Capital As Power.


One has the Eric Fromm angle of consciousness as linear and directly proportional to exploitation as one of the strands of Marxian thinking, the non-linearity creeps up from epistemology on the technological side, with, something like, say Moore’s Law, where ascension of conscious thought is or could be likened to exponentials. Now, these exponentials are potent in ridding of the pronouns, as in the “I” having a compossibility with the “We”, for if these aren’t gotten rid of, there is asphyxiation in continuing with them, an effort, an energy expendable into the vestiges of waste, before Capitalism comes sweeping in over such deliberately pronounced islands of pronouns. This is where the sweep is of the “IT”. And this is emancipation of the highest order, where teleology would be replaced by Eschatology. Alienation would be replaced with emancipation. Teleology is alienating, whereas eschatology is emancipating. Agency would become un-agency. An emancipation from alienation, from being, into the arms of becoming, for the former is a mere snapshot of the illusory order, whereas the latter is a continuum of fluidity, the fluid dynamics of the deracinated from the illusory order. The “IT” is pure and brute materialism, the cosmic unfoldings beyond our understanding and importantly mirrored in on the terrestrial. “IT” is not to be realized. “It” is what engulfs us, kills us, and in the process emancipates us from alienation. “IT” is “Realism”, a philosophy without “we”, Capitalism’s excessive power. “IT” enslaves “us” to the point of us losing any identification. In a nutshell, theory of capital is a catalogue of heresies to be welcomed to set free from the vantage of an intention to emancipate economic thought from the etherealized spheres of choice and behaviors or from the paradigm of the disembodied minds.

Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler‘s Capital as Power A Study of Order and Creorder

Metaphysical Would-Be(s). Drunken Risibility.


If one were to look at Quine’s commitment to similarity, natural kinds, dispositions, causal statements, etc., it is evident, that it takes him close to Peirce’s conception of Thirdness – even if Quine in an utopian vision imagines that all such concepts in a remote future will dissolve and vanish in favor of purely microstructural descriptions.

A crucial difference remains, however, which becomes evident when one looks at Quine’s brief formula for ontological commitment, the famous idea that ‘to be is to be the value of a bound variable’. For even if this motto is stated exactly to avoid commitment to several different types of being, it immediately prompts the question: the equation, in which the variable is presumably bound, which status does it have? Governing the behavior of existing variable values, is that not in some sense being real?

This will be Peirce’s realist idea – that regularities, tendencies, dispositions, patterns, may possess real existence, independent of any observer. In Peirce, this description of Thirdness is concentrated in the expression ‘real possibility’, and even it may sound exceedingly metaphysical at a first glance, it amounts, at a closer look, to regularities charted by science that are not mere shorthands for collections of single events but do possess reality status. In Peirce, the idea of real possibilities thus springs from his philosophy of science – he observes that science, contrary to philosophy, is spontaneously realist, and is right in being so. Real possibilities are thus counterposed to mere subjective possibilities due to lack of knowledge on the part of the subject speaking: the possibility of ‘not known not to be true’.

In a famous piece of self-critique from his late, realist period, Peirce attacks his earlier arguments (from ‘How to Make Our Ideas Clear’, in the late 1890s considered by himself the birth certificate of pragmatism after James’s reference to Peirce as pragmatism’s inventor). Then, he wrote

let us ask what we mean by calling a thing hard. Evidently that it will not be scratched by many other substances. The whole conception of this quality, as of every other, lies in its conceived effects. There is absolutely no difference between a hard thing and a soft thing so long as they are not brought to the test. Suppose, then, that a diamond could be crystallized in the midst of a cushion of soft cotton, and should remain there until it was finally burned up. Would it be false to say that that diamond was soft? […] Reflection will show that the reply is this: there would be no falsity in such modes of speech.

More than twenty-five years later, however, he attacks this argument as bearing witness to the nominalism of his youth. Now instead he supports the

scholastic doctrine of realism. This is usually defined as the opinion that there are real objects that are general, among the number being the modes of determination of existent singulars, if, indeed, these be not the only such objects. But the belief in this can hardly escape being accompanied by the acknowledgment that there are, besides, real vagues, and especially real possibilities. For possibility being the denial of a necessity, which is a kind of generality, is vague like any other contradiction of a general. Indeed, it is the reality of some possibilities that pragmaticism is most concerned to insist upon. The article of January 1878 endeavored to gloze over this point as unsuited to the exoteric public addressed; or perhaps the writer wavered in his own mind. He said that if a diamond were to be formed in a bed of cotton-wool, and were to be consumed there without ever having been pressed upon by any hard edge or point, it would be merely a question of nomenclature whether that diamond should be said to have been hard or not. No doubt this is true, except for the abominable falsehood in the word MERELY, implying that symbols are unreal. Nomenclature involves classification; and classification is true or false, and the generals to which it refers are either reals in the one case, or figments in the other. For if the reader will turn to the original maxim of pragmaticism at the beginning of this article, he will see that the question is, not what did happen, but whether it would have been well to engage in any line of conduct whose successful issue depended upon whether that diamond would resist an attempt to scratch it, or whether all other logical means of determining how it ought to be classed would lead to the conclusion which, to quote the very words of that article, would be ‘the belief which alone could be the result of investigation carried sufficiently far.’ Pragmaticism makes the ultimate intellectual purport of what you please to consist in conceived conditional resolutions, or their substance; and therefore, the conditional propositions, with their hypothetical antecedents, in which such resolutions consist, being of the ultimate nature of meaning, must be capable of being true, that is, of expressing whatever there be which is such as the proposition expresses, independently of being thought to be so in any judgment, or being represented to be so in any other symbol of any man or men. But that amounts to saying that possibility is sometimes of a real kind. (The Essential Peirce Selected Philosophical Writings, Volume 2)

In the same year, he states, in a letter to the Italian pragmatist Signor Calderoni:

I myself went too far in the direction of nominalism when I said that it was a mere question of the convenience of speech whether we say that a diamond is hard when it is not pressed upon, or whether we say that it is soft until it is pressed upon. I now say that experiment will prove that the diamond is hard, as a positive fact. That is, it is a real fact that it would resist pressure, which amounts to extreme scholastic realism. I deny that pragmaticism as originally defined by me made the intellectual purport of symbols to consist in our conduct. On the contrary, I was most careful to say that it consists in our concept of what our conduct would be upon conceivable occasions. For I had long before declared that absolute individuals were entia rationis, and not realities. A concept determinate in all respects is as fictitious as a concept definite in all respects. I do not think we can ever have a logical right to infer, even as probable, the existence of anything entirely contrary in its nature to all that we can experience or imagine. 

Here lies the core of Peirce’s metaphysical insistence on the reality of ‘would-be’s. Real possibilities, or would-bes, are vague to the extent that they describe certain tendential, conditional behaviors only, while they do not prescribe any other aspect of the single objects they subsume. They are, furthermore, represented in rationally interrelated clusters of concepts: the fact that the diamond is in fact hard, no matter if it scratches anything or not, lies in the fact that the diamond’s carbon structure displays a certain spatial arrangement – so it is an aspect of the very concept of diamond. And this is why the old pragmatic maxim may not work without real possibilities: it is they that the very maxim rests upon, because it is they that provide us with the ‘conceived consequences’ of accepting a concept. The maxim remains a test to weed out empty concepts with no conceived consequences – that is, empty a priori reasoning and superfluous metaphysical assumptions. But what remains after the maxim has been put to use, is real possibilities. Real possibilities thus connect epistemology, expressed in the pragmatic maxim, to ontology: real possibilities are what science may grasp in conditional hypotheses.

The question is whether Peirce’s revision of his old ‘nominalist’ beliefs form part of a more general development in Peirce from nominalism to realism. The locus classicus of this idea is Max Fisch (Peirce, Semeiotic and Pragmatism) where Fisch outlines a development from an initial nominalism (albeit of a strange kind, refusing, as always in Peirce, the existence of individuals determinate in all respects) via a series of steps towards realism, culminating after the turn of the century. Fisch’s first step is then Peirce’s theory of the real as that which reasoning would finally have as its result; the second step his Berkeley review with its anti-nominalism and the idea that the real is what is unaffected by what we may think of it; the third step is his pragmatist idea that beliefs are conceived habits of action, even if he here clings to the idea that the conditionals in which habits are expressed are material implications only – like the definition of ‘hard’; the fourth step his reading of Abbott’s realist Scientific Theism (which later influenced his conception of scientific universals) and his introduction of the index in his theory of signs; the fifth step his acceptance of the reality of continuity; the sixth the introduction of real possibilities, accompanied by the development of existential graphs, topology and Peirce’s changing view of Hegelianism; the seventh, the identification of pragmatism with realism; the eighth ‘his last stronghold, that of Philonian or material implication’. A further realist development exchanging Peirce’s early frequentist idea of probability for a dispositional theory of probability was, according to Fisch, never finished.

The issue of implication concerns the old discussion quoted by Cicero between the Hellenistic logicians Philo and Diodorus. The former formulated what we know today as material implication, while the latter objected on common-sense ground that material implication does not capture implication in everyday language and thought and another implication type should be sought. As is well known, material implication says that p ⇒ q is equivalent to the claim that either p is false or q is true – so that p ⇒ q is false only when p is true and q is false. The problems arise when p is false, for any false p makes the implication true, and this leads to strange possibilities of true inferences. The two parts of the implication have no connection with each other at all, such as would be the spontaneous idea in everyday thought. It is true that Peirce as a logician generally supports material (‘Philonian’) implication – but it is also true that he does express some second thoughts at around the same time as the afterthoughts on the diamond example.

Peirce is a forerunner of the attempts to construct alternatives such as strict implication, and the reason why is, of course, that real possibilities are not adequately depicted by material implication. Peirce is in need of an implication which may somehow picture the causal dependency of q on p. The basic reason for the mature Peirce’s problems with the representation of real possibilities is not primarily logical, however. It is scientific. Peirce realizes that the scientific charting of anything but singular, actual events necessitates the real existence of tendencies and relations connecting singular events. Now, what kinds are those tendencies and relations? The hard diamond example seems to emphasize causality, but this probably depends on the point of view chosen. The ‘conceived consequences’ of the pragmatic maxim may be causal indeed: if we accept gravity as a real concept, then masses will attract one another – but they may all the same be structural: if we accept horse riders as a real concept, then we should expect horses, persons, the taming of horses, etc. to exist, or they may be teleological. In any case, the interpretation of the pragmatic maxim in terms of real possibilities paves the way for a distinction between empty a priori suppositions and real a priori structures.

Something Out of Almost Nothing. Drunken Risibility.

Kant’s first antinomy makes the error of the excluded third option, i.e. it is not impossible that the universe could have both a beginning and an eternal past. If some kind of metaphysical realism is true, including an observer-independent and relational time, then a solution of the antinomy is conceivable. It is based on the distinction between a microscopic and a macroscopic time scale. Only the latter is characterized by an asymmetry of nature under a reversal of time, i.e. the property of having a global (coarse-grained) evolution – an arrow of time – or many arrows, if they are independent from each other. Thus, the macroscopic scale is by definition temporally directed – otherwise it would not exist.

On the microscopic scale, however, only local, statistically distributed events without dynamical trends, i.e. a global time-evolution or an increase of entropy density, exist. This is the case if one or both of the following conditions are satisfied: First, if the system is in thermodynamic equilibrium (e.g. there is degeneracy). And/or second, if the system is in an extremely simple ground state or meta-stable state. (Meta-stable states have a local, but not a global minimum in their potential landscape and, hence, they can decay; ground states might also change due to quantum uncertainty, i.e. due to local tunneling events.) Some still speculative theories of quantum gravity permit the assumption of such a global, macroscopically time-less ground state (e.g. quantum or string vacuum, spin networks, twistors). Due to accidental fluctuations, which exceed a certain threshold value, universes can emerge out of that state. Due to some also speculative physical mechanism (like cosmic inflation) they acquire – and, thus, are characterized by – directed non-equilibrium dynamics, specific initial conditions, and, hence, an arrow of time.

It is a matter of debate whether such an arrow of time is

1) irreducible, i.e. an essential property of time,

2) governed by some unknown fundamental and not only phenomenological law,

3) the effect of specific initial conditions or

4) of consciousness (if time is in some sense subjective), or

5) even an illusion.

Many physicists favour special initial conditions, though there is no consensus about their nature and form. But in the context at issue it is sufficient to note that such a macroscopic global time-direction is the main ingredient of Kant’s first antinomy, for the question is whether this arrow has a beginning or not.

Time’s arrow is inevitably subjective, ontologically irreducible, fundamental and not only a kind of illusion, thus if some form of metaphysical idealism for instance is true, then physical cosmology about a time before time is mistaken or quite irrelevant. However, if we do not want to neglect an observer-independent physical reality and adopt solipsism or other forms of idealism – and there are strong arguments in favor of some form of metaphysical realism -, Kant’s rejection seems hasty. Furthermore, if a Kantian is not willing to give up some kind of metaphysical realism, namely the belief in a “Ding an sich“, a thing in itself – and some philosophers actually insisted that this is superfluous: the German idealists, for instance -, he has to admit that time is a subjective illusion or that there is a dualism between an objective timeless world and a subjective arrow of time. Contrary to Kant’s thoughts: There are reasons to believe that it is possible, at least conceptually, that time has both a beginning – in the macroscopic sense with an arrow – and is eternal – in the microscopic notion of a steady state with statistical fluctuations.

Is there also some physical support for this proposal?

Surprisingly, quantum cosmology offers a possibility that the arrow has a beginning and that it nevertheless emerged out of an eternal state without any macroscopic time-direction. (Note that there are some parallels to a theistic conception of the creation of the world here, e.g. in the Augustinian tradition which claims that time together with the universe emerged out of a time-less God; but such a cosmological argument is quite controversial, especially in a modern form.) So this possible overcoming of the first antinomy is not only a philosophical conceivability but is already motivated by modern physics. At least some scenarios of quantum cosmology, quantum geometry/loop quantum gravity, and string cosmology can be interpreted as examples for such a local beginning of our macroscopic time out of a state with microscopic time, but with an eternal, global macroscopic timelessness.

To put it in a more general, but abstract framework and get a sketchy illustration, consider the figure.


Physical dynamics can be described using “potential landscapes” of fields. For simplicity, here only the variable potential (or energy density) of a single field is shown. To illustrate the dynamics, one can imagine a ball moving along the potential landscape. Depressions stand for states which are stable, at least temporarily. Due to quantum effects, the ball can “jump over” or “tunnel through” the hills. The deepest depression represents the ground state.

In the common theories the state of the universe – the product of all its matter and energy fields, roughly speaking – evolves out of a metastable “false vacuum” into a “true vacuum” which has a state of lower energy (potential). There might exist many (perhaps even infinitely many) true vacua which would correspond to universes with different constants or laws of nature. It is more plausible to start with a ground state which is the minimum of what physically can exist. According to this view an absolute nothingness is impossible. There is something rather than nothing because something cannot come out of absolutely nothing, and something does obviously exist. Thus, something can only change, and this change might be described with physical laws. Hence, the ground state is almost “nothing”, but can become thoroughly “something”. Possibly, our universe – and, independent from this, many others, probably most of them having different physical properties – arose from such a phase transition out of a quasi atemporal quantum vacuum (and, perhaps, got disconnected completely). Tunneling back might be prevented by the exponential expansion of this brand new space. Because of this cosmic inflation the universe not only became gigantic but simultaneously the potential hill broadened enormously and got (almost) impassable. This preserves the universe from relapsing into its non-existence. On the other hand, if there is no physical mechanism to prevent the tunneling-back or makes it at least very improbable, respectively, there is still another option: If infinitely many universes originated, some of them could be long-lived only for statistical reasons. But this possibility is less predictive and therefore an inferior kind of explanation for not tunneling back.

Another crucial question remains even if universes could come into being out of fluctuations of (or in) a primitive substrate, i.e. some patterns of superposition of fields with local overdensities of energy: Is spacetime part of this primordial stuff or is it also a product of it? Or, more specifically: Does such a primordial quantum vacuum have a semi-classical spacetime structure or is it made up of more fundamental entities? Unique-universe accounts, especially the modified Eddington models – the soft bang/emergent universe – presuppose some kind of semi-classical spacetime. The same is true for some multiverse accounts describing our universe, where Minkowski space, a tiny closed, finite space or the infinite de Sitter space is assumed. The same goes for string theory inspired models like the pre-big bang account, because string and M- theory is still formulated in a background-dependent way, i.e. requires the existence of a semi-classical spacetime. A different approach is the assumption of “building-blocks” of spacetime, a kind of pregeometry also the twistor approach of Roger Penrose, and the cellular automata approach of Stephen Wolfram. The most elaborated accounts in this line of reasoning are quantum geometry (loop quantum gravity). Here, “atoms of space and time” are underlying everything.

Though the question whether semiclassical spacetime is fundamental or not is crucial, an answer might be nevertheless neutral with respect of the micro-/macrotime distinction. In both kinds of quantum vacuum accounts the macroscopic time scale is not present. And the microscopic time scale in some respect has to be there, because fluctuations represent change (or are manifestations of change). This change, reversible and relationally conceived, does not occur “within” microtime but constitutes it. Out of a total stasis nothing new and different can emerge, because an uncertainty principle – fundamental for all quantum fluctuations – would not be realized. In an almost, but not completely static quantum vacuum however, macroscopically nothing changes either, but there are microscopic fluctuations.

The pseudo-beginning of our universe (and probably infinitely many others) is a viable alternative both to initial and past-eternal cosmologies and philosophically very significant. Note that this kind of solution bears some resemblance to a possibility of avoiding the spatial part of Kant’s first antinomy, i.e. his claimed proof of both an infinite space without limits and a finite, limited space: The theory of general relativity describes what was considered logically inconceivable before, namely that there could be universes with finite, but unlimited space, i.e. this part of the antinomy also makes the error of the excluded third option. This offers a middle course between the Scylla of a mysterious, secularized creatio ex nihilo, and the Charybdis of an equally inexplicable eternity of the world.

In this context it is also possible to defuse some explanatory problems of the origin of “something” (or “everything”) out of “nothing” as well as a – merely assumable, but never provable – eternal cosmos or even an infinitely often recurring universe. But that does not offer a final explanation or a sufficient reason, and it cannot eliminate the ultimate contingency of the world.

Transcendentally Realist Modality. Thought of the Day 78.1


Let us start at the beginning first! Though the fact is not mentioned in Genesis, the first thing God said on the first day of creation was ‘Let there be necessity’. And there was necessity. And God saw necessity, that it was good. And God divided necessity from contingency. And only then did He say ‘Let there be light’. Several days later, Adam and Eve were introducing names for the animals into their language, and during a break between the fish and the birds, introduced also into their language modal auxiliary verbs, or devices that would be translated into English using modal auxiliary verbs, and rules for their use, rules according to which it can be said of some things that they ‘could’ have been otherwise, and of other things that they ‘could not’. In so doing they were merely putting labels on a distinction that was no more their creation than were the fishes of the sea or the beasts of the field or the birds of the air.

And here is the rival view. The failure of Genesis to mention any command ‘Let there be necessity’ is to be explained simply by the fact that no such command was issued. We have no reason to suppose that the language in which God speaks to the angels contains modal auxiliary verbs or any equivalent device. Sometime after the Tower of Babel some tribes found that their purposes would be better served by introducing into their language certain modal auxiliary verbs, and fixing certain rules for their use. When we say that this is necessary while that is contingent, we are applying such rules, rules that are products of human, not divine intelligence.

This theological language would have been the natural way for seventeenth or eighteenth century philosophers, who nearly all were or professed to be theists or deists, to discuss the matter. For many today, such language cannot be literally accepted, and if it is only taken metaphorically, then at least better than those who speak figuratively and frame the question as that of whether the ‘origin’ of necessity lies outside us or within us. So let us drop the theological language, and try again.

Well, here the first view: Ultimately reality as it is in itself, independently of our attempts to conceptualize and comprehend it, contains both facts about what is, and superfacts about what not only is but had to have been. Our modal usages, for instance, the distinction between the simple indicative ‘is’ and the construction ‘had to have been’, simply reflect this fundamental distinction in the world, a distinction that is and from the beginning always was there, independently of us and our concerns.

And here is the second view: We have reasons, connected with our various purposes in life, to use certain words, including ‘would’ and ‘might’, in certain ways, and thereby to make certain distinctions. The distinction between those things in the world that would have been no matter what and those that might have failed to be if only is a projection of the distinctions made in our language. Our saying there were necessities there before us is a retroactive application to the pre-human world of a way of speaking invented and created by human beings in order to solve human problems.

Well, that’s the second try. With it even if one has gotten rid of theology, unfortunately one has not gotten rid of all metaphors. The key remaining metaphor is the optical one: reflection vs projection. Perhaps the attempt should be to get rid of all metaphors, and admit that the two views are not so much philosophical theses or doctrines as ‘metaphilosophical’ attitudes or orientations: a stance that finds the ‘reflection’ metaphor congenial, and the stance that finds the ‘projection’ metaphor congenial. So, lets try a third time to describe the distinction between the two outlooks in literal terms, avoiding optics as well as theology.

To begin with, both sides grant that there is a correspondence or parallelism between two items. On the one hand, there are facts about the contrast between what is necessary and what is contingent. On the other hand, there are facts about our usage of modal auxiliary verbs such as ‘would’ and ‘might’, and these include, for instance, the fact that we have no use for questions of the form ‘Would 29 still have been a prime number if such-and- such?’ but may have use for questions of the form ‘Would 29 still have been the number of years it takes for Saturn to orbit the sun if such-and-such?’ The difference between the two sides concerns the order of explanation of the relation between the two parallel ranges of facts.

And what is meant by that? Well, both sides grant that ‘29 is necessarily prime’, for instance, is a proper thing to say, but they differ in the explanation why it is a proper thing to say. Asked why, the first side will say that ultimately it is simply because 29 is necessarily prime. That makes the proposition that 29 is necessarily prime true, and since the sentence ‘29 is necessarily prime’ expresses that proposition, it is true also, and a proper thing to say. The second side will say instead that ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is a proper thing to say because there is a rule of our language according to which it is a proper thing to say. This formulation of the difference between the two sides gets rid of metaphor, though it does put an awful lot of weight on the perhaps fragile ‘why’ and ‘because’.

Note that the adherents of the second view need not deny that 29 is necessarily prime. On the contrary, having said that the sentence ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is, per rules of our language, a proper thing to say, they will go on to say it. Nor need the adherents of the first view deny that recognition of the propriety of saying ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is enshrined in a rule of our language. The adherents of the first view need not even deny that proximately, as individuals, we learn that ‘29 is necessarily prime’ is a proper thing to say by picking up the pertinent rule in the course of learning our language. But the adherents of the first view will maintain that the rule itself is only proper because collectively, as the creators of the language, we or our remote answers have, in setting up the rule, managed to achieve correspondence with a pre-existing fact, or rather, a pre-existing superfact, the superfact that 29 is necessarily prime. The difference between the two views is, in the order of explanation.

The adherents regarding labels for the two sides, or ‘metaphilosophical’ stances, rather than inventing new ones, will simply take two of the most overworked terms in the philosophical lexicon and give them one more job to do, calling the reflection view ‘realism’ about modality, and the projection view ‘pragmatism’. That at least will be easy to remember, since ‘realism’ and ‘reflection’ begin with the same first two letters, as do ‘pragmatism’ and ‘projection’. The realist/pragmatist distinction has bearing across a range of issues and problems, and above all it has bearing on the meta-issue of which issues are significant. For the two sides will, or ought to, recognize quite different questions as the central unsolved problems in the theory of modality.

For those on the realist side, the old problem of the ultimate source of our knowledge of modality remains, even if it is granted that the proximate source lies in knowledge of linguistic conventions. For knowledge of linguistic conventions constitutes knowledge of a reality independent of us only insofar as our linguistic conventions reflect, at least to some degree, such an ultimate reality. So for the realist the problem remains of explaining how such degree of correspondence as there is between distinctions in language and distinctions in the world comes about. If the distinction in the world is something primary and independent, and not a mere projection of the distinction in language, then how the distinction in language comes to be even imperfectly aligned with the distinction in the world remains to be explained. For it cannot be said that we have faculties responsive to modal facts independent of us – not in any sense of ‘responsive’ implying that if the facts had been different, then our language would have been different, since modal facts couldn’t have been different. What then is the explanation? This is the problem of the epistemology of modality as it confronts the realist, and addressing it is or ought to be at the top of the realist agenda.

As for the pragmatist side, a chief argument of thinkers from Kant to Ayer and Strawson and beyond for their anti-realist stance has been precisely that if the distinction we perceive in reality is taken to be merely a projection of a distinction created by ourselves, then the epistemological problem dissolves. That seems more like a reason for hoping the Kantian or Ayerite or Strawsonian view is the right one, than for believing that it is; but in any case, even supposing the pragmatist view is the right one, and the problems of the epistemology of modality are dissolved, still the pragmatist side has an important unanswered question of its own to address. The pragmatist account, begins by saying that we have certain reasons, connected with our various purposes in life, to use certain words, including ‘would’ and ‘might’, in certain ways, and thereby to make certain distinctions. What the pragmatist owes us is an account of what these purposes are, and how the rules of our language help us to achieve them. Addressing that issue is or ought to be at the top of the pragmatists’ to-do list.

While the positivist Ayer dismisses all metaphysics, the ordinary-language philosopher Strawson distinguishes good metaphysics, which he calls ‘descriptive’, from bad metaphysics, which he calls ‘revisionary’, but which rather be called ‘transcendental’ (without intending any specifically Kantian connotations). Descriptive metaphysics aims to provide an explicit account of our ‘conceptual scheme’, of the most general categories of commonsense thought, as embodied in ordinary language. Transcendental metaphysics aims to get beyond or behind all merely human conceptual schemes and representations to ultimate reality as it is in itself, an aim that Ayer and Strawson agree is infeasible and probably unintelligible. The descriptive/transcendental divide in metaphysics is a paradigmatically ‘metaphilosophical’ issue, one about what philosophy is about. Realists about modality are paradigmatic transcendental metaphysicians. Pragmatists must in the first instance be descriptive metaphysicians, since we must to begin with understand much better than we currently do how our modal distinctions work and what work they do for us, before proposing any revisions or reforms. And so the difference between realists and pragmatists goes beyond the question of what issue should come first on the philosopher’s agenda, being as it is an issue about what philosophical agendas are about.

Evolutionary Game Theory. Note Quote


In classical evolutionary biology the fitness landscape for possible strategies is considered static. Therefore optimization theory is the usual tool in order to analyze the evolution of strategies that consequently tend to climb the peaks of the static landscape. However in more realistic scenarios the evolution of populations modifies the environment so that the fitness landscape becomes dynamic. In other words, the maxima of the fitness landscape depend on the number of specimens that adopt every strategy (frequency-dependent landscape). In this case, when the evolution depends on agents’ actions, game theory is the adequate mathematical tool to describe the process. But this is precisely the scheme in that the evolving physical laws (i.e. algorithms or strategies) are generated from the agent-agent interactions (bottom-up process) submitted to natural selection.

The concept of evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) is central to evolutionary game theory. An ESS is defined as that strategy that cannot be displaced by any alternative strategy when being followed by the great majority – almost all of systems in a population. In general,

an ESS is not necessarily optimal; however it might be assumed that in the last stages of evolution — before achieving the quantum equilibrium — the fitness landscape of possible strategies could be considered static or at least slow varying. In this simplified case an ESS would be one with the highest payoff therefore satisfying an optimizing criterion. Different ESSs could exist in other regions of the fitness landscape.

In the information-theoretic Darwinian approach it seems plausible to assume as optimization criterion the optimization of information flows for the system. A set of three regulating principles could be:

Structure: The complexity of the system is optimized (maximized).. The definition that is adopted for complexity is Bennett’s logical depth that for a binary string is the time needed to execute the minimal program that generates such string. There is no a general acceptance of the definition of complexity, neither is there a consensus on the relation between the increase of complexity – for a certain definition – and Darwinian evolution. However, it seems that there is some agreement on the fact that, in the long term, Darwinian evolution should drive to an increase in complexity in the biological realm for an adequate natural definition of this concept. Then the complexity of a system at time in this theory would be the Bennett’s logical depth of the program stored at time in its Turing machine. The increase of complexity is a characteristic of Lamarckian evolution, and it is also admitted that the trend of evolution in the Darwinian theory is in the direction in which complexity grows, although whether this tendency depends on the timescale – or some other factors – is still not very clear.

Dynamics: The information outflow of the system is optimized (minimized). The information is the Fisher information measure for the probability density function of the position of the system. According to S. A. Frank, natural selection acts maximizing the Fisher information within a Darwinian system. As a consequence, assuming that the flow of information between a system and its surroundings can be modeled as a zero-sum game, Darwinian systems would follow dynamics.

Interaction: The interaction between two subsystems optimizes (maximizes) the complexity of the total system. The complexity is again equated to the Bennett’s logical depth. The role of Interaction is central in the generation of composite systems, therefore in the structure for the information processor of composite systems resulting from the logical interconnections among the processors of the constituents. There is an enticing option of defining the complexity of a system in contextual terms as the capacity of a system for anticipating the behavior at t + ∆t of the surrounding systems included in the sphere of radius r centered in the position X(t) occupied by the system. This definition would directly drive to the maximization of the predictive power for the systems that maximized their complexity. However, this magnitude would definitely be very difficult to even estimate, in principle much more than the usual definitions for complexity.

Quantum behavior of microscopic systems should now emerge from the ESS. In other terms, the postulates of quantum mechanics should be deduced from the application of the three regulating principles on our physical systems endowed with an information processor.

Let us apply Structure. It is reasonable to consider that the maximization of the complexity of a system would in turn maximize the predictive power of such system. And this optimal statistical inference capacity would plausibly induce the complex Hilbert space structure for the system’s space of states. Let us now consider Dynamics. This is basically the application of the principle of minimum Fisher information or maximum Cramer-Rao bound on the probability distribution function for the position of the system. The concept of entanglement seems to be determinant to study the generation of composite systems, in particular in this theory through applying Interaction. The theory admits a simple model that characterizes the entanglement between two subsystems as the mutual exchange of randomizers (R1, R2), programs (P1, P2) – with their respective anticipation modules (A1, A2) – and wave functions (Ψ1, Ψ2). In this way, both subsystems can anticipate not only the behavior of their corresponding surrounding systems, but also that of the environment of its partner entangled subsystem. In addition, entanglement can be considered a natural phenomenon in this theory, a consequence of the tendency to increase the complexity, and therefore, in a certain sense, an experimental support to the theory.

In addition, the information-theoretic Darwinian approach is a minimalist realist theory – every system follows a continuous trajectory in time, as in Bohmian mechanics, a local theory in physical space – in this theory apparent nonlocality, as in Bell’s inequality violations, would be an artifact of the anticipation module in the information space, although randomness would necessarily be intrinsic to nature through the random number generator methodologically associated with every fundamental system at t = 0, and as essential ingredient to start and fuel – through variation – Darwinian evolution. As time increases, random events determined by the random number generators would progressively be replaced by causal events determined by the evolving programs that gradually take control of the elementary systems. Randomness would be displaced by causality as physical Darwinian evolution gave rise to the quantum equilibrium regime, but not completely, since randomness would play a crucial role in the optimization of strategies – thus, of information flows – as game theory states.

Iain Hamilton Grant’s Schelling in Opposition to Fichte. Note Quote.


The stated villain of Philosophies of Nature is not Hegelianism but rather ‘neo-Fichteanism’. It is Grant’s ‘Philosophies of Nature After Schelling‘, which takes up the issue of graduating Schelling to escape the accoutrements of Kantian and Fichtean narrow transcendentalism. Grant frees Schelling from the grips of narrow minded inertness and mechanicality in nature that Kant and Fichte had presented nature with. This idea is the Deleuzean influence on Grant. Manuel De Landa makes a vociferous case in this regard. According to De Landa, the inertness of matter was rubbished by Deleuze in the way that Deleuze sought for a morphogenesis of form thereby launching a new kind of materialism. This is the anti-essentialist position of Deleuze. Essentialism says that matter and energy are inert, they do not have any morphogenetic capabilities. They cannot give rise to new forms on their own. Disciplines like complexity theory, non-linear dynamics do give matter its autonomy over inertness, its capabilities in terms of charge. But its account of the relationship between Fichte and Schelling actually obscures the rich meaning of speculation in Hegel and after. Grant quite accurately recalls that Schelling confronted Fichte’s identification of the ‘not I’ with passive nature – the consequence of identifying all free activity with the ‘I’ alone. For Grant, that which Jacobi termed ‘speculative egotism’ becomes the nightmare of modern philosophy and of technological modernity at large. The ecological concern is never quite made explicit in Philosophies of Nature. Yet Grant’s introduction to Schelling’s On the World Soul helps to contextualise the meaning of his ‘geology of morals’.

What we miss from Grant’s critique of Fichte is the manner by which the corrective, positive characterisation of nature proceeds from Schelling’s confirmation of Fichte’s rendering of the fact of consciousness (Tatsache) into the act of consciousness (Tathandlung). Schelling, as a consequence, becomes singularly critical of contemplative speculation, since activity now implies working on nature and thereby changing it – along with it, we might say – rather than either simply observing it or even experimenting upon it.

In fact, Grant reads Schelling only in opposition to Fichte, with drastic consequences for his speculative realism: the post-Fichtean element of Schelling’s naturephilosophy allows for the new sense of speculation he will share with Hegel – even though they will indeed turn this against Kant and Fichte. Without this account, we are left with the older, contemplative understanding of metaphysical speculation, which leads to a certain methodologism in Grant’s study. Hence, ‘the principle method of naturephilosophy consists in “unconditioning” the phenomena’. Relatedly, Meillassoux defines the ‘speculative’ as ‘every type of thinking’ – not acting, – ‘that claims to be able to access some form of absolute’.

In direct contrast to this approach, the collective ‘system programme’ of Hegel, Schelling and Hölderlin was not a programme for thinking alone. Their revolutionised sense of speculation, from contemplation of the stars to reform of the worldly, is overlooked by today’s speculative realism – a philosophy that, ‘refuses to interrogate reality through human (linguistic, cultural or political) mediations of it’. We recall that Kant similarly could not extend his Critique to speculative reason precisely on account of his contemplative determination of pure reason (in terms of the hierarchical gap between reason and the understanding). Grant’s ‘geology of morals’ does not oppose ‘Kanto-Fichtean philosophy’, as he has it, but rather remains structurally within the sphere of Kant’s pre-political metaphysics.

Odyssey. Note Quote.

In tracing an interpretation of the Odyssey it is not necessary to follow the order of the poem as arranged by Homer or by whoever compiled the Homeric legends; it is easier and more rewarding to take the simple narrative in the natural sequence of events. After leaving the battlefield of Troy, Odysseus embarks for his native isle, “Ithaca the Fair,” expecting to arrive there quickly; but at the very outset a tempest drives the fleet off its course, and a great fight impedes his progress. The destruction of all his ships but one, and of many of the sailors, follows quickly. One of the strangest incidents in this introductory part is the encounter with Polyphemus, the Cyclopean giant with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. Before we shrug him off as a creature of early man’s distorted imagination, we should hold in mind the possibility of a symbolic meaning. Creatures of a similar type were mentioned by many archaic peoples far removed from each other; possibly they referred to some past event in human history, now forgotten.


After their escape from this one-eyed monster and some further perilous adventures, Odysseus and his companions soon reach the island of the enchantress Circe, who represents the fascination of sensual delights. Odysseus is unaffected by the gross enticements which overwhelm his fellows, now turned into swine by the goddess; and his boldness and “confidence in heaven” finally conquer the temptress and compel her to serve him. She restores the men to human form and instructs Odysseus how to find the way to the Underworld.


The entrance into Hell or the Underworld, the “open tomb,” has more than one meaning in ancient allegories, and is always introduced in some form in myths of initiation; Orpheus, Aeneas and many others had to make the dread “descent.” In the legend of Perseus and Andromeda, the hero aided by the gods flies to the hideous regions of cold and darkness and destroys the deadly Medusa before he can rescue the princess of Ethiopia from the monster. For Odysseus the event is an ordeal of terror. Circe has warned him that before he may go further, he must gain information about the future from Tiresias, a venerable prophet, who lives with the inhabitants of Hades, though he himself is not dead. The approach to the entire experience is surrounded by fearful dangers and to pass safely through the multitudes of vengeful shades calls for the highest physical and moral courage. Like all heroes of epics of the soul, he has to traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death: to face the shades, the lingering remains of past sins and errors; then to learn what is necessary for his further progress.


The tone of the poem changes at this point; the lightness and gaiety with which Odysseus has related his adventures is replaced by a deep solemnity, and the scenes of Hades are described with intense vividness and many touches of realism. Are these portrayals actual revelations of postmortem life? Leaving the more impure regions, Odysseus moves on, sees stern Minos, the Judge of the Dead, and even gets a passing view of the heavenly world or the Elysian fields, where the higher and immortal parts of man are held to exist between incarnations on earth. (Plato and Plutarch give valuable insights into the Greek teachings on this mysterious subject which are found to be practically identical with the Egyptian, Indian, and other ancient views of these after-death states.)

At length, having interviewed the sage Tiresias, Odysseus returns to Circe who outlines the perils still lying ahead on his homeward journey. Then come the hazardous Straits between Scylla and Charybdis, and the subtle allurements of the Sirens. Exquisitely fair, they offer him the satisfaction of the pride of knowledge, telling him they know “Whate’er beneath the sun’s bright journey lies,” and singing with all the charm of celestial music:

Blest is the man ordain’d our voice to hear,
The song instructs the soul, and charms the ear.
Approach! thy soul shall into raptures rise!
Approach! and learn new wisdom from the wise.

Having passed successfully through the trials of the Underworld, will he be overcome by pride and rash self-confidence? Knowing well the overwhelming power of this temptation, the hero takes every precaution, has himself tied to the mast and stops the ears of his crew with wax against the Sirens’ songs. They steer safely through the Straits — only to plunge again into difficulty when his men, to satisfy their gluttony, kill and devour Apollo’s sacred oxen. This so arouses the wrath of the god that he sends a great tempest to destroy the last of Odysseus’ crew, and the brave man is left with nothing but his own strength and the favor of Athena, his guide.

In his desperation and loneliness he meets with a temptation that almost proves his undoing. He succumbs for seven years to the blandishments of the lovely nymph Calypso in her enchanted Atlantean island. Calypso even offers him “immortal life, exempt from age or woe.” But with the help of Athena, the personification of divine wisdom, he summons the strength to resist.


This is one of the passages in the Odyssey that reveals the high understanding of the poet and the profound quality of his teaching. For here is shown the wide gulf between any artificial prolongation of the life of the personality with its selfish cravings and that genuine immortality born of steadfast aspiration and self-control which leads to union with one’s inner god. Such a philosophy nourishes the roots of our being and reminds us of the words of the Nazarene:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. –– Matthew, 16:24-5

Paul, the wise master builder, in common with the great teachers of antiquity, refers to the same principle when he speaks of being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.” This is a cryptic saying suggesting the spontaneous springing into activity of the power of intuition which sees the difference between a nobler life and the delusions of sensual gratification.

When Odysseus makes his decision, the irresistible power of the Olympian deities is exerted in his favor, Calypso abandons her inducements and, like Circe, is transformed from a temptress into a helper. Odysseus builds a new vessel with his own hands and sets out joyfully for home, a voyage still not without its risks. Upon his arrival, he discovers the terrible conditions to which his wife and son have been reduced by the outrageous conduct of her admirers and soon perceives that his greatest battle is yet to come. His wife, Penelope, who stands for the climax of his endeavors, his goal, does not immediately throw herself into his arms. Ragged, worn, and disguised as an old man, he is not easily recognized by her, though his aged nurse and faithful dog know him quickly. Even when Athena restores him to the prime of life, and to greater dignity and beauty than before, he has to prove his identity to Penelope before she will accept him. This hesitation on her part is not, as some have thought, a blemish on the story; it could not be otherwise. It is traditional that anyone wishing recognition by the higher self must make a clear demand; he must unmistakably recognize and call upon his inner god before it can help him.


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew., 7:7).

Odysseus’ supreme opportunity comes when he finds his palace invaded and his wife surrounded by a mob of suitors, all trying to persuade her that he is surely dead and that she should choose a second husband from among them. Repugnant as they are, they have no power over Odysseus, but he must destroy them before he can regain his rightful place. They represent lingering traces of lower desires which must be slain forever if he will be master in his own household. At last the battle is won, the evil forces overpowered, and Odysseus, calm, purified, asserts his noble identity to Penelope and is joyously received by her.

From a practical point of view, the scene of this last struggle and the method adopted by Odysseus in challenging the suitors may appear singular, but there is good warrant for these in the mystical symbolism obviously familiar to Homer. The contest takes place at close quarters, in the confined space of the palace hall, yet the hero has to depend upon his mighty bow for success — the bow that none other can wield — instead of the more logical weapons of sword or spear. The bow is the weapon of Apollo, god of light, and the day of Odysseus’ victory is sacred to that deity. In Hindu philosophy also, the bow, or in some cases the arrow, stands for man himself who must be strong enough in texture to stand the strain. In one of the Upanishads, it says:

Having taken the bow, the great weapon, let him place on it the arrow, sharpened by devotion. Then, having drawn it with a thought directed to That which is, hit the mark, O friend — the Indestructible. . . . It is to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and then, as the arrow becomes one with the target, he will become one with Brahman. — Mundaka,II ii, 3-4

The Odyssey closes with the hero, now triumphant as the rightful king and leader, going forth and subduing the few remaining rebels after which, the poet says, the “willing nations knew their lawful lord.” His future reign is left to the imagination, but it is secure in peace and wisdom for, having conquered the enemies in his own house, he cannot fail.

Duality’s Anti-Realism or Poisoning Ontological Realism: The Case of Vanishing Ontology. Note Quote.


If the intuitive quality of the external ontological object is diminished piece by piece during the evolutionary progress of physical theory (which must be acknowledged also in a hidden parameter framework), is there any core of the notion of an ontological object at all that can be trusted to be immune against scientific decomposition?

Quantum mechanics cannot answer this question. Contemporary physics is in a quite different position. The full dissolution of ontology is a characteristic process of particle physics whose unfolding starts with quantum mechanics and gains momentum in gauge field theory until, in string theory, the ontological object has simply vanished.

The concept to be considered is string duality, with the remarkable phenomenon of T-duality according to which a string wrapped around a small compact dimension can as well be understood as a string that is not wrapped but moves freely along a large compact dimension. The phenomenon is rooted in the quantum principles but clearly transcends what one is used to in the quantum world. It is not a mere case of quantum indeterminacy concerning two states of the system. We rather face two theoretical formulations which are undistinguishable in principle so that they cannot be interpreted as referring to two different states at all. Nevertheless the two formulations differ in characteristics which lie at the core of any meaningful ontology of an external world. They differ in the shape of space-time and they differ in form and topological position of the elementary objects. The fact that those characteristics are reduced to technical parameters whose values depend on the choice of the theoretical formulation contradicts ontological scientific realism in the most straightforward way. If a situation can be described by two different sets of elementary objects depending on the choice of the theoretical framework, how can it make sense to assert that these ontological objects actually exist in an external world?

The question gets even more virulent as T-duality by no means remains the only duality relation that surfaces in string theory. It turns out that the existence of dualities is one of string theory’s most characteristic features. They seem to pop up wherever one looks for them. Probably the most important role played by duality relations today is to connect all different superstring theories. Before 1995 physicists knew 5 different types of superstring theory. Then it turned out that these 5 theories and a 6th by then unknown theory named ‘M-theory’ are interconnected by duality relations. Two types of duality are involved. Some theories can be transformed into each other through inversion of a compactification radius, which is the phenomenon we know already under the name of T-duality. Others can be transformed into each other by inversion of the string coupling constant. This duality is called S-duality. Then there is M-theory, where the string coupling constant is transformed into an additional 11th dimension whose size is proportional to the coupling strength of the dual theory. The described web of dualities connects theories whose elementary objects have different symmetry structure and different dimensionality. M-theory even has a different number of spatial dimensions than its co-theories. Duality nevertheless implies that M-theory and the 5 possible superstring theories only represent different formulations of one single actual theory. This statement constitutes the basis for string theory’s uniqueness claims and shows the pivotal role played by the duality principle.

An evaluation of the philosophical implications of duality in modern string theory must first acknowledge that the problems to identify uniquely the ontological basis of a scientific theory are as old as the concept of invisible scientific objects itself. Complex theories tend to allow the insertion of ontology at more than one level of their structure. It is not a priori clear in classical electromagnetism whether the field or the potential should be understood as the fundamental physical object and one may wonder similarly in quantum field theory whether that concept’s basic object is the particle or the field. Questions of this type clearly pose a serious philosophical problem. Some philosophers like Quine have drawn the conclusion to deny any objective basis for the imputation of ontologies. Philosophers with a stronger affinity for realism however often stress that there do exist arguments which are able to select a preferable ontological set after all. It might also be suggested that ontological alternatives at different levels of the theoretical structure do not pose a threat to realism but should be interpreted merely as different parameterisations of ontological reality. The problem is created at a philosophical level by imputing an ontology to a physical theory whose structure neither depends on nor predetermines uniquely that imputation. The physicist puts one compact theoretical structure into space-time and the philosopher struggles with the question at which level ontological claims should be inserted.

The implications of string-duality have an entirely different quality. String duality really posits different ‘parallel’ empirically indistinguishable versions of structure in spacetime which are based on different sets of elementary objects. This statement is placed at the physical level independently of any philosophical interpretation. Thus it transfers the problem of the lack of ontological uniqueness from a philosophical to a physical level and makes it much more difficult to cure. If theories with different sets of elementary objects give the same physical world (i. e. show the same pattern of observables), the elementary object cannot be seen as the unique foundation of the physical world any more. There seems to be no way to avoid this conclusion. There exists an additional aspect of duality that underlines its anti-ontological character. Duality does not just spell destruction for the notion of the ontological scientific object but in a sense offers a replacement as well.

Do there remain any loop-holes in duality’s anti-realist implications which could be used by the die-hard realist? A natural objection to the asserted crucial philosophical importance of duality can be based on the fact, that duality was not invented in the context of string theory. It is known since the times of P. M. Dirac that quantum electrodynamics with magnetic monopoles would be dual to a theory with inverted coupling constant and exchanged electric and magnetic charges. The question arises, if duality is poison to ontological realism, why didn’t it have its effect already at the level of quantum electrodynamics. The answer gives a nice survey of possible measures to save ontological realism. As it will turn out, they all fail in string theory.

In the case of quantum-electrodynamics the realist has several arguments to counter the duality threat. First, duality looks more like an accidental oddity that appears in an unrealistic scenario than like a characteristic feature of the world. No one has observed magnetic monopoles, which renders the problem hypothetical. And even if there were magnetic monopoles, an embedding of electromagnetism into a fuller description of the natural forces would destroy the dual structure anyway.

In string theory the situation is very different. Duality is no ‘lucky strike’ any more, which just by chance arises in a certain scenario that is not the real one anyway. As we have seen, it rather represents a core feature of the emerging theoretical structure and cannot be ignored. A second option open to the realist at the level of quantum electrodynamics is to shift the ontological posit. Some philosophers of quantum physics argue that the natural elementary object of quantum field theory is the quantum field, which represents something like the potentiality to produce elementary particles. One quantum field covers the full sum over all variations of particle exchange which have to be accounted for in a quantum process. The philosopher who posits the quantum field to be the fundamental real object discovered by quantum field theory understands the single elementary particles as mere mathematical entities introduced to calculate the behaviour of the quantum field. Dual theories from his perspective can be taken as different technical procedures to calculate the behaviour of the univocal ontological object, the electromagnetic quantum field. The phenomenon of duality then does not appear as a threat to the ontological concept per se but merely as an indication in favour of an ontologisation of the field instead of the particle.

The field theoretical approach to interpret the quantum field as the ontological object does not have any pendent in string theory. String theory only exists as a perturbative theory. There seems to be no way to introduce anything like a quantum field that would cover the full expansion of string exchanges. In the light of duality this lack of a unique ontological object arguably appears rather natural. The reason is related to another point that makes string dualities more dramatic than its field theoretical predecessor. String theory includes gravitation. Therefore object (the string geometry) and space-time are not independent. Actually it turns out that the string geometry in a way carries all information about space-time as well. This dependence of space-time on string-geometry makes it difficult already to imagine how it should be possible to put into this very spacetime some kind of overall field whose coverage of all string realisations actually implies coverage of variations of spacetime itself. The duality context makes the paradoxical quality of such an attempt more transparent. If two dual theories with different radii of a compactified dimension shall be covered by the same ontological object in analogy to the quantum field in field theory, this object obviously cannot live in space and time. If it would, it had to choose one of the two spacetime versions endorsed by the dual theories, thereby discriminating the other one. This theory however should not be expected to be a theory of objects in spacetime and therefore does not rise any hopes to redeem the external ontological perspective.

A third strategy to save ontological realism is based on the following argument: In quantum electrodynamics the difference between the dual theories boils down to a mere replacement of a weak coupling constant which allows perturbative calculation by a strong one which does not. Therefore the choice is open between a natural formulation and a clumsy untreatable one which maybe should just be discarded as an artificial construction.

Today string theory cannot tell whether its final solution will put its parameters comfortably into the low-coupling-constant-and-large-compact-dimension-regime of one of the 5 superstring theories or M-theory. This might be the case but it might as well happen, that the solution lies in a region of parameter space where no theory clearly stands out in this sense. However, even if there was one preferred theory, the simple discarding of the others could not save realism as in the case of field theory. First, the argument of natural choice is not really applicable to T-duality. A small compactification radius does not render a theory intractable like a large coupling constant. The choice of the dual version with a large radius thus looks more like a convention than anything else. Second, the choice of both compactification radii and string coupling constants in string theory is the consequence of a dynamical process that has to be calculated itself. Calculation thus stands before the selection of a certain point in parameter space and consequently also before a possible selection of the ontological objects. The ontological objects therefore, even if one wanted to hang on to their meaningfulness in the final scenario, would appear as a mere product of prior dynamics and not as a priori actors in the game.

Summing up, the phenomenon of duality is admittedly a bit irritating for the ontological realist in field theory but he can live with it. In string theory however, the field theoretical strategies to save realism all fail. The position assumed by the duality principle in string theory clearly renders obsolete the traditional realist understanding of scientific objects as smaller cousins of visible ones. The theoretical posits of string theory get their meaning only relative to their theoretical framework and must be understood as mathematical concepts without any claim to ‘corporal’ existence in an external world. The world of string theory has cut all ties with classical theories about physical bodies. To stick to ontological realism in this altered context, would be inadequate to the elementary changes which characterize the new situation. The demise of ontology in string theory opens new perspectives on the positions where the stress is on the discontinuity of ontological claims throughout the history of scientific theories.



Causation is a form of event generation. To present an explicit definition of causation requires introducing some ontological concepts to formally characterize what is understood by ‘event’.

The concept of individual is the basic primitive concept of any ontological theory. Individuals associate themselves with other individuals to yield new individuals. It follows that they satisfy a calculus, and that they are rigorously characterized only through the laws of such a calculus. These laws are set with the aim of reproducing the way real things associate. Specifically, it is postulated that every individual is an element of a set s in such a way that the structure S = ⟨s, ◦, ◻⟩ is a commutative monoid of idempotents. This is a simple additive semi-group with neutral element.

In the structure S, s is the set of all individuals, the element ◻ ∈ s is a fiction called the null individual, and the binary operation ◦ is the association of individuals. Although S is a mathematical entity, the elements of s are not, with the only exception of ◻, which is a fiction introduced to form a calculus. The association of any element of s with ◻ yields the same element. The following definitions characterize the composition of individuals.

1. x ∈ s is composed ⇔ (∃ y, z) s (x = y ◦ z)
2. x ∈ s is simple ⇔ ∼ (∃ y, z) s (x = y ◦ z)
3. x ⊂ y ⇔ x ◦ y = y (x is part of y ⇔ x ◦ y = y)
4. Comp(x) ≡ {y ∈ s|y ⊂ x} is the composition of x.

Real things are distinguished from abstract individuals because they have a number of properties in addition to their capability of association. These properties can be intrinsic (Pi) or relational (Pr). The intrinsic properties are inherent and they are represented by predicates or unary applications, whereas relational properties depend upon more than a single thing and are represented by n-ary predicates, with n ≥ 1. Examples of intrinsic properties are electric charge and rest mass, whereas velocity of macroscopic bodies and volume are relational properties.

An individual with its properties make up a thing X : X =< x, P(x) >

Here P(x) is the collection of properties of the individual x. A material thing is an individual with concrete properties, i.e. properties that can change in some respect.

The state of a thing X is a set of functions S(X) from a domain of reference M (a set that can be enumerable or nondenumerable) to the set of properties PX. Every function in S(X) represents a property in PX. The set of the physically accessible states of a thing X is the lawful state space of X : SL(X). The state of a thing is represented by a point in SL(X). A change of a thing is an ordered pair of states. Only changing things can be material. Abstract things cannot change since they have only one state (their properties are fixed by definition).

A legal statement is a restriction upon the state functions of a given class of things. A natural law is a property of a class of material things represented by an empirically corroborated legal statement.

The ontological history h(X) of a thing X is a subset of SL(X) defined by h(X) = {⟨t, F(t)⟩|t ∈ M}

where t is an element of some auxiliary set M, and F are the functions that represent the properties of X.

If a thing is affected by other things we can introduce the following definition:

h(Y/X ) : “history of the thing Y in presence of the thing X”.

Let h(X) and h(Y) be the histories of the things X and Y, respectively. Then

h(Y/X) = {⟨t,H(t)⟩|t ∈ M},

where H≠ F is the total state function of Y as affected by the existence of X, and F is the total state function of X in the absence of Y. The history of Y in presence of X is different from the history of Y without X .

We can now introduce the notion of action:

X ▷ Y : “X acts on Y”

X ▷ Y =def h(Y/X) ≠ h(Y)

An event is a change of a thing X, i.e. an ordered pair of states:

(s1, s2) ∈ EL(X) = SL(X) × SL(X)

The space EL(X) is called the event space of X.

Causality is a relation between events, i.e. a relation between changes of states of concrete things. It is not a relation between things. Only the related concept of ‘action’ is a relation between things. Specifically,

C'(x): “an event in a thing x is caused by some unspecified event exxi“.

C'(x) =def (∃ exxi) [exxi ∈ EL(X) ⇔ xi ▷ x.

C(x, y): “an event in a thing x is caused by an event in a thing y”.

C(x, y) =def (∃ exy) [exy ∈ EL(x) ⇔ y ▷ x

In the above definitions, the notation exy indicates in the superscript the thing x to whose event space belongs the event e, whereas the subscript denotes the thing that acted triggering the event. The implicit arguments of both C’ and C are events, not things. Causation is a form of event generation. The crucial point is that a given event in the lawful event space EL(x) is caused by an action of a thing y iff the event happens only conditionally to the action, i.e., it would not be the case of exy without an action of y upon x. Time does not appear in this definition, allowing causal relations in space-time without a global time orientability or even instantaneous and non-local causation. If causation is non-local under some circumstances, e.g. when a quantum system is prepared in a specific state of polarization or spin, quantum entanglement poses no problem to realism and determinism. The quantum theory describes an aspect of a reality that is ontologically determined and with non-local relations. Under any circumstances the postulates of Special Relativity are violated, since no physical system ever crosses the barrier of the speed of light.

Representation in the Philosophy of Science.


The concept of representation has gained momentum in the philosophy of science. The simplest concept of representation conceivable is expressed by the following dyadic predicate: structure S(HeB) represents HeB. Steven French defended that to represent something in science is the same as to have a model for it, where models are set-structures; then ‘representation’ and ‘model’ become synonyms and so do ‘to represent’ and ‘to model’. Nevertheless, this simplest conception was quickly thrown overboard as too simple by amongst others Ronald Giere, who replaced this dyadic predicate with a quadratic predicate to express a more involved concept of representation:

Scientist S uses model S to represent being B for purpose P,

where ‘model’ can here be identified with ‘structure’. Another step was set by Bas van Fraassen. As early as 1994, in his contribution to J. Hilgevoord’s Physics and our View of the World, Van Fraassen brought Nelson Goodman’s distinction between representation-of and representation-as — drawn in his seminal Languages of Art – to bear on science; he went on to argue that all representation in science is representation-as. We represent a Helium atom in a uniform magnetic field as a set-theoretical wave-mechanical structure S(HeB). In his new tome Scientific Representation, Van Fraassen has moved essentially to a hexadic predicate to express the most fundamental and most involved concept of representation to date:

Repr(S, V, S, B, F, P) ,

which reads: subject or scientist S is V -ing artefact S to represent B as an F for purpose P. Example: In the 1920ies, Heisenberg (S) constructed (V) a mathematical object (S) to represent a Helium atom (B) as a wave-mechanical structure (F) to calculate its electro-magnetic spectrum (P). We concentrate on the following triadic predicate, which is derived from the fundamental hexadic one:

ReprAs(S, B, F) iff ∃S, ∃V, ∃P : Repr(S, V, A, B, F, P)

which reads: abstract object S represents being B as an F, so that F(S).

Giere, Van Fraassen and contemporaries are not the first to include manifestations of human agency in their analysis of models and representation in science. A little more than most half a century ago, Peter Achinstein expounded the following as a characteristic of models in science:

A theoretical model is treated as an approximation useful for certain purposes. (…) The value of a given model, therefore, can be judged from different though related viewpoints: how well it serves the purposes for which it is eimployed, and the completeness and accuracy of the representation it proposes. (…) To propose something as a model of X is to suggest it as way of representing X which provides at least some approximation of the actual situation; moreover, it is to admit the possibility of alternative representations useful for different purposes.

One year later, M.W. Wartofsky explicitly proposed, during the Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Western Division, Philadelphia, 1966, to consider a model as a genus of representation, to take in that representation involves “relevant respects for relevant for purposes”, and to consider “the modelling relation triadically in this way: M(S,x,y), where S takes x as a model of y”.20 Two years later, in 1968, Wartofsky wrote in his essay ‘Telos and Technique: Models as Modes of Action’ the following:

In this sense, models are embodiments of purpose and, at the same time, instruments for carrying out such purposes. Let me attempt to clarify this idea. No entity is a model of anything simply by virtue of looking like, or being like, that thing. Anything is like anything else in an infinite number of respects and certainly in some specifiable respect; thus, if I like, I may take anything as a model of anything else, as long as I can specify the respect in which I take it. There is no restriction on this. Thus an array of teacups, for example, may be take as a model for the employment of infantry battalions, and matchsticks as models of mu-mesons, there being some properties that any of these things share with the others. But when we choose something to be a model, we choose it with some end in view, even when that end in view is simply to aid the imagination or the understanding. In the most trivial cases, then, the model is already normative and telic. It is normative in that is chosen to represent abstractly only certain features of the thing we model, not everything all at once, but those features we take to be important or significant or valuable. The model is telic in that significance and value can exist only with respect to some end in view or purpose that the model serves.

Further, during the 1950ies and 1960ies the role of analogies, besides that of models, was much discussed among philosophers of science (Hesse, Achinstein, Girill, Nagel, Braithwaite, Wartofsky).

On the basis of the general concept of representation, we can echo Wartofsky by asserting that almost anything can represent everything for someone for some purpose. In scientific representations, representans and representandum will share some features, but not all features, because to represent is neither to mirror nor to copy. Realists, a-realists and anti-realists will all agree that ReprAs(S, B, F) is true only if on the basis of F(S) one can save all phenomena that being B gives rise to, i.e. one can calculate or accommodate all measurement results obtained from observing B or experimenting with B. Whilst for structural empiricists like Van Fraassen this is also sufficient, for StrR it is not. StrR will want to add that structure S of type F ‘is realised’, that S of type F truly is the structure of being B or refers to B, so that also F(B). StrR will want to order the representations of being B that scientists have constructed during the course of history as approaching the one and only true structure of B, its structure an sich, the Kantian regulative ideal of StrR. But this talk of truth and reference, of beings and structures an sich, is in dissonance with the concept of representation-as.

Some being B can be represented as many other things and all the ensuing representations are all hunky-dory if each one serves some purpose of some subject. When the concept of representation-as is taken as pivotal to make sense of science, then the sort of ‘perspectivalism’ that Giere advocates is more in consonance with the ensuing view of science than realism is. Giere attempts to hammer a weak variety of realism into his ‘perspectivalism’: all perspectives are perspectives on one and the same reality and from every perspective something is said that can be interpreted realistically: in certain respects the representans resembles its representandum to certain degrees. A single unified picture of the world is however not to be had. Nancy Cartwright’s dappled world seems more near to Giere’s residence of patchwork realism. A unified picture of the physical world that realists dream of is completely out of the picture here. With friends like that, realism needs no enemies.

There is prima facie a way, however, for realists to express themselves in terms of representation, as follows. First, fix the purpose P to be: to describe the world as it is. When this fixed purpose leaves a variety of representations on the table, then choose the representation that is empirically superior, that is, that performs best in terms of describing the phenomena, because the phenomena are part of the world. This can be established objectively. When this still leaves more than one representation on the table, which thus save the phenomena equally well, choose the one that best explains the phenomena. In this context, Van Fraassen mentions the many interpretations of QM: each one constitutes a different representation of the same beings, or of only the same observable beings (phenomena), their similarities notwithstanding. Do all these interpre- tations provide equally good explanations? This can be established objectively too, but every judgment here will depend on which view of explanation is employed. Suppose we are left with a single structure A, of type G. Then we assert that ‘G(B)’ is true. When this ‘G’ predicates structure to B, we still need to know what ‘structure’ literally means in order to know what it is that we attribute to B, of what A is that B instantiates, and, even more important, we need to know this for our descriptivist account of reference, which realists need in order to be realists. Yes, we now have arrived where we were at the end of the previous two Sections. We conclude that this way for realists, to express themselves in terms of representation, is a dead end. The concept of representation is not going to help them.

The need for substantive accounts of truth and reference fade away as soon as one adopts a view of science that takes the concept of representation-as as its pivotal concept. Fundamentally different kinds of mathematical structure, set-theoretical and category-theoretical, can then easily be accommodated. They are ‘only representations’. That is moving away from realism, StrR included, dissolving rather than solving the problem for StrR of clarifying its Central Claim of what it means to say that being B is or has structure S — ‘dissolved’, because ‘is or has’ is replaced with ‘is represented-as’. Realism wants to know what B is, not only how it can be represented for someone who wants to do something for some purpose. When we take it for granted that StrR needs substantive accounts of truth and reference, more specifically a descriptivist account of reference and then an account of truth by means of reference, then a characterisation of structure as directly as possible, without committing one to a profusion of abstract objects, is mandatory.

The Characterisation of Structure