To Table of Contents No.1

Editorial, part 1


Once upon a time people did not distinguish between science and philosophy. The Greek word mathesis (akin to the Sanscrit manas - the mind) denoted the whole of human knowledge, including what nowadays involves mathematics, science, and philosophy.

Is there any chance of return to that lost state of intellectual happiness? And to achieve that not with a change of the arrow of time but with the progress of knowledge?

The story of Copernicus (picture on the left), Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Leibniz, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Popper, Goedel, Tarski, etc give us the answer in the affirmative. Let it be summed up in the old 17th century term Mathesis Universalis to denote the united forces of mathematics, natural science, and philosophy.

Thereby we distance from that time in recent history in which a group of angry people in Vienna decreed eternal divorce between science and philosophy. They were most angry with what they called "metaphysics". Up to now some good people, for instance in Warsaw, do believe that the only scientific attitude consists in the "Ueberwindung der Metaphysik". The shortest riposte to be delivered to that attitude is found in Karl Popper's phrase "metaphysical research programme", concerning empirical research. Let it serve as the motto of this essay.

1. The revival of bonds between science and philosophy

This revival can be exemplified by the ideas and output of two leading figures at the modern intellectual scene, to wit:

Popper introduced the notion of metaphysical research programme in the context of views regarding relations between science and metaphysics. Scientific statements are apt to be tested in observation; metaphysical ones are not, but this does not imply a lack of meaning, as claimed by logical empiricism of the Vienna Circle, briliantly refuted by Popper (when tackling the question "who killed logical empiricism?", he used to answer "I fear that I must admit responsibility"). The core of Popper's anti-empiricism consists in his view that there is no theory-free observation, and no theory-free language, since facts have to be interpreted in the light of theoretical assumptions. Among them there are some most general ideas which are not apt to be tested by experience, but are necessary to guide it, as the idea that there is the world, that it evolves in a way, that it can be rationally investigated, etc. He called such ideas "metaphysical" and appreciated them as laying at the bottom of scientific research.

A beatiful example of relations between natural science and philosophy is found in Heisenberg's Der Teil und das Ganze, 1973. The book starts from saying that it is talks what gives rise to science -- Wissenschaft im Gespraech ensteht, and then talks with most brilliant physicists of our century are reported and commented. What is specially impressive in them, it is how these scientists were occupied with fundamental philosophical questions. Here are the titles of some chapters to exemplify the point.

The concept of understanding in modern physics.
The quantum mechanics and a talk with Einstein
[theory vs. experiment, the principle of economy, simplicity of natural laws, etc.].
First talks on the relationship between natural science and religion.
Atom physics and pragmatist way of thinking.
Quantum mechanics and Kantian philosophy.
Discussions on the language.
Positivism, metaphysics, and religion.
Elementary particles and Platonian philosophy.
Let these examples hint at the intercourse between natural sciences and a certain type of philosophy, of which both sides take impulses for development. Let this type be called Science-Oriented Philosophy -- SOPhy, for short. The revival of SOPhy in the context of the 20th century science is related to the scientific revolutions of our age. In the preceding century science seemed to be finally established with the mechanistic foundations laid two centuries earlier and having no alternative. This quiet was disturbed by problems and discoveries exemplified by the above list of topics of Heisenberg's talks in which the typically metaphysical problem of the Whole (called der grosse Zusammenhang by him and his collegaues) must have emerged.

SOPhy is obviously related to philosophy in science with which it shares interest in philosophical foundations of sciences, and to that quest for scientific foundations of philosophy which may be aptly called science in philosophy. Moreover, SOPhy has topics in common with analytic philosophy which attempts at clarifying philosophical concepts. Since some of them belong to the foundations of science, there results a common field of interest. It is in order now to descend from these highly general considerations, and to focus upon an individual science germane to a selected part of philosophy. The science to be considered is informatics, while the relevant piece of philosophy provides a conceptual framework to deal with a relation between physical and abstract entities.

The term "informatics" is convenient on account of its conciseness as well as certain indefiniteness that makes it possible to adjust it to current discussion. Its meaning is sometimes identified with that of "computer science", sometimes it suggests a more extensive study of information, in particular information processing. The latter is authorized by the Penguin Dictionary of Computers (A.Chandor et al, London 1985) which offers the following definition:

"informatics -- the science or art of processing data to provide information." Fortunately, the terms italicized (in the original) for their import express the key concepts of this discussion.
In the conceptual framework to be proposed both varieties of processing are so construed that they appear not only in machines made by humans but also in organisms and minds, hence the term "informatics" can comprise a number of disciplines. Among them there is logic (historically, the oldest) which deals with truth-preserving processing of data and information. Furthermore, there is computer science with its ramifications, including AI etc, and there is also genetics, neuroscience, etc.

A conceptual framework is a system of fundamental notions which organize one's thinking about the world; since such fundamental, or most general concepts are traditionally called philosophical categories, some authors prefer the term "categorial framework", but fundamentality is involved in the very notion of framework, hence the both terms are acceptable. [*1]

At the bottom of any metaphysical research programme there is a conceptual framework involving philosophical notions; it forms an essential part of what is fashionably called a paradigm for science - after Thomas Kuhn. According to him, a paradigm is necessary to answer questions like the following. What are the fundamental entities of which the universe is composed? How do these interact with each other and with the senses? What questions may legitimatly be asked about such entities and what techniques employed in seeking solutions? [*2]

2. A philosophical framework for informatics

Let the universe of discourse of informatics be called CU, ie the Cybernetic Universe. The entities being in CU are engaged in activities of Information Processing, IP, and Data Processing, ID. These terms denote two categories which are different though inseparable. Data are physical entities coordinated to information pieces being abstract entities; if the latter category is exemplified by numbers, then the former by digits produced from ink, chalk, magnetized spots, electric impulses, etc. When such a stuff is used to produce the inscription being a sentence, then the corresponding piece of information is what we call a proposition. Other examples: a proof, an algorithm, a program, belong to the things subjected to IP while their physical records -- to DP. Since IP and DP processes are inseparable, for the sake of conciseness the name of the former can stand for both, unless the problem discussed requires that they be distinguished.

Data and information are processed with informational machines; in the present context the adjective should be regarded as obvious (hence negligible) because other kinds of machines, viz. tools (to process a material stuff) and engines (to process energy) do not belong to the domain in question (CU), even if sometimes their relation to informational machines should be considered.

Two categories of machines are studied in the sciences of information processing. Since no suitable modern terminology has been coined to distinguish them, let us employ Leibniz's terms: natural machines, i.e. an organism, and artificial machines, eg computers.

Natural machines, capable of perception and having purposes of their own (such as to survive, to reproduce, to form societies) are suitably equipped with devices for information processing corresponding to those purposes. Artificial machines are mere devices to serve purposes established by their producers and users. Nevertheless, these kinds of machines have important features in common, as shown in the next section.

A machine code (or machine language) is a coding system adopted in the design of a computer to represent the instruction repertoire of the computer. In a digital machine its expressions are sequences of symbols "1" and "0" recorded as states of a cell (an impulse, the lack of an impulse). This code is found at the lowest level of programming languages as mediating in communication between men and computers. The higher the level of a programming language, the closer this langauge is to users' language, and the more remote from the machine code involved; an intermediate language provides translations from a higher-level to a lower-level language.

Let us take this structure as a rough model of what is going on in a natural machine. Though we have just a partial evidence for that, such a working hypothesis should prove useful (even if finally refuted for the evidence gained by applying it). Thus the concept of machine code will enter the categorial framework for Cybernetic Universe.

A partial evidence to speak for the conjecture proposed is to the effect that there is a vast set of actions taken by an organism which succeed in solving a problem, or performing a task, without their subject being aware of them. Then the course of actions must have been controlled by instructions which do not belong to any language known to the subject in question (e.g., if a driver moves the steering wheel without saying to himself "move the wheel" then the instruction is supposed to have been stated in an organic-machine code).

Provided that there exists a machine code in an animal, it should be taken into account in explaining intelligent behaviour. Let us consider this at the level of such a developed animal as is the man. Intelligent action is one that leads to a success in problem-solving. Usually, humans solve a problem with a reasoning. To solve it, one has (i) to know premisses and (ii) to know how to process premisses in order to reach conclusion. If there is a problem, at least one of these two prerequisites remains unknown. Suppose, one does not know premisses (the same argument can be applied when (ii) is lacking). To find them, one must either address the cell in which they are recorded and stored, or to make a random search. Neither is being done in a conscious way, hence the search is steered by instructions recorded in a language not being accessible to a conscious inspection (only when found, the premisses are consciously assessed as to their relevance and reliability); let that hypothetical mechanism be named "machine code".

Since the process of reasoning is a crucial factor in intelligent problem-solving, the research on intelligence should take advantage of theory of logic as dealing with validity of inferences. This is done in part 2 entitled "Intelligence and Logic".

[*1] The concept in question is extensively discussed by W.Marciszewski and S.Koerner ("The Modes of Philosophical Involvement with a Categorial Framework") in the volume Stephen Koerner -- Philosophical Analysis and Reconstruction, ed by J.Srzednicki. Nijhoff / Kluwer, Dordrecht 1987. [-> back to main text]

[*2] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago 1970. See p. 4ff. To exemplify the notion of fundamental entities, let it be noted that the transition from SOPhy of classical mechanics to that underlyuing quantum mechanics implies new categories of objects, e.g. what C.F. von Weizsaecker (in Heisenberg 1973, quoted above, Ch. on Kantianism, p. 146) calls an observational situation referred to by a perception ("Jede Wahrnehmung bezieht sich auf eine Beobachtungssituation"). Another example. Some biologists so behave as if they believed in the reasonable entity called Evolution, when speaking, e.g., of "a trick of evolution which has unlimited inventiveness. Even if this is just an informal way of speaking, it exemplifies a spontaneous creation of categorial framework; it replaces the older, prescientific, one (involving the concept of God), nevertheless it preserves the category of the Mind controlling Nature. [-> back to main text]

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