On the Impossibility of Empirical Metaphysics

More of the same. This time, with no pictures of the Catwoman.

But then, on the hypothesis that parallel Newtonian universes are possible, how do I avoid drawing the implication that such universes that start out physically identical will continue to play out physically identically so long as the matter in them obeys Newton’s laws?

By examining the unspoken assumption being made. In real physics, as opposed to the make believe physics of materialism, the physicist assumes the past physical events define or determine present physical events as a metaphysical assumption, that is, as a the starting unquestioned axiom of his discipline. He discipline does not apply to people or animals and never has and never will and does not even pretend to do so.

Materialism, on the other hand, is a philosophical rather than a scientific theory, and starts from the axiom of ontological monism, or, in layman’s terms, the laws which apply to matter also must apply to the mind since there can only be one substance in the universe since the universe is one coherent whole. To posit two substances destroys the axiom of coherence.

So you ask about a Newtonian universe. We live in a Newtonian universe. Newton’s laws are a correct approximation for how matter behaves at speeds not near the speed of light. It is less accurate than Einstein’s theory or Quantum Mechanics, and they in turn are less accurate than a unified field theory, if such is ever developed.

Am I being clear? All physical theories BY DESIGN are partial theories. They explain the physical aspects of the universe and nothing else.

But they do not explain everything in the universe, not even all physical motions. They only explain non-deliberate physical motions, like the orbits of planets or the parabolic flightpath of cannon balls. They only explain carefully-controlled and artificially established circumstances.

Physics only holds true in room where you shoo out all the cats and mice and close and lock the doors, and watch the billiards in the room move, after telling all the children not to poke a billiard ball through the mail slot with a yardstick and mess up your experiment.

So your hypothetical is impossible. You are asking what happens if the entire universe is the locked room of physics, and physics is a discipline which by definition assumes determinism and excludes deliberation. You ask whether in such a universe, the end results would have to be same given the same initial conditions.

The answer is yes, obviously. If you shooed every living thing out of the universe, and preventing nothing but carefully controlled mechanical operations, then the mechanical operations would operate mechanically.

For some reason, this answer confuses our village materialist, because he seems to think I am admitting human beings are nothing but inanimate physical systems of atoms in motion.

How do I avoid the implication that, if sheets of paper concluding with ink-marks spelling out “Exeunt, bearing off the dead bodies” appear in one, then those same ink marks must appear at the corresponding time and location in the other universe?

By not making the axiomatic assumption which lead to those conclusions. Who told you that ink marks appear on paper due to the operation of inanimate systems of mechanical motions rather than (as seems more likely to me) due to someone scratching on the paper with an pen?

How, then, do I avoid the inference that, if the universes started out physically identically, and a tragedy was written in one, then a tragedy was written in the other?

By questioning whether the entity “tragedy” is a physical entity whose motions, if it has motions, can be determined or defined by the motions of other physical entities.

If it is a physical entity, then it can be defined physically. All physical entities to date can be defined in terms of seven Standard International Unit measures: length, mass, duration, candlepower, current, temperature, moles of substance. (Dr Andreassens says there are additional units for describing subatomic particles, but this merely extends the list, and does not change the argument).

If tragedy is a physical object, then it can be defined in SI Units. What is the mass of a tragedy? I assume it is matter more grave than a light comedy.

If on the other hand, if cannot be defined in SI Units, it is not a physical thing.

If it is not a physical thing, the inference that identical initial physical conditions lead to the same tragic ending for the characters in the play written by the two parallel playwrights is not necessarily the case.

But, even without begging the question of whether parallel universes are actually possible, shouldn’t I be able to infer logical consequences from the hypothesis that they are possible?

Ah! Perhaps I did not explain my point. Forgive me. If materialism is true, then there are no truths aside from physical truths. The only method of gaining knowledge of physical truths is experimentation and observation. Parallel universes are a thought experiments used to make comments about metaphysical truths, which are true in all universes, that is, under all possible conditions. Hence, a materialist, in order to be logically consistent, dare not argue about the conditions in a parallel universe, or about any other metaphysical issue, because he must hold as a matter of principle that metaphysics does not exist, and he must hold that only experiential knowledge is true knowledge. Hence, he cannot convince nor be convinced by means of a parallel universe thought experiment.

I never said in the Mechaspeare experiment whether the end conditions would be the same or different. That is not a point that would make any difference in the argument. There are only four possibilities:

1. Realism is right and the two end results are the same: Hamlet dies in both trials. In this case, Shakespeare and Mechaspeare used their free will to make parallel decisions about how to end the play. According to Realism, the event of the playwright ending the play in this case cannot be explained nor understood without reference to the ends and means and other mental and subjective events taking place in the two minds.

2. Realism is right and the two end results differ: Hamlet dies in trial one and married Ophelia in trial two. In this case, in this case, Shakespeare and Mechaspeare used their free will to make non-parallel decisions about how to end the play. If Realism is correct, even the most careful inspection of the physical aspects of the total reality will not betray any physical object moving without a physical cause. The willpower does not physically set the nerve electricity in motion to move the muscle to move the finger to move the pen. Chemical energy ultimately from the sun stored from nutrients in the bloodstream physically set the nerve electricity in motion to move the muscle to move the finger to move the pen. However, the ends and means and other mental events in the minds of Shakespeare and Mechaspeare establish the plot the playwrights desire to write, and the goal of the muscular motion and finger motion can only be understood as alluring or drawing or establishing the goal of these motions. But they do not provide the efficient cause of the motion, only the final cause.

3. Materialism is right and the two end results are the same: Hamlet dies in both trials. In this case, Shakespeare and Mechaspeare are automatons whose wheels and gears, including the gears on which their thoughts are written, move in perfect according with the physical laws, and nothing aside form the physical laws is needed to explain the results. Same input, same rules, ergo same output.

4. Materialism is right and the two end results are different: Hamlet dies in trial one and married Ophelia in trial two. Since by definition the same input and the same rules requires the same output, ergo a different output either requires the laws of nature to differ between the two trials, which by assumption they cannot, or the initial conditions differed in some small way, which by assumption they cannot.

But please notice that if Materialism is true, the outcomes of experiments cannot be deduced from abstract first principles on the grounds that abstract first principles are inductive general conclusions drawn from many particular experimental results, not from any metaphysical axiomatic thinking. Hence, the honest materialst could say no more about the fourth result until and unless someone actually built Mechaspeare, or a universe emulator, or found Lord Kelvin of Otherwhere and visited a parallel timeline. By Materialist theory, speculations about the results of experiments is not knowledge, that is, not a sufficient ground for belief.

A materialist who merely contemplates a thought experiment which leads to result four must by the nature of his theory hold himself to be unconvinced.

Those are the only four possible options. As you can see, either belief system can explain or explain away either possible result. It is not a permissible inference to say that since Materialism is true, the fourth option is impossible, and then use that as an argument to show the fourth option is true.

Now a ‘true believer’ in Materialism (that is, a man such as I hold Dr Andreassen to be) who either through lack of imagination or lack of curiosity simply cannot imagine any worldview but his own sees nothing but two options: option three and option four, both of which assume Materialism to be true. Option four cannot be the result if materialism is true. So he sees no other option but materialism. That is the whole of his reasoning process.

It means the thought experiment is entirely meaningless.

You cannot solve a metaphysical argument by reference to an experiment. Metaphysical truths are truth under all conditions. Properly controlled experiments are true only under the condition that the theory is true; the theory must be DISPROVABLE, and the experiment constructed to establish what results will prove the theory wrong. The Shakespeare-Mechaspeare thought experiment simply does not do this. It is not a properly constructed experiment.

Mechaspeare is just as much a witness for the Realist case as for the Materialist case.

Metaphysics, as the name implies, is a study of the foundational beliefs that must NECESSARILY be true before any theory of physics can be proved true. Physics is the study of models of the physical world which are CONTINGENTLY true, that is the models are true only where and when and if the experimental evidence matches what the model predicts. Physics is dependent on physical evidence; metaphysics is not dependent.

Hence, by its very nature, a metaphysical principle is one which is either (1) true in all possible physical cases or (2) untrue in all possible physical cases.

A metaphysical theory, once proved true, is true under all conditions, or, if you prefer a fanciful way of saying it, true in all universes. A metaphysical theory, once proved false, is false under all conditions, or, if you prefer a fanciful way of saying it, false in all universes. It is either ALWAYS true or ALWAYS false.

Hence if materialism, the theory that by the nature of existence itself, nothing but matter ever can or will exist, is true, then it is not logically possible for materialism to be true in some cases and not in others. If nothing but matter ever can or will exist, it is not logically possible for nonmaterial entities like ghosts or triangles or the concept of justice to exist on Mars, or in the Stone Age, but at all other times only matter exists. But in that case, ghosts dancing on Mars, it is not true that due to the fundamental nature of what it means to ‘exist’ that only matter exists and ever could and ever will.

Likewise, if realism is true, the theory that by the nature of free will itself, men’s actions both must be described and describable in terms of final cause, because without final cause actions have no goals, and must be described and describable in terms of efficient cause, because without efficient cause actions have no consequences. If realism is true, it is not logically possible that men landing on Mars or living in the Stone Age turn into automatons whose decisions cannot be described in terms of final cause, because decisions without final cause is a contradiction in terms. (Even a man in a fairy tale or science fiction story turned into a robot or zapped with a hypnotic ray or drinking a love potion does not defeat this rule: he merely turns from an entity that makes decisions into one who does not. His actions that appear to be decisions are no more decisions then a voice on a tape recorder is able to have an intelligent conversation with you.) As with materialism, if realism is true, it is true always and forever and under all conditions.

By definition, it is impossible to devise an experiment to disprove either metaphysical theory. An experiment is a controlled circumstance where one observable result disproves the theory and the other observable result confirms, or, to be precise, does not necessarily disprove, the theory. An experiment can only exist in a nondeterministic universe: there have to be at least two possible outcomes. But a metaphysical theory, for the reason given above, if it is true, it will and must be true in all possible outcomes, and if false, it will and must be false in all possible outcomes. Hence no possible outcome can disprove a metaphysical principle.