SHIMONY ON WHITEHEAD
and STAPP'S THEORY
and INSIGHT INTO STAPP'S THEORY
SHIMONY ON WHITEHEAD
Abner Shimony's "Quantum physics and the philosophy of Whitehead" [Chapter 19 in "Search for a naturalistic worldview" (1993)] is quite illuminating up until he says, "This follows from the natural identification of the state of an elementary particle at a given time as an actual occasion". I do not see how this is natural at all. Recall that each actual entity prehends each other actual entity. This prehension is an actualization of something merely potential in the prehended concrescence. So, it seems clear that each actual entity measures each other actual entity and that the measurement is a form of retrodiction. An actual entity has anticipatory prehensions of all actual entities in its future light cone and these may properly be regarded as predictive in character, so that the state in quantum physics would correspond to an anticipatory prehension in the philosophy of Whitehead.
Heisenberg's actual event ontology is built into Whitehead's philosophy, since the actual entities in the past light cone of an actual entity automatically become potentials for actualization rather than substances to which state vector description might apply. Recall that for Whitehead it is the unrevealed Subject that is the Substance and the revealed Superject that is the Form. This Form is fully determinate in itself and yet indeterminate for others, insofar as the others regard the prehensive material of the previous synthesis as prehensive material for their own novel synthesis. Also, the Form is not substantial, and hence it is a kind of spiritual or ghost-like apparition, corresponding in some way to Einstein's Gespensterfeld (ghost field). The settled world of the past is comprised of the occasions that have passed away, leaving no material or substantial trace. It is not an inanimate world like a corpus or corpse, but rather it is like the spiritus or living spirit of the deceased entities.
If we regard Einstein's Gespensterfeld as a unified quantum field, probably more like Skyrmie's than Heisenberg's, then we might properly regard the actual entities as the quanta of that unified field. The elementary particles would of course correspond to eigensolutions or asymptotic solutions of the unified field. One might properly conclude that the internal determinateness of each completed concrescence is lost when the unity of the field is destroyed by the effective field approximation. The internal determinateness is also lost by virtue of the fact that each concrescence is a determination of the entire actual world and each new concrescence is a novel redetermination of the entire actual world. Each actual entity is fully determinate *until* another actual entity comes along. The redeterminations do not affect the actual entity in its internal constitution, but they do affect its post-satisfaction stage, which has to do with its volition and desire for procreation of itself in future actual entities.
I might add that one of the few points I would defer to Einstein on, rather than Whitehead, is the reality of the points and instants of the extensive continuum. To Whitehead they are merely abstractions, and to be sure they are products of the reduction of extra-physical elements of the observational process to the physical as mandated by the principle of the psycho-physical parallelism of von Neumann. It is through this reduction that the extensive continuum, which is divisible but not divided according to Whitehead, becomes divided. It is the ultimate atomism, and in Einstein's excellent intuition it is the foundation of physical reality and physics. However, the fully relativistic *and* quantum mechanical definition of points and instants, as having no extension in space but unlimited extension in time or no extension in time but unlimited extension in space, belongs entirely to Whitehead.
What are points and instants of space and time in their extra-physical essence? They are not emptiness or nothingness, as the Greeks believed, because space and time exist. Rather they are both Being and Nothingness, inwardly Being but outwardly Nothingness; i.e. Nothingness supported in its real existence by Being. Particles, as the enduring objects of Whitehead, are the processes of Becoming, from Nothingness to Being. And yet, they are exoteric processes as compared to the esoteric processes which are the actual entities themselves. The actual entities have their origin in the primal nature of (process) time itself, while the extensive continuum and the enduring objects, as well as the unified field, have their origin in the organism/environment relationship.
These are the parameters that actually define Whitehead's theory, and Shimony's conclusion that Whitehead's theory does not encompass the "new" post-1925 quantum theory is completely counterproductive to those who are seeking a "new" post-2002 quantum theory and might otherwise come to realize that Whitehead has given us the clue of exactly how to construct it. It is curious that Shimony criticized Stapp's 1993 book, "Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics", correctly IMO, for not really implementing the protomental processes that Whitehead proposes. Stapp replied that he did not do so because there was no empirical evidence for such processes, which really begs the question, since Whitehead is claiming to explain the basis for the very existence of empirical reality. Can the basis for all knowing be known outwardly, through observation? In any case, Shimony, in Chapter 19 of his own 1993 book, does not do much better and should probably take some of his own medicine.
Let us now see if we can begin to make sense of Stapp's theory, which in and of itself still seems quite incoherent to me. The essential ingredient of Stapp's theory seems to be the following conception of the character of quantum theory: fundamentally, the observer is asking of nature, in the form of his brain, "Am I experiencing such and such?" Nature then replies "Yes" or "No", and if the answer is "Yes" then the observer actually has the experience he had anticipated in asking the question, while if the answer is "No" then he does not have that anticipated experience.
Now, we have already mentioned that in Whitehead's theory the state vector as a tool for prediction has to do with anticipatory prehensions. Each actual entity in fact anticipates all actual entities yet to come and hence holds that state vector information for each of them. It is the mental pole of the actual entity that prehends the concrescences of the past and future. So, it is not hard to imagine that the detached observer in the seventh or meta-physical classical world would have an overlay on this anticipatory prehension by the mental pole of the actual entity in the third or mental world. That overlay would establish the sets of basis states for the state vectors in question. The concrescences, BTW, as fully evolved subject-superjects, are in the second or emotional world, the realm of the psycho-physical parallelism, proper.
The detached observer is the organism, which is some composite of contemporary actual entities engaged in a unison of becoming. The body of such an organism is more or less what will come to constitute, upon psycho-physical reduction, the exoteric realm of points, instants, and event-particles. It is this organism as composite that seems to determine for each of its constituents what the sets of basis states will be. The whole organism anticipates with each constituent what the experience of the constituent will be. The anticipation of the constituent establishes the state vector, while the anticipation of the whole organism establishes the eigenvector basis. Paradoxically, the part prehends wholes, while the whole prehends parts.
Now it is fairly easy to see that this whole atomic-metaphysiological circuit has a macroscopic overlay at physiological levels. The micro-organisms of Whitehead become the sentient organisms of evolution, while the mental pole becomes the whole quantum brain and the physical pole becomes the synaptic junctions. So, within this kind of framework, and making these necessary distinctions, maybe the ideas of Stapp can become more coherent.
INSIGHT INTO STAPP'S THEORY
The essential point is that "I" in "Am I experiencing such and such?" is NOT the observer. In quantum theory, the observer, as an essentially classical element, has only a quasi-existence. The real "I" of I-awareness is the Superject of a Whiteheadian Concrescence. As the Potential for an Actual Event in the mental pole of a future Actual Entity, the Superject is an I that is realized in an IT, thus forming Buber's composite word, I-IT.
The Jamesian "bit of Experience, neutral between Content and Consciousness" constitutes a derivative stage of the Whiteheadian Concrescence. It corresponds to the ingression of the Measuring Apparatus into the Concrescence, which itself is a Subject-Superject *and* a (quantum) System. The Measuring Apparatus is a Whiteheadian Enduring Object and the embodied Observer is the irreducible culmination of the exoteric process of Becoming which constitutes the Enduring Object.
So, the Measuring Apparatus is both an Enduring Object and some sort of sum over each Actual Entity of the future that will actualize the Potential of the Concrescence that supports the I-awareness. This identity of exoteric process and esoteric process in the real existence of a Measuring Apparatus should find expression in an equation that fulfills Bohr's prognostication of a quantum theory of the measuring instruments and thereby resolves all the enigmas connected with quantum theory.
The fundamental equation, then, will be of the character:
exoteric functioning of M.A. = esoteric functioning of M.A.
Some psychological explanation is in order to explain how our I-awareness corresponds to an atomic entity more fundamental than an elementary particle. An elementary particle is basically an exoteric process of Becoming reduced to the physical by the principle of the psycho-physical parallelism, while a Measuring Apparatus, as an Enduring Object, is the same exoteric process of Becoming not so reduced, but reducible so long as it is not connected to its culminating Kantian portion, which is irreducible and corresponds to the embodied Observer.
Our conclusion is that the I-awareness is a kind of inner sense connected with our autonomic sensory consciousness. This autonomic sensory consciousness in general does indeed emanate from a holographic scale even closer to the continuum than the corpuscular scale of elementary particles. This I-awareness or autonomic sensory consciousness might be related to a sort of intensive continuum, in contradistinction to the extensive continuum, which is atomized into points and instants of space and time and event-particles. This intensive continuum is of the nature of process time and perhaps many spacelike dimensions, rather than the absurdly limited (according to Whitehead) format of 3-dimensional reality, characteristic of the extensive continuum in our epoch.
It is the intensive continuum that is the context for the real significance of past, present, and future, which lose significance, as Einstein averred, in the context of the extensive spacetime continuum. This intensive continuum and its derivative processes of consciousness, thought, and sense-perception (in the mode of presentational immediacy) were also downplayed by Whitehead and constitute the missing link between Whitehead's own therefore incoherent theory and the theories of modern physics. Henry Stapp, Abner Shimony, and Rudolf Haag have been trying to establish this missing link for some time, but since they do not integrate it very well with the still relevant work of Whitehead, Bohm, and others, they have failed so far, as well, IMHO.
Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000