Danko Nikolić has sent to peirce-l list a link to his paper (Nikolić, D. Practopoiesis: Or how life fosters a mind. Journal of Theoretical Biology) where he explains on how abduction happens in the brain:

This has caused a long discussion on the list that could be found in the archives:

Below there is some my questions and some answers when I have tried to understand Danko’s worldview.


ER. You start your paper with a statement

“The mind is a biological phenomenon.”

Would it be possible to say that

“The mind is a physical phenomenon”?

How would you define a relationship between a biological phenomenon and a physical phenomenon?

DN. Maybe: Biological phenomena are subset of all physical phenomena.

ER. This implies that “The mind is a physical phenomenon.” Along this line I would appreciate if you make your statement on what is for you physical and how it is related to inevitable physical laws.

DN. Yes, of course, I would agree that being biological implies that the mind is a physical phenomenon.

ER. Thank you. I have one more question about physical. We talk after all about processes in time and the question would be on how it happens according to your view. To this end, let me quote from Tim Maudlin‘s “The Metaphysics Within Physics”

“I believe there is a fundamental physical state of the world.”

“In addition to the physical state of the universe, I believe in fundamental physical laws.”

“Once the total physical state of the universe and the laws of physics are fixed, every other fact, such as may be, supervenes.”

Would you agree with such a description of physical processes? Or do you consider a physical process differently?

DN. I consider physical laws to be a product of our minds. They are not really fundamental. Our physics is just a practical way of organizing knowledge. These laws are fundamental only for our way of thinking about it. If we had different minds i.e., if the evolution took some other direction to make us intelligent enough to develop technology, we would have different “physics” too. We would consider some other descriptive rules as fundamental.

It would be more fair to say that minds came first and that these minds then invented physical laws (and mathematics and so on).


I should say that I have already observed such a twist several times when people starting with “The mind is a physical phenomenon” after that take a position of pure nominalism. It makes an interesting impression and my goal above was just to document it. I should say that there were questions from others in this respect and as usual  the real position has nothing to do with idealism.

In general often the same word in different world views has quite different meaning. For example some time ago I have read

Steven Weinberg, The Revolution That Didn’t Happen

and I was astonished by the fact that Weinberg in a fight against Kuhn and Rorty has decided to rely on Peirce as an example of a philosopher that correctly understands reality

“It seems to me that pretty good sense had been made of the notion of reality over a century ago by the pragmatic philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, but I am not equipped by taste or education to judge conflicts among philosophers.”

Well, I guess that Peirce’s world view is quite different from Weinberg’s one. I believe that Weinberg would strongly disagree with Peirce’s position on mind and matter

“Matter is merely mind deadened by the development of habit to the point where the breaking up of this habits is very difficult.”

I am afraid that the same may happen with abduction in Danko’s paper. It well might be that in  Danko’s world view it means something completely different. Peirce’s meaning of abduction hardly can be separated from his world view.

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