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Old 11-25-2013, 12:33 PM   #1331
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Default Re: Ghosts and Mind Copies - The Identity Question

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If I try to make an object behave in a manner other than the way physics says that object should behave, I will fail.
Light speed being a speed limit regardless of object or action.
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Old 11-25-2013, 02:34 PM   #1332
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I'm not sure why you're stuck on the problem of agency. Yes, there is no agent that is enforcing those laws, but the fact remains, if you try to break them, you will fail.
A. There can be limits on something's actions other than imposed restrictions. I can't fly by flapping my arms, but that's not because some external force is holding me down.

B. There are people who argue, entirely seriously, that natural law is imposed by an external agency. This shows up, for example, in people who say that science presupposes God because if there were no God there would be nothing to make the universe orderly—but the universe is orderly, ergo, God. That is, they infer from natural law to a natural lawgiver.

C. More abstractly, a natural law in the human mind is a proposition. The energy of the world is constant. Objects attract each other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses. Whatever can go wrong, will. This invites the supposition that natural laws in the physical world are also propositions, and that they are stored in a mind or some other information medium. That way lies Plato.

C'. Or, more recently, that way lies the idea that because the orbit of an asteroid can be modeled by an electronic device that performs computations, the asteroid itself is performing computations to decide how to orbit.

A'. In point of fact, an entity whose nature did not impose any restrictions on what it could do would be omnipotent. That is, it would have an infinite power of action. But what we mean by "nature" is the set of all entities that have finite powers of action and thus in principle are predictable.

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Old 11-25-2013, 02:37 PM   #1333
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Default Re: Ghosts and Mind Copies - The Identity Question

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I can't fly by flapping my arms, but that's not because some external force is holding me down.
It isn't because of gravity?
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Old 11-25-2013, 02:48 PM   #1334
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It isn't because of gravity?
Birds exist in the same one-gee field I do, and they fly by flapping their wings. Gravity creates conditions where certain requirements must be met to fly; it doesn't prevent flying.

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Old 11-25-2013, 03:07 PM   #1335
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A. There can be limits on something's actions other than imposed restrictions. I can't fly by flapping my arms, but that's not because some external force is holding me down.
Actually, it is, but we'll ignore that point ;)
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B. There are people who argue, entirely seriously, that natural law is imposed by an external agency.
I am not one of them.
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C. More abstractly, a natural law in the human mind is a proposition.
A theorem is a proposition. A natural law is what a theorem attempts to describe -- a theorem is false if it fails to match the actual behavior of nature.
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This invites the supposition that natural laws in the physical world are also propositions, and that they are stored in a mind or some other information medium. That way lies Plato.
Why does it matter that some particular description can be misused?
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Old 11-25-2013, 04:01 PM   #1336
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A theorem is a proposition. A natural law is what a theorem attempts to describe -- a theorem is false if it fails to match the actual behavior of nature.
A theorem is a proposition that is assessed as valid because it follows from a set of assumptions by deductive reasoning. But in ordinary scientific usage, a law is a proposition that is assessed as true because it is a general statement that encompasses a whole body of observations; that is, it's based on induction and faces all the usual questions about induction.

And when scientists talk about laws, they are talking about propositions: Newton's laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics, Newton's law of gravity, Mendeleyev's periodic law, the ideal gas law (and the more specific laws that it combines), Mendel's laws of inheritance . . . all of those exist in human minds, and in documents written by human beings.

And they are not literally laws: they are not enacted by legislators or by constitutional conventions or by treaties or by electorates or even by dictatorial decrees, they are not applied by judges, they are not enforced in any way.

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Old 11-25-2013, 09:52 PM   #1337
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Birds exist in the same one-gee field I do, and they fly by flapping their wings. Gravity creates conditions where certain requirements must be met to fly; it doesn't prevent flying.
The requirement is that you must generate enough lift to counteract gravity. It seems to me that gravity is definitely an external force that prevents you from flying if you can't generate enough lift.
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Old 11-25-2013, 10:25 PM   #1338
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The requirement is that you must generate enough lift to counteract gravity. It seems to me that gravity is definitely an external force that prevents you from flying if you can't generate enough lift.
On the other hand, it's just as true to say that it's my inability to generate enough lift that's the issue, or that it's my mass that's the issue.

The real point is that my body has weight because it has mass, and mass responds to a gravitational field by experiencing a force. It's not that there is some angel, or some line of code in a cosmic computer program, or an invisible and intangible weight chained to my back, or some other external entity that imposes that force on me. Nor is it as if my body being subject to weight could be turned off, and my body could become free to accelerate in any direction at any rate. My body has weight because it has mass, and it has mass because that's part of being the kind of entity it is.

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Old 11-25-2013, 10:38 PM   #1339
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The real point is that my body has weight because it has mass, and mass responds to a gravitational field by experiencing a force. It's not that there is some angel, or some line of code in a cosmic computer program, or an invisible and intangible weight chained to my back, or some other external entity that imposes that force on me.
I think we should probably leave it at that, as the debate seems to be more semantic than real -- if I'm interpreting you correctly, you think that law requires agency, I don't.
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Old 11-25-2013, 11:04 PM   #1340
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I think we should probably leave it at that, as the debate seems to be more semantic than real -- if I'm interpreting you correctly, you think that law requires agency, I don't.
Not quite. I think that the literal meaning of law requires agency. I have no problem with the word's being used in nonliteral or secondary senses, as long as it's not taken literally.

The real issue, for me, is that I've read a lot of philosophy of science, and of course I work editing scientific publications, and so I encounter the way the word "law" is used in science. And what it means, there, is a generalization from a large series of experimental or observational results, one that sums them all up in a single formula. Laws in turn are explained by theories. But both the law and the theory are part of the logical and conceptual structure of science; they exist within the human mind. There was no law of gravity till Newton; there was no law of conservation of energy till Joule; there was no law of the minimum till Liebig. That's how the term is used. Of course the behavior that the law describes exists before it's recognized by human beings; that's why we can say that a law of nature is true. But the law doesn't exist out there in nature; it exists in here, in our minds.

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