Dear Søren

I have been interested in Peirce for a long time, but while I've found it
an interesting explanatory framework, I've tended to not find it as
practically useful as other (cybernetic) ways of thinking. I'm puzzled by
this: I think the problem might have something to do with the difference
between "logic" and "explanation", or to be more precise, the different
between a process explanation and a process logic.

Logic is not explanation. It provides a way of generating expectations.
>From a logic, we are able to construct a view on "What might happen". From
that, we can make observations about "What might have happened, but did
not" (which is what Ashby considered to the science of the cybernetician).

Peirce's work is split with regard to logic. Clearly, the existential
graphs are logic (similar to Spencer-Brown and (thanks to Lou for this)
Lewis Carroll). But the semiotic triad? It's an attempt to explain, isn't
it? And in the hands of media studies, it becomes dogmatic (this is an
index, this is an interpretant, etc). How can one use it to make
predictions and test them? And is it really non-foundationalist? It looks
rather like Naturphilosophie, I would suggest...

Cybernetic models, on the other hand, do (I think) articulate a process
logic. It's in McCulloch's "Logic of nervous nets", Ashby's Law, Beer's
VSM, Bateson's Double bind, Howard's Paradoxes of Rationality, and
Shannon's information. And there are deeper formal logics which capture
this - like Lupasco/Brenner, and (maybe) Spencer-Brown. Some of these have
been practically useful - notably, Shannon, Beer, Bateson and Howard - and
Ashby sits behind all of it. And even in generating explanations, I think
Beer's logic of cybernetic transduction is a much better fit to cell-cell
transduction, than Peirce (for example).

There's so much that's tantalising in Peirce (like the quaternions which
hang in the background of his whole family, and which could well be where
he got his triadic obsession from), but it's not clear to me that it all
joins up quite as successfully as you suggest.

Unless I'm missing something...

Best wishes,


On 24 May 2018 16:47, "Søren Brier" <> wrote:

Dear Mark, Loet and others

My point was that all the aspects I mention are part of a reality that is
bigger than what we can grasp under the realm of physical science. Reality
is bigger than physicalism. Quantitative forms of information measurements
can be useful in many ways, but they are not sufficient for at
transdisciplinary theory of cognition and communication. As Loet write then
we have to include meaning. In what framework can we do that? The natural
science do not have experience and meaning in their conceptual foundations.
We can try to develop a logical approach like Mark and Peirce do. Where
Mark stays in the structural dimension and Loet wants to  enter res
cogitans by probability measures, , maybe because a  philosophical
framework that does not allow meaning to be real. But Peirce keeps working
with the metaphysical stipulations until he reaches a framework that can
integrate experience, meaning and logic in one theory, namely his triadic
pragmaticist semiotics. I am fascinated by it because I think it is unique,
but many researcher do not want to use it, because its change in
metaphysics in developing out of Descartes dualism, all though most of us
agrees that it is too limited to work in the modern scientific ontology of
irreversible time, that Prigogine developed. Who other than Peirce has
developed on non-dualist non-foundationalist transdisciplinary semiotic
process philosophy integrating animal (biosemiotics), human evolution,
history and language development in a consistent theory of the development
of human consciousness?



*From:* <> *On Behalf Of *Loet
*Sent:* 24. maj 2018 07:45
*To:* Burgin, Mark <>; Søren Brier <>;
Krassimir Markov <>;
*Subject:* Re[2]: [Fis] Is information physical? A logical analysis

Dear Mark, Soren, and colleagues,

The easiest distinction is perhaps Descartes' one between* res cogitans* and*
res extensa* as two different realities. Our knowledge in each case that
things could have been different is not out there in the world as something
seizable such as piece of wood.

Similarly, uncertainty in the case of a distribution is not seizable, but
it can be expressed in bits of information (as one measure among others).
The grandiose step of Shannon was, in my opinion, to enable us to
operationalize Descartes'* cogitans* and make it amenable to the
measurement as information.

Shannon-type information is dimensionless. It is provided with meaning by a
system of reference (e.g., an observer or a discourse). Some of us prefer
to call only thus-meaningful information real information because it is
embedded. One can also distinguish it from Shannon-type information as
Bateson-type information. The latter can be debated as physical.

In the ideal case of an elastic collision of "billard balls", the physical
entropy (S= kB * H) goes to zero. However, if two particles have a
distribution of momenta of 3:7 before a head-on collision, this
distribution will change in the ideal case into 7:3. Consequently, the
probabilistic entropy is .7 log2 (.7/.3) + .3 log2 (.3/.7) =  .86 – .37 =
.49 bits of information. One thus can prove that this information is not




Loet Leydesdorff

Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

* * <>;
** <>
Associate Faculty, *SPRU, * <>University of

Guest Professor *Zhejiang Univ.* <>,
Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, *ISTIC, *

Visiting Fellow, *Birkbeck* <>, University of London;


------ Original Message ------

From: "Burgin, Mark" <>

To: "Søren Brier" <>; "Krassimir Markov" <>; "" <>

Sent: 5/24/2018 4:23:53 AM

Subject: Re: [Fis] Is information physical? A logical analysis

Dear Søren,
You response perfectly supports my analysis. Indeed, for you only the
Physical World is real. So, information has to by physical if it is real,
or it cannot be real if it is not physical.
Acceptance of a more advanced model of the World, which includes other
realities, as it was demonstrated in my book “Structural Reality,” allows
understand information as real but not physical.


On 5/17/2018 3:29 AM, Søren Brier wrote:

Dear Mark

Using ’physical’ this way it just tends to mean ’real’, but that raises the
problem of how to define real. Is chance real? I Gödel’s theorem or
mathematics and logic in general (the world of form)? Is subjectivity and
self-awareness, qualia? I do believe you are a conscious subject with
feelings, but I cannot feel it, see it, measure it. Is it physical then?? I
only see what you write and your behavior. And are the meaning of your
sentences physical? So here we touch phenomenology (the experiential) and
hermeneutics (meaning and interpretation) and more generally semiotics (the
meaning of signs in cognition and communication). We have problems
encompassing these aspects in the natural, the quantitative and the
technical sciences that makes up the foundation of most conceptions of
information science.



*Fra:* Fis *<>* <> *På
vegne af *Krassimir Markov
*Sendt:* 17. maj 2018 11:33
*Til:* ** <>; Burgin, Mark
*<>* <>
*Emne:* Re: [Fis] Is information physical? A logical analysis

Dear Mark and FIS Colleagues,

First of all. I support the idea of Mark to write a paper and to publish it
in IJ ITA.

It will be nice to continue our common work this way.

At the second place, I want to point that till now the discussion on

*Is information physical?*

was more-less chaotic – we had no thesis and antithesis to discuss and to
come to some conclusions.

I think now, the Mark’s letter may be used as the needed thesis.

What about the ant-thesis? Well, I will try to write something below.

For me, physical, structural and mental  are one and the same.

Mental means physical reflections and physical processes in the Infos
consciousness. I.e. “physical” include “mental”.

Structure (as I understand this concept) is mental reflection of the
relationships “between” and/or “in” real (physical) entities as well as
“between” and/or “in” mental (physical) entities.

I.e. “physical” include “mental” include “structural”.

Finally, IF  “information is physical, structural and mental” THEN simply
the  “information is physical”!

Friendly greetings


*From:* *Burgin, Mark* <>

*Sent:* Thursday, May 17, 2018 5:20 AM

*To:* ** <>

*Subject:* Re: [Fis] Is information physical? A logical analysis

   Dear FISers,
   It was an interesting discussion, in which many highly intelligent and
creative individuals participated expressing different points of view. Many
interesting ideas were suggested. As a conclusion to this discussion, I
would like to suggest a logical analysis of the problem based on our
intrinsic and often tacit assumptions.

   To great extent, our possibility to answer the question “Is information
physical? “ depends on our model of the world. Note that here physical
means the nature of information and not its substance, or more exactly, the
substance of its carrier, which can be physical, chemical biological or
quantum. By the way, expression “quantum information” is only the way of
expressing that the carrier of information belongs to the quantum level of
nature. This is similar to the expressions “mixed numbers” or “decimal
numbers”, which are only forms or number representations and not numbers

  If we assume that there is only the physical world, we have, at first, to
answer the question “Does information exist? “ All FISers assume that
information exists. Otherwise, they would not participate in our
discussions. However, some people think differently (cf., for example,
Furner, J. (2004) Information studies without information).

   Now assuming that information exists, we have only one option, namely,
to admit that information is physical because only physical things exist.
   If we assume that there are two worlds - information is physical, we
have three options assuming that information exists:
- information is physical
- information is mental
- information is both physical and mental

Finally, coming to the Existential Triad of the World, which comprises
three worlds - the physical world, the mental world and the world of
structures, we have seven options assuming that information exists:
- information is physical
- information is mental
- information is structural
- information is both physical and mental
- information is both physical and structural
- information is both structural and mental
- information is physical, structural and mental

The solution suggested by the general theory of information tries to avoid
unnecessary multiplication of essences suggesting that information (in a
general sense) exists in all three worlds but … in the physical world, it
is called *energy*, in the mental world, it is called *mental energy*, and
in the world of structures, it is called *information* (in the strict
sense). This conclusion well correlates with the suggestion of Mark Johnson
that information is both physical and not physical only the general theory
of information makes this idea more exact and testable.
   In addition, being in the world of structures, information in the strict
sense is represented in two other worlds by its representations and
carriers. Note that any representation of information is its carrier but
not each carrier of information is its representation. For instance, an
envelope with a letter is a carrier of information in this letter but it is
not its representation.
   Besides, it is possible to call all three faces of information by the
name energy - physical energy, mental energy and structural energy.

   Finally, as many interesting ideas were suggested in this discussion,
may be Krassimir will continue his excellent initiative combining the most
interesting contributions into a paper with the title
information physical?*
   and publish it in his esteemed Journal.

   Mark Burgin

On 5/11/2018 3:20 AM, Karl Javorszky wrote:

Dear Arturo,

There were some reports in clinical psychology, about 30 years ago, that
relate to the question whether a machine can pretend to be a therapist.
That was the time as computers could newly be used in an interactive
fashion, and the Rogers techniques were a current discovery.

(Rogers developed a dialogue method where one does not address the contents
of what the patient says, but rather the emotional aspects of the message,
assumed to be at work in the patient.)

They then said, that in some cases it was indistinguishable, whether a
human or a machine provides the answer to a patient's elucidations.

Progress since then has surely made possible to create machines that are
indistinguishable in interaction to humans. Indeed, what is called "expert
systems ", are widely used in many fields. If the interaction is rational,
that is: formally equivalent to a logical discussion modi Wittgenstein, the
difference in: "who arrived at this answer, machinery or a human", becomes

Artistry, intuition, creativity are presently seen as not possible to
translate into Wittgenstein sentences. Maybe the inner instincts are not
yet well understood. But!: there are some who are busily undermining the
current fundamentals of rational thinking. So there is hope that we shall
live to experience the ultimate disillusionment,  namely that humans are a
combinatorial tautology.

Accordingly, may I respectfully express opposing views to what you state:
that machines and humans are of incompatible builds. There are hints that
as far as rational capabilities go, the same principles apply. There is a
rest, you say, which is not of this kind. The counter argument says that
irrational processes do not take place in organisms, therefore what you
refer to belongs to the main process, maybe like waste belongs to the
organism's principle. This view draws a picture of a functional biotope, in
which the waste of one kind of organism is raw material for a different


<** <>> schrieb am Do., 10. Mai
2018 15:24:

Dear Bruno,
You state:
"IF indexical digital mechanism is correct in the cognitive science,
THEN “physical” has to be defined entirely in arithmetical term, i.e.
“physical” becomes a mathematical notion.
...Indexical digital mechanism is the hypothesis that there is a level of
description of the brain/body such that I would survive, or “not feel any
change” if my brain/body is replaced by a digital machine emulating the
brain/body at that level of description".

The problem of your account is the following:
You say "IF" and "indexical digital mechanism is the HYPOTHESIS".
Therefore, you are talking of an HYPOTHESIS: it is not empirically tested
and it is not empirically testable.  You are starting with a sort of
postulate: I, and other people, do not agree with it.  The current
neuroscience does not state that our brain/body is (or can be replaced by)
a digital machine.
In other words, your "IF" stands for something that possibly does not exist
in our real world.  Here your entire building falls down.

Inviato da Libero Mail per Android

giovedì, 10 maggio 2018, 02:46PM +02:00 da Bruno Marchal **

(This mail has been sent previously , but without success. I resend it,
with minor changes). Problems due to different accounts. It was my first
comment to Mark Burgin new thread “Is information physical?”.

Dear Mark, Dear Colleagues,

Apology for not answering the mails in the chronological orders, as my new
computer classifies them in some mysterious way!

This is my first post of the week. I might answer comment, if any, at the
end of the week.

On 25 Apr 2018, at 03:47, Burgin, Mark <**
<>> wrote:

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to suggest the new topic for discussion

                                      Is information physical?

That is an important topic indeed, very close to what I am working on.

My result here is that

*IF* indexical digital mechanism is correct in the cognitive science,

*THEN*  “physical” has to be defined entirely in arithmetical term, i.e.
“physical” becomes a mathematical notion.

The proof is constructive. It shows exactly how to derive physics from
Arithmetic (the reality, not the theory. I use “reality” instead of “model"
(logician’s term, because physicists use “model" for “theory").

Indexical digital mechanism is the hypothesis that there is a level of
description of the brain/body such that I would survive, or “not feel any
change” if my brain/body is replaced by a digital machine emulating the
brain/body at that level of description.

Not only information is not physical, but matter, time, space, and all
physical objects become part of the universal machine phenomenology.
Physics is reduced to arithmetic, or, equivalently, to any Turing-complete
machinery. Amazingly Arithmetic (even the tiny semi-computable part of
arithmetic) is Turing complete (Turing Universal).

The basic idea is that:

1) no universal machine can distinguish if she is executed by an
arithmetical reality or by a physical reality. And,

2) all universal machines are executed in arithmetic, and they are
necessarily undetermined on the set of of all its continuations emulated in

That reduces physics to a statistics on all computations relative to my
actual state, and see from some first person points of view (something I
can describe more precisely in some future post perhaps).

Put in that way, the proof is not constructive, as, if we are machine, we
cannot know which machine we are. But Gödel’s incompleteness can be used to
recover this constructively for a simpler machine than us, like Peano
arithmetic. This way of proceeding enforces the distinction between first
and third person views (and six others!).

I have derived already many feature of quantum mechanics from this
(including the possibility of quantum computer) a long time ago.  I was
about sure this would refute Mechanism, until I learned about quantum
mechanics, which verifies all the most startling predictions of Indexical
Mechanism, unless we add the controversial wave collapse reduction

The curious “many-worlds” becomes the obvious (in arithmetic) many
computations (up to some equivalence quotient). The weird indeterminacy
becomes the simpler amoeba like duplication. The non-cloning of matter
becomes obvious: as any piece of matter is the result of the first person
indeterminacy (the first person view of the amoeba undergoing a
duplication, …) on infinitely many computations. This entails also that
neither matter appearance nor consciousness are Turing emulable per se, as
the whole arithmetical reality—which is a highly non computable notion as
we know since Gödel—plays a key role. Note this makes Digital Physics
leaning to inconsistency, as it implies indexical computationalism which
implies the negation of Digital Physics (unless my “body” is the entire
physical universe, which I rather doubt).

My opinion is presented below:

   Why some people erroneously think that information is physical

   The main reason to think that information is physical is the strong
belief of many people, especially, scientists that there is only physical
reality, which is studied by science. At the same time, people encounter
something that they call information.

   When people receive a letter, they comprehend that it is information
because with the letter they receive information. The letter is physical,
i.e., a physical object. As a result, people start thinking that
information is physical. When people receive an e-mail, they comprehend
that it is information because with the e-mail they receive information.
The e-mail comes to the computer in the form of electromagnetic waves,
which are physical. As a result, people start thinking even more that
information is physical.

   However, letters, electromagnetic waves and actually all physical
objects are only carriers or containers of information.

   To understand this better, let us consider a textbook. Is possible to
say that this book is knowledge? Any reasonable person will tell that the
textbook contains knowledge but is not knowledge itself. In the same way,
the textbook contains information but is not information itself. The same
is true for letters, e-mails, electromagnetic waves and other physical
objects because all of them only contain information but are not
information. For instance, as we know, different letters can contain the
same information. Even if we make an identical copy of a letter or any
other text, then the letter and its copy will be different physical objects
(physical things) but they will contain the same information.

   Information belongs to a different (non-physical) world of knowledge,
data and similar essences. In spite of this, information can act on
physical objects (physical bodies) and this action also misleads people who
think that information is physical.

OK. The reason is that we can hardly imagine how immaterial or non physical
objects can alter the physical realm. It is the usual problem faced by
dualist ontologies. With Indexical computationalism we recover many
dualities, but they belong to the phenomenologies.

   One more misleading property of information is that people can measure
it. This brings an erroneous assumption that it is possible to measure only
physical essences. Naturally, this brings people to the erroneous
conclusion that information is physical. However, measuring information is
essentially different than measuring physical quantities, i.e., weight.
There are no “scales” that measure information. Only human intellect can do

OK. I think all intellect can do that, not just he human one.

Now, the reason why people believe in the physical is always a form of the
“knocking table” argument. They knocks on the table and say “you will not
tell me that this table is unreal”.

I have got so many people giving me that argument, that I have made dreams
in which I made that argument, or even where I was convinced by that
argument … until I wake up.

When we do metaphysics with the scientific method, this “dream argument”
illustrates that seeing, measuring, … cannot prove anything ontological. A
subjective experience proves only the phenomenological existence of
consciousness, and nothing more. It shows that although there are plenty of
strong evidences for a material reality, there are no evidences (yet) for a
primitive or primary matter (and that is why, I think, Aristotle assumes it
quasi explicitly, against Plato, and plausibly against Pythagorus).

Mechanism forces a coming back to Plato, where the worlds of ideas is the
world of programs, or information, or even just numbers, since very
elementary arithmetic (PA without induction, + the predecessor axiom) is
already Turing complete (it contains what I have named a Universal
Dovetailer: a program which generates *and* executes all programs).

So I agree with you: information is not physical. I claim that if we assume
Mechanism (Indexical computationalism) matter itself is also not
*primarily* physical: it is all in the “head of the universal
machine/number” (so to speak).

And this provides a test for primary matter: it is enough to find if there
is a discrepancy between the physics that we infer from the observation,
and the physics that we extract from “the head” of the machine. This took
me more than 30 years of work, but the results obtained up to now is that
there is no discrepancies. I have compared the quantum logic imposed by
incompleteness (formally) on the semi-computable (partial recursive,
sigma_1) propositions, with most quantum logics given by physicists, and it
fits rather well.

Best regards,


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