What do we mean by ontology?

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  • #101
EPR
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The algorithmic part of the software is mindlike, its implementation in computer code or microchips not.

i am not sure if even one thing is known about the concept of 'mind'.

A quick look at Wikipedia "It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions. " reveals we are solidly in philosophy land.

I have no idea how minds operate, this is too far removed from anything scientific(it's the Hard Problem of consciousness which has no resolution).

The 'software' is the brain wiring - the specific neuron network and setup one is born with(which also bears the innate survival instincts). This 'software' comes by default and is hereditary. It gets erased sometimes by head trauma, brain stroke or mental illness(people lose their survival instincts and often die - crossing streets and generally becoming a threat to themselves).
 
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  • #102
PeterDonis
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The minds using the computer run it, by controlling the inputs of the installed software. I run an algorithm by feeding a program implementing it with my input data.

Without a mind the activity of a computer is a meaningless mess of pulses in its hardware.
Can minds exist without brains? Can a mind run an algorithm without a computer or some other hardware (paper, abacus, etc.) to run it on?
 
  • #103
atyy
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The algorithmic part of the software is mindlike, its implementation in computer code or microchips not.
Can the algorithmic part of the hardware be mindlike?
 
  • #104
PeterDonis
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I thought we were talking about numbers as something constituting a particular model of arithmetics.
We are talking about several different interpretations of the term "numbers". Which in turn means we are talking about several different interpretations of the term "exists" in terms of whether numbers exist. These terms do not have single unique meanings. That's a big part of what makes these kinds of discussions difficult.
 
  • #105
timmdeeg
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That's a big part of what makes these kinds of discussions difficult.
What have these discussions to do with physics?
 
  • #106
PeterDonis
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What have these discussions to do with physics?
That's another big part of what makes these kinds of discussions difficult. :wink: Different people will have widely varying opinions about how relevant such discussions are to physics.
 
  • #107
timmdeeg
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That's another big part of what makes these kinds of discussions difficult. :wink: Different people will have widely varying opinions about how relevant such discussions are to physics.
If an instrumentalist claims the Schrödinger Equation isn't ontic how do we proof he is wrong? If I understand this discussion correctly there is no answer. Instead there is this or that opinion. So what's the worth of this whole discussion? Intellectual enjoyment?
 
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  • #108
A. Neumaier
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The 'software' is the brain wiring
Wiring is generally considered hardware, not software. Software is about telling what to do, not about how it can be carried out physically. See the wikipedia quote in post #94.
 
  • #109
A. Neumaier
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Can minds exist without brains? Can a mind run an algorithm without a computer or some other hardware (paper, abacus, etc.) to run it on?
A mind turns a mindless piece of hardware into something having purpose and direction. It is (in my opinion) definitely something independent of the physical hardware it is using.
Can minds exist without brains? Can a mind run an algorithm without a computer or some other hardware (paper, abacus, etc.) to run it on?
Who knows? Quite possibly yes - there is no logical obstruction. I gave a plausible scenario in an Insight article.
whats the worth of this whole discussion?
In matters where the concepts are completely clear, nothing need to depend on opinion. In matters where the concepts are fuzzy (because of multiple meanings and poor demarkations between them), philosophy is important and strongly shapes the opinion. Knowing the spectrum of opinions of others and their justification (which requires such discussion) is valuable to find or sharpen one's own opinion. It potentially leads to more clarity and hence to more precise concepts - which is the only way to improve understanding.

In the present case, the quest is about ontology - the notion of existence. Is it necessarily material existence (generalized hardware)? Or is it primarily mental existence (generalized software)? Or is it both? Surely physics is not about nonexistent things, but neither is psychology. Is psychology reducible to physics (and mind just an epiphenomenon of matter)? Is physics reducible to psychology (and the wave function only encodes subjective knowledge)? These questions matter for understanding physics and its role in Nature.
 
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  • #110
PeterDonis
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If an instrumentalist claims the Schrödinger Equation isn't ontic how do we proof he is wrong? If I understand this discussion correctly there is no answer. Instead there is this or that opinion.
That's how I understand it too.

So what's the worth of this whole discussion?
There is no unique answer; there is only this or that opinion. :wink: I'm posting here because I feel like it. :wink:
 
  • #111
PeterDonis
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A mind turns a mindless piece of hardware into something having purpose and direction.
Perhaps this is just a difference in preferred wording, but I would say instead: A mind is a piece of hardware that has purpose and direction.

It is (in my opinion) definitely something independent of the physical hardware it is using.
"Independent" in what sense? It is certainly conceptually independent, since we can think and talk about minds without having to think and talk about the hardware they are associated with. But that's not the same as minds being able to exist without hardware; see below.

Who knows? Quite possibly yes - there is no logical obstruction. I gave a plausible scenario in an Insight article.
Again I didn't make myself clear. Let me rephrase my question: can a mind exist without any hardware at all? The Turing machine you use in your Insights article counts as hardware.
 
  • #112
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We are talking about several different interpretations of the term "numbers". Which in turn means we are talking about several different interpretations of the term "exists" in terms of whether numbers exist. These terms do not have single unique meanings. That's a big part of what makes these kinds of discussions difficult.
At least the term "natural number" does have a unique meaning. It means "element of the standard model of arithmetic". Referring to some set of things which does not even satisfy the laws of arithmetic as "numbers" will of course make any discussion of the existence and properties of numbers difficult. But this would be entirely the fault of the person who introduces such misleading language.

As for numbers in the ususal sense it is still unclear to me how one can deny their existence (without resorting to claims that are far more implausible than their existence). Let's try this argument: We have a (partial) description of the natural numbers in terms of the 1st order Peano axioms. Those axioms are consistent. According to the Completeness Theorem for every consistent set of such axioms there exists a set which satisfies all those axioms. The smallest of those sets are the Natural Numbers.

Do you disagree with any assertion in this argument? Or are you suggesting the term "exist" is used here in another sense than in, e.g. "trees exist", "electrons exist", "unicorns don't exist". If the latter is the case, can you make precise where you see the difference?
 
  • #113
A. Neumaier
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A mind is a piece of hardware that has purpose and direction.
All properties of hardware can be analyzed in terms of physics. On the other hand, purpose and direction are not physical but teleological concepts. Thus hardware cannot have these properties.
The Turing machine you use in your Insights article counts as hardware.
Then everything counts as hardware. Diluting the discriminating power of words to this extent is making language useless. I object to such usage.

A Turing machine is a purely mental concept without any relation to matter, logically defined by a few axioms - not by observable facts. In computer science terms, the tape is the hardware, the Turing machine is the software (program, algorithm) - the mind acting on the hardware.
 
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  • #114
EPR
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Again I didn't make myself clear. Let me rephrase my question: can a mind exist without any hardware at all? The Turing machine you use in your Insights article counts as hardware.

Didn't he just discard everything physical as being mere wavefunctions encoding subjective knowledge?
There is no objective reality at the fundamental level. I see no contradiction in his statements - just the usual fuzziness related to these hard to pin down concepts.
 
  • #115
A. Neumaier
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we can think and talk about minds without having to think and talk about the hardware they are associated with. But that's not the same as minds being able to exist without hardware
It depends on the notion of existence assumed. For you, only hardware exists, Therefore minds must be hardware. For me, hardware and software exist and are different, but related to each other (perhaps even dependent on each other).
 
  • #116
PeterDonis
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It depends on the notion of existence assumed.
Ok, fair enough.
 
  • #117
PeterDonis
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purpose and direction are not physical but teleological concepts
I would say they are functional concepts, and hardware can have functional properties. But I think this is just an aspect of our differing notions of existence.
 
  • #118
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It seems that the word ontology which suppose to be about the most concrete object we can come up with is itself not well defined.
I would disagree.

I would accept that you reject Demystifier's notion of "primitive ontology" as not sufficiently well-defined. But the ontology is sufficiently well-defined. ("Sufficiently" means that I'm talking about notions of what is well-defined for physicists, not for mathematicians.) In particular, the ontology should contain all the information necessary and used to predict the evolution in future.

So, for some classical theory with Lagrange formalism, the ontology should contain ##q(t_0),\dot{q}(t_0)##, if it is given in Hamilton formalism, it should contain ##q(t_0), p(t_0)##. In dBB theory, it should contain ##q(t_0),\psi(q,t_0)##. This is not restricted to deterministic theories, say, for Brownian motion the ontology would be simply ##q(t_0)## and the predictions about the future would be only statistical.

Let's also not forget that the ontology of some particular system, even if it is handled like a closed system, may nonetheless depend on the external world. Thus, the complete ontology may contain the ontology of the external world too. So, in an ##\psi##-epistemic interpretation, ##\psi(q,t)## describes only our knowledge about the ontology of the system itself. But this knowledge may be objective - the measurement device used for preparation, the measurement result of the preparation measurement - and part of the ontology external to the system.

The precision of this definition is quite restricted - in principle, "theory with ontology" is a metatheoretical notion, which should be applicable to any theory. But the set containing "any theory" is not a well-defined set in mathematical set theory. All we can do is, therefore, to clarify the meaning of ontology for all theories which claim to have some ontology. This is usually not a problem.

If it is a problem, it is a strong indication that the theory is not well-defined. I see, for example, no definition of the ontology in many worlds which would make sense. There is a definition - all what exists is the wave function. But it makes no sense, because all the things they talk about, like the worlds themselves, are not well-defined by the wave function alone.
 
  • #119
timmdeeg
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In the present case, the quest is about ontology - the notion of existence.
The worth of this discussion to me is that this quest doesn't seem to be decidable.

I remember C.F.Weizsäcker mentioning somewhere (I can't find the reference unfortunately) that the wave function shouldn't be interpreted ontic and Dieter Zeh that Many Worlds require an ontic interpretation of the wave function (here I can show a reference if wanted).

I mean if numbers are ontic then the wave function should be ontic even more.

My personal view is that a mathematical construct isn't ontic. Otherwise the Pythagoras is ontic.
 
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  • #120
A. Neumaier
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The worth of this discussion to me is that this quest doesn't seem to be decidable.
The quest need not be decidable, we may have the freedom to choose. But there are better and worse choices, hence the discussion of the reasons for the various possible choices is useful.
 
  • #123
timmdeeg
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The quest need not be decidable, we may have the freedom to choose. But there are better and worse choices, hence the discussion of the reasons for the various possible choices is useful.
But has a proponent of the MWI "the freedom to choose" a non-ontological meaning of the wave function? If not are there given a specific physical framework certain criteria which restrict said freedom to a certain choice?
 
  • #124
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Hmmm the most "ontological" things seem to be those Strings of the String theory - and they are pure math objects...

(So I am forced to believe in the Fundamental Consciousness)
 
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  • #125
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But has a proponent of the MWI "the freedom to choose" a non-ontological meaning of the wave function? If not are there given a specific physical framework certain criteria which restrict said freedom to a certain choice?
Freedom is an emergent concept applying to social beings, not a concept of physics. Thus any foundation of physics compatible with its macroscopic laws is compatible with freedom.
 

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