Conjuncted: Demise of Ontology


The demise of ontology in string theory opens new perspectives on the positions of Quine and Larry Laudan. Laudan stressed the discontinuity of ontological claims throughout the history of scientific theories. String theory’s comment on this observation is very clear: The ontological claim is no appropriate element of highly developed physical theories. External ontological objects are reduced to the status of an approximative concept that only makes sense as long as one does not look too closely into the theory’s mathematical fine-structure. While one may consider the electron to be an object like a table, just smaller, the same verdict on, let’s say, a type IIB superstring is not justifiable. In this light it is evident that an ontological understanding of scientific objects cannot have any realist quality and must always be preliminary. Its specific form naturally depends on the type of approximation. Eventually all ontological claims are bound to evaporate in the complex structures of advanced physics. String theory thus confirms Laudan’s assertion and integrates it into a solid physical background picture.

In a remarkable way string theory awards new topicality to Quine’s notion of underdeterminism. The string theoretical scale-limit to new phenomenology that makes Quine’s concept of a theoretical scheme fits all possible phenomenological data. In a sense string theory moves Quine’s concept from the regime of abstract and shadowy philosophical definitions to the regime of the physically meaningful. Quine’s notion of underdeterminism also remains unaffected by the emerging principle of theoretical uniqueness, which so seriously undermines the position of modest underdeterminism. Since theoretical uniqueness reveals itself in the context of new so far undetected phenomenology, Quine’s purely ontological approach remains safely beyond its grasp. But the best is still to come: The various equivalent superstring theories appear as empirically equivalent but ‘logically incompatible’ theories of the very type implied by Quine’s underdeterminism hypothesis. The different string theories are not theoretically incompatible and unrelated concepts. On the contrary they are merely different representations of one overall theoretical structure. Incompatible are the ontological claims which can be imputed to the various representations. It is only at this level that Quine’s conjecture applies to string theory. And it is only at this level that it can be meaningful at all. Quine is no adherent of external realism and thus can afford a very wide interpretation of the notion ‘ontological object’. For him a world view’s ontology can well comprise oddities like spacetime points or mathematical sets. In this light the duality phenomenon could be taken to imply a shift of ontology away from an external ‘corporal’ regime towards a purely mathematical one. 

To put external and mathematical ontologies into the same category blurs the central message the new physical developments have in store for philosophy of science. This message emerges much clearer if formulated within the conceptual framework of scientific realism: An extrapolation of the notion ‘external ontological object’ from the visible to the invisible regime remains possible up to quantum field theory if one wants to have it. It fails fundamentally at the stage of string theory. String theory simply is no theory about invisible external objects.


Abstract Expressions of Time’s Modalities. Thought of the Day 21.0


According to Gregory Bateson,

What we mean by information — the elementary unit of information — is a difference which makes a difference, and it is able to make a difference because the neural pathways along which it travels and is continually transformed are themselves provided with energy. The pathways are ready to be triggered. We may even say that the question is already implicit in them.

In other words, we always need to know some second order logic, and presuppose a second order of “order” (cybernetics) usually shared within a distinct community, to realize what a certain claim, hypothesis or theory means. In Koichiro Matsuno’s opinion Bateson’s phrase

must be a prototypical example of second-order logic in that the difference appearing both in the subject and predicate can accept quantification. Most statements framed in second-order logic are not decidable. In order to make them decidable or meaningful, some qualifier needs to be used. A popular example of such a qualifier is a subjective observer. However, the point is that the subjective observer is not limited to Alice or Bob in the QBist parlance.

This is what is necessitated in order understand the different viewpoints in logic of mathematicians, physicists and philosophers in the dispute about the existence of time. An essential aspect of David Bohm‘s “implicate order” can be seen in the grammatical formulation of theses such as the law of motion:

While it is legitimate in its own light, the physical law of motion alone framed in eternal time referable in the present tense, whether in classical or quantum mechanics, is not competent enough to address how the now could be experienced. … Measurement differs from the physical law of motion as much as the now in experience differs from the present tense in description. The watershed separating between measurement and the law of motion is in the distinction between the now and the present tense. Measurement is thus subjective and agential in making a punctuation at the moment of now. (Matsuno)

The distinction between experiencing and capturing experience of time in terms of language is made explicit in Heidegger’s Being and Time

… by passing away constantly, time remains as time. To remain means: not to disappear, thus, to presence. Thus time is determined by a kind of Being. How, then, is Being supposed to be determined by time?

Koichiro Matsuno’s comment on this is:

Time passing away is an abstraction from accepting the distinction of the grammatical tenses, while time remaining as time refers to the temporality of the durable now prior to the abstraction of the tenses.

Therefore, when trying to understand the “local logics/phenomenologies” of the individual disciplines (mathematics physics, philosophy, etc., including their fields), one should be aware of the fact that the capabilities of our scientific language are not limitless:

…the now of the present moment is movable and dynamic in updating the present perfect tense in the present progressive tense. That is to say, the now is prior and all of the grammatical tenses including the ubiquitous present tense are the abstract derivatives from the durable now. (Matsuno)

This presupposes the adequacy of mathematical abstractions specifically invented or adopted and elaborated for the expression of more sophisticated modalities of time’s now than those currently used in such formalisms as temporal logic.

Husserl’s Melodies of the Absolute Flux. Note Quote.


Husserl elaborates the basic problem of time-consciousness by taking the simple example of a melody. Observing that what we perceive endures – i.e., a melody is experienced as a unity of discrete tones, with each tone and the melody as a whole grasped as unified enduring objects – he sets out to examine how this can occur. Clearly, more than one tone must be retained in consciousness, since if each disappeared entirely after it had sounded then their succession, and therefore the melody as a whole, could never be grasped: “in each moment we would have a tone, or perhaps an empty pause in the interval between the sounding of two tones, but never the representation of a melody.” And each tone must also undergo some form of modification in consciousness, enabling it to appear “as more or less past, as pushed back in time, as it were,” since otherwise “instead of a melody we would have a chord of simultaneous tones, or rather a disharmonious tangle of sound, as if we had struck simultaneously all the notes that had previously sounded“. It is in order to account for our ability to experience such temporally extended objects as temporally extended that Husserl takes an immanent tone as his phenomenological datum.

In the characteristic phenomenological move Husserl proposes, at the outset of his lectures, “the complete exclusion of every assumption, stipulation and conviction with respect to objective time”. This suspension of the “natural attitude” towards time leaves – as the phenomenological residue – the indisputable immanent time (succession and duration) of lived experience (erlebnis). And immanent temporal objects within the immanent time of the flow of consciousness will enable reflection of the phenomenon of temporal experience free of all transcendent presuppositions. Husserl can therefore declare his task as being to “exclude all transcendent apprehension and positing and take the tone purely as a hyletic datum”.

Posing the question of “How, in addition to ‘temporal objects,’ immanent and transcendent, does time itself – the duration and succession of objects – become constituted?” Husserl points out that these are “different lines of description….” For example: “When a tone sounds … [we] can make the tone itself, which endures and fades away, into an object and yet not make the duration of the tone or the tone in its duration into an object”. Focusing on the latter, we can observe that the tone appears in “a continuity of ‘modes’ in a ‘continual flow'” – that is, appears in the mode of (as) ‘now’ or as ‘immediately past’ – even though “‘Throughout’ this whole flow of consciousness, one and the same tone is intended as enduring, as now enduring”. Because the tone itself is the same but the manner in which it appears is continually different, then description of the tone itself must be distinguished from description of “the way in which we are ‘conscious’ of … the ‘appearing’ of the immanent tone”. It is this latter that the phenomenology of time-consciousness will analyze.

Husserl accounts for our experience of the duration of the tone by distinguishing the intended temporal determinations of ‘now,’ ‘just-past,’ and ‘about-to-be’ from the consciousness that intends them: the impressional, retentional and protentional consciousness which constitute present, past, and future, respectively. As he describes it, the “source-point” (Quellpunkt) of the enduring object in the flowing stream of consciousness is the “primal impression” – consciousness of the (constantly changing) “tone-now” (Tonjetzt). And as this ‘tone-now’ is modified into ‘something that has been,’ so the primal impression passes over into retention: “the tone-now changes into a tone-having-been; the impressional consciousness, constantly flowing, passes over into an ever new retentional consciousness”. Retention not only “holds in consciousness what has been produced and stamps on it the character of the ‘just-past'” – ensuring that consciousness is always “consciousness of what has just been and not merely consciousness of the now-point of the object that appears as enduring” – but each retention is also retention of the elapsed tone retention, including in itself “the entire series of elapsed intentions in the form of a chain of mediate intentions”. In this way, retention “extends the now-consciousness” such that the “now-apprehension is, as it were, the head attached to the comet’s tail of retentions”.

This description of the extended moment is completed with the addition of protention as the symmetrical futural counterpart of retention. Protention, the intuition of the immediate future, is “just as original and unique as the intuition of the past,” Husserl writes. “Every process that constitutes its object originally is animated by protentions that emptily constitute what is coming as coming”. Retention and protention together combine to form “the living horizon of the now,” for every primal impression “has its retentional and protentional halo” ensuring that “The now point … [always] has for consciousness a temporal fringe”. The punctual now is therefore only an ideal limit, which cannot be phenomenologically given or encountered. And this description of the now as an ideal abstraction therefore applies equally to the primal impression of which it is the correlate: “In the ideal sense … perception (impression) would be the phase of consciousness that constitutes the pure now…. But the now is precisely only an ideal limit, something abstract, which can be nothing by itself”.

The temporal phases of the immanent object are, then, on a different stratum of analysis than the consciousness of those phases; the impressional, retentional, and protentional consciousness which, in intending the object as ‘now,’ ‘just-past,’ or ‘about-to-be’ “constitute the very differences belonging to time”. Husserl reaches the heart of his phenomenological account of time-consciousness with his description of how these “acts that create time” – primal impression, retention, and protention – “can be understood as time-constituting consciousness, as moments of the flow”. The ‘flow’ is made up of these partial intentions which are not fully fledged acts as such because their correlates are not objects but the temporal phases of objects. Retention, for example, “is an intentionality” but it “is not an ‘act’ (that is, an immanent duration-unity constituted in a series of retentional phases)”. The intentionality of these elements of the primal flux differs from that of apprehending or perceptual acts – they in fact constitute as a unity the apprehending act: “In perception a complex of sensation-contents, which are themselves unities constituted in the original temporal flow, undergo unity of apprehension. And this unitary apprehension is again a constituted unity”.

Husserl can therefore distinguish and outline the three levels of his analysis of time and consciousness as follows: Firstly, “the things of empirical experience in objective time”; secondly, “the constituting multiplicities of appearance … the immanent unities in pre-empirical time”; and lastly, “the absolute time-constituting flow of consciousness” which, as that which “lies before all constitution,” is the ultimate stratum of the constitutive process. This absolute consciousness “is not itself content or object in phenomenological time”. It is a ‘flow’ of “continuous ‘change'” which cannot be described as having constancy or duration, nor even as a ‘process,’ since the concept of process presupposes persistence and a ‘something’ that persists and endures through change. However, the flow does possess, in a sense, something abiding: “What abides, above all, is the formal structure of the flow, the form of the flow”. This unchanging form of the absolute flux is the retentional/impressional/protentional structure by which “a now becomes constituted by means of an impression and … a trail of retentions and a horizon of protentions are attached to the impression”. The question remains, of course, of how we can know this flow which is neither content nor object:

Every temporal appearance, after phenomenological reduction, dissolves into … a flow. But I cannot perceive in turn this consciousness itself into which all of this is dissolved. For this new percept would again be something temporal that points back to a constituting consciousness of a similar sort, and so in infinitum. Hence the question arises: How do I come to know the constituting flow?

To deal with this question Husserl recalls the ‘double intentionality’ of retention. One of these is the “‘primary memory’ of the (just sensed) tone” which “serves for the constitution of the immanent object”. But there is also the other, the second retentional intentionality which “is constitutive of the unity of this primary memory in the flow”. This “retention of retention” ensures that “each past now retentionally shelters within itself all earlier stages” and also therefore that “there extends throughout the flow a horizontal intentionality [Längsintentionalität] that, in the course of the flow, continuously coincides with itself”. By means of this, the unity of the flow becomes itself “constituted in the flow of consciousness as a one-dimensional quasi-temporal order”. The absolute flux is, therefore, self-constituting. It constitutes the unity of immanent objects in a unitary immanent time and thereby, “as shocking (when not initially even absurd) as it may seem,” also its own unity:

two inseparably united intentionalities, requiring one another like two sides of one and the same thing, are interwoven with one another in the one, unique flow of consciousness. By virtue of on limits of language of the intentionalities, immanent time becomes constituted…. In the other intentionality, it is the quasi-temporal arrangement of the phases of the flow that becomes constituted…. This prephenomenal, preimmanent temporality becomes constituted intentionally as the form of the time-constituting consciousness and in itself.

And it is this second retentional intentionality that gives us our oblique self-awareness of the flux, removing the problem of infinite regress whilst simultaneously resolving the difficulty of knowing the flow. “The self-appearance of the flow does not require a second flow: on the contrary, it constitutes itself as a phenomenon in itself”. It requires no second flow because this is a non-objectivating awareness – experienced in the same way as we experience acts, in a perceptual objectivation, without thematizing them. Unlike such acts, however, it cannot itself be made an object of reflection. Because there is no object or substance that endures, and no ‘time’ here as such, our ability to speak of the absolute flux runs up against the limits of language and conceptual thought. “We can say nothing other than the following: This flow is something we speak of in conformity with what is constituted, but it is not ‘something in objective time.’ It is absolute subjectivity and has the absolute properties of something to be designated metaphorically as ‘flow’.” Husserl is blunt about the inescapable inadequacy of his vocabulary here: “For all of this, we lack names”.

In a sense Husserl’s project in the lectures on time-consciousness can be understood as an inquiry into the constitution of constitution; into the way in which intentional acts of consciousness are constituted as temporal unities able to have as their correlate the transcendent temporally extended object. As he observes: “It is certainly evident that the perception of a temporal object itself has temporality, that the perception of duration itself presupposes duration of perception, that the perception of any temporal form itself has temporal form”. Yet Ricoeur writes that “The fact that the perception of duration never ceases to presuppose the duration of perception did not seem to trouble Husserl“, implying that Husserl was blind to the significance of his own observation. This rather offhand remark plays little role in Ricoeur’s argument for the conflict between Kant and Husserl’s respective treatments of time, but given that Husserl was clearly sorely troubled by this ‘fact’ – that it is arguably the very observation that led him beyond Kant’s standpoint to explore the temporality of the constitutive act itself.

Textual Temporality. Note Quote.


Time is essentially a self-opening and an expanding into the world. Heidegger says that it is, therefore, difficult to go any further here by comparisons. The interpretation of Dasein as temporality in a universal ontological way is an undecidable question which remains “completely unclear” to him. Time as a philosophical problem is a kind of question which no one knows how to raise because of its inseparability from our nature. As Gadamer notes, we can say what time is in virtue of a self-evident preconception of what is, for what is present is always understood by that preconception. Insofar as it makes no claim to provide a valid universality, philosophical discussion is not a systematic determination of time, i.e., one which requires going back beyond time (in its connection with other categories).

In his doctrine of the productivity of the hermeneutical circle in temporal being, Heidegger develops the primacy of futurity for possible recollection and retention of what is already presented by history. History is present to us only in the light of futurity. In Gadamer’s interpretation, it is rather our prejudices that necessarily constitute our being. His view that prejudices are biases in our openness to the world does not signify the character of prejudices which in turn themselves are regarded as an a priori text in the terms already assumed. Based upon this, prejudices in this sense are not empty, but rather carry a significance which refers to being. Thus we can say that prejudices are our openness to the being-in-the-world. That is, being destined to different openness, we face the reference of our hermeneutical attributions. Therefore, the historicity of the temporal being is anything except what is past.

Clearly, the past is not some occurrence, not some incident in my Dasein, but its past; it is not some ‘what’ about Dasein, some event that happens to Dasein and alters it. This past is not a ‘what,’ but a ‘how,’ indeed it is the authentic ‘how’ (wie) of any temporal being. The past brings all ‘what,’ all taking care of and making plans, back into the ‘how’ which is the basic stand of a historical investigation.

Rather than encountering a past-oriented object, hermeneutical experience is a concern towards the text (or texts) which has been presented to us. Understanding is not possible merely because our part of interpretation is realized only when a “text” is read as a fulfillment of all the requirements of the tradition.

For Gadamer and Ricoeur the past as a text always changes its meaning in relation to the ever-developing world of texts; so it seems that the future is recognized as textual or the textual character of the future. In this sense the text itself is not tradition, but expectation. Upon this text the hermeneutical difference essentially can be extended. Consequently, philosophy is no history of hermeneutical events, but philosophical question evokes the historicity of our thinking and knowing. It is not by accident that Hegel, who tried to write the history of philosophy, raised history itself to the state of absolute mind.

What matters in the question concerning time is attaining an answer in terms in which the different ways of being temporal become comprehensible. What matters is allowing a possible connection between that which is in time and authentic temporality to become visible from the very beginning. However, the problem behind this theory still remains even after long exposure of the Heideggerian interpretation of whether Being-in-the-world can result from temporal being or vice versa. After the more hermeneutical investigation, it seems that Being-in-the-world must be comprehensive only through Being-in-time.

But, in The Concept of Time, Heidegger has already taken into consideration the broader grasp of the text by considering Being as the origin of the hermeneutics of time. If human Being is in time in a distinctive sense, so that we can read from it what time is, then this Dasein must be characterized by the fundamental determinations of its Being. Indeed, then being temporal, correctly understood, would be the fundamental assertion of Dasein with respect to its Being.

As a result, only the interpretation of being as its reference by way of temporality can make clear why and how this feature of being earlier, of apriority, pertains to being. The a priori character of being as the origin of temporalization calls for a specific kind of approach to being-a-priori whose basic components constitute a phenomenology which is hermeneutical.

Heidegger notes that with regard to Dasein, self-understanding reopens the possibility for a theory of time that is not self-enclosed. Dasein comes back to that which it is and takes over as the being that it is. In coming back to itself, it brings everything that it is back again into its own most peculiar chosen can-be. It makes it clear that, although ontologically the text is closest to each and any of its interpretations in its own event, ontically it is closest to itself. But it must be remembered that this phenomenology does not determine completely references of the text by characterizing the temporalization of the text. Through phenomenological research regarding the text, in hermeneutics we are informed only of how the text gets exhibited and unveiled.

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.

Time, Phenomenologically.


Phenomenological philosophy claims that time is not the place, the scene, the container or the medium for events (changes), nor a dimension along which everything flows. According to Jean-Toussaint Desanti, a French scholar of Husserl, we should forget “the ordinary meaning of the preposition “in” we spontaneously use when we talk about our experience of time. It is even this use, so ancient that should be the subject of our review. Really it would be strange that what we have learned to call “time” can contain anything. And yet we say without anxiety: “It is time that everything goes.”

But what is happening “in” time does not remain as a place. In fact, this is the major objection of Bergson against Einstein’s Special Relativity, that he has dimensioned time, something immeasurable in the same way as space, which is, of course (in everyday life), measurable. This kind of reasoning in phenomenology is not that far from the one in modern physics.

As Smolin says,

There is a deeper problem, perhaps going back to the origin of physics… time is frozen as if it were another dimension of space. Motion is frozen, and a whole history of constant motion and change is presented to us as something static and unchanging… We have to find a way to unfreeze time — to represent time without turning it into space.

In the words of Carlos Rovelli,

Today, the novelty that comes from quantum gravity is that space does not exist. … But combining this idea with relativity, one must conclude that the non-existence of space also implies the non-existence of time. Indeed, this is exactly what happens in quantum gravity: the variable t does not appear in the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, or elsewhere in the basic structure of the theory. … Time does not exist.

The claim about the imaginary, surreal, even exotic nature of time is not new in philosophy and physics. Of course, there have always been, too, physicists defending the real existence of time, even so real to define such a quantum variable as the chronon with the idea in mind to reconcile special and general relativity with quantum field theory. This “atom” of time was supposed to be the duration for light to travel the distance of the classical (non-quantum) radius of an electron. This model implies a lowest level of actuality, as asserted in the Planck scale.

In his book “Time Reborn” Smolin argues that physicists have inappropriately banned the reality of time because they confuse their timeless mathematical models with reality. His claim was that time is both real (which means external to him) and fundamental, hypothesizing that the very laws of physics are not fixed, but evolve over time. This stance is not really a new one. But it means again an absolute external reference axis and a direction for placing events in a sequence, which phenomenologists decline as the only option. Some of them, partly inspired by the late works of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, approach time neither from the standpoint of simultaneity alone, nor from that of succession. For instance, the dualism of these two concepts is surpassed in favor of a temporal dialectic in which simultaneity and succession are entwined, without denying their separate meanings. Heidegger’s concept of “true time” speaks to this approach to phenomenology.

Carnap’s Topological Properties and Choice of Metric. Note Quote.

Husserl’s system is ontologically, a traditional double hierarchy. There are regions or spheres of being, and perfectly traditional ones, except that (due to Kant’s “Copernican revolution”) the traditional order is reversed: after the new Urregion of pure consciousness come the region of nature, the psychological region, and finally a region (or perhaps many regions) of Geist. Each such region is based upon a single highest genus of concrete objects (“individua”), corresponding to the traditional highest genera of substances: in pure consciousness, for example, Erlebnisse; in nature, “things” (Dinge). But each region also contains a hierarchy of abstract genera – genera of singular abstracta and of what Husserl calls “categorial” or “syntactic” objects (classes and relations). This structure of “logical modifications,” found analogously in each region, is the concern of logic. In addition, however, to the “formal essence” which each object has by virtue of its position in the logical hierarchy, there are also truths of “material” (sachliche) essence, which apply to objects as members of some species or genus – ultimately, some region of being. Thus the special sciences, which are individuated (as in Aristotle) by the regions they study, are each broadly divided into two parts: a science of essence and a science of “matters of fact.” Finally, there are what might be called matters of metaphysical essence: necessary truths about objects which apply in virtue of their dependence on objects in prior regions, and ultimately within the Urregion of pure consciousness.

This ontological structure translates directly into an epistemological one, because all being in the posterior regions rests on positing Erlebnisse in the realm of pure consciousness, and in particular on originary (immediate) rational theoretical positings, i.e. “intuitions.” The various sciences are therefore based on various types of intuition. Sciences of matters of fact, on the one hand, correspond to the kinds of ordinary intuition, analogous to perception. Sciences of essence, on the other hand, and formal logic, correspond to (formal or material) “essential insight” (Wesensschau). Husserl equates formal- and material-essential insight, respectively, as sources of knowledge, to Kant’s analytic and synthetic a priori, whereas ordinary perceptual intuition, the source of knowledge about matters of fact, corresponds to the Kantian synthetic a posteriori. Phenomenology, finally, as the science of essence in the region of pure consciousness, has knowledge of the way beings in one region are dependent on those in another.

In Carnap’s doctoral thesis, Der Raum, he applies the above Husserlian apparatus to the problem of determining our sources of knowledge about space. Is our knowledge of space analytic, synthetic a priori, or empirical? Carnap answers, in effect: it depends on what you mean by “space.” His answer foreshadows much of his future thought, but is also based directly on Husserl’s remark about this question in Ideen I: that, whereas Euclidean manifold is a formal category (logical modification), our knowledge of geometry as it applies to physical objects is a knowledge of material essence within the region of nature. Der Raum is largely an expansion and explication of that one remark. Our knowledge of “formal space,” Carnap says, is analytic, i.e. derives from “formal ontology in Husserl’s sense,” but our knowledge of the “intuitive space” in which sensible objects are necessarily found is synthetic a priori, i.e. material-essential. There is one important innovation: Carnap claims that essential (a priori) knowledge of intuitive space extends only to its topological properties, whereas the full structure of physical space requires also a choice of metric. This latter choice is informed by the actual behavior of objects (e.g. measuring rods), and knowledge of physical space is thus in part a posteriori – as Carnap also says, a knowledge of “matters of fact.” But such considerations never force the choice of one metric or another: our knowledge of physical space also depends on “free positing”. This last point, which has no equivalent in Husserl, is important. Still more telling is that Carnap compares the choice involved here to a choice of language, although at this stage he sees this as a mere analogy. On the whole, however, the treatment of Der Raum is more or less orthodoxly Husserlian.

Phenomenological Model for Stock Portfolios. Note Quote.


The data analysis and modeling of financial markets have been hot research subjects for physicists as well as economists and mathematicians in recent years. The non-Gaussian property of the probability distributions of price changes, in stock markets and foreign exchange markets, has been one of main problems in this field. From the analysis of the high-frequency time series of market indices, a universal property was found in the probability distributions. The central part of the distribution agrees well with Levy stable distribution, while the tail deviate from it and shows another power law asymptotic behavior. In probability theory, a distribution or a random variable is said to be stable if a linear combination of two independent copies of a random sample has the same distributionup to location and scale parameters. The stable distribution family is also sometimes referred to as the Lévy alpha-stable distribution, after Paul Lévy, the first mathematician to have studied it. The scaling property on the sampling time interval of data is also well described by the crossover of the two distributions. Several stochastic models of the fluctuation dynamics of stock prices are proposed, which reproduce power law behavior of the probability density. The auto-correlation of financial time series is also an important problem for markets. There is no time correlation of price changes in daily scale, while from more detailed data analysis an exponential decay with a characteristic time τ = 4 minutes was found. The fact that there is no auto-correlation in daily scale is not equal to the independence of the time series in the scale. In fact there is auto-correlation of volatility (absolute value of price change) with a power law tail.

Portfolio is a set of stock issues. The Hamiltonian of the system is introduced and is expressed by spin-spin interactions as in spin glass models of disordered magnetic systems. The interaction coefficients between two stocks are phenomenologically determined by empirical data. They are derived from the covariance of sequences of up and down spins using fluctuation-response theorem. We start with the Hamiltonian expression of our system that contain N stock issues. It is a function of the configuration S consisting of N coded price changes Si (i = 1, 2, …, N ) at equal trading time. The interaction coefficients are also dynamical variables, because the interactions between stocks are thought to change from time to time. We divide a coefficient into two parts, the constant part Jij, which will be phenomenologically determined later, and the dynamical part δJij. The Hamiltonian including the interaction with external fields hi (i = 1,2,…,N) is defined as

H [S, δ, J, h] = ∑<i,j>[δJij2/2Δij – (Jij + δJij)SiSj] – ∑ihiSi —– (1)

The summation is taken over all pairs of stock issues. This form of Hamiltonian is that of annealed spin glass. The fluctuations δJij are assumed to distribute according to Gaussian function. The main part of statistical physics is the evaluation of partition function that is given by the following functional in this case

Z[h] = ∑{si} ∫∏<i,j> dδJij/√(2πΔij) e-H [S, δ, J, h] —– (2)

The integration over the variables δJij is easily performed and gives

Z[h] = A {si} e-Heff[S, h] —– (3)

Here the effective Hamiltonian Heff[S,h] is defined as

Heff[S, h] = – <i,j>JijSiSj – ∑ihiSi —– (4)

and A = e(1/2 ∆ij) is just a normalization factor which is irrelevant to the following step. This form of Hamiltonian with constant Jij is that of quenched spin glass.

The constant interaction coefficients Jij are still undetermined. We use fluctuation-response theorem which relates the susceptibility χij with the covariance Cij between dynamical variables in order to determine those constants, which is given by the equation,

χij = ∂mi/∂hj |h=0 = Cij —– (5)

Thouless-Anderson-Palmer (TAP) equation for quenched spin glass is

mi =tanh(∑jJijmj + hi – ∑jJij2(1 – mj2)mi —– (6)

Equation (5) and the linear approximation of the equation (6) yield the equation

kik − Jik)Ckj = δij —– (7)

Interpreting Cij as the time average of empirical data over a observation time rather than ensemble average, the constant interaction coefficients Jij is phenomenologically determined by the equation (7).

The energy spectra of the system, simply the portfolio energy, is defined as the eigenvalues of the Hamiltonian Heff[S,0]. The probability density of the portfolio energy can be obtained in two ways. We can calculate the probability density from data by the equation

p(E) ΔE = p(E – ΔE/2 ≤ E ≤ E + ΔE/2) —– (8)

This is a fully consistent phenomenological model for stock portfolios, which is expressed by the effective Hamiltonian (4). This model will be also applicable to other financial markets that show collective time evolutions, e.g., foreign exchange market, options markets, inter-market interactions.



Brassier starts his philosophical journey by undertaking the contrast between the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images of reality. This way, he accomplishes to undermine the reality of subjective experiences through his own brand of realism that finds its culmination in the overt skeptical view he possesses towards phenomenology. He asserts the upholding of the enlightenment legacy at all costs and admonishes the thinking creatures to pursue the enlightenment legacy right through to its ends. In a slightly apocalyptic tone to begin with, he sets his aim right when he talks about the defunct subject of philosophy and then claims “…philosophy is neither a medium of affirmation nor a source of justification, but rather the organon of extinction.” Continental philosophy has always held Materialism and Realism as hostile to each other, but for Brassier, ‘material’ only denotes a blockade thus indicating a point where thought fails. His book, ‘Nihil Unbound‘ is therefore an attempt to accolade the return to matter without assuming a pre-established harmony between the conceptual apparatus and the world. Nihilism for Brassier has nothing to do with the limitations of reason in apprehending the meaning of existence in the world nor a crisis ridden subjectivity. Nihilism is:

the unavoidable corollary of the realist conviction that there is a mind-independent reality, which despite the presumptions of human narcissism, is indifferent to our existence and oblivious to the ‘values’ and ‘meanings’ which we would drape over it in order to make it more hospitable.

Brassier asks of philosophers not to try to mend ways to suture the discordance between men and nature, either by positing the meaningfulness or purposefulness of life, as for him, nature isn’t particularly benevolent. Brassier opens the first part of the book by focusing on the disjunction between reality and thought, nature and reason and strongly contends the view of thought being transcendentally separate from nature.

As briefly mentioned above, the genesis of Brassier’s philosophy is from contrasting the ‘manifest’ and the ‘scientific’ images. The former being the conception of man as created by himself and the latter being the image of man as getting created by the ‘complex physical system’ in the words of Wilfred Sellars. Both these thinkers agree on the dominance of ‘manifest’ image controlling the way philosophy is done today, albeit in varying degrees as practiced on the continent and in the Anglo-speaking countries. The shared thinking although spanning 4 decades, does not mitigate the profound hostility they both connect with philosophers as against the ‘scientific’ image that is held culpable for robbing a person his self-intentionality. This is the point of departure for Brassier with regards to Sellars as the latter holds the primacy of the ‘manifest’ image, while unable to legitimize the ‘scientific’ image as a substantive derivation from ‘manifest’ image. Brassier is against this reductionism of the ‘Philosophical’ with regard to the ‘Scientific’. This position of anti-reductionism culled with the disjunction-ing of reason and nature is his primary import.

Mool-mantras, Doctrine of Accommodation and Phenomenology?

In the sacred writings of Guru Granth Sahib, Guru Nanak (the first guru of Sikhs) utters the Mool-mantra that occupies a central role, somehow depicting the entirety of Sikhism’s universally complex theology. And it is often claimed that for common benefit of all, these experiences (utterances) are articulated without interpretation or distortion. They are yathapurvam akalpyat – expressed as they are seen. According to Vinoba Bhave, the conception of God in Guru Nanak is based on the concept of Brahman and Aum in Vedanta. Brahman ‘is that from which the world originates’. It is the material, efficient and formal cause of the world. It is responsible for ‘the origin, sustenance and cessation of the world (Taittriya Upanishad).


God is Ananda, i.e. joy or bliss. “From (God’s) joy does spring all this Creation, by joy is it maintained, towards joy does it progress, and into joy does it enter.” (Sadhana by Rabindranath Tagore, 45)


“This world is Whole. That World is Whole. From Whole comes the Whole. If you take away Whole from Whole, what remains is Whole.”


This reminds me so much of the Christian theological “Doctrine of Accommodation“. Theologians stress on a form of truth (for eg, angels: good ones or the fallen ones, or, even what they somehow linguistically represented) that was neither allegorical nor metaphorical; that in a sense they really did look like how they appeared, but that also they should not be understood in an entirely literal way. This was known as the doctrine of accommodation and has occupied a central place in theology.

Are these Mool-mantras taken at their literal values? Somewhere phenomenology seems to be at work. This comparative-ness is not then really far-fetched. For instance, take Calvin‘s Commentary on Genesis. I quote in full,

If any one should inquire whether this vacuity did not previously exist, I answer, however true it may be that all parts of the earth were not overflowed by the waters; yet now, for the first time, a separation was ordained, whereas a confused admixture had previously existed. Moses describes the special use of this expanse, to divide the waters from the waters from which word arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned. The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theater which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses. And truly a longer inquiry into a matter open and manifest is superfluous. We see that the clouds suspended in the air, which threaten to fall upon our heads, yet leave us space to breathe. (Commentary on Genesis 1:6)

Here Calvin is talking about the firmament, and he denies allegory or other sophisticated forms of interpretation, instead affirming a general phenomenological reading. Moses is not making a sort of “cosmological” or “astronomical” claim but is instead describing things according to the way that they look from the ordinary human perspective. Moses does not intend any strict claim about physical science, and thus there is no need to “embrace by faith” something which is not being asserted or taught. He is merely speaking of “the visible form of the world.”