Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Kjetil

Weak vs. Strong Emergence

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Wtf!!! I just found out all this discussion has been happening on one of my favorite topics.... Im dissecting this thread but wanted to add something now:

Grames said:

"A philosophical primary is an epistemological designation meaning that it is at the bottom of the knowledge hierarchy, a first level concept known directly and defined ostensively."

Lets not forget a very important aspect left out here and elsewhere : To be a first level concept it must NOT require conceptualizing any concept that it presupposes. Like action and entity.

Edited by Plasmatic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lets not forget a very important aspect left out here and elsewhere : To be a first level concept it must NOT require conceptualizing any concept that it presupposes. Like action and entity.

If a concept can be defined ostensively then it does not logically presuppose another concept.  So that is an aspect that was not left out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grames, in the past you claimed that actions, smells and sounds were instances of first level concepts and so have others, so it is useful to point out that it is more than the fact that something is perceptual, that is, that it does not logically pressupose another concept. As Ms Rand said explicitly.

Edited by Plasmatic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mental "state" is a misleading term and a clumsy concept.

The mind does not have discrete and persistent "states"; it engages in processes.

Consciousness is not an attribute like vertibrae or thumbs; it is an activity.

So mental "states" are like respiratory or circulatory "states"; unintelligible without the previous and subsequent "states" (processes).

And whether mental processes cause neural processes, or vice versa, is an invalid question; mental processes ARE neural processes, from a different perspective.

That's like asking whether the computations of an active video game cause the images on your TV or are caused by your controller: the options aren't exclusive and no matter which you choose, you'll be wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And "field" is epistemologically an existent (extended-sense entity) of some distinguishing trait(s), just like true entities, but without clearly discernable boundary.

Perceptual "fieldish" existents would be wind, sunlight/shadow, smoke, et cetera; distinctive attributes and causal effaciacy without solidity.

So far as such existents are objectively causal agents (much like tornadoes in trailer parks) there is no metaphysical basis for excluding them from being the "little stuff". It poses epistemological challenges but none I can think of which could invalidate it.

---

The only issue I haven't seen Grames address on it (haven't yet read all the links) is that all lower level concepts of fields are primarily known via their effects on true entities (gravity OF an object, the force of wind ON an object, etc) while a field-based "little stuff" would have to radically redefine our intuitive concept of "entity" through nonlocality in order to give these little fields self-sufficient ontology (magnetism with no solid magnet, but diffused).

This issue, however, is purely one of definitions and could be reconciled with minimal effort. I mention it only because I cannot think of any others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Particles, Fields and The Future of Physics - A Lecture by Sean Carroll  (1:37 approx 1 hour lecture plus q&a session)

 

Puts the spotlight on quantum field theory.  

 

The question is explicitly asked in the Q&A of whether or not a field exists even in the absence of its associated particle and the answer is a blunt "yes".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not dispute that there are lots of scientist who believe that the existence of fields and the ontology of fields is uncontroversial. However I know the facts surrounding the debate. I know that most scientist are CLUELESS to these ontological debates particulars. A "blunt" proclamation is not an inductive validation of the concept field! Proclaiming the smartest so and so of philosophy or physics says so, is no substitute for first hand inductive validation and application of epistemology. (To special science claims or general)

In the screen shot at the beginning of that video it makes a proclamation about wavefunction realism.

If this were a settled matter, the book The Wavefuntion wouldn't be filled with essays on this debate!

Edited by Plasmatic

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, and on the location of consciousness:

A frontal lobotomy could be shown to destroy at least most of the patient's conscious functions. That seems to fairly conclusively show that something in the frontal lobe must be intact for self awareness to continue. . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Grames:

 

Assuming premises:

 

A. Each of mind, consciousness, human being at any one moment in time is (or is embodied in) a natural system/entity and has a specific identity;

B. At that same moment in time a context (surrounding reality) interacting with A has a specific identity.

 

I am interested in your thoughts regarding the O'ist law of causation being

1. universal (at all scales and applying to any and all natural systems/entities)

2. undeniably single valued and

3. a corollary of the law of identity. 

 

and how this applies to free will of a natural entity/system being the mind/consciousness/human being.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Generally directed to those who understand the theory of emergent phenomena:

 

If strong emergence is a natural and real phenomenon then:

1.  Can we observe an emergent phenomenon, identify it, and have knowledge of it (say within a system)?

2.  Can we formulate descriptions of emergent phenomena, predictions for emergent phenomena, relationships between emergent and other emergent or non-emergent phenomena?

3.  Would emergent phenomena obey the law of identity?

4.  Would emergent phenomena obey the law of causality (according to Objectivism)?

5.  What makes an emergent phenomenon “irreducible”?  Could we understand how emergent phenomena arise or does it need to be unknowable?  If not unknowable does it need to be un”formulateable”? If not unformulatable does it need to be objectively unpredictable within formulatable limits?

 

I am trying to understand just what constitutes something “emergent.” E.g. The centroid of a set of three points is dependent upon the three points but does not exist as a centroid without the three points… so in some sense it emerges … but this is reification of an abstraction.  The centroid is only in my mind, it has no existential correlate entity, it does not exist “out there” and has no causal relationship to anything, i.e. it simply is “nonmergent” (simply is not).

Can anyone give me an example of something in reality which is emergent, in the “strong sense” i.e. not just an abstraction from a group, arrangement, configuration of non-emergent entities but an actual natural existent with properties and causation over and above those of the non-emergent  entities?

 

I’m looking for an example of something natural not supernatural.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One area to consider is dealing with compounds such as the properties of water contrasted with the properties of hydrogen and oxygen, or table salt contrasted with sodium and chlorine.

 

I recall hearing that we are able to predict these combined properties from the knowledge of its constituents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am trying to understand just what constitutes something “emergent.” E.g. The centroid of a set of three points is dependent upon the three points but does not exist as a centroid without the three points… so in some sense it emerges … but this is reification of an abstraction. The centroid is only in my mind, it has no existential correlate entity, it does not exist “out there” and has no causal relationship to anything, i.e. it simply is “nonmergent” (simply is not).

Can anyone give me an example of something in reality which is emergent, in the “strong sense” i.e. not just an abstraction from a group, arrangement, configuration of non-emergent entities but an actual natural existent with properties and causation over and above those of the non-emergent entities?

I’m looking for an example of something natural not supernatural.

 

 

1.  Can we observe an emergent phenomenon, identify it, and have knowledge of it (say within a system)?

Easily. I will give two examples, one simple one complex. The simple example is a wooden block in the shape of a cube. What is emergent is the overall cubic shape. This is a simple example because it is static, and because the shape of the cube was not caused by the substance (wood) of which it is made. A complex example is life. A living entity is dynamic and its shape and actions are mostly caused by the nature of the living substance (the cells, DNA and RNA etc) that comprises it.

 

Another example from physics is the phenomenon of temperature.  What exists is atoms and molecules in linear and angular motions, but taken in large quantities as in a solid body it is valid to speak of the temperature of the entity, and to treat the temperature as something that can be explained by the rules of thermodynamics instead of computing the individual trajectories, collisions and rotations of all the atoms and molecules which comprise the entity.

2.  Can we formulate descriptions of emergent phenomena, predictions for emergent phenomena, relationships between emergent and other emergent or non-emergent phenomena?

 

Yes, but we don't always have the knowledge to make such predictions.  An emergent phenomenon may draw attention because it is a surprise, but being a surprise should not be an essential trait because it would be subjective.  One person may find surprising what another would not and so they would disagree on what was emergent.

3.  Would emergent phenomena obey the law of identity?

Yes.

4.  Would emergent phenomena obey the law of causality (according to Objectivism)?

Yes.

5.  What makes an emergent phenomenon “irreducible”?  Could we understand how emergent phenomena arise or does it need to be unknowable?  If not unknowable does it need to be un”formulateable”? If not unformulatable does it need to be objectively unpredictable within formulatable limits?

An emergent attribute or relationship does need to be irreducible, and that just means that it is not an attribute of any of the simpler components that make up an entity or multi-entity system.

A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true of a thing must also be true of all or some of its parts.  For example, to assert that a cubic block of wood must be comprised of cubic parts is fallacious.  It is fallacious because there is no logically necessary relationship between the shapes of the parts and the shape of the whole.  

 

This bears repeating from the Wikipedia page: "If a system as a whole has some property that none of its constituents has (or perhaps, it has it but not as a result of some constituent having that property), this is sometimes called a strongly emergent property of the system."

 

It is only because of the possibility of strongly emergent phenomenon that the fallacy of division is a fallacy at all.

 

In order to have emergence occur there needs to be whole comprised of multiple parts, and an attribute of the whole that does not exist in the parts.  The mass of a whole is not an emergent quality of its parts because the parts have mass, and the sum of the masses of the parts equals exactly the mass of the whole.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's say I have two “plus balls”.

I take one ball and see what I can do with it. After some experimenting, I discover that it can roll on the ground, bounce against the wall, and squeak when I squeeze it in my hand.

Done playing, I put the ball back on the shelf next to the other ball. They push each other apart.

According to Wikipedia, “Strong emergence describes the direct causal action of a high-level system upon its components; qualities produced this way are irreducible to the system's constituent parts.”

So, someone might say that this pushing apart is an emergent property that can not be explained in terms of explanations the individual balls (which involve rolling, bouncing, and squeaking).

This emergence is described epistemologically (in terms of reduction); let's look at it metaphysically. It's a relationship between two balls. Does the relationship exist outside of the balls? No. So how can the relationship's explanation exist outside that of the balls? Every explanation about a ball describes its potential to have relationships; with the ground, the wall, my hand. The system isn't some third party that also gets a say. Saying that it is in control, but not its parts, would be some kind of reification.

Applying this to people:

If you say that a person has a strongly emergent property not reducible to their parts, what are you saying? Like before, the person doesn't exist outside of the parts, so what of the explanation of the person? Would you be suggesting the person may cause their parts to do something that the parts are not individually explained to do? Then the explanations of the parts are incomplete; the parts also have the capacity to have a person-relation.

But not every part is directly related to every other part; the entire relation is based on many smaller relations. This is reduction.

In short:
~Strong emergence says the system can't be explained by the explanations of the parts.
~But the system is the relations the parts.
~The explanations of the parts must include these relations.
~So, the behavior of the system must be explained by the explanations of the parts.

So, strong emergence makes no sense to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

According to Wikipedia, “Strong emergence describes the direct causal action of a high-level system upon its components; qualities produced this way are irreducible to the system's constituent parts.”

So, someone might say that this pushing apart is an emergent property that can not be explained in terms of explanations the individual balls (which involve rolling, bouncing, and squeaking).

This emergence is described epistemologically (in terms of reduction); let's look at it metaphysically. It's a relationship between two balls. Does the relationship exist outside of the balls? No.

Stop right there.  A relationship is in no way to be considered internal to, or an attribute of, a single object.   In your example the relationship exists outside of each ball when each ball is considered separately.  When considering the balls together, a relationship that did not exist when the balls were far apart comes into existence, or is at least now of observable magnitude.  Understanding the relationship as coming into existence is metaphysically something "new" or its ability to now be knowable/observable is "new", either way there is something new and hence "emergent".

 

 

In short:

~Strong emergence says the system can't be explained by the explanations of the parts.

~But the system is the relations the parts.

~The explanations of the parts must include these relations.

~So, the behavior of the system must be explained by the explanations of the parts.

So, strong emergence makes no sense to me.

"Explanations of the parts" is vague because what is an explanation? If consideration is restricted to what are intrinsic attributes of the parts then relationships are not "of the parts" because they are not wholly possessed by or attributes of those parts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The definition of strong emergence you used in October is different than mine: 

"If a system as a whole has some property that none of its constituents has (or perhaps, it has it but not as a result of some constituent having that property), this is sometimes called a strongly emergent property of the system."
I would instead say that strong emergence is the idea that the system directly acts upon its components. In the case of two balls, "two" is not a strongly emergent property, because the fact that there are two does not cause them to pair up. Even though "two" is a property that none of its constituents has. A wooden cube is not strongly emergent because the cube-ness does not cause the wood to form a cube.

 

A relationship is simply an aspect of entities that we separate out by specialized focus. You wouldn't say that an attribute is something new that causes an entity to have that attribute. To believe that the relationship is something outside of them is essentially to believe that it is not a relationship, but an entity of its own (which, in order to affect them, would need to have a relationship with them...).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When one considers a single part in isolation from the whole from which it was extracted, one is in fact necessarily engaging in eliminative reductionism because any relationships that part was engaged in are eliminated from consideration by the isolation.

Your, rowsdower, objection to this isolation is that the "explanations of the parts are incomplete".

Well, you can have completeness by consideration of the full context or you can have isolation by mental focus but you can't have them both at the same time without contradiction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am distinguishing between weak and strong emergence; strong emergence is a "new causal level" (3rd post in this thread) whereas weak emergence is simply any system of relationships. You seem to say that every relationship is strong emergence. But there is a difference between acting within a system and being acted on by the reified system.

post-11211-0-92703300-1388365874_thumb.p

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If an entity A behaves a certain way only in a context B (perhaps involving other entities) then A, before it is in context B already HAD the nature the identity such that A would behave in that certain way on context B.

 

Metaphysically, nothing emerges as to the nature of A, only we see it behaving in the way it must, but heretofore (absent the context B )  have not observed it.

 

The emergent behavior is not exhibited by A prior to context B but by no means can it be said that A already has the nature and identity such that once placed in context B it will behave in that certain way.

 

Once we know, A has such a nature and identity, it is a mere fact of A's nature.

 

If I were a scientist armed with this knowledge I would ask the proponents of irreducibility to explain if it has anything to do with metaphysics whatever.  

 

To me irreducibility smacks of epistemology and seems to be more related with our ignorance than anything else.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If an entity A behaves a certain way only in a context B (perhaps involving other entities) then A, before it is in context B already HAD the nature the identity such that A would behave in that certain way on context B.

 

Metaphysically, nothing emerges as to the nature of A, only we see it behaving in the way it must, but heretofore (absent the context B )  have not observed it.

 

The emergent behavior is not exhibited by A prior to context B but by no means can it be said that A already has the nature and identity such that once placed in context B it will behave in that certain way.

 

Once we know, A has such a nature and identity, it is a mere fact of A's nature.

 

If I were a scientist armed with this knowledge I would ask the proponents of irreducibility to explain if it has anything to do with metaphysics whatever.  

 

To me irreducibility smacks of epistemology and seems to be more related with our ignorance than anything else.

And yet the whole system can possess the properties which none of its part possess. Try to reduce the movement of the hunting lioness to the Brown movement of molecules in her body. You won't be able to do that and not because of epistemology but because metaphysical difference between living and inanimate objects. it couldn't be reduced even to  the biochemistry of the muscle contraction and the flow of ions in the synapses of her brain.  Such biochemical events could lead to any movement, epileptic fit for example. But there is a great difference between such a movement and goal orientated action, like hunting or writing post. The metaphysical difference is exactly in the different identity of the living and dead. 

Edited by Leonid

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Leonid

 

Can you give me an example of the kind of "emergence" you are speaking of where you know exactly what all the parts are at every level, exactly why they are doing what processes and functioning is occurring and exactly why the emergent property comes about, i.e. how reality culminates in the system's exhibition of the property. 

 

Assuming the emergent property does not violate causation, please use an example for which there is no ignorance with regard to the causes of the emergent behavior.

 

After all nothing is causeless.  Or are you claiming emergent properties are causeless?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The relationship is what is caused. If something was furry you wouldn't say its furriness causes this; if something made a noise you wouldn't blame this on the noise. So why say that two balls being pushed apart is due to the relationship (which is, presumably, the fact that they are pushed apart)? A relationship is an aspect that we separate out, but it's not actually separate. So I would say yes, only entities are causes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...