Causation and Existence

I naively branded causation (even just time as the basis of correlation) as “weird” when I first started this philosophical quest over 20 years ago. Paging Bishop Berkeley anyone?

And of course the more we unpick layers of determinism and emergence, upward and downward causation, the weirder it gets. Some things never change. Time and causation are seriously weird.

I noted in my brief review of How the Light Gets In 2022 just last week, how many debates, whatever the explicit “real world” political or scientific topic, degenerated into the inevitably inconclusive – “Ah, well, what do you mean by exist, anyway?”

Weirdly, our whole conversation in the pub last night was around that observation – that and “my” informational-ontology / computational-epistemology / process-metaphysics – something important beyond orthodox science. What I didn’t notice until this morning was that around the same time on Twitter, Kevin Mitchell was posting a string of thoughts arising from his reading of a new paper from the “IIT” team – Tononi et al. – part of “my” metaphysics for some time:

I like Kevin’s style – like my own when blogging my own reading and “reviewing” – is simply posting thoughts in the same order as the reading. It’s really good for sharing – exposing – the thought processes. (ie NOT one of those infuriating threads that are basically, “here’s an essay I’ve written, broken into Tweet-sized chunks”. Post a link to your essay, already!)

Anyway, suffice to say, I hope Kevin preserves his threads, because I liked, retweeted and/or reacted to several of the individual tweets in the context of the whole. One of these was:

To which I responded:

I agree that “truly” – my “really” – is a sure sign of stumbling over something ill-defined. (Although being “well-defined” kills, so definitions need careful handling.)

And, that “ontological commitment” in the original IIT Tweet also a recurring topic – even in last night’s pub conversation. Something I learned from Rebecca Goldstein and Spinoza. Whatever the “science” it needs to be “explanatory” – not just formally captured in theoretical formulae – and explanatory in a sense that allows you to say – “I’m saying this is what actually exists, how things really work, not just a metaphor”. (Ultimately all meaning is metaphorical at root – Hofstadter, and Lakoff / Johnson –  but at some point the metaphor must die, and you need to be committed to saying – “yes I really mean it when I say atoms behave like billiard balls” – if that’s your bag.)

Actually, really, truly, weirdly, madly, deepity 🙂

Time for me to read the actual paper, with Kevin’s helpful notes at hand.

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