Problems in Philosophy and Physics
Here we review some great questions of philosophy for which information philosophy now provides us with the possibility of fuller understanding, with plausible and practical, if tentative, solutions to philosophical problems that have been known for millennia as well as major problems in physics from the twentieth century.
Several of these are problems that 20th-century philosophers like Ludwig Wittgenstein labeled "philosophical puzzles" and Bertrand Russell called "pseudo-problems." Analytic language philosophers thought many of these problems could be "dis-solved," revealing them to be conceptual errors caused by the misuse of language. Analytical philosopher Gilbert Ryle called them "category mistakes" that could be avoided by more careful "conceptual analysis." For example, his critical analysis of the "concept of mind" concluded that a "metaphysical" - an immaterial - mind simply could not exist. Using the new methodology of information philosophy, these classic problems are now back under consideration as genuinely important, analyzable and potentially soluble in terms of information. Although it is neither matter nor energy, immaterial information can interact causally with the more familiar contents of the physical world. Information philosophy explains how "an idea can move a mountain." Note that the goal of information philosophy is not to remove a problem from philosophy once it is solved. To be sure, where scientists seek solutions, philosophers prefer problems, ones that are teachable as problems. While perhaps necessary for academic careers, agnostic attitudes only serve to prevent progress in philosophy. Bertrand Russell was simply wrong when he said "what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know," and
"questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answer can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy."Recently, Peter van Inwagen agreed with Russell:
"If some branch of philosophy were suddenly to undergo a revolutionary transformation and began, as a consequence, to yield real information, it would cease to be regarded as a branch of philosophy and would come to be regarded as one of the sciences."We disagree. By providing plausible answers to some truly great questions, information philosophy hopes to prevent philosophy from being reduced to "Russell's Residue."
Classical Philosophical ProblemsThe Problem of Free Will - Over two dozen thinkers since William James in 1884 have proposed "two-stage" models of free will - first "free," then will," - first chance, then choice, - first alternative possibilities, then one actuality. The most plausible and practical solution to the 2400-year old problem of free will is our Cogito model. The critical random component of the first stage is provided by noise in the brain's information processing, generating free thoughts to be followed by adequately determined willed actions. The chance nature of a thought that just "pops into one's head" in no way makes the resulting action, or the agent, random. The Problem of Value - Information philosophy moves the source of ultimate value beyond man and our created gods, beyond life and the Earth, to its origins in a Cosmic Providence, which creates stable information structures that we call Ergo. Note that quantum mechanics, though normally thought of as adding only indeterminacy, is the source of the stability in most information structures. The Problem of Knowledge - Epistemology - More correctly the problem of certain knowledge, when our means of perception is limited and fallible. Instead of the classical logical language debates about "justified true belief" since Plato's time, information philosophy looks to information structures in the brain and mind that correspond to external structures in the world and in other minds. Correspondence is the quantitative isomorphism (or overlap) between the internal and external bits of information. The Problem of Mental Causation is solved by showing how the information-processing system of life emerges from matter, and mind in turn emerges from life. In both cases we show that there is clear downward causal control of the component atoms by the higher-level information-processing system. We also show that thermal/quantal noise in the lower level blocks "bottom-up" causation. There is no upward flow of information. The emergence of life from matter is "order out of order," as Erwin Schrödinger called it, "life feeding on negative entropy" (via the dephosporylation of ATP). The emergence of mind from life is "pure abstract information from order." And information is the stuff of thought. Consciousness can be defined in information terms as the property of an entity (usually a living thing, but we can also include artificially conscious machines or computers) that perceives and reacts to the information (and particularly to changes in the information) in its environment. We call it information consciousness. The Problem of Evil - Theodicy - "If God is Good, He is not God. If God is God, He is not Good." (J.B., by Archibald MacLeish) The question is not "Does God exist?" The question is "Does Goodness exist?" The solution lies in a dualist world with both bad and good. If ergodic information is an objective good, then entropic destruction of information is "the devil incarnate," as Norbert Wiener put it. Information philosophy offers a test of "revealed truth," specifically visions by inspired thinkers that have no empirical evidence, because these visions are usually in the realm of "pure ideas." Immortality - Information philosophy implies two kinds of immortality, the material survival of genetic information and the survival of our ideas in the sum of all knowledge and human artifacts. The survival of parts of the genetic code in DNA is the longest approximation to immortality known in living things. The Problem of Induction - We now understand why David Hume was right that induction does not lead to certain truth. But induction, for example the classic repeated observations of white swans, can count as statistical evidence for or against our hypotheses and theories. Theories are not economical summaries of experiments. Nor are they logically deducible from experiments. They are "free creations of the human mind" (as Albert Einstein called them) that may be confirmed by experimental evidence. Metaphysics - The first claim of a metaphysics based on information is that the physical universe contains more than just matter (and energy) in motion. The Platonic realm of ideas, Immanuel Kant's noumenal realm of "things in themselves" unconstrained by the deterministic laws of matter in motion, an immaterial mind that gives those ideas causal powers, and the immortal aspect of those ideas, all these touch on problems traditionally part of metaphysics. Secondly, because the external information is in the things themselves as information structures, information philosophy provides an ontological inventory of what exists in a mind-independent reality that in no way depends on how we came to acquire the knowledge of what exists. A third claim rests on the unqualified existence of immaterial, non-substantial, abstract, universals, some of which are necessary by logical definition, all of them existing in the Platonic and noumenal realm of pure information. The Mind-Body Problem - Solved in part by our Sum model, which explains how abstract information, an idea, or knowledge is incorporated into a human mind, and how pure ideas act on the physical world. Information is neither energy nor matter, although it needs matter for its embodiment and energy for its communication. Information is the mind in the body, the ghost in the machine, as close to a spirit or soul as science can get. When we die, it is our information that is lost. Our ERR (Experience Recorder and Reproducer) model for the mind is simpler than, yet superior to, "computational" models of the mind/brain as a computer. One or Many - Is the world a unity? We see this as part of the great dualism between ideal and material, between being and becoming, between mind and matter. The basis for a "neutral monism" may be to see both "thoughts" and "things" as fundamentally part of what William James called "pure experience," the information processing that produces an approximate isomorphism between what is in the world and the knowledge that is in our minds.
Problems in Modern PhysicsThe Arrow of Time - Arthur Stanley Eddington connected "Time's Arrow" with the direction of increasing entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. We now show that it is also the direction of increasing information. It is the same direction as the "radiation" arrow (outgoing spherical waves) because 1) incoming spherical waves of radiation are impossible, and 2) the outgoing spherical waves are only the immaterial possibilities of detecting quanta of energy or material particles. There is no unified field theory, because there are no fields. There are only particles. Fields are averages over particles. The fundamental arrow of time is the expansion of the universe, making all the other arrows possible and observable. The "collapse" of the wave function can occur whenever there is an interaction between matter and energy (or matter and matter). Measurements are a miniscule fraction of all interactions. The universe is its own observer. The mysterious "collapse" is a question about possibilities, probabilities, and actuality. Nothing actually moves in the "collapse." One possibility becomes actual. The others disappear. Entanglement is a mysterious quantum phenomenon that seems capable of transmitting information over vast distances faster than the speed of light, a property called nonlocality, first seen by Einstein in 1905. Information physics shows that although new information comes into existence simultaneously at space-like separated points, no faster-than-light signaling is possible, since neither matter nor energy is transmitted. Two particles appear simultaneously and far apart, with their properties perfectly correlated to satisfy the conservation principles for mass, energy, momentum, angular momentum, and spin. The collapse of the two-particle wave function in the EPR experiment is the same mystery as the one in the two-slit experiment. But now there are two particles and they appear instantly and simultaneously, despite their space-like separation, because of nonlocality and nonseparability. This can be seen by reformulating the EPR paradox using a special frame of reference in which the source of the entangled particles and the observers are at rest. When identical and indistinguishable particles are entangled, their later disentanglement happens symmetrically and synchronously in the special frame of reference in which their entanglement source (and their mean motion) is at rest. The EPR paradox is caused by the observer introducing an asymmetry where none exists, privileging "here" and "now" over "there" and "then." Einstein mistakenly introduced this false asymmetry into a perfectly symmetric situation. The Horizon, Flatness, and Missing Mass Problems in Cosmology - The universe is flat because it was created from an empty universe, which is also flat. Leibniz' question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is simply answered. The universe is made out of something and the equal opposite of that something. The missing mass needed to achieve flatness may be dark matter in the intergalactic medium, but this does not explain the apparent acceleration of the universe expansion (dark energy), which may not be real, the result of misinterpretation of observational evidence. We solve the horizon problem by accepting Einstein's insight that in the wave-function collapse something appears to be "traveling" faster than the speed of light. That something is information about possibilities. When the universal wave function Ψ collapsed at t = 0, entangled parts of the universe that are now outside our current light horizon were "informed" that it was time to start. Questions of Infinity include: Time: Is it infinite? There appears to be only a finite past but an infinite possible future. 2) Space: If it is infinite, how did infinitely distance places know how to synchronize their starting time with us (the horizon problem. 3) Fields: Do they contain infinite information? Algorithmic information theory tells us a field contains only the amount needed to specify it. Thus a gravitation field is defined through all space for a large mass M and a test particle m as exerting a force F = GMm/r2. But there is nothing substantial at an arbitrary point r. There is information there, in the form of knowledge about the gravitational force on m iff m is at that point. This is called "action-at-a-distance," but is better thought of as "knowledge-at-a-distance." The "Interpretation" Problem of Quantum Mechanics - The Information Interpretation is the Copenhagen Interpretation plus information and minus the Conscious Observer. I-Phi interprets the wave function ψ as a "possibilities" function. I-Phi accepts the principle of superposition, the axiom of measurement, and the projection postulate of standard quantum mechanics. But a conscious observer is not required for the "collapse of the wave-function". The collapse (also known as the "reduction of the wave packet") occurs whenever there is an interaction of a quantum system with another system (a "measurement") that reduces multiple possibilities to a single actuality, generating new information. Contrary to the usual understanding of the second law of thermodynamics, both the entropy and the negative entropy (information) increase. The transformation theory of Dirac and Jordan lets us represent ψ by expanding it in a set of basis functions for which the combined quantum system and measurement apparatus has eigenvalues. ψ is now in a superposition of those "possible" eigenfunctions. Quantum mechanics lets us calculate the probabilities of each of those "possibilities." Interaction with the measurement apparatus (or indeed interaction with any other system) may project out one of those possibilities as an actuality. But for this event to be an "observable" (a John Bell "beable"), information must be created and positive entropy must be transferred away from the new information structure, in accordance with our two-stage information creation process. Macroscopic Recurrence - Ernst Zermelo argued against Ludwig Boltzmann's H-Theorem (his derivation of the second law of thermodynamics), on the grounds that given enough time, any system would return to the same starting conditions and thus entropy must decrease as well as increase. Information physics shows that exactly the same circumstances can never recur. Friedrich Nietzsche's "Eternal Return of the Same" is a physical impossibility, because of the increasing information in the universe. The Measurement Problem - We explain how our measuring instruments, which are usually macroscopic objects and treatable with "adequately determined" classical physics, can give us information about the microscopic world of atoms and subatomic particles like electrons and photons, which are described with quantum physics. The so-called "cut" between the quantum and classical worlds occurs at the moment that stable observable information enters the world. It does not require the consciousness of an observer. The reason that there are no macroscopic superpositions (e.g., Schrödinger's Cat) is that when the "possibilities function" ψ becomes actual, entropy is transferred away from the new "adequately determined" information structure, probability amplitudes become probabilities, and superposition with interference is no longer a "possibility." Microscopic Reversibility - Joseph Loschmidt also argued against Ludwig Boltzmann's H-Theorem, on the grounds that if time were reversed the entropy would decrease. Boltzmann agreed that it would, according to his initial version of the H-Theorem which was derived from classical dynamical physics. He later defended his case for entropy increase on the basis of probabilities and an assumption of "molecular disorder." A quantum-mechanical treatment of binary (two-particle) collisions confirms the correctness of Boltzmann's "molecular disorder" assumption. Information physics explains the origin of irreversibility, confirming Albert Einstein's insight that the elementary processes of interaction between matter and radiation have no inverses. In particular, there are no incoming spherical waves of radiation.