Great Problems: #Epistemology, How do we know what there is? How do we know that we can really know anything? What is #Knowledge?

Epistemology asks the question “how do we know what there is?”

Immaterial information provides a new ground for epistemology, the theory of knowledge. We know something about the “things themselves” when we discover an isomorphism between our abstract ideas and concrete objects in the material world. Information philosophy goes beyond the logical puzzles and language games of analytic philosophy. It identifies knowledge as information in human minds and in the external artifacts of human culture.

Abstract information is the foundation – the metaphysical ground – of both logic and language as means of communication. It is the part of a dualism parallel to the material substrate that the Greeks called ὑποκείμενον – the “underlying.” It gives matter its form and shape. Form informs.

Knowing how we know is a fundamentally circular problem when it is described in human language, as a set of logical propositions. And knowing something about what exists adds another complex circle, if the knowing being must itself be one of those things that exists.

These circular definitions and inferences need not be vicious circles. They may simply be a coherent set of ideas that we use to describe ourselves and the external world. If the descriptions are logically valid and/or verifiable empirically, we think we are approaching the “truth” about things and acquiring knowledge.

How then do we describe the knowledge itself – an existing thing in our existent minds and in the existing external world? An information epistemology does it by basing everything on the abstract but quantitative notion of information.

Information is stored or encoded in physical and biological structures. Structures in the world build themselves, following natural laws, including physical and biological laws. Structures in the mind are partly built by biological processes and partly built by human intelligence, which is free, creative, and unpredictable.

Knowledge is the Sum of information created and stored in minds and in human artifacts like stories, books, and internetworked computers.

Revised Chapter 8 of my Einstein book

After many months away from writing as I designed and built my iTV-Studio and began webcasting regularly, I spent the weekend relearning Adobe InDesign. It’s always a challenge to use a sophisticated desktop publishing program unless you work with it regularly.  And my use has been sporadic despite having developed the first such program 33 years ago (MacPublisher for the Apple Macintosh introduction in 1984).

Since my goal is to call attention to the many concepts in quantum mechanics that Einstein either discovered or invented, I wanted to add this footnote I recently reread from Albert Messiah’s classic text on Quantum Mechanics, which I used in my graduate courses on QM at Harvard in the 1960’s.

Historically, the first argument showing the necessity of “quantizing” material systems was presented by Einstein in the theory of the specific heat of solids (1907).   (p.21, 1961 English edition)

Einstein’s insight into energy levels and quantum “jumps” between them was written six years before Niels Bohr’s atom model.  Einstein wrote

the energy of an elementary resonator can only assume values that are integral multiples of (R/N)βν : by emission and absorption, the energy of a resonator changes by jumps of integral multiples of (R/N)βν. (In modern notation, hν.)  

Notice Einstein’s use of “jumps,” and of integral multiples – thus “quanta.” Although Bohr’s model is almost always described as quantum jumps and emission or absorption of photons, I will show that Bohr opposes Einstein’s concept of photons until the  middle 1920’s

Please checkout my new chapter 8 here…

Einstein’s 1909 Discovery of #Nonlocality in the case of #WaveParticle Duality informs the “One Mystery” in the #Two-Slit Experiment

Einstein’s description of wave-particle duality is as good as anything written today. He saw the relation between the wave and the particle as the relation between probable possibilities and the realization of one possibility as an actual event. He saw the wave spreading out in space and giving us the probable number of particles in different locations. Where Einstein saw the particle as concrete and material, he described the wave as a “ghostly field,” which is exactly right according to the information interpretation of quantum mechanics. The wave is neither matter nor energy, but pure abstract information about locating concrete matter and energy.

The information about probabilities and possibilities in the wave function is immaterial, but that abstract information has real causal powers. The wave’s interference with itself predicts null points where no particles should be found. And experiments confirm that no particles are found there. Immaterial information is a kind of modern “spirit.” Einstein also described the wave function as a “ghost field” (Gespensterfeld) or a “guiding field” (Führungsfeld), an idea taken up later by Louis de Broglie as his “pilot waves.” Following de Broglie, Schrödinger developed his equation that describes how the probability wave function moves through space deterministically. This restoration of some determinism was a brief bright moment for Einstein. He saw a possible return to a deterministic theory for quantum mechanics and his continuous field theory. But it was not to be, despite the large number of present-day physicists who are still pursuing Einstein’s and Schrödinger’s deterministic dreams, by denying indeterminism and “quantum jumping.”

Einstein could never accept most of his quantum discoveries because they conflicted with his basic idea that nature is best described by a continuous field theory using differential equations that are functions of “local” variables, primarily the space-time four-vector of his general relativistic theory. Einstein’s idea of a “local” reality is one where “action-at-a-distance” is limited to causal effects that propagate at or below the speed of light, according to his theory of relativity.

Einstein believed that quantum theory, as good as it is (and he never saw anything better), is “incomplete.” This is so, because its statistical predictions (phenomenally accurate in the limit of large numbers of identical experiments – “ensembles” Einstein called them), tell us nothing but “probabilities” about individual systems. Even worse, he thought that the wave functions of entangled two-particle systems predict faster-than-light correlations of properties between events in a space-like separation. He mistakenly thought this violated his theory of relativity. Although this was the heart of his famous EPR paradox paper in 1935, we shall see that Einstein was already concerned about faster-than-light transfer of energy and that he saw spherical light waves “collapsing” instantaneously in his very first paper on quantum theory in 1905 and in his second 1909 paper on wave-particle duality.

The Central Problem in #Metaphysics is the Existential or Ontological Status of Ideas.

The central problem in metaphysics, as seen by the Information Philosopher, is the existential or ontological status of ideas. The creation of new ideas requires the existence of ontological chance, which must therefore be a fundamental aspect of metaphysical reality.

Metaphysics is an abstract human invention about the nature of concrete reality – immaterial thoughts about material things.

Information philosophy explains the metaphysics of chance and possibilities, which always underlie the creation of new information. Without metaphysical possibilities, there can be no human creativity and no new knowledge. Without the existence of possibilities, there is no possibility for metaphysics itself.

materialist metaphysics asks questions about the underlying substrate presumed to constitute all the objects in the universe. Unfortunately, most modern philosophers are determinists who think that the material substrate is all there is. As Jaegwon Kim puts it,

“bits of matter and their aggregates in space-time exhaust the contents of the world. This means that one would be embracing an ontology that posits entities other than material substances — that is, immaterial minds, or souls, outside physical space, with immaterial, nonphysical properties.”

A formalist or idealist metaphysics asks about the arrangement and organization of matter that shapes material objects, what brings their forms into existence, and what causes their changes in space and timeInformation philosophy defends a Platonic realm of immaterial ideas in a dualism with the realm of matter. The information realm is physical and natural. It is not supernatural and “outside space and time.” Ideas are embodied in matter and use energy for their communication. But they are neither matter nor energy. They are forms that inform.

The total amount of matter (and energy) in the universe is a conserved quantity. Because of the universe expansion, there is ever more room in space for each material particle, ever more ways to arrange the material, ever more possibilities. The total information in the universe is constantly increasing. This is the first contribution of information philosophy to metaphysics.

The second contribution is to restore a dualist idealism, based on the essential importance of information communication in all living things. Since the earliest forms of proto-life, information stored in each organism has been used to create the following generations, including the variations that have evolved to become thinking human beings who invented the world of ideas that contains metaphysics. Abstract information is an essential, if immaterial, part of reality. Plato was right that his “ideas” (ἰδέας) are real. The forms inform.

Richard Feynman: The Two-Slit Experiment Contains the One Mystery in Quantum Mechanics

In his famous Lectures on Physics, some of the lectures repeated in the 1967 Messenger Lectures at Cornell and published as The Character of Physical Law, Feynman famously said that “nobody understands quantum mechanics” and that the two-slit experiment contains the “one mystery” of quantum mechanics.

“I will take just this one experiment, which has been designed to contain all of the mystery of quantum mechanics, to put you up against the paradoxes and mysteries and peculiarities of nature one hundred per cent. Any other situation in quantum mechanics, it turns out, can always be explained by saying, ‘You remember the case of the experiment with the two holes? It’s the same thing’. I am going to tell you about the experiment with the two holes. It does contain the general mystery; I am avoiding nothing; I am baring nature in her most elegant and difficult form.”

Separating #FreeWill from #MoralResponsibility, by separating free from will and moral from responsibility

Four Degrees of Separation:

  1. The Separation of “Free” from “Will”
  2. The Separation of “Responsibility” from “Moral Responsibility”
  3. The Separation of “Free Will” from “Moral Responsibility”
  4. The Separation of “Free Will and Moral Responsibility” from “Punishment” – both Retributive and Consequentialist

We must separate the concept “free” from the concept of “will” in order to better understand “free will,” as John Locke recommended we do to avoid verbal confusion. He said, “I think the question is not proper, whether the will be free, but whether a man be free.”
(Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter XXI, Of Power, s.21)

We must also separate “moral responsibility” from ordinary “responsibility” or simple accountability. If our intentions and decisions caused an action, we are responsible for it, but moral responsibility requires that the action has moral consequences. Immanuel Kant and the modern free willist Robert Kane think that only moral decisions can be free decisions.

Finally, we should explore the connection between moral responsibility and punishment , both backward-looking retributive punishment (revenge or restitution) and forward-looking consequentialism (re-education and rehabilitation).

See Chapter 20 of Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy

Best animations on YouTube of the #TwoSlit Experiment

We review the best animations on YouTube of the #TwoSlit Experiment to solve the #WaveParticle Duality Problem.

Let’s look first at the one-slit case. We prepare a slit that is about the same size as the wavelength of the light in order to see the Fraunhofer diffraction effect most clearly. Parallel waves from a distant source fall on the slit from below. The diagram shows that the wave from the left edge of the slit interferes with the one from the right edge. If the slit width is d and the photon wavelength is λ, at an angle α ≈ λ/2d there will be destructive interference. At an angle α ≈ λ/d, there is constructive interference (which shows up as the fan out of lightening patterns in the interfering waves in the illustration).

When both slits are open, the maximum is now at the center between the two slits, there are more interference fringes, and these probabilities apply whichever slit the particle enters. The solution of the Schrödinger equation depends on the boundary conditions – different when two holes are open. The “one mystery” remains – how these “probabilities” can exercise causal control (statistically) over material particles.
Remembering that the double-slit interference appears even if only one particle at a time is incident on the two slits, we see why many say that the particle interferes with itself. But it is the wave function alone that is interfering with itself. Whichever slit the particle goes through, the interference pattern is what it is because the two slits are open.

Einstein Discovered Wave-Particle Duality Decades Before Heisenberg and Schrödinger

Besides quantizing light energy and seeing its interchangeability with matter, E = mc2, Einstein was first to see many of the most fundamental aspects of quantum physics – the quantal derivation of the blackbody radiation law, nonlocality and instantaneous action-at-a-distance (1905), the internal structure of atoms (1906), wave-particle duality and the “collapse” of the wave aspect (1909), transition probabilities for emission and absorption processes that introduce indeterminism whenever matter and radiation interact, making quantum mechanics a statistical theory (1916-17), the indistinguishability of elementary particles with their strange quantum statistics (1925), and the nonseparability and entanglement of interacting identical particles (1935).

It took the physics community eighteen years to accept Einstein’s light-quantum hypothesis. He saw wave-particle duality fifteen years before deBroglie, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, and Bohr. He saw indeterminism a decade before the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. He saw nonlocality as early as 1905, presenting it formally in 1927, but was ignored. In the 1935 Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper, he added nonseparability, which was dubbed “entanglement” by Schrödinger.

We show that there was a glimpse of wave-particle duality even in Einstein’s “very revolutionary” 1905 light-quantum hypothesis paper.

Quantum Particles Are Matter/Energy. Quantum Waves are Immaterial Information.

Of all the mysteries, puzzles, and paradoxes associated with
modern physics, none is more profoundly metaphysical than
the strange connection between waves and particles in quantum
mechanics. And no philosophical method is better positioned to
provide a metaphysical explanation than information philosophy,
with an information analysis of the physics and the fundamental
nature of physical reality, the so-called “quantum reality.”

Most surprisingly, the solution to this most modern of scientific
problems throws new light on perhaps the oldest philosophical
problem, the ancient question about the existential status of ideas,
and the relation between the ideal and the material.

Put most simply, the quantum wave function is an idea, pure
information about the possible places that matter may be found.
And perhaps most shocking, we can show that this abstract idea
has causal power over the paths of the concrete particles, even as we
can only learn about their paths statistically and not individually.

David Layzer: The Origin of Information

David Layzer is a Harvard cosmologist who in the 1960’s made it clear that in an expanding universe entropy would increase, as required by the second law of thermodynamics, but that the maximum possible entropy of the universe might increase faster than the actual entropy increase, making room for the growth of order or information at the same time entropy is increasing.

He pointed out that if the equilibration rate of the matter was slower than the rate of expansion, then the “negative entropy” (defined as the difference between the maximum possible entropy and the actual entropy) would increase. Claude Shannon identified this negative entropy with information, though visible structural information in the universe may be less than this “potential” information.

In a 1975 article for Scientific American called The Arrow of Time, Layzer wrote on what is the fundamental question of information philosophy , what was the origin of information?

“the complexity of the astronomical universe seems puzzling.
Isolated systems inevitably evolve toward the featureless state of thermodynamic equilibrium. Since the universe is in some sense an isolated system, why has it not settled into equilibrium? One answer, favored by many cosmologists, is that the cosmological trend is in fact toward equilibrium but that too little time has elapsed for the process to have reached completion. Fred Hoyle and J. V. Narlikar have written: “In the ‘big bang’ cosmology the universe must start with a marked degree of thermodynamic disequilibrium [information] and must eventually run down.” I shall argue that this view is fundamentally incorrect. The universe is not running down, and it need not have started with a marked degree of disequilibrium; the initial state may indeed have been wholly lacking in macroscopic as well as microscopic information.”