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Re: Abstract/Concrete

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  • Saibal Mitra
    Suppose, for argument s sake, that Bruno is wrong and there does exist one concrete physical universe (or multiverse). And suppose that the theory of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2001
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      Suppose, for argument's sake, that Bruno is wrong and there does exist one
      concrete physical universe (or multiverse). And suppose that the theory of
      everything (TOE) is discovered by someone. There exists concrete objects
      (elementary particles, fields, superstrings or whatever) that just exist.
      They are a priory objects. Also space-time is an a priory quantity. Every
      process is explained in terms of these quantities. No questions related to
      the fundamentals of the TOE can ever be answered in principle. Of course,
      one might say that the TOE isn't the last word and there exists an even more
      fundamental TOE2 that explains more than the TOE, however this can't go on
      forever, because with a physical universe, you have to have fundamental a
      priory quantities.

      One of the questions that can never be answered is:

      Why does Nature use this particular set of equations?
      Out of all mathematical systems there is one that has a special status,
      because they constitute the TOE.

      Another mystery is consciousness. Physical objects (including the brain) are
      made out of the a priory objects. However, since consciousness is the
      result of computations performed in the brain, you can replace the brain by
      any device that performes the same computation and you are still dealing
      with the same person. The a priory objects thus don't generate
      consciousness. It is the particular computation that is performed using
      those objects that matters. It is thus conceivable that an ants nest could
      function like a complex neural network, causing the nest to be conscious.
      If you run the TOE on a computer then sooner or later you will see devices
      evolve that run other mathematical systems inside them (e.g. people). It
      thus seems that I am a mathematical system in itself, different from the
      TOE, that happens to be generated by the TOE.

      The independence of consciousness on the a priory objects suggest that Bruno
      is right. The physical universe doesn't exist. All that exist are abstract
      mathematical systems. One of these mathematical systems defines me. I exist
      because I can be described. Also, to make predictions about the ``real┬┤┬┤
      world, one needs a probability distribution defined over the set of all
      mathematical descriptions. Using this probability distribution and a
      description of the observer, one can compute the outcome of experiments.

      In some old cultures it was believed that the earth was carried by
      elephants. The obvious question: what carries these elephants? Would be
      answered by: They are carried by other elephants. The idea of a concrete
      physical universe faces similar problems.

      Brett Hall wrote:

      > Because I do not believe that what you think of 'abstract' objects
      actually exist. Here we get into what it means to 'exist'. Everything we
      have 'access' to comes to us through our sense organs or our imaginations.
      This is how we know something exists. What are the exceptions? Apparently
      only these 'abstract' objects.
      > Consider the alternative "It is possible 'abstract' objects exist -
      abstract objects we know about -but which are not expressed in any physical
      way". This seems to me to be absurd (because to know about an abstract
      object one must already have rendered it in the brain somewhere).
      > I stick with my 'necessary' criterion for now!
      > How do you have access to this abstract world if not through the physical?
      If you say that the 'concrete' world doesn't exist, well then I think what
      we are saying to each other is probably actually the same thing - the only
      difference is a linguistic one. You just call your world an 'abstract' one -
      I call mine the 'physical' one.
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