[Fis] New Perspectives. Reply to Bruno's Reply to Stan

Lars-Göran Johansson Lars-Goran.Johansson at filosofi.uu.se
Fri Jun 14 10:35:45 CEST 2019

Since I consider myself as a natural philosopher, or in modern terms, philosopher of science, I want to protest against the last statement Loet made, viz., that natural philosophy is based on ’data’ and that data is to be identified what that what is given to us from nature.  The basis from our thinking about nature is observation sentences which people agree upon, no matter what cultural, scientific or religious beliefs they have.
Furthermore I accept the basic tenet of Kant’s epistemology, viz., that object in the natural world are our constructions; they result from our  judgements (in modern terms, agreed observation sentences). Many people think that this view leads to an unacceptable subjectivism, but it does not, since the basis consists of sentences which we jointly assent too. So nothing is given to us.

14 juni 2019 kl. 06:56 skrev Loet Leydesdorff <loet at leydesdorff.net<mailto:loet at leydesdorff.net>>:

Dear colleagues,

We should keep in mind, in my opinion, that "natural philosophy" was embedded in a religious culture. From this perspective, the world is "given" to us in a Revelation by God.

In the antique world, the sacred was hidden and only accessible via the priests.

Natural philosophy is based on the conclusion that we can directly access nature as "data", that is, givens. Alternatively, one can consider the world as "facta"'; that is, we have only access to nature via models.


Loet Leydesdorff
Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
loet at leydesdorff.net <mailto:loet at leydesdorff.net> ; http://www.leydesdorff.net/
Associate Faculty, SPRU, <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/> University of Sussex;
Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ.<http://www.zju.edu.cn/english/>, Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC, <http://www.istic.ac.cn/Eng/brief_en.html> Beijing;
Visiting Fellow, Birkbeck<http://www.bbk.ac.uk/>, University of London;
ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7835-3098;

------ Original Message ------
From: "Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic" <gordana.dodig-crnkovic at mdh.se<mailto:gordana.dodig-crnkovic at mdh.se>>
To: "Bruno Marchal" <marchal at ulb.ac.be<mailto:marchal at ulb.ac.be>>; "fis" <fis at listas.unizar.es<mailto:fis at listas.unizar.es>>
Sent: 6/14/2019 6:45:17 AM
Subject: [Fis] New Perspectives. Reply to Bruno's Reply to Stan

Dear Bruno,
I have a few questions to your answers and would be happy if you can help me to understand.
Here they come, following formulations from your mail.

“This seems to assume some primary natural reality, isn’t it?”

Q: What is meant by “primary natural reality”?

1. If it refers to the EXISTENCE OF THE EXTERNAL/INTERNAL NATURAL WORLD, I think this is the most reasonable hypothesis to start with:
The world/nature EXISTS. It is the fundamental assumption of all sciences which are our best present knowledge about the world.
Otherwise, if the world does not EXIST, we can conclude any discussion about it.

2. The other question is HOW that EXISTENCE of the world outside/inside cognitive agents presents itself or unfolds in an agent in the interaction with the world.
That is the question of UMWELT, and the construction of knowledge through information processing. (Natural information processing = natural computation.)
The “primary natural reality” reflects itself in a myriad of local “realities” in cognizing agents. As we know from empirical observations, even though existence of the world induces various information processes in various agents, communities of agents are typically sharing common “languages” about that “primary natural reality”.
That is true for bacterial as well as for human communities. Languages reflect our ability to collectively navigate “primary natural reality” and share common references. So much so that we are able to commonly build a new semantic layer, that is human culture, upon that “primary natural reality”.

“As I have shown, this requires a non computationalist theory of mind, which seems to me to be highly speculative.”
Q: Why would that follow from the EXISTENCE of the world? What kind of phenomenon is that “computation” which minds perform? Is it the Turing model of discrete sequential symbol manipulation – calculation of mathematical function? It may at best describe linguistic part of the mind. But mind as a natural process is both data-based (even continuous data) and symbol based. Not Turing computable in it entirety, but “naturally computable” i.e. the result of natural information processing performed by living embodied minds.

“I am not sure we can avoid the mind-body problem in a philosophy of information context.”
Q: Why? Natural information processes in living organisms seem to me as the best way to bridge the mind-body chasm. Mind is a result of a complex network of networks of information processes going on in a cognizing agent. That process is implemented in their bodies as a material substrate that is self-organized structure growth from that “primary natural reality”. There is no contradiction between the morphology (shape, structure, material) of an organism and its functions (processes performed by that morphology. At least those organisms who have nervous systems capable of representing their bodies and their relationships to their environments can be seen as possessing intrinsic “self-models” or simply having “self” or “mind”. That “mind” is the result of the relationships of its subsystems that constitute that “self”, that process which for an organism makes a distinction between the “self” vs. the world and the relationships between the two.
Mind is a process, matter is its substrate on which the process is going on. Those are inseparable in a living organism. In-formation has it roots in the concept of formation (of a material substrate). Matter and form are two aspects of the same reality. It is not a problem, it is a way how we conceptualize the world, in order to manage its complexity.

“There are no evidences for physicalism or for a physical primary reality, nor are there evidences for a non computationalist theory of mind.”

Q: What is meant with “physicalism” here?
Wikipedia offers two different definitions, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism according to which
Physicalism is the metaphysical<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysical> thesis assuming that
a) "everything is physical", that there is "nothing over and above" the physical,[1]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism#cite_note-1> or
b) that everything supervenes<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supervenience> on the physical.[2]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism#cite_note-DStoljar-2>

Those are two very different proposals. The first one is obviously false, as it negates all the emergent levels of organization of the world above physics.
The second one depends on what is meant by “supervenience”. If it means that higher levels of organization of matter-energy emerge from the lower ones bringing completely new properties, it is in perfect agreement with what sciences today say about the world and how they model the world.*
Molecules are made of atoms but bring completely new possibilities of structures, processes and interactions. Biology is more than chemistry for the same reason.

Q: What would be “a physical primary reality”?
Am I wrong if I imagine that I cannot go out of this room through its walls? Does not that mean that there is “a physical primary reality” that stops me from doing so, no matter how much I wish and try?

“Of course some people confuse the evidences for physical laws with evidences that such laws are primary, but that is just because they “believe” in some natural world to begin with.”
Q: What is primary? Indeed, physical laws are not primary, in the sense of eternal and unchangeable, as they evolve with the universe*. Primary is the EXISTENCE of the world that we all share and experience. It presents itself in both fluid, intrinsic ways (subjective feelings and emotions) and crisp, well defined inter-subjective forms (as in sciences, logics, mathematics).

“We can’t have both Mechanism in cognitive science, and materialism, or just physicalism, in the “natural science”. That has been shown logically inconsistent.”
It depends on the choice of “mechanism”, “cognitive science” (classical-computationalist disembodied or contemporary EEEE models of cognition), along with the kind of “physicalism” assumed, and even the choice of “natural sciences” to support your thesis. In the paper below (*) I argue, for a given choice of all those terms and with heavy reliance on the contemporary scientific knowledge, that computational mind is not only (naturally) compatible but essentially dependent on its physical substrate on succession of levels of organization.
Q: If we have such model in which “mechanisms” of information processing (natural computation in the framework of computing nature) from the lowest levels of exchanges between elementary particles to the highest levels of exchanges among people of symbolic structures and artifacts, wouldn’t that constitute a counter-example to the claim that mind and body have nothing to do with each other ? (**)

All the best,

* http://www.gordana.se/work/PUBLICATIONS-files/2019-Laws%20of%20Science%20as%20Laws%20of%20Nature.pdf

** No model or framework can explain everything about the world (including humans) at the same time, but info-computational approach can be used to model some interesting aspects of the mind emergent from, in interaction with its matter/energy substrate.

From: Fis <fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es<mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es>> on behalf of Bruno Marchal <marchal at ulb.ac.be<mailto:marchal at ulb.ac.be>>
Date: Thursday, 13 June 2019 at 15:11
To: fis <fis at listas.unizar.es<mailto:fis at listas.unizar.es>>
Subject: Re: [Fis] New Perspectives. Reply to Stan


On 12 Jun 2019, at 16:40, Joseph Brenner <joe.brenner at bluewin.ch<mailto:joe.brenner at bluewin.ch>> wrote:


Thank you for your question. I reply with a modified excerpt from an article in Philosophies. The full article is Open Access. I am indebted to Rafael Capurro for part of this formulation. Comments welcome.

Best wishes,


Natural Philosophy: Excerpt from Brenner, J. 2018. The Naturalization of Natural Philosophy. Philosophies 2018 3, 41.
Natural Philosophy deals with the question of nature as a whole stated by beings (ourselves) that find themselves in nature without having the possibility of a holistic view, being ourselves in nature and not beyond it. The fact that we are able to ask this question means that we have some kind of pre-knowledge about nature as a whole while at the same time this pre-knowledge is problematic, otherwise we would not ask the question and would not be able to become natural philosophers.
The question then changes to the difference between nature and reality as a whole, including fictions, non-verifiable beliefs and intangible objects of thought. Since the idea that classical Natural Philosophy evolved into  science  seems  correct,  we  are  left,  for  the  domain  of  Natural  Philosophy, with only a speculative interpretation of nature viewed in its entirety. This interpretation is, ipso facto, at a lower ontological level than the science which has largely replaced it. Much of the 20th Century linguistic turn, expressed in both analytical and phenomenological and residual transcendental traditions, is well visible in contemporary philosophy.
The reaction to this unsatisfactory state of affairs has been the reinstatement of realisms and materialisms of various kinds, associated today with the names of Derrida, Badiou, Zizek, and others. The ‘ontological turn’ in philosophy is a term of art that designates dissatisfaction with descriptions of reality based on analytical, semantic criteria of truth. Starting with Heidegger’s critique of hermeneutics and the basing of philosophy on human life, the ontological turn is a challenge to neo-Kantian epistemologies, and looks to what the structure of the world might be like to enable scientific, that is, non-absolute knowledge. Unfortunately, ontological theories have been hobbled by the retention of static terms whose characteristics are determined by bivalent logic. In 2002, Priest suggested that such an ontological turn in philosophy was taking place, away from language in the direction of an contradictorial view of reality. Priest proposed paraconsistent logic as appropriate to this turn, but his system suffers from the epistemological limitations of paraconsistency. Lupasco, on the other hand, anticipated the ontological turn by some 60 years. (In the complete article, I show that his logical system can be used to differentiate between Natural Philosophy and Philosophy tout court.)
The most important point for me is that Natural Philosophy tells us something real about the world that is consistent with our best science, physical, biological and cognitive. Speculative philosophy can always re-illuminate ‘eternal’ questions such as what it means to be a thinking being in a non-thinking environment. This non-Natural Philosophy, to repeat, exists for ‘natural’ reasons: it is a natural necessity for human beings to create it, by a natural process, but it is not part of nature qua content.

This seems to assume some primary natural reality, isn’t it?

As I have shown, this requires a non computationalist theory of mind, which seems to me to be highly speculative.

I am not sure we can avoid the mind-body problem in a philosophy of information context.

There are no evidences for physicalism or for a physical primary reality, nor are there evidences for a non computationalist theory of mind. Of course some people confuse the evidences for physical laws with evidences that such laws are primary, but that is just because they “believes” in some natural world to begin with. I think it is better to be agnostic and see where the facts (experimental) and working theories lead us.

We can’t have both Mechanism in cognitive science, and materialism, or just physicalism, in the “natural science”. That has been shown logically inconsistent (ask for reference if interested).


From: Fis [mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es] On Behalf Of Stanley N Salthe
Sent: mardi, 11 juin 2019 21:09
To: fis
Subject: Re: [Fis] New Perspectives

Joseph -- Would you like to write how you define Natural Philosophy?


On Tue, Jun 11, 2019 at 12:03 PM Joseph Brenner <joe.brenner at bluewin.ch<mailto:joe.brenner at bluewin.ch>> wrote:

Dear Pedro and All,

Many thanks are due to you, Pedro, for this new and valuable formulation of the – daunting - task at hand. The task is logical and philosophical, as well as scientific. Philosophy here, exemplified by the Philosophy of Information, does not mean standard discussions of ‘where did we come from’ and ‘does a transcendent deity exist’, which are as sterile in their way as the excesses of the IT and AI ideologists. Natural Philosophy can be a ‘vehicle’ for interaction between people of good will, the collaboration that you point to that may help to advance IS4SI. Some of you who may not have been at the Conference in San Francisco (Berkeley) may wish to look at abstracts of papers from the Philosophy of Information sub-conferences at the 2015, 2017 and 2019 Summit conferences on Information.

To revitalize the list is indeed a key first step. But it starts, in my opinion, with some self-examination, examination of whether one’s own theories are just ‘pet’ theories. Applying this criterion to my own Logic in Reality, about which I have written on several occasions, I claim that it is not just a pet theory. It is a new perspective on how information, logic and thought operate as real processes, following laws within the laws of physics, without loss of a human, ethical dimension. However, LIR makes many demands on one. It requires an understanding and acceptance of what is /not/ Natural Philosophy, which may include some of the ideas that have appeared in this list.

Again, accepting my own criterion of interactive non-separability, I do not call for any exclusions or limitations on the list. I only wish that everyone makes the necessary effort to position his or her own views in relation to the overriding need for furthering the Common Good. The sum of all such honest self-referential (or second-order recursive) opinions of people about their own work would itself be a useful creative effort, I think.

Thank you and best wishes,


-----Original Message-----
From: Fis [mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es<mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es>] On Behalf Of Pedro C. Marijuan
Sent: mardi, 11 juin 2019 13:05
To: 'fis'
Subject: [Fis] New Perspectives

Dear FIS Colleagues,

A few days ago took place the IS4SI Meeting, in SFco, with one of the

parallel sessions devoted to FIS and other sessions also with presence

of veteran parties of this list. Relevant speakers in the plenary

sessions covered the main topic of the conference, expressed as: Where

is the I in Artificial Intelligence and the Meaning in Information? From

Tristan Harris to Melanie Mitchell, to Paul Verschure, etc.

In my view the perspectives in these IT fields are changing

significantly. The tremendous hype in AI, Deep Learning, IOT, etc. keeps

unabated, but critical voices are being heard, not just from a few

Academia corners as usual, but now by leading technologists and

researchers of big companies in these very fields. "Dissent" on the

contents, methodologies, and consequences of social applications is growing.

The industrial development of this IT sector --notwithstanding the

inflated proclamations and all the hype of the gurus-- does not mean the

arrival of some great singularity, or the symbiosis with machines, or

widespread menace of robots & cyborgs... these are slogans coming from

the industrialists to maintain social/ideological preeminence for their

whole sector. Rather I think they are starting to feel the consequences

of their social overstretching in different ways.

The fundamental point, in my opinion, is that our solitary, isolated

efforts from a few Academia places (Sciences & Humanities) in the quest

for new perspectives in Information Science, and not just AI

development, should not isolated any more. We can now establish an

interesting dialog and partnership with those new "dissenters" of the

technology in its concepts, methods, and social applications. It is upon

us to improve the discussion procedures, the collaborations, the

organization, etc. so that this opportunity might materialize

progressively. Do not ask me how... In any case I pointed out three

future directions for IS4SI advancement: community building, attracting

scientific/technological avantgarde, and organizational improvement.

Revitalizing this discussion list--shouldn't it be one of the first steps?

Best greetings to all,



Pedro C. Marijuán

Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es<mailto:pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es>




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Lars-Göran Johansson
Professor i teoretisk filosofi, emeritus
Uppsala Universitet

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