From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Tue Sep 13 2005 - 05:55:49 EDT
I have now looked briefly at the rest of the website that Gerry mentions, and there may be something in it, I would now not necessarily reject it all out of hand. On Ian's points I am no expert in Hegel, unlike others on the list. Reasons why computation may be the modern form of dialectics: (i) Computation is logic in motion. At each instant a computer program conforms to the laws of ordinary logic (the value of a variable cannot both be 0 and 1), yet it can instantiate processes that are in real contradiction to each other. Negation of the Negation If you have ever built a computer from scratch the first practical hurdle in getting the damned thing to do anything is to get the oscillator going. A computer relies on a clock signal that sequences all other operations, and such a clock signal is a wire that alternates between the values true and false very rapidly. In order to drive the clock signal one typically constructs an electrical circuit consisting of a NOT gate coupled back on itself. This has the logical form: clock = NOT clock This is obviously a contradiction, and the contradiction expresses itself in practice in the clock wire oscillating between true and false. This is straight out of chapter I of Hegel's Science of Logic, where double negation gives rise to 'becoming' or in this case continuous change. I suspect that this is the sort of thing that the Byelorussian web site is talking about in the context of wave equations. (ii) The Church-Turing thesis is a structurally similar claim to the Hegelian identity of thought and being. (Both, unsurprisingly, unprovable). Do you mean the Church-Turing thesis, or Deutsch's extended form of the Church-Turing principle whereby any finite physical system can be emulated to an arbitrary degree of precision by a universal computer? This latter form is the one which has the strongest analogy with Hegelianism. I believe that there is a possible political/ideological component in the debate over the extent of the CT principle. Hayekian economists like Boetke use the argument by Penrose against the CT thesis as arguments against the possibility of planned economy. See some of the discussions on http://www.calculemus.org/hayek/ which is run by Witold Marciszewski who also argues that Hyper-computation has outdated the concept of the CT thesis and uses this as an argument against Lange's ideas of the feasibility of running a socialist economy. I thus consider that it is ideologically important to defend the work of Turing on this see the paper Greg Michaelson and I have just posted http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~wpc/reports/wegner25aug.pdf (iii) Computation is a general theory of causation, and can be used to model both objective and subjective phenomena, similar to the claims of dialectical logic. (iv) The causal sequences of a computer program unfold with logical necessity, despite being natural processes. I believe that Hegel argued that natural necessity was identical to logical necessity in order to refute Hume. There is also, I think, a great similarity between the analysis of the commodity in Capital 1 and the analysis of the signature of a datatype in systems like the type theories of Lof or Milner. The exhange of commodities for money is a strictly formal or computational system and as such is eminently suitable for the application of formal analysis. Given the intellectual background of his education, Marx used Hegelian Logic. Today one might use type theory. The problem is, not many experts in Hegel know about computation, and vice-versa. A further problem is that many people think computation is about crunching numbers, rather than a very general theory of dynamic processes. -Ian.
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