Re: All feedback appreciated - An introduction to Algebraic Physics

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Mon, 19 May 2008 19:44:58 +0200

Hi Günther,

On 17 May 2008, at 21:56, Günther Greindl wrote:

> 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.

Zombie are important in philosophy, a bit like zero is important in
Number Theory, or like the empty set is important in Set Theory, I
think. For example, it is easy to show that if Bohm QM is correct,
then the Everett Universal waves if full of zombies, even zombie
lacking a material (here: = made of particles) body, yet discussing
and sending mails like you and me. Another example: if comp is false,
just arithmetical truth, it can be argued, is similarly full of
zombie. So, if we accept some "no zombie principle", Bohm and non-
comp would be easy to refute. Alas, comp entails the possibility of
zombie, or at least local zombies: entities without consciousness
acting like a human being for a finite time (a bit like a fake
policeman on the road).

>> 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.

Once we are sure we understand each other, the terms are not
important. But collapsing them before could create some confusion.

> 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).

OK. But the math can also sometimes hides the conceptual
difficulties. When we apply math we have to be clear on the reason
why we apply such or such math, and this cannot be explained purely
mathematically, even (and I would say especially) if we end up with a
"mathematicalist philosophy".

>> 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.

Recall that half of my work is concerned with the first person
indeterminacy (the content of all my early publications, the six
first step of the UDA).
And there is no math there, and frankly, it is what I consider to be
my main and most easily understandable contribution, even if it has
the shape of questioning. It is because some mathematician get some
problem with that 1-indeterminacy that I have tackled QM and
eventually computer science. Each year I met people who have
difficulties with the notion of the comp (3-deterministic) 1-
indeterminacy. I know some other understand it quickly, yet, even in
this list I am not sure many have got the UDA utimate point. Comp is
not a variant of Tegmark (if only because I publish it 10 years
before): the approach is very different. Tegmark started from
physics, and *proposed* a purely mathematical ontic frame for the TOE.
I start from a "philosophical or theological principle", actually the
belief in the comp "reincarnation", and derive from it that the
physical laws have to emerge and evolve from statical numbers'
relations. It is a proof, or an argumentation. Comp is the direct
digital version of one of the oldest philosophical hypothesis,
already in Plato, Milinda's Question, etc., called Mechanism, by
Descartes and ... Judson Webb.

> 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"-

I see we have serious common grounds. I am a fan of both Alan Watts
and of the whole Yogacara (and the Yoga-Vasistha, etc.). I make this
link utterly clear in my (long) french text: "Conscience et
Mécanisme". Indeed I call the modal second-incompleteness formula

Dt -> DBf

by the Lao-Tseu Watts Valadier principle. Mainly through Alan Watts'
"The wisdom of insecurity". The consistency of truth makes consistent
the provability of the false. Or if shit does not happen then shit
can happen!

> or vijnaptimatra-"representation only."

I guess you know Vasubandhu's "Five Treatises on *Mind Only*". It is
a must for the Mahayana Buddhist Idealists.
Oh I see on the net some people have seen the link with Plotinus.
Many links, here is one: (I have not the
time to read it, so ...)

> 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.

OK, although I prefer to call this "objective idealism" and to
reserve "subjective idealism" for the more solipsistic form of
idealism. But perhaps your classification is more standard. The
confusion is explained by the fact that Eastern thinkers and Western
thinkers sometimes switch respectively the first and third Greek gods/

> 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.

Yes, like Plotinus. Yet like Plotinus, many Mahayana buddhist are
very good theoretician and rationalist too.

> Furthermore, the
> word citta is not precisely equivalent to our "mind."

Note that in french we don't have a translation for mind. according
to the context it is translated by "esprit" (spirit) or pensée
(thought ).

> 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.

I can agree. But the problem is not to convince buddhist, but the
west. And the only way is to show that such different conception
leads to different experimental results. Also, in the west, it is not
to hard to explain how mind act on matter (how fear leads to atomic
bombs, ...). The difficulty is more to explain how matter (brain) is
related to mind, which is not just information processing (like
eliminativists believe), but information processing together with
inner incorrigible experience. I think I got the best explanation in
the sense that I can explain why machine cannot explain this, but can
explain why they cannot explain this for necessary reasons.

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

Hmmm.... I know I take the risk of looking like if I am very
immodest, But I have no theory, just questions. I am an humble
logician trying to explain to my fellow (even weakly)-materialist,
that if they believe we can survive with an artificial digital brain/
body then they have to explain me where the white rabbits are gone.
Of course they told me that Bohr, Dirac, Feynman have given *the*
explanation, but my whole point is in pointing that if I do survive a
digital substitution the Feynman move has to be explained without
postulating a world or a wave of whatever.
At first sight the comp digital hypothesis is so strong that there is
an inflation of so many white rabbits and white noise that comp looks
ridiculously false.
Then, and only then I temper that conclusion by showing that
incompleteness makes the measure problem highly difficult and then I
got also the shadow of the shadow of why, in fine, the probable 1-
plural histories interfere making the Feynman moves, empirically
motivated, understandable in the comp frame. But that is almost an
accident in my life, my main motivation resides in explaining that
the mind-body problem is not yet solved, yet can be scientifically

>> 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.

Perhaps one day we should really come back to each step of the UDA.
You should understand by yourself that comp makes impossible any form
of granularity in the physical world. I do have a conceptual problem
with loop gravity, for example. But of course all this leads to
difficult questions in both math and physics. And again, the non
triviality of the hypostases brought by incompleteness makes any
definitive conclusion premature.

> 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.

Actually I will also be more and more busy. Good time to make a stop.
Others can take the opportunity to clarify their approaches, perhaps
(as I and others suggest many time) to find a way to explain what
they are doing in everyday language.

> 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?

They most reasonably do continue indefinitely in some "logical past".
Yes, you are right.

> We should not remember being born etc (1st-plural memory -> parents,
> grandparents, friends etc) but should be "eternal ones".

You are right. But we do forget things, and histories do fuse.

> 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,

Do you remember one? Really? Ot is it an intellectual prejudice,
because you have been told.

> only things
> getting hazier and hazier (as computations "merge" in the infinite
> past)

Yes. But before being able to handle quantitatively the white
rabbits, I don't think we can be more precise here.

> 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.

But a priori, even the mundane act of drinking coffee does not fit
comp. If you succeed in showing that evolution does not fit comp, I
would take this as a step toward a refutation of comp (unless
creationist provides arguments but they seems not even searching
one ....).
Evolution will probably be explained once we have an explanation of
the physical laws. Today, for sure, comp explain nothing. It explains
only why the supposition of a material world cannot be invoked to
explain the appearance of a physical world. You must realize my
contribution is very modest (even if radical). It is negative, or
destructive. It is a proof or argument that physicalness itself does
evolve in some machine psychological/theological logical space,
related to numbers. I show mainly that the comp hyp is very strong
and hardly believable, yet the best we have for the mind, but today,
it does not yet explain matter at all (abstraction made of the 4th
and 5th hypostases which give only a propositional logic for the

> 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"?

Here you are quick about evolution. What would be like a starting
point? An exploding star generating the carbon atoms?

> 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 :-))

I like very much the evolution theory, and sometimes I explain that
the UDA leads to the necessity to extend it to the laws of physics
themselves. But asking me if evolution fits comp would be like asking
to a nuclear physicist how he explains the history of the game of
chess. The nuclear physicist can then only point on some plausible
reduction, but nothing relates nuclear physics and chess a priori.
Likewise, either the physics eventually derived from comp explains
the usual physical facts, or it does not. If it does not comp is
refuted, and if it does, evolution can be explained by the usual
arguments. I have no doubt we share a very long and deep history
which splits in the future as well as in the past, but comp does not
yet explain what is a physical past, nor what is a physical future.
Much works remain to be done. "Modern physics" has progress mainly
because physicists have abstracted themselves from the mind-body
problem. My work show that the seemingly obvious "we are machine"
idea put new hard conceptual problem for the foundations of physics.
Comp does not threatened physics, it calls for purely arithmetical
foundations, explaining away the 1 and 3-rabbits.

You can compare my work with Galileo thought experiment showing that
Aristotle dynamics (more heavy things fall more quickly on the
ground) is inconsistent. My work is intended to show that materialism
(even very weak) is inconsistent with computationalism (even very
weak). Comp leads to an hard "matter problem". The mind is more easy
thanks to computer science and mathematical logic.

>> 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).

Yes. But then we have to admit (it *is*my point!) that the subject
matter is also very difficult. And when you see "serious" cognitivist
like Dennett being tempted to follow eliminative philosophy, like
Strawson has seen, you can measure how far we are to even succeed in
formulating our questions.

Best regards, Günther. See you in July. A good thing we are busy in a
synchronous way!


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Received on Mon May 19 2008 - 13:45:32 PDT

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