A new epistemology-ontology landscape

Epistemology and Ontology are a bit (no pun intended) outmoded. In an alternative progression — Instrumentalism → Neopragmatism → Codicalism — there are languages (in which knowledge bases are encoded) and substrate — although in computing lingo, it is “substrates” (plural, types of materials). A reason for going from Neopragmatism to Codicalism is to include more of the significance of the substrate. Knowledge or information processing is just language-to-language mappings. In the case of a C. Elegans knowledge base, a linguistic compiler would only produce a simulation, whereas a synthetic compiler (e.g., a biocompiler) would produce an assembly:

Linguistic compilers are substrate-independent. Synthetic compilers are substrate-dependent.


The physical substrate is certainly also critical to the power of evolutionary processes. It is hardly possible that a process as simple as merely reproduction, variation, and selection could yield systems of sophisticated complexity if not the substrate on which the process acts is amenable to complexification through evolution. The difficulties in demonstrating emergent phenomena in simulated evolution are perhaps due to a problem with the substrate rather than the process. Let us next proceed to an attempt at integrating living matter in a bio-hybrid architecture to, in the long term, endow a robot with some of the capabilities that are not readily accessible to information processing based on a conventional semiconductor substrate.

“Computing Substrates and Life”


philosophy basics: instrumentalism

Instrumentalism is the methodological view in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, advanced by the American philosopher John Dewey, that concepts and theories are merely useful instruments, and their worth is measured not by whether the concepts and theories are true or false (Instrumentalism denies that theories are truth-evaluable), or whether they correctly depict reality, but by how effective they are in explaining and predicting phenomena. It maintains that the truth of an idea is determined by its success in the active solution of a problem, and that the value of an idea is determined by its function in human experience.

Instrumentalism is closely related to Pragmatism (which stresses practical consequences as constituting the essential criterion in determining meaning, truth or value), and opposed to Scientific Realism (the view that the world described by science is the real world, independent of what we might take it to be).


The epistemic/ontic dichotomy is replaced by the language/substrate dichotomy:

There is no knowledge outside languages made by language-making assemblies of the substrate.


Philip Thrift


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