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Stapp's Faux Pas

Henry Stapp has embraced in recent years the views of von Neumann, for precisely the reason that he believes von Neumann's formalism provides an all-embracing way of treating composite systems, such that naive or materialistic atomism might be maintained. Stapp denies that his particles, as building blocks out of which all else is constructed, including the brain that gives rise to consciousness, are matter in the strict sense, but that denial is irrelevant for the purpose at hand, since it does not change the tinker toy model of bottom-up causation shared by John Searle and Henry Stapp.

The real import of quantum theory, IMHO, is that naive or materialistic atomism is no longer tenable. Atoms exist as noumenal elements of the observational process, but not apart from that observational process. Quantum theory must start with a theory of the observer and his observations, first classical and then extended by quauntum theory into the atomic domain. This was the view of Niels Bohr, IMHO.

The question arose as to whether Galileo's inclined plane experiment could be fully described by classical physics. I said yes, Stapp said no. I maintain that atoms exist only when you do an experiment that is capable of measuring them and that apart from a deliberate analysis down to the atomic level of what is, they cannot be presumed to be self-existent building blocks of all that is. This was most definitely A.N. Whitehead's view, since he viewed event-particles or point-instants as abstractions, not as vacuous actualities. Where Whitehead erred, IMHO, is in not realizing that these "abstractions" are noumenal ideals, ala Plato, and as such very worthy of our deepest consideration. Nonetheless, Whitehead is right that they are arrived at by analysis and abstraction and cannot be presumed to exist in some materialistic sense, independently of that analysis and abstraction.

The message is that at bottom, the substratum of matter is nothing but God, and yet the existence of God cannot be presumed in any materialistic sense, because God is entirely noumenal and transcendental, and matter at its core is also therefore noumenal and transcendental. Having realized that matter is NOTHING, one cannot then turn around and make it SOMETHING. That would be reversion to pre-phenomenological thinking condemned by Husserl in Descartes. The presence of dark matter and dark energy may be an exception to this rule, but quantum theory does not describe dark matter or dark energy, nor does the theory of Stapp.

The controversies described above arose in the context of a query as to what variables Stapp's Projection Operators represent. At first, Stapp used the example of a ground state, and so I asked him if they represented the energy variable, which to me would be reasonable. He did not like that idea. I inquired as to whether they had a conjugate variable - he said no, but that nonetheless the theory was quantum mechanical because it was grounded in the particles that possessed the usual delta x delta p > ihbar complementarity. I replied that there was no certainty in that case that his Projection Operators were really quantum mechanical as opposed to classical, and that he had really not controverted at all the neuroscientists who maintain that brain function is essentially classical.

It easy to see why Stapp's present program, based on the von Neumann chain, presumed to extend from the particles up through the vesicles releasing or not releasing neurotransmitters all the way up to the level of human experience, does not work. One need only take note that von Neumann himself never includes III, the actual observer, in his quantum mechanical calculation. Stapp presumes to make that innovation, but without recognizing the problem in doing so, which precluded von Neumann himself from ever making such an unfounded claim. When Stapp makes the jump to the real experience of the actual observer and claims to found all of physics on that basis, he does not realize that he thereby severs himself from the physics and mathematics of von Neumann and of quantum theory as it now exists. That is the whole problem - the so-called quantum/classical divide, and Stapp has solved it only in an "as if" kind of way.

To really solve the problem, one must start with the classical observer and his connection to the quantum implicate order, as his true all-embracing zen-like buddha mind. Then one can understand how all of reality is a projection of the observational process and an unfolding of the quantum implicate order, using the meta-physical classical level as a kind Archimedeian lever. Of course, to realize this truth, one must have taken at least 100 doses of high grade LSD. Just joking - just one high grade dose would do. Still just joking, but only half joking.

Furthermore, in order to really make the actual entities of nature self-existent, or causa sui, they must observe themselves. In other words, each object or system must be accompanied by its subject-superject, although in reality each subject-superject is accompanied by its unified object. Similarly, each measuring apparatus must be conceived as self-observing, and each embodied observer must observe the system through the measuring apparatus, leading to a kabbalistic emanation of worlds from the observer to the system, recreating in embodied form the whole metaphysical structure of the observational process.

The whole process is in essence top-down causation, not materialistic bottom-up causation. By any other name, the latter still smells the same. Even Kantian philosophy is suspect in this regard. There is, however, a genuine doctrine of bottom-up causation, but it follows upon the premise of the top-down causation. It represents reality's answer to the question posed by the observational process. The various metaphysical systems of worlds that implement bottom-up causation are probably the keys to understanding the so-called selection process, which Stapp used to call the Heisenberg Reduction and now calls Process 3 in relation to von Neumann's Process 1 (Intervention 1) and Process 2 (Intervention 2). Stapp has recently tended to avoid this ultimate conclusion of the observational process, because it seems to be non-local and hence to violate relativity and the laws of thermodynamics, as well. Understanding its true character is hence an imperative. Jung and hence Pauli were on the right track, but Heisenberg's incorporation of Aristotle's system of causation through actualization is in another respect essential. Hence, one may say that the Copenhagen Interpretation is as much concerned with the responding Reality as it is with the observational Process.

The first suggestion in the above paragraph conforms to Heisenberg's proposal that as to the occurrence of individual effects we have to do with a choice on the part of the "observer" constructing the measuring instruments and reading their recording, while the second suggestion in the above paragraph conforms to Dirac's proposal that we were concerned with a choice on the part of "nature".

Bohr rejected both of these (Discussion With Einstein, in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, p. 223), but the reason is subtle rather than structural. It is not the "observer" that is the *cause* in the observational process, but rather the presiding deity of the phenomenon, which is closely in accord with the *mind* of the observer, which *mind* is the quantum implicate order. The presiding deity of the phenomenon is also known as the Bhagavat of the Essence of Mind, in the Sutra of Hui Neng (the Sixth Patriarch of Zen) and elsewhere. Similarly, it is not nature, in the sense of an abstract ideal noumenon, that is capable of choicemaking, but rather the society of actual entities of nature and each superject thereof in particular. Each superject makes a transcendental decision as to how it will be prehended by future actual entities.

Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000