Featured projects (4)
Featured research (19)
Current discussions on the philosophy of Nature hinge on the concept of emergence. Such a concept has long succeeded in the Life sciences and is increasingly receiving the focus of Physics and Philosophy of Physics alike. Remarkably enough, even for basic scientists, there is no agreement on whether emergence should be considered fundamental (ontological) or just an elegant and more straightforward (epistemic) way of referring to complex arrangements of basic stuff. In this paper: (1) I evince said disagreement by confronting two distinguished approaches, namely Bishop and Ellis’s, and Sean Carroll’s. (2) I intend to move beyond the loggerheads by supporting ontological emergence as a widespread feature in Nature. I invoke Penrose’s argument of functional freedom as an epistemic hint for ontological emergence, i.e. the necessary recourse to additional - apparently non-fundamental - criteria to justify the coarse-graining of finer, lower levels into coarser, higher levels in Nature. Said move, if understood in keeping with a minimum scientific realism, points towards a different kind of causality at work in the universe, classically referred to as formal causation. (3) Once ontological emergence is naturalized, one can frame the emergence of immaterial knowledge as an ontological apex - dubbed ultimate emergence - that reverses the trend of coarse-graining.
Bruineberg et al. underestimate the ontological weight of Markov blankets as actual boundaries of systems and lean toward an instrumentalist understanding thereof. Yet Markov blankets need not be deemed mere tools. Determining their reality depends on the fundamental problem of distinguishing between system and environment in physics, which, in turn, demands a metaphysical bedrock backed by a realist stance on science.
Integrated information theory (IIT) stands out as one of the most promising approaches to scientifically understand the emergence of consciousness. Even if it borrows from the phenomenology of consciousness to derive its axiomatic formulation, IIT does not initially adhere to any particular ontological position. However, its founder leans towards panpsychism. More recently, Owen has studied the pros and cons of different ontologies as a metaphysical basis for IIT, defending a hylomorphic stance where en-grounding, en-forming relations gain the upper hand in the causal narrative. This paper aims at (1) complementing Owen’s work by invoking additional arguments against physicalist IIT, both reductive and non-reductive; and (2) improving Owen’s characterization of non-physicalist causality through a ‘nested’ version of hylomorphism that avoids the combination problem of panpsychism.
The Free Energy Principle (FEP) is currently one of the most promising frameworks with which to address a unified explanation of life-related phenomena. With powerful formalism that embeds a small set of assumptions, it purports to deal with complex adaptive dynamics ranging from barely unicellular organisms to complex cultural manifestations. The FEP has received increased attention in disciplines that study life, including some critique regarding its overall explanatory power and its true potential as a grand unifying theory (GUT). Recently, FEP theorists presented a contribution with the main tenets of their framework, together with possible philosophical interpretations, which lean towards so-called Markovian Monism (MM). The present paper assumes some of the abovementioned critiques, rejects the arguments advanced to invalidate the FEP’s potential to be a GUT, and overcomes criticism thereof by reviewing FEP theorists’ newly minted metaphysical commitment, namely MM. Specifically, it shows that this philosophical interpretation of the FEP argues circularly and only delivers what it initially assumes, i.e., a dual information geometry that allegedly explains epistemic access to the world based on prior dual assumptions. The origin of this circularity can be traced back to a physical description contingent on relative system-environment separation. However, the FEP itself is not committed to MM, and as a scientific theory it delivers more than what it assumes, serving as a heuristic unification principle that provides epistemic advancement for the life sciences.
Despite the endless efforts of fundamental physics, it is becoming increasingly understood that our most basic scientific theories do not fully determine the existence of complex dynamical systems in nature. The revival of optimization principles can be considered a response to mere bottom-up scientific approaches which posit extremely rare boundary conditions of the universe and ad hoc coarse grainings of degrees of freedom in order to recover the classicality of the observed world. In this paper, after making the case for the insurmountable obstacles confronting basic physical theories and obtaining some hints for a possible way out, we briefly review some of the currently most promising optimization procedures trying to explain the emergence of the classical world and, more specifically, of life and consciousness. We claim that all such procedures aim at and make room for new optimizing principles in which value and teleology are fundamental concepts for understanding the self-constitution of complex dynamical systems.
- Group CRYF; Ecclesiastical School of Philosophy; Mind-brain Group (ICS)
About Javier Sánchez-Cañizares
- Javier Sánchez-Cañizares currently works at the Group CRYF; Ecclesiastical School of Philosophy; Mind-brain Group (ICS), Universidad de Navarra. Javier does research in Quantum Physics, Atheism and Humanism and Philosophy of Science. Their current project is 'La filosofía de la naturaleza a la luz de las interpretaciones actuales de la mecánica cuántica'.
Eduardo C. Garrido-Merchán