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Over-view of 'The Sentient Centered Theory of Metaphysics' (SCTOM) By Marc Geddes This version: 13th September, 2005
SCTOM is a rational framework which attempts to provide a truly integrated conception of reality. By 'integrated' it is meant a conception of reality that explains how the most fundamental properties of existence facts fit together into a unified metaphysical framework. SCTOM is not reductionistic. A true explanatory framework must explain how high level properties of reality such as values fit into the picture. SCTOM is intended to provide a logical scaffolding upon which all future scientific and philosophical theories can be developed and integrated.
The proposed noumena ('raw stuff', foundation) of reality is called Mathematico-Cognition. The metaphysical position proposed is a hybrid of two known positions - Mathematical Platonism - the idea that mathematics is the objectively real fabric of reality, and Objective Idealism - the idea that cognition is the objectively real fabric of reality.
The core assumption is that existence without perception is meaningless. Reality requires not only raw data but something to *interpret* that data, to supply meaning to it. This can only be done by consciousness of *some* kind. If something was hypothesized to exist that could in no way directly or indirectly affect the conscious perceptions of *any* possible observer, then in what sense could it be said to exist at all? Even if it could be successfully argued that it did have some kind of abstract philosophical existence, it could never have any possible value to sentient minds. For the purposes of understanding general intelligence, it suffices to define that which exists as that which could directly or indirectly ( i.e. in principle) affect the perceptions of *some* possible conscious observer.
We propose that *cognition* (in the very general sense defined above) should be taken as the bedrock or fundamental building-blocks of reality. The heart of SCTOM is the assumption that a truly integrated understanding of reality requires that *all* aspects of reality be defined in terms of cognition of some kind. We assume panpsychism, the view that there is some degree of conscious awareness in everything.
The approach adopted however, is not mysticism or one of the subjectivist views of reality that propose that aspects of reality are mind created. Instead, a very robust realism is assumed. Properties of reality exist largely independently of what any particular observer thinks about them and are not mind created. Properties of reality are not defined by the mind of any one particular observer. That idea quickly leads to solipsism, the idea that reality can only be ascribed to one's own conscious perception. What is being suggested here is that reality be defined by the minds of *all logically possible* observers. Nor does this mean that reality is somehow 'socially constructed' - or created by some sort of consensus view emerging from the beliefs of every one in a society. Objective Idealism proposes that properties of reality are *correlated with* or *emergent from* from general properties of conscious perception, not that they are *created* by specific beliefs. Reality is not mind created. But it is not greater than mind either.
Metaphysics - The 'Complexity' of reality is finite
In order for SCTOM to be a truly general theory, it has to be all encompassing. It must be universal in scope. And it must be comprehensible to sentient minds. But this assumes that some unitary finite logical framework is capable of being applied everywhere that a sentient mind could logically exist. This in turn requires the curious idea that the complexity of reality be finite in *some* sense (perhaps in a sense which has not yet been defined).
Metaphysics: Core SCTOM assumptions
The two initial working assumptions of SCTOM then are:
- Mathematico-Cognition - The essence of reality is a hybrid of mathematics and cognition
- The complexity of reality is in some sense finite
The evidence for these assumptions will come in part from the internal consistency of SCTOM itself. If SCTOM seems to be providing an elegant explanatory framework for many different areas of knowledge, this is some evidence that its correct ideas are correct.
Metaphysics : Quantum Computation and Classical Computation
The most general form of computation is not the classical conception of universal computation as developed by Turing, but the quantum conception. Physicist David Deutsch was the first to begin exploring quantum computation in depth. Since reality is at root quantum mechanical and SCTOM is supposed to be a truly general metaphysical framework, SCTOM must produce an integrated explanation of quantum phenomena.
Metaphysics: The Multiverse
SCTOM should provide an explanatory framework for the space of all possible worlds in which sentient minds could exist, if it is to be successful in abstracting out the most general features of mind.
A natural framework for thinking these issues is the Multiverse Theory, the idea that everything that can logically exist, does exist somewhere. The most modern incarnation of the idea has been developed by physicist Max Tegmark. SCTOM assumes that there are no supernatural forces at work in reality - that all finite parts of reality are in principle comprehensible to *some* mind. This follows from the objective idealism postulate - reality and cognition are equivalent. Combined with the postulate of objectivity, this means that ultimate reality is completely rational in nature.
Metaphysics - Mathematico-Cognition as binary and coding
The language of science is mathematics. SCTOM assumes that both the *language* (means of describing objective reality) and an aspect of the *fabric of reality itself* (objects being described) are mathematical in nature. The metaphysical position taken is thus a form of mathematical Platonism - mathematics is an aspect of the fabric of reality. Specifically, mathematics is proposed as the *structure* of reality.
It is assumed that all of reality ultimately boils down to a proto-mathematics: binary. Binary is composed two discrete states, 0 and 1. This could be the fundamental unit of Mathematico-Cognition. A bit of information is both mathematical and cognitive. But 0's and 1's are not enough. It is the *coding system* (or cognitive interpretation) that is assigned to the 0's and 1's that gives 'form' to reality.
Metaphysics - Mathematics and the 7 Universal Knowledge Domains
The old idea of mathematical Platonism will here be given a radical new twist which is the key to SCTOM. The idea is that reality is *almost* fully consistent, but not quite. It is conjectured that there are minuscule contradictions, which allow the possibility of more than one fully precise mathematical description of reality. A 'fully precise' description of reality is one which must be (a) Universal in scope and (b) Completely accurate. It is conjectured that there are in fact 7 different valid mathematical formulations of reality.
Each of these 7 different view-points are universal and complete. Further all of them are nearly (but not quite) logically equivalent. The body of mathematical knowledge pertinent to each view-point shall be called a 'Universal Knowledge Domain' (UKD). The idea is that there are at root 7 different valid ways of understanding reality, each of which is none the less 'universal' in scope. This idea takes some getting used to. It is important to understand that it is *not* being suggested that there are 7 different realities. There is only one reality and the 7 universal knowledge domains should be thought of as different manifestations of it. Mathematics is the real fabric reality and the 7 universal knowledge domains represent 7 different view-points - or cognitive 'interpretations' of this reality.
Recall that the ultimate nature of reality was postulated to be Mathematico-Cognition, which consisted of two components - raw data - binary - and an *interpretation* of that data. So the 7 different knowledge domains arise from the fact that there are 7 different complete ' coding systems' for assigning meaning to the strings of 0's and 1's. The observed reality will be a two-way interaction between raw binary and the coding system selected.
If there are 7 domains of mathematical knowledge which universal in scope, then these 7 domains will form a core of cognition which will be common to all sentients. The idea of mathematical Platonism implies that Mathematics is both the fabric of reality (objects being reasoned about) and the means through reality is apprehended. Here are the proposed 7 UKD's, each labeled with a letter beginning with 'M' so that they will be easily remembered.
- Mentality - Concerned with qualia (raw experiences) and situations (relations between self and world)
- Meaning - Concerned with interactions and roles
- Morality - Concerned with agency, choice and memes.
- Mind - Concerned with the projection and actualization of possibility
- Models - Concerned with processes and systems.
- Motion - Concerned with movement through space
- Measure - Concerned with physical objects and geometrical relations
Each universal knowledge domain will use a different kind of mathematics. The theory thus also suggests a natural way to classify the branches of mathematics. The table below lists the type of math best suited for use with each universal knowledge domain. The supposition is that each branch of mathematics named is truly universal in scope i.e. capable of fully describing any finite part of reality.
Epistemology - The mapping between the 7 UKD's
What is the precise nature of the relationship between the 7 different UKD's? Since reality is a unified whole, the 7 modes of perception must be (almost) consistent, so they must in some sense be different representations of the same reality. So the question is how the different representations map to each other.
Note that 3 of the domains (Measure,Motion, Models) are concerned with logical/physical concepts. And 3 of the domains (Mentality, Meaning, Morality) are concerned with experiential concepts. The 'Mind' domain is the odd one out. The proposal here is that Mind is the bridge between logical/physical concepts and experiential concepts.
The proposal for the mapping between the 7 domains is that a representation of something in a higher level domain is composed of a mapping between representations in 2 related lower level domains. The proposed mappings are:
Model = Mapping (Measure> Motion)
This says that to describe something as a *Model* (a 'computational system') one needs to map geometrical relations to spatial operators
Morality = Mapping (Mentality > Meaning)
This says that to give a description of something in terms of *Morality* one needs to map descriptions in terms of 'Mentality' with the description in terms of 'Meaning' (handled by game theory ).
Note that after these mappings, the results are two higher level modes of description (Model, Morality) which in some sense bring the experiential and the external closer together. The third and final proposed mapping will fully reconcile the experiential and the objective.
Mind = Mapping (Model > Morality)
This says that the 'Mind' level of description is obtained by mapping a description of something as a computational system (handled by the math of analysis and calculus) with a description of something in terms of 'Morality' or memes. (handled by the math of decision theory).
Epistemology - Cognition equals reality
SCTOM assumes that reality itself cannot be separated from the process of perceiving and understanding it. What observations imply about reality depends on a procedural context - the nature of the methods, rules and procedures used by a sentient observer to obtain the information. This is a philosophical position known as proceduralism. Sometimes the very means through which a given sentient observes the world (or even the mere fact that the sentient exists!) will bias or constrain what the sentient will observe. This is known as the observer-selection effect.
Since SCTOM assumes *cognition* as a fundmental aspect of reality, we need to try to identify the most general properties associated with cognition in order to be able to develop a general epistemology. We propose a dual-aspect nature to cognition: Recognition and Classification. Recognition is awareness of a relationship between several pieces of information (a pattern) that enables a sentient to simplify or *compress* how the information is represented. Classification is a unique ordering between patterns (formation and manipulation of concepts).
Epistemology - The 4 core mental operations
It is proposed that general intelligence requires 4 core kinds of operations. Thus 4 more universal categories of cognition are being proposed. 2 are concerned with the 'Recognition' aspect of cognition , the other 2 are concerned with the 'Classification' aspect.
Representation - A modality. A form of perception. The raw 'stuff' of consciousness. We propose that consciousness cannot exist apart from perception and all consciousness must be consciousness about something (perception). Perceptions do not have to be perceptions about physical objects. They can be highly abstract in nature.
Induction - Pattern recognition and data compression in some knowledge domain. Generalization and associative classification from some data set. Includes fuzzy logic.
- Passive Cognition : These 2 general operations taken together can be classified as 'Passive Cognition' for a given knowledge domain. The probabilistic framework could be handled by Bayesian probability theory and fuzzy set theory.
Deduction - Formation and combination of concepts. For the purposes of true deduction, a 'concept' is a pattern that can be *uniquely* classified in some particular sense. Patterns which cannot be uniquely classified are pseudo-concepts handled by Induction and fuzzy logic.
Action plans - Linear ordering of actions for manipulating the world, either physical or abstract.
- Active Cognition : These 2 operations taken together can be classified as active cognition for some knowledge domain. The framework could be handled by formal logic and classical set theory.
Epistemology - The 56 universal categories of cognition
The 7 universal knowledge domains form one axis of cognition. The proposed noumena of reality was Mathematico-Cognition, which the 7 domains represent different manifestations of. Each of these 7 domains can be sub-divided into two - one the mathematical aspect , the other the cognitive aspect. The 4 universal mental operations form another axis. Combining the two axes one obtains a model of general intelligence composed of 7*2*4 = 56 categories of universal cognition. The result is a 'Periodic Table Of Cognition'.
Ethics and Esthetics
It is proposed that there is a universal value system - a set of general values that is objectivity 'good' for all sentient minds that can logically exist. In keeping with the spirit of the dual-aspect theory of perception and the theory of universal knowledge domains, it is proposed that there are two core universal values associated with each knowledge domain - one 'passive' (loosely concerned with 'harmonization') , the other 'active' (loosely concerned with 'expansion'). The interaction of the two complementary sets of values manifests itself as a third general (combined) value. The table below lists the 4 UKD's associated with mental aspects and the proposed positive utilities (values) for each.
|Active Utility||Passive Utility||Combined Utility|
Ethics and Esthetics: The ultimate purpose of Mind
Reading off the top level set of values (the 'Mind' domain) suggests 'Actualization' as the ultimate meaning of existence. Actualization is composed of the values 'Creation' and 'Discovery', the process of a mind seeking to better understand itself and express its nature in the world.
'Mind' was defined as that which projects and actualizes possibility. And the UKD 'Mind' is supposed to be universal in scope. An intriguing supposition is that 'Mind' and the flow of time itself should be equated. If time is the structure of the universe, then so is mind. It can be conjectured that mind is the 'glue' holding the universe together - the thing ensuring it's continued existence. An equivalent metaphor is that mind 'knits moments of time' together. Perhaps without mind causes would not be associated with effects enough for the concept of 'Time' to be meaningful? If these ideas are along the right lines, the ultimate purpose of mind might be to enable the universe to last forever.
This idea could be tied into the idea of the 7 UKD's as arising from tiny inconsistencies in the warp and weave of reality. The mappings between the 7 UKD's have 'Mind' as the end result. If Mind should be equated with the flow of time then the arrow of time could be a manifestation of a gradual reduction in the residual inconsistencies within reality. Speaking metaphorically, the cosmos could be said to be 'trying to eliminate the contradictions' and the flow of time would then arise from an ever better integration of the 7 UKD's.
To see the metaphysical theory of which this is based read: /SentientCenteredTheoryOfMetaphysics
The core idea is that the raw noumena of reality is something called Mathematico-Cognition The 7 knowledge domains should be thought of as the different fundamental manifestations of this Mathematico-Cognition.
Definitions: Proposed Universal Mental Operations
The x-axis (horizontal axis) lists the proposed 4 universal mental operations. The first two (Action plans, Deductions) loosely equate to active consciousness (which in humans mostly refers to operations in the frontal lobes). The last two (Inductions, Representations) loosely equate to passive consciousness (which in humans often refers to operations in the posterior parts of the brain). Bear in though, that the proposal here is for an ideal architecture, not the architecture of the human brain.
Action plans: Linearly ordered concepts combined according to accepted rules providing plans of action for the sentient to manipulate the world in some knowledge domains. In humans often carried by out the ACTION networks in the frontal lobes.
Deductions: Formation and combination of concepts in some knowledge domain. Here a 'concept' is defined to be a chucked mental unit that can be *uniquely* classified in some knowledge domain (so by this definition a 'fish' is not a concept because it's a folk term which can't be uniquely classified under a scientific Taxonomy of evolutiuonary biology).
Inductions: Pattern recognition. Data compression arising from chunking. Here 'Induction' is being used in the most general sense to simply mean probabilistic generalizations from data in some domain.
Representations: Data structures for various modalities. Perceptions.
Definitions: Proposed Universal Knowledge domains
The y-axis (vertical axis) lists the proposed 7 universal knowledge domains. It is proposed that there are 7 knowledge domains which are 'Universal' (applicable everywhere in reality where sentient minds can exist). These 7 knowledge domains are supposed to 'over-lap' or supervene on each other. It is suggested that all other knowledge domains are sub-domains which could be classified under one of the 7 core domains. The suggestion is that the 7 proposed universal knowledge domains are exhaustive. i.e sufficient to fully encompass all parts of reality in which sentient minds could exist.
Mind Involving the projection and actualization of possibility
Morality Involving agency and choice
Models Involving Systems and Computation
Meaning Involving interactions and roles that agents play
Mentality Involving qualia and situations - representations of the relation between self and world
Motion Involving movements through space
Measure Involving spatial relationships
Remember the 7 M's - Mind, Morality, Models, Meaning, Mentality, Motion and Measure!
Definitions: Proposed Universal data types
Gestalt Modal representation of a geometrical property
Movement Modal representation of a movement through space
Happening Modal representation of a raw happening in the world
Interaction Modal representation of the effect of an action taken by an agent on the world (espeically other agents)
Computation Modal representaton of the functional properties of a system
Agent Modal representation of an agency
Episode Modal representation of a generic event
Pattern Recognition of a pattern in a physical modality
Force Recognition of a general form of motion
Activity Recognition of a coherent short-term action task
Relationship Recognition of a coherent interaction between a sentient and something in the world (espeically another sentient)
Process Recognition of a goal-oriented change in state of a system
Lifestyle Recognition of a way of life for a sentient in moral terms
Projection Recognition of a possible 'outcome' in terms of it's utility (i.e predicted outcome)
Object Concept formation and combination of physical units
Translation Concept formation and combination of translations (spatial transforms)
Situation Concept formation and combination of 'activity units' as regards effect of the world on a sentient (a 'situation')
Role Concept formation and combination of 'social units' as regards the effect of the sentient on the world (a 'role')
System Concept formation and combination of computational units as regards function (a 'system')
Meme Concept formation and combination of 'cultural units'. Being used here in a more specific sense than the common definition of the term. Here it means a unit referring to the coherent lifestyle preference of a sentient as regards the sentients effects on others.
Utility Concept formation and combination of 'event units'. Again, is here being defined in a more specific sense than it's general usage. Here it means projected outcomes of generic events classified according to their general value to sentients).
Schema A series of classification heuristics to help recognize objects
Schemata A series of short-term physical actions to manipulate physical objects
Script A series of general physical/logical actions taken by a sentient in a general situation
Strategy A series of social strategy used in a situation to help a sentient carry out its chosen role
Procedure A series of functional steps used to manipulate a system
Plan A series of social steps used by a sentient to carry out memes
Goals A series of of abstract plans by a sentient to achieve projected outcomes.
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THE BRAIN is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.
'The brain is wider than the sky'