Abstract: In this paper I will demonstrate that physics is inadequate to explain physical events, that determinism is a false idea, how free will is possible and how intangibles affect physical events. The course of explanation will begin within the contemporary scientific perspective and move toward revealing its structure. It then proceeds to dissect our perspectives to reveal where they have erred in understanding events. The interface of intangible affecters with the physical world is explained.
Statistics: 18 printed pages, 7268 words, 63kb Published: March 29, 2000
Had someone at last understood functions as they relate to physics? It was too much to hope for but at least there was again recognition of the problem: physics being erroneously thought of as the ultimate arbiter of explanation of events. I had been reading an article in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. (J.E. Burns, Volition and Physical Laws, Volume 6 (1999): October) I had not read more than four pages into the article before my frustration overtook me. Since the inadequacy of physics to explain consciousness is constantly being alluded to in contemporary science/philosophy of mind then why isn’t the problem being looked at and looked for more seriously?
Here is a quote from the article. It is (middle of pp. 28): “If free will produces physical effects which cannot be accounted for by physical forces, then its action does not conserve energy. And it has been long held that if ‘free will’ does not conserve energy, it cannot occur.” Let me first rephrase this into something that will standup to scrutiny. ‘Free will’ produces effects that cannot be accounted for by physics (because physics gives only a partial description of physical events) but that fully conserve energy as required by the laws of physics.
If physics is about force and energy then physics is not sufficient to describe the real world in which functions are as much the determinant of the outcome of events as are force and energy. My claim is that the relationships generated by the interactions of things (functions) are affecters and are outside of the realm explained by physics. This claim cannot in principle be explained by physics so it will have to be first understood intuitively and then logically.
The physical world is a carrier. There is always some supervening form (such as a dog, a house a rock) that supervenes on every physical substrate. Also, physical forms never exist in a truly static condition. There is always a relationship of interactions, specific patterns of interaction, between the specific forms of physical things. This I call function. Function is intangible. It is the transient dynamic relationship or the specificity of the patterns of interaction between physical things. Such a relationship is not apparent except to an intelligent mind that can hold and represent a segment of time in which a relationship unfolds. Such relationships do not exist materially. For example, the trip I took to Italy last summer did not and does not exist materially but it did happen. I could not stop and look at my trip in the real time sense that I could look at the leaning tower of Pisa. It was a specific interaction of things. It is what I call a function (or set of functions). It is not material but because it is something, I say that it is intangible. I will be showing how these intangible functions are real affecters that affect the physical world even though they have no tangible existence. (I will use the word ‘pattern’ in this paper to mean any unique unfolding of an event as opposed to using the word to mean something that reoccurs.)
Function is a supervening overstratum carried by a physical subsubstratum. The physical substratum behaves according to the laws of physics. The functional stratum’s behavior is constructed on the physics of the physical substrate but the interaction of forms (as in a dog, a rock, a house, etc.) creates emergent properties (functions) that elaborate behavior beyond that which can be described by the laws of physics. Physical laws apply to material things, as they exist in the moment. Emergent properties or functions only appear over the course of time in the unfolding of an event. The science of the behavior of this stratum has yet to be discovered. The functional stratum coops the force and energy of the physical stratum for its empowerment to effect events. But, that it affects events in a way that is not determined by physics (not fully determined) is beyond doubt. The implication is that energy and the laws of physics are conserved but that the world is not deterministic.
For example, neural networks are a functional stratum supervening on a physical substratum. An organism with a sensory system represents the external environment internally in its neural networks. Representation is not explainable within the laws of physics but is an attribute of this function. One cannot back peddle and say that it is only a way of thinking about what is otherwise a physical event fully describable in terms of physics. This attempt fails because there is clearly a coordination of the activities of the organism for survival that is dependent upon the ability of the organism to represent the environment. We are already, in this example, very deep into behavior within the intangible stratum of function. Representation coordinated to the environment upon which survival is dependent. There isn’t a single concept in that last sentence which can be underwritten by the laws of physics. They are the terms of another stratum of the events of which physics describes only the physical substratum. Representation and coordination are intangible emergent properties that in this example are undeniable because the DNA that creates the organism would not exist if the functions described by these terms did not do just what the meaning of the terms imply. The terms describe properties that are a fact, that are effectual and that are not describable in terms of physics. If events were not represented in the navigation system of the organism and the organism was not able to coordinate its activities to the environment then its species would not exist. Understanding the effects of the functional stratum is absolutely essential to any complete understanding of events. I think in the example of this paragraph it is not hard to understand that the terms coordination and representation represent emergent, intangible and effectual properties. What is more difficult to see is how every interaction of forms produces emergent intangible properties and how these can lead to things like ‘free will’.
Determinism is the idea that if you know where everything is and all the laws of physics that you can predict where everything will be. It is also the idea that presumes that the only affecters of physical events are physical forces and that therefore they are deterministic in their effect. The conflict implied in the quote of the opening paragraphs is that if the world is deterministic then there cannot be such a thing as ‘free will’ that can change the predetermined course of events. The statement in the quote makes the presumption that there are no affecters determining events other than those explained by the laws of physics. Although this is blatantly false the error has eluded science to this day. Needless to say the idea of determinism has never been proven; it has just been around for a long time. An implication of the idea of determinism is that physics is the ultimate arbiter of all explanation of events. It is this presumption that I am bringing into question. It was assumed that all events could be explained fully by physics and that lead to the idea of determinism. It is very hard to accept at first sight that something that has been a core assumption of scientific inquiry for so long could be wrong.
If we are not able to give an explanation in terms of physics of an organism’s dependence on its ability to represent the environment and to coordinate its activities to that environment then we must agree that physics is not adequate to fully describe events. This should then be the beginning of another science that asks how intangible affecters such as representation and coordination are possible, how they are differentiated from physical properties, whether there are regularities and structure in their behavior and an possible taxonomy of their types.
What has been ignored by science is the observation that if some occurrence did not happen in just the way that it did happen then the cascade of consequential events that followed it could not have occurred in the way that it did. If my Mom, who was a nurse stopping in Hawaii on her way to Australia where she was escorting a patient, did not meet my Dad (who had emigrated from Massachusetts) on a dock in Lahaina where he was shipping eggs, I would not be writing this paper today. The effectual nature of a sequence of events is not plainly evident in a single chain of events. Just as physical laws were derived from the comparative observations of many events, which exhibited regularities intimating the presence of force as an affecter, so too, can we determine that function is an affecter by observing many events of a similar kind. Every one of us is here because our Moms and Dads got together. It is also true that none of us would be here if our Moms and Dads had not gotten together. In this case our comparative study shows us that there is specificity of relationship and form (intimacy between male and female humans) that leads to our being here. You are probably wondering if the laws of physics could not just as well explain this but the problem is that there is an obvious specificity of relationship required that physics does not explain. Lets represent the idea of boy meets girl by a lock and key but then leave that more complex level of boys and girls behind and just consider locks and keys.
Suppose all keys were erased overnight such that they would not turn their locks anymore. What would the consequences be? Would you attempt to explain the consequences in terms of physics or would you explain the consequences in terms of all the functions that could no longer take place normally? In terms of physics, the keys won’t turn the locks but in terms of function the car won’t start, the kids won’t get to school nor will you get to work on time. When you do arrive, everyone is standing outside because the door won’t open. Deadlines are going to be missed and clients are going to be angry. Is it not a key’s relationship to a lock that is causing this? The key is no longer matched to the lock.
We could have a million keys and only one that fits the lock. The right key is the selective affecter of the downstream events. The key’s specific ability to unlock the door cannot be described in terms of physics. It is an emergent property resulting from the specific match of the key to the lock. Its relationship to the lock is such that a whole cascade of events will take place on its turning the lock that will not take place if it does not turn the lock. There is no doubt that the physical course of events of the key turning the lock can be explained by the laws of physics but the explanation falls short of explaining the specificity of the events made possible by the right key in the lock.
One might suggest that if the relationship of a key to a lock does not make a gap in the deterministic path of events on the physical level then the key’s relationship to the lock does not affect the outcome of events. Determinism has never been proven and I am saying that it is a false idea. A deterministic path is not possible because there is a functional path that is constantly affecting the physical path and the laws of physics do not determine that functional path. This position affirmatively asserts that the specificities of relationships between forms are affecters of physical events and that the idea of determinism is false.
Lets see how this goes. The determinist might say that it doesn’t matter what the outcome of an event might have been relative to there being a key or there not being a key to unlock the door. The fact of the matter is that there is either a key or there is not a key. In reality only one event will occur. That event will be determined by prior physical conditions and could be predicted by an adequate physics. Lets see how that claim might stack up in the following hypothetical situation.
Suppose that when you came home from the office you placed the office door key in its customary box on your dresser. Your wife found a key on the floor that was virtually identical to your office key except for a difference in notches. She thought you dropped your office key and so put it into your box on the dresser. The next morning you reached into the box for the key without looking. You felt only one key and after picking it up and looking at it in passing you put it in your pocket believing it was the office key. It is clear that the specific key you picked will determine the events that will ensue when you get to the office. It wasn’t physics that lead to your unwitting choice of keys. It was the function of being unwitting.
No one should believe that your choice was predetermined by physics because your fingers might have been within a hair’s breadth from the other key and if they should have touched you would have become immediately aware of an anomaly from the usual circumstance. Your mind would have surged forward projecting the implications of the potential error in horror (a little strong). It would have required the smallest physical pressure against the extra key to set off a major mental event that would avert the potential of a major disaster at the office. If you think about it you will realize that there were a zillion affecters from the temperature in the room making your foot a little damp in your shoe to the gamma radiation of a supernova arriving on earth that could have moved your hand ever so little so that it touched the key. The outcome of what happens at the office will be determined by what key you happened to pickup (specificity of relationship) and not by a physics that determined which key it would be.
Considering the world in retrospect, I believe that it is obvious that the physical path of events is never broken. The significant question is whether the physical path is also deterministic, that it could have been predicted given prior knowledge of where everything was and a complete physics. In contrast to that, we have the evidence of representation and coordination to know that there are affecters that are not physical that affect the physical path. With the example of the right key, we see that the specific way in which events occur affects what happens downstream on the physical path of events and that the physical effects of the specificity of these relationships cannot be explained by physics. The idea of determinism is very seductive but in the face of evidence to the contrary can we believe it?
We should go back to the basic presumption that ‘if we know where everything is and all the laws of physics that we can predict where everything will be’ and see if it is really true. Imagine for a moment the critical juncture of the two keys in the box, how close you came to discovering there were two keys and the downstream effects that the key you picked will have. Being a hair’s breadth away from discovering the second key is such a critical condition that the only model that could adequately apply the laws of physics to this event would be the Universe itself given that even the slightest perturbation of circumstances even at the quantum level may have caused you to touch the other key. Lets just say that everything physical would have to be perfectly modeled so that the only possibility for the model that could predict the outcome would necessarily have to be the Universe itself. What does this mean? It means that the only possible model that could prove determinism would have to be the Universe. The Universe cannot be the proof of its own determinism so we have no proof. Note that if we cannot prove determinism because we cannot model it within the Universe then the conclusion will apply to any attempt to prove determinism. If we cannot prove determinism, then we have to back up and consider that determinism may only have been a seductive idea leaving open the possibility that there could be other determinants affecting events.
This is interesting because we now see how affecters other than those attributable to forces and energy cannot be eliminated. How did the idea of determinism seduce us? I think it was able to do so because we believe it is a physical world and so physics should apply to everything about it. But is it a purely physical world? For contrast, consider what a parable is. It is a story that instructs a psyche. Do you really think that you could explain the effects that parables have on human psyches and societies within the paradigm of physics? I think determinism is the dream of naïve idealists, but it is left to show how anything can affect the physical world except through force and energy.
What have we got? It is not the physical force or energy of touching or not touching the extra key alone that will cause the downstream effects. The initiating force is obviously miniscule. It is the organization of things that magnifies that miniscule initiating force. It is the relationship of the two keys in the box and the necessity of having the right key to prevent the day from going to hell. What is happening is that an organization of things (a functional stratum of specific relationships) is being carried on a physical substratum. The physical substratum provides the energy for the organization to play out but the organization itself limits what can happen. The organization is an affecter acting on the physical substratum. The laws of physics are fully conserved but within the limitations that the organization imposes on the physical substratum. An organization is a specificity of forms and events and it is that specificity that limits or affects what happens. The organization emerges from the physical substrate and is completely dependent on it but its specificity limits how the physical substrate can evolve.
If the Universe is deterministic, then even a deterministic Universe can devise the application of tools to do tasks. This is obvious because here we are using tools to do tasks. It is a bit difficult to think of a person using tools if his actions are all determined by physics. The idea that there is a relationship between the tool and the user creates the sense of an agent directing the tool. This would seem to be nonsense in a deterministic Universe because the laws of physics predetermine everything. (Physics is a description of behavior and therefore it is not physics per se that predetermines events but is rather the behavior of the physical path that physics describes that determines what will be. It is merely a short cut to say as ‘determined by the laws of physics’.) On the other hand, the specificity of a relationship between a person and a tool just is a fact.
A chisel, axe or knife adds the emergent property to a piece of material of focusing force and applying the mechanical advantage of an inclined plane. The potential for the emergent property that will emerge from the interaction of an axe and a log is already in the form of the axe. (Note that emergent properties are interactive relationships and not the physical forms of things. This is the reason for the unusual structuring of the previous sentence.) Emergent properties must find their ability to affect physical events through the force and energy of the physical stratum. A sharp stone became a tool because it was used as such by an intelligent being, but it had the potentiality for the emergent property of being able to cut something by focusing energy on a sharp inclined plane even if it fell accidentally against something. Man learned to apply this emergent property to his advantage. The emergent property of a stone tool was organized into the way that he functioned. The functional stratum of emergent properties evolved as an overlay over the physical path of evolution.
Every man, woman, creature and plant on earth and the earth itself has evolved as a network of specific interrelationships that overlays the earth with an effectual but intangible functional stratum. The functional path evolves supervening on the physical path. The physical path is a carrier that imposes physical limitations on the functional path but it is the functional path that determines what will be. The event of the Universe is a two-way exchange of the effects of its physical and functional elements. Both the physical path and the functional path cause intangible and physical effects. That the intangible functional path causes physical effects is what is puzzling to our current scientific perspective. Even our common street perspectives must change to accommodate this new understanding of how events are formed because most of us think only monistically in terms of physical things affecting other physical things. Please, do not confuse this new viewpoint with classic dualism although there is in it a bipolar dynamic determining events. The functional path arises from the physical path and is only evidenced in the effects it has on the physical path. The functional path depends on the physical world for its existence. There could be no functional path if the physical world did not exist. It is not a second world interacting with the physical world. This is a very tricky new concept. An intangible affecter is not some ‘thing’ per se. It is only evidenced in its effects. Someday we will learn to be familiar with this idea and it won’t seem so difficult and odd.
There is no conflict between physics and emergent properties. Physical nature acts through the forms that it is found in and the behavior of those forms acts through the physical nature of their materials. Physical laws were devised to describe the effects of forces and were derived and generalized from the observation of regularities in physical interactions. It is not the place of physics to take issue with the specificity of forms and their relationships. The fact that a tool’s relationship to a human provides him/her with an advantage is lost in a physical description. Physics does not account for a metal object being the right key for a lock or for it being an axe. These are functional relationships but their specificity affects physical events even as forces do. The network created by the specificity of interactions between forms is a supervening functional dimension being carried on the physical substrate of the material Universe.
Explaining ‘free will’ is an excellent way to show that determinism is a false idea. Suppose you set up a situation in which there is a choice between avenues of action in order to demonstrate your ‘free will’. You do not know which avenue of action you should take because you seem to favor either one equally. If you were to tell us that you had made an arbitrary choice we could think that there was some unconscious physics that determined that choice. Knowing this, you might set out to defeat determinism by saying that you would allow the color of the next red or blue car to pass by on the nearby highway to determine which direction of action you will take. In this case, it can no longer be suspect that an unconscious physics might predetermine your choice. It would seem that in the mental system in which the choice is constructed that the external event of the next car passing is a random event and therefore that our event of choice could not be predetermined by physics. (But, the determinist would say, the next car to pass by has already been predetermined.)
What connection could there be between the mental system of choice that you have set up and the next red or blue car to come along such that the outcome of the choice could be predicted knowing the laws of physics and where everything was at some earlier point in time? Lets look at this from the classic deterministic model, the billiard ball model of atoms. Determinism says that if we know where every atom is and all the laws of physics that we will be able to predict where every atom will be. This portrait is of a very physical environment. The determinist asks how anything could be operating in this environment except the four forces known by science? Okay. So what happens when we set up the choice in the billiard ball model? We say that atoms were bouncing around in a way through time that lead to a choice (a term disputed by the determinist) between two directions (doesn’t like this term) of action and the desire (he disputes this, too) to take (again disputed because it implies choice) one at the exclusion (disputed again) of the other. The language needed to describe the specificity of the setup seems like an entirely different kind of language than the language of physics. What the determinist wants us to believe is that it doesn’t matter that there is specificity to the organization that we have created. We can call things whatever we want. All that matters is the determination that forces and energy have on events. If we assume that after the ‘Big Bang’ any asymmetry existing in the Universe would necessarily lead to a differentiation of forms then why couldn’t it lead to our world as we have it today? There is only one world, so it only happened one way. The way we ‘describe’ its happening is no more and no less than another part of it happening. Forces and energy beginning from initial conditions determined it all. So says the determinist.
He goes on with saying that other atoms in the mental system will determine that the next red or blue car seen will trigger one or the other directions of action. This is where it gets hard to understand how the choice could be predetermined because the system could just sit there like a cocked gun waiting for the trigger to be activated by the next red or blue car to pass. It is not hard to conceive of a trigger that is sensitive to a particular photon but there doesn’t seem to be any correlation for the timing of the triggering event that you would expect in a physically determined event. Why not? The determinist would have to say that timing is not the issue. Time is just marching on. Whichever car passes first determines the choice.
From the viewpoint of your argument, this is perfect. You certainly could not predict which car would pass because doing the physics would be impractical. Therefore, you have defeated determinism. You set up the choice between two courses of action in your mind. Then, so that the physics of your brain couldn’t be unconsciously determining the choice, you caused the trigger to be either one or the other of two events, which events you could not predict in advance. The act of ‘free will’ was in setting up the choice. It was a specific organization of your mind (that implies a specific correlating organization in your brain). The bottom line is that the physics of the atoms in your brain did not cause the outcome of your choice. The outcome was determined by the non-correlated event of the first red or blue car to pass and the mental system that made that possible.
The determinist would object to this saying that the events only seem not to be correlated. That everything in the Universe is marching on in a unified lock step. You object, saying that you set up the choice. The atoms in your brain formed a gate that could direct their next activity in one of two possible directions. They created a trigger for that gate, the next red or blue car to pass. The triggering event could only be related conceptually (intangibly) to the trigger because it was outside of the brain. There was a great deal of space between the activity of the atoms in your brain and the triggering event. One could not affect the other physically.
How could physics possibly predict that an event as arbitrary as seeing a red or blue car pass on the highway would cause the election of one or the other action to take place in your brain? This is a similar situation to the one with the keys in the box that proved that determinism couldn’t be proven. The system of choice set up in your mind is so removed from that of its trigger event (the car on the highway) that to be able to show how the outcome of your choice could be predicted by physics would again require a model so detailed that the only adequate model would be the Universe itself. This means that the model must evolve to such places at such times as it does in order for what will occur to be known. In specifying the Universe as the necessary model we are neither able to predict what will happen nor to eliminate the possibility of the influence of other affecters. The Universe cannot be deterministic (relative to physics) if there are affecters other than physical nature.
The determinist’s response is that we might not be able to predict what will happen but that does not say that what happens is not determined by physical nature (alone). So the passing car is not causally related to what happens in your brain but the coincidence of the occurrences of your creating the choice in your head and the next car to pass could theoretically have been determined by physics.
Even if we tentatively consider that as a possibility it does not take from the fact that you created a choice that could not have been explained by physics and an act of ‘free will’ has been established. The act of ‘free will’ occurs in the functional stratum where the specific ways in which events occur matters. ‘Free will’ is in the specific characteristics of an event no more or less than are the characteristics of peeling an apple in peeling an apple. We only needed to establish that the choice was not caused by physics. Of course, the determinist thinks this is an exercise in futility because even though the choice might not have been caused by physics it could still have been predicted by physics or at least was predetermined by physical nature. He is hung out there on the idea that the Universe is moving in lock step because there are no other affecters than physical nature, which is utterly predictable. I would agree if there were no other affecters.
To say that the Universe is deterministic is to deny that any effectual relationship exists between your mind and the cars on the highway. There is such a relationship but it cannot be physically measured. Your mind has represented the cars in the future on the highway. The representations are brain states and not the cars themselves or the future. The brain states are organized so that a car in the future will affect your brain. So when the first red or blue car to pass by does affect your brain to effect your selection of one course of action or the other, it validates the fact that there was a relationship between your brain and the potential of a car in the future to affect it. It is obvious that it would not have that affect if there were no proscription of that relationship. Now, what is important was that this proscription was not a physical connection between the atoms of your brain states and the atoms in the car. The representation of the car was intangible. It was a trigger that would recognize and act on a certain stimulus coming through your sensory system. The specificity of the receptor and the stimulus were key to the relationship. That specificity of relationship is an intangible and the way that it was organized created an intangible affecter. It was clearly an intangible connection and it was an affecter of physical events. Since it affected physical events then the deterministic path is broken because its effect could not have been predicted by physics.
A relationship such as the mental system of choice must be constructed hierarchically on the backs of many supporting relationships. Those relationships are all intangible affecters. The deterministic concept is rendered infeasible. Determinism is only possible if there are no affecters affecting physical events outside of the effects of physical nature. By ignoring the effectual nature of the specificity of patterns of interactions between things and naively believing that the nature of the Universe is purely physical, science has seduced itself into believing that it is also deterministic. (I am purposely ignoring quantum indeterminacy, which would in itself undermine the notion of determinism, in order to show that the more important error is in being oblivious to intangible affecters.)
Lets review the red/blue car affair and then take a fresh look at what an event is and how it should be described. One of the things that we did was to show that the event of choice transcends physical nature. Another was to show that determinism is not about using the laws of physics to determine what caused things to happen. Determinism is about there not being any other affecters in the Universe besides physical nature. If this were true then we could have theoretically predicted the coincidence of the car that would trigger your choice but it would no longer be looked at as a trigger, rather only as a coincidence. You will never be able to look at it as a coincidence because in your own mind you were aware that you had the intent to set up the choice. That is because you are a set of functions that creates you, your mind and your agency and these transcend the physical substrate of your material existence. The system of choice you set up in your mind was a causally related event, not a coincidence. You determined that the red or blue car would make your choice. You related the triggering event of the car to the trigger through functional design. The photons from the car triggered the choice but not as a cause but only as a coincidence. The car itself was the functional triggering event. The effects of your choice cannot be accounted for by physics because physics is only a partial description of events.
The Universe never was deterministic though we can still maintain that the laws of physics are conserved. The laws of physics are generalities that describe the regularities of physical behavior as they may be attributed to forces. Physics as a science was abstracted and generalized from the description of the regularities of physical behavior. It ignores the specificity of behavior and focuses on the regularities that it attributes to forces (unfortunately, we don’t really know what forces are). The behavior of physical things is limited by ‘what’ the things are. Their specific interactions create intangible affecters (e.g. axes, keys, representation and coordination). They act through the physical substrate and the physical substrate acts through them. More precisely, events are limited by the specificity of an object’s form and its relationships. This means that an object’s form and relationships will affect how the object will behave or function. When the object is viewed as the cause of an event we begin to lose sight of function as a co-affecter that is different from the object’s physical nature. The potential function of an object is already inherent in it when we view it narrowly through the perspective of physics. We therefore miss the fact that events are not determined by physical nature alone. Physics relates to the generalities of behavior caused by forces and energy but behavior is also affected by the specificity of relationships between the forms of the physical substrate.
Interestingly, intangible relationships need not derive only from physical relationships. It is true that out of every interaction of physical forms comes an emergent intangible affecter that is not explained by physics. Even if we were to make a law of physics to describe each and every such physical interaction of objects we would fall short of explaining events. Abstract emergent properties arise from the physical relationships of forms as I demonstrated earlier when we found that representation and coordination are emergent effectual properties. Keep in mind that it is not the key that is the intangible affecter. It is the specificity of the key’s dynamic relationship to the lock when it is turning the lock that is the intangible affecter. The intangible nature of relationship is such that its effects go beyond the primary physical relationships of the relevant forms. For example, although the primary relationship of the right key to the lock is that it turns the lock, it has the abstract ability to unlock the door. The locked door isolates the room from access. It may be that the isolated room prevents the potential escape of a lethal virus. These words are describing abstract intangible affecters that are having physical effects. They derive not only from the specificity of the interaction of physical forms but also from the interaction of relationships. In the case of representation of the environment by an organism in its navigation system, it is the abstract effectual emergent property of representation that makes possible the also abstract emergent property of coordination of the organism’s activities to the environment. It is a case of an intangible affecter depending upon another intangible affecter or you can say one intangible affecting another. It is this complexity that makes it apparent that the physical stratum is the carrier of a vastly more complex functional stratum.
It is through the effectual nature of functions that consciousness and ‘free will’ are made possible. Both the human organism and the human ‘self’ are complex functional organizations of the physical substrate. We are agents in that we can act with intent. We can purposefully act to change the course of physical events. We can even know that we are acting purposefully to change the course of events. It seems that the potential of the Universe to create ever more abstract emergent properties is limitless. The entire functional stratum of events has its foundation in the specific patterns of relationships of physical things. Relationships are intangible affecters of the physical substrate but they are also affecters of other relationships. It is certain that there are limits, regularities and structure to the behavior of the functional stratum and therefore there can be a science of its behavior, which will benefit the human race.
Though I have explained this from several different angles for you, I know that it is still difficult to get. Remember that our minds are thinking machines. They are epistemologically structured. The idea that physics is the ultimate arbiter of all explanation is probably an axiomatic belief in your mind. You just have to chuck that perspective and start all over again with a new epistemological structure that includes both physical nature and functions as affecters of physical events.
To add to your confusion, the implication of the above argument is that function is not physical yet it can have an effect on physical events. This is very awkward when viewed from our current scientific perspective but I hope that I have made it evident that that perspective fails to be complete in explaining physical events. The difficulty here is that we have ‘caused’ effects without a cause, that can be described in terms of physics, or even described physically but only in terms of outcome in a context.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the physical stratum and the functional stratum operated separately but they don’t. They are interlocked at the level of physical forms so that the functional stratum has physical effects and the physical stratum has functional effects. There are both physical affecters and intangible affecters. They both exist as is demonstrated by their effects. We must stretch our idea of existing in the case of intangible affecters to something that has no physical existence, and even more difficult to grasp, to having no existence except as evidenced by its effects. From the perspective of current science these are certainly bazaar ontological complications. We need to rearrange the epistemological organization of our minds to cope.
Intangible affecters are complex structures like selves, societies, economies, marriages, and language but they are also simple everyday things like chairs, motors, billiards and any interaction of formed physical entities (the names of the objects are the names of their functions). Function is a dimension to life that is affected by physical nature but hardly governed by it. It is amazing that we could have missed anything this important for so long but it is understandable. We are functions. Our minds are functions. We are the expression of functions without knowing what it is that we are. The physical aspects of the world are apparent to us because they are represented by our navigation systems whereas the functional aspects of the world don’t exist materially and therefore cannot be represented sensorially. We see the regularities of physical behavior and have systemized those observations into a set of laws. That was a major achievement that has lead man to much prosperity. We had hoped that physics would be the final arbiter of all explanation but certain things have pointed at the laws of physics as not being a complete description of events. Unfortunately, our scientific methods direct us to look for things that are physical and so have blinded us to the intangible affecters. Our ancient ancestors were probably more properly aware of them. As we learned to take the world apart to understand it we became seduced by the idea that it could be understood by a set of laws that would explain its fundamental nature.
It has probably been the challenge of understanding consciousness more than any other field of science that has forced us to come to grips with the deficiency of physics to explain everything. We have come far with our technology but are stumped when it comes to understanding our own consciousness. Understanding intangible affecters will open up new frontiers in science and provide us with even greater opportunities to improve the quality of our lives.