CR and the question of knowledge, with his championed “constructor theory” in play
CR is a frequent objector here at UD, and it seems again necessary to headline a corrective response given some of his remarks in the thread on UB’s discussion of information systems in cells:
KF, 62: >>CR:
constructor theory formalizes the view that, in science, justification isn’t possible or even desirable and brings emergent phenomena, such as information, into fundamental physics
First, no-one has discussed justification as a component for knowledge, as post Gettier, to be justified in holding a belief that turns out to be true is understood for cause as not equal to knowledge. The matter of warrant has long since been brought to your attention repeatedly but insistently ignored. Thus, you have shamelessly played the strawman tactic.
And, as the discussion of knowledge has played out on other threads, I simply note that scientific knowledge claims fall under a weak, fallibilist, inductively grounded sense of knowledge, warranted, credibly true (and empirically reliable) belief.
I add: note, the very name, “Science,” is derived from a Latin word denoting knowledge. Dictionaries are useful points of reference:
sci·ence (sī′əns) n.
1. a. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena: new advances in science and technology.b. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena: the science of astronomy.2. A systematic method or body of knowledge in a given area: the science of marketing.3. ArchaicKnowledge, especially that gained through experience.
[Middle English,knowledge, learning, from Old French, from Latin scientia, from sciēns, scient-, present participle of scīre, to know; seeskei- in Indo-European roots.]American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
science (ˈsaɪəns)n1. the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms2. the knowledge so obtained or the practice of obtaining it3. any particular branch of this knowledge: the pure and applied sciences.4. any body of knowledge organized in a systematic manner5. skill or technique6. archaicknowledge[C14:via Old French from Latin scientia knowledge, from scīre to know]Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
Thus, we need to reckon with the provisional, incremental, inductive sense of knowledge so derived. A point well understood since Newton, here, I clip Opticks, Query 31:
As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.
Of course, our understanding of inductive reasoning has been updated to denote arguments where premises (often, empirically derived) provide support for the credible truth of conclusions, as opposed to entailing them. Where, a key aspect of this is that if something has a stable distinct identity, it can be expected to behave in a consistent, reasonably predictable pattern. Kusha bushes produce thorns reliably (so that a donkey I heard of would deliberately brush its rider against these bushes, if it was displeased with him). Manchineel trees produce sweet tasting but caustic, toxic beach or death apples. Mango trees produce thousands of varieties of that luscious fruit. Unsupported objects near earth tend to fall under a force of 9.8 N/kg or thereabouts. The earth, due to angular momentum being conserved, rotates once every 23 hrs 56 minutes relative to the “fixed” stars. And so forth.
So, there are good common-sense grounds to expect orderly, coherent patterns in the world. But common sense can be a suspect commodity when there is a dominant ideology to the contrary.
But, we must go on. Knowledge, itself, is from a Greek term, gnosis, so let’s use Wikipedia on that term as a handy reference:
Gnosis is a feminine Greek noun which means “knowledge”. It is often used for personal knowledge compared with intellectual knowledge (εἶδειν eídein), as with the Frenchconnaitre compared with savoir, the Spanishconocer compared with saber, or the Germankennen rather than wissen.
Latin dropped the initial g (which was preserved in Greek) so gno- becomes no- as in noscō meaning “I know”, noscentia meaning “knowledge” and notus meaning “known”. The g remains in the Latin co-gni-tio meaning “knowledge” and i-gno-tus and i-gna-rus meaning “unknown” and from which comes the word i-gno-rant, and a-gno-stic which means “not knowing” and once again this reflects the Sanskrit jna which means “to know”, “to perceive” or “to understand”.
A related term is the adjective gnostikos, “cognitive”, a reasonably common adjective in Classical Greek.Plato uses the plural adjective γνωστικοί – gnostikoi and the singular feminine adjective γνωστικὴ ἐπιστήμη – gnostike episteme in his Politikos where Gnostike episteme was also used to indicate one’s aptitude. The terms do not appear to indicate any mystic, esoteric or hidden meaning in the works of Plato, but instead expressed a sort of higher intelligence and ability analogous to talent.
Plato The Statesman 258e— Stranger: In this way, then, divide all science into two arts, calling the one practical (praktikos), and the other purely intellectual (gnostikos). Younger Socrates: Let us assume that all science is one and that these are its two forms.
In the Hellenistic era the term became associated with the mystery cults.
Gnosis is used throughout Greek philosophy as a technical term for experience knowledge (see gnosiology) in contrast to theoretical knowledge or epistemology. The term is also related to the study of knowledge retention or memory (see also cognition), in relation to ontic or ontological, which is how something actually is rather than how something is captured (abstraction) and stored (memory) in the mind.
Irenaeus used the phrase “knowledge falsely so-called” (pseudonymos gnosis, from 1 Timothy 6:20) for the title of his book On the Detection and Overthrow of False Knowledge, that contains the adjective gnostikos, which is the source for the 17th-century English term “Gnosticism“.
Such words refer to a common, important phenomenon, which we have to reckon with in philosophising about it, i.e. in epistemology.
First, without a knowing subject willing to accept and act on a claim, we are not dealing with knowing or knowledge. Without reasonable and responsible grounds, one is not warranted to accept a claim or perception etc as credibly true (and reliable), but that warrant needs not be wholly held by a given subject; we all routinely accept warrant per credible authority and/or perhaps simplified explanation or examples.
Likewise, warrant chains as A as B, B as C etc. Thus, there is a regress, where infinite chain is impossible, question-begging circularity is futile, so we face finitely remote first plausibles taken as a credible start-point or foundation or root of one’s worldview.
Yes, there is a positive hatred for the suggestions that we have a finitely remote foundation involving trust in first plausibles but that is actually patent.
Let’s add, turtles all the way down:
. . . vs, the last turtle has to stand somewhere:
. . . so that:
And, worldviews need not be question-begging once held i/l/o comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power (elegantly simple not simplistic or an ad hoc patchwork).
In such, key self-evident elements starting with the point that distinct identity (A vs ~ A) leads directly to the triple first principles of right reason, LOI, LNC, LEM:
. . . as well as to the set of natural numbers thence the logic of structure and quantity, AKA Mathematics. [Where, we may picture the scheme of numbers great and small — the surreals (cf here and here as well as here at UD) — as successive steps in a branching tree with an endless chain of successive stepwise branching stages:]
Self-evident truths are examples, in turn, of strong-form knowledge, warranted as certainly true and thus accepted as undeniable on pain of [instant, patent] absurdity on the attempted denial.
Thus, warrant is an integral component of knowledge, which is a function of knowing subjects. And, science is a weak form, with facts of observation being far better warranted than integrative theoretical constructs, which are best understood as explanatory, abductively warranted models which are generally speaking possibly true as opposed to credibly true.
Thus, while information can and does play a role in fundamental physics — e.g. the position-momentum and energy-time versions of the Heisenberg-Einstein uncertainty principle — that is not where it is primarily founded. Information theory is an extension of physics indeed, but that in the end is about distinct identity leading to designation of entities by labels tracing to y/n chains in structured description languages, or to analogues that then face issues of storage, processing, modulation, transmission etc. Information is not knowledge but is involved in the process. And, the reality of phenomena in the world is not reducible to information without residue. That is, there is a real world.
Let’s add a clip from UB’s Biosemiosis, for reference on information as translated:
. . . or, more elaborately:
Where, to facilitate discussion [as, a good general definition that does not “bake-in” information being a near-synonym to knowledge is hard to find . . . ] we may roughly identify information as
1: facets of reality that may capture and so frame — give meaningful FORM to
2: representations of elements of reality — such representations being items of data — that
3: by accumulation of such structured items . . .
4: [NB: which accumulation is in principle quantifiable, e.g. by defining a description language that chains successive y/n questions to specify a unique/particular description or statement, thence I = – log p in the Shannon case, etc],
5: meaningful complex messages may then be created, modulated, encoded, decoded, conveyed, stored, processed and otherwise made amenable to use by a system, entity or agent interacting with the wider world. E.g. consider the ASCII code:
or, the genetic code (notice, the structural patterns set by the first two letters):
or, mRNA . . . notice, U not T:
or, a cybernetic entity using informational signals to guide its actions:
. . . or, a von Neumann kinematic self-replicator:
(Of course, such representations may be more or less accurate or inaccurate, or even deceitful. Thus, knowledge requires information but has to address warrant as credibly truthful. Wisdom, goes beyond knowledge to imply sound insight into fundamental aspects of reality that guide sound, prudent, ethical action.)
Now, let’s pick up and do some inline commenting on your un-sourced text gobbet. Of course on track record you will studiously ignore or find some tangent to divert, but record is needed:
>>2.5 What is the initial state?
The prevailing conception regards the initial state of the physical world as a fundamental part of its constitution, and we therefore hope and expect that state to be specified by some fundamental, elegant law of physics.>>
1 –> Cosmology, and the hoping for some super-law to lock up the initial condition simply points onward to the source of such fine-tuning to set up a world habitable by C-chem, aqueous medium, cell based life.
2 –> This materialistic focus neglects that just to do physical cosmology we need responsible, rationally free morally governed creatures accountable before truth and logic, ethics etc.
3 –> This moves us beyond physics and shows that physics is inherently not the root of a rational understanding of our world and its inhabitants. It studies an important cross-section: matter-energy, space-time and interactions thereof, in a fundamental manner involving mathematics and logic as well as observation and measurement.
4 –> Where Mathematics is NOT an empirical discipline but a logical one rooted in distinct identity, first principles of right reason and the endless set of the naturals, duly extended into other structures of interest and where possible axiomatised. Computing is an applied branch.
5 –> So, we correct in brief an impoverished, factually grossly inadequate worldview.
>> But at present there are no exact theories of what the initial state was. Thermodynamics suggests that it was a ‘zero-entropy state’, but as I said, we have no exact theory of what that means. Cosmology suggests that it was homogeneous and isotropic, but whether the observed inhomogeneities (such as galaxies) could have evolved from quantum fluctuations in a homogeneous initial state is controversial.>>
6 –> Physics, including physical cosmology is incomplete.
>> In the constructor-theoretic conception, the initial state is not fundamental. It is an emergent consequence of the fundamental truths that laws of physics specify, namely which tasks are or are not possible.>>
7 –> fundamentals-phobia, or more precisely, an irrational fear of recognising worldview structures, warrant chains i/l/o our finitude and proneness to error.
8 –> Fundamental, warranted credible truth is a way to describe knowledge in the relevant weak form without admitting that this is what one is doing.
9 –> Fundamental, of course is precisely the much despised metaphor of foundations in another guise, as would be basics. You can run but you cannot hide.
>> For example, given a set of laws of motion, what exactly is implied about the initial state by the practical feasibility of building (good approximations to) a universal computer several billion years later may be inelegant and intractably complex to state explicitly,>>
10 –> Sneaking in by the back-door the idea that the cosmos is something like a Turing universal computational device.
11 –> Computing the states of a cosmos is so far beyond the complexity of its physical instantiation as to be implausible. Indeed, as computation is envisioned on a material substrate, we have here an emerging regress of computing the computing entity that computes the physical cosmos.
12 –> But perhaps, what is meant is, the existing cosmos is computational in the sense of obeying a coherent set of physical laws that in effect can be compressed into a description in some language and called “physics.”
13 –> This then becomes little more than a pretentious way of saying that we live in an orderly, organised cosmos that unfolds across time per initial constituents, conditions and laws that can be empirically, inductively identified.
14 –> What is valid, then, is not new, and what is novel is either unnecessary or plain wrong and confusing as it obfuscates what should be plainly said.
>> yet may follow logically from elegant constructor-theoretic laws about information and computation (see Sections 2.6 and 2.8 below).>>
15 –> More of the same mish-mash.
>>The intuitive appeal of the prevailing conception may be nothing more than a legacy from an earlier era of philosophy: First, the idea that the initial state is fundamental corresponds to the ancient idea of divine creation happening at the beginning of time.>>
16 –> Dismissiveness towards the concept that that which begins is contingent and has a cause.
17 –> Similar dismissiveness towards the point that an initial framework that triggers onward unfolding is patently of fundamental character.
>> And second, the idea that the initial state might be a logical consequence of anything deeper raises a spectre of teleological explanation, which is anathema because it resembles explanation through divine intentions.>>
18 –> Little more than anti-theism surfacing by way of reassurance to a presumed atheistical audience.
19 –> If a cosmos has a beginning and is shaped by coherent, fine tuned laws and circumstances conducive to C-Chem, aqueous medium, terrestrial planet, cell based life, that points to intelligent design at the hands of a designer of awesome power.
20 –> So, we come to motive: anti-theism, leading to unwillingness to objectively examine the evidence of cosmological fine tuning and that of a cosmos that credibly had a beginning at a finitely removed time.
21 –> Where, refusal to engage the phenomenon of physics being done by creatures who are physically embodied but responsibly and rationally free and morally governed in reasoning towards the truth about our world allows evasion of the IS-OUGHT gap and the gap between mechanical computation on blind cause-effect mechanisms and ground-consequent, consciously insightful reasoning.
22 –> Those two gaps point beyond the world of matter, energy, space and time shaped by mechanical necessity and stochastic processes to yet deeper issues tied to world-roots.
23 –> Post Hume, the only level where IS and OUGHT can be bridged coherently is the root of reality.
24 –> This points to the only serious candidate, after centuries of philosophical debates, given the nature of being:
the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.
25 –> If you doubt this, simply provide a coherent alternative: _____ . Predictably, objectors will not do so, as they will find it an insuperable task.
26 –> That mind transcends computing is also pivotal, as we have forgotten that computers of various architectures are mindless mechanical, GIGO limited products of minds, that may well mechanise aspects of reasoning to solve problems, but which are in the end not capable of insightful, responsible, reasonable inference on ground and consequent. Such machines have to be set up right to work, by those capable of reasoning.
27 –> So, the great evasion has failed on all counts.
>> But neither of those (somewhat contradictory) considerations>>
28 –> Projection, not well founded. The contradictions perceived are patently little more than reflections of the inner incoherence of the scheme of thought being propounded, and likely of an underlying commitment to a priori evolutionary materialism or one of its fellow travellers that by accommodating that, pick up its incoherence.
>> could be a substantive objection to a fruitful constructor theory, if one could be developed. >>
29 –> In short, there is no such established theory, just a cluster of incoherent ideas as in part corrected in this note.
If this issue keeps up like this, we may well need to add to the weak arguments corrective page. At any rate, food for thought. END