|Sep24-11, 08:21 PM||#205|
A reductionist would at least have to come up with a compelling instance of the kind of thing that they are talking about - show that it has been true of at least one system.
Special relativity at least might have been derived from time dilation of muon decay (or that would have been an observable demanding of some explanation).
I'm not sure how Penrose might have argued that general relativity shows "no observable effects" at the microscale. Perhaps you can give the source.
But then also the systems argument is that the global shapes the local, so it is not even necessary that that the global be visible as local properties. The argument would in fact seem the reverse. It would be a proof that GR is a maximally global description because it so purely resides at a global level in modelling.
It is of course the central project of current fundamental physics to unite GR and QFT. And the lack of success could be due to this point. Shrink GR to the limits of the microscale and instead of arriving at crisp micro-observables, you get the radical indeterminacy of singularities.
As I keep arguing, the systems/semiotic approach says reality starts in vagueness, in radical indeterminancy, and then has to be constrained in its unbounded freedoms to become a something, a crisply definite entity or state.
A symbol stands for a constraint to be applied to naked meaning. It limits the freedom that the world can have.
So a word like "cat" is a token that constrains your thoughts. But there is still plenty of freedom that exists in what you might be thinking about. It could be a Persian, a lynx or Krazy Kat.
Further words can syntatically constrain the meaning, reducing the freedom of your thoughts. So a "fluffy cat". A "fluffy, white cat". etc.
A reductionist thinks meaning is constructed atomistically so therefore words somehow have to stand for some definite entity. But symbols work not by representing but by constraining. It is the limits that they can construct which are the causal source of their power.
So it is not about externalism or internalism, but about top-downism (which - the remarkable bit - is constructible from atomistic elements, discrete symbols).
It is the fact that symbols are global constraints, yet look like reductionist atoms, that probably does cause so much confusion. But anyway, to construct constraints you do also need rules - actual syntax. Which leads us even further towards modelling, semiosis and hierarchy theory.
|Sep24-11, 09:19 PM||#206|
With respect to hidden microproperties vs semiotics consider using the semiotic approach to pre-quantum physics. A reductionist at that time would have argued that the reason why we can't get Newtonian physics to spit out chemical stuff is because there are hidden microproperties that have yet to be discovered. They would have been right, I think. Would the semiotic approach predicted QM via a different approach? I can't see how except maybe as a model to describe the stuff after the fact. But again, I might be confused as I have a bit of trouble understanding the practical implications and predictions although you have done a good job describing the general perspective. Moreover, I've come across these weaknesses even by those who support the systems/semiotic approach. I'm not sure if you agree with this assessment but here is what Marcello Barbieri writes about biosemiotics:
Biosemiotics is a new continent whose exploration has just begun, and it is not surprising that people have gone off in different directions. In addition to the difficulties that arise in any new field, however, biosemiotics is also having problems of its own. Today, the major obstacles to its development come from three great sources of confusion.
1. The first handicap is that biosemiotics is wrongly perceived as a philosophy rather than a science, and in particular as a view that promotes physiosemiotics, pansemiotics, panpsychism and the like. Here, the only solution is to remind people that biosemiotics is a science because it is committed to exploring the world with testable models, like any other scientific discipline.
2. The second handicap is that biosemiotics appears to be only a different way of looking at the known facts of biology, not a science that brings new facts to light. It is not regarded capable of making predictions and having an experimental field of its own, and to many people all this means irrelevance. Here the only solution is to keep reminding people that the experimental field of biosemiotics is the study of organic codes and signs, that biosemiotics did predict their existence and continues to make predictions, that codes and signs exist at all levels of organization and that the great steps of macroevolution are associated with the appearance of new codes. This is what biosemiotics is really about.
3. The third handicap is the fact that biosemiotics, despite being a small field of research, is split into different schools, which gives the impression that it has no unifying principle. Here we can only point out that a first step towards unification has already been taken and that the conditions for a second, decisive, step already exist. When biosemioticians finally accept that the models of semiosis must be testable, they will also acknowledge the existence of all types of semiosis that are documented by the experimental evidence and that is all that is required to overcome the divisions of the past. At that point, the old divides will no longer make sense and most schools will find it natural to converge into a unified framework.
Biosemiotics must overcome all the above obstacles in order to become a unified science, but this process of growth and development has already started and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
|Sep24-11, 11:59 PM||#207|
There is a lot to do to turn philosophy into actual science.
So I don't dispute Barbieri assessment at all.
|Sep25-11, 01:03 AM||#208|
On the Origin of Language: A bridge between Biolinguistics and Biosemiotics
I think Chomsky would agree with Barbieri that:
animals do not interpret the world but only representations of the world. Any interpretation, in short, is always exercised on internal models of the environment, never on the environment itself.
So that, perception of "external reality" is always mediated/filtered through our mental organs. But I'm not sure Chomsky would be sympathetic to the view that:
the environment (in an objective sense) necessarily represents the final/ultimate object of any perception.
|Sep25-11, 03:04 AM||#209|
Barbieri himself calls his approach code-semiosis and distinguishes it from a number of approaches including Pattee's physical-semiosis, or the more strictly Peircean sign-semiosis.
Having read his papers, my main reaction is not that he is wrong (and others right) but he over complicates the analysis whereas others (principally Pattee and Salthe) are seeking to strip things down to their barest bones. And these two are also seeking the pan- view where semiosis is described with such generality it can be appreciated as a universal process (as Peirce envisaged).
|Sep25-11, 02:48 PM||#210|
It's nice with a glass of wine, though.
|Sep26-11, 11:48 PM||#211|
1. A 3-dimensional space in which the N particles evolve.
2. A 3-N-dimensional space in which the wave function evolves.
They argue that you have 2 seemingly "disconnected spaces with no apparent causal connection between the particles in one space and the field in the other space, and yet the stuff in the two spaces is evolving in tandem." How is this possible? It seems to have an interaction problem equivalent to the Cartesian mind-body problem?
|Sep27-11, 05:01 PM||#212|
More abstractly, I envision the implicate order/apeiron/ether/ground of being as the realm of pure potentiality. It is only when a particle bubbles up from potentiality into actuality that it becomes conscious and it is only when it becomes conscious that it becomes subject to the normal physical forces.
For yet another model, I envision the implicate order as an infinite grid of 3-d pixels. When these pixels constitute empty space, it is because consciousness has not risen from implicate to explicate and thus matter has not manifested from pure potentiality to actuality. Wolfram has suggested a cellular automata model of physics in A New Kind of Physics and I think some of his ideas may have some merit. One idea I've played with a tiny amount is to extend the proximity model of cellular automata to two, three or more degrees of proximity, providing what seems to be a more natural model of how reality works, in terms of causal influences.
|Sep27-11, 07:30 PM||#213|
In symbolic systems of other animals, symbols appear to be linked directly to mind-independent events. The symbols of human language are sharply different. Even in the simplest cases, there is no word-object relation where words are mind-independent entities. There is no reference relation, in the technical sense familiar from Frege and Peirce to contemporary externalists.
Much of Chomsky’s scepticism about externalist semantics is a scepticism about the possibility of making any scientific use of truth and reference in linguistic semantics. His scepticism about truth and reference in turns seems to stem from some deep metaphysical puzzles that he likes to raise about the existence of things in the world for words to refer to. In several places, Chomsky argues that names of cities, e.g., 'London' can refer both to something concrete and abstract, animate and inanimate.
He provides a number of examples if you read his stuff; convincingly, in my opinion. This seems to be one dividing line that separates his model to those of Peirce, Bateson, etc. who argue that “such operations fundamentally derive their referential and semiotic power from a system of relations external to, though including the individual agent. From what I recall Chomsky debated Bateson/Piaget on this point years ago, I think.
|Sep27-11, 08:23 PM||#214|
My argument is about how both are true, and what that looks like.
So what is external to the "mind" is clearly the social construction of meaning. A word like London refers to something in the collective mind, if you like - a semiosis on a much larger scale. And unless you believe in telepathy, that's not an "internalist" story in the sense intended here.
And where Chomsky is really wrong (IMO, having studied the evolution of human language) is thinking that syntax is not quite simply explained in "externalist" terms.
The nested hierarchical design (the recursiveness) which he claims to be such a special feature of syntax is in fact just how the whole brain works. It is the natural architecture for cognition. The key evolutionary event was in fact the development of a further constraint on the motor output of this hierarchy. That is, the development of a throat, mouth and lips designed for chunking a flow of vocalisation. Once sound was chopped into a sequence of articulate syllables (proto-words), then it was ready to be taken over by a code with rules.
Even the rules of grammar are no big deal. Animal minds (through evolution of natural brain architecture) already model the world in terms of paying attention to the levers of control - analysing who did what to whom. Rudimentary cause and effect logic.
Once the possibility of an actual coding became possible, it is no surprise that the code emphasised this underlying epistemology, strengthening through rules (or rather, socially evolved habit) a universal logical format based on the triadic relation of subject, verb and object.
So Chomsky makes the evolution of language seem far more unnatural than its actually is (just as extreme nativists go the other way and think the story is so much simpler).
So nothing about human speech is internal in the sense that it arises mysteriously in "a mind", or any kind of mental realm.
But as I say, we shouldn't be too hasty, like the blank slate guys or behaviourists, and deny that nothing else is in play here.
And this is where the epistemic cut comes in. There really is something different going on when we compare what we could call (for the sake of familiarity) the realms of hardware and software. The physical basis of symbols is a vexed issue. Symbols do open up a new world of causality. And that is what semiosis is trying to acknowledge. There are causes at the symbol level that are not present (except as vague potentials) at the brute material level of analysis.
So semiosis must arise out of the material, but symbols do seem to come from some other place, a wee bit Platonic.
Putting it all together, the systems approach (based on good old fashioned Aristotlean causality) says this is a local construction vs global constraints deal. The sharp division is not between matter and mind, or outer and inner, but between the local and global, between constructive freedoms and the order imposed by top-down constraints. So there is a real divide to talk about.
But then holding it all still together is the epistemic cut - the understanding that it is a divide that arises via development and has to be inserted into nature. Underneath, all is still one, even though equally, nothing definite can exist until vague monadicity has been sharply separated into the dichotomies that allow the triadic relationships which are the hierarchies.
Anyway, the power of symbols is that they code for constraints. You can construct a constraint in serial fashion (as a syntactic sentence), which in turn creates a mental state within the hierarchical architecture of a brain (as I argued with the example of a white persian cat).
Acting this way, symbols have the power that we call machine-like - mechanical or computational. They can construct constraints to order (according to the "mental" habits that we have learnt). Constraints normally come from the "outside" of a system - they are imposed from levels of organisation beyond a system's control. As I said about liquidity and pressure. But through genes and words, constraints can be constructed from the "inside" of the system - the material inside rather than some immaterial inside, although still an emergently experiential "material inside".
So again, the view I'm arguing is complex - far beyond the simplicities of a Chomsky or a Skinner. But it is also what the literature supports. It is the story you can see in the neuroscience and paleoanthropology. And it is the story which can be explained causally in the kind of systems science, semiotics and hierarchy theory that have arisen out of biology dealing with essentially the same problem when talking about "life".
|Sep27-11, 10:32 PM||#215|
bohm2, I'm still waiting for you to elaborate on your question about telepathy vis a vis Bohmian QM. Specifically, can you point me toward the source of your suggestion that each particle's wave function must be entirely isolated (I think this is what you suggested)?
|Sep28-11, 01:29 AM||#216|
Comparison with other field theories
•No ‘source’ of ψ-field in conventional sense of localized entity whose motion ‘generates’ it. ψ thus not ‘radiated’.
•At this level no ‘ether’ introduced which would support propagation of ψ. As with electromagnetism, think of ψ as state of vibration of empty space.
•Influence of wave on particle, via Q, independent of its intensity.
•Initial velocity of particle fixed by initial wave function and not arbitrarily specified as in electromagnetic/gravitational theories.
•Schrodinger eqn. determines wave evolution and particle equation of motion (unlike electromagnetism where Maxwell equations and Lorentz force law logically distinct).
•Wave equation describes propagation of complex amplitude ψ , or equivalently two coupled real fields. Complex waves often used in other field theories for mathematical convenience, but always take real part in the end. In QM two real fields required.
• ψ-field finite and carries energy, momentum and angular momentum throughout space, far from where particle located (as in classical field theories). However conservation laws obeyed by field independent of particle since latter does not physically influence former.
Furthermore, there is, no action-reaction symmetry:
in classical physics there is an interplay between particle and field - each generates the dynamics of the other. In pilot wave theory ψ acts on positions of particles but, evolving as it does autonomously via Schrodinger’s equation, it is not acted upon by the particles.
So, it seems that even the particle cannot "influence" the ψ field. Bohm writes (p.30-The Undivided Universe):
the Schrodinger equation for the quantum field does not have sources, nor does it have any other way by which the field could be directly affected by the condition of the particles.
Anyway, given the points above I can't see how a ψ field in one particle system can have an effect on another ψ field/particle system. A system of particles may be guided by a pool of information common to the whole system but that's not the same thing. It's possible that I'm mistaken, but I don't think I'm misinterpreting his model? As an aside, telepathy seems totally irrational to me.
|Sep28-11, 12:48 PM||#217|
A very strong proposal, sometimes called “the strong minimalist thesis,” is that all phenomena of language have a principled account in this sense, that language is a perfect solution to interface conditions, the conditions it must satisfy if it is to be usable. If that thesis were true, language would be something like a snowflake, taking the form it does by virtue of natural law. Genetic endowment is the residue when this thesis is not satisfied. An account of the evolution of language will have to deal with the property of unbounded Merge, and whatever else remains in the genetic endowment. Emergence of unbounded Merge at once provides a kind of “language of thought,” an internal system to allow preexistent conceptual resources to construct expressions of arbitrary richness and complexity.
The core principle of language, unbounded Merge, must have arisen from some rewiring of the brain, presumably not too long before the “great leap forward,” hence very recently in evolutionary time. Such changes take place in an individual, not a group. The individual so endowed would have had many advantages: capacities for complex thought, planning, interpretation, and so on. The capacity would be transmitted to offspring, coming to dominate a small breeding group. At that stage, there would be an advantage to externalization, so the capacity would be linked as a secondary process to the sensorimotor system for externalization and interaction, including communication – a special case, at least if we invest the term “communication” with substantive content, not just using it for any form of interaction. It is not easy to imagine an account of human evolution that does not assume at least this much, in one or another form. And empirical evidence is needed for any additional assumption about the evolution of language.
Biolinguistic Explorations: design, development, evolution
In a recent paper he writes,
At some time in the very recent past, maybe about 75,000 years ago, an individual in a small group of hominids in East Africa underwent a minor mutation that provided the operation Merge – an operation that takes human concepts as computational atoms, and yields structured expressions that provide a rich language of thought. These processes might be computationally perfect, or close to it, hence the result of physical laws independent of humans. The innovation had obvious advantages, and took over the small group. At some later stage, the internal language of thought was connected to the sensorimotor system, a complex task that can be solved in many different ways and at different times, and quite possibly a task that involves no evolution at all.
The Biolinguistic Program: The Current State of its Evolution and Development
The hi-lited metaphors above suggest some level of simplicity, elegance or optimal design, etc. given the conditions under which it developed. I don't understand if this is possible but some Cedric Boeckx and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini argue that:
The ultimate goal of the Minimalist Program...is for the discovery of the points of variation to yield the linguistic equivalent of the periodic table of elements that would ‘bring linguistics closer to the goals and methods of the natural sciences, enriching both linguistics and biology with intimations of deductive power that might one day become not too dissimilar from that of physics.’
|Sep28-11, 03:32 PM||#218|
He speaks about language as a hopeful monster mutation when evolutionary change is a population genetics story. Steady tinkering with a general package. Dramatic change comes by fine-tuning of developmental growth gradients, not by sudden inventions de novo.
It is the same as his arguing that internal speech - to control thoughts - came before external speech to control social behaviour. Social animals use signs (indexical rather than symbolic) to communicate. Chimps can offer, direct, indicate (in an unstructured, unformalised way). There is no reason to suppose that human language did not start off like this - especially as speech continues to have a primarily social function even if that function is self-regulation.
The use of inner speech to think (in that philosophical/rational fashion that Chomsky is treating as paradigmatic) is pretty modern - and itself clearly socio-cultural in its development. An education is first required. Just having speech does not create a rational style of thought (as cross-cultural studies easily demonstrates).
So I just don't "get" Chomsky. What is his appeal? Why is he the most cited living scientist?
I've always thought it must be because he was the one to give the Behaviourists the bashing they deserved. Or that his politics were right on. Or just that his prophetic style inspires disciples. Because I have yet to read a version of his theories concerning language evolution that makes any sense, or bears any realistic connection to the probable facts.
It is not just me either, but the general opinion of those studying language evolution.
Bickerton wrote this amusing account which seems revealing of Chomsky's character...
|Sep28-11, 04:23 PM||#219|
The highlighted bit about the fact internal speech cannot be shut down at will is yet another example of how Chomsky is out of touch with basic brain science.
The brain is designed to generate potential motor action whenever anything is in focal attention.
So see a door knob and your hands are already getting primed with an anticipatory sense of what to do. Speech output is just another form of motor action tacked on to the brain hierarchy in this sense. Whatever is your current focus of attention, your brain (through many years of training) will be seeking to form a verbal response.
And as he mentions, you in fact continue talking to yourself all through sleep too. Ruminative chatter runs through slow wave sleep.
So the brain is just doing what it was evolved to do - respond to attentional focus with at least preparatory responses. There is no off-button. The whole evolutionary point of a mind is to react to the world, not contemplate it in some abstract, conceptual, rational fashion.
So this is not a proof that speech is intrinsically "internal" any more than responding kinesthetically to the sight of a doorknob - then not opening the door. With speech, the urge is to say it aloud - a normal communicative action. But through socialisation, we have learnt to keep our thoughts to ourselves and so speak silently in our heads - conscious of only the anticipated auditory image of saying something aloud.
So "will" can quite easily stop us blurting out our internal dialogue, but it cannot simply switch off the trained response of generating some urge say something about any focus of attention.
As to the general fact that language is special and the key to human difference, that is already agreed. That is the basis of the semiotic position. It is a symbolic coding system that animals lack and humans evolved/invented.
But Chomsky's notions about the "how" of that evolved/invented are just woefully out of touch with the science on everything I have read from him so far.
[Edit: What happened? Your last post seems to have disappeared?]
|Sep28-11, 04:35 PM||#220|
Sorry, I jumped the gun in last post. My ADD? I didn't read your post carefully. I deleted the post because it doesn't really affect your argument. I also had trouble understanding his thoughts on evolution vs natural selection. But I thinks he wants to maximize physical/chemical laws that guide evolution over natural selection kinda in the same way that Helium came after Hydrogen, I think, as Jacob notes:
Chomsky‟s naturalism is based on the Galilean assumption that we ought to look for deep physical explanations, which in turn leads him to maximize the contribution of physical laws and downplay the role of natural selection in the evolution of complex biological systems. He seems to assume that time is not ripe yet for providing explanations of cognitive phenomena based on natural selection for we still miss basic insights into the physical constraints under which natural selection must operate. I certainly am in no position to judge whether he is right. Still, what is not always clear from Chomsky‟s writings is whether he thinks that naturalistically inclined externalist philosophers and evolutionary psychologists are merely guilty of neglecting the role of physical constraints in evolution or whether they are more seriously mistaken in assuming that natural selection is involved in explaining why the behavior of human beings exemplifies the law of universal gravitation.
|Sep28-11, 05:03 PM||#221|
Codes are special. They seem to come from "beyond the normal" (being a variety of "imposed constraint"). The problem for biologists/neurologists/anthropologists is then to explain how codes can arise via natural evo-devo processes.
And this is not hard at all. It is the constraint over dimensionality that creates codes. In a world of processes of higher dimensionality, constraining dimensionality puts certain processes "outside" the system (even while they are inside).
So a membrane is a way to constrain the dimensionality of a chemical reaction from 3D to 2D, dramatically altering its rate and other material conditions.
We call cells "machinery" because they are full of these kinds of internal dimensional constraints.
And a code is what you get with maximal constraint (the situation where a process is now most completely "outside" what it is still "inside", or most completely shifted to the rate independent information side of Pattee's epistemic cut).
That is, constrain a process to a 1D line (like a DNA molecule or a flow of vocalisation), then constrain it further to 0D sequence of points (like a 3-base codon or syllabic utterances) and you have the materal basis of a code. All that has to happen next is the colonisation of this code by "information". A semiotic relationship must develop where a coding potential actually becomes used as a code, a memory mechanism, that controls a larger space of dynamical processes for some meaningful end.
Genes control a biochemical millieu. Words control a sociocultural millieu. A new level of code, a new level of organisational complexity.
So the general causal story is there in systems science/semiotics/theoretical biology. It is a naturalistic explanation that fits with the facts. It does appeal to a body of ideas beyond simplistic, reductionist, Darwinian selection and so does - as Chomsky wants - arrive at a more physically general level of explanation. But biologists already know that evolution is a much more complex story than Darwinism. That's why evo-devo is what they talk about these days.
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