Comparisons to other theories

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This page compares the CTMU to other theories with similar goals or perspectives.

Before the CTMU


Langan's comments on the work of 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza can be found here (search for "Spinoza").

Langan observes that Spinoza's attempt to devise a theory of reality combining logical theology with a rationalistic approach to science is shared by the CTMU. He draws parallels between elements of Spinozan metaphysics—its logical outlook, its dual-aspect monism, and its cosmic self-containment—and his own Three Cs / Three Ms, characterizing Spinoza's system as a sort of "entry-level CTMU prototype".

At the same time, Langan notes certain crucial points of departure between Spinoza's work and his own. Whereas Spinoza viewed human intentionality as deterministic, the CTMU extends freedom to human agents "by virtue of a new conception of spacetime structure". While the CTMU is also a dual-aspect monism, it asserts that the basic substance of reality is infocognition. And whereas Spinoza's work only adumbrates the metalogical axioms of the CTMU, Langan explicitly formulates and applies them to construct a whole new proof of God's existence.


The 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant held that the human mind has built-in "categories" of perception and cognition. These categories, or fundamental concepts of the understanding, function as constraints on phenomenal reality, the world of our experience. Thus, our experience of reality is constrained by the structure of our minds. Langan shares this notion, characterizing our mental structure in terms of a "syntax", or set of structural and functional rules. In the CTMU, the set of rules by which our minds operate is called the Human Cognitive Syntax or HCS.

Kant went on to posit a noumenal reality of "things in themselves", independent of our experience. Under this view, what we experience of reality are only phenomena (appearances), whereas reality in itself (noumenal reality) is unknowable. This picture led Kant to an agnosticism about the claims of traditional metaphysics. By contrast, Langan rejects the notion of noumena, arguing that the definition amounts to "inconceivable concept" and is thus an oxymoron. This leaves phenomenal reality, the only reality we can know, as the only reality there is. Consequently, the structure of our minds is a constraint on reality itself. This means that mind and reality are linked in mutual dependence, and raises the possibility that from the structure of our minds, we can draw conclusions about the structure of reality. The CTMU is essentially a theory of this linkage between mind and reality.

Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna had long placed a lot of importance on the phrase "the world is made of language". Obviously, there is much synergy in this statement and concepts in the CTMU. McKenna has placed interesting correlations with the intersection of mankind's evolution and hallucinogenic, psychedelic substances, which may have had a role in the development of language.

Also, one of McKenna's own theories, which he called "novelty theory" and "the timewave", put forth an iterative style of fractal time measurement, which helped track the significant events of universal developmental processes in terms of change and progress. Though the theory has long been dismissed and gone unconsidered, it had an interesting take toward prediction of temporal events. He called nature a "novelty conserving engine", which, as he explained, always built upon the successes of the past and reiterated these processes, folded them in on themselves, and the universe has long been undertaking this task since the beginning. Aside from entropic forces, the way in which complexity is accelerated upon the successful integration of previous complexity, building upon itself, indicates a means by which trends might be teased out of the threads of historical causation and reveal the presence of an "attractor". Instead of historical process being a "push from behind", McKenna envisioned it as being "pulled from the future". (Right here one can see a similarity of intent with Langan's distribution of causation and telesis.) However, McKenna used the I Ching to be the mathematical "fuel" with which the engine operated. Is there a meaningful, mathematical process which could legitimately deduce trends in time and perhaps even their conclusions and evolutions?

Shahn Majid

“The search for the correct structure of space and time led me since the 1980s to focus on a kind of self-duality in the nature of mathematics.

I’d now like to give you a flavour of what that self-duality is about, but you will need to fasten your seatbelt. The duality I am referring to is a kind of mind-body duality or duality between a property and that which measures the property, between reality and the representation of reality.”

“Majid's proposal is that such a structure is self-explaining, in the sense, I think, that the A-part explains the H-part, the H-part explains the A-part, the whole thing H ♦ A is explained by either H or A, and either H or A is explained by H ♦ A. It's a type of Yin-Yang idea.”


I would only add that self-duality and triality should not stop one from considering self-triality.

“There are, it turns out, a number of different trialities, related by gauging various Z2 symmetries. We start in Section 2 by describing 8 Majorana fermions coupled to a single Z2 gauge field. The resulting theory has a SO(8)/Z2 global symmetry and exhibits self-triality, a fact which is easily proven using bosonization techniques.”

Mereon (talk) 03:00, 31 October 2020 (UTC) Mereon

Quantum Computation possible with Majorana Fermions

After the CTMU

Process physics

The CTMU was created in the mid-1980s and published in 1989/1990; it therefore predates process physics, which grew from a 1996 paper by Reginald Cahill and Christopher Klinger. There are similarities: both theories view time as an iterative process rather than as an ordinary linear dimension; both seek to model reality without assuming pre-existing objects or laws; both employ concepts of self-organization; both distribute over reality a form of self-awareness.

A major difference, though, is that whereas the CTMU reduces reality to infocognition and ultimately to telesis, process physics is not a reductionistic theory at all. Cahill writes, regarding the basic iterator by which his bootstrap model evolves:

It is important to note that process physics is a non-reductionist modelling of reality; the basic iterator (2) is premised on the general assumption that reality is sufficiently complex that self-referencing occurs, and that this has limitations. ["Process Physics: From Information Theory to Quantum Space and Matter", page 17]

So the basic iterator—which New Scientist in a 2000 article called "largely the child of educated guesswork"—relies on what Cahill admits is a foundational assumption. At this level, process physics leaves reality unexplained, simply taking for granted that it possesses the complexity needed for self-reference. If it turns out that such complexity does not come for free, but rather imposes constraints on the structure of reality, then those constraints will govern process physics.

The CTMU says that self-referential complexity does impose a constraint: that reality take the form of an algebraic structure Langan calls a Self-Configuring Self-Processing Language (SCSPL). Unlike process physics, the CTMU contains, according to Langan, no assumptions:

Because the CTMU is based on logic, i.e. logical tautologies, plus a small set of metalogical tautologies, it has been described as a "supertautology". No assumptions are necessary, only laws of mathematics.

So if Cahill's and Langan's models are to be reconciled, process physics must be embedded in, and must conform to, the deeper reality of SCSPL. The CTMU is therefore the more fundamental of the two theories.

Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (Max Tegmark)

Max Tegmark's Mathematical Universe Hypothesis, first appearing in 1997 as "the ultimate ensemble theory", posits that physical reality is a mathematical structure. Langan's comments on Tegmark's work can be found here and here.

Tegmark holds that mathematical and physical existence are equivalent, and that all structures that exist mathematically also exist physically, forming a "Level IV multiverse". Our universe is one of the structures in the multiverse, and observers like us are "self-aware substructures".

In the CTMU, reality is also viewed as a mathematical structure. In fact, the CTMU constitutes an answer to the very question that Tegmark aims to solve: what is the mathematical structure to which the universe is isomorphic? That structure is SCSPL (Self-Configuring Self-Processing Language). However, the CTMU avoids blanket physical reification of the "Level IV multiverse" in favor of a teleological approach.

Langan writes that "Tegmark's attempt at a TOE leaves unanswered a number of deep philosophical questions." Among them: What good does it do to explain the universe in terms of a multiverse unless one can explain where the multiverse came from? If physics comes from mathematics, where does mathematics come from? What is the relationship between subjective and objective reality?

Langan concludes that on the basis of what Tegmark's theory omits, he is merely "skirting the boundary" of a real TOE. In contrast, the CTMU deals directly with the deeper philosophical issues, outstanding paradoxes, and fundamental interrelationship of mathematics and physics.

My Big TOE (Thomas Campbell)

My Big TOE (MBT), published in 2003 by physicist Thomas Campbell, has a number of similarities with Langan's work. Like the CTMU, it is presented as a "big picture" theory of everything that unifies science and philosophy, mind and matter, the objective and the subjective, etc. The two theories share the idea that reality is not limited to the physical realm (what Campbell calls PMR, or physical-matter reality), but has metaphysical structure as well. The concepts of computation and simulation figure prominently in both theories. Both theories allow for, and purport to explain, psi experiences and the paranormal.

MBT is based on what Campbell calls "two fundamental assumptions":

  • (1) a "primordial consciousness energy-form called AUO (Absolute Unbounded Oneness)", and
  • (2) "the Fundamental Process of evolution", a "recursive process" that "explores all the opportunities and possibilities for change", then "moves each entity [...] towards its immediate goals".

AUO evolves under the Fundamental Process into a "lower-entropy consciousness energy-form" called AUM (Absolute Unbounded Manifold). These concepts have parallels in the CTMU, where UBT (unbound telesis, analogous to AUO) is refined via telic recursion (analogous to Campbell's Fundamental Process) into the structured reality of SCSPL (analogous to AUM).

There are differences, however. First, in the CTMU, according to Langan, there are no assumptions, only self-evident principles. Thus, UBT, telic recursion, and even the Three Ms, do not need to be "assumed" in the way that MBT assumes AUO and the Fundamental Process.

Second, the name "Absolute Unbounded Oneness" is something of a misnomer. Campbell writes: "[AUO] is not infinite. Nor is it absolute, unbounded, or a oneness – but only appears to be an infinite absolute unbounded oneness from a limited point of view within PMR." So AUO is actually finite and bounded. This raises the question of how it originated. Campbell writes: "Where did AUO come from? [...] There is no good answer. [...] I truly do not know." In contrast, UBT is totally unbound and unconstrained, as befits an ontological groundstate or "terminal concept".

Third, MBT's Fundamental Process is myopic: it selects for the "immediate profitability" of each entity, not its well-being over time. Each state feeds forward into the next, blind to the longterm consequences. By contrast, telic recursion is a "metaprocess" which operates on entire timelines at once. Feedback occurs in both directions between past and future, as laws and states are generated and refined across time in order to maximize total systemic self-utility.

Thus, while the two theories have a number of similarities, the foundations of the CTMU are deeper and broader than the assumptions of MBT.

Bernardo Kastrup

SOURCES: More Than Allegory, p.193-194, "The circularity of consensus reality"

Kastrup's story in Part III depicts "the Other" describing reality/realities as circular, self-sustaining conceptual loops of belief systems. He alludes to the self-referential qualities of these constructs, which certainly smacks of the CTMU's use of tautology. However, when the Other says, "If you were to righteously proclaim that classical logic were self-evident, you would simply betray your unquestioned belief in it. Indeed, any attempt to logically prove the validity of logic would just make the circularity of the whole thing rather explicit, wouldn't it?" What would Langan's comment on this be?

Vaughan Pratt

"Shortly thereafter I realized that Chu spaces was the perfect framework for these ideas, and described the idea at the 1992 Cosener's House (Abingdon) meeting on domain theory and games, where I characterized Chu(Set,K) as "A Theory of Everything dual to a Model of Everything.""

“However concurrency theory is only a "theory of everything" in the same sense that number theory and group theory are "theories of everything." Just as number theory is more than the theory of counting sheep and beans, and group theory more than a means of proving that quintics don't have solutions expressible in radicals, so is concurrency theory more than the theory of what concurrent "hunks of wire and silicon" do.”

See also