Alternative Candidates for the Standard Model of Metaphysics

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With regards to nominal purpose the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality resembles theories such as AQAL or CTMU. I consider these theories alternative candidates for the standard model of metaphysics because their apparent purpose is to integrate large amounts of information into a unified (ie. not split-into-two like the Canonic Metaphysics of Quality) whole which may be assumed to be of such great importance that there is no need to provide scientific applications of the theory in order to assert its worth. This does not mean that there wouldn't be any practical applications, just that the attitude of the author of the theory seems to be that they are not integral to the theory. For example, socionics does not qualify as a candidate for the standard model of metaphysics because its apparent purpose is consistently reported to be that of psychological evaluation. However, no theory is better than another theory simply because it has a more ambitious aim. Indeed, it is arguably more embarrassing that a theory is ambitious but achieves little than that it's goals are moderate and it succeeds in reaching them.

All Quadrants All Levels

The AQAL by Ken Wilber is frequently called "integral philosophy" and its aim seems to be to unify (or integrate) the meanings of various concepts or words into a single model. Given its four-quadrant grid the AQAL might structurally resemble the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality but, to my best knowledge, this similarity is rather superficial. Admittedly, the AQAL is difficult to study because the information about it appears to be scattered about so that one would have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to outline the formal structure of the theory. Therefore my views of the AQAL are based on insufficient information. The most general difference between AQAL and the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality seems to be that the AQAL seems to focus on integrating a large number of facts into each other in a rather atomistic manner whereas the AMOQ prizes combinatorial optimality (= minimal redundancy) and mathematical functionality, notably vector summation, and in this sense is more demanding of the quality of the integration.

The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe

The aims of the CTMU by Chris Langan seem vaguely similar to those of the Analytic Metaphysics of Quality but the CTMU paper is too techincal for me to fully comprehend and the little I do understand of it seems indicative of some kind of failure.

The public reception of the CTMU seems to have been something of a failure due to a misunderstanding between Langan and the audience. The CTMU is not a model of reality in the sense it appears to be. What most people would understand better would be to say that the CTMU is a specification of a model of reality.

There's no scientific discipline for making specifications of metaphysical models but Langan has probably, from his own point of view, acted in a scientific manner. His high intelligence quotient has probably allowed him to go through a lot of options in a somewhat mechanical manner, always selecting the best one. This is probably the equivalent of the scientific method for someone like Chris who, however, won't get understood because other people will have a hard time following a train of thought that is obvious for him. The interesting issue here is not whether "the scientific method" Chris speaks of is same as the scientific method of the academia. The more interesting issue is what "the scientific method" means for him. Is it something like "the scientific attitude"?

Basically, if you want to see Chris as a good guy (and honestly, who wouldn't?) then think of it like this. The CTMU, as it is now, is not a theory that should be consciously applied to most real life situations. Mostly it can only be applied to the future of metaphysics. Future metaphysical theories will start to resemble the CTMU more than they resemble the works of Aristotle because they will attempt to include some higher-order features.

Wheeler's specifications of a reality theory are the earlier stepping stone within this quadrant. Langan's work is an elaboration of Wheeler's work but what has caused so much anxiety in the audience is that Langan called a specification a theory. Analytic philosophers will find Langan to be someone who attempts to step on their turf but obviously has no skills required for doing so. Most continental philosophers will not understand anything about the CTMU paper. But perhaps the CTMU paper could be said to be continental philosophy written in the language of analytic philosophy. That would explain some of the confusion. If Nietzsche had written of sets and logic in the same manner as he wrote Thus spake Zarathustra then we would already have no trouble understanding works like the CTMU.

A piece on the Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe was published in 2002 as an article in the journal of the International Society for Complexity Information and Design, which is some sort of a creationism journal. Many people would have a problem with that. I don’t, so let’s go on. The CTMU portrays reality as essentially language. This is not necessarily a problem – after all, the Metaphysics of Quality also portrays reality as essentially Quality but evades the usual anti-essentialism arguments by portraying Quality as undefinable. But is ”language” in the CTMU undefinable? If not, Dynamic Quality is beyond the grasp of the CTMU.

I used to criticize Langan’s work on grounds that it portrays reality as static quality, but I may have to retract that. The CTMU has the concept of unbound telesis, which I somehow missed during the first read. Unbound telesis seems to be Dynamic Quality whereas telic recursion is Quality. This seems promising, but there are other things about the CTMU that I don’t understand.

According to page 49 of The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe: A New Kind of Reality Theory (2002) the CTMU meets physicist John Wheeler’s 1979 criteria for reality theory. To be sure, Langan seems to try not to say that clearly as if he wanted to be able to reverse his position in case it turns out untenable. If the CTMU meets Wheeler’s criteria for reality theory it has to meet a certain criterion called Law Without Law / Order From Disorder. This criterion is presented on page 8 as the following statement: “Concisely, nothing can be taken as given when it comes to cosmogony.” “Cosmogony” means the study of how the universe or reality came to existence.

I take the Law Without Law criterion to mean that arbitrary assumptions are banned. Hence, Law Without Law is equivalent to a self-contradicting notion of nihilism: the criterion itself is an arbitrary assumption that disallows the making of arbitrary assumptions. Such a criterion should disallow itself from being stated. Admittedly, there is some leeway here because Langan is being so vague. Law Without Law could also be a reference to the Buddhist notion of “nothingness” but nothing in Langan’s writing suggests that. It’s not up to me to patch every vagueness that can be found in Langan’s writing as he could have wrote clearly in the first place.

Even if Law Without Law is not taken as a paradox in and of itself it seems to contradict certain other principles of the CTMU. One of these principles is called Mind Equals Reality. The principle, presented on page 15, states that the CTMU is “comprehensive”, that is, the language of the CTMU can refer to anything that is real. This appears equivalent to Berkeley’s Master Argument but when I confronted Langan about this he told Russell’s criticism of the Master Argument is logically flawed because it is “dualistic” instead of “dual”. I don't know what he meant with that.

What is confusing about the Mind Equals Reality principle is that it seems to be intended to patch up an essentialist metaphysical theory that does not feature Dynamic Quality, unbound telesis or an equivalent concept. Why should the CTMU have both unbound telesis and Mind Equals Reality? Are they intended to be different ways of saying the same thing?

Another similarly confusing principle in the CTMU is called the Metaphysical Autology Principle. On page 15 Langan tells it somehow “tautologically renders this syntax closed or self-contained in the definitive, descriptive and interpretational senses”. In usual essentialist theories this principle would seem like an attempt to argue against the existence of Dynamic Quality or unbound telesis. But the CTMU has the concept of unbound telesis. Perhaps these oddities are an attempt to define the CTMU somehow tautologically, so that it has multiple starting points. The “axioms” of the CTMU, including Metaphysical Autology Principle and Mind Equals Reality, necessitate the formation of the concept of unbound telesis, but having the concept of unbound telesis results in those axioms being true. Maybe that could work. But a lot of people are convinced that Langan is simply being a crank, dishing out nonsensical babble, and though I can definitely rule out that possibility, doing so seems to require quite a lot of effort.

Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness

Robert Anton Wilson presents in Prometheus Rising (1983) an Eight-circuit model of consciousness which appears to double the scope of the AMOQ quadrants or turn the AMOQ Cartesian plane into a 3-space. No metaphysical background assumptions or analytic methods are included but the Eight-Circuit Model suggests a direction for future development of the AMOQ. Note that Leary and Wilson present differing views on which circuit is the sixth and which one is the seventh. This could perhaps be explained by the bidirectionality of emergence in AMOQ. In this case we might assume that the first four circuits correlate with the first four quadrants but that the last four circuits are structurally similar to the first four with regards to emergence. Another structural parallelism seems to be that the circuits with a higher number are less obvious, less essential for survival or their survival function is less obvious, and more valuable as rare collectibles although they are processes instead of objects, like collectibles might usually thought to be. Instead of ownership, participation is essential for processes.

See also