Problems in Philosophy and Physics
Here we review some great questions of philosophy for which modern physical science and information philosophy now provide us with the possibility of fuller understanding, if not plausible and practical solutions.
Several of these are problems that 20th-century philosophers like Ludwig Wittgenstein labeled "philosophical puzzles" or Bertrand Russell called "pseudo-problems." Analytic language philosophers thought many of these problems could be "dis-solved," revealing them to be caused by the misuse of language. Analytical philosopher Gilbert Ryle called them "category mistakes" that could be avoided by more careful "conceptual analysis." His analysis of the "concept of mind" concluded that mind simply did not exist. Using the new methodology of information philosophy, these problems are now back under consideration as genuinely important, analyzable and potentially soluble in terms of information, with some aspects subject to experimental testing. 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. These 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."
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 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 that correspond to external structures in the world and in other minds. 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 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. Immortality - Information philosophy implies two kinds of immortality, the material survival of genetic information and the survival of 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 Hume is right that induction does not lead to certain truth, but like experiments, induction can count as statistical evidence for and against our hypotheses and theories. Metaphysics - Are there unavoidable a priori first principles of philosophy and thus of science? There are definitely axioms or starting assumptions for all thought and reasoning. We will see they are exercises in information minimalism - the least that can be said about things. 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. But 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 but superior to cognitive science "computational" models of the mind. One or Many - Is the world a unity? We see this as part of the great dualism between ideal and material, being and becoming, mind and matter, but 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.
Modern Physics ProblemsThe 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) there are actually no outgoing spherical waves of radiation. The outgoing spherical waves are only the possibilities of detecting electromagnetic radiation. There is no unified field theory, because there are no fields. There are only particles, and averages over particles. 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. Entanglement is a mysterious quantum phenomenon that seems capable of transmitting information over vast distances faster than the speed of light, a property called non-locality, first seen by Albert Einstein in 1905. Information physics shows that although information about probability (actually, about possibilities) comes into existence simultaneously at space-like separated points, no faster-than-light signaling is possible, since neither matter nor energy is transmitted. The collapse of the two-particle wave function in the EPR experiment is the same mystery as the one in the two-slit experiment, except that now there are two particles and they appear instantly and simultaneously, despite their space-like separation. 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. 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 Horizon and Flatness Problems - 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. We solve the horizon problem by accepting Einstein's insight that in the wave-function collapse something is "traveling" faster than the speed of light. That something is information about possibilities. When the universal wave function Ψ collapsed at t = 0, parts of the universe that are outside our current light horizon were "informed" that it is time to start. 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 wave-function "collapse". The collapse occurs whenever there is an interaction of a quantum system with another system that generates new information (both entropy and negative entropy increases). 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.