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A Faithful Correspondence of Whitehead To Physics?
Discussion With Henry Stapp



[Klein]
I still think that it would be good to have an agreed upon dictionary that specifies a connection between Whitehead's language and that of modern QM. For example, in the Note Added in Proof to his article in the Claremont Conference book, Chew says "The major development [in Chew's thinking about the Whitehead/physics connection] has been to associate Whiteheadian pre-events with Feynman paths, rather than with Hilbert space." We need a consensus among Whitehead experts to come to some agreement on that dictionary making the main principles of Whitehead's ontology understandable to physicists.

[Mutnick]
This comment of Chew is very interesting and to the point, but it seems to me unclear and ambiguous. To the extent that I understand it, it seems wrong. The actual entities are precisely the res verae or true things in nature, substituting for the vacuous actualities known as "particles". To the extent that Hilbert space is designed to designate the real things in nature, it is the state vector description that must be assigned to the actual entities, rather than the particles, at least in the first instance.

I have given a detailed and specific (although not flushed out) conception of the relation of actual entities to actual events to S-matrix elements and to unitary developments. I have suggested that the S-matrix approach is uniquely applicable to Whiteheadian process theory, because the dynamical elements are not obtuse particles, but subjects whose interactions are by way of feelings (prehensions). To subjectively feel the force or presence of another is the most directly intuitive conception of a forcefield - objects just get in the way and remove us from the primacy of the concept.

Whitehead's theory is essentially the theory of the selection process, in which, however, the selection process has become primary, and unitary development is seen as just a part of that primary process. Unitary development pertains exclusively to the anticipatory prehensions in the chosen representation of the coherent states on a lattice. The S-matrix elements, on the other hand, will represent the entire interaction of actual entities through causal and anticipatory prehensions. Particles and the unitary developments of the physical poles of the actual entities are entirely a by-product of the primary process. It might be added that the superjective processes of the actual entities, as well as the initial development of their physical poles, might be governed by the unitary development, giving rise to the nonlinearity of the unified field.

[Stapp]
Peter's proposal is getting close to where I can almost understand it, at least to the degree of making a few small comments and disclaimers.

[Mutnick, previously]
Henry Stapp's use of Whitehead is very attenuated compared to the program outlined below. He basically views the actual entities as the temporal sequence of Heisenberg actual events that reduce the state vector, thus producing in each instance a new potential or superject for further actual events. The only real use of Whitehead is in the notion that the Heisenberg actual events are experiential and subjective, and hence in the first instance subjects. He justifies this with the analysis of von Neumann and Wigner (the so-called von Neumann chain, terminating in the abstract "ego" and presumably consciousness). Stan Klein is also limited to this narrow interpretation, based on the unlimited movability of the Heisenberg Schnitt.

[Stapp]
Von Neumann demonstrated movability at the practical level. But if one is striving to create an ontology then I think that von Neumann's events should be considered to be real happenings. The question then becomes, "What conditions determine when and where the real events occur, and what determines exactly what these events are?"

[Mutnick]
How can you demonstrate movability? You can simply assert as an axiom that macroscopic objects are entirely defined by their constituent atomic objects and therefore obey quantum mechanical laws, but you cannot prove it. Bohr evidently didn't believe it, and neither do I. Whitehead called macroscopic objects "enduring objects". An enduring object is a recurrence of an eternal object or complex of eternal objects in a related society of actual entities. The quantum theory of the measuring device that Bohr envisioned is evidently more complex than a mere axiom of determination by atomic constitutents. If atomism were true and the true atoms were atomic objects, then and only then would such an axiom be true, but Whitehead denies those premises. He asserts the opposite theory of atomic subjectivity, in which the atoms of nature are subjects, not objects. They are von Neumann III's, not von Neumann I's, but by virtue of being insignificant at the classical level and becoming world-thrown in the attempt to surmount their fleeting impermanence, they are not classical either. These preliminary considerations of Whitehead, which remained largely unexpressed and to be read between the lines, are related to those of Sartre in "Being and Nothingness". The considerations of Whitehead and Sartre nicely complement each other.

[Mutnick, previously]
It is doubtful that Bohr intended such an *unlimited* movability, and likely that he meant something much more limited and subtle by his parable of the cane. It is true that he thought the movability of the separation between subject and object was important philosophically, but unlikely that he thought it had unlimited application - he never embraced the approach of von Neumann, for instance, even though they were close friends and he must have been very familiar with it. Bohr never identified von Neumann's measurement theory with the next generation of quantum theory that would include a quantum description of the measuring device, even though technically that is what the von Neumann theory purports to accomplish (without however requiring a fundamental revamping of the theory - Bohr insisted a fundamental revamping was necessary to accomplish the inclusion of the measuring device in any way that was more than trivial, urealistic, and essentially false).

Moreover, Whitehead says explicitly in "Process and Reality" that the actual entities DO NOT occur in a temporal sequence, thus ruling out the interpretation of Stapp as an accurate reading of Whitehead. Stapp justifies his deviation with the notion that Whitehead was unreasonably concerned with following the restrictions of relativity in ignorance of quantum theory, particularly the Tomonaga-Schwinger theory of the spacelike surfaces for reductions, which *may* be preferred, without disturbing the causality requirements of the theory.

Logically, Stapp could be right, and Whitehead must then have been suffering from one colossal psychosis (justified by his ignorance of quantum theory). But I doubt it.

[Stapp]
The fact that the collapse events can be instantaneous without disrupting the physical no-faster-than-light conditions of relativity theory is a subtlety of quantum theory that Whitehead was very likely to be unaware of.

[Mutnick]
On the contrary, I think Whitehead understood all interactions as nonlocal and as occurring by way of prehensions or feelings rather than point interactions of particles. The latter presents an unresolved (and unresolvable!) problem for quantum field theory, as Heisenberg averred. The prehensions are not local, but they must always occur as if they could be local. That is why S-matrix theory alone can describe them. Whitehead's causality restrictions are "as if" restrictions, rather than the mechanical restrictions of quantum field theory.

[Mutnick, previously]
An authentic reading of Whitehead takes the actual entities not just as the Heisenberg actual events, made subjective by the von Neumann chain, but as the subjective substitute for the objective entities of nature, known as elementary particles. According to Whitehead, the notion of elementary particles as objective building blocks of nature, *even* if they are just phantasms in the mind of the scientist, amounts to what he called "vacuous actuality". In fact, Stapp's view that they are essentially phantasms in the mind of the scientist confirms Whitehead's view that they are not an adequate basis for ontology and leave any ontology based on them weak to the point of being unsustainable.

[Stapp]
At the Pragmatic Copenhagen level the elementary particles are "phantasms". But in a von Neumann type ontology the "physical state" is built out of a quantum generalization of the classical notions particles and fields. So the "particles", in their quantum reincarnation, are one aspect of objective reality.

[Mutnick]
If it quacks (quarks) like a duck and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck. A particle by any other name is still the same old vacuous actuality.

[Mutnick, previously]
Stapp's claim that his ontology is not based on particles

[Stapp]
I make no such claim!

I say that a von Neumann ontology is based in part on the quantum state, which is built on a quantum generalization of particles.

[Mutnick]
Sorry, I see no meaning in the term "generalization" of particles. If you mean simply that instead of collisions of particles, we now have point interactions of particles (in which some of the particles may be virtual), then this very asset is your greatest liability, because the very notion of point interactions is the unresolved (and unresolvable) contradiction in quantum field theory, as Heisenberg averred. Either the theory is or is not based on particles as the fundamental entities of nature. You equivocate on this fundamental issue. That there are other entities pertaining to the experiences of sentient beings does not alter the question as to the fundamental entities of nature, apart from such experiences. This is the crux of the matter. Whitehead, by the way, entertained no such bifurcation of nature - for him the actual entities of nature were atomic subjective experiences, and that is his key point!

[Mutnick, previously]
is belied by his failure to define any other basis for his ontology - his ontology is in fact based on the quantum brain, which is comprised of elementary particles. His state vector of the universe is the state vector of all the elementary particles in the universe, and it is the state vector of the universe that he imbues with mind-independent reality, in analogy with the objective universe of classical physics. End of story.

[Stapp]
A further part of the story is the emphasis on the causal efficacy of the mental pole: this amounts to more than just giving the physical part a subjective aspect.

[Mutnick]
You use quantum theory to accomplish the bifurcation which is antithetical to everything Whitehead espoused. Are you not then fundamentally anti-Whiteheadian rather than Whiteheadian in your approach? My approach locates the fundamental interactions of nature in the mental poles of the present prehending actual entities, and I think this is clearly in accord with Whitehead's purpose - in fact it is a deepening of his ideas, even as we are aiming at a more profound application of the principle of complementarity.

[Mutnick, previously]
Whitehead is attempting to define a true basis for ontology, and he finds that true basis in the actual entities of nature as he defines them, i.e., as subjects which become superjects through an internal process of becoming. There is of course a mountain of sublime intuition which goes into this axiom. The question raised by Stan Klein at the "Whitehead and Physics Conference" at the Claremont Institute is whether a real correspondence can be found between Whitehead and physics. Klein has since backed off that ambitious goal and in fact forgotten that he ever proposed it.

[Stapp]
I am sure Stan remembers sitting with David Finkelstein and me, and maybe Geoff Chew, and proposing that we should try to formulate Whitehead more clearly and unambiguously by linking it more securely to quantum theory: i.e., creating a quantum-theory-informed Whiteheadian ontology.

[Mutnick]
I think the arrow of your endeavor betrays its insincerity. Philosophy should be the spiritual guide of physics, not the other way around. In fact, you completely destroy the very essence of the Whiteheadian approach, and with it any hope of overcoming the unresolvable self-contradictions of the physical theories.

[Mutnick, previously]
I must now undertake the mission that has been forsaken, and I must invite all those in whom the fire of true knowledge is still kindled to join me.

As a minimal but otherwise accurate simplification of what Whitehead said, which I believe to be helpful in modeling his theory for physics, I say that all prehensions occur in the mental pole of the actual entity.

[Stapp]
This seems OK, but what is the connection between "mental" and "experiential/conscious/felt"?

[Mutnick]
The actual entity is a dipolar subject, but in my version of Whitehead, it is only the mental pole that feels or prehends. I substitute unitary development for "physical prehension", which I feel to be a misconception. When an actual entity obeys the anticipatory prehension of it by a previous actual entity, that obedience does not (according to me) constitute a mutual prehension but the unitary development of the physical pole of that actual entity.

[Stapp]
Are such "events" associated with single-celled organisms, or with isolated electrons or photons moving in the void?

[Mutnick]
The completed actual entities, as concrescences, can be *objectified* as event-particles, which I take (innovatively) to be essentially mass particles (Whitehead may distinguish them). The objectification process involves not only prehending the actual entity, but projecting it upon the screen of space and time. The actual event is the prehension, while the event-particle is the projection.

[Stapp]
Of what does a real event consist, besides the collapse event at the level of the "particles"?

[Mutnick]
It is a prehension, which is the primary forcefield of interaction among the actual entities of nature. It is an inherently nonlocal interaction, which cannot be mechanized, and must therefore obey causality in an "as if" sense only.

[Stapp]
How do "feelings" enter, and exactly what do they do?

[Mutnick]
They constitute the fundamental forcefield operative between the (subjective) actual entities of nature. They objectify one actual entity for another and allow the prehending actual entity to incorporate some aspect of the prehended actual entity into its own character and structure.

[Stapp]
I believe that some sort of "feel" is associated with every real event, and that the role of this "feel" is both evaluative --- to provide some sort of evaluation for a possible event --- and causal --- to select a von Neumann Process 1 pre-event that specifies, on the basis of a nonlocalized structure of the "brain", a nonlocalized (projection) operator P that acts nonlocally over a large part of the brain of the agent, be s/he large or small, and presents this P to nature for her statistically driven choice between "Yes" or "No".

[Mutnick]
Fine, but your theory bifurcates nature and still has as its basis the unitary development of particles as the objective aspect of nature. Whitehead completely and irrevocably rejects your premise as "vacuous actuality" and "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness". Whitehead claims you can never rejoin the bifurcated elements, even as Chalmers in essence claims, so if you succeed in your present endeavor, you disprove both Whitehead and Chalmers. I do not believe you have succeeded.

[Mutnick, previously]
The physical pole obeys the anticipatory prehensions of actual entities of the past, but that obedience does not in itself constitute a "physical prehension". The prehension amounts to an actual event in the mental pole of the prehending actual entity, and the prehended actual entity must be a completed concrescence, the superject of which is the potential for that actual event. That is for a causal prehension. For an anticipatory prehension, we must say that the present or prehending actual entity holds state vector knowledge for the substance which is the raw unprocessed subject of a future actual entity. Each actual entity is a subject which essentially prehends or observes or measures each other actual entity in the universe, which is simply defined as the multiplicity of actual entities.

There is an asymmetry between the past light cone of the present actual entity, as the home for potential - actual event, and the future light cone, as the home for state vector - substance. The asymmetry arises because the state vector of the future substance must be put in a representation to bind the future actual entity to a pattern of behavior. The unique representation that I believe to be astoundingly applicable to Whitehead's theory is von Neumann's representation of coherent states on a lattice.

[Stapp]
If the actions are all projections, then the lattice idea is not needed.

[Mutnick]
Von Neumann evidently thought it was and considered it an essential part of *his* interpretation.

[Mutnick, previously]
The event-particles and point-instants of Whitehead can be mathematically described in terms of the coherent states on a lattice.

[Stapp]
I am not sure what these "event-particles" and "point-instants" are. Is anything needed besides the events themselves, with their two poles (aspects).

[Mutnick]
As Klein says, there is a need here for precision of definitions. It is the actual entity which is dipolar, whereas the actual event is a prehension in the mental pole of a present prehending actual entity. I am creatively expanding upon Whitehead's own conception of these terms, but I claim that my innovations are totally in accord with Whitehead's essential aims and, if anything, further them. I claim that your approach does violence to the essential aims of Whitehead and cannot be regarded as Whiteheadian, by any stretch of the imagination. I am referring of course to your fundamental bifurcation of nature into physical particles and experiential elements.

[Mutnick, previously]
So, the correspondence of Whitehead to physics seems to be this: the mental pole of each present or prehending actual entity is an S-matrix element,

[Stapp]
But S-matrix transforms between plus and minus infinite time, whereas [Whitehead] needs events at finite times. Von Neumann's orthodox theory accommodates these.

[Mutnick]
The completed concrescences, which constitute the input, have passed away. They are objectively immortal and they do not change - they are like the eternal past of the Australian aborigines. The outgoing particles, on the other hand, are ideal and asymptotic abstractions. That is precisely why I think the S-matrix approach is ideally suited to the description of the fundamental process of nature, as Whitehead defines it. The essence of the epochal theory of time, which Whitehead espouses, is that one may not regard the flow of time at the atomic level as continuous or the interactions as local. Still, the principles of S-matrix theory should apply. It is as though between each actual entity and its successor there is an eternity intervening, but yet there may also be an intimate connection between the actual entity and its successor, arising not from necessity but from affinity and from the essentially nonlocal interaction. Obviously, the interaction is not entirely nonlocal, however, and has a local character, to the extent required for S-matrix theory. The final determinations of the extensive spacetime continuum remain for the final decision of each actual entity. If it were not so, the method of extensive abstraction, which generates point-instants and event-particles, would not be possible. The freedom of final decision comes from the subjective character of the process and the entities thereof and requires a subjective understanding of space and time, as well.

[Mutnick, previously]
for which all the actual entities of the past are the input and all the actual entities of the future, assigned to the proper representation, are the output. The S-matrix element is nothing but a resonance, which will itself become an element of the input for future actual entities. The subjective actual entities are the real inputs and outputs and dynamical elements, and only because of the chosen representation do the actual entities of the future assume the abstract form of elementary particles,

[Stapp]
The actualized structures are very complex structures, having the information content of, for example, conscious thoughts. Elementary particles are by definition structures with very few degrees of freedom. They are too simple to be identified with an actual entity associated with a conscious human thought.

[Mutnick]
The particles are too simple to be the physical foundation in nature of the reality we experience! On the other hand, as expressions, they are feasible. Consider our alphabet, consistsing of 26 letters, or the DNA code consisting entirely of the four amino acids. I am taking the body as a material expression and not the real person (the living organism), who is the actual seat of experience.

[Mutnick, previously]
i.e., the elementary particles are abstract objects of the subjective aim, which never come to occupy the ontological basis or dynamical basis of the theory. This is in accord with Heisenberg's or Stapp's views on particles,

[Stapp]
Not so! A particle is much simpler than the actual entity that corresponds to a human thoughts.

[Mutnick]
What I meant is that you (and Heisenberg) say the particles are ultimately structures of something else, such as experience, and not the fundamental things. But, as I have claimed, you equivocate on this point and in fact regard the particles as the physical basis for all of our experiences and our consciousness, which I believe to be fundamentally false and directly on course for head-on collision with the correct analysis of both Whitehead and Chalmers.

[Mutnick, previously]
but the difference is that an alternative basis for the ontology and the dynamics *is* explicitly provided.

[Stapp]
One can say that the mental pole is essential or primary, but what needs to be explained is the causal connection of this pole to the quantum representation of reality.

[Mutnick]
They are not two different things. The present prehending mental pole is the S-matrix element and the impenetrable bubble of unmechanized interaction. The unitary development comes from the anticipatory prehensions of the past, in the chosen representation, and is effective in determining the behavior of 1) the physical pole of the actual entity and 2) the superjective process of the actual entity, resulting in nonlinear unitary development. (The superjective process, over and above the subjective process, is one of my innovations, which is again in accord with the overall aims of Whitehead and the process he envisioned.) Indeed, the two features of process (mental interaction and physical unitary development) must be harmonized by the mathematical scheme that is ultimately developed. This is undoubtedly a primary clue as to how to proceed.

But the question here and now is whether my conception of Whitehead's process provides an adequate program for physical and mathematical research. If you say no, without deeply considering my proposal, you may be throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime, or I should say many lifetimes.

[Mutnick, previously]
I believe the above construction to be a faithful synthesis of both Whiteheadian philosophy and quantum physics,

[Stapp]
The tie-in of the mental pole to the laws of quantum physics needs to be more explicity described. What were pre-biological events like. How did they evolve into conscious human events.

[Mutnick]
These are all questions for your theory, not mine. I say the primary interaction of quantum physics occurs in the mental pole. The secondary consideraton is the unitary development, which is an action, but not an interaction, since there is no physical prehension that is in mutual relationship to the anticipatory prehension coming from the past. Whitehead says, and I say, that atomic subjective experience is the only reality in evidence, with or without the production of bodies that serve as templates for the organisms of sentient beings. The thought thinks the thinker, and so the atomic subjective experience sometimes generates the bodies and macroscopic organisms of sentient beings. Consciousness itself, however, is unitive, and is the other essential component of reality, in addition to atomic subjective experience. William James addressed this aspect of reality and showed how to unify it with the atomic bits of experience, neutral between content and consciousness, which can be identified with the actual entities of Whitehead.

[Mutnick, previously]
and the only serious attempt I have seen to attempt such a construction. The upshot and consequence for philosophy is the theory of atomic subjectivity, thus casting atomism in a new light, or possibly in its original light.

[Stapp]
Do individual atoms and electrons and photons "feel", or have "feelings", or "produce feelings"?

[Mutnick]
No, since they are just asymptotic expressions of real experience, meant to communicate and convey information. Your question is like asking whether the newspaper enjoyed breakfast.

[Stapp, cont.]
If so, do these feelings associated with electrons etc., combine to "produce" the feelings associated with brains, or do do the feelings associated with brains have some other source?

[Mutnick]
The feelings with which electrons can be associated combine to produce the feelings associated with brains. The atomic subjective experience is indeed the source through addition of all macroscopic experience. But again, the subjective reality is always primary, contrary to unenlightened human experience. The enlightened of our race affirm the primacy of subjective reality.

[Stapp, cont.]
Are such brain-related feelings simply "produced" by the atoms, or by the feelings in the atoms, or do these high-level feelings, the mental pole of the conscious human event, act to instigate physical events that could or would not occur without them. If so, then how are the complex feelings associated with brains associated with the simple feelings associated with their atomic constituents, and how do these complex feeling aquire and exercise their causal power over the brain, in accord with quantum theory.

[Mutnick]
A thoroughgoing investigation of primary subjective reality will indeed lead to breakthroughs in our conception of human reality. It will lead to us becoming Masters over material reality and over our destinies. But there is no conceptual problem, when the axioms are right. The axioms involve the existence of consciousness itelf and atomic subjective experience. Macroscopic experience is built out of atomic subjective experience, and just as the quantum world is essentially subjective, so is the macroscopic world, when correctly perceived.

[Mutnick, previously]
Consciousness and experience are primary, consciousness itself being the verity of the universe, the only thing that endures from eternity to eternity. Subjective experience, however, as the other essential component of reality, is atomic, and it is experience itself that is divided into subjective atoms of experience. The thought thinks the thinker, and so our sense of ourselves as human subjects comes indeed from the atomic continuum

[Stapp]
atomic continuum?

[Mutnick]
The continuum of atomic subjective experience, aka, the Q-continuum.

[Mutnick, previously]
of subjective experience. On the other hand, each sentient being as consciousness is one and the same consciousness, namely consciousness itself, which is the eternal verity of the universe, or the God of quantum theory, which Henry Stapp admits as necessary for a proper conception of even conventional quantum theory.

[Stapp]
I did not "admit as necessary" these things, but suggested that the simplest way to understand the nonlocal connections associated with quantum theory is to imagine that all of our streams of consciousness are parts of one giant flow of consciousness with many separate streams, and with each experience in any branch affecting the whole in ways that are not understandable in terms of classical ideas about the causal structure of the physical part of reality.

[Mutnick]
Is there another way to understand the nonlocal connections? If not, the simplest way becomes the only way, and hence "necessary".



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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