Re: All feedback appreciated - An introduction to Algebraic Physics

From: GŁnther Greindl <>
Date: Sat, 17 May 2008 21:56:00 +0200

Hi Bruno,

>> Galen Strawson, 'Realistic monism: why physicalism entails
>> panpsychism' 2006
> The author admits himself that his doctrine is more a form of
> experential/non-experiential-ist (thus dualist) doctrine. It seems to
> me the usual dual naturalism

One could probably call it a kind of property dualism. That is also what
sort of bothers me. I am convinced that reality is monistic, and I agree
with you that monism is not yet convincingly reached in the paper; but
it is progress in the right direction and better than the usual Chalmers
"hard problem" talk.

BTW - a wonderful argumentation against Chalmers can be found on this
(excellent!, warmly recommended) blog. Hal Finney writes there sometimes
too (mostly in the comments area).

I frankly do not understand why zombies are taken seriously in
philosophy, but this only as an aside.

> I can agree with the idea that
> "consciousness" is physical, but not as an explanation of
> consciousness, still less of course as an explanation of what is
> matter. It is exactly like Searle, but with "physical" in place of
> biological.

I think that when one takes a broad view - not taking preconceptions,
but really thinking things through - it does not matter if we call it
"physicalism" or "materialism" or "idealism" - is not the monist
position that it all collapses? In the end, the above are only words.
More interesting are the _relationships_ that hold (that is why the
essence of a scientific theory is the math: the math encodes lawful
relationships the referents have with each other).

> Let me know if you understand that computationalism is just
> incompatible with that sort of move. Comp reduces completely the mind
> body problem into a necessary derivation of body-matter from a
> number/mind theory (like computer science, provablity logic +
> intensional variants, etc.).

That is what I would call the important question: comp is an assertion
of what relations hold: thus it gives content to the word "mind/matter"
etc; my starting position is ontic structural realism.

I accept that we need no substantial "relata" for relations to hold
(platonic computation suffices; or better: at the level of TOE it is
meaningless to talk about "substance in itself" or whatever - a
relational characterization is all and enough.)

As to what theory of relations hold - for instance, Max Tegmark's
plenitude or your comp variant - I am as yet undecided, although I have
already once asserted that I like your approach because it goes into
technicalities and thus serves to clarify issues - the problems are most
often only revealed in the detail.

To be more specific on the mind body "problem": I think my position is
best expressed with this passage in Alan Watts, The Way of Zen, 1957,
Random House, Paperback Edition 1989, p.72:

According to the Yogacara the world of form is cittamatra-
"mind only"-or vijnaptimatra-"representation only." This view
seems to have a very close resemblance to Western philosophies
of subjective idealism, in which the external and material world
is regarded as a projection of the mind.

However, there seem to be some differences between the two points of view.
Here, as always, the Mahayana is not so much a theoretical and
speculative construction
as an account of an inner experience, and a
means of awakening the experience in others. Furthermore, the
word citta is not precisely equivalent to our "mind." Western
thought tends to define mind by opposition to matter, and to
consider matter not so much as "measure" as the solid stuff
which is measured. Measure itself, abstraction, is for the West
more of the nature of mind, since we tend to think of mind and
spirit as more abstract than concrete.

But in Buddhist philosophy citta does not stand over against a
conception of solid stuff. The world has never been considered in terms
of a primary substance shaped into various forms by the action
of mind or spirit. Such an image is not in the history of Buddhist
thought, and thus the problem of how impalpable mind can influence
solid matter has never arisen. Wherever we should speak of the material
or physical or substantial world, Buddhism employs the term rupa, which
is not so much our "matter" as "form." There is no "material substance"
underlying rupa unless it be citta itself.


The last sentence is the best!! Could I interpret your theory as citta =

> With comp, and a bit poetically, the physical is the border of
> computer's computer science (the border of computer science as seen by
> computers).

There are still some points where I do not follow how this arises in
your theory. For instance, for me unresolved (already mentioned earlier)
is the granularity issue.

But, while I have already read your email where you clarify some things
I would like to go over your papers once more (it will be in July, as I
have much work in June) - and postpone more detailed questions to then.

But two things which initially strike me as unclear on a relatively
high, untechnical level:

1) you said in a post that your comp implies immortality - but, every OM
  is composed of infinite number of infinite consistent computations
running through it - if OMs thus continue indefinitely into the future
(immortality) should they not also continue indefinitely into the past?
 From where the asymmetry?

We should not remember being born etc (1st-plural memory -> parents,
grandparents, friends etc) but should be "eternal ones". This does not
imply infinite memory - we could forget, things fuzzing out the farther
back they are, but one should not remember a starting point, only things
getting hazier and hazier (as computations "merge" in the infinite past)

2) You said in comp only history and geography is contingent. That is
also a very important point for me: one of the explanatorily most
satisfying principles of current science is the theory of evolution:
this theory explains how order can arise even from total randomness. I
do not yet see how evolution fits into your account of comp. I mean, if
we take the sum of computations describing a valid OM, why should it be
more likely that an OM sees itself as arising via evolution as versus
for instance (see above) an "eternal one"?
Could one not see the evidence for evolution as a strong indication for
physicalism (in a broad sense, a la computational universes where OMs
only arise as substructures evolved in that universe and not directly
"simulated"?) (I know you addressed this question earlier, you said you
spoke with Schmidhuber about it, I will check it up in July also, but
this evolution question really bugs me, that is why I bring it up again :-))

> But I have not yet finished Strawson's paper. Up to now, I appreciate
> it because it is quite clear (and thus clearly unconvincing with
> respect to the comp hyp).
> Thanks for the reference. Best,

I am glad that you enjoy the paper :-) As said above, it is a starting
point, not an end point. Every clear contribution sheds some more light
on a difficult question (there is too much unclear and confused writing
on this subject, even by respected authors)


GŁnther Greindl
Department of Philosophy of Science
University of Vienna
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Received on Sat May 17 2008 - 15:57:04 PDT

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