I would like to introduce you to Information Philosophy (another way of philosophizing beyond logic and language) and especially tell you about the strong implications that I-Phi has for the problems of free will and moral responsibility. (www.informationphilosopher.com)
If we look at the information content of things in the external world, then see the extent to which the information content of our minds is isomorphic to "the things themselves," we have another way of addressing the problem of epistemology that skips around the skepticism of empiricism, which as you know says our sense data stop at Locke's secondary qualities. The information in your brain is in many ways you - your memory, your individuality, your personal identity.
I-Phi asks the biggest cosmological question, sort of an extension of Leibniz's "Why is there something rather than nothing?" We find that the creation of things in the universe depends on a delicate dance between quantum mechanics and the second law of thermodynamics. You all know the law that any physical system left to itself approaches equilibrium and entropy increases to a maximum, which destroys all order or information. So the big question that I-Phi asks, and answers, is how can we be having this information exchange on GFP if the universe began nearly 14 billion years ago and was then in pure radiative equilibrium? Why aren't we still in a state of chaos? The answer is here:
I-Phi has identified the fundamental process by which information structures are created. The created information structures range from galaxies, stars, and planets, to molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. They are the structures of terrestrial life from viruses and bacteria to sensible and intelligent beings. And they are the constructed ideal world of thought, of intellect, of spirit, including the laws of nature, in which we humans play a role as co-creator.
The cosmic creative process that formed all matter, from the fundamental particles to the galaxies, is also the process that underlies life and drives biological evolution.
And here is the importance to the free will problem. The same cosmic creative process is driving the information content of your thoughts, with quantum mechanical wave functions collapsing, entropy increasing in the universe as a result - but here is the critical insight, entropy decreasing in your brain. This "negative entropy" is the information content of your mind.
Because quantum uncertainty is involved, you can expect it is related to the (failed so far) suggestion, made by many scientists and philosophers, that the resulting indeterminism may be the source of free will.
On the I-Phi website, there is a history of all the proposals that
chance plays a role if free will, from Epicurus to Al Mele's modest
Links on philosopher pages and the I-Phi home page will take you to the other philosophers (more than 70 at the moment and still growing) with their arguments - in their own words - for or against free will. If you know of some important thinkers that should be there, please advise me. Many Gardeners have web pages, and I look forward to criticisms and suggestions from you.
So I-Phi is mainly about three things:
- A scientific model for free will and creativity informed by the complementary roles of microscopic randomness and adequate macroscopic determinism in a temporal sequence.
- A basis for objective value beyond humanism and bioethics, grounded in the fundamental information creation processes behind the structure and evolution of the universe. What are the implications for value/ethics in the fact of a single creative process that creates everything interesting (is this "the good" or would that be Moore's naturalistic fallacy?) and the single destructive process entropy (Norbert Wiener called entropy "the devil incarnate").
- An explanation or epistemological model of knowledge formation and communication. Knowledge and information are neither matter nor energy, but they require matter for expression and energy for communication.
All three are based on the theory of information, which alone can establish the existential status of ideas, not just the ideas of freedom, values, and knowledge, but other-worldly speculations in natural religion like God and immortality.
All three have been anticipated by earlier thinkers, but can now be defended on empirical grounds. Our goal is less to innovate than to reach the best possible consensus among philosophers living and dead, an intersubjective agreement between philosophers that is the surest sign of a knowledge advance in natural science.
The main thing for Gardeners is of course the implications of I-Phi for FW/MR.
You all know the standard two-part argument against free will:
- If determinism is true, we can't be responsible (PvI's Consequence Argument - known since Democritus?)
- If indeterminism is true, my actions are random and I still can't be responsible.
- QED. No free will.
I believe I can convince (at least some of) you that the standard argument is logically flawed and based on faulty evidence.
I would like you to ask yourselves two simple questions. They are at the bottom of this web page.
As some of you might guess, I got a chance to talk to Manuel Vargas on Monday and shared my surprise at PvI's fame.
Manuel is Visiting Professor at the Radcliffe Institute this year and I had a chance to show him around Harvard Widener Library's philosophy collection and also the great Robbins Library in the Philosophy Department. I look forward to many more discussions with him this year. And I look forward to cultivating in your Garden.
Oh, and I just put up a page for Manuel.
The idea is to summarize each philosopher's ideas, plus add some of her/his own words to illustrate the thinking.
I am hopeful that the I-Phi website will be a valuable resource for students and professors of philosophy.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org