Tuesday, July 12, 2011

oleg and Aristotelian final cause

[Mike Egnor said]: "Quantum entanglement and the EPR paradox. Teleology is retrograde causation. The goal in the future is a cause of the past." 
[oleg said]: This is to vague to even be criticized. Maybe you should expound on it further. I will note, however, that there is no retrograde causation in quantum mechanics. The principle of causality (loosely speaking, the present does not affect the past) remains a cornerstone of physics. It survived the relativistic and quantum revolutions.
'Expound on it further', from the folks at mathpages:
Not withstanding the statistical nature of descriptions of events in terms of macrostates, the fact remains that the fundamental processes of nature – at least in classical physics - are temporally symmetrical, so our choice of a direction for causality is conventional. Indeed Laplace explicitly recognized this when he wrote about determinism within the Newtonian framework, claiming that if the present conditions were known completely and with perfect precision, then the entire history of the universe, both past and future, would be known. According to Laplace’s view, the concept of causality is not even applicable, at least not in the sense of something that flows from the past into the future. Instead, he envisaged a “block universe”, complete and whole for its entire history. He certainly would have denied thenecessity of restricting our notions of causality to what Aristotle called efficient causes, but it still seems to have been assumed that efficient causes are sufficient to give a complete and coherent account of physical processes.
However, beginning in the 20th century, scientists identified a variety of fundamental processes that seem to defy explanation if we restrict ourselves to just efficient causes. The best known of these processes are those involving quantum entanglement. The results of spacelike-separated measurements on entangled particles exhibit correlations that depend on what measurements are made. It can be shown that no explanation in terms of efficient causes is consistent with the empirical results of such measurements, but the results are quite easy to explain in terms of final causes, i.e., if we allow for the possibility that the emission of a quantum particle may be conditioned to some extent by the circumstances of its absorption. Thus the abandoned notion of “final causes” discussed by Aristotle may turn out to be useful after all. It seems appropriate that the word aitia is a palindrome, since, like the laws of physics, it doesn’t distinguish between the forward and backward directions.

Modern physics is best understood in the Aristotelian framework.  Materialists hate this, because they understand nothing of it, and materialism is a willfully ignorant philosophy.


  1. Mike,

    Before we get to this, I have a procedural question. Have you abandoned the Heisenberg thread? Are not planning to provide any examples of Aristotelean metaphysics serving to generate insights for quantum mechanics?

  2. oleg:

    [Before we get to this, I have a procedural question. Have you abandoned the Heisenberg thread?]

    I have a lot on my plate, and I intend to post on this and discuss it as often as I can.

    Te relevance of Aristotelian metaphysics is obvious. I've given you several examples. If you are interested you can find more. I must admit that I'm surprised at your lack of interest in what I've already shown you. This stuff is fascinating, and I don't see why you are so dismissive of a revolution that is going on in the philosophy of science and in the metaphysics of science. Materialism is dead.

    I appreciate all of your comments-- they're very thoughtful, although I disagree with many of course. I'll engage as much as I can, but I've got a day job.


  3. I understand that you are busy, Mike. I have a day job, too. If you wish to pause and reply later, that is fine with me. However, I have strong doubts that you will be returning to this thread. Or this one. I also have low expectations for the current thread. I hope you will prove me wrong.

  4. Let's address the latest quote you have found, this time on mathpages. Before we dive into quantum physics, I will remind you what I asked you to do, several times:

    If [Aristotle's metaphysics] is so obviously useful, why don't you provide a specific example of an "extraordinary new scientific insight" that was obtained or of a quantum problem that was solved thanks to the Aristotelean approach? I know of no such examples and I have been asking you to point out one. Instead we only hear the repetition of slogans.

    So far you have not done that. Don't give me post hoc musings. Point out a new experimental discovery or a novel theoretical result that could not have been obtained by other means.

    Your latest attempt fails on that score again. The anonymous author of mathpages (a.k.a. Kevin Brown) apparently refers to the work of Olivier Costa de Beauregard, a French theoretical physicist and philosopher who wrote about retrocausality in quantum mechanics [1]. Costa de Beauregard takes the standard (Copenhagen) quantum mechanics, looks at the equations, and attempts to distill their true essence. Here is a quote from the conclusion of his earlier article [2]:

    "We deem that (contrary to a widespread belief) the most important changes in paradigm result from a victory of formalism over modelism rather than the contrary. Thus, they consist in understanding the true meaning of the operational formulae as they stand. They 'unveil the sense of the Scriptures' by strictly tailoring the wording after the mathematics.

    In other words, he worked on yet another interpretation of quantum mechanics. All different interpretations of quantum mechanics make exactly the same predictions for experiments. That is why most of them are ignored by the vast majority of practitioners. The standard, Copenhagen version is all a physicist needs. Philosophers find them interesting, physicists not so much.

    It's true that sometimes a new vantage point offers a surprising insight and leads to a new discovery. That has not been the case with different interpretations of quantum mechanics. Costa de Beauregard's work is not an exception to this rule. If you wished to provide an example of something useful, you failed again.

    [1] See, e.g., O. Costa de Beauregard, "Timelike nonseparability and retrocausation," arXiv:quant-ph/9804069.

    [2] O. Costa de Beauregard, "Time symmetry and the Einstein paradox," Nuov. Cim. B 42, 41 (1977). doi:10.1007/BF02906749.

  5. I should add that the connection to Aristotelean metaphysics in this case is even more tenuous than in the previous one.

    Costa de Beauregard came up, post hoc, with an interpretation of quantum mechanics that involves retrocausation: quantum correlations travel back in time and then forward to the other particle. (Never mind that this hypothesis cannot be checked experimentally.) Kevin Brown thought that this had some resemblance to Aristotle's final causes.

    Come on, Mike! Give something where a physicist was using Aristotle's framework to discover something new, not to reinterpret someone's reinterpretation of a well-established theory.

  6. It looks like this thread is going nowhere fast. Just like this one and that one did.

  7. OMG, this thread is about to disappear off the edge! Quick, Mike, say something!