Conjuncted: All Sciences Are Still Externalist.


Constructor Theory seeks to express all fundamental scientific theories in terms of a dichotomy between possible and impossible physical transformations (Deutsch). Accordingly, a task A is said to be possible (A✓) if the laws of nature impose no restrictions on how (accurately) A could be performed, nor on how well the agents that are capable of approximately performing it could retain their ability to do so. Otherwise A is considered to be impossible (A✘). Deutsch argues that in both quantum theory and general relativity, “time is treated anomalously”. He sees the problem in that time is not among the entities to which both theories attribute “objective existence (namely quantum observables and geometrical objects respectively), yet those entities change with time”. Is not this an interesting appraisal? According to him “there is widespread agreement that there must be a way of treating time ‘intrinsically’ (i.e. as emerging from the relationships between physical objects such as clocks) rather than ‘extrinsically’ (as an unphysical parameter on which physical quantities somehow depend).” However, Deutsch reckons, it would be difficult to accommodate this in the prevailing conception, “every part of which (initial state; laws of motion; time-evolution) assumes that extrinsic status”. According to Constructor Theory it is “both natural and unavoidable to treat both time and space intrinsically: they do not appear in the foundations of the theory, but are emergent properties of classes of tasks …”. Note that the differentiation between “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” has different meaning than the one used in phenomenological philosophy.

Other projections, such as the Circular Theory (Yardley) and the Structural Theory of Everything (Josephson) also question the laws underlying the foundations of physics. However, as long as they consider placing events “over time” extrinsically, they are all of the same kind: non-phenomenological. (Note that duration has two definitions: endo and exo). This is a very interesting conclusion in Steven M. Rosen’s words:

The point may be that, in physics, time is treated ‘extrinsically’ because it does not lend itself to being formulated in objectivist terms, i.e., as something that is limited to the context of the objectified physical world.

Therefore, the terms “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” in Deutsch’s objectivist usage are both “extrinsic” in the phenomenological sense: both are limited to a physicalistic paradigm that excludes the internal perspective of a lived (bodily) subjectivity or an agent-dependent reality (Rössler), a continuing durée (Bergson). This appears to be the key to all the “trouble with physics” (Smolin), and not only with physics.  In their 2012 paper No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere Longo, Montévil and Kauffman claim that biological evolution “marks the end of a physics world view of law entailed dynamics” (Longo et al.). They argue that the evolutionary phase space or space of possibilities constituted of interactions between organisms, biological niches and ecosystems is “ever changing, intrinsically indeterminate and even (mathematically) unprestatable”. Hence, the authors’ claim that it is impossible to know “ahead of time the ‘niches’ which constitute the boundary conditions on selection” in order to formulate laws of motion for evolution. They call this effect “radical emergence”, from life to life. In their study of biological evolution, Longo and colleagues carried close comparisons with physics. They investigated the mathematical constructions of phase spaces and the role of symmetries as invariant preserving transformations, and introduced the notion of “enablement” to restrict causal analyses to Batesonian differential cases. The authors have shown that mutations or other “causal differences” at the core of evolution enable the establishment of non-conservation principles, in contrast to physical dynamics, which is largely based on conservation principles as symmetries. Their new notion of “extended criticality” also helps to understand the distinctiveness of the living state of matter when compared to the non-animal one. However, their approach to both physics and biology is also non-phenomenological. The possibility for endo states that can trigger the “(genetic) switches of mutation” has not been examined in their model. All sciences are (still) externalist.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s