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Posted by Harvey on May 30, 2003 20:42:01 UTC

Hi Richard,

***1. Would you say that an epistemological model of reality is equivalent to an ontological model of the pipeline? It seems to me that the most that can be done is a model of the pipeline and all the possible distortions it can introduce. That's ontology-right? The pipeline can introduce all these different symmetries, and his model has all those symmetries in it. Therefore, to my way of thinking it is a model of the pipeline.***

I'll give you my perspective on this. As I understand it, ontology is typically the study of that which really - for goodness sakes - exists 'out there' no two ways about it. Epistemology, as I understand it, is typically the study of knowledge ('episte') and what we can say we 'know' and can 'know' and what it means to 'know' (e.g., limitations on our knowledge, what evidence of something constitutes knowing something, how do we treat our knowledge as being, etc). If by ontology of a pipeline you mean an epistemological model as 'existing', then that's a form of platonism (e.g., quantum theory exists 'out there' in nature). If by ontology of a pipeline you mean a study of what constitutes an effective model of an observed phenomenon, then I'm not familiar with the word 'ontology' being used in this manner. The latter interpretation is itself considered part of epistemology (e.g., epistemology of good models, epistemology of computer simulations, epistemology of design, etc ) from what I know.

***2. Can you elaborate on how it could be an epistemological model of reality? So far I am becoming convinced that we do not have a clue of what reality is.***

Well, an epistemological model of a phenomenon is a model of a specific phenomena (e.g., a model of human knowledge). An epistemological model of reality is a model that tries to model our interaction with the world that we experience. It is a comprehensive model. What of the main approaches that separates Frieden from Dick, ie, from what I can tell with my limited exposure to Frieden, is that Frieden tries to model the physicist's concept of measurement. He does so by equating the process of measurement observation with Fisher sampling (which you introduced to me, thank you very much for that). Dick isn't concerned just with a physicist's concept of measurement, he is concerned with every human experience and the possible sequence of 'subconscious' streams that we are exposed to (i.e., if I understand correctly). Hence, Dick is really going after an epistemological model of reality (i.e., all of our 'subconscious' experiences to what is presumably 'out there').

I'm more of a realist than you, I suppose. I tend to see our physics as an approximation of what actually 'exists'. On the other hand, I'm not prepared to say that reality is a 'fixed' phenomena that we merely approximate with our best theories. Rather, I tend to see reality as contextual based on our conceptual schemes and language. This might sound contradictory so let me give you an example that I like using. The chair I am sitting on is an object that exists 'out there' (at least I think so), and in my conceptual way of thinking, it is as real as anything that I know is real, if real is to mean anything at all. On the other hand, if ET were to land, it might look at the chair I am sitting on and see countless of thidbits (~quarks), and not even comprehend the concept of a 'chair'. For ET the reality of the chair is nil, and for me it's as real as one can possibly entertain the concept of real-ness. Of course, my concept is only an approximation of countless quarks (or thidbits?), and, that in my view, is an approximation of something else, so on and so on. The only reality, in my view, that is not an approximation is God. God is all that actually exists once you reduce everything down to what it really is (and keep reducing). Some might see it as an ad infinitum reductionism, but I think there is an absolute reality, that being God. Fortunately for us, reality is not so pure as to eliminate these reductions from existence, hence we get to live in a world that we are not the final absolute, fully reduced, object in that world.

***My bottomline is that the same equations of physics can be derived from so many vastly different assumptions of what a fundamental reality is- and now Dick claims to have done it with no assumptions at all- that there is no way to know what the foundations of reality are. We can only know that the equations and their solutions are correct from comparison to experiment. The rest is metaphysics.***

This is very close to my view with regard to our knowledge of the world. In terms of my idea of a final reality that exists as 'God', this requires that I accept that these theoretical approximations of nature are not in our head in terms of a successful scientific instrumentalist stance (i.e., correct from comparison to experiment), but rather approximations 'exist' and they get their existence from God. For example, in mathematics there are concepts like pi that get their existence from some set of equations that require our concept of pi (e.g., the equation of a circumference of a circle), and the concept of pi is really a deduction from an earlier set of problems (i.e., a reduction of another problem). Does pi exist? I think in certain contexts it does, and you couldn't even do meaningful mathematics without some of these concepts. But, is there a way to say pi differently than 'pi'? Yes, just use a formula that calculates pi. So, in my view, our experience of reality is a lot like how a mathematician experiences pi. We treat it as real and it is real in certain contexts, but if we wanted to we could replace every instance of pi with the equation that calculates pi. This might be necessary if we ever encountered ET who might have no knowledge of pi, just the equation that calculates pi (same as a chair, we might need to phrase the term 'chair' in terms of thidbits - assuming that we could comprehend the concept of thidbits). Hence, in my view, reality is what is actually 'out there' (i.e., God) and it is what is complexifies (vs. reduces) from God.

Btw, this gets back to Kyle's post on why the universe complexifies (in my view). The universe, I suggest, complexifies because itself because it is deducing itself from the Source (God) and at some point it simplifies itself in the form of some final 'equation' at which point the final equation is 'real'. Dick might be right about one thing, it might be all mathematics.


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