File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9810, message 5

Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 12:45:42 -0400
Subject: Re: BHA: Closure

We are very much in agreement.  You are correct to highlight interactions of 
mechanisms as being essential to openness.  We seem to oppose an "isolation" 
definition of closure, but Caroline's description "isolation in a causal 
sense" may be equivalent to our view.

I am uncomfortable with the following statements, because you seem to be 
saying that closure is the hallmark of systematicity, which would mean there 
aren't anything as open systems at all.  "We have to ask what makes us talk 
about a 'system' in the first place.  Isn't it by virtue of a theory about 
the interrelationships of various mechanisms that we identify systems?  
Their closure is what can demonstrate their systematicity."

I said to consider the solar system, or some other suitably
large SPATIAL domain, and to assume for the sake of argument that
nothing ever crosses its SPATIAL boundary.  (I considered temporality later.)

You ask: "In which case it is free from *external* influences, no?"  Well, 
it would be free from external SPATIAL influences, but it would not 
necessarily be free from external influences in general, unless you are 
using "external" to mean spatially external.  You clearly aren't using that 
meaning, because you go on to say: "Hence closed if by external we mean all
influences; temporal, spatial."  But my example only requires spatial closure.

You then go on to say: "Empirically, of course, we know this is not the
case. But nonetheless, if our solar system were free from external
influences, then it could be considered closed."  Yes, if you use
"external" here to mean free from spatial and temporal influences.  But, to
repeat, my example was one of spatial closure only.

You then say: "This doesn't mean, I don't think that we need necessarily 
expect event regularities."  Why not?  If a system is closed, no matter what 
the definition of closure, don't we agree that event regularity is an 
essential trait of closed systems?

Re quantum phenomena.  Consider a closed system (by some definition of
closure or other).  If quantum phenomena were to exist within that system,
then event regularity would be lost.  Suppose a doomsday machine is
connected to a geiger counter in such a way that if at noon of some
specific day the reading of the counter is even then the device will
explode and destroy the earth, otherwise not.  If quantum phenomena are
truly random, there is in principle no way to predict the outcome.  I
conclude that such a system cannot be closed.  I offered an example that
would have large macrosopic effects, but in ordinary phenomena it is
possible that quantum phenomena are largely unimportant to general issues
of closure.  In other words, although the world would be technically open
at a microscopic level, but there would be no emergent effects upwards at
the everyday level.  The example I gave shows that such microscopic effects
can indeed have macrosopic effects (and they routinely do in certain
laboratories).  As I understand, Roger Penrose believes quantum phenomena
are essential to consiousness, in which case they would have important
emergent effects.

Louis Irwin

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