Excellent topic and comments! Naturalism does seem to be a
natural condition of humans given their predilection for supernatural or
supranatural explanations of events that have no simplistic explanations,
i.e. in terms of their common every day experiences which are limited by
their socioeconomic conditions. I am not sure what Idealist Accidentalism
would entail. Could you elaborate on this, Rex?
Could I propose a hypothesis about rules and causality? I will try to keep
my explanation here simplistic to save time and space so please take that
into account as you read this. First, if we are going to eliminate all
traces of supranaturalism from our considerations, does it not behoove us to
be sure that we are bringing the Observer at Infinity in some other guise?
This notion of "rules" concerns me because it seems to imply that either
some entity established them ab initio or else their existence is simply the
result of some selective mechanism. Naturalism would involve making sure
that it is not the former case. I think that the work of thinkers like
Russell Standish and Nick Bostrom are making great strides to help us
understand this later possibility. It could very well be that these "rules"
are simply patterns of commonality that emerge between a large number of
interacting systems, following something like a cross between learning or
'habituation" and a least action principle.
In the work of Vaughan Pratt
(http://boole.stanford.edu/pratt.html) I found an interesting way of
thinking of causality. It is part of his Chu space based model of
concurrence and interactions. To set things up let us first think of what
goes on in the transition from one event to another in a sequence in time,
the context within which the notion of causality arises. When we consider
some event a as being the cause of some other event b, is it always the case
that a and b where unique in that there was only one possible b for the
This question might not make any sense in the classical regime where its
determinism involves a strict one-to-one and onto mapping between successive
events in time, but this is not true for QM. In quantum mechanics we have
the situation that unless the conditions and systems are severely restricted
for any a there is a spectrum of possible b_i that could obtain via the
superposition rule. This is one reason we have all sorts of so-called
problems with QM as it does not let us get away with the one-to-one and onto
maps of classical dynamics.
So, I am lead to the question, given the (a, b_i) pair which represents a
state and the set of its possible "next states", what about the time
reversed situation? Well, we find that for some b there is not just one
possible a; what we find is another many-to-one sort of mapping, just
pointing in the opposite direction" (b, a_j). We can see this explicitly in
the bra and ket notations and people like John Cramer and others have seized
upon this to think about interactions that go both "forward" and "backward"
in time. What Pratt proposes is a more subtle version of this that assumes a
duality relationship between information and matter. Explained here
http://chu.stanford.edu/guide.html#ratmech , this duality involves a
transition rule that move us a bit toward making sense of the kinds of great
questions that Rex points out below.
The rule, put very crudely, is that for a to cause b, b must imply a; where
the material act of causation is the dual of the logical act of implication.
Let me quote directly from Pratt's paper:
"We propose to reduce complex mind-body interaction to the elementary
of their constituents. Events of the body interact with states of the
mind. This interaction has two dual forms. A physical event a in the body
A impresses its occurrence on a mental state x of the mind X, written a=|x.
Dually, in state x the mind infers the prior occurrence of event a, written
x |= a.
States may be understood as corresponding more or less to the possible
of a Kripke structure, and events to propositions that may or may not hold
different worlds of that structure.
With regard to orientation, impression is causal and its direction is that
of time. Inference is logical, and logic swims upstream against time.
backward-chaining strategy dualizes this by viewing logic as primary and
as swimming upstream against logic, but this amounts to the same thing. The
basic idea is that time and logic flow in opposite directions."
Of course we have to get past the objections to dualism for this
idea to be taken seriously, but I believe that it goes a long way to
understanding causality in a wider context.
[mailto:everything-l...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Rex Allen
Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 1:09 PM
Subject: Re: What's wrong with this?
On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM, David Nyman <david.ny...@gmail.com> wrote:
> If we could remove ourselves from the universe and take a strict
> reductionist-god's eye view (which means having to drop all our usual
> mental categories - a very hard thing to achieve imaginatively) then,
> strictly adhering to the above hypothesis, all that would remain would
> be some ground-level physical machine grinding along, without the need
> for additional composite or macroscopic posits. Take your pick from
> current theory what is supposed to represent this "machine", but that
> needn't necessarily be at issue for the purpose of the argument. The
> point is that removing everything composite from the picture
> supposedly results in zero difference at the base level - same events,
> same "causality".
It seems to me that the primary question is about causality. Once you
commit to the idea of a rule-governed system, you're already in a radically
restrictive regime. Whether the system is physical or "ideal" or whatever
seems largely irrelevant.
But what is the alternative to a rule-governed system?
How can the occurrence of any event be explained *except* by attributing
that occurrence to some rule? Which is just to say that the event occurred
for some reason.
But if everything has a reason, then there are an infinity of reasons even
if there are only a finite number of things that initially need explanation.
Because for every reason there should be a another reason that explains why
the rule the reason refers to holds instead of not holding or instead of
some other rule holding in it's place or in addition to it.
And then we need a reason for each one of the reasons for our original
reasons. And so on, ad infinitum. But why our particular set of infinite
reasons instead of some other set of infinite reasons? What is the reason
The alternative is that some things happen for no reason. But in this case,
why would some things have explanations while others don't? What is the
reason for the two categories?
Maybe, instead, there is no reason for anything? How would we know? What
would eliminate this possibility from consideration?
So...reductive physicalism. It seems like only one example of a larger
Maybe "Idealist Accidentalism" is the answer?
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