John K Clark (
Sun, 8 Dec 1996 21:33:33 -0800 (PST)


On : Sat, 07 Dec 1996 Eliezer Yudkowsky <> Wrote:

>"If this sentence is true, Santa Claus exists."
>If the sentence is true, then the condition is true AND the
>conditional is true and so Santa Claus exists.
>The conditional IS true.
>Santa Claus does exist.

That's not very reassuring, you're saying the universe exists for the same
reason that Santa Claus exists. Your sentence can't examine itself unless it
already has the laws of logic at its disposal, and the laws of logic are
something. Far from justifying itself all you have shown is that the logical
system you're using is inconsistent, as you can use it just as easily to
prove that Santa Claus does not exist with it.

Not that there is anything particularly bad with the system you used, all of
them have flaws. Godel proved that any logical system is either incomplete or
inconsistent or both. For example, I could use Russell's Theory of Types to
brand such self referential sentences as meaningless, but unfortunately I
would be forced to condemn many other innocent sentences as meaningless too
even though their only crime is to use the word "me" or "I", even a sentence
as splendid as this one would be called meaningless, obviously such an
outrage can not be tolerated.

>>By far the deepest problem in Philosophy, why is
>>there something rather than nothing?

>I don't know.

Me neither.

>That there is in point of fact something illustrates that
>there are self-justifying causes.

All you're saying is "The reason the universe exists is the reason the
universe exists". Perhaps, but that's less that helpful and it doesn't
explain what's wrong with the idea "The reason the universe does NOT exist
is the reason the universe does not exist". Anyway, there may not be a
reason at all, lots of things have no cause.

>And, the problem is neither deepest - nor the most >complicated.

"Absolutely Nothing" seem like an elegant solution to me, I can find nothing
self contradictory in "Absolutely Nothing", after all, there are no rules of
logic to contradict, it's the ultimate in elegant simplicity. "Absolutely
Nothing" even obeys Occam's Razor, not that it needs to, the Razor is
something, so it wouldn't exist either.

Yet there is something. Why? It's even more puzzling than trying to figure
out why induction works.

>A surplus of mental energy and self-esteem is NOT an
>evolutionary advantage

I don't think that's true, but even if it were, why should that concern me?
Immortality would not be an evolutionary advantage, but it would certainly be
an advantage to me, if evolution determines that it will slow down the
duplication of my genes in the population I don't care. If evolution doesn't
like it evolution can lump it.

>Computational causality is what makes a Turing machine move
>forwards in time. Cognitive causality is what makes a person
>say: "A causes B"

A person is a Turing Machine (with a finite tape). In this particular case
the output computed by the Turing Machine is "A causes B".

>Cognitive causality is a set of algorithms.

Exactly. To repeat, what's the difference between cognitive and computational

>Thermodynamic causality is a statistical application of
>Occam's Razor.

Yes, Thermodynamics makes use of probability and statistics, but there are
only 2 reasons we resort to this approximation:
1) Lack of information about initial conditions.
2) Lack of sufficient computational resources.
I think you'd do better to talk about Quantum Mechanical causality, or
rather, non causality.

>Platonic is the reason why 2 + 2 = 4; it is a form of
>causality which does not involve time.

I would think that causality would need to "cause" something to happen,
but in your example nothing is happening. Like all true equations it's a

>Would you agree to the statement: "All computations are
>equally existent regardless of any physical implementation?"

No, I would not agree. Even though almost all Real numbers are random, a
computation that produces such a random number does not exist. A computation
that produces the largest prime number does not exist. If Tipler is wrong and
the universe is not capable of making an infinite number of calculations
between now and The Big Crunch then there is an entire class of computations
that do not exist, at least if the word "exist" is to have a useful meaning.

John K Clark

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