Announcement: Your votes are in! The January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month is The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt.

Does information need a physical substrate?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
Post Reply
BigBango
Posts: 141
Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:15 pm

Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » October 6th, 2018, 11:47 pm

I would like to see some opinions on this subject.

The physicalists/materialists would certainly answer this question in the affirmative because everything about reality is physical.

In this thread, I am more interested in what the dual aspect theorists have to say.

If we characterize a living being as having both a physicality and a "mental" nature, a subject that has experiential states, what is the status or character of the information that is "in his mind". Does that information have a physical substrate"?

If I believe that the square root of the sum of two sides of a right triangle is the length of the hypotenuse then what do you believe is the "physical substrate" of that abstraction?

In favor of the materialists is the fact that the 2nd law of thermodynamics seems to be validated by it's correspondence to the flow of information. That is, as entropy increases, information is lost!

In favor of the dual aspect position is the fact that mental abstractions do not seem to be subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

In conclusion one cannot ignore "Plato" the father of philosophy. To Plato the world of abstractions created a shadow world of physicality.

User avatar
Burning ghost
Posts: 2873
Joined: February 27th, 2016, 3:10 am

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Burning ghost » October 7th, 2018, 1:11 am

In The Republic Plato metions two terms, philosophos and philomathes. The former is often taken to refer to “knowledge” and the later “learning”, or we could say “love of knowledge” and “love of learning” - personally I later over the former everytime, but I don’t actually think “philosophy” was meant as “love of knowledge” but rather as something more akin to “love of learning” in the sense that it means “love of wisdom” which I take as the expansion of learning and general human exploration.

Also, in The Republic the main aim is to hypothesize some “ideal” society and so “wisdom” is referred to as the best balance overall for everyone in the short and long term - an impossible ideal to achieve knowingly yet one we naturally pursue if we’re sensible enough.

There is no “knowledge” beyond physical conception. This is because we need a physical substrate to abstract from. We do not come from an abstract subtrate and create a physical meaning, and even if we were to play this word game it means nothing more than what you see to be trying to disprove.

Information lost? Generally the current theories seem to be holding up against this idea. So no, you are incorrect to say that “information is lost” and that it is a “fact” (See Claude Shannon, Boltzmann, Hawking, Penrose, Susskind and others for the various ideas about this.)

You also seem to be confusing abstract ideas with set limits to be the underlying reality rather than reflections of some supposed reality. The very limit upon knowledge provides our means of “knowing” - omniscience renders everything meaninglessly obiquitous.
AKA badgerjelly

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 7th, 2018, 5:31 am

Show an example where "information" might have been transmitted or preserved without a physical substrate, and I'll consider the question as a serious one.

Even the slightest suggestion of a scintilla of a possibility that information does not need a physical presence......

Fooloso4
Moderator
Posts: 3507
Joined: February 28th, 2014, 4:50 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Fooloso4 » October 7th, 2018, 3:36 pm

BigBango:
To Plato the world of abstractions created a shadow world of physicality.
See the discussion of the divided line, dialectic, and hypothesis in the Republic. The “way up” begins with images of the imagination and ends with imagining what is known free of hypothesis. It is from this imagined vantage point, an end which is the arche or beginning of the whole, that one “goes down” from what is seen with the mind alone to what is seen with the senses.

Yes, there is the mythology of unembodied minds, but all we know of unembodied minds are the images created by our embodied imagination. Plato says that philosophy is preparation for death, where the mind is free of the encumbrance of the body, but we are not free of the body. Whatever information is available to us is conveyed to and via embodiment. We can imagine it being otherwise, but we fool ourselves if we imagine what we imagine is something other than something imagined.

User avatar
Consul
Posts: 1344
Joined: February 21st, 2014, 6:32 am
Location: Germany

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Consul » October 8th, 2018, 12:47 pm

BigBango wrote:
October 6th, 2018, 11:47 pm
If I believe that the square root of the sum of two sides of a right triangle is the length of the hypotenuse then what do you believe is the "physical substrate" of that abstraction?
A certain pattern of neural activity in your brain that encodes your belief.
"We may philosophize well or ill, but we must philosophize." – Wilfrid Sellars

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 8th, 2018, 1:02 pm

Consul wrote:
October 8th, 2018, 12:47 pm
BigBango wrote:
October 6th, 2018, 11:47 pm
If I believe that the square root of the sum of two sides of a right triangle is the length of the hypotenuse then what do you believe is the "physical substrate" of that abstraction?
A certain pattern of neural activity in your brain that encodes your belief.
And, of course, the application of these "ideas" for empirical verification from which the formula was derived.

Eduk
Posts: 2264
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Eduk » October 8th, 2018, 1:14 pm

I am more interested in what the people closer to reality have to say. But that's just my bias.
Unknown means unknown.

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 8th, 2018, 3:06 pm

Eduk wrote:
October 8th, 2018, 1:14 pm
I am more interested in what the people closer to reality have to say. But that's just my bias.
How would YOU know who was and who was not close to reality?

Eduk
Posts: 2264
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Eduk » October 8th, 2018, 3:16 pm

Evidence, results, logic, critical thinking, consensus of experts opinion, experience, motivation etc.
Did you understand the point I was trying to make by the way TH?
Unknown means unknown.

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 8th, 2018, 5:23 pm

Eduk wrote:
October 8th, 2018, 3:16 pm
Evidence, results, logic, critical thinking, consensus of experts opinion, experience, motivation etc.
Did you understand the point I was trying to make by the way TH?
Actually no.

Eduk
Posts: 2264
Joined: December 8th, 2016, 7:08 am
Favorite Philosopher: Socrates

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Eduk » October 8th, 2018, 6:10 pm

The OP says they are most interested in hearing from dualists, specifically not materialists. I was trying to point out that if it were me I'd rather just hear from whoever is right.
Unknown means unknown.

BigBango
Posts: 141
Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:15 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » October 8th, 2018, 10:16 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
October 7th, 2018, 3:36 pm
BigBango:
To Plato the world of abstractions created a shadow world of physicality.
See the discussion of the divided line, dialectic, and hypothesis in the Republic. The “way up” begins with images of the imagination and ends with imagining what is known free of hypothesis. It is from this imagined vantage point, an end which is the arche or beginning of the whole, that one “goes down” from what is seen with the mind alone to what is seen with the senses.

Yes, there is the mythology of unembodied minds, but all we know of unembodied minds are the images created by our embodied imagination. Plato says that philosophy is preparation for death, where the mind is free of the encumbrance of the body, but we are not free of the body. Whatever information is available to us is conveyed to and via embodiment. We can imagine it being otherwise, but we fool ourselves if we imagine what we imagine is something other than something imagined.
Yes, this is a very good post Fooloso4. You have a very good deep understanding of Plato and I appreciate that. What I would like you to consider is that our current understanding of "physicality" is tarnished by sciences need to empirically verify its character. To this end science only manages to identify 10% of the mass of the universe. My conundrum is that I could agree with the materialist/physicalists that there is physical substrates for all thinking except those substrates are not scientifically recognized legitimate physical constituents. I also think that those unrecognized physical substances coexist within a lower level "mental" framework. The "subject" of our philosopher Tamminen makes this clear.

BigBango
Posts: 141
Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:15 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » October 9th, 2018, 1:44 am

Burning ghost wrote:
October 7th, 2018, 1:11 am
There is no “knowledge” beyond physical conception. This is because we need a physical substrate to abstract from. We do not come from an abstract subtrate and create a physical meaning, and even if we were to play this word game it means nothing more than what you see to be trying to disprove.
I guess if we needed a "physical substrate" to abstract from then explain how this initial abstraction evolves in our thinking. Does the "idea" that comes from that abstraction, say E = mc^2 have a physical correlate? What if the abstraction is false? Does not the abstraction exist whether it is physically true or not?

User avatar
ThomasHobbes
Posts: 1122
Joined: May 5th, 2018, 5:53 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 9th, 2018, 1:47 am

BigBango wrote:
October 8th, 2018, 10:16 pm
Fooloso4 wrote:
October 7th, 2018, 3:36 pm
BigBango:



See the discussion of the divided line, dialectic, and hypothesis in the Republic. The “way up” begins with images of the imagination and ends with imagining what is known free of hypothesis. It is from this imagined vantage point, an end which is the arche or beginning of the whole, that one “goes down” from what is seen with the mind alone to what is seen with the senses.

Yes, there is the mythology of unembodied minds, but all we know of unembodied minds are the images created by our embodied imagination. Plato says that philosophy is preparation for death, where the mind is free of the encumbrance of the body, but we are not free of the body. Whatever information is available to us is conveyed to and via embodiment. We can imagine it being otherwise, but we fool ourselves if we imagine what we imagine is something other than something imagined.
Yes, this is a very good post Fooloso4. You have a very good deep understanding of Plato and I appreciate that. What I would like you to consider is that our current understanding of "physicality" is tarnished by sciences need to empirically verify its character. To this end science only manages to identify 10% of the mass of the universe. My conundrum is that I could agree with the materialist/physicalists that there is physical substrates for all thinking except those substrates are not scientifically recognized legitimate physical constituents. I also think that those unrecognized physical substances coexist within a lower level "mental" framework. The "subject" of our philosopher Tamminen makes this clear.
It's all very well. But what Plato says is all ancient hoohar. It's just based on his ignorance of the world, purely inventive.
He gives no account of how and why his "forms" can exist. It's nothing more than idle speculation; a theory that does no work.

I guess if we needed a "physical substrate" to abstract from then explain how this initial abstraction evolves in our thinking. Does the "idea" that comes from that abstraction, say E = mc^2 have a physical correlate? What if the abstraction is false? Does not the abstraction exist whether it is physically true or not?
Truth is just a relation, as is the 'abstraction'. They are both in your head, and therefore based on the physicality of neural matter.

User avatar
Burning ghost
Posts: 2873
Joined: February 27th, 2016, 3:10 am

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Burning ghost » October 9th, 2018, 2:21 am

BigBango wrote:
October 9th, 2018, 1:44 am
Burning ghost wrote:
October 7th, 2018, 1:11 am
There is no “knowledge” beyond physical conception. This is because we need a physical substrate to abstract from. We do not come from an abstract subtrate and create a physical meaning, and even if we were to play this word game it means nothing more than what you see to be trying to disprove.
I guess if we needed a "physical substrate" to abstract from then explain how this initial abstraction evolves in our thinking. Does the "idea" that comes from that abstraction, say E = mc^2 have a physical correlate? What if the abstraction is false? Does not the abstraction exist whether it is physically true or not?
That makes no sense. Wrong or not the abstraction is called an abstraction because it has been removed from physical experience not born absent of physical experience. Numbers don’t physically exist yet without physical experience of objects numbers are meaningless (eg. I know he experiential difference between one tree and many trees - I experience the “number” in relation to phenomena not the “number” prior to any phenomena.)
AKA badgerjelly

Post Reply