Friday, December 30, 2011

Preparatory articles on ontology: form, substance, propensity and multiple levels

Preparatory articles written for my book Starting Science From God:

Ontology at

What does the Wave Function Describe? 
A physics talk about understanding the wave function of quantum mechanics: distinguishing form, substance and propensity.
An ontological extension of dispositional essentialism is proposed, whereby what is necessary and sufficient for the dispositional causation of events is interpreted realistically, and postulated to exist. This ‘generative realism’ leads to a general concept of ‘substance’ as constituted by its more fundamental powers or propensities appearing in the form of some structure or field. This neo-Aristotelian view is reviewed historically, and in respect to quantum physics.
The analysis of dispositions is used to consider cases where the effect of one disposition operating is the existence of another disposition. This may arise from rearrangements within aggregated structures of dispositional parts, or, it is argued, also as stages of derivative dispositions within a set of multiple generative levels. Inspection of examples in both classical and quantum physics suggests a general principle of `Conditional Forward Causation': that dispositions act 'forwards' in a way conditional on certain circumstances or occasions already existing at the `later' levels.
Examining the role of dispositions  (potentials and propensities) in both physics and psychology reveals that they are commonly derivative dispositions, so called because they derive from other dispositions. Furthermore, when they act, they produce further propensities. Together, therefore, they appear to form discrete degrees within a structure of multiple generative levels. It is then constructively hypothesized that minds and physical nature are themselves discrete degrees within some more universal structure. This gives rise to an effective dualism of mind and nature, but one according to which they are still constantly related by causal connections. I suggest a few of the unified principles of operation of this more complicated but universal structure.
An architecture is proposed in which connectionist links and pattern-directed rules are combined in a unified framework, involving the combination of distinct networks in layers. Piaget's developmental psychology is used to suggest specific semantic contents for the individual layers.

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