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The Key Passage of Bohr on EPR and
Stapp's Misconstrual Thereof


[Niels Bohr]

Of course there is in a case like that considered no question of a mechanical disturbance of the system under investigation during the last critical stage of the measuring procedure. But even at this stage there is essentially the question of an influence on the very conditions that define the possible types of predictions regarding future behavior of the system. Since these conditions constitute an inherent element of the description of any phenomenon to which the term 'physical reality' can be properly attached we see that the argumentation of the mentioned authors does not justify their conclusion that the quantum mechanical description is incomplete.


[Henry Stapp]
from http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/stappfiles.html
chapter 3 of new book at the top of Stapp's web page

Bohr is suggesting that, although the nearby measurement does not cause any immediate *mechanical* disturbance of the far-away system, there is nonetheless *some sort of influence* on the far-away physical reality. Thus he is saying, obliquely, that there are two kinds of influences, both the familiar *mechanical* one, which does not act instantaneously, but also a subtler one that does immediately affect the far-away physical reality.


[Peter Mutnick]

Stapp's interpretation of what Bohr has said is consistent with Bohm's views, or even the views of Max Born, but not the views expressed here by Niels Bohr. For Bohm and his successors, the quantum potential is the subtle influence, spoken of by Stapp, while Max Born regarded the quantum formalism as a noumenal thing-in-itself, so any alteration of the description would have a noumenal consequence, such as Stapp imagines. But what Bohr says is just the opposite.

Bohr concedes at the outset that there is no influence, mechanical (or otherwise), on the system itself. If he meant to say what Stapp inferred, that there is subtle influence on the system, he would have said that, but he clearly did not say that. What he did say is that the influence is rather on an element of our description, namely the external "conditions", having to do with the boundary conditions between the system and the observer as constituted by the measuring device. And yet, claims Bohr, that is no deficit constituting an incompleteness of the description of the system, because there is no other description of the system possible than the one that includes the external conditions as an essential element. In other words, all possible descriptions must take into account the metaphysical facts about our relation to noumenal realities in nature, most especially the fact that we must approach them through intermediate devices called measuring devices that establish a type of boundary condition for the measurement that is not part of the noumenal reality.

Bohr's view is first of all that we do not predict anything about the system per se, but rather about the *behavior* of the system. That behavior is essentially a classical concept, and so the "behavior of the system" is a metaphysical concept spanning the noumenal reality of the "system" and the existential phenomenal reality of its "behavior". This first characteristic of Bohr's view immediately differentiates it from Born's view. Although the formalism is a kind of thing-in-itself, as Bohr conceded to Born, its relevance is entirely in the context of boundary conditions external to the formalism *as conceived by Born*, which are, however, an element in another type of *phenomenal* description *as conceived by Bohr*. This phenomenal description involves an inward construction of "physical reality", which is closer to the classical-like "behavior of the system" than the noumenal "system" itself. This inward construction occurs in the sixth or causal world and conforms to Hume's dictum that causal relations do not inhere in the system under investigation, but rather in the reconstruction of that system within the experience of the observer.

There is of course a lower causal principle at work in the noumenal law of unitary development, and so if Stapp wants to call the higher causal principle of Bohr a "subtle influence", that is nominally OK, but one must not say that it is a subtle influence on the "system" as a noumenal reality in nature. It is rather an entirely different set of causal relations, pertaining to the reconstructed "physical reality" in the experience of the observer, i.e., to the "system" made in the image of the observer. Moreover, considering that the higher causality is not a subtle type of causality, but rather the primary type, while the lower causality is subtle insofar as it applies to something that lacks definite existence, the characterization of Stapp is fundamentally against the spirit of Bohr, and the term "subtle influence" should not be used to characterize the effect that Bohr is describing. Bohr himself characterizes it as an "essential influence" in his preliminary answer to EPR, published in Nature, 136, 65 (1935), which I will reproduce here:


[Niels Bohr]

I should like to point out, however, that the named criterion contains an essential ambiguity when it is applied to problems of quantum mechanics. It is true that in the measurements under consideration any direct mechanical interaction of the system and the measuring agencies is excluded, but a closer examination reveals that the procedure of measurements has an essential influence on the conditions on which the very definition of the physical quantities in question rests. Since these conditions must be considered as an inherent element of any phenomenon to which the term "physical reality" can be unambiguously applied, the conclusion of the above mentioned authors would not appear to be justified.


[Peter Mutnick, continued]

This earlier version is illuminating in several respects. It states Bohr's criterion for the use of the term "physical reality", namely that it must be "unambiguously applied". This means for Bohr that "physical reality" must have a classical connotation, since it is only classical reality that has the character of freedom from ambiguity in description and expression. For Bohr, "physical reality" is therefore the classical reality constructed within the experience of the observer. The problem with the EPR criterion of "physical reality" is precisely that it contains an "essential ambiguity", according to Bohr, namely that it does not distinguish between the "system" and the "behavior of the system", between the noumenal reality of the "system", and the phenomenal reality as it is reconstructed within the experience of the observer.

Stapp's attempt to explain Bohr from Stapp's physicalist perspective must fail, because Bohr was not a physicalist, and the very essence of quantum mechanics according to Bohr is 1) the fact that it cannot be understood from a physicalist perspective and 2) the fact that it can be understood, completely and adequately, from a metaphysical perspective. The essential message of quantum theory is therefore that reality is metaphysical, in a thoroughgoing empirical and dialectical way! That Bohr never used these words for what he did is regrettable and has caused 75 years and counting of the so-called "quantum muddle", but that does not detract from the essential correctness of what he did when it is understood in a philosophically adequate way.

Bohr was, as they say, a "natural" when it came to philosophy, and he had the right instincts even though he did not have the full expression of philosophical truth. It is ironic that Einstein rejected Bohr's argument, or at least could not fully appreciate it, since it invokes only the principle established by Hume that Einstein in other places endorsed. I suspect that it was rather the far reaching implications and hidden premises of Bohr's argument that disturbed the philosophically more timid Einstein. It is also possible, however, that Einstein was just trying to draw out those hidden premises, and that he would have been quite satisfied with them if they had been stated completely and adequately, as I am now doing.

In that spirit, a few words might be added about what Bohr's Ansatz actually is. He does not deny that there is a noumenal physical reality or a noumenal mental description of that reality. A noumenal mental description simply means that ideas can have noumenal reality. To wit, a thing-in-itself is a thing-in-its-idea, which is a mental world reality. The state vector is therefore a thing-in-itself that describes a quantum noumenon in nature. Bohr conceded all this in his well-known discussion with Max Born. He therefore would not disagree with the Born-Heisenberg view that we can think of a noumenal state vector substance that takes representational form in the physical world and then becomes transformed into the potential for an actual event, which constitutes a state vector reduction.

However, this kind of noumenal dialectic occurs in the three lower worlds (mental, emotional, and physical), which are collectively circumscribed by the etheric boundary between the lower and higher worlds that defines the boundary "conditions" discussed by Bohr, and therefore this type of state vector reduction, as a subtle influence on the system, cannot be regarded as the influence on the very conditions that Bohr is speaking of, as Stapp would like to do. The problem with the noumenal dialectic has been pointed out by Stapp himself, namely that it cannot provide the requisite basis states that can only come from empirical considerations pertaining to the observer. The difference between Stapp and Bohr is that Stapp would like to try to keep a physicalist perspective, in keeping with the present apostasy in the academic community, and tack on some empirical criteria, while Bohr is a radical empiricist from the outset.

Bohr understands that there is necessarily another type of quantum description than the noumenal description. It conforms inherently to the so-called causes and conditions determined by the classical character of the observer. In Buddhism, another form of radical empiricism, these "causes" and "conditions" are well-known and termed "hetu" and "pratyaya", respectively. This phenomenal description of Bohr involves the reconstruction of the external or noumenal object *and* its layers of noumenal description within the experience of the observer. Hence Bohr's description includes all the essential elements of the noumenal description, but the latter does not include an element that is essential to the phenomenal description, namely the boundary conditions between the lower noumenal worlds and the higher phenomenal worlds. In the reconstruction of reality within the experience of the observer, these boundary conditions play a prominent role, whereas they are absent from the noumenal description, which by definition is independent of phenomenal considerations.

Now, the question may arise as to what the connection is between the noumenal description of Born and the phenomenal description of Bohr. Born himself emphasized that the noumenal reality must be connected to our experience, but he may have thought that this could be done in some expedient way, as does Stapp. Bohr's argument is that only the phenomenal description is ultimately consistent and meaningful and hence only that can be considered to be real. Whatever the connection between the noumenal description and the phenomenal description might be, it must be the latter that is causal according to Bohr, and the former must conform to the results that meet all the criteria of reality. This is a profound phenomenological result that cannot make any sense at all within a physicalist worldview. However, it does make eminent sense within the phenomenological philosophy of Descartes and Husserl, wherein cosmic consciousness is regarded as the cosmic verity, and all else is constructed by consciousness out of itself. Hume's result, as well, is consistent only within the phenomenological framework of Descartes and Husserl, proving once again that Descartes' title as the "father of modern philosophy" is well-deserved.

Finally, the bourgeois character of Bohr's view, imputed to it by Leon Rosenfeld, the Communist, should be addressed. Is it mere idealism of the rankest variety? The answer is no, but only because the requirements of consistency upon the phenomenal description are by no means trivial. They must indeed result in a world truly created by cosmic consciousness out of itself. So long as the "workers" are the lower class, represented by the lower worlds, Bohr's view would indeed have the stink of a bourgeois character. But when we understand God and the co-creators with God as the true creators of reality, and when we understand the construction within the experience of the observer as primary, not epiphenomenal, then the stink of a bourgeois character is washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Bohr was after all a true revolutionary and visionary of the Christ Communist Revolution to come. However, this new wine of Quantum Theory cannot be put in the old bottles of Capitalism or Physicalism.



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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