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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 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
Lawrence Cahoone
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Nancy Cartwright
Gregg Caruso
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
Austin Farrer
Herbert Feigl
Arthur Fine
John Martin Fischer
Frederic Fitch
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Bas van Fraassen
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
Frank Jackson
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Walter Kaufmann
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Thomas Kuhn
Andrea Lavazza
Christoph Lehner
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Jules Lequyer
Leucippus
Michael Levin
Joseph Levine
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
Arthur O. Lovejoy
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
Otto Neurath
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
C.F. von Weizsäcker
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

David Albert
Michael Arbib
Walter Baade
Bernard Baars
Jeffrey Bada
Leslie Ballentine
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Mara Beller
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Jean Bricmont
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Melvin Calvin
Donald Campbell
Sadi Carnot
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Gregory Chaitin
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Rudolf Clausius
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
Jerry Coyne
John Cramer
Francis Crick
E. P. Culverwell
Antonio Damasio
Olivier Darrigol
Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins
Terrence Deacon
Lüder Deecke
Richard Dedekind
Louis de Broglie
Stanislas Dehaene
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gerald Edelman
Paul Ehrenfest
Manfred Eigen
Albert Einstein
George F. R. Ellis
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
David Foster
Joseph Fourier
Philipp Frank
Steven Frautschi
Edward Fredkin
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A. O. Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Dirk ter Haar
Jacques Hadamard
Mark Hadley
Patrick Haggard
J. B. S. Haldane
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Ralph Hartley
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Donald Hebb
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Basil Hiley
Art Hobson
Jesper Hoffmeyer
Don Howard
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
E. T. Jaynes
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
William R. Klemm
Christof Koch
Simon Kochen
Hans Kornhuber
Stephen Kosslyn
Daniel Koshland
Ladislav Kovàč
Leopold Kronecker
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Joseph LeDoux
Gilbert Lewis
Benjamin Libet
David Lindley
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
Owen Maroney
Humberto Maturana
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
John McCarthy
Warren McCulloch
N. David Mermin
George Miller
Stanley Miller
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Alexander Oparin
Abraham Pais
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Henry Quastler
Adolphe Quételet
Lord Rayleigh
Jürgen Renn
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Tilman Sauer
Jürgen Schmidhuber
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Sebastian Seung
Thomas Sebeok
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Abner Shimony
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Lee Smolin
Ray Solomonoff
Roger Sperry
John Stachel
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
Max Tegmark
Libb Thims
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Giulio Tononi
Peter Tse
Francisco Varela
Vlatko Vedral
Mikhail Volkenstein
Heinz von Foerster
Richard von Mises
John von Neumann
Jakob von Uexküll
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
Herman Weyl
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
Stephen Wolfram
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek
Konrad Zuse
Fritz Zwicky

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
 
The Nature and Origin of Life
Traditional definitions of life have focused on several important characteristics of living things.
  • Replication (inheritance and transmission to progeny)
  • Variation (random changes with differing reproductive success)
  • Metabolism (harvesting energy and matter from the environment)
  • Encapsulation (membrane enclosure of vital elements)
  • Homeostasis (maintaining a balance of energy and matter in and out of each cell)
  • Growth (from a single eukaryotic cell to maturity and death, bacteria simply divide)
  • Signaling (between cells and cellular components - neurotransmitters, hormones, pheromones. etc.)

NASA offered a simple definition of life as "A self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution."

In recent decades, inspired by comparisons with modern digital computers, scientists and philosophers have identified additional characteristics they regard as fundamental to life. Some thinkers single out one or two of these characteristics and then claim they have discovered the fundamental nature of life.

Attempts to find the origin of life in the properties of chemical systems have defined a number of these "essential" defining characteristics...

Living things exhibit all these characteristics, but none of them explains everything going on at the level of atoms and molecules.

[Prigogine is perhaps the most famous name in chaos theory and complexity theory. Although he made very few original contributions to these fields, he is famous for them, nevertheless. His work, especially his 1984 book written with Isabel Stengers, Order Out Of Chaos, is a major reference today for popular concepts like "self-organizing, "complex systems," "bifurcation points," "non-linearity,", "attractors," "symmetry breaking," "morphogenesis," "autocatalytic," "constraint," and of course "irreversibility," although none of these terms is originally Prigogine's. The name "dissipative structures" and perhaps the phrase "far from equilibrium" belong to Prigogine, but the thermodynamic concepts essential to understanding life were already in Boltzmann, Bertalanffy, and Schrödinger, and perhaps many others.]

How Information Creation Explains Life

  • A place is required in the universe with a flow of energy of low entropy from a source to a sink. A local pocket of "negative" entropy can form information structures.

  • For example, the stream of radiation from the Sun retains its high color temperature but has a low equilibrium energy temperature at the Earth distance. The Sun is the source. The Earth equilibrates that radiation to the average Earth temperature. The sink is the dark night sky on the side opposite the Sun.

  • Another high temperature source is volcanism from the slowly cooling Earth interior. The sink is the cooler ocean water.

  • Creation of a genuinely new information structure requires multiple possible outcomes. At a minimum, the creation may succeed or fail. As Claude Shannon showed, if there is only one possible outcome, that outcome is determined. Novelty requires multiple outcome possibilities. Without alternative possibilities, there is no new information.

  • At the atomic level, whether elements bond is a probabilistic quantum event. If they do bond, the binding energy must be carried away to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics. The bonded elements are lower entropy, but overall total entropy always increases.

  • The new information structure has more order, decreasing entropy, so the energy with high entropy carried away satisfies the requirement that the overall entropy increases. Again, if the positive entropy needed to satisfy the second law is not carried away, a new information structure is not possible.

  • All information creating events have this two-step structure: first quantum processes generate multiple possibilities with in principle calculable probabilities; second, if a low-entropy information structure is created, the high "positive" entropy energy carried away must exceed the low "negative" entropy gain.

  • Many transient structures may form for a moment, for example hydrogen atoms in the early universe, but they are quickly destroyed if the ionizing photons can not be radiated away from the proton and electron.

  • Atoms, molecules, planets, stars, and galaxies are all new information structures. But they are passive structures.

  • Living information structures are active, communicating between their component parts, and communicating with other living things and their environments.

  • Communicating means signaling, sending and receiving information between cells and between cellular components.

  • Living things actively use information to manage their replication.

  • Feedback from their component parts allows regulation of their homeostasis.

  • Information coming in from outside makes them aware of their surroundings. In higher animals we call this consciousness.

  • The broadest possible definition of life may be to regard living things as forms through which matter and energy flows, with their activeinformation structures managing that flow.

  • Those matter and energy flows are of course also information flows.

  • The information content of a living thing is its metaphysical essence, because the particular matter and energy are mere transients through the largely unchanging form, its "identity."

  • Information is neither matter nor energy, though it needs matter to be embodied and energy to communicate with other information structures.

  • Physicists think that the material universe obeys "laws of nature" that they have discovered. Some think these laws determine everything that happens. Others think the control is only statistical. But the "supervening" laws of chemistry and biology can not be reduced to bottom-up control by our component atoms.

  • Chemists see life as simply complex chemical processes, enabled by some molecules that catalyze reactions that normally do not occur in equilibrium conditions. Some chemists think that the information in any particular assembly of molecules is the same as any other with the same molecules. A living thing is just "a bag of chemicals" or a huge molecule." The evolution of living things cannot be reduced to chemical evolution.

  • Biologists have traditionally denied that "information" is relevant for understanding life, though this is changing with the study of cellular signaling. Concepts like information, knowledge, meaning, and purpose are what philosophers of biology describe as "category errors." Biologists who accept that biology reduces to chemistry, which reduces to physics, are nervous about claims of the "emergence" of "holistic" or "idealistic" properties.

  • All three of these kinds of scientists are often conflicted about the second law of thermodynamics and its derivation from statistical mechanics.

  • Cosmologists too are often confused about the second law. Order cannot arise out of chaos just because the laws of dynamics are nonlinear, reactions are auto-catalytic, or system structures are complex.

  • Information philosophy has shown that every bit of information creation in the universe is a two-step process that ends with positive entropy leaving the new information structure and starts with indeterministic quantum-mechanical generation of alternative possibilities.

  • These possibilities are only possible because of the expansion of the universe! In a closed finite system, entropy always increases everywhere. In a closed system in equilibrium, there is no place for positive entropy to go.

  • But the universe is not a closed system. It is in a dynamic state of expansion that is moving away from thermodynamic equilibrium faster than entropic processes can keep up, as first suggested by Arthur Stanley Eddington in 1935, who said

    The expansion of the universe creates new possibilities of distribution faster than the atoms can work through them, and there is no longer any likelihood of a particular distribution being repeated.

  • The maximum possible entropy is increasing much faster than the actual increase in entropy. The difference between the maximum possible entropy and the actual entropy is potential information, as shown graphically in the 1970's by my colleague in the Harvard astronomy department David Layzer.

  • Pockets of low or "negative" entropy are therefore possible. Locally, an information structure can have less entropy and more information, even though the global entropy has gone up. When a hydrogen atom forms from a proton and electron, its entropy per particle is lower.

    When gravitational forces pull clouds of matter together to form a star, the work performed by gravity heats up the matter. If that heat could not be radiated away from the new star, it would stop collapsing. The expanding space between all objects provides the thermodynamic sink for the positive global entropy.

  • Philosophers of Mind can not explain how mind, with its immaterial "ideas," can be reduced to "materialist" biology, which is then reduced to chemistry, which is reduced to physics. Many accept a form of "pan-psychism," that mind must be a fundamentally intrinsic property of matter. They think that mind cannot possibly have emerged from matter. Information philosophy shows them to be wrong. Minds are created.

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