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For the sake of the argument

Sunday, November 21, 2010
Valid equations are trivially and necessarily true. There is a system of equations that describes every physical interaction. Including those in our brains. That system of equations is a timeless necessary truth. Yada, yada. Therefore we necessarily exist. Hail you, necessarily existent being! Today I looked for more on the work of Gary Drescher and found that the basic idea is called the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis, and has been elaborated by real philosophers and physicists with degrees and everything. I think this hypothesis is what Spinoza was getting at, so that's another ground for confidence. Greg Egan probably agrees too. I'm not saying I completely understand it, but throw in some blind faith and fanatical enthusiasm, and the world is ours. Labels: amazing things, atheism, evolution, squibs 25 Comments:
Hmm. If material reality regularly and predictably behaves in ways that conform to Mathematics, except when it doesn't, and if Mathematics is a domain of timeless necessary truth, then... material reality is regularly and predictably governed by timeless necessary truths, except when it isn't. I think what they're saying is that to exist as an implication of a TOE is to exist, full stop. The universe is a mathematical object, which from the inside is material reality.
I found this pretty late at night and shall think about the hypothesis. I have read a bit about the Mathematical Universe idea, namely a paper by cosmologist Max Tegmark. I'm almost certain that Spinoza would reject Tegmark's version.
I think what they're saying is that to exist as an implication of a TOE is to exist, full stop.
Mind is biology. Biology is chemistry. Chemistry is physics. Physics being math. Mind perceives math, thus the universe exists physically. Erase the "baggage" and all that's left is math.
Some interesting stuff:
Hmmm. One of the (many) problems with this to my mind is: Here is a sense of 'necessary' that I would accept. Suppose that purely philosophical principles guarantee that there must be exactly one universe, and that everything in it can be truly described by exactly one set of equations. Then I'd call that set necessary, and each equation in it derivatively necessary. This would appeal to Spinoza, who argued philosophically for the first clause of my second sentence, and whose faith in science would be captured by the rest. It is a mathematical naturalism but not Tegmark's hypothesis. @KenYour statement shows how far the Hypothesis goes beyond a traditional philosophical notion. Russell, Schlick, Weyl, and Eddington held that almost all we can know about reality is its mathematical/logical structure. For we have no sensory insight into most of matter (whatever that means), but we can develop testable structural theories. Some are provisionally confirmed, others are not. Russell & Schlick then argued that introspection of our sensations is a second mode of knowing (Russell) or describing (Schlick) our material brains but nothing else. The Hypothesis rejects this argument. I didn't understand TOE at all until I read Egan's Distress,but Diaspora is the book I can't stop reading over and over, and every time Kozuch Theory leaves me pondering for hours.
David  I must check out Distress, but the canonical Egan for this particular stuff is the short story 'Dust' and the novel Permutation City. @KenYou are right about Permutation City, It ia an attempt to see what lives would feel like and seem like "to" purely virtual beings that are mathematical structures. Tegmark (the only person I've read on the Hypothesis) refers to this Egan book in almost everything he has written. His intent is not clear to me, but the above is my construal. The book is so demanding that I plan to reread it. @Ken  I had some difficulty with Permutation City ,but then iv'e only read it once and usually need two or more reads to fully grasp plot and premise,will have to read Dust though thx for the pointer..
I was being a bit frivolous when I used the theological term 'necessary being', which may have been a bit misleading. I don't think the people I cite are recreating something like the ontological argument.
XiXiDu: that's an interesting article, and very much to the point. (But as fine person you are, couldn't you at least embed the link to it, and save us all a second?)
Ken. You touch on one of the main open issues with the Hypothesis. Tegmark admits that he can only try to point in the right direction. He holds that in a structure described by the correct TOE there are no intial conditions. This is a difficult idea that I cannot explicate. To try though, note that the relations described by the TOE are not logical relations, just as the relations between the sides of a square are not logical relations but items described by geometrical axioms that can be consistently denied and hence are mathematical but not logical. Now, if one admits an analogue to such causation in a timeless mathematical structure (as I think Tegmark does), then what replaces our normal physical notion of a temporally initial condition? Tegmark's answer is, "Nothing." A structure's conscious inhabitants might describe it in temporal terms (need they?). They mistake certain sets of abstract, atemporal, structural items for groups of temporal physical events whose occurances are intial causal conditions for other such groups. Ontologically they are wrong but (if they lack the Hypothesis) do not know it. They misdescribe their atemporal structure sub speciae temporalis, as Spinoza might say. Many physicists and philosophers now reject the idea that "time flows," and so does Tegmark. They owe us a detailed account of this misperception. J. McT. E. McTaggart's brilliant attempt made this clear before 1910. Tegmark (on his own, I guess) sees that this is a problem about (among other things) initial conditions and admits ignorance. Nobody knows how to accurately formulate the issue, let alone provide a satisfactory account.
@Ken
As long as the answer is '42', it all makes sense.
straightforward consequences of physicalism and determinism, and these are as well supported as any generalization from known facts can be
Phil  yes. You've hit the nail on the head.

Sound to me like the proponents of this argument should read Husserl. He seems to demonstrate pretty clearly that the only way to ascribe the status of 'timeless, necessary truths' to mathematics is to confine math to itself. Attempts to relate it to material reality operate on another, lower and questionable level.
By Chuckie, at Sunday, November 21, 2010 4:28:00 pm