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Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Heraclitus
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

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Metaphysics

Metaphysicist.com is a new website that solves some classic metaphysical problems using the methods and tools of information philosophy
Metaphysics based on information philosophy can answer some of the most profound questions about the fundamental origins, nature, and evolution of reality. Immaterial information grounds epistemology, the theory of knowledge about reality, in a way not possible in a purely material universe. This is because computer simulations of physical and biological systems provide far better explanations than any number of true propositions.

We have created an entirely new website dedicated to the solutions of classic metaphysical problems by using the methods of information philosophy.
See metaphysicist.com

The Metaphysicist analyzes the information content in twenty classic problems in metaphysics - Abstract Entities, Being and Becoming, Causality, Chance, Change, Coinciding Objects, Composition (Parts and Wholes), Constitution, Free Will or Determinism, God and Immortality, Identity, Individuation, Mind-Body Problem, Modality, Necessity or Contingency, Persistence, Possibility and Actuality, Space and Time, Truth, Universals, Vagueness, and the 20th-century problem of Wave-Particle Duality.

Metaphysician or Metaphysicist?
Philosophers who specialize in metaphysics have traditionally been called metaphysicians in English (in French they are called a metaphysicien, in German a metaphysiker). Perhaps most modern anglo-american metaphysicians think problems in metaphysics can be treated as problems in language, potentially solved by conceptual analysis. They are analytical language philosophers. Others are specialists in modal logic, some who claim that modal logic is metaphysics..

But language is too flexible, too ambiguous, too full of metaphor, to be a metaphysical diagnostic tool. We must go beyond language games and logical puzzles to the underlying information contained in a concept, and to the matter that embodies the immaterial concept. This we do at our new website the Metaphysicist.

Today's metaphysicians are overwhelmingly naturalists. They believe everything can be explained by what they call the "laws of nature." They take those laws to be the laws of classical physics, because few understand modern quantum physics. Even many physicists are baffled by the nonintuitive aspects of quantum mechanics, which have led to dozens of interpretations of quantum mechanics.

Even more problematic, today's metaphysicians are materialists, even eliminative materialists who thinkk there is "nothing but" matter. They mistakenly believe that only material objects exist. The exceptions are religious metaphysicians who are still seeking a God and immortal souls.

Materialism is the claim that there is nothing in the world beyond the material (including energy), that everything follows "laws of nature," and that these laws are both causal and deterministic. So "supernatural" appears to imply "immaterial" and the freedom to break the laws of nature. Information philosophy denies the supernatural. But it defends immaterial information as that which constitutes the human spirit, or soul, the "ghost in the machine." And it defends ontological chance as the generator of novel possibilities that are not determined by the "fixed past," opening the door to metaphysical free will.

Historical Background

Metaphysics has signified many things in the history of philosophy, but it has not strayed far from a literal reading of "beyond the physical." The term was invented by the 1st-century BCE head of Aristotle's Peripatetic school, Andronicus of Rhodes. Andronicus edited and arranged Aristotle's works, giving the name Metaphysics (τα μετα τα φυσικα βιβλια), literally "the books beyond the physics," perhaps the books to be read after reading Aristotle's books on nature, which he called the Physics. The Greek for nature is physis, so metaphysical is also "beyond the natural."

Aristotle never used the term metaphysics. For Plato, Aristotle's master, the realm of abstract ideas was more "real" than that of physical. i.e., material or concrete, objects, because ideas can be more permanent (the Being of Parmenides), whereas material objects are constantly changing (the Becoming of Heraclitus).

In recent centuries then, metaphysical has become "beyond the material." Metaphysics has become the study of immaterial things, like the mind, which is said to "supervene" on the material brain. Metaphysics is a kind of idealism, in stark contrast to materialism. And metaphysics has failed in proportion to the phenomenal success of naturalism, the idea that the laws of nature alone can completely explain the contents of the universe. For the eliminative materialist and determinist philosopher, who thinks there is "nothing but" matter, metaphysics is dismissed as nonsense.

The books of Aristotle that Andronicus considered "beyond nature" included Aristotle's "First Philosophy" — ontology (the science of being), cosmology (the fundamental processes and original causes of physical things), and theology (is a god required as "first cause?").

Aristotle's Physics describes the four "causes" or "explanations" (aitia) of change and movement of objects already existing in the universe (the ideal formal and final causes, vs. the efficient and material causes). Aristotle's metaphysics can then be seen as explanations for existence itself. What exists? What is it to be? What processes can bring things into (or out of) existence? Is there a cause or explanation for the universe as a whole?

In critical philosophical discourse, metaphysics has perhaps been tarnished by its Latinate translation as "supernatural," with its strong theological implications. But from the beginning, Aristotle's books on "First Philosophy" considered God among the possible causes of the fundamental things in the universe. Tracing the regress of causes back in time as an infinite chain, Aristotle postulated a first cause or "uncaused cause." Where every motion needs a prior mover to explain it, he postulated an "unmoved first mover." These postulates became a major element of theology down to modern times.

Metaphysics is the division of philosophy which includes ontology, or the science of being, and cosmology, or the science of the fundamental causes and processes of things. The primary meaning of metaphysics is derived from those discussions by Aristotle which he himself called the First Philosophy or Theology, and which deal with the nature of being as such, with first causes, new beginnings or genesis, and thus with the existence of God.

For medieval philosophers, metaphysics was understood as the science of the supersensible. Albertus Magnus called it science beyond the physical. Thomas Aquinas narrowed it to the cognition of God. John Duns Scotus disagreed, arguing that only study of the world can yield knowledge of God. Scholastic philosophers mostly returned metaphysics to the study of being in itself, that is, ontology, which again today is the core area of metaphysical arguments. In renaissance Germany, Christian Wolff broadened metaphysics to include psychology, along with ontology, cosmology, and natural or rational theology. In renaissance England, Francis Bacon narrowed metaphysics to the Aristotelian study of formal and final causes, separating it from natural philosophy which he saw as the study of efficient and material causes.

Descartes made a turn from what exists to knowledge of what exists. He changed the emphasis from a study of being to a study of the conditions of knowledge or epistemology. For empiricists in England like John Locke and David Hume, metaphysics includes the "primary" things beyond psychology and "secondary" sensory experiences. They denied that any knowledge was possible apart from experimental and mathematical reasoning. Hume thought metaphysics was sophistry and illusion.

If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

In Germany, Kant's Critiques of Reason claimed a transcendental, non-empirical realm he called noumenal, for pure, or a priori, reason beyond or behind the phenomena. Kant's phenomenal realm is deterministic, matter governed by Newton's laws of motion. Kant's immaterial noumena are in the metaphysical non-empirical realm of the "things themselves" along with freedom, God, and immortality. Kant may have identified ontology not with the things themselves but, influenced by Descartes, what we can think - and reason - about the things themselves. In either case, Kant thought metaphysical knowledge might be impossible for finite minds.

The notion that metaphysics transcends experience and the material world led to nineteenth-century positivists like August Comte and Ernst Mach, and twentieth-century empiricists like Rudolf Carnap and Moritz Schlick, also denying the possibility of metaphysical knowledge. Carnap maintained that metaphysical statements are meaningless.

Naturalism is the anti-metaphysical claim that there is nothing in the world beyond the material (including energy), that everything follows "laws of nature," and that these laws are both causal and deterministic. So "supernatural" appears to imply "immaterial" and the freedom to break the laws of nature. Information philosophy denies the supernatural. But it defends immaterial information as that which constitutes the human spirit, or soul, the "ghost in the machine." And it defends ontological chance as the generator of novel possibilities that are not determined by the "fixed past."

Positivism is the claim that the only valid source of knowledge is sensory experience, reinforced by logic and mathematics. Together these provide the empirical evidence for science. Comtean positivism rejected metaphysics and theology as obsolete earlier phases in the development of knowledge.

Mach's positivism claimed that science consists entirely of "economic summaries" of the facts (the results of experiments). He rejected theories about unobservable things like Ludwig Boltzmann's atoms, just a few years before Albert Einstein used Boltzmann's work to prove that atoms exist.

This "linguistic turn" and naturalizing of epistemology can be traced back to Kant and perhaps even to Descartes.
The logical positivism of Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein claims that all valid knowledge is scientific knowledge, though science is often criticized for "reducing" all phenomena to physical or chemical events. The logical positivists may have identified ontology not with the things themselves but what we can say - using concepts and language - about the things themselves.

Logical positivists and the logical empiricists of the Vienna Circle not only asserted that all knowledge is scientific knowledge derived from experience, i.e., from verifiable observations, they also added the logical analysis of language as the principal tool for solving philosophical problems. They divided statements into those that are reducible to simpler statements about experience and those with no empirical basis. These latter they called "metaphysics" and "meaningless." While language is too slippery and ambiguous to serve as a reliable tool for philosophical analysis, quantitative information, which underlies all language use, is such a tool.

Logical positivists and empiricists mistakenly claim that physical theories can be logically deduced (or derived) from the results of experiments. A second flaw in all empiricist thinking since Locke et al. is the mistaken idea that all knowledge is derived from experience, written on the blank slate of our minds, etc. In science, this is the flawed idea that all knowledge is ultimately experimental. To paraphrase Kant and Charles Sanders Peirce, theories without experiments may be empty, but experiments without theories are blind.

By contrast, the modern hypothetical-deductive method of science maintains that theories are not the logical (or inductive) consequences of experiments. As Einstein put it, after shaking off his early enthusiasm for Mach's positivistic ideas, theories are "free inventions of the human mind." Theories begin with hypotheses, mere guesses, "fictions" whose value is shown only when they can be confirmed by the results of experiments. Again and again, theories have predicted behaviors in as yet untested physical conditions that have surprised scientists, often suggesting new experiments that have extended the confirmation of theories, which again surprise us. As pure information, scientific knowledge is far beyond the results of experiments alone.


Metaphysics has been a search for the preconditions of existence, for the meaning of being, for original "first causes" (arche) and final ends (telos), especially for that which is beyond our senses - the "things themselves." In an epistemological age after Descartes, metaphysics came to include the preconditions for knowledge, especially knowledge of physical things, somehow independent of our sensible experience, and especially certain knowledge - knowledge by abstract reason alone.

Although in recent years metaphysics has become something of a catch-all category for unsolved problems in philosophy and physics, ontology has remained its central concern and we will focus on the ontological status of material objects as "information structures" and the existential status of "immaterial information" about these structures and about information itself, as our basis for knowledge. Immaterial ideas are as real a part of the physical world and its causal structure as is matter, even though they are ideal and not material.

Beyond synchronic ontology, diachronic cosmology has now traced back the origin and evolution of the material universe to a "Big Bang" some 13.75 billion years ago. But deep metaphysical questions remain. Did time start at the Big Bang? Was there space with nothing in it, before matter came into existence? Could there have been pure information before there was space and time? Did that information include the possibility of the universe? Are space and time only universal ideas, continuous immaterial forms, that help us organize and describe the workings of discontinuous and discrete particulate matter and energy?

How Information Philosophy Solves Some Problems in 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, 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.

Information philosophy may never answer "ultimate" questions like Leibniz' "Why is there something rather than nothing?," but it can answer why there appears to be a providential process at work that makes the world comfortable for life in general and man in particular.

For information philosophy, ontology is not about what we can think nor what we can say about the things themselves. Rather, it is about the immaterial information content of things, which is intimately connected with the information in the thoughts in our minds and in the concepts and words used to communicate the information that is in the things themselves. The partial isomorphism between the information in the external world of objects and the internal information about those objects in our minds is a quantitative measure of our knowledge about the objects.

Thus there is a second claim. Because the external information is in the things themselves, 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. Furthermore, complete information in a thing (while probably rarely obtainable) may contain what it is like to be some thing.

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. By contrast, substantial concrete particulars are all material (including the pure energy of radiation) and thus contingent and empirical. The third claim is that, although our knowledge of the information realm has come initially from experience, that is from empirical sources, the information realm itself is non-empirical (though physical) and therefore non-reducible to "causally closed" matter in motion.

Metaphysics asks about the general nature of all things/beings, and Being itself. Information is such an essential property of all things. And it is a quantitative property, much more powerful that linguistic concepts. It gives form to the matter. Matter without form is not distinguishable, comprehensible, blind/invisible. Form without matter is empty - an essence without an existence. Individuation, instantiation of a form in matter, etc.

Problems in Metaphysics
Many of the problems facing today's metaphysicians concern the fundamental structure of reality, the underlying material substance and the creative process that gives individual objects their shape and form, their qualities or properties.

Apart from appearances and the sense data of experiences, what is the underlying reality, what is there "really?" What "constitutes" a material object? What is its "principle of individuation?" Does a concrete object maintain its identity as it moves in space and time?

A surprising number of today's metaphysical questions were first asked over two millennia ago by the ancient Greek philosophers. It is shocking that so little progress has been made toward definitive answers to some of them.

Perhaps it is because metaphysics is a search for certain knowledge that is beyond the material world, not derivable from experience, and eternally true (in any possible world). Such knowledge is limited to immaterial ideas in logic ("A is A"), mathematics (7 + 5 = 12), and some sentences or propositions that are true by (conventional) definition.

Can unchanging eternal ideas and truths provide us any knowledge about the constantly changing material world?

And what is the existential (or ontological) status of these abstract ideas? Do numbers exist? If so, is their kind of existence different from that of material objects? Do the past and present exist? Are there immaterial minds apart from material brains? How could they interact?

Although many metaphysicians claim to be exploring the fundamental structure of reality, the overwhelming fraction of their writings is about problems in analytic linguistic philosophy, that is to say problems with words. Many questions appear to be verbal quibbles. Others lack meaning or have no obvious truth value, dissolving into paradoxes.

Based on current practice, we can sharpen the definition of a metaphysician to be an analytic language philosopher who discusses metaphysical problems.

By contrast, a metaphysicist is an information philosopher who is familiar with modern physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as the interpretation of quantum physics. The fundamental structure of reality today must confront the mysteries and puzzles of quantum reality.

For example, the wave function of a quantum particle is pure information. Some interpretations of quantum mechanics are fundamentally metaphysical, problems for a metaphysicist.

Note that many metaphysical problems are dichotomies, with either/or debates, suggesting that a common underlying theme is some kind of dualism, almost always the dualism between materialism and idealism (pure abstract information).

For Teachers
For Scholars
References
Chisholm, R., 1989. On Metaphysics, U. of Minnesota Press.

Lowe, R. J., 2002. A Survey of Metaphysics, Oxford University Press.

Rea, M. C. [Ed.], 2008. Metaphysics: Critical Concepts in Philosophy, Five Volumes, Oxford University Press.

Sider, T. J. Hawthorne, and D. W. Zimmerman, 2008. Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, Blackwell Publishing.

Taylor, R., 1963. Metaphysics, Prentice Hall.

Van Inwagen, P., 2015. Metaphysics, 4th Ed., U. of Notre Dame Press.

Van Inwagen, P., and D. W. Zimmerman, 2008. Metaphysics: The Big Questions, 2nd Ed., Blackwell Publishing.

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