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The Metaphysical Message of Bohr, James, and Goethe


[Niels Bohr]
{published in Physical Review, 48, 696-702 (1935}

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
{from chapter 3 of new book, this passage now retracted}

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.


[Niels Bohr]
{published in Nature, 136, 65 (1935)}

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]

I believe that Henry Stapp's physicalist interpretation of Niels Bohr's Copenhagen interpretation is untenable. The very essence of Bohr's approach is that only the reconstructed "physical reality" within the experience of the observer meets all the requirements of *unambiguous* physical reality as employed by science. Without a metaphysical framework to explain where and how the experience of the observer exists apart from the noumenal physical reality, it is impossible to understand how the reconstructed "physical reality" within the experience of the observer not only exists but becomes the dominant fact imposed on even the external or noumenal physical reality.

Of course, it is a truism that we can only experience what we can experience, but the notion that the world within our experience is fundamentally different than the world as it exists in nature is the radical new assertion of quantum theory. It is only our description of the world in nature that will have inexplicable features, like arbitrarily occurring quantum jumps in apparent violation of natural law. The Copenhagen explanation for this is that the description of the world within our experience is the real and genuine one. This is not just a quantum/classical dichotomy, but a quantum as-it-is in nature and quantum as-it-is within our classically structured experience dichotomy. This epistemological structure, within a metaphysical context, of orthodox quantum theory has everything to do with the notion of isolating a quantum system from its environment, so the decoherence advocates who have not taken into account this epistemological-metaphysical structure have created a straw man rather than argued against orthodox quantum theory as it in fact exists.

The work of William James, which Stapp also utilizes in his own work, is misconstrued as well within Stapp's physicalist interpretation. James was saying the same thing that Bohr was saying, and what they are both saying is that a metaphysical framework is absolutely necessary to make any sense at all of quantum theory or the problems of consciousness associated with it. Quantum theory is the death nell of naive realism and physicalism, in all of its varieties, and the phenomenological insights of William James were a genuine precursor to the quantum revolution of Niels Bohr. We can regard James as treating the organic or empiric case where the observer's internal or first-person experience of its quantum brain constitutes the quantum observation to be explored within the context of quantum measurement theory. The principles involved are not essentially different from the third-person case treated by Bohr.


[William James]
{from "Psychology, the Briefer Course" (1892), Harper Torchbooks, 1961, p. 316}

In closing in, therefore, after all these preliminaries, upon the more *intimate* nature of the volitional process, we find ourselves driven more and more exclusively to consider the conditions which make ideas prevail in the mind.


[Peter Mutnick]

These "conditions" that James mentions are essentially the same as the "conditions" mentioned by Bohr above in his quintessential responses to the EPR argument. These "conditions" are essentially boundary conditions of a new sort between the lower metaphysical worlds of the observed (mental, emotional, and physical or quantal) and the higher metaphysical worlds of the observer (meta-physical or classical, causal, and phenomenal). The boundary conditions are included in the phenomenal description but excluded from the noumenal description, which must by definition be independent of the phenomenal reality. That is why it is absolutely impossible to understand Bohr's argument from a physicalist or even a physicalist *and* mentalist conception of reality, which is actually the one espoused by Stapp. One must rather employ the full metaphysical spectrum of noumenal and phenomenal reality.

It is the existence of two types of physical reality (physical quantal and meta-physical classical) that makes possible the real existence of both the noumenal reality itself and the reconstructed noumenal reality within the phenomenal reality that is the experience of the observer, as a third type of physical reality. Bohr's argument against EPR depends entirely upon this dialectical development in our conception of physical reality. Using Bohr's terms, the reconstructed "physical reality" is the "behavior of the system" rather than the "system", the "behavior" being essentially a classical concept.

For James the split was a mystery that perplexed him, although he basically came to most of the right conclusions in anticipation of Bohr's breakthrough. Bohr's quantum theory provided the foundation for the castles in the air that James had already built. What was a mystery to James was unveiled by Bohr and shown to be scientific fact. These issues have in fact been resolved by Bohr, although Bohr may not be widely understood for many decades yet to come, unless, that is, the message coming through me now is properly received and propagated.


[William James, cont.]
{from p. 317}

Where thoughts prevail without effort, we have sufficiently studied, in the chapters on Sensation, Association, and Attention, the laws of their advent before consciousness and of their stay.


[Peter Mutnick]

Within the sixth or causal world, Sensation as the reconstructed physical world is the physical sub-world and Attention as the reconstructed etheric world is the etheric sub-world. The three lower worlds (physical, emotional, and mental) constitute von Neumann's I, while the etheric world is the boundary between the worlds of the observed (I) and the worlds of the observer (III). This boundary and its associated boundary conditions are hence present as an essential element of the phenomenal description, which is essentially a description of the reconstructed noumenal reality within the experience of the observer.


[William James, cont.]
{from p. 317}

*The essential achievement of the will, in short, when it is most 'voluntary', is to attend to a difficult object and hold it fast before the mind.* The so-doing is the *fiat*; and it is a mere physiological incident that when the object is thus attended to, immediate motor consequences should ensue.


[Peter Mutnick]

There are two types of attention, according to James. One is the type not requiring effort, which has been discussed in the previous passage, while the other is volitional. The latter is a terminus of the stream of consciousness. It limits the otherwise free and unrestricted flow and structures the stream of consciousness. The reconstructed noumenal reality within the experience of the observer is the structure imposed upon the stream of consciousness. It is an earth element compared to the water element of the stream of consciousness.


[William James, cont.]
{from p. 317}

*Effort of attention is thus the essential phenomenon of will.*


[Peter Mutnick]

The volitional form of attention leads to the non-volitional form. It is simply a kind of precondition or added condition for the conditions which the non-volitional form of attention constitutes in the organic or empiric case where the observer's internal experience of its quantum brain constitutes the quantum observation to be explored within the context of quantum measurement theory.


[William James]
{from pp. 319-20}

*Consent to the idea's undivided presence, this is effort's sole achievement.* Its only function is to get this feeling of consent into the mind. And for this there is but one way. The idea to be consented to must be kept from flickering and going out. It must be held steadily before the mind until it *fills* the mind. Such filling of the mind by an idea, with its congruous associates, *is* consent to the idea and to the fact which the idea represents. If the idea be that, or include that, of a bodily movement of our own, then we call the consent thus laboriously gained a motor volition. For Nature here 'backs' us instantaneously and follows up our inward willingness by outward changes on her own part. She does this in no other instance. Pity she should not have been more generous, nor made a world whose other parts were as immediately subject to our will!


[Peter Mutnick]

This could not be clearer in differentiating the realm of phenomenal experience from the realm of noumenal nature. This is the essence of the metaphysical approach. The "idea" is the air element brought into correlation with the reconstructed noumenal reality within the experience of the observer, which constitutes the earth element, all in relation to the stream of consciousness, which constitutes the water element. The fire element is the ground of the reconstructed reality, which makes it possible by restricting or narrowing the flow of the stream of consciousness and providing a foundational spiritual presence that is function in relation to structure.

As for the remorseful observation of James that the actions of consciousness are limited to its host, that is not necessarily the case. Once the unlimited nature of consciousness is realized through the phenomenological reduction, it should be possible to act in a more unlimited way. The domain of action for cosmic consciousness is indeed the cosmos!


[William James]
{from p. 104}

I have spoken as if our attention were wholly determined by neural conditions. I believe that the array of *things* we can attend to is so determined. No object can *catch* our attention except by the neural machinery. But the *amount* of the attention which an object receives after it has caught our mental eye is another question. It often takes effort to keep the mind upon it. We feel that we can make more or less of the effort as we choose. If this feeling be not deceptive, if our effort be a spiritual force, and an indeterminate one, then of course it contributes coequally with the cerebral conditions to the result. Though it *introduce* no new idea, it will deepen and prolong the stay in consciousness of innumerable ideas which else would fade more quickly away.

{from p. 322}

To sum it all up in a word, the *terminus of the psychological process in volition, the point to which the will is directly applied, is always an idea*. There are at all times *some* ideas from which we shy away like frightened horses the moment we get a glimpse of their forbidding profile upon the threshold of our thought. *The only resistance which our will can possibly experience is the resistance which such an idea offers to being attended to at all.* To attend to it is the volitional act, and the only inward volitional act which we ever perform.


[Peter Mutnick]

Combining the two statements above, we can conclude that the noumenal description is the state vector of noumenal reality, where the state vector is the thing-in-itself or thing-in-its-idea, arising from the array of things but giving rise to an idea that can be raised into the experience of the observer, where it correlates to a pure idea that is held fast by the attention. The idea raised into the experience of the observer leads to a phenomenal description, including a new type of state vector formalism, which is the genuine one according to Niels Bohr.


[William James]
{from p. 26}

Consciousness, then, does not appear to itself chopped up in bits. Such words as 'chain' or 'train' do not describe it fitly as it presents itself in the first instance. It is nothing jointed; it flows. A 'river' or a 'stream' are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. *In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of the subjective life.*

{from p. 90}

*Involuntary intellectual attention* is immediate when we follow in thought a train of images exciting or interesting *per se*; derived, when the images are interesting only as means to a remote end, or merely because they are associated with something which makes them dear.


[Peter Mutnick]

In the juxtaposition of the above two statements we see clearly that the train (or chain, or brain!) of attention is the solid earth-like structure constructed within the otherwise structureless or fluid water-like stream of consciousness. The attention as an agent of will goes against the unencumbered flow of the stream of consciousness and thereby imparts to it a definite structure. The structure is the reconstructed noumenal reality within the experience of the observer, and although it is within phenomenal reality, it is the only noumenal reality that can be defined unambiguously and thereby treated through the methods of science, according to the Copenhagen doctrine.


[William James]
{from p. 27}

*Let us call the resting-places the 'substantive parts,' and the places of flight the 'transitive parts,' of the stream of thought.*


[Peter Mutnick]

State Vector-Substance leads to Potential-Actual Event as an I-IT culminating in a THOU and a THOUGHT. This in turn leads to a State Vector-Reduction. If we follow James, we will regard the THOUGHT as the primary reality and the other two categories (State Vector-Substance and State Vector-Reduction) as substantive and transitive aspects of the THOUGHT.


[William James]
{from p. 84}

One of the most extraordinary facts of our life is that, although we are besieged at every moment by impressions from our whole sensory surface, we notice so very small a part of them. The sum total of our impressions never enters into our *experience*, consciously so called, which runs through this sum total like a tiny rill through a broad flowery mead. Yet the physical impressions which do not count are *there* just as much as those which do, and affect our sense-organs just as energetically. Why they fail to pierce the mind is a mystery, which is only named and not explained when we invoke *die Enge des Bewusstseins*, 'the narrowness of consciousness,' as its ground.


[Peter Mutnick]

This distinguishes unambiguously between the noumenal realm of the quantum brain and the internal realm of the phenomenal experience. The narrowness of consciousness is the restriction imposed on the stream of consciousness by the fire element, as the ground for the reconstruction of noumenal reality within the experience of the observer.


[William James]
{from pp. 84-5}

Our consciousness certainly is narrow, when contrasted with the breadth of our sensory surface and the mass of incoming currents which are at all times pouring in. Evidently no current can be recorded in conscious experience unless it succeed in penetrating to the hemispheres and filling their pathways by the processes set up. When an incoming current thus occupies the hemispheres with its consequences, other currents are for the time kept out. They may show their faces at the door, but are turned back until the actual possessors of the place are tired. Physiologically, then, the narrowness of consciousness seems to depend on the fact that the activity of the hemispheres tends at all times to be a consolidated and unified affair, determinable now by this current and now by that, but determinable only as a whole. The ideas correlative to the reigning system of process are those which are said to 'interest' us at the time; and thus the selective character of our attention on which so much stress was laid on pp. 40ff. appears to find a physiological ground. At all times, however, there is a liability to disintegration of the reigning system. The consolidation is seldom quite complete, the excluded currents are not wholly abortive, their presence affects the 'fringe' and margin of our thought.


[Peter Mutnick]

This is a very decisive passage, because it demonstrates in conjunction with the previous passage that although the noumenal reality of our brain inputs is much broader than the actually received elements in consciousness, the brain is entirely reconstructed in such a way as to be fully engaged in the actually received elements. This contradiction can only be resolved by acknowledging the two very distinct realms of the noumenal reality itself and its reconstruction within the experience of the observer. This duality extends to the brain itself.


[William James]
{from p. 91}

*There is no such thing as voluntary attention sustained for more than a few seconds at a time.* What is called sustained voluntary attention is repetition of successive efforts which bring the topic back to the mind. The topic once brought back, if a congenial one, *develops*; and if its development is interesting it engages the attention passively for a time.


[Peter Mutnick]

This is decisive because it demonstrates the sense in which there is a time-development or unitary development of the state vector pertaining to the reconstructed noumenal reality within the experience of the observer.


[William James]
{from pp. 328-9}

Metaphysics means only an unusually obstinate attempt to think clearly and consistently. The special sciences all deal with data that are full of obscurity and contradiction; but from the point of view of their limited purposes these defects may be overlooked.... As soon as one's purpose is the attainment of the maximum of possible insight into the world as a whole, the metaphysical puzzles become the most urgent ones of all.


[Peter Mutnick]

Amen. However, in practice metaphysics refers to an all-encompassing archetypal framework that enables one to think clearly and consistently. The Neoplatonic formula stating that the Nous is the Arche of the Kosmos expresses the essence of metaphysics quite well.



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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