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Award-winning Essays Refute Reductionism – the 2019 Kurt Gödel Prize

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    Award-winning Essays Refute Reductionism – the 2019 Kurt Gödel Prize

    "In the philosophy of science, reductionism is commonly equated with the idea that all sciences are reducible to physics, in other words that all phenomena can be explained in terms of physical matter and forces. Human experience can be reduced to the activation of neurons in the brain. Life can be reduced to the chemical reactions of molecules.

    To some it is "an attractive theory that is getting ever closer to reality". To those of us in the post-materialist movement, reductionism is the ugly stepchild of materialism. But why? What's wrong with simplifying nature to its lowest common denominators?

    To answer that question, The Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends in Berlin, with the support of the University of Wuppertal, created the Kurt Gödel Prize, with a cash purse of 15,000 Euros for the best three essays. "

    https://opensciences.org/blogs/open-...EIVzWaK2npTn9E

    #2
    The limits of reductionism: thought, life, and reality By Jesse M. Mulder

    "What is the best question reductionists would have to answer but cannot, and why exactly is there no reductionist answer to that question? To answer this question, we need to identify the relevant question. Let us call the question we are looking for the Question. An obvious candidate for this Question is this one: what is thought? – Why? Well, reductionism presents itself as a thesis we might come to endorse (or not). If thought is irreducible, then the reductionist does not merely face a bullet that she is unwilling to bite. The reductionist project rests on endorsing a thesis; endorsing a thesis is irreducible; and so the bullet is lethal. However, this might seem to saddle us with a dualist picture: there is this unique, irreducible part of reality – the part inhabited by beings engaged in the activity of thinking – but for the rest reductionism is fine. The existence of rational creatures will then be an annoying detail that spoils the reductionist fun. A reductionist, then, might be tempted to counter with an optimistic promissory note: perhaps some unforeseen future scientific discovery will enlighten us, putting us in reductionist heaven after all. Hence, I will attempt to push the limits of reductionism further by suggesting as a candidate for our Question: what is life? If the reductionist faces an unresolvable problem here, squarely within the realm of the natural sciences, she seems to be in more serious trouble. And I will endeavor to claim that, indeed, the reductionist faces such serious trouble. This results not in a dualist picture, but rather in a pluralist one: we must grant sui generis status to inanimate nature, life, thought, and perhaps to other realms as well. Now, a hard-nosed reductionist might resort to an instrumental understanding of biology. She might even adopt an eliminative stance towards life. But we can push the limits of reductionism even further, and I will do so by suggesting a third and ultimate candidate for our Question: what is reality? The progression I make with these candidate questions, thought – life – reality, at first sight is one of expansion. We first focus on a very limited domain (the thinkers), then widen our scope towards a larger domain (life) and end up with the largest possible domain (reality). I will boldly suggest, however, that the last question, on reality is, in fact, the very same as the first question, the one on thought. Thus rounding the circle, we find ourselves not with a dualist or pluralist but rather with a monist picture (but, of course, not of a reductive variety). Before presenting these three candidate Questions, I will briefly introduce my conception of reductionism, in §1 below. Then follow the promised three candidate Questions: in §2 what is thought?; in §3 what is life?; in §4 what is reality?. I conclude in §5, where I elaborate briefly on the ‘transformative’ motivation behind my choice for these three candidate Questions."

    https://kurtgoedel.de/cms-83FO/wp-co...ductionism.pdf


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      #3
      Why reductionism does not work by Georg F R Ellis
      1 Emergence, Reductionism, and Causation
      "Kurt Godel opposed the reductionist viewpoint of logical positivism ([149]:173) For example he wrote “Even if we adopt positivism, it seems to me that the assumption of such entities as concepts is quite [as] legitimate as the assumption of physical objects and that there is quite as much reason to believe in their existence” ([149]:174). He asked more specifically as regards biology, “Is there enough specificity in the enzymes to allow for a mechanical interpretation of all functions of the mind? .. I believe that mechanism in biology is a prejudice of our time which will be disproved ([149]:192). The arguments I give below show he is correct in both cases. The reductionist explanation he opposed is doomed to failure. Life emerges out of physics in a bottom-up way: atoms are made of electrons and protons, molecules of atoms, cells of molecules, physiological systems (including brains) out of cells, and organisms out of physiological systems. The issue is whether higher levels have causal powers, or not: are they just epiphenomena, in view of the alleged causal completeness of the underlying physics? The thesis of this essay is that, (i) Reductionism does not work because strong emergence occurs in many important cases. In particular in biology, “More is different” [5], since the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. (ii) This emergence is possible because downwards causation takes place right down to the lower physical levels, hence arguments from the alleged causal completeness of physics and supervenience are wrong. Lower levels, including the underlying physical levels, are conscripted to higher level purposes; the higher levels are thereby causally effective, so strong emergence occurs. No violation of physical laws is implied. The key point is that outcomes of universally applicable generic physical laws depend on the context when applied in specific real world biological situations [8]. The same is true for example in the case of digital computers. In this essay, I look at the nature of strong emergence, the fact that it occurs, and how it is enabled by downward causation (Section 2); the ways that downwards causation is possible (Section 3); physics examples (Section 4); digital computers as a very clear example (Section 5); and biology examples, including the brain (Section 6). I end with a discussion of how top down action causes branching of physics at the lower levels, and hence undermines the argument from supervenience against strong emergence (Section 7). This makes clear key questions reductionists would have to answer, but cannot."

      https://kurtgoedel.de/cms-83FO/wp-co..._work-1-28.pdf

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        #4
        Monads, Types and Branching Time - Kurt Gödel's approach towards a theory of the soul by Tim Lethen
        1 Introduction
        "In 1935, Kurt G¨odel wrote two consecutive notebooks entitled ‘Physik – Quantenmechanik I’ and ‘Physik – Quantenmechanik II’ 1 , which—to this day— remain completely unpublished but have now been entirely transcribed from the Gabelsberger shorthand system by the present author. The books contain G¨odel’s thoughts, ideas, and questions about the foundations of quantum mechanics, carefully devised into a single list of about 340 items. Only one year later, G¨odel wrote a third notebook2 , entitled ‘Aflenz 1936 (Analysis, Physik)’, compiled on the basis of the earlier two books. Whereas some of the items are simply just copied, others are carefully revised and sometimes extended. Also, many of the original notes are completely dropped, with the original order of the items being retained. In a reply to a questionnaire sent to G¨odel by Burke D. Grandjean in 1974, published by Hao Wang in (Wang, 1987), G¨odel himself explains that he studied Leibniz between 1943 and 1946, adding that ‘the greatest phil. infl. on hhimi came from Leibniz.’ G¨odel’s books on quantum mechanics now clearly prove earlier). that he did indeed study at least Leibniz’ Monadology3 as early as 1935 (or even earlier). Side by side with rather technical considerations, the books also contain many philosophically orientated comments, in many cases closely connected to Leibniz’ Monadology.4 The following section will concentrate on an analogy between the universal set and an objective thing-in-itself. Here, G¨odel describes what might be seen as a kind of monadologic type theory. Section 4 then concentrates on a more complex link between monads and worldviews, with the latter being organized in tree-like structures, representing models of branching time. Section 5 briefly reviews the history of branching time, comparing G¨odel’s notion to those introduced by Saul Kripke (in connection with A.N. Prior’s tense logic) and Nuel Belnap (in connection with relativity and indeterminism). Throughout the paper, G¨odel’s notes are presented as close to the original as possible. [Square brackets] and (parentheses) are G¨odel’s own, further additions by the present author are marked in hangle bracketsi. Although the items in the later Aflenz book are often more elaborate, the particular case always decides, which comment suits the situation best. Also note that the last item of QM2, which has been considered in the Aflenz book, is item 318. As the order of G¨odel’s notes (and sometimes even within the notes) does not necessarily reflect his overall train of thought, this paper is aiming at reconstructing and presenting G¨odel’s main ideas. For brevity, we will concentrate on the central passages of the items in question."

        https://kurtgoedel.de/cms-83FO/wp-co...f_the_soul.pdf

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