On 8/28/2010 9:00 AM, Stephen P. King wrote:

Hi Folks,

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 given a?

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.

A superposition in QM is just due to a choice of basis. What's a superposition in one basis is still an eigenfunction in some basis. The evolution of the state is one-to-one and time reversible. The problem is the measurement or "measurement like" processes which give us classical behavior. Everett's relative states (aka multiple worlds) is one answer to this problem.


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 interactions

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 worlds

of a Kripke structure, and events to propositions that may or may not hold in

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. Prolog's

backward-chaining strategy dualizes this by viewing logic as primary and time

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.

Kindest regards,


*From:* everything-list@googlegroups.com [mailto:everything-l...@googlegroups.com] *On Behalf Of *Rex Allen
*Sent:* Friday, August 27, 2010 1:09 PM
*To:* everything-list@googlegroups.com
*Subject:* Re: What's wrong with this?

On Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM, David Nyman <david.ny...@gmail.com <mailto: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 for that?

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 problem.

Maybe "Idealist Accidentalism" is the answer?


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