The Rational Human Condition 3, Deep Freedom and Real Persons: A Study in Metaphysics, Section 2.2–Natural Mechanism, Computability, and Anti-Mechanism.


THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 1

PREFACE AND GENERAL INTRODUCTION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section 1.0  What It Is

Section 1.1  Bounded in a Nutshell

Section 1.2  Rational Anthropology vs. Analytic Metaphysics, the Standard Picture, and Scientific Naturalism

Section 1.3  Philosophy and Its History: No Deep Difference

Section 1.4  Works of Philosophy vs. Philosophical Theories: Presentational Hylomorphism and Polymorphism

Section 1.5  Analytic Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, and Rational Anthropology

Section 1.6  What is a Rational Human Animal?

Section 1.7  An Important Worry and a Preliminary Reply

Section 1.8  The Biggest Windmills


THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 2 

COGNITION, CONTENT, AND THE A PRIORI: A STUDY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND KNOWLEDGE

Complete Text


THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3

DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A Note on References

1.  Introduction: Freedom, Life, and Persons’ Lives  

1.0 Natural Libertarianism and Minded Animalism

1.1 Incompatibilistic Compatibilism

1.2 Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity

1.3 The Central Claim of this Book, and Previews                                         

2.  Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Immanent Structuralism

2.2 Natural Mechanism, Computability, and Anti-Mechanism

2.3 Kant’s Anti-Mechanism, Kantian Anti-Mechanism, Vitalism, and Emergentism

2.4 On the Representation of Life

2.5 Kantian Non-Conceptualism and the Dynamicist Model of Life

2.6 Inverted Life, Suspended Life, and Non-Local Life: How LifeDoes Not Strongly Supervene on the Physical, and Why

2.7 Conclusion                                                                                                                  

3.  From Biology to Agency          

3.0 Introduction

3.1 Two-Dimensional Rational Normativity

3.2 Kant’s Biological Theory of Freedom

3.3 Practical-Freedom-in-Life: Kantian Non-Intellectualism

3.4 The Rationality of the Heart: Principled Authenticity

3.5 Conclusion                                                                                                       

4.  Neither/Nor: The Negative Case for Natural Libertarianism

4.0 Introduction                                                                                                                 

4.1 The Intuitive Definition of Free Will

4.2 The Four Metaphysical Horsemen of the Apocalypse

4.3 The Three Standard Options, Natural Mechanism, and The Fourfold Knot of Free Agency

4.4 Three Arguments for Classical Incompatibilism, and In-the-Zone Compatibilism

4.5 Three Arguments for Local Incompatibilism with Respect to Natural Mechanism

4.6 Sympathy for the Devil: Compatibilism Reconsidered

4.7 Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death?

4.8 Too Hard to Live With: Strawson’s Basic Argument, Hard Determinism, and Hard Incompatibilism

4.9 Conclusion                                                                                                        

5.  Either/Or: Deep Freedom and Principled Authenticity          

5.0 Introduction

5.1 The Internal Structure of Deep Freedom

5.2 From Frankfurt Back to Kierkegaard: How to Have a Live Option, or Kierkegaardian Either/Or, Without Alternative Possibilities

5.3 Psychological Freedom, Deep Freedom, and Principled Authenticity

5.4 Conclusion                                                                                                       

6.  Minded Animalism I: What Real Persons Really Are

6.0 Introduction

6.1 From Deep Freedom to Real Persons

6.2 Real Persons

6.3 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Real Personhood

6.4 Conclusion                                                                                                       

7.  Minded Animalism II: From Parfit to Real Personal Identity          

7.0 Introduction

7.1 Parfit’s Theory: Six Basic Claims

7.2 Against and Beyond Parfit 1: Two Reasons, and The Minded Animalist Criterion of Personal Identity

7.3 Against and Beyond Parfit 2: Four More Reasons

7.4 Conclusion                                                                                                                   

***

Next Installment

***

A NOTE ON REFERENCES

For convenience, throughout the five-part four book series, The Rational Human Condition—comprising 1. the Preface and General Introduction, 2. Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, 3. Deep Freedom and Real Persons, 4. Kantian Ethics and Human Existence, and 5. Kant, Agnosticism, and Anarchism—I refer to Kant’s works infratextually in parentheses. The citations include both an abbreviation of the English title and the corresponding volume and page numbers in the standard “Akademie” edition of Kant’s works: Kants gesammelte Schriften, edited by the Königlich Preussischen (now Deutschen) Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin: G. Reimer [now de Gruyter], 1902-). I generally follow the standard English translations, but have occasionally modified them where appropriate. For references to the first Critique, I follow the common practice of giving page numbers from the A (1781) and B (1787) German editions only. Here is a list of the relevant abbreviations and English translations:

BL       “The Blomberg Logic.” In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Trans. J.M. Young. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992. Pp. 5-246.

C         Immanuel Kant: Correspondence, 1759-99. Trans. A. Zweig. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999.

CPJ      Critique of the Power of Judgment. Trans. P. Guyer and E. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.

CPR    Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. P. Guyer and A. Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

CPrR   Critique of Practical Reason. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 139-271.

DiS      “Concerning the Ultimate Ground of the Differentiation of Directions in Space.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992.  Pp. 365-372.

DSS     “Dreams of a Spirit-Seer Elucidated by Dreams of Metaphysics.” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 301-359.

EAT    “The End of All Things.” Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1996. Pp. 221-231.

GMM  Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 43-108.

ID        “On the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World (Inaugural Dissertation).” Trans. D. Walford and R. Meerbote. In Immanuel Kant: Theoretical Philosophy: 1755-1770. Pp. 373-416.

IUH     “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Aim.” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Anthropology, History, and Eduction. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007. Pp. 107-120.

JL         “The Jäsche Logic.” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 519-640.

LE       Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Ethics. Trans. P. Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

MFNS Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. Trans. M. Friedman. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.

MM     Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 365-603.

OP       Immanuel Kant: Opus postumum. Trans.  E. Förster and M. Rosen. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993.

OT       “What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?” Trans. A. Wood. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 7-18.

Prol     Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. Trans. G. Hatfield. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004.

PP       “Toward Perpetual Peace.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 317-351.

Rel       Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Trans. A. Wood and G. Di Giovanni. In Immanuel Kant: Religion and Rational Theology. Pp. 57-215.

RTL     “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy.” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 611-615.

VL       “The Vienna Logic,” Trans. J.M. Young. In Immanuel Kant: Lectures on Logic. Pp. 251-377.

WE      “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” Trans. M. Gregor. In Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy. Pp. 17-22.


In the fullness of time, The Rational Human Condition will also appear as a series of five e-books published by Rounded Globe, each of which, in turn, will be available in hard copy, on demand, from Out of House Publishing.


THE RATIONAL HUMAN CONDITION, PART 3

DEEP FREEDOM AND REAL PERSONS: A STUDY IN METAPHYSICS

Chapter 2  Beyond Mechanism: The Dynamics of Life

Section 2.2  Natural Mechanism, Computability, and Anti-Mechanism

The doctrine of what I will call physicalism about life says that biological life is at the very least strongly supervenient on (= non-reductive physicalism), and might also be identical with or logically supervenient on (= reductive physicalism), the inherently mechanical, causally efficacious behaviors, functions, and operations bound up with fundamental physical properties and facts.[i] When this non-reductive or reductive physicalist doctrine is generalized beyond life to every natural phenomenon whatsoever, then it constitutes what I will call the doctrine of Natural Mechanism.

But what, more precisely, is the very idea of Natural Mechanism? My claim is that there is a deep and indeed essential connection between natural mechanisms, the conservation of total quantities of matter and/or energy from physical causes to physical effects, effectively decidable procedures, recursive functions, and Turing-computability. More precisely, what I am proposing is that anything’s causally efficacious behaviors, functions, operations, and/or states are inherently mechanical in both their existence and their specific character if and only if:

(i) they are necessarily determined by all the general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, and

 (ii) they strictly conform to The Church-Turing Thesis (aka “Church’s Thesis”).

Otherwise put, natural mechanism is the conjunction of “closed” causal-nomological activity and/or states (that is, causally-nomologically closed with respect to conserved quantities of matter and/or energy) and computable activity and/or states.

So formulated, my analysis of natural mechanism is specifically intended to be comprehensive over, and in equipoise with respect to, the now-standard distinction in the vast mechanistic explanation literature, between “etiological” (i.e., causal) mechanistic explanations and “constitutive” (i.e., ontological) mechanistic explanations.[ii]

And what is The Church-Turing Thesis, aka Church’s Thesis? To state it clearly but also non-technically, I must define some terms. An effectively decidable procedure is a rule-governed, step-by-step process that yields a pre-established determinate result of a binary kind (e.g., either 0 or 1) in a finite or countably infinite number of steps. Otherwise put, an effectively decidable procedure is an algorithm. This appears to be the very same notion as that of a recursive function,[iii] and it also appears to be necessarily equivalent with the notion of a Turing machine.[iv]

It is important to note that strictly speaking, platonically abstract (i.e., non-spatiotemporal, causally inert) or purely mental (angelic, ghostly, spiritual, etc.) Turing machines are at least barely conceivable or logically possible. For example, the latter is what Leibniz called an automaton spirituale. But in this chapter and in this book I am focusing exclusively on spatiotemporally located, causally efficacious, embodied/incarnate universal Turing-machines, or what I will call real-world Turing-machines. Then The Church-Turing Thesis says that every effectively decidable procedure is a recursive function and also a Turing-computable function, which in turn restricts effectively decidable procedures to digital machine computation,[v] given two plausible further assumptions to the effect that:

(i) the causal powers of any real-world Turing machine are held fixed under our general causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, and

 (ii) the “digits” over which the real-world Turing machine computes constitute a complete denumerable set of spatiotemporally discrete physical objects.

Therefore, according to my proposal, then:

Anything X is a natural automaton, or natural machine, if and only if:

(1) X is constituted by an ordered set of causally-efficacious behaviors, functions, operations, and/or states (aka “causal powers”),

(2) the causal powers of X are necessarily determined by all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, together with all the general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, and

 (3) X’s causal powers are all inherently effectively decidable, recursive, or Turing-computable, given two further plausible assumptions to the effect that

(3i) the causal powers of any real-world Turing machine are held fixed under our general causal laws of nature, and

 (3ii) the “digits” over which the real-world Turing machine computes constitute a complete set of mathematically denumerable (i.e., non-real-number, non-complex-number, non-transfinite) quantities, i.e., spatiotemporally discrete, physical objects.

In an illuminating paper, Arnon Levy plausibly argued that the very idea of mechanism, or “machine-likeness,” essentially includes the two elements of what he calls decompositional explanation and causal orderliness:

The guiding idea is that machine-like systems are especially amenable to decompositional explanation, i.e., to analyses that tease apart underlying components and attend to their structural features and interrelations. I argue that for decomposition to succeed a system must exhibit causal orderliness, which I explicate in terms of differentiation among parts and the significance of local relations.[vi]

In my formulation of the definition of a natural mechanism, the denumerable-discrete-digits and Conservation-Laws-determined causal-powers elements capture, respectively, Levy’s notions of “decompositionality” and “causal orderliness,” but within the more physically and formally precise contexts of Turing-computability and contemporary physics. It follows, then, that non-mechanical processes are neither “decompositional” nor “causally orderly,” in just the ways required for real-world Turing-computability or Conservation-Law-determination. But it does not follow from this, that uncomputable, non-Conservation-Law-determined, hence non-mechanical processes do not have either rich physical structure or causal efficacy. On the contrary, as we will see, the uncomputable, non-Conservation-Law-determined, non-Big-Bang-caused, hence non-mechanical processes belonging to the lives of living organisms, especially including the free agency of rational minded animals, can and do still fully possess both rich physical structure and causal efficacy.

It is also important to recognize that although all specifically deterministic natural processes are real-world Turing-computable, not all real-world Turing-computable processes are deterministic. Indeed, there are indeterministic real-world Turing-machines. More generally, if an indeterministic natural process implements a step-by-step probabilistic or statistical rule—i.e., if the process is stochastic—then it is real-world Turing-computable. Therefore, although all  naturally mechanistic, Conservation-Law-determined, Big-Bang-caused processes are real-world Turing-computable, nevertheless naturally mechanistic processes can be either deterministic or indeterministic. This, in turn, is the same as to say that each and every one of the causal behaviors, functions, operations, and/or states (i.e., causal powers) of naturally mechanistic physical processes is entailed or necessitated by the general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with the set of settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, and is Turing-computable from that “causally-nomologically closed” physical base.

In section 1.1, I formulated a fundamental and fully general Kantian distinction between:

(i) an activity’s being merely in conformity with (i.e., being merely consistent with, acting merely according to) a law or rule, and 

 (ii) an activity’s being strictly governed by (i.e., being strictly entailed or necessitated by, acting strictly from or for the sake of) a law or rule.

This fundamental distinction applies directly to digital or Turing machine computation. More specifically, there is a correspondingly fundamental distinction between:

(i) what is merely correctly describable or can be simulated in Turing-computable terms, and

 (ii) what strictly encodes or inherently implements a Turing-computable process.

 As Searle correctly and emphatically pointed out, it does not follow from the mere fact that some state of affairs can be correctly described or simulated in digital computational terms, that it strictly encodes, inherently implements, or really incorporates digital computation.[vii] Indeed, virtually anything in the actual physical world can be correctly described or simulated in Turing-computable terms. But it does not follow from the mere fact that a heap of empty cans of Dale’s Pale Ale, or the number of steps I must take in order to reach the door of this room, could indeed be correctly described or simulated in Turing-computable terms, that either this heap or my walking across the room really incorporates a Turing-computable process. Similarly, but even more radically, far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing thermodynamic systems such as the roiling movements of boiling water, the paths taken by falling leaves, and weather systems, not to mention the Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical oscillation reaction, under certain catalytic conditions with light excitation,[viii] and living organisms, can indeed be correctly described or simulated in digital computational terms, but they do not really incorporate Turing-computable processes, precisely because they are uncomputable processes.

What is the essential difference, then, between a Turing-computable process and an uncomputable process? Again non-technically put, an essential feature of a Turing-computable process is the fact that, for each given stage in the process, there is a sufficient logical or mathematical reason why the process will either

(i) “halt” or stop there,

or else

(ii) not “halt” or stop there.

This is because every effectively decidable procedure is inherently what is known as a terminating process. By sharp contrast, then, an uncomputable process is such that, for each given stage in the process, there is a sufficient reason why the process will fail to comply with any terminating Turing-computable algorithm. Uncomputable processes are therefore inherently non-terminating processes.[ix] That an uncomputable process is “non-terminating” means that it is computationally interminable, in the sense that the process will necessarily always go on and on, unless there is a sufficient non-computational reason for it to halt or stop at some point either prior to or else beyond the halting or stopping step of any terminating Turing-computable algorithm—in which case, its halting or stopping is due to some sufficient factor within that process, whose operations are inherently beyond Turing-computation. In either case, a non-terminating process in the natural world essentially requires some actual far-from-equilibrium, complex, self-organizing thermodynamic development in asymmetric space and time, especially time, that cannot be pre-determined by any Turing-computable algorithm. As they say, time is of the essence.[x]

This line of thinking, in turn, allows me to formulate three closely related notions: first, that of what I call a non-naturally-mechanistic system, second, that of a naturally purposive or naturally teleological system, and third, that of what I call an intentionally active system.

First, X is a non-naturally-mechanistic system if and only if:

neither the structural relationships between the proper parts of X nor the causal powers of X are necessarily determined by the general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, together with some Turing-computable algorithm or recursive function, but instead are necessarily determined by some sufficient factor, internal to the system, that is inherently non-Turing-computational in nature, and essentially bound up with some actual non-equilibrium, asymmetric, complex thermodynamic development in space and time.

A paradigmatic example of non-naturally-mechanistic systems is the Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical oscillation reaction.[xi]

Second, X is a naturally purposive or naturally teleological system if and only if:

(i) X is a non-naturally-mechanistic system, and

(ii) X is also self-organizing in that

 (iia) the proper parts of X are  efficient causes of each other, and

 (iib) X as a whole is the formal and final cause of its proper parts.

 A paradigmatic example of naturally purposive or naturally teleological systems is a living organism.

Third, X is an intentionally active system if and only if:

(i) X is a naturally purposive or naturally teleological system, and

(ii) X contains within itself a consciously-presented representational content Y with fine-grained normative attunement, such that for every possible Turing-computable algorithm/recursive function Z that describes the formal/structural relationships between the proper parts of X or the causal powers of X, Y can tell X either

(iia) to “halt”/stop prior to the terminating step of Z,

or else

(iib) to go on beyond the terminating step of Z.

A paradigmatic example of intentionally active systems is a minded human animal, whether non-rational or rational.

In other words, then, in addition to their being non-naturally-mechanistic systems, naturally purposive or naturally teleological systems also exhibit the uncomputable fact of self-organization, or reciprocal formal and efficient causality between proper parts and whole. And in addition to teir being non-naturally-mechanistic, naturally purposive or naturally teleological systems, intentionally active systems also exhibit the further uncomputable facts of:

(i) conscious intentionality, or inherent self-guidedness by consciously-presented representational contents (either conceptual or essentially non-conceptual[xii]),

(ii) finegrained normative attunement, or inherent self-guidedness by many-degreed evaluative standards of success or failure, and

(iii) causal spontaneity, or self-guided efficacious sourcehood, strictly underdetermined by settled facts about the past or prior event-causes.

As we shall see later in this chapter, my notion of a naturally purposive or naturally teleological system bears an important similarity to what Kant calls a “natural purpose” or Naturzweck, and my notion of an intentionally active system also bears a close resemblance to what Kant calls an “animal”:

animals [like humans] also act in accordance with representations[xiii] (and are not, as Descartes would have it, machines), and in spite of their specific difference, they are still of the same genus as human beings (as living beings). (CPJ 5: 464, underlining added)

Now the notions of a naturally purposive or naturally teleological system and of an intentionally active system are abstract specifications of certain kinds of thermodynamic processes. In the actual natural world, at least some[xiv] of the naturally purposive or teleological systems are living systems or organisms. Correspondingly, all of the intentionally active systems are at once conscious systems, or minded animals, and also either

(i) free volition systems, i.e., minded animal agents as such,

or

(ii) free will systems, i.e., rational minded animal agents.

It is important to note, however, that not all non-naturally-mechanistic systems are naturally purposive or naturally teleological (e.g., the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, without a catalyst or light-excitation, and various kinds of quantum-mechanical phenomena[xv]); that not all naturally purposive or teleological systems are also living systems or organisms (e.g., the roiling movements of boiling water, the paths of falling leaves, and weather systems); and also that not all living systems or organisms are also intentionally active (e.g., unicellular organisms, fungi, and plants). But all intentionally active systems or minded animals are naturally purposive and alive, in addition to being conscious. Moreover, not all free volition systems or minded animal agents also have free will (e.g., bats, cats, and rats). Nevertheless, all free will systems or rational minded animal agents are alive, conscious, and have free volition, in addition to possessing capacities for self-consciousness, conceptualization, judgment, judgment, logical reasoning, and practical reasoning (e.g., us). And all such free will systems are intentionally active systems, naturally purposive or teleological systems, and non-naturally-mechanistic systems.

For the philosophy of free agency, obviously the leading type of intentionally active, naturally purposive or naturally teleological system is rational human minded animal agents—that is, us. In short, we are far-from-equilibrium, spatiotemporally asymmetric, complex, self-organizing, organismic, conscious, intentional, caring, rationality-guided, free-willed, practically agential thermodynamic systems within the human species, that implement all sorts of uncomputable processes, and therefore we are not naturally mechanized.

To make this crucial conceptual point more vivid, I want to borrow and update Leibniz’s famous argument for anti-mechanism in the Monadology,[xvi] later echoed by Searle’s equally famous Chinese Room argument against the Turing-test-inspired thesis of Strong Artificial  Intelligence,[xvii] in the following way. Just to give this neo-Leibnizian, neo-Searlian argument a convenient label, I will call it “The Handwaving Room Argument”:

 The Handwaving Room Argument

First, conceive of a room which is either itself an operative real-world Universal Turing Machine, or contains inside itself an operative real-world Universal Turing Machine.

Second, conceive of a rational human minded animal or real human person inside that room, who is following each and every distinct digital processing movement of the Turing Machine, step-by-step with a uniquely corresponding intentional movement of her body (say, an intentional handwaving movement in which her hand forms a sequence of “zero” or “one” shapes with her fingers).

Third, suppose that the Turing Machine halts because its digital processing sequence has mathematically terminated.

Fourth, conceive that the real person would have been able either

(i) spontaneously to stop the process prior to that terminating handwaving step in the sequence, and thus not perform that handwaving movement,

or else

(ii) spontaneously to go on beyond that terminating handwaving step and perform a completely different handwaving movement, in either case just because she feels like doing it at that very moment.

Fifth, now generalize and conceive that for each and every terminating process of the real-world Universal Turing Machine, at the point of termination, there is a possible real human person who has been mirroring that mathematical process step-by-step with her intentional body-movements, who would have been able either

(i) spontaneously to stop the process prior to the terminating step and thus not perform that body-movement,

or else

(ii) spontaneously to go on beyond that step and perform a completely different body-movement, just because she feels like doing it at that very moment.

Sixth, therefore at least some of the body-movements of rational human minded animals or real human persons are not only non-naturally-mechanistic processes, but also naturally purposive or teleological processes and intentionally active processes

Seventh, therefore, since we really and truly exist in the natural world, then there really and truly are some naturally purposive or teleological systems, and also some intentionally active systems, existing in the natural world.

It is directly relevant to note in this connection that if we dropped the plausible assumption that the causal powers of any real-world Turing machine are held fixed under our general deterministic or indeterministic causal laws of nature, and if real-world Turing machines could radically vary their causal powers, then it seems that then there would be no fundamental physical, mathematical, or metaphysical difference between Turing-computable and Turing-uncomputable functions; and correspondingly it seems that then there would be no fundamental physical, mathematical, or metaphysical difference between machines and non-machines, including all naturally purposive or teleological systems and all actual-world living organisms.[xviii] But this claim, I think, is just equivalent to a philosophically interesting but not at all exciting thesis to the effect that if some real-world Turing machines, contrary to actual fact, and perhaps even necessarily contrary to actual fact, were self-organizing thermodynamic systems, then there would be no fundamental physical, mathematical, or metaphysical difference between machines and non-machines, and ultimately no deep difference between real-world Turing machines on the one hand and naturally purposive or teleological systems or actual-world living organisms on the other. Here is an analogy:  Suppose it is true that if apples were changed into oranges by sending crates of apples into Malament-Hogarth spacetime,[xix] then you could make orange juice out of apples. That is philosophically interesting, but not at all metaphysically exciting, since we have no reason whatsoever to think that it is actually true that apples can be changed into oranges by sending them into Malament-Hogarth spacetime. Indeed, for all we know, it is logically or strongly metaphysically impossible that apples can be changed into oranges by sending them into Malament-Hogarth spacetime; and since any statement whatsoever follows from a necessary falsehood, counterfactual statements with impossible antecedents are all vacuously true.

It is also directly relevant  to note in this connection that if we dropped the plausible assumption that the “digits” over which the Turing machine computes are all denumerable sets of spatiotemporally discrete physical objects, and if some effectively deciding or recursive machines could compute over non-denumerable sets (e.g., real, complex, or transfinite number quantities) of non-discrete (i.e., either continuous or vaguely-bounded) physical items, then it seems that the Church-Turing thesis would be false, in the sense that there would then be some effectively decidable procedures or recursive functions in real physical nature which are not classically Turing-computable.[xx] But this claim, I think, is just equivalent to another philosophically interesting but not at all exciting thesis, this time to the effect that that if some set of items over which some effectively deciding or recursive machine computes, contrary to actual fact, and perhaps even necessarily contrary to actual fact, were just like non-denumerable sets of non-discrete neural assemblies in the human brain, then our brains would be real physical computing machines that are not digital. Here is another analogy:  Suppose it is true that if apples were just like non-denumerable sets of non-discrete neural assemblies in the human brain, then you could make orange juice out of apples. Again, that is philosophically interesting, but not at all metaphysically exciting, since we have no reason whatsoever to think that it is actually true that apples are just like non-denumerable sets of non-discrete neural assemblies in the human brain. Indeed, for all we know, it is logically or metaphysically impossible that apples are just like non-denumerable sets of non-discrete neural assemblies in the human brain; and, again, since any statement whatsoever follows from a necessary falsehood, this guarantees that counterfactuals with impossible antecedents are vacuously true.

So Natural Mechanism says that all the causal powers of everything whatsoever in the natural world are ultimately fixed by what can be digitally computed on a universal deterministic or indeterministic real-world Turing machine, provided that the following three plausible “causal orderliness” and “decompositionality” assumptions are all satisfied:

(i) its causal powers are necessarily determined by the general deterministic or indeterministic causal natural laws, especially including the Conservation Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang,

(ii) the causal powers of the real-world Turing machine are held fixed under our general causal laws of nature, and

(iii) the “digits” over which the real-world Turing machine computes constitute a complete denumerable set of spatiotemporally discrete physical objects.

In direct opposition to Natural Mechanism in this precisified sense, however, the general thesis of anti-mechanism, as I am understanding it, says that the causal powers of biological life (and in particular, the causal powers of living organisms, especially including rational human minded animals) are neither fixed by, identical with, nor otherwise reducible to—and in particular, neither strongly nor logically supervenient on—Conservation-Law-determined, Big-Bang-caused, real-world-Turing-computable causal powers of thermodynamic systems, whether these causal powers are governed by general deterministic laws or general probabilistic/statistical laws. So if the general thesis of anti-mechanism, as I am understanding it, is true, then Natural Mechanism is false.

NOTES

[i] See, e.g., A. Rosenberg and D. McShea, Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Introduction (New York: Routledge, 2008), esp. ch. 4; and A. Rosenberg and R. Arp (eds.), Philosophy of Biology: An Anthology (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), esp. chs. 16-17.

[ii] See, e.g., M. Kaiser and B. Krickel, “The Metaphysics of Constitutive Mechanistic Phenomena,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (2016) 67: forthcoming, for a good survey of, and critical response to, the standard literature.

[iii] See, e.g., G. Hunter, Metalogic (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1996), pp. 232-234.

[iv] A. Turing, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem,” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, series 2, vol. 42 (1936): 230-265, with corrections in vol. 43 (1937): 644-546. See also, e.g., G. Boolos and R. Jeffrey, Computability and Logic (3rd edn., Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989), ch. 3.

[v] See, e.g., Boolos and Jeffrey, Computability and Logic, chs. 6-9, esp. pp. 52-54.

[vi] A. Levy, “Machine-Likeness and Explanation by Decomposition,” Philosophers’ Imprint 14 (2014). Also available online at URL = <http://www.arnonlevy.org/uploads/9/3/4/2/9342317/machines__decomp_phil_imprint_final.pdf>. The text cited is taken from the PhilPapers abstract, which is available online at URL = <http://philpapers.org/rec/LEVMAE>.

[vii] See, e.g., J. Searle, “Minds, Brains, and Programs,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (1980): 417-424; and J. Searle, Minds, Brains, and Science (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1984).

[viii] See, e.g., Prigogine, The End of Certainty, pp. 66-67; and Wikipedia, “The Belousov-Zhabotinsky Reaction,” available online at URL = <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belousov%E2%80%93Zhabotinsky_reaction>. The Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction can be excited into self-organizing activity by means of the influence of light, using tris(bipyridine)ruthenium(II) chloride as a catalyst.

[ix] See, e.g., Boolos and Jeffrey, Computability and Logic, chs. 4-5.

[x] See, e.g., Prigogine, The End of Certainty, pp. 163-182.

[xi] See note [viii] above.

[xii] See, e.g., Hanna, Cognition, Content, and the A Priori, esp. ch. 2.

[xiii] See R. Hanna, “On Kant’s Term, ‘Representation’,” available online at URL = <https://www.academia.edu/23421371/On_Kants_Term_Representation_>.

[xiv] Here is a point on which I deviate from Kant, somewhat: whereas for Kant, all natural purposes are organisms, for me, and other contemporary complex systems dynamicists, not all natural purposes are organisms—e.g., the roiling movements of boiling water, traffic jams, and weather systems. See also, e.g., J.A.S. Kelso, Dynamic Patterns (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995). Or in other words, some self-organizing systems are not organismic systems. Later in this chapter I will make a substantive proposal about what, over and above being self-organizing, being a living organism further requires.

[xv] See, e.g., Prigogine, The End of Certainty, ch. 6.

[xvi] See G.W.F. Leibniz, “The Principles of Philosophy, or, The Monadology,” in R. Ariew and D. Garber (eds.), Leibniz: Philosophical Essays (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1989), pp. 213-234, §17, p. 215 .

[xvii] See J. Searle, “Minds, Brains, and Programs,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (1980): 417-424; J. Searle, “Intrinsic Intentionality: Reply to Criticisms of ‘Minds, Brains, and Programs’,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (1980): 450-456; and J. Searle, “The Chinese Room Revisited: Response to Further Commentaries on ‘Minds, Brains, and Programs’,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5 (1982): 345-348.

[xviii] See, e.g., M. Hogarth, “Non-Turing Computers and Non-Turing Computability,” in D. Hull, M. Forbes, and R. M. Burian (eds), PSA 1994 (East Lansing, MI: Philosophy of Science Association, 1994), vol. 1, pp. 126–138; and M. Hogarth, “Deciding Arithmetic Using SAD Computers,” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (2004): 681-691.

[xix] See “Malament-Hogarth Spacetime,” available online at URL = <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malament-Hogarth_spacetime>.

[xx] See, e.g., G. Piccinini, “Computation without Representation,” Philosophical Studies, 137 (2008): 205-241; G. Piccinini, “Computers,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 89 (2008): 32-73; G. Piccini,  “Computing Mechanisms,” Philosophy of Science, 74 (2007): 501-526; G. Piccinini, “Computational Modeling vs. Computational Explanation: Is Everything a Turing Machine, and Does It Matter to the Philosophy of Mind?” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 85 (2007): 93-115; and G. Piccinini, “Computationalism, the Church-Turing Thesis, and the Church-Turing Fallacy,” Synthese, 154 (2007): 97-120.

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