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Thomas Ray: on 10/11/12 at 19:23pm UTC, wrote Hi David & Julie, I'm sorry I haven't communicated as much as I'd really...

Paul Reed: on 10/7/12 at 9:43am UTC, wrote David I am not happy with you or anybody else 'wasting time' when a better...

Paul Reed: on 10/6/12 at 8:00am UTC, wrote David Thanks. I think you are the first person who shows signs of really...

Matthew Jackson: on 10/5/12 at 20:22pm UTC, wrote David Wonderful read. Do please give the philosophical view on our essay. ...

David Rousseau: on 10/5/12 at 16:29pm UTC, wrote Paul, Thank you for the input. I agree with you that only the present is...

Dan Bruiger: on 10/4/12 at 17:40pm UTC, wrote Hi, David Some thoughts on your responses: Q7/R7: I don't think that...

David Rousseau: on 10/4/12 at 13:29pm UTC, wrote Hi Georgina, Thanks for reading ours, and for making contact. I read your...

David Rousseau: on 10/4/12 at 13:05pm UTC, wrote Dear Israel, Thank you for reading our essay and the supportive comments. ...


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The Complexity Conundrum
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Watching the Observers
Accounting for quantum fuzziness could help us measure space and time—and the cosmos—more accurately.

December 12, 2017

CATEGORY: Questioning the Foundations Essay Contest (2012) [back]
TOPIC: Is There “Ultimate Stuff” and Are There “Ultimate Reasons”? by David Rousseau and Julie Rousseau [refresh]
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Author David Rousseau wrote on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 15:23 GMT
Essay Abstract

In this essay, we reflect on two fundamental assumptions, the one philosophical and the other scientific. The first has been called the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR). This encapsulates the idea that there is (at least in principle) a complete explanation for everything that exists or happens. We argue that recent attempts in philosophy to undermine the PSR should be rejected on a combination of philosophical and scientific grounds, and PSR should be upheld. Secondly, we argue, from the assumption that PSR is true, that the quantum vacuum (QV) is not the most fundamental stuff that exists, and moreover that we can say something positive about the nature of the “more fundamental” stuff. We argue that these conclusions follow from the implications that PSR carries for the nature of scientific explanations applied within the framework of the model of Nature indicated by Systems Philosophy. We show that under PSR the indicated substance underlying the QV has promise for developing solutions to certain fundamental empirical puzzles in science such as the nature of dark energy and the foundations of consciousness.

Author Bio

David Rousseau PhD is the Director of the Centre for Systems Philosophy. His academic background spans Engineering, Systems Theory, Philosophy of Mind and Religious Studies. He has applied systems analysis in industry, also more recently in academic research into the nature of the mind-body problem. He is currently developing systems-philosophical frameworks for integrating scientific and social perspectives. Julie Rousseau holds a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics and has used systems approaches, dynamic modelling and simulation to support decision making in fields as diverse as environmental management and defence operational research. She is currently a strategy consultant on emerging new technologies.

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Frank Makinson wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 04:33 GMT
David, Julie,

Pg 9 "The inherent nature of energeum makes it a candidate for a kind of "neutral monist" ultimate substance that might support the emergence not only of spatial and physical substances but also ones with psychonic properties."

Your development of the concept of "energeum" carefully avoids falling into the pitfall of a forbidden heretical concept, that once disposed of, required or allowed the creation of some of contemporary physics weird assumptions.

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 16:05 GMT

Thank you for reading our essay, and picking up on one of the central ideas. As you point out, our model avoids the sort of "mental substance" that Descartes proposed, which cannot be accommodated in a scientific model. Philosophy of mind is certainly in need of some new avenues of exploration that gets us away from just trying to explain consciousness in purely physical terms (which is now at an impasse), or just adds the qualities we cannot explain to fundamental stuff (which seems ad hoc).

Best wishes,


Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:07 GMT
Dear David and Julie

this is a welcome addition in terms of taking the philosophical issues underlying causation in physics seriously. And I also applaud your use of systems theory, which nicely complements my own essay.

Your comment that The implication "Natural things always have conservative energetic properties." is an important one: it is one of the few properties that is true across all levels; but that is only so if we define new forms of energy appropriately at each level. "By this reasoning the “ultimate stuff” must have energetic properties and must be subject to the principle of energy conservation." Sounds reasonable.

Of course your idea needs development as a mathematical formalism that somehow fits in with quantum theory. A worthwhile project.

George Ellis

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 16:13 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for the kind comments. Philosophers especially can be all over the place when it comes to analyzing causation, but in our view that is because they are typically under-informed about physics and systems theory. Your informed pragmatism and anti-obscurantist approach seems much more likely to lead to useful insights.

I see a lot of synergy between the ideas you develop in your interesting and very clear essay, and what Julie and I are trying to do here. I like your Table 1 especially, which is very similar to ours, although drawn from a different perspective . You rank structures by scale whereas we rank by complexity -- it is an interesting question why the two orders scale similarly. We included the life science hierarchy in our diagram, which will probably fit into yours too given the (rough) alignment between size and complexity in Nature . I find your essay very stimulating, and will go and comment more over on your essay page, but perhaps only early next week as I will be at a conference over the week-end. For now I agree with you about the importance of definitions for terms such as 'cause', 'exist', 'real', 'concrete', 'physical' and so on. I have some specific suggestions in this area, but could only hint at them in the space of our essay. By and large I have more formal ways of saying the same sort of thing you are illustrating in your section 2, so we are broadly in agreement here (for example I would say that something 'exists' if it is an irreducible subject of predication in a domain of discourse). The important thing about getting clarity on these concepts is that without them one cannot really make sound ontological commitments by which one can interpret the QM formalism. And that, as you indicated, is where the rub lies.

Best wishes,


Frank Martin DiMeglio replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 01:55 GMT
Hi George and David. Nice comments on the fundamental nature of energy.

What is permanent and unchanging is inanimate. What changes and varies to a relatively extreme degree is also inanimate. Energy is both more permanent and more transient as this relates to us and typical/ordinary objects. Now, in the absence of gravity we are literally out of touch with reality. Nature and thought prefer low energy. Our natural motion is independent of the sun and that of the speed of photons. Instantaneity is a property of both gravity and energy. With gravity and inertia/or energy in fundamental and natural balance/order/equivalency a lack of energy would not basically manifest. My essay discusses this. Gravity is tightly connected with accelerated motion and relevant motion. Instantaneity is ultimately connected with gravity, energy, and the fact that gravity cannot be shielded.

Balance, variability, randomness, order, and completeness ultimately go together. Balance, the center, the middle, and order ultimately go together in physics. My essay shows this. Energy/inertia and gravity in true/fundamental balance is extremely ordered. The growth and development of our thought/ideas, being, and experience require extreme order and conserved/maintained/balanced energy.

Natural reality involves both the truth AND us fundamentally. I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:47 GMT
David, Julie,

I think this is a very interesting essay; I'm a mathematician by trade, but I have thought about a lot of the topics you discuss (though of course haven't conceived of many of the ideas you present). I have a few questions/remarks.

1. The concept of change, which is central to your discussion of energy, is bound up, at least on a physical level, with the concept of time, which in turn is closely related to causality. However, I am not quite sure what your precise views are on the nature of time. My own view is that time is a way of talking about causality; I discuss this in my essay here: On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics

I'd be interested to know if you regard time as absolute, emergent, illusion, or something else.

2. Something I'd like to point out (though I'm sure you've thought of it already) is the fact that the hierarchy you discuss, from the large-scale structure of the observable universe to the subatomic scale and below, is intimately related to the various "forces." The weak and strong interactions dominate at the smallest scales we can measure, followed by electromagnetism, ordinary gravity, dark matter, and finally dark energy at the largest known scales. I don't think this scale-dependence has been properly understood. It is interesting that you link the "force" that dominates on the largest observable scale (dark energy) with your proposed subquantum entity "energeum."

3. You mentioned the role of order theory in systems philosophy. Now, of course, order theory is all over the place in mathematics, but I don't think its role in physics is adequately appreciated. In particular, manifold models of spacetime involve the continuum, which is a very uniform and special order-theoretic concept. Personally, I think manifolds are likely "too good to be true" for this reason; I tend to think more primitive concepts are at work at the fundamental scale.

In any case, thanks for the great write-up and interesting and novel perspective. Take care,

Ben Dribus

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 16:24 GMT
Dear Ben,

Thank you for the nice questions! There is much to explore here.

1. To your point 1 on the nature of time, I think my view is aligned with yours . Along with other philosophers who believe in the existence of things and of change (e.g. Mario Bunge and Tim Crane) I reject the existence of time as real apart from change. I think talk of "the passage of time" designates the fact that things change, and the amount of time that has passed is a measure of how much change has occurred. Things that are assumed to change in a uniform way (e.g. decay of radioactive substances) can then be used to define standard intervals of time. On such a view things are wholly present in the present , and cannot be "four-dimensional space-time worms". I think we lose the cogency and utility of notions like change and cause when we turn the mathematical convenience provided by the abstract model representing Einstein's general theory of relativity into a metaphysical hypothesis. In any case I think that the discovery that space is a concrete substance provides realistic grounds for distinguishing space from time in fundamental theories.

2. To your point 2, the different forces that dominate at various scales was briefly discussed in relation to the systems hierarchy by Ervin Laszlo some forty years ago, but this whole area needs review and updating; as you guessed we are working on that. Forty years ago the QV and dark energy were unknown, so this linkage between change at the highest and lowest level phenomena was not evident. There may be empirical grounds emerging here for holistic ideas even in the absence of a unified field theory. An important missing element from present treatments of this hierarchical force/change model is how to bring energy and causation models into the life science portion of the systems hierarchy without devaluing or obscuring what makes the life sciences distinctive. We think that our effort to bringing psychonic properties into energy-based causal models, via ideas such as 'psychonium', has promise but much more needs to be done.

3. To your point 3, Julie is the mathematician on our team and she is not here right now but I'll take a punt anyway. Ordering relationships require persistent properties of some kind (such as spatial or physical relations). At the most fundamental level as I see it (energeum, below the QV), there are no persistent properties of the required sorts, so ordering relationships cannot be identified, and manifold concepts break down. Next level up things are getting a bit better, since the QV does have spatial properties and the question of order does arise. But since the QV is locally comprised of virtual quantons the situation is complicated, and your angle on might well be the right one. I was much taken with your essay, which I though very lucid and penetrating. I'm away for the weekend but will comment more on your essay page next week, when I've had a chance to read it more carefully.

As you point out, these issues run up against how we define and apply our most primitive concepts -- there is much still be done here, but why would one want to work on anything else? Nice meeting you, and hope to discuss more after the weekend.

Kind regards,


Member Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 05:51 GMT

I appreciate the detailed and thoughtful answers. I admit that there is an irresistible draw to these topics that threatens at times to pull me away from the mathematics I am "supposed to be doing." Those few with the ability to make a career out of foundational studies are certainly very fortunate. A few more comments to follow up:

1. Regarding the distinction between space and time, I think that both are ways of conceptualizing relations among events, where time corresponds to events that are causally related and space corresponds to events that are not causally related (hence the prohibition against signaling across spacelike intervals in relativity). In my mathematical work I mostly study complex manifolds and algebraic schemes, and it astonishes me that most physicists are still willing to accept without question the physical incarnation of such specially ordered, uniform, sophisticated objects at the most fundamental level. Whether it works or not, it kills any possibility of philosophically simpler explanations. Some people have told me that my own ideas are "too mathematical" because of the mention of path algebras, random graph dynamics, categorification, etc. in my essay, but the simplicity and clarity should be in the philosophy, and the math should be whatever the philosophy requires. After all, people also complain about the differential geometry in relativity, but the ideas are conceptually simpler than those of preceding theories.

2. I deliberately abstained from discussing life science in my essay. I think I can legitimately deny possible charges of cowardice for this, since I don't feel I have much original or definitive to say about it anyway, but what's certain is that tackling this subject is not for the faint of heart. Its universal interest draws all manner of strange people and stranger ideas, and the fact that it seems too complicated for mathematical rigor at present removes the protection of technical elitism enjoyed by fundamental physics. I congratulate those brave souls who know this and tackle it anyway.

3. I should point out that the way I use order theory in my essay generally means the exact opposite of persistence; elementary events by definition have no duration, and events are related (i.e. "ordered") as I describe them precisely when one "precedes" the other. Anyway, that's all a matter of definition, and I won't rehash it here.

Take care,


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Helmut Hansen wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 06:53 GMT
Dear Julie and David,

I share your view that the universe is fully comprehensible - without any reservation.

As you certainly know, in philosophy the principle of sufficient reason is often used to defend the existence of an ultimate, unconditioned ground of the universe.

That is - at least - Leibniz' view. I followed this view and came to some interesting insights you may...

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 16:53 GMT
Dear Helmut,

Thank you for the friendly comments. I agree with you that philosophy, especially Ontology, is crucial for progress in science, but that metaphysics should be rooted in empirical data. Clearly, we cannot untangle philosophy from science, and make one discipline more fundamental than the other. We need philosophy to guide the clarification of our concepts, but since we cannot (as yet) see how to work out the nature of reality from first principles, but have to 'reverse engineer' our insights from practical observations, we need science and philosophy to work together, moderating each other. Neither can do without the other. I think you'll agree that the balance is not right at present, and we need more philosophers (and more philosophy) to help deal with the interesting problems science is presently wrestling with.

Good luck with your essay -- a bold choice of topic!

Best wishes


Roger wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 07:02 GMT
Hi. The mechanism of what energy is and where it may come from is overlooked I think, so I'm glad your essay talks about it. From my own thinking, one possible mechanism for the spontaneous generation of energy by an instance of this fundamental stuff might be as follows. Suppose the fundamental unit of stuff, energeum, was actually a sphere (A) with the properties that:

o The essence...

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 17:30 GMT

You have an interesting model but I'm afraid it doesn't align with our concept of 'energeum', nor with how energy is understood by us in following Mario Bunge. Spheres are defined by their spatial properties, but in our model energeum does not have persistent spatial properties, so your model and ours are very different. Bunge explained that "energy" is the ability to change,...

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Dan J. Bruiger wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 18:54 GMT
David and Julie,

Congratulations on a very engaging and thought-provoking essay. If I have so many comments (below), it is directly in proportion to how very stimulating I found your work:

1. [p1] One must ask, what does it mean for there to “exist” a complete explanation for something, let alone for everything? Where does it exist? Does an explanation mean a cause? If explaining...

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:15 GMT
Dear Dan,

Thank you for reading our essay so closely, and your friendly but challenging questions. I have tried to respond to all of them below. The post is a bit long for the editor so I'll do it in consecutive chunks.

Q1: [p1] One must ask, what does it mean for there to "exist" a complete explanation for something, let alone for everything? Where does it exist? Does an explanation mean a cause? If explaining is the act of an agent, then clearly there are many things for which no explanation "exists". Leibniz himself distinguished between necessity and certainty.

R1: I think PSR means that for everything that is the case it was either (a) caused to be the case or (b) it could not have been otherwise (it is necessary) or (c) it is self-evident (self-explanatory). Demonstrations of these facts are explanations, and they exist (actually) if they have been presented, or (in principle) if they can be worked out/presented. The fact that some explanations do not as yet exist in an articulated form is not a logical problem for the principle that an explanation exists potentially. Explanations are abstract things, and therefore do not exist some "where", although people talk metaphorically about abstract things in that way by invoking abstract spaces or Platonic realms.

Q2: 'Mysterianism' [p1] seems a prejudicial category. The fact that there are "brute facts" at any given time is relative to state of knowledge at that time. What does it mean for something to be "in principle incomprehensible"? This represents a gesture by the rational mind to trump uncertainty by "proving" that it is necessary-rendering it rational on a meta-level. It is simpler to admit that there is no justification to assume that knowledge can be complete-including the knowledge that it must be incomplete.

R2: Mysterianism is a prejudicial category, but by no means a pejorative one. As you are no doubt aware it is not is not our invention, but rather an existent category in philosophy, especially Philosophy of Mind. It is meant to encapsulate assumptive positions people really do take relative to brute facts. In these terms brute facts (without scare quotes) means facts that are necessarily brute, and not placeholders for contingent ignorance. "Brute facts" (with scare quotes) are placeholders for mysteries that can in principle be elucidated. This much is definitional. PSR supposes that that there are only "brute facts" and no (necessarily) brute facts. Mysterianism is a position about the "brute fact"/brute fact dichotomy. Weak Mysterianism is the view that there are no brute facts but only "brute facts", facts that are forever beyond our capacity to elucidate, but are not incorrigibly mysterious, just as quantum mechanics is beyond dogs to ever work out, but not mysterious in principle. Strong Mysterianism is the view that there are brute facts - facts that are inherently 'just so', and hence inexplicable to anyone, no matter how intelligent or well equipped.

Q3: I am not convinced that energy "merely represents the ability of a concrete thing to change" [p2] What about the ability to cause other things to change?

R3: There is indeed a close link between causal powers and energy. To quote Bunge, for natural things "the concept of energy can be used to define that of causation, and to distinguish the latter from correlation. Indeed, causation may be defined as energy transfer" (Matter and Mind, 2010, p.66)

Q4: The idea that properties can average out to net zero is seminal. It makes all properties, microscopic or macroscopic, relative to scale and essentially statistical-that is, ultimately the result of brute facts (statistical data).

R4: Thanks for the endorsement of our new property concept. One caution though: we did not mean to imply that concrete properties are grounded in abstract facts, but rather that the ways in which properties manifest are relative to concrete scale and concrete context. I don't think that statistical measures can be called brute facts, since they are contingent reflections of concrete situations. They can be taken as useful "brute facts" about the behaviour of concrete things, though.

Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:18 GMT
...continuing on from previous post:

Q5: I would agree with Parmenides that the world must have "always" existed (in some form), and for similar reasons add that it can have no bottom or top (infinite in both directions of scale).

R5: I agree that that we cannot have an infinite regress in either direction of scale/complexity. So a proper explanation has to start with something like your "always existed in some form" and try to fill in details and make it compatible with empirical knowledge such as Big Bang Cosmology, perhaps via something like Multiverse Cosmology. The big challenge is getting the explanation down to necessary or self-evident facts.

Q6: [p3] I would like to know more about Peter Inwagen's idea that "we can only understand what logically follows from what is logically necessary or self-evident". Can you direct me to a particular source? I relate this idea to Vico's verum factum, since logical systems are human constructions. Also, Wikipedia says about Inwagen's ideas in Material Beings, that "all material objects are either elementary particles or living organisms. Every composite material object is made up of elementary particles, and the only such composite objects are living organisms. A consequence of this view is that everyday objects such as tables, chairs, cars, buildings, and clouds do not exist." This intriguing idea suggests that only organisms are intrinsically "organized", because they self-organize. All other appearances of organization are human constructs-either projections upon nature (clouds) or actual human artifacts (chairs, cars, etc).

R6: You might start with van Inwagen's 1983 book "An Essay on Free Will" and the general discussion in Alexander Pruss's 2006 book "The Principle of Sufficient Reason". I agree with you that logical systems are human constructions, but I think we construct them after the example of Natural causal consistency. In the words of physicist Hubert Reeves, although it at first appears that Nature is structured like a language, it turns out that language is structured because Nature is (John Searle's argument against ontological Idealism essentially follows the same line of thought).

I think Van Inwagen is wrong when he says that "everyday not exist". It is one of the central findings of systems theory that systems are systems in part because they contain processes that define and maintain their boundaries (see for example p.51 of Laszlo, A., & Krippner, S. (1998). Systems Theories: Their origins, foundations, and development. In J. C. Jordan (Ed.), Systems Theories and A Priori Aspects of Perception, Advances in Psychology Vol. 126, pp. 47-74) One can carve up the world any way one likes using set theory (as they do in the branch of philosophy called Mereology), but if you use systems theory you carve reality at its own joints, and avoid the sort of paradoxes the mereologists keep encountering.

Q7: We "have to accept some brute facts" not in order to save free will but because (on the basis of experience so far) we are never in a position to do otherwise. If the world is indefinitely complex, then in principle there will always be brute facts; theory can never fully capture indefinite complexity.

R7: We do not know for sure yet whether the world is indefinitely complex, but we have some reasons, from Systems Philosophy, to think that it isn't. All the same, we have theories such as fractal theory or chaos theory can characterise indefinite complexity without themselves being indefinitely complex, so complexity in the world is not, to my mind, a cause for concern about finding ultimate explanations.

Q8: There is no a prior reason to think that "explanatory chains must terminate" [p3, Sec 5]. I agree with the view you call "organicism", but would point out that PSR and the "reasonableness" of the Systems approach may be wishful thinking on the part of reason itself. Nothing compels PSR but our desire for certainty.

R8: I agree that there are no a priori reasons for the validity of PSR. However, the foundational arguments in Systems Philosophy show that there are empirical reasons for supporting PSR that go beyond our desires for certainty. Briefly, the argument is that since there is trans-disciplinary order in the world there is an underlying order governing change at all levels. Systems Philosophers are (amongst other things) trying to characterise that order exactly so that we can move beyond 'pious hope' arguments for PSR to an empirically grounded one. The basic argument is in Ervin Laszlo's 1972 book "Introduction to Systems Philosophy". I have a paper under review that develops the argument further, and if you'd like I'll send you a copy when it comes out.

Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:20 GMT
...continuing on from previous post:

Q9: [p5, Sec 7] 'Systems' are human creations projected onto Nature. That is, all systems are inherently deductive systems; their fit to real natural structure is an empirical matter. If it is "reasonable to assume PSR", it is because PSR is an imperial decree of reason itself.

R9: Humans can and do create formal systems that can represent aspects of the concrete world. But this is only useful to the degree that they map the nature of concrete systems that have their systems properties independently of the sense we make of them. Early systems theorists flirted with the idea of arbitrary system-boundaries in Nature, just as social scientists flirted with Constructivist ideas about concepts generally. Thankfully systems theory has founded its grounding in the realities of Nature, and Constructivism is now headed the same way. See also my response to your question 6.

Q10: I submit that empirical facts cannot be "self-evident or logically necessary". Only theorems provable within a deductive system can be so. That is, self-evident truths are human assertions. "Brute facts" may be "placeholders for discoveries and explanations yet to come whether or not "we assume PSR". What limits discoveries at deeper levels may not be any ontological structure or an ultimate bottom but epistemic limits.

R10: I'm not sure we have good handle yet on what counts potentially as an empirical fact, so would not like to exclude that there can be ones that are "self-evident or logically necessary".

You are right that truth-claims about Nature are human assertions, but if PSR is right then when they are true they must be true in virtue of properties that inhere in Natural things (something about Nature makes them true). If such a truth-claim is logically necessary the implication is that the part of Nature it represents cannot have been otherwise than it is. In our view the fact that concrete things have energy is such a claim.

Q11: [p6] It does not follow from "the 'ultimate stuff' must have energetic properties" that it "must have energy on average". Quite the contrary, in your earlier discussion (Sec 4), the instantaneous properties of virtual particles average out to "nothing".

R11: If the "ultimate stuff" did not have energy "on average" it would have no energy, and by definition it would then not be a concrete material substance any more. That would make it supernatural or non-existent, either of which option would render it unsuitable for grounding understandable explanations. So if PSR is true, then the ultimate stuff must have energy on average.

The instantaneous physical properties of the QV average out to "nothing", but its ability to change in physical ways (physical energy) cannot be nothing at any time. Its net physical energy is always positive, but the intensity of every specific manifestation of physical energy (e.g. charge, mass or spin) is zero.

Q12: [p8, Sec 10] Personally, I don't believe in any resolution of the mind-body problem that relies on "primitive properties of fundamental matter", other than its ability to self-organize. I believe the solution lies elsewhere. Penrose's "microtubules", for example, are no more plausible than Descartes' pineal gland.

R12: I agree with you that microtubules and pineal glands are implausible foundations for an account of psychonic properties. However, the ability to self-organise leads only to ordered complexity, and does not seem to have the 'makings' for the emergence of qualities such as subjectivity, qualia, intentionality, etc. from physical or spatial properties, as e.g. David Chalmers has argued. I agree that self-organisation is a crucial factor in cosmological evolution, but I do not see how it could be sufficient if you start with ultimate stuff that potentially has only spatial, physical and organisational qualities.

Dan, thanks again for reading our essay so carefully, and for your interesting questions. There is clearly much overlap between our concerns, and our essays clearly target similar foundational questions. Good luck with yours, we will be posting some comments there soon.

Best wishes,


Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 16:16 GMT
David and Julie. Your essay is an important addition to the contest. Reality is fundamentally potential, actual, and thoughtful/theoretical. I will rate, review, and comment on your essay [thoroughly] tonight. My essay is also in this contest. You will find it interesting I believe.

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 15:49 GMT
Dear Frank,

Thank you for your interest in our essay. We look forward to your comments and rating, and will consider and rate yours too. Good luck in the competition!

Best wishes,


Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:48 GMT
Hi David. My comments are as follows, and I rated your essay. I think that you have done a fine job of discussing an enormously deep and complex array of topics and concerns that are, moreover, complicated by the common use and definition/understanding of terms/words. I applaude your courage and tenacity for going after the deepest and most profound problems and understandings.

My thoughts are as follows:

1) I like your notion of an averaging. This would necessarily invove fundamentally balanced and equivalent inertia and gravity in order to fundamentally balance and average acceleration as well. This would fundamentally demonstrate F=ma. My esssay proves this.

2) I made some earlier comments on the nature of energy. You did, as George Ellis said, a nice job discussing it.

3) I will gladly answer any questions from you regarding areas/points between our essays, including any fine points of your essay. You will find that mine also goes after the deepest questions in physics.

4) Heisenberg thought that physics could not account for the "stability of form" of living organisms (and us). He was dead wrong on that. The physics of our direct experience is necessarily the most highly ordered and stable. How could we have such ordered and extensive and various thoughts if it were not?

The self represents, forms, and experiences a comprehensive approximation of experience in general by combining conscious and unconscious experience.

5) The experience of memory is a physical experience.

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Julie Rousseau replied on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 11:46 GMT
Hi Frank,

Thank you for your comments and for rating our essay. I do agree with your aim to find a rational basis for the range of human experiences. The orderedness of the world as we experience it seems to me to suggest that there are underlying rules for us to find. I will read and rate your essay soon.



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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 19:07 GMT
Hi Julie. Do you agree that mathematics cannot [effectively] combine, balance, and include opposites? It appears clear to me that combining, including, and balancing opposites is the requirement of ultimate unification in phyics. My essay discusses this. I look forward to your review and rating of my essay. Thank you so much.

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 18:35 GMT
Your "energeum" explains dark energy and accelerating expansion but it could also explain, alternatively, the Hubble redshift in a STATIC universe:

Eugene I. Shtyrkov: "At present it is ascertained that vacuum is not an "empty space" - rather, it is a certain material continuum with quite definite although still unknown properties. This has been confirmed by observation of vacuum effects such as "zero-oscillations", vacuum polarization, particle generation by electromagnetic interactions. Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that physical vacuum could have internal friction due to its own small but real viscosity, which in the end produces redshift. (...) ...the differential equation for the speed of light dc/dt=-Ho*c(t)"

Shtyrkov refers to a decreasing speed of light which is too dangerous (one may lose one's job) but at least you could have mentioned the euphemistic "tired light" hypothesis: Due to interaction with the constituents of the vacuum, photons lose energy (not speed!).

Pentcho Valev

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 16:14 GMT
Dear Pentcho Valev

Thank you reading our essay and commenting on it. We are pleased that you found our argument about dark energy convincing, and see our model as having further explanatory potential.

The 'tired light' hypothesis is intriguing, but we did not have space or time to include consideration of it our essay ;-) Your own essay takes such effects into consideration, though, doesn't it?

Best wishes,


Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 18:22 GMT
Hi David and Julie. I agree that the ultimate conception of physical reality must be dynamic, and it must be extremely well ordered as well. Fundamental inertial and gravitational equivalency and balancing features centrally -- and this would fundamentally average and balance acceleration as well. Energy would need to be fundamentally in balance/equilibrium. Attraction and repulsion would have to be balanced and equivalent as well, as gravity and electromagnetism would be balanced and equivalent too. Do you agree? Your essay makes some outstanding points, and our essays are remakably similar in some ways. Opposites must be combined, included, and balanced in any ultimate and fundamental ordering of reality, thought, being, and experience. Gravity and electromagnetism BOTH enjoin and balance invisible and visible space, and this leads to a linking with instantaneity and the fact that gravity cannot be shileded as well.

I think that you all will make for thorough, honest, fair, and competent reviewers of my essay; as my essay stands in fundamental opposition or contradiction to modern physics and its attempts at a "theory of everything".

Thank you for agreeing to review my essay. I look forward to it.

Hopefully, we can exchange some ideas.

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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 18:52 GMT
Hi David and Julie. The ultimate reality fundamentally demonstrates F=ma, correct? This would be fundamental force/energy involving inertia, gravity, and electromgnetism in fundamental equilibrium/balance. Acceleration would be fundamentally balanced and averaged in keeping with inertia and gravity at half strength/force. Do you agree?

I applaud your attempts at getting the theoretical, complete, and ultimate requirements on unification of reality in order.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 17:05 GMT
ulie & David

Well written. A rare, important and sensible philosophical approach. I also fly the flag for philosophy and ontology in my own essay, agree the PSR, agree empirical facts can be “self-evident or logically necessary” and explore a mechanistic route of cause and effect. Also then; a “system” is “a whole that functions as a whole in virtue of the relationships between its parts”

I was once pressed on what the 'neutral energy' 'was', (your “energeum”) and also gave it a name, to show how semantic the question was (I called it 'ground comprathene'). But at a 'ground state' where fluctuations can be positive or negative. Do you accept there are some things we may never know? Of course as we only know anything by it's qualities, may we end up 'knowing' energium' as well as anything else?

I agree your Fig 1 but then link the top and bottom to show it to be a loop, or in fact a toroid, but I stay physical and derive a unique logical ontological architecture of unity which even gives a logical re-interpretation of Copenhagen!

I even use the forbidden word 'ether' but do shy away from majoring on it's essential nature. That can follow from the more important logical conclusions. I do hope you can read and comment from a PSR view.

Best of luck, and many thanks.


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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 18:43 GMT
Hi Peter,

By a nice coincidence we read you over the weekend, and were about to post on your page! Thank you for making contact, and your supportive comments. We are clearly aligned on many aspects, as I have just remarked on your page. To your question, I think we can end up knowing 'energeum' as well as anything else, but it will take a lot of good philosophy and good science to unravel. I do not think there are any real limits on what we can find out - the history of science shows that one cannot estimate what is impossible to investigate. Some philosophers deny PSR on the basis that the entanglement relationship is a counter-example. But it is only a denial of local causal realism under the Copenhagen Interpretation, and hidden variable models might yet explain it. Does your logical re-interpretation of the Copenhagen Interpretation amount to a hidden variable model? I'd like to hear more about it...

Best wishes,


Peter Jackson replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 09:47 GMT

Thanks for the support. Logical Copenhagen is also well described here; The variable is not so much hidden as right before our eyes. In fact spread all over the surface of every lens in the universe!

Wheeler was right, it's the most; "utterly simple idea. And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, so inevitable, that we will say to one another, Oh, how beautiful. How could it have been otherwise?" (Lerner 1992).

It is simply that, of two (tandem) pairs of photons doing c through any medium, the ones interacting with a co-moving lens change speed, thus the distance between them (or 'wavelength' changes. Not just by media refractive index n, but by the motion v of the lens. The speed of the pair passing by is not measured in 'Proper Time' so would only be 'apparent' (c+v) if it could be measured. Christian Doppler found but only half explained it. In two words it is 'delta lambda'. Implemented by re-emission at c by all electrons, including at the 'surface charge' Transition zone.

Just envisage the two photons (or wave peaks) passing along the optical nerve of the human passing by, or the cable from the detector, compared to the two passing by unimpeded.

The Copenhagen interpretation is then in the same class as the tree in the forest. The moon reflects em waves, but if no lens is there to detect them, they remain 'invisible'. Yet we can tell by scattering off OTHER bodies (dust in the air, or beside out shadow) that the waves exist. We then detect light scattered at c locally.

It only gets complex when we have to overcome deeply ingrained wrong assumptions. Did that explanation work for you? Did anything not seem intuitive? As someone less 'familiar' than me can you express it better?

Best wishes


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Hoang cao Hai wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 13:32 GMT
Dear Rousseau !

A perfect essay!

Why are you not expand, to form a hint of a measure or a new assumption (as a draft) to stimulate some specific solutions.

Kind Regards !


August 23, 2012 - 11:51 GMT on this essay contest.

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James T. Dwyer wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 05:34 GMT
Dear David and Julie,

Frankly, I usually take no interest in others' philosophies but your fine essay is very clearly written and, like others commenting here, I have found some commonality with a very general framework I use to relate aspects of physics in what I see as their proper context. I have a few very specific comments about your essay - I'd very much appreciate your brief...

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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 20:49 GMT
Dear Jim,

Thank you for your appreciative comments, and interesting theoretical speculations. I was an engineer before I was a philosopher, and I continue to try and think in 'grounded' ways, as you clearly do too. I agree that we need a 'concrete' interpretation of the curvature of space. A number of essayists in this competition have indeed argued for this, for example Israel Perez says directly: "the warping of space can be physically reinterpreted as the change in the density of the material medium". That seems very clear to me, and as you suggest about our model, once one has the mechanism of energeum inter-converting with space one can think in such terms about this 'medium'. Although in our essay we only argued for the conversion of energeum into space to explain the dark energy phenomenon, the reverse interaction, of space converting into energeum would allow for space to have a physically effective variable density. If the presence of mass is what catalyses this conversion, then this would produce a spatial density gradient proportional to mass that would exactly match the 'warp in space' mathematical model.

I have read your essay, and I think you make a very clear case that we should not expect galaxy rotations to match up to Keplerian rotation curves in a straightforward way. That said, I'm not sure why this leads you to question the dark matter postulate, since the way in which galaxies rotate remains a substantial mystery anyway, or at least so it seems to me. Way out of my expertise here, but as a philosopher I applaud your attack on sloppy assumptions. Sorry I cannot comment on yours as stimulatingly as you did on ours.

With best wishes,


James T. Dwyer replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 02:35 GMT
Dear David.

Thanks you for your kind remarks! I'll try to read the essay's you've mentioned.

Regarding "I'm not sure why this leads you to question the dark matter postulate," perhaps it wasn't clear that the presence of galactic dark matted was originally postulated to account for the discrepancy between expected Keplerian rotation curves and the relatively flat curves actually observed for spiral galaxies. It should follow then that if the discrepancy was based on invalid expectations then there is no requirement for dark matter (additional mass) to account for the observed characteristics.

Understanding the dynamics of galactic rotation is yet another, quite complex matter. However, several groups of researchers, as mentioned in my two page "Supplemental Info." section, have produced analytical models that successfully describe the rotation of spiral galaxies using only properly applied Newtonian dynamics and universal gravitation, or general relativity, without invoking any dark matter or modified gravity. As I understand, the objects within galaxy disks all interact gravitationally, making the entire disk a self-gravitating, loosely bound, rotating composite object, unlike planets that each, in effect, individually orbit the exceedingly massive Sun.

I hope this helps somewhat. Perhaps I didn't explain clearly enough in the main body of the essay?

Thanks very much again for your interesting comments!

Sincerely, Jim

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James T. Dwyer replied on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 07:44 GMT
Dear David,

I've read through Israel Perez's essay, but the concept of a material medium doesn't seem to be able to produce the dimensional curvature of spacetime effect described by general relativity - only an energy field that can impart kinetic motion to matter seems able to so.

I can't precisely describe the mechanism that might be involved, but it seems intuitively natural that...

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Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 16:10 GMT
Hello David and Julie,

Thanks again for your very encouraging comments on my essay. I've enjoyed yours - it's well written and interesting. I can only make a general comment, not so much about your essay, but about the kind of areas you cover.

It seems to me that in some areas of philosophy, 'the jury is still out' on all the major questions. In physics, we can at least look back at the past, and see which ideas turned out to work, and which ones didn't. So we learn from experience, and pick up patterns in the answers that have been found.

But when I look at some of the philosophical questions you talk about, I just feel, how can we get a handle on that? We've got nothing to compare it with. We're still waiting for the answers to come in for all the related questions, and it may be some time to wait. So it's hard to develop techniques for getting answers, as we haven't necessarily got even one correct one to calibrate things with. I'm not saying this applies to all areas, and that's just a first reaction.

Anyway, best wishes, and good luck,


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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 14:36 GMT
Hi Jonathan,

I can see where you're coming from, but I must say that from 'inside' philosophy things don't look so bad. Other disciplines also have their controversies and disagreements, and perhaps philosophers are only worse at keeping their spats in-house and presenting a united front to outsiders. Of course there have been famous dead-ends and swindles in philosophy, and some 'philosophers' have still not escaped these, but then the same is true of other fields, e.g. there are still 'scientists' out there trying to do alchemy. More to the point, there is progress in philosophy, and important progress in recent times. For example, we worked out nearly a century ago what distinguishes a system from an aggregate, and this pretty much opened up the whole fields of environmental management and high-tech product development. We worked out almost a half-century ago that there is a logical inconsistency in Idealism. This has not entirely struck home yet elsewhere but we can confidently predict that the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM will be superseded. We worked out since the 1980s what the characteristics are that are had by scientific theories that are likely to succeed in the long run and why these are the criteria (and Occam's razor relates to one of about 30 of these, and not to a weighty one). This allows us to suggest ways of selecting in a principled way between rival theories that explain data equally well but argue from conflicting assumptions. And in the last decade we have found ways to show that value percepts have irreducible naturalistic foundations (rather than being merely the result of social conventions or pious hopes). So I am optimistic that we will get a handle on more big question topics, and increasingly so as progress builds on progress. Some of my own work in Systems Philosophy falls in these areas, as you can see here. I look forward to increasingly constructive and productive liaisons between philosophy and science in the future.



Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 19:30 GMT
Hello David,

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't having a go at philosophy generally. I just think there are certain issues in physics, which if you try to get answers for them using a philosophical approach, you will sometimes get answers coming out of that, but you won't really know if they're right or wrong, because there's no way to check them.

So you just predict them, and wait. I'm sure you're right about the Copenhagen interpretation though, that's safe bet.

Applying philosophy to physics is hard in places partly because of the state of physics, and I really must apologise for the mess the field is in at present. We haven't managed to clear it up yet, and are questioning a lot of the principles. Because of that, until we get some clarity coming into the physics itself, I'm not sure that there's enough of a solid landscape for you to attach things to. But what you say about energy is interesting, and other things.

To me it's about grasping at an underlying reality by looking at conceptual clues. And they're very specific, clickety clack down-to-earth physical clues - at present that's the best we have, because the underlying principles, and anything general, are all being questioned. Still, perhaps you can get a handle on the kind of general things you look at, and cut through the present uncertainty about which principles we can rely on. Good luck anyway.

Best wishes, Jonathan

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Richard William Kingsley-Nixey wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 10:25 GMT
David and Julie

Top essay. The best kind of philosophical approach, much missing from physics. Good score coming. My own is very mechanistic by comparison, but I hope you agree just as important, and, along with Peter Jacksons fuller ontology, should represent real adavancement.



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Author David Rousseau replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 14:23 GMT
Dear Rich,

Thank you for your kind remarks - especially coming from one as eridute and versatile as you clearly are. I have read your very interesting essay and will post my comments on your thread. I think you did a wonderful job of drawing many threads together and showing how we can simplify our assumptions. Good luck in the competition, you deserve to do well!

Warm regards,


Anonymous wrote on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 11:34 GMT
David & Julie,

I love it when philosophers deal with questions of science head-on. Indeed, I'm seeing in the principle of sufficient reason some identity with the law of requisite variety (Ashby). Perhaps the latter can help lend mathematical rigor to the former?

Though I've not thought much about the philosophical implications of systems research, you've made the importance quite clear. (My technical background is similar to Julie Rousseau's, so I grok much of what you're saying from a personal perspective.)

Have you looked at Lawrence Krauss' latest, *A Universe from Nothing*?

Thanks for your kind comments on my essay site. Deservedly high rating follows.


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Author David Rousseau replied on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 19:02 GMT

Nice connection to Ashby, thank you! Yes we have to work on the mathematical formalism of this, and requisite variety is a good staring point for thinking about how energeum can 'evolve' into stable forms via other systems principles such as "selective variety" and the "order from noise" principle (von Foerster). I know Krauss's idea, but I think our idea of 'nothing' has more 'potential' than his :D

All best and well done again on yours,


Yuri Danoyan replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 13:04 GMT
Please rate my philosophical essay

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Paul Reed wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 10:09 GMT

In simple terms.

We can only know of physical existence as it is independently manifest. As such, it must comprise elementary stuff (probably different types thereof)-whatever that is(!). But there is a difference between what comprises physical existence, and its physically existent state, ie the reality (whatever that is!), as at any point in time. The latter is what physically exists (and then re-occurs differently, and so on), and is probably associated with the state of the properties of the elementary stuff.

This differentiation is crucial as it demonstrates that the existent state (reality): a) has a definitive physical form, b) any causation which is attributable to other existent states can only be from amongst those existent states which immediately precede it in the sequence, and were spatially adjacent to (or in the same) the spatial position it ‘occupies’. Because physical effects cannot ‘jump’ physical circumstances. In other words, the systems you refer to can only be deemed as existent ‘one step at a time’. This proper deconstruction of any given reality to the level at which it actually occurs reveals the falseness of concepts of observer influence, oscillation, reaction, future, etc, etc.

For example. Take any elementary stuff which must be changing in some way (otherwise reality would only be in one existent state for ever). Forget the specifics of what it is or what is changing. But address the question: what physically exists, given that there can only be one physically existent state at a time?


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Author David Rousseau replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 16:29 GMT

Thank you for the input. I agree with you that only the present is real, and that what exists presently changes to produce the next state of existence. I will read your essay and comment on/rate it if I can. Good luck in the competition!

Best wishes,


Paul Reed replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 08:00 GMT

Thanks. I think you are the first person who shows signs of really 'getting the point'.

Looking at my essay now, which is usually the case, it could be better expressed, so pleae feel free to seek clarification.


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Paul Reed replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 09:43 GMT

I am not happy with you or anybody else 'wasting time' when a better version is available. So I have just dumped the first 22 new paras on my blog. Sorry I do not know how to do links.


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Jonathan Kerr wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 14:15 GMT
Hello David,

thanks for your email and kind comments on my essay. I'm posting my reply, to clarify some earlier points. Best wishes, JK


Thank you very much David, I enjoyed your essay too.

I hope my comments on your thread were not misinterpreted, I'm all for a philosophical approach. I'm glad you've written to me, so I can clarify a little -...

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Israel Perez wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 18:36 GMT
Dear Julie and David

I would like to let you know that I have read your essay which I enjoyed very much and found it very interesting. I hope you have read my previous essay where I discuss about the principle of causality and the fundamental notions of space and time. As you notice in your essay, the principle sufficient reason may lead to an infinite regression if one does not set a...

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Author David Rousseau replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 13:05 GMT
Dear Israel,

Thank you for reading our essay and the supportive comments. As you will have seen, there is a lot of overlap between our views. Although we came to it from a different perspective, we also think that space is material medium, and that gravity can be viewed as a density variation in this medium. Thank you for the nice explanation that you included in your post, and the links, which I will check out. Just one point of clarification, though -- we did not mean to imply that we introduced the idea of energeum in order to account for dark energy, but rather inferred the existence of energeum from PSR, energy conservation and the properties of the QV. We then suggested that if there is such a phenomenon as dark energy, then using energeum to account for it will preserve conservation of energy, giving some empirical support for our ontological postulate about energeum. If dark energy should turn out to be non-existent our philosophical argument for energeum will still be in the game.

Will write to you again when I've had a chance to digest your other work a bit more,

Thanks again, and good luck!

Best wishes,


Sergey G Fedosin wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 04:14 GMT
If you do not understand why your rating dropped down. As I found ratings in the contest are calculated in the next way. Suppose your rating is
was the quantity of people which gave you ratings. Then you have
of points. After it anyone give you
of points so you have
of points and
is the common quantity of the people which gave you ratings. At the same time you will have
of points. From here, if you want to be R2 > R1 there must be:
In other words if you want to increase rating of anyone you must give him more points
then the participant`s rating
was at the moment you rated him. From here it is seen that in the contest are special rules for ratings. And from here there are misunderstanding of some participants what is happened with their ratings. Moreover since community ratings are hided some participants do not sure how increase ratings of others and gives them maximum 10 points. But in the case the scale from 1 to 10 of points do not work, and some essays are overestimated and some essays are drop down. In my opinion it is a bad problem with this Contest rating process.

Sergey Fedosin

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Georgina Woodward wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 04:17 GMT
Dear David and Julie,

I have just re- read your essay. I think the idea of hierarchical systems is an important one that has perhaps been rather neglected in physics. A number of authors have been talking about the important role of information having control at a higher level of nature. I think the hierarchy of structures is also important as structure and function "go hand in hand".

For explanatory purposes it may be best to look at higher levels of organisation operating together rather than just from the particle level. Scale is interesting because not only are there different sizes of system but systems within systems, within systems etc. and what is happening will depend on the scale that is examined. It is fascinating to imagine that scale dimension. Thinking that way isn't part of our everyday experience but a perspective that takes account of the interconnectedness of nature across scales is useful.

Good luck in the contest. Kind regards, Georgina.

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Author David Rousseau replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 13:29 GMT
Hi Georgina,

Thanks for reading ours, and for making contact. I read your essay and enjoyed it, and posted over on your thread.

Good luck,


Matthew Peter Jackson wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 20:22 GMT

Wonderful read. Do please give the philosophical view on our essay.

Thank you


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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Oct. 11, 2012 @ 19:23 GMT
Hi David & Julie,

I'm sorry I haven't communicated as much as I'd really like to. I did add posts on George Ellis' site on 10/10 about 1000 GMT to which he replied about 1600 GMT, which I think you will probably find relevant to our recent discussions.

More later.

All best,


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