Monday, April 13, 2015

Hierarchy of laws

In cognitive science operations in the cognitive or "knowledge level" are performed by lower level components of the program level.  Operations in the program level are, in turn, performed by components of the register level.  This decomposition continues from the register level down through the logic level, circuit level, and device level.  Each level has its own laws of operation. (Unified Theories of Cognition, Allen Newell, Harvard Univ. Press, 1990)  The program level, for instance, is typically composed of sequences, decisions, and loops.  The circuit level, on the other hand, is governed by Ohm's and Kirchhoff's laws.  In human beings the circuit level would be replaced by a network of neurons and the device level would describe those neurons using laws of electrochemistry.

Laws which are valid when applied to one level in this hierarchy may be invalid if applied to another level.  Boolean or propositional logic is valid in a computer at the logic level.  But in Asa H, a nonstandard logic, or fuzzy logic program different laws of logic are valid at the program level. A PC running a simulation of a quantum computer might be another good example.  The simulation is following quantum laws while the PC is following classical laws.  Philosophy of mind has sometimes erred by trying to apply the wrong laws to the wrong level.

Asa H (and any other intelligence) in turn builds its own cognitive levels on top of these.  As concepts like hunger/need, obstacle, damage, health, danger, and self evolve so too do notions of agency, good and bad, etc. Laws/rules that apply to these cognitive levels may not apply to other levels in the hierarchy.  (Things like social norms, morality, and the like.) In general, regularities/patterns (i.e. "laws") that are exhibited at one level of detail/abstraction, and with one set of concepts, may not be found on other levels.

If there are "laws of thought" then these would be valid in one or more of these cognitive levels.  Might something like "free will" or "moral responsibility" be a reasonable description in one of these  cognitive levels but not elsewhere? (see my blog of 21 Jan. 2015)  Pluralist science again.

What is "real" in the world is what has explanatory usefulness.  It may be useful to attribute "free will" to a person.  Rather than acting in the way s/he has previously acted s/he might do something different and we might want to be prepared for that today.  If the person has acted "morally" in the past s/he may likely act "morally" today also.  At some other level of description "free will" or "morality" may be useless  (invalid) concepts.  Newton's laws are valid on a level describing the macroscopic world.  They are invalid when describing the microscopic.

No comments:

Post a Comment