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2. Substances and Generative Levels

Summary points for Week 2



Chapter 4 - We need a better idea of ‘substance’

      Realistic basis need for all kinds of things

      The power/propensity/dispositions of objects

      Concept of mental substance


Substance, Form, and Dynamics

There are three categories of terms in science:

      formal terms about the structure & static properties of what exists now

      existential terms about what exists, what is.   Is it unknown?

      dynamical terms about what would happen, in new or hypothetical conditions.

o   Only by dynamics can we make predictions.





shape, number, form, relation, configuration,

function, field, oscillation, wave, flow, vibration

point, length, area, volume, amplitude,

vector, matrix, Hilbert space,

ratios, probability, relative frequency.

particle, material, matter, corpuscle, body,

fluid, ether,

substance, actuality, reality,

world, universe.

cause, propensity, power, disposition, capability,

energy (kinetic and potential),

mass, charge, field coupling,

force, pressure,

momentum, impetus, elasticity/rigidity.




Science of Causes


New idea:  Dynamic substance’

      Try to derive existence’ from dynamics’ (ontology from causes)

      Substance of a thing is its propensity (to do some thing) 


      Examples: ‘electromagnetic force field,

o   potential energy field

o   ‘matter is a form of energy

o   quantum wave function is a propensity field’

  propensity to interact, or

  propensity to choose actual outcome

      Remember: propensities still present even if not acting

o   Do not need to know more ‘existence’ than this.

o   Maybe not that original!

  Aristotle and Newton used something similar


Quantum Physics

      There are probabilistic (random) events.

o   From a wave function spread out in space

o   Wave function from an equation about energy


      the wave function is the form of propensity

o   The propensity for probabilistic events

o   That propensity is substance of quantum objects

      No particles, only ‘waves of propensity’

      The propensity is the substance, wave is the form


Bad ideas about Quantum Physics

      Shut up and calculate (physicists)

o   No reality

      Physics just for actual outcomes, not reality (Bohr)

o   No propensity or substance

      Parallel universes (Everitt)

o   No actual outcomes

      Hidden classical particles (Bohm)

o   Quantum waves are not substances

      Selection by consciousness (Wigner)

o   Propensities are for selections. But maybe ‘when’?


Mental Substances (minds)

      Works for minds too:

      Not something ‘we know not what’!

      Mental substances are the propensity for mental actions

      That is: loves, desires, etc. are mental substance

      Even materialists (eg Gilbert Ryle) agree that ‘minds are dispositions’.

o   but now we take them as real substances.


Bad ideas of mental substance

      Immaterial Form     (Aquinas)

      Rationality                (Descartes)

      Matter                       (materialists, physicalists)

      Information              (Bohm?)

      Quantum vacuum   (Laszlo)

      Consciousness         (what does it do?)

Chapter 5 - Generative Levels

Better idea of ‘multiple degrees’ of existence?

      Like ‘dimensions’ or ‘planes’, but better

      Examples from physics

      Examples from psychology

      General principles: generation & selection


Degrees in Galileo’s experiment

      Remember how a ball rolling down a hill is accelerated by gravity (Galileo’s experiment)

      Newton’s second law: F=ma

o   So: acceleration (a) = force (F) / mass (m)

o   But: acceleration is present only if mass is there!

o   So: force = disposition 
to accelerate a mass    
(if finite mass present)

      Presence of inertial mass
is occasion for motion,
but not principal cause

      Multiple degrees in Newton’s physics

      Ball rolling down a hill is accelerated by gravity

      Gravitational energy:

o   Force depends on the slope

o   Changes in gravitational potential 
energy produce the force


Two stages in Quantum Mechanics

      Propensity wave generates the actual measurement

o     according to Born’s Probability Rule for |Ψ|2

      Actual measurements = selections of alternate histories

      Energy operator generates the wave function,

o   according to Schrdingers time-dependent equation

      So: ‘Energy and propensity waves are two kinds of propensity

      Neither are mental propensities!


Multiple degrees in psychology

      In deliberate control of hand movements

o   Deliberate (rational) intentions (D)

o   Monitoring of moving hand, by eyes (P)

o   Control of muscles (M)


Recognizing Discrete Degrees

      Quantum mechanics:

o   Energy → Propensity → Actual Selections

      Classical physics

o   Potential energy → Forces → Acceleration

      Psychology of motor control

o   Plan → Guidance → Motor impulse → Physical act

      All these are example of Discrete Degrees or Generative Levels


Principles of 2 Discrete Degrees

Consider: AB

A  generates further existence of B

Which new B is generated by A, and is selected by previous B



Twin processes of generation and selection

      Generation is from the ‘higher’ degree: ‘principal cause’

      Selection is from the ‘lower’ degree: ‘occasional cause’


  If only two degrees like here, we have ‘occasionalism’:

      For God, this is philosophy of 
Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715)

      An attempt to understand God-world relations.



Principles of 3 Discrete Degrees

Consider: AB C

A  generates further existence of B, and B of C

Which new B is generated selected by previous B,

Which new C is generated selected by previous C.



Examples of 3 Discrete Degrees

      Have from quantum physics

o   A: principle / energy

o   B: distribution / form

o   C: final effect


      Just like in the mind:

o   A: desire

o   B: thinking

o   C: action



Quantum Field Theory:
Propensities for Virtual Processes

      TWO linked sets each of three generative levels

o   both with (broadly) corresponding processes,

o   i.e. still in pattern  ‘Energy → Wave → Effect’.

      Virtual processes (in some way) generate the terms of the Energy Operator: the Hamiltonian.    (Kinetic & Potential energy)

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