On Computable Metaphysics: On the Uses and Limitations of Computational Metaphysics

In Mirosław Szatkowski (ed.), Ontology of Theistic Beliefs: Meta-Ontological Perspectives. De Gruyter. pp. 93-112 (2018)
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Abstract

Humans constantly produce strings of characters in symbolic languages, e.g., sentences in natural languages. We show that for any given moment in human history, the set of character strings that have been produced up to that moment, i.e., the sum total of human symbolic output up to that moment, is finite and so Turing computable. We then prove a much stronger result: a Turing machine can produce any particular set of symbolic output that we could possibly have produced. We then discuss metaphysical and/or theological systems, e.g., Spinoza’s, Leibniz’s, or Aquinas’s. We argue that any particular metaphysical system could be the output of a Turing machine. We then briefly discuss (i) automated theorem proving, the attempt to generate and/or prove theorems using computers, and (ii) computational metaphysics, the attempt to apply methods from computer science such as automated theorem proving to metaphysics. We conclude by arguing that: (i) computational metaphysics can succeed, at least in theory; indeed, all human metaphysical reasoning could be automated; (ii) computational metaphysics – and indeed metaphysical systems in general – will have the same limitations as Turing machines; and (iii) a number of different methods – not currently used in computational metaphysics – could be used to advance metaphysical research.

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Dan Linford
Purdue University
Jason Megill
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