A New Kind Of Positivism
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A New Kind Of Positivism



Stanford University Coglunch Presentation, March 13th 2008

Stanford University Coglunch Presentation, March 13th 2008



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  • 1. This is an Introductory talk. <br /> 2. I am are going to present the historical context of my research program. <br /> 3. I will identify the problem that is the subject of the research. <br /> 4. And talk about the novel solution I propose.
  • 1. The broad title of my program is &#x201C;Explaining Experience in Nature,&#x201D; I shall come to a more exact definition of the term &#x201C;experience&#x201D; shortly.
  • 1. There are many contributors that I will not mention during my talk the point here, however, is to provide a historical narrative that provides context for my work.
  • 1. My goal is to defend positivism and to suggest a more secure foundation for positivism and thus science in general. <br /> 2. We are going to look closely at the notion of physicalism and identify a necessary expansion of physical models that we suggest is supported by biophysical evidence.
  • 1. First let us establish that this is a matter in science that belongs to logicians. <br /> 2. Semeiotics is surely the first of the sciences since without a rigorous understanding of how we apprehend the world no other science can be established.
  • 1. Charles Peirce is, perhaps, the first Logician to seriously consider the matter of apprehension more deeply. <br /> 2. Widely disregarded he is in fact the most influential of American thinkers. <br /> 3. That he is acknowledged for special attention by Hilbert and Ackermann is an illustration of his broad impact overseas despite his neglect at home. <br /> 4. As a simple example of his intellectual power and the importance of his thinking, it is Peirce that first recognizes how to implement logic in electrical circuits.
  • Of course, no narrative in this area would be complete without reference to Roger Penrose.
  • We begin with the Newtonian Analogy and an hypothesis.
  • With this hypothesis I next explored the nature of such a primitive, how it might be characterized and ultimately formalized
  • The solution I propose is driven by an a priori requirement that the model be formalizable
  • I proceed by looking at the aspects of primitive nature as we understand them. Mass-energy is the primary antagonist. The Gravitational field can be thought of as simply inert and present and this proves to be a useful analogy.
  • This analogy gives us some guidance on how to proceed with formalization and suggests ways to think about the problem. <br /> <br /> But as we shall see shortly there are problems with the notion of general covariance.
  • Let&#x2019;s look first at our premise of causality. We adopt what is essentially a classical model of causality by relying on the laws of thermodynamics.
  • It comes as some surprise perhaps that no model had before given a role to the simple presence of experience in the world.

A New Kind Of Positivism A New Kind Of Positivism Presentation Transcript

  • A New Kind of Positivism Steven Ericsson-Zenith Institute for Advanced Science & Engineering @ Stanford University, CogLunch. March 13th, 2008. 1
  • Explaining Experience in Nature : The Foundations of Logic and Apprehension The premises of my research program. 2
  • In the course of the discussion I shall defend Rudolf Carnap, praise Charles Sanders Peirce and challenge Alan Turing ... 3
  • ... arguing finally for a new kind of positivism; one founded upon a model that meets the expectations of Carnap's Liberal Physicalism and is supported by biophysical evidence. 4
  • Logic is first in the business of establishing and studying conventions and when the nature of that study is extended to include matters of apprehension it is rightly called Semeiotics. 5
  • Charles Sanders Peirce Polymath Semeiotician (1839 - 1914) 6
  • “Precisely how much of the business of thinking a machine could possibly be made to perform, and what part of it must be left for the living mind, is a question not without conceivable practical importance; the study of it can at any rate not fail to throw needed light on the nature of the reasoning process. 7
  • Though the machines of Jevons and of Marquand were designed chiefly to illustrate more elementary points, their utility lies mainly ... in the evidence they afford concerning this problem.” Charles Sanders Peirce. Logical Machines. The American Journal of Psychology. November 1887. 8
  • “the immediate [experience]* is preeminently first the external dead thing is preeminently second the [experienced]** representation mediating between these two is preeminently third” Charles Sanders Peirce. A Guess at the Riddle. 1887/1888 * Peirce wrote “consciousness” where I have placed the term “experience.” ** I have added the term “experienced” to the “third.” A third is a memory, relations are the product of semeiosis; the organic processing of memories. 9
  • For our purposes experience is the basis of consciousness. It is that which is most familiar. It is the common property of all sense. 10
  • ... consciousness refers to the variety of properties associated with sense and cognition. 11
  • Rudolf Carnap Philosopher of Science Semeiotician (1891-1970) 12
  • I take positivism to refer to a rejection of supernatural solutions and the pursuit of a constructive unified science. 13
  • I take empiricism to be a focus upon what is observed (experiment and observation). 14
  • While positivism requires empiricism, empiricism has not required positivism. 15
  • Carnap’s Liberal physicalism argues that the laws and principles of physics must of necessity be extended as we discover more about perception. It is a view that allows for new discovery. 16
  • Liberal physicalism is not materialism or identity theory (sometime called type physicalism). 17
  • Materialism is the view that our physical models are essentially complete. Any explanation of experience in nature based upon this premise is logically constrained to identity and emergence. 18
  • The physicalism of Rudolf Carnap sought a naturalistic basis and anticipated extensions to our physical models as we make new discoveries. 19
  • He took the first thesis of physicalism to simply be that claims about the world can be confirmed by others. He took the second thesis of physicalism to be that the laws of nature are logical consequences of natural physical laws. 20
  • “This thesis does not refer to the laws known to us at present, but to those laws which hold in nature and which our knowledge can only more or less approximate.” Rudolf Carnap. P.883, The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap : The Library of Living Philosophers. Paul Arthur Schlipp (Ed) (1963) 21
  • Carnap took experience seriously as existent, having an ontological status capable of scientific explanation. He simply did not know how to proceed. 22
  • “The question is this: provided that to all or some types of psychological processes there correspond simultaneous processes in the central nervous system, what connects the processes in question with one another? Very little has been done toward a solution to the correlation problem of the psychophysical relation, but, even if this problem were solved (i.e., if we could infer the characteristics of a brain process from the characteristics of a psychological process, and vice versa), nothing would have been achieved to further the solution of the essence problem (i.e., the psychophysical problem). For this problem is not concerned with the correlation, but with the essential relation; that is, with that which essentially or fundamentally leads from one process to the other or which brings forth both from a common root. 23
  • ...there still remain, in the main, three hypotheses: mutual influence, parallelism, and identity in the sense of the two aspect theory ... Three contradicting and unsatisfactory answers and no possibility of finding or even imagining an empirical fact that could here make the difference: a more hopeless situation can hardly be imagined...” Rudolf Carnap. P. 37-38, The Logical Structure of the World. (1928) 24
  • Carnap’s account of the state of affairs remains valid today. 25
  • My purpose here is to observe an historical narrative: one that discloses a sharp distinction between early and later twentieth century scientific thinking. There are a number of additional examples of science taking experience seriously during the early twentieth century including the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, the work of Poincaré and Einstein. 26
  • Broadly speaking experience was taken seriously in science between 1850 and 1950. But after 1950 the field was abandoned and scientific investigation effectively ceased. The period that runs approximately from the availability of the work of George Boole through the work of Charles Sanders Peirce, Ernst Mach, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Rudolf Carnap. Including Henri Poincare, Gottlob Frege, Neils Bohr, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schroedinger, and of course, the entire Vienna Circle. All of whom were stimulated by the European Enlightenment (esp. Locke and Kant). 27
  • Alan Turing Computer Scientist Semeiotician (1912-1954) 28
  • “I do not wish to give the impression that I think there is no mystery about consciousness. There is, for instance, something of a paradox connected with any attempt to localise it. But I do not think these mysteries necessarily need to be solved before we can answer the question with which we are concerned in this paper. Alan Turing. Computing Machinery and Intelligence. (1950) 29
  • This neglect or mystification of manifest qualities is taken further by contemporary authors Stephen Wolfram and Gregory Chaitin. I refer here to the manifest qualities associated with the lack of locality that Turing observes and is presumably readily observed by each of us. It is most obvious in any visual scene of some complexity. It should be readily apparent that the variety of visual stimuli do not reduce to a point. 30
  • Wolfram states a Principle of Computational Equivalence, that essentially states that everything is functionally reducible to Turing computation and that nothing is lost in such a reduction. 31
  • Chaitin has suggested mystifying breaks in the chain of functional dependence. “When you go to a higher level, the lower level may be irrelevant.” Gregory Chaitin. P.151, Sensual Mathematics, Conversations with a Mathematician. (2002) 32
  • Certain contemporary philosophers have rejected manifest qualities entirely, leaving us to face the necessary suspicion that there may indeed be Zombies among us. 33
  • In contradiction, we are confronted by the expectations of populist computer science that machines will awaken, and that in doing so there will be born an intelligence more capable and more profound than our own. 34
  • It is a surprising and remarkable fact that we can indeed imbue computing machinery with aspects of our intelligent behavior, but this is not sufficient to explain the presence of manifest qualities. Turing never asserted that it was. 35
  • Chaitin's response to my position is to dismiss positivism and observe that physicists and cosmologists have taken up metaphysics. He claims that only the space of all mathematically possible physical laws are of interest. I take him to mean that all and only that which is mathematically conceivable is worth taking seriously. 36
  • Chaitin’s Subject: A New Kind of Metaphysics “Philosophers are still positivists, but physicists and cosmologists are doing metaphysics again. Have you heard of the string theory landscape or the inflationary universe multiverse or Max Tegmark's ideas on parallel (all mathematically possible) universes? The general idea is that only the space of all possible physical laws is of interest, and the particular laws of this universe are not of great interest, since it is only, so to speak, our address in the multiverse of all possibilities. Gregory Chaitin. Personal communication. Quoted with permission. (March 10th, 2008) 37
  • In principle, I have no disagreement with the position that only mathematically possible physical laws are ultimately of interest ... ... I disagree to the extent that it is closed minded and disallows new foundational discoveries as Carnap anticipated. 38
  • “Mathematical possibility is only valid within the constraints of empirical science if it is founded upon sound premises and if in that possibility nothing is lost or excluded. If the space of all possible physical laws as currently conceived leaves complexity unaccounted for then it is the premises of that construction that must be challenged; it cannot lead (as you have suggested) to supernatural conclusions. That suggestion is, IMHO, a desperate and dangerous act. It is desperate in that it is born of frustration and intellectually lazy, it is dangerous because it opens the door for irrational thought. Steven Ericsson-Zenith. In response to Chaitin. (March 10th, 2008) 39
  • This is a subject upon which even those that understand these issues well are shy. Lee Smolin (Trouble with Physics) would not provide me with permission to quote an earlier exchange and says that the subject is not one he wishes to make public statements about. In response to my invitation to speak on the matter of Explaining Experience in Nature he expressed to me the opinion that science is not yet ready to address these questions. 40
  • Roger Penrose Physicist Semeiotician 41
  • “... it seems to me that a fundamental physical theory that lays claim to any kind of completeness at the deepest levels of physical phenomena must also have the potential to accommodate conscious mentality. ... 42
  • My arguments demand that this missing theory must be a non-computational theory ... Roger Penrose. 34.7, The Road to Reality. (2004) 43
  • We take Penrose to simply mean that the solution is like nothing we currently understand. 44
  • This brings us back to a new kind of positivism, one that meets the expectations of Carnap and those of Penrose. Discovery of something new in the foundations of science. (Premise: there remain things to discover in the foundations of the world.) 45
  • Newtonian analogy Diverse observations may be unified by the introduction of a universal primitive. All complexity can be explained by such a primitive. (An hypothesis of my research program - the domain of observation obviously includes biophysics and the product of the investigation should be a calculus.) 46
  • The Challenge What would be the nature of such a primitive and how may it be characterized? 47
  • A solution can be derived simply by asking what would be required to enable a formal explanation of such a primitive. With the requirement that the model is strictly constructive and without supernatural appeal. 48
  • The mechanics and engineering of sentience in the physical world is the product of a natural assembly against a previously unconsidered inert primitive aspect of the world. Hypothesis. We use the term “against” in the same manner as one might say a shelter is built against a cliff, or that planets are the construction of mass “against” the gravitational field. 49
  • Gravitational field analogy Precisely we mean a formulation that is mutually affective general covariance. 50
  • PREMISE : Emergent properties are of necessity functionally dependent upon primitive nature. According to the laws of thermodynamics, these emergent properties translate into other forms and these forms continue to play a role in the development and operation of the physical systems in which they appear. 51
  • Yet, according to contemporary emergence theory, experience has none of these features. It is simply along for the ride. It has no role. 52
  • If dualism is to be rejected and experience is not to be dismissed, then there is some necessity that in this new construction an element of that which we liberally label “consciousness” is a primitive aspect of the world and that it play a role in the formation of physical structures. 53
  • This new primitive must adhere to the laws of thermodynamics: it must be conserved and its character must be transformed by entropy*. (*That is, it must change as the value of entropy changes.) 54
  • Like the gravitational field, the effects of this new primitive appears much later in the evolving cosmology and can thus be considered a much weaker force than the gravitational field. 55
  • The answer: Gµν = 8π Tµν (nearly) 56
  • Unfortunately this field equation explains nothing is physically vacuous describes only the principles of gravitation. (Einstein probably understood this) John D. Norton, General covariance and the foundations of general relativity: eight decades of dispute. Rep. Prog. Phys. 56. 1993 57
  • However, we would like to identify something like the Einstein field equation for its utility. 58
  • We develop formally the topological notion of a sensory manifold that is an element of the physical structure that characterizes sense. 59
  • A set of such manifolds may be considered to represent the cellular membranes of an organism but the physical basis of these sensory manifolds is not yet identified. 60
  • Difficult to formalize? Is it this simple? Manifolds of sense as the basic element of apprehension and motility. (note that Mach also used the phrase “manifold of sense”) 61
  • General covariance must be mutually affective; otherwise we simply have identity theory. 62
  • Space-time is eliminated in favor of mass-energy alone. Current formalisms are misleading. (Einstein [and Mach] understood this too) Boy, the curvature of space-time is so very convenient! 63
  • It is necessary to reformulate our treatment of time. There may be a close association between a formal conception of time and “memory.” 64
  • In the way we currently model time, the present is indistinguishable from the past and the future. It seems likely that this is invalid, rather ... ... there is something special about the present. 65
  • The notion of an Eternal Moment provides a potential basis for resolving numerous standing problems and ... 66
  • ... potential explanation of the continuum and the discrete that may apply to classical vs quantum. 67
  • There is no before And no after There is only now The rules that get us from here to there The how . There is the experience of it all And the stuff that sticks The memories of moments The hits . And in there somewhere Is you And is I The fleeting The being The sign And the sigh ... (by SEZ) 68
  • These foundational physical hypotheses are necessary so that we may resolve the formalization problems. They are central questions of apprehension, not merely mathematical explorations. 69
  • Identity theory and supernatural notions of emergence are the product of a failed reduction. They are the logical consequence of an adherence to a strict materialist construction; of limiting our physical models to our current understanding. 70
  • When reductions fail it is necessary to challenge the basis of our construction, it is never the basis of a supernatural solution. (Premise) 71
  • Experience is the first thing and the last thing for each of us. Though strictly, in the model we will present, the first thing and the last thing for each of us is a SENSE: the primitive aspect of the world that we propose characterized by physiology. 72
  • Looking to Biophysics we see evidence that is suggestive of our new model : Bacterial receptor conformance spread. Chemotaxis and all other forms of motility. 73
  • Sensory receptor patterns in mammals. Neuroplasticity, neurogenesis and the synchronous behavior of neurons. 74
  • The basis of experience is an inert primitive aspect of the world. It affects physical assembly by its presence alone. It plays a role in the assembly of physical forms. It is the root of all complexity. 75
  • This is a negative result for computer science, identifying fundamental limits. 76
  • The hypothesis identifies the limits of Turing computation and classical mechanics – essentially by observing that symbolic systems, and the mathematical logic upon which they are based, do not reflect the substantive engineering of sentience in nature. 77
  • The essential differences here lie in both the temporal nature and the nature of locality in the respective models of computation. 78
  • This broader locality of evaluations, enabled by the engineering of sentience against the primitive we propose, overcomes the challenge of integrating non-local results found in the Turing model of computation. 79
  • These factors make a difference in the results of computations that relate principally to the ability to efficiently connect apprehension and response. Importantly, there is a substantive difference; in cases where temporal constraints prevail, in the same material implementation, the results of each computational approach differ. 80
  • Carnap was right about the nature of logical evaluation. It is logical differentiation from the entirety of sense. 81
  • ... not logical integration of the parts with strong locality. Turing was wrong. 82
  • A New Kind Of Positivism In which the mechanics of sense are known and the ontological basis of epistemology is established. 83
  • senses.info iase.info Steven Ericsson-Zenith Institute for Advanced Science & Engineering 84