FMSPhIII, Inter-University Centre, Dubrovnik, Croatia April 11, 2019, revised excerpt

Formal Ontology – An Introduction to the Study of Interfaces Between Universes

Johan Gamper, Subrosa KB

Part I. The concept of an interface between universes

1. The problem with standard definitions of the causal closure of a universe

Standard definitions of the causal closure of a universe positions all causes and effects relating to a universe inside the very universe. If monism (the view that there is only one universe) is true this is not a problem except that the universe then cannot be caused. The definition, however, does not allow a plurality of universes to have any causal relations.

2. Gamper’s solution: loophole causal closure

Gamper’s redefinition of the concept of causal closure (2017), however, saves causal closure even though inter-universal causal relations are allowed. He noted that if causes and effects are confined to the causally closed universe, a principle need not claim that if there is only one universe. On the other hand, if there are more than one universe, it seems enough to forbid causes coming in from another universe, to secure a specific universe to be affected causally by another universe. If all universes are causally closed according to this definition, again, no universe is affected by another universe. Additionally, no universe causes anything in another universe if all universes are causally closed. This small but crucial difference – from demanding that all causes and effects are internal to the causally closed universe, to forbidding any universe to cause anything in another universe – reveals a loophole. According to this “loophole” view of causal closure a universe is both permitted to cause something outside itself and to be caused by something outside itself as long as “something else” is not a universe in itself. A universe, thus, is permitted to cause something (not a universe) whereas this “something” is permitted to cause, actually, a universe. We call this “something” an interface.

3. A new perspective on formal ontology: scientific ontology

With help of the redefinition of causal closure we can open up for a new perspective on formal ontology. Gamper calls this perspective Scientific Ontology (2019). If we let formal ontology be attempts to account for modal properties for the (physical) universe, scientific ontology is attempts to account for modal properties of universes as linked as by interfaces.

Figure 1. Formal ontology is accounting for modal properties of the (physical) universe. Scientific ontology is accounting for modal properties of universes linked by interfaces.


4. The kind “object”

A formal ontology that integrated interfaces between universes would account for modal properties of universes, objects and interfaces per se. Gamper (2018) discusses features of the potential object per se.

7 The “no interfaces” case

If interfaces per se are shown to be impossible scientific ontology collapses into formal ontology. In this case interfaces are consistent with causal closure but there would be no actual interfaces. Universes therefore cannot be conceptualized as being causally linked through interfaces wherefore the project of “scientific ontology” must be abandoned in favor for traditional formal ontology.

6. The ontological inequality

If, on the other hand, an interface is possible as such, it is necessary that the interface is not a universe. A modal property, therefore, of an interface, if there is such, is that it is not a universe. As a matter of fact, this entails another modal property of an interface. Gamper (2019) defines a universe as an ontological domain. So, what must an interface be if it isn’t a universe? Well, an ontological domain is, e.g., the physical domain. Another options would be that an ontological domain is the mental domain, or the mathematical domain. The bottom line is that a universe has a singular ontological status. If interfaces contain anything, thus, they must have more than one ontological status. We can therefore state the ontological inequality that an interface has multiple ontological statuses.


Part II. Tentative interfaces

7. Vertical interfaces

Vertical interfaces are defined as interfaces that causes universes. According to the loophole definition of causal closure a universe is permitted to cause something outside itself, an interface, which in turn is permitted to cause something outside itself, another universe. If we iterate this process we have a picture of an evolving set of potential universes. Since a universe cannot cause a universe a potential first universe must be caused by an interface מ, a first interface. Vertical interfaces, therefore, would be a first interface, an interface between a first universe and a second universe, an interface between a second universe and a third universe, and so on, insofar that there are one, two, or more universes.

8. Horizontal interfaces

The concept of vertical interfaces naturally evokes the question of other types of interfaces. With the concept of vertical interfaces we have established a view in which a universe can be caused. The cause is either between universes, or before the first universe. A horizontal interface, is defined as an interface that is between universes but that does not cause a universe. Specifically, if a universe X causes an interface X/Y between the universe X and the universe Y, and the X/Y interface causes the universe Y, the horizontal interface Y/X between the universe X and the universe Y, is caused by the universe Y. Accordingly, the horizontal interface Y/X does not cause an interface and the defining difference between the X/Y interface and the Y/X interface is which universe is causing it.

Figure 2. Vertical and horizontal interfaces. Universes 1, x, y and z. Black and red arrows represent causes.


12. The formal inequality

The formal inequality is simply the claim that there can be more than one formal ontology that has an interface as a theorem (it is possible that there are two such ontologies and that they are different). If we negate this claim we get that there either cannot be a formal ontology that has an interface as a theorem, or, that there only can be one such ontology.

13 Meta-ontological conclusions

Figure 3. Ontologies consistent with two different definitions of the causal closure of a universe. Traditional monism is consistent with the principle of the causal closure of the physical. Loophole causal closure is consistent with traditional monism, monism with a first interface (causing the universe), nihilism, pluralism, and the view that there are no universes but things belonging to a domain with multiple ontological statuses, an interface.