I do appreciate your remarks and thank you for writing them up and
posting them. Let me interleave some comments in reply.
On 1/13/2012 1:43 PM, David Nyman wrote:
On 13 January 2012 17:24, Stephen P. King<stephe...@charter.net> wrote:
I submit to you that you cannot just ignore the
universals vs. nominal problem and posit by fiat that just because one can
proof the truth of some statement that that statement's existence determines
its properties. Our ability to communicate ideas follows from their
universality, that they do not require *some particular* physical
implementation, but that is not the same as requiring *no* physical
implementation. You argue that *no* physical implementation is necessary; I
Forgive me for butting in (particularly in the light of the fact that
I too lack Bruno's erudition, only in spades) but I simply don't read
Bruno's work in the way you are representing it. I see it like this:
we have little option but to split our theories of "what there is"
into two parts: the epistemological (i.e. the only form in which, and
the exclusive means whereby, we have any access to information) and
the ontological (i.e. some coherent theoretical framework in which to
situate what that knowledge seems to reveal, and also, ideally, one
that is able to account satisfactorily for how we are able to come by
such knowledge in the first place).
My point is that our epistemological and ontological theories are
predicated upon our actuality (not just existence) as physical systems
that have the ability to reason. It is obviously true that if something
that is like an observer does not exist then none of this discussion
would exist either. We simply cannot remove ourselves from our theories,
concepts, models, representations, ... I am trying to point out that the
same holds for physical implementations of those theories, concepts,
models, representations, ... Consider how the notion of meaningfulness
implicitly requires at "to whom" a meaning obtains. But there is more to
But after Kant, we can surely no longer believe that the ontological
component of this dyad can possibly give us direct access to some
ultimate ding and sich?
Right, we can show via a logical argument that we cannot have
knowledge of any "ding and sich" by any direct means, I will not go into
such for sake of brevity, but we need some way to get around this fact.
We postulate assumptions when we are theory making and see where they
Rather, what we seek in such theories is a
mathematical schema in terms of which the relations between
"primitive" theoretical entities, which themselves explicitly lack any
further internal relations or characteristics, can be framed.
OK, but this remark itself assumes an ontological postulate! What
about models that do not assume ""primitive" theoretical entities, which
themselves explicitly lack any further internal relations or
characteristics.."? There are theories, such as what Jon Barwise et al
discussed in his papers and books, that do not assume the well-founded
axiom <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well-foundedness> (aka Axiom of
regularity) or equivalent. Non-Well Founded set theory
works! If and when we base our ideas about Existence, Reality and the
nature and means of knowledge on entities such as numbers, as Bruno is
doing, then we are implicitly assuming a particular mereology
<http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mereology/> (relationship between
wholes and parts) when, given the existence of alternatives (given that
we can mathematically prove their properties follow from blah blah blah..).
My argument rest on the fact that other schemata are possible! That
there are mathematical models that do not require a notion of a
"primitive" (in the Greek sense of Atoms, as being indivisible and
lacking of any internal relations or characteristics) but instead
consider entities as, crudely explained, composed of others. This idea
has been long castigated as implying all kinds of problems and paradox
such as the Cretan Liar, Sets that both contain and do not contain
themselves, etc. But I content that all of these pathologies follow from
the failure of thinkers to comprehend the deep implications of what it
means for a statement, claim, Sigma_1 sentence, etc. to have
meaningfulness. There is always an implicit "to whom" meaning obtains
and that "to whom-ness" cannot be separated from the "ding and
sich-ness" of objects, be they planets, numbers, or Pink Polka-dotted
Of course, this bare mathematical depiction cannot be reconciled with any
aspect of experience without recombination with the epistemological
component, which in most theories typically entails a
sleight-of-thought that is still, to say the least, almost entirely
I agree! This, I argue, is the underlying reason why I am making a
big deal about implementation. The fact that depiction is required in
some form, reconcilable or not with any concept of aspects of experience
- we are not aware of experience directly! -, is my point that we cannot
mistake "independence of any particular physical implementation" with
"independence from physical implementation" for such would render
concepts to be just another set of free floating entities that, like
ghosts, require some secularized and de-anthropomorphized version of the
"God in the gaps" explanation to be coherent. This is almost identical
to a long standing criticism of Platonism, that given the existence of
the Ideal Forms, how can we, as finite entities, have any knowledge of
them? Does knowledge come for free? I don't believe that it does!
Descartes version of Dualism failed for similar reasons.
Bruno's "Result" shows that there cannot be any physical
primitives. I agree with this and believe it. But this is not an
establishment of sufficiency of any form of concept primitive,
especially when theories based on non-well foundedness can be shown to
be coherent (e.g. give us a means to form theories and explanations that
are useful in weaving together our thoughts about the world)!
If the foregoing is even vaguely true, then surely your debate with
Bruno cannot be about whether either matter or numbers "really exist",
because the very notion of "real existence" transcends anything about
which we can theorise or have experience.
I agree, but do you understand that we have already moved past that
point? Do you understand my argument that we must not conflate the
existence on an object (concrete or abstract) with the definiteness of
its properties? If you have read a lot of literature on the problem of
interpretation of QM this might be clear... How do we reconside the
properties of linear algebraic entities with our experience of a
classical appearing world?
Since mathematics delimits
any possible ontological characterisation,
Wait! What? How does mathematics, the internal machinations of
thinking entities, "delimit... any possible ontological
characterization"? Surely the tacit and accepted ontological ideas that
a sapient entity uses to reason leave traces in the mathematics of a
class of such sapient entities, otherwise coherence in communication
would be impossible, but to elevate the ontological status of
mathematics to endow it with such a power smacks of a bit of
misunderstanding of mathematics. The fact is that mathematics is not one
set of finitely specifiable axioms that forms a unique and TRUE T.O.E.
of all that exists. Many mathematicians have proven that there are
multiple versions of mathematics that have differing axioms, all
the debate can in
consequence only be about the derivation, priority and hence relative
"primitiveness", of the mathematical "entities" thus characterised.
In fact, this is an implicit assumption, so far as I can see, amongst
physicists, who have until quite recently assumed that the
mathematical structure of physics, as currently known, simply was the
relevant "primitive" structure.
Sure and we see where that trajectory of thinking leads; to
theories that are void of empirical content. We are left with "proof
from authority" to rest our reasons for belief in such theories. I
reject such as a return to the absurdity of Scholasticism. If our
theories cannot be tested against empirical facts, even if in principle,
and thus by implication do not require physicality to be real then we
are back to debating how many angels (superpartners) can dance on the
heads of pins (orbifolds), and the winners of debates are decided by the
rhetorical skills of certain people.
However, attempts to reach beyond the puzzles of current theory have
already led some, like Tegmark, to an explicitly mathematical
characterisation of physical ontology.
I see Tegmark as having seen some of the same idea that I am
considering and discussing ... not that I agree with all of Tegmark's
Bruno's work, it seems to me,
is in the same spirit, with the critical distinction that he believes
that, unless the epistemological component is placed at the centre of
the theory, the appearances cannot ultimately be saved.
I am not trying to save appearances, I am trying to find coherence
and integrity in our thinking. How can a theory which prohibits its own
implementability in a physical object be considered to be coherent? If a
result makes a claim that it cannot be communicated, how am I to know of
it, much less understand it? This is exactly what thinking that the
physical world is just the "dreams of numbers" necessitates. My debate
with Bruno seems to center around questions about the ontological
properties of numbers and while I agree that they "exist", I do not
grant that this mere existence necessitates any ability or specific
it is inaccurate to say that "physical representation" is not a core
aspect of his theory - it is absolutely central, just not primitive,
in the sense that the theory seeks to derive it as an aspect of a more
fundamental (in fact, in Bruno's contention, the MOST fundamental)
mathematical framework .
Then if I follow that reasoning then I am lead to thinking that you
agree with me; ideal monism is an insufficient explanatory model/theory.
I invite you to read any of Bertrand Russell's discussion of neutral
monism (see 1 <http://consc.net/mindpapers/1.4i> for more). He was much
more erudite than this poor sap of an amateur.
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