laws of nature into Western literature (Jer. 31:36; 33:25 -- a generation before Thales), conceived of them as divine ordinances, and Aquinas used them as the evidentiary basis of his fifth way. Newton thought God "tweaked" them to give us the observed orbits (the "hypothesis of God" rejected by Laplace). I'm not making the God case here -- I'm looking at the laws in se and in relation to the mind-body problem.

    The Laws of Nature are an explanation (cause) of existential change and/or stasis. Then are they efficient cause?Galuchat

    If you define an efficient cause as one that actualizes a potential, then in actualizing potential physical states, they are an efficient cause.

    If the observable sign of intentionality is "systematic time development ordered to ends" (efficient cause), what is final cause?Galuchat

    We need to understand that formal, material, efficient and final causality are different ways of conceiving the same event or process. They need not be separate "things" as a logical atomist might think. A final cause is the foundation in reality for the form of a state to be actualized. It is those aspects of present reality that determine the form of what will come to be. In the model of physics, future states are determined by the initial state (present form) and the laws of nature. So, the final cause is the form of the present state together with the laws of nature, jointly conceived as determining the future state.

    To make my point about different ways of conceiving the same process, think of the supposed opposition between mechanism and teleology. If a mechanist is a determinist, she is, ipso facto, a supporter of teleology -- for she posits the immanence of the future form Final causes do not act from the future to "pull" the present state into the future state, they are immanent and active throughout the process. My desire to go to the store (final cause) does not pull me to the store, it guides my intermediate actions to effect my arrival at the store. Thus, teleology and mechanism are two projections of the same reality. Instead of being contraries, they are complimentary -- related as ends and means. Mechanism fixes on means, teleology on ends.

    I understand data transformation with reference to mathematical function (correspondence) and the process of encoding/decoding, but would appreciate a definition of "logic" in terms of data transformation which works for both the Laws of Nature and human committed intentions.Galuchat

    In talking about the logical order, I'm discussing information. Information is the reduction of (logical) possibility and results from the actualization of intelligibility. Both physical and intentional states have an intelligibility that is prior to our knowledge of them.

    While information properly speaking belongs to the logical order, a state's intelligibility, as a source of information, may be called "information" by an analogy of attribution -- just as we say food is "heathy" not because it's alive and well, but because it contributes to health.

    So, I'm using "logical" to refer to the information (intelligibility) specifying a state, whether that state be physical or intentional. "Logical Propagators" in nature, then, transform the intelligibility of one state into that of another.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    We care what Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Hubble saw, not about their subjective experience in seeing it. — Dfpolis

    Eh, we still don't care.
    gurugeorge

    It's a matter of choice. Some of us do. You seem not to.
  • gurugeorge
    517
    Why on earth should anybody care about their subjective experiences? They're of interest only to them.

    It's like when someone at a party excitedly tells the assembled audience about their dream from last night and everyone stifles a yawn.
  • Galuchat
    482

    That's great. Thanks for the clarifications.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    Still, since the analysis does not address the issue of an intending mind, we need to be agnostic as to their origin and its character.Dfpolis

    Why would we need to be agnostic when intentionality is something neurocognition studies? We have reason to make a definite distinction between brains and universes, purposes and laws.

    This is a common misunderstanding. Quantum theory restricts probability to observations and asserts that states evolve deterministically between observations.Dfpolis

    Given that it is probability states that evolve deterministically, then I would say that makes it literally part of the equation.

    The model physics finds adequate today is that all of the past is summed up in the present physical state (with no detailed "memory" of how that state arose). Future states are completely determined by the laws of nature acting on the present state. There are no "probabilities" involved unless one wishes to predict a measurement (observation).Dfpolis

    And yet the principle of least action is basic to physics. And classical determinism is an emergent feature of reality at best. Events are certainly constrained by contexts. And the constraint can be so universal - no detailed memory of its origins, as you say - that it is pretty absolute and deterministic looking. But then underneath this classical emergent description lies the deeper quantum one.

    So you are taking an approach to the laws of nature that seems really dated.

    The idea that transcendent laws could some how reach down, God-like, to regulate the motions of particles was always pretty hokey. An immanent view of nature's laws is going to be more useful if we want to make sense of what is really going on.

    I am not seeking to conflate anything. Broadly, I'm saying that physicalism (as opposed to physics) is an instance of Whiteheads Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness -- that it confuses an abstraction (resulting from the Fundamental Abstraction of natural science) with the complex concrete reality from which it is abstracted. We have two disjoint abstractions -- the objective world of physics, and the subjective world of Cartesian mind. What we need is to understand is how the concrete world bridges these abstractions. In other words, the mind-body problem is not a problem of the lived world, but of confusing our abstractions with reality.Dfpolis

    Sounds good. But I'm not getting much sense of how you mean to proceed from here.

    Talk of "laws" is definitely nonsense if we are to understand that as meaning anything like the kind of law-bound behaviour of reasoning social creatures like us. But the irony, as I say, is that our human concept of law is all about reification. We create these abstract constructs like truth, justice and good, then try to live by them. A lot of hot air is spent on debating their "reality".

    And yes, the realms of the material and the mental are rather disjoint abstractions. But the problem is not that they are modelling abstractions. That is just how modelling works. The problem is that they don't work very well - at least to explain "everything". Materialism does a pretty good job of modelling the physical world - as a finite state automata. But that then sets up this dualism where everything materialism leaves out - mainly formal and final cause - gets left unexplained as part of the "mental".

    However physicalism has moved on. You now have a better dichotomy in play - information and entropy. And these are not disjoint realms. They are formally reciprocal. So - while still being just models, just abstractions - we can understand how these two aspects of being are bridged in concrete fashion.

    So first up, science just is modelling and hence abstractions are how it goes about its business. That won't change.

    Second, physicalism can now be better understood in terms of information and entropy rather than mind and matter. And that semiotic view even explains why science - as an informational process - should be a business of abstractions ... so as to be able to regulate the world insofar as it is a concrete and entropic realm of being.
  • Janus
    6.2k
    The distinction of primary and secondary qualities seems to start with Locke -- long after Descartes..Dfpolis

    I think it may have started with Galileo, but I can't remember where I encountered that information, so I may be incorrect.
  • Janus
    6.2k


    You are generalizing too much without any justification I would say.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    Why on earth should anybody care about their subjective experiences? They're of interest only to them.gurugeorge

    As philosophers we are not interested in subjective experiences because they a particular to each person, but because they they are tokens of types of experiences such as knowing and willing.
  • Dfpolis
    553
    You are welcome.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    every act of knowing has two objects. One, (the objective object), is the thing we seek to know, say an apple. The other (the subjective object) is what our act of knowing the objective object reveals about ourselves -- e.g. that we can and are seeing, that we can and are being aware.Dfpolis

    I would be interested in your comments on this passage, which I linked above, but I reproduce here in full, as I think outlines a very different model of epistemology to the one you are providing here:

    EVERYTHING in the cosmic universe is composed of matter and form. Everything is concrete and individual. Hence the forms of cosmic entities must also be concrete and individual. Now, the process of knowledge is immediately concerned with the separation of form from matter, since a thing is known precisely because its form is received in the knower. But, whatever is received is in the recipient according to the mode of being that the recipient possesses. If, then, the senses are material powers, they receive the forms of objects in a material manner; and if the intellect is an immaterial power, it receives the forms of objects in an immaterial manner. This means that in the case of sense knowledge, the form is still encompassed with the concrete characters which make it particular; and that, in the case of intellectual knowledge, the form is disengaged from all such characters. To understand is to free form completely from matter.

    “Moreover, if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    “The separation of form from matter requires two stages if the idea is to be elaborated: first, the sensitive stage, wherein the external and internal senses operate upon the material object, accepting its form without matter, but not without the appendages of matter; second the intellectual stage, wherein agent intellect operates upon the phantasmal datum, divesting the form of every character that marks and indentifies it as a particular something.

    “Abstraction, which is the proper task of active intellect, is essentially a liberating function in which the essence of the sensible object, potentially understandable as it lies beneath its accidents, is liberated from the elements that individualize it and is thus made actually understandable. The product of abstraction is a species of an intelligible order. Now possible intellect is supplied with an adequate stimulus to which it responds by producing a concept.”

    ~From Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Robert E. Brennan, O.P.; Macmillan Co., 1941. (Additional paragraphing and emphasis added).
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    Thus, teleology and mechanism are two projections of the same reality. Instead of being contraries, they are complimentary -- related as ends and means. Mechanism fixes on means, teleology on ends.Dfpolis

    So, I'm using "logical" to refer to the information (intelligibility) specifying a state, whether that state be physical or intentional. "Logical Propagators" in nature, then, transform the intelligibility of one state into that of another.Dfpolis

    I think I agree on these points. So we may be arguing towards the same general picture. Reading your other replies, I am clearer now that you want to focus on your logical propagator story.

    Broadly I take a view on causality that is Aristotelian and Peircean. Which then cashes out in the kind of current physicalism which sees information and entropy as bridging the old mind-matter divide.

    So we do have an information theoretic turn in fundamental physics that takes a constraints-based view of natural laws. The laws exist emergently and immanently as contextualising states of information - the holographic principle. And then material events are the observable concrete happenings that emerge locally as actualised states of being.

    Being the informational side of the equation, the constraints on a system embody the downward acting formal and final causes. So we can speak of logical propagators as representations of intentions.

    Talk of an "informational realm" is pretty general. Having established it as a legitimate part of modern physicalism, the issue becomes how to describe the structure of the realm. And it is pretty standard to apply logic rather directly to our ontological modelling. You have quantum information approaches where the issue becomes how can one ask two opposing questions of reality at the same time. You can inquire about the location of an event, or the momentum of an event, but not get a complete answer on both in just a single act of measurement.

    So yes. Seeing reality as being shaped top-down by an intelligible or logical structure is the new metaphysical perspective I would say. Plenty would believe the Universe is a computer, even.

    But then your proposal strikes me as having a particular problem. It seems to have to presume a classical Newtonian backdrop notion of time - a spatialised dimension. And modern physics would be working towards an emergent and thermal notion of time as a better model. So any logical propagator would have to unfold in that kind of time, not a Newtonian one.

    On the other hand, the classical is what does emerge in a coarse grained fashion. So, with care, a Newtonian notion of time, and hence of logical intentions unfolding in time, does make sense.

    And that is again where I would insist on a clear distinction in terms of history vs anticipation.

    Brains are the kind of devices that can record personal memories. So they can form a prediction, expectation or goal and remember that in such a fashion that the information does act to constrain future eventualities. You get the clear intentionality of Mary planning to speak in the room tomorrow and all that logically follows from her having that intention today - and being likely to still be in a similar state of mind tomorrow.

    But the bare physical world - the world that does not have this kind of anticipatory intentional modelling of its tomorrow - has only its tendencies, not its plans. So it is "intentional" in an importantly different way.

    Yes, the full physical description needs to recognise final and formal cause. And an information theoretic perspective now gives physics a suitable mathematical, or logical, framework for describing the world as being constrained by its history - its "memory" in terms of holistic informational states. We can see how "law" gets baked into the fabric of the Cosmos as a fact of its dissipative development. It evolves a structure that stands as a context to all further material events. All this is a great advance on the old notion of transcendent laws floating somewhere above everything they regulate in some kind of eternal and perfect fashion.

    Yet still, Mary can today form a plan of what she will do tomorrow. But an iceberg or hurricane can only form a propensity. A small hairline fracture in the melting berg today is possibly highly likely to be the vast chunk that calves off tomorrow.

    We could even model that in terms of deterministic Poisson statistics. Likewise we can predict which way the hurricane is likely to swerve as it knocks about the Carribbean islands. There is a statistical band to which it must be constrained - given a set of measurements we might obtain to day to encode an informational picture of it in terms of a set of dynamical parameters obeying some intelligible framework of state-dependent laws.

    So physics is certainly made intelligible by its propensities. The today does actually constrain the tomorrow. And that is the best we can mean by formal/final cause as even human intentionality is only ever an intention. Things can go awry for Mary in ways she didn't expect. Worst of all is that she might not even remember.

    So everything can be brought back to the notion of constraints. And how that is then neatly matched by the capacity of reality to surprise. Spontaneity can be limited and yet not eliminated. A physicalism based on information and entropy is then in a great position to model that. Entropy treats the material now as uncertainty, surprise, fluctuation, or other action in want of a shaping, constraining, hand.

    The ship of science is thus better balanced. The old materialism did make the mistake of reification - seeing matter in fallaciously concrete terms. An entropic view of materiality reduces it to random fluctuation - something that would be nothing if it weren't taken in hand. And then bringing in an informational view of the physics allows for the explicit modelling of the formal/final causes that do the hylomorphic shaping of the active material potential into something that is reliably substantial.

    Again, if the back story is understood in that light, then I think I can see where you are going with logical propagators. However the sharp distinction between ordinary physical systems, and living/mindful organisms, must still be maintained when talking about "intentionality".
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    I mean that they inform future states. Of all the metaphysically possible future states only a determinate future state is actualized at a given time. As information is the reduction of possibility, the laws inform successive states of the cosmos.Dfpolis

    So the laws cause matter to behave the way that it does, by informing it? I assume that they exist as information then.

    We have no evidence to suggest that matter is aware, let along aware of the laws of nature.Dfpolis

    How could matter interpret the information which the laws provide, in order to act according to the laws, if it is not aware of that information Don't you think that information is useless without something to interpret it? Do you know of any cases where information does anything without something interpreting it?

    We know, as a contingent fact, that matter exhibits an orderly dynamics, which by analogy with human ordinances, we call "obeying laws." This does not imply either awareness or choice on the part of matter.Dfpolis

    Well that' a really bad analogy then. Human beings obey laws by being aware of them and choosing to obey them. If matter exhibiting "orderly dynamics" is not a case of matter being aware of, and choosing to obey laws, then how is this analogous? Why would you even think that matter exhibiting orderly dynamics is a case of matter obeying laws, when this has nothing in common with what we know as "obeying laws"?

    Asking how the laws work is like asking what dynamics links the dynamic of a system to the system it is the dynamics of. That kind of question misunderstands what "dynamics" means.Dfpolis

    Actually, describing dynamics as laws operating within matter is the real misunderstanding of what "dynamics" means.
  • gurugeorge
    517
    As philosophers we are not interested in subjective experiences because they a particular to each person, but because they they are tokens of types of experiences such as knowing and willing.Dfpolis

    I would disagree strongly with that. As I see it, knowing and willing are objective relations; their intentional objects are not subjective, but objective (and shared, public).
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    So the laws cause matter to behave the way that it does, by informing it? I assume that they exist as information then.Metaphysician Undercover

    How does form in-form matter then? You are just repeating the usual issues created by your own particular notion of hylomorphism. It is because you presume the material principle to be already substantial and passively existent that you keep encountering the same logical difficulties.

    The way physics is making sense of hylomorphism is as the informational constraint on entropic degrees of freedom. So nature is taken as dualistic in a sense. It is divided into the necessary and the accidental. The substantial or actual is then the third part, the middle part, where the two combine as a fact of physical development.

    This means the material aspect is best understood in terms of fundamental contingency - action that could happen in any direction without purpose or coherence. Prime matter would be active, not passive. But active in the sense of pure undirected fluctuation with no stable identity. It would be utter flux. Which then gives form and purpose a useful job to do.

    The other aspect of the actualised is then whatever history gets recorded in a fashion that it becomes a material or immanent constraint on further flux.

    A shower of rain falls randomly on a new bare hillside. Little rivulets form and combine. Eventually, because the hillside can erode and form patterns - information - a deeper system of brooks, streams and rivers develop. We have bodies of water that seem now fixed and permanent features of the landscape - substantial beings. The accidental gets channeled to become the necessary. It is a physical law what happens to every rain-drop now.

    Although of course - taking this process view of nature and its habits - we can see that the drainage pattern can still evolve with time. Accidents continue to happen. The channels will keep readjusting so as to maintain a steady and efficient flow through their network.

    So you are stuck with the intuition that the material substrate must be a rock-solid and passive - that kind of materiality. But understanding materiality as undirected flux is how you can make room for the matching thing of a constraining purpose that is encoded as information and gives steadying shape to the flow of that flux as now a material process with a direction.

    If you simply refuse to accept that prime matter is essentially active - or indeed, the complete lack of any stabilising constraint - then you will keep failing to make any sense of a naturalistic metaphysics which hylomorphically invokes the "other" of that stabilising constraint.

    (Of course, I realise that your theism also depends on failing to make sense of a naturalistic metaphysics. :) )
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.8k
    The way physics is making sense of hylomorphism is as the informational constraint on entropic degrees of freedom. So nature is taken as dualistic in a sense. It is divided into the necessary and the accidental. The substantial or actual is then the third part, the middle part, where the two combine as a fact of physical development.

    This means the material aspect is best understood in terms of fundamental contingency - action that could happen in any direction without purpose or coherence. Prime matter would be active, not passive. But active in the sense of pure undirected fluctuation with no stable identity. It would be utter flux. Which then gives form and purpose a useful job to do.
    apokrisis

    You describe this in a way completely different from dfpolis. You describe matter as complete freedom, whereas df describes it as having laws, constraints, inherent within. So you cannot claim that this is the "way physics is making sense of hylomorphism", because there is total inconsistency here. In reality, physics has no concept of matter, so hylomorphism makes no sense to physics, and that is why those, like you and dfpolis, who try to bring it to bear on the principles adopted by physics come up with completely inconsistent notions.

    How does form in-form matter then? You are just repeating the usual issues created by your own particular notion of hylomorphism. It is because you presume the material principle to be already substantial and passively existent that you keep encountering the same logical difficulties.apokrisis

    I do not think that forms "in-form matter" at all. Matter is completely conceptual, it is the concept which human beings have developed to account for the temporal continuity of existence. In modern physics the concept of matter has been replaced by the concept of energy as the means of accounting for temporal continuity. So we cannot bring back "matter" as a concept, it has been antiquated and demonstrated as insufficient. "Matter" expressed the temporal continuity of individual material objects, while "energy" expresses the temporal continuity of relations. Now physics needs a principle to account for that part of reality which exists in relations. This is not "matter", because matter, as temporal continuity was subsumed under "energy", so that part of reality which exists in relations is now lacking in temporal continuity. Nor is it energy, which refers to the relations themselves.

    So "form" refers to the relations, and the relations are also assumed to have temporal continuity as energy. In modern physics form and matter are unified, temporal continuity is part of the formula. Therefore matter (temporal continuity) is assumed to be inherent within form, and this is the energy of those relations. There is no separation in modern physics between the energy and the relations, so there is no room for hylomorphism without producing the necessary separation.
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