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Dialogue with Stapp on the New Revolution in Quantum Physics



Introduction: Henry Stapp sent me, as an elaboration on his position, his letter to two disputants, X and Y.

X had written to Y:

1) You seem insistent that matter cannot explain mental functioning. Why is that (I'm busy explaining how it can)?

Henry wrote to X and Y that he thought some clarification of the terms were needed:

[Henry Stapp]
The first needed thing is to come to a common usage of words. The first word that needs specifying is "matter." Does "matter" mean the substance that is the reality associated with the classical (Newtonian) type conception of particles and/or the Maxwellian conception of a (classical) field. Most neuroscientist, philosophers of mind, and educated man-on-the-streets would probably be meaning something like that by the word "matter".

[Peter Mutnick]
The characteristics of classical matter are that 1) it exists in an immediate sense and 2) that its motions are right before us, "at hand" as Heidegger would say. We don't have to go very far out of our immediate perspective to comprehend and observe the properties of classical matter and fields.

[Stapp reply to Peter]
Different usages of words are the source of much difficulty in philosophy. Of course, there is no absolute rightness here. But by "classical matter" I refer a certain idea in the minds of physicists, and I think also philosophers and others. This idea is close to the idea of Democritus and other ancient philosophers. It is basically the idea of tiny hard glassy balls, out of which the physical world is made. This is, I think, the conception of physical reality that was behind Newton's thinking. Maxwell added the electromagnetic field. These physical realities were supposed to exist independently of human minds/ideas/thoughts, although our human ideas of them are, of course, ideas. Conglomerations of these physical entities constitute, according to the ideas of classical physics, the physical objects that we see, including measuring devices, which then, according to this classical-physics point of view, exist "out there" whether or not anyone is looking. I think this is the common meaning of "classical matter" and the one that we ought to adhere to. If you want to introduce other concepts, it would be best to use other words. The disputants X and Y to whom my words were addressed would, I am sure, understand "classical matter" in this way.

[Mutnick reply to Henry]
What you say may be the common misconception, but the fact is that classical mechanics came out of Galileo's inclined plane experiments, which had to do with lab scale objects, very much Vorhanden, if not Zuhanden. Classical mechanics tried in vain to imagine what the microcosmic realm might be like, even as it tried in vain to comprehend the action-at-a-distance forces that seemed to ruled the macrocosmic realm. It posited glassy balls and the Will of God, respectively, to provide mythological answers to these questions. The great and small of Plato escaped modern science until very recently. Both of these realms are still mysteries to us today, but at least we know how much we don't know, or at least we *should* know how much we don't know. The founders of quantum theory knew this very well, but contemporary quantum theorists seem to have forgotten. In summary, classical physics is NOT atomic physics. The first real theory of atomic physics and the atomic or physical realm of nature that we have had is quantum theory. What is true is that the guiding principle of atomism has always told us that the physical reality itself must be atomic.

As an afterthought, I might add that it is very likely that the classical conception of matter should be regarded as Zuhanden, while the quantum conception, by comparison, would be Vorhanden. The reason for this is that, according to Heidegger, Vorhanden, or the neutral conception of objects, is deficient by comparison to Zuhanden, as, for instance, when something that once had a pragmatic use wears out and no longer has a use. Classical objects are those which have an immediate use to us, while quantum objects are those that are beyond our immediate grasp and hence our use. Also, the description of a quantum object is deficient by comparison to the description of a classical object, since q and p cannot simultaneously be known precisely. However, this "deficiency" of Vorhanden is, in this case, "sour grapes" - it does not necessarily reflect an inherent deficiency - which simply means that Vorhanden refers to the quantum object in our classical context and not in its own self-existent reality. The quantum object in its own self-existent reality is neither Zuhandensein nor Vorhandensein, but Dasein, even as Sartre's etre pour-soi-en-soi refers to Bohr's "indivisible individuality" of quantum objects.

It might also be interesting to point out that the original meaning of *Sache* or the Latin *res* was a legal case, while the original meaning of *Ding* was the court in which the case was heard. So, it is as though the very existence of the Ansatz that we use to address the quantum measurement problem, the quantum-mind problem, and the hard problem has to be defended. The existence of anything depends on the existence of everything in the comprehensive context of universal relationships, which is the Ansatz or the Archetype. In the terms of the Neoplatonists, the nous is the arche of the kosmos (the form of the mind is the archetype of the universe).

[Stapp]
And by "mental functioning" do we mean that sort of functional behavior of material brains and bodies that we tend to associated with a conscious agent? Or by "mental functioning" do we mean the flow of conscious feelings and thoughts that James calls the stream of consciousness, and the mutual causal interaction between these feelings and behaviors describable in terms of locations of Newtonian-type particles and Maxwellian-type fields. Or are we using these words in a specifically quantum sense. And if so, what is the assigned meaning?

[Mutnick]
The Stream of Consciousness is very much like the classical perspective, in that it is what is immediately at hand, subjectively, in the same way that classical matter and fields are immediately at hand objectively. Conscious agency is different, since from the classical perspective it is non-existent. The "free" in "free will" necessarily has to do with the quantum conception of physical reality. Newton could conceive of "will" alright, in fact he concluded that the force of gravity, as an action-at-a-distance, was an expression of the Will of God. But it is doubtful that he could have conceived of a "free will" within the confines of the classical perspective.

[Stapp reply]
Yes, "free will" has no place within classical physics, but it has a natural place within quantum theory, in connection with Heisenberg's "choice on the part of the observer" as to which aspect of nature he will probe, and in connection to von Neumann's Process I.

[Stapp]
If we are to use a realistic physics, namely quantum physics, then "mind" and "matter" need to be characterized. I like to avoid using "matter", because of its strong classical associations, and use rather "physical", as contrasted to "mental". The "physical" refers, in my parlance, to the aspects of nature that are representable in terms of mathematical structures localized in 4d space-time, and in particular to the state vector of quantum field theory.

[Mutnick]
Classical physics is, from our modern perspective, a description of the higher three worlds, which emanate from the seventh or meta-physical world of the classical Observer. These are the meta-physical world, the causal world, and the phenomenal world (wherein exists the phenomenal object of consciousness). The lower three worlds, which are quantal in nature, are the mental world, the emotional world, and the physical world. The etheric world is the fourth and intermediary world.

However, it is a mistake to think that the Observer is, in the truest sense, mental. In fact, our immediate perspective is much further removed from the physical than that. And if so, it is a mistake to think that our conceptions of matter and reality extend all the way to the physical world in its true nature. The physical world is in essence noumenal and transcendental to our casual glance, even in light of our new quantum methodology.

[Stapp reply]
I never suggested that the observer is pure mental. The observer/participant has both physical and mental aspects.

[Mutnick reply]
I never suggested that you suggested that the observer is pure mental. What I said was that your observer seems limited to the mental, whereas the fact is that the detached observer of Bohr is many worlds more removed from the physical than the mental.

[Stapp reply, cont.]
Our scientific conception of nature is developing. Whether it will ever be able to grasp the fullness of nature is unknown. But the von Neumann conception seems to be a better conception than the classical-physics one. It attempts to describe a reality in terms of two different causally interlocked aspects.

[Mutnick reply]
You have apparently missed my explanation of why we cannot grasp the essence of reality, known as nature, or the noumenon in nature. The explanation is that we, as classical observers, are many worlds removed from the physical, and therefore our conceptions cannot penetrate to the physical reality, which is noumenal and transcendental to our mode of being.

[Stapp]
The collapse V-->PV is a physical event, or more accurately is the physical aspect of an actual event. Each such actual event has both a physical (V-->PV) aspect and also a "feeling" (or proto-feeling) aspect, which can be called its "mental" aspect. Each human thought/idea/feeling is associated with some actual event V-->PV (or its analog in a density matrix form), and presumably every actual event has some *at least proto* feeling aspect. It is certainly necessary to include in any adequate theory of nature both physical and mental aspects, firstly because all primary data is mental in character, and secondly because the explanandum is mental/experiential. Thus mind is not "added": it is the foundation and ground of any human description of reality/nature. The *physical* is added in order to provide a theoretical understanding of the mental. But the "physical" aspect that is added in order to understand the mental is quasi-mental: in the Copenhagen approach the "substance" or "reality" that is represented by the state vector V is "human knowledge", and in the Heisenberg/von Neumann approach the state vector represents "potentia" or "objective tendency" for an actual event to occur, and "potentia" and "objective tendency" are not properties of classical matter, which says Yes or No, not Maybe. Within classical physics "potentia" and "objective tendency" is a mental construct.

[Mutnick]
As already indicated, I agree with Stapp's sense of subjective priority, but I disagree that he presently applies the principle in a thoroughgoing or conceptually adequate way. Nonetheless, his intuition of V -> PV constituting a physical Actual Event is precisely correct, and the reason has to do with von Neumann's principle of the psycho-physical parallelism. Stapp affirms that the State Vector is essentially mental in character.

[Stapp reply]
I said that the State Vector represents the physical aspect, but that the reality that is re-presented by the mathematical structure we use and call the state vector has "mental characteristics", in that this Hilbert space entity corresponds to "our knowledge" (which is mental) and to "potentia" which at least within classical would be regarded as mental. Thus the nature of the reality that is represented by our Hilbert space constructs is very different from the nature of the physical reality as it was conceived of within classical physics.

[Mutnick reply]
The State Vector in relation to a basis is physical, but the State Vector out of relation to a particular basis is entirely mental. That mental State Vector is the Thing-in-Itself, which is the Thing-in-Its-Idea, which is mental. This is what Max Born meant when he said that the quantum formalism itself was Kant's thing-in-itself.

[Mutnick, cont.]
The Projection Operator, however, comes from a much deeper level, from the seventh or meta-physical world of the classical Observer. However, where P and V come together, to form PV, is in the physical world, after both the meta-physical world and the mental world have been reduced to physical elements by the principle of the psycho-physical parallelism. In the psycho-physical reduction, those two worlds are superimposed, since they are two versions of the subjective element in the subject-object polarity. They are both expressions of a subjective III in relation to an objective I. When they are superimposed, P and V are brought together and joined, forming PV and constituting a physical Actual Event.

Stapp's attribution of a feeling aspect which can be regarded as the mental aspect of the Actual Event is also correct, although it might be clearer to say that the Actual Event is dipolar, like a Whiteheadian Actual Entity, and that in each case what that really means is that there is a physical instance of the event or entity and a mental instance of the event or entity. Moreover, there is a whole science of essentially mental world Actual Events, which is the one that I have developed in my last essay, entitled "The Birth of Whiteheadian Physics".

[Stapp]
It seems to me that no characteristic can become definite on the basis of nothing at all. (Principle of Sufficient Reason). But just how the physical and experiential aspects of nature conspire to make what happens definite we do not yet know. I have constructed this simple model where the physical aspect alone (by a maximal principle) without any conscious human effort (on the part of the subject) produces the original actual event, and associated experience, but that the (conscious) content of that experience is such as to call forth effort to keep that idea in place, i.e., to make it recur. Of course, in a full theory one would probably want, for theoretical uniformity, some (at least proto) feeling to be contributing to the cause of each event. And, due to the quasi-mental character of the "substance/reality" that the mathematical state vector V "represents", it may be that one will be able to see, within the mathematical structure that defines V, the proto-mental quality that can be construed as a contributing cause of the event PV.

[Mutnick]
If the physical Actual Event is a *shifting* of the focus, there is some corresponding process, which might have to do with the non-event (1-P), which is a *sharpening* of the focus. The shifting is defined on the instant, while the sharpening is defined on the point and hence has something to do with a Bohm trajectory. The points and instants here are defined as Whitehead defines them: unlimited temporal extension without spatial extension or unlimited spatial extension without temporal extension. The instant is the Tomonaga-Schwinger space-like surface and also the Wheeler superspatial.

[Stapp]
But the bottom line, in any case, is that classical physics is not enough, nor is the Schroedinger equation alone. Some further process is needed, and this process, the choice of P (i.e., of what aspect of nature will be probed), is associated in Copenhagen QT with a "free" choice on the part of the "observer". This does provide a natural opening for mind to affect body. This effect might be ultimately describable exclusively in terms of the mathematical properties of V, thus allowing the mentalistically described aspects to be left out of the causal description, though not out of science, which must cope with the connection of the physical description to experiential data.

[Mutnick]
P comes from a deeper level, the seventh or meta-physical world of the classical Observer. V is indeed only mental and represents our knowledge about the Observed. The Observed is ultimately a noumenon, transcendental to our casual gaze. I have remarked to Henry that if Mind could adequately account for Matter, then and only then could Matter adequately account for Mind. But to do that, to really penetrate all the way to the noumenon in nature, we must abandon the gradual asymptotic approach to truth advocated by David Bohm, and known in general as the scientific method, and adopt instead a Husserlian approach that encourages eidetic thinking and direct revelation from the true Mind, which is more or less the Mind of God. This was the approach advocated by Wolfgang Pauli, for instance, and really by all the inner circle of Copenhagen.

[Stapp]
On the other hand, the causal effects of mind may not be adequately representable exclusively in terms of the mathematical properties of V alone: a different language may be needed; the mathematical language of vectors and operators in Hilbert space may not be sufficient to adequately describe the ultimate causal properties of nature. An adequate language for describing the causal description may be a richer language that includes feelings as irreducible and irreplaceable elements: after all we must eventually understand the role of "evaluations" in the choice between competing options, and evaluation may somehow involve a feeling aspect of the brain state that is not completely captured by its Hilbert space description, which is our human way of understanding the "physical aspect" of the real situation, but perhaps not the fullness of that situation. It does not seem out of the question that a rational causal description could involve a structure that has some aspects that we can best describe as physical and others that we can best describe as mental, all operating strictly within the quantum theoretical framework.

[Mutnick]
The language of Heisenberg and of Stapp himself already transcends Hilbert space. Henry sees scattering events as Actual Events that propagate as Potentials into their forward light cones. These Potentials only become State Vectors for computing the probability of new Actual Events when the systems are prepared or primed for the asking of new questions, represented by Projection Operators, P. It is strongly implied by this formalism that the real evolution of the forward propagating Potential is transcendental to Hilbert space.

[Stapp reply]
Most scattering events are NOT actual events, but every actual event can be regarded as a scattering event that absorbs some potentialities (in the form of particle wave packets) created by prior events, and creates potentialities (in the form of particle wave packets) for future scattering and actual events.

[Mutnick reply]
Or, as Heidegger said: "Every machine is a Zeug, but conversely not every Zeug is a machine." Actual Events are factually like machines that really do something, while ordinary scattering events are factually like pieces of equipment or pieces of junk (Zeug), that are not in and of themselves machines that really do something.

Actual Entities, by comparison to Actual Events, are not machines but organisms. So, the conclusion is that Stapp's emphasis on Actual Events, to the exclusion of Actual Entities, could signify a mechanistic trend that is not entirely progressive. David Bohm, for one, was very much against the mechanical view of reality, as Basil Hiley has emphatically reminded us. Bringing in experience does not necessarily mitigate the defect, since experience itself can be mechanical and often is in the modern world, which is one of the primary complaints of patients seeking psychiatric help.

Even though I point out this clever analogy with Heidegger's statement, I still feel that Stapp is equivocating here. He does say that "particles do not exist except as clouds of potentiality". If this be the case, then there really is no other kind of scattering event than an Actual Event type of scattering event.

[Stapp reply, cont.]
The language "These Potentials only become state vectors for computing..." is a little confusing. It is true that the vector PV is used to compute the probability for PV to be actualized. The transition V-->PV is represented in Hilbert Space. Yet the choice of P could depend upon (and I presume does depend upon) both the physical and mental aspects of the evolving situation, and the event that is represented in Hilbert space by V-->PV could have (and I assume does have) also a mental (knowing, or at least proto-knowing) aspect. Each such reduction/collapse event does have a mental (knowing) aspect in both the Copenhagen and von Neumann Interpretations. These events with intertwined physical and mental properties are the proto-type realities of quantum dynamics.

[Mutnick reply]
Again, you are trapped in the box of earth and sky (physical and mental). P comes from a deeper level, many worlds removed from even the mental.



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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