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Discussion with H. Dieter Zeh


[[H. Dieter Zeh]]
Sorry, but I am not as impressed by "Niels Bohr's wisdom" as you seem to be -- nor am I impressed by any other kind of irrationalism.

[[Peter Mutnick]]
Suffice it to say that what you call irrationalism has not seemed so to all phenomenological philosophers since Aristotle and Plato and since Descartes in modern times, nor to James, Whitehead, etc.

[Dieter]
I found none of them convincing as far as the description of the physical world is concerned. I am very open-minded, but you need better arguments than wishful thinking in order to refute a simple-minded hypothetical realism (or reductionism) ON EMPIRICAL GROUNDS, such as by experiments which confirm quantum theory.

[Peter]
I think this reveals a certain ignorance of what these philosophers were about. They are NOT working by the so-called scientific method. Plato and especially Aristotle were essentially phenomenologists. Lacking the experimental methods of modern science, they had to figure things out from within, by examining closely their own thought processes and processes of experience. This method is in tension with the externally oriented scientific method. However, Einstein emphasized the essential value of such a tension between theory and experiment even in modern science. When theory loses its independent status, science suffers and loses its way. Basically, it goes blind, which is not a happy scenario.

So, what any of these philosophers say about the physical world, scientifically speaking, is by no means established, except in cases where they were probably wrong, but that is NOT the value of their work as I am employing it. I am interested in their phenomenological results and metaphysical speculations that have essential truth value independently of their ability to connect it properly with scientific results. That connection is what I am *now* trying to establish, and it is certainly a work in progress.

[Dieter]
Is there any organisation behind your discussion group, and do all addresses contribute in it, or did you just put them on your mailing list?

[Peter]
The list grew organically, and no, I did not put them all on it, but I did put some of them on it, and no, most of them do not, unfortunately, contribute, but I am eternally hopeful of stimulating a lively dialogic discussion list. I hope you don't mind my posting this, because I think it might have a high degree of interest for some people on the list.

[[Peter]]
I simply believe that an essential feature of quantum theory is a discontinuity between different hypostases in nature, in accord with the beliefs of the Neoplatonists. Why is it irrational to believe that our physical laws describe only a small portion of our ontological reality,

[Dieter]
That you "believe" it (and apply it to physics) before it has been shown to be enforced.

[Peter]
Ah, but that is part of the essential tension between theory and experiment. Theory, IMHO, *should* have a life of its own. Dialogue and dialectic need not be restrained to the realm of what has been proven. Surely, it is also interesting to probe the realm of what is possible and logically self-consistent and aesthetically pleasing. These criteria were ranked very high by Einstein. Recall, that he said prior to the observation of the eclipse that proved GR, "I pity the Good Lord if it is not proven, because the theory is correct". How did he know that? The same way that I know that my speculations are in essence correct. *Even though* my speculations are at a much earlier stage of development, they are also much more far-reaching than GR and much deeper philosophically. Naturally, it will take longer to fully explicate them and prove them. That is one meaning of the *ganzer langer Weg*. :-)(-:

[[Peter, cont.]]
much less our total experiential or phenomenological reality, all of which are metaphysical in character, where "metaphysical" means, among other things, "beyond the physical"?

[Dieter]
What is that (except for consciousness)? And does it effect the "physical world"? (However, I do NOT claim that consciousness could ever emerge from physical concepts.)

[Peter]
It is much more than just consciousness. It is thought, feeling, volition, sensation, etc., etc. The idea in the James/Whitehead tradition is that all these processes in the human being, which can be quite diverse from each other, BTW, indicate something in a prototypical sense about nature itself and the real metaphysical structure of nature. The phenomenological approach of Descartes and Husserl starts from our experience, logically organized, and hence made an object of science in the broader sense. Our metaphysical theories must span the information gleaned from both sources: external experimental sources and internal experiential sources. This is not easy to do, and that is why so many have turned against it - it is simply the old story of "sour grapes" - you cannot reach the grapes, so you say they are not worth having in the first place, but you are thereby just deceiving yourself and others - they are very much worth having, and I have a method for obtaining them.

[[Peter]]
This does not mean to me that the metaphysical realms are beyond scientific description, but only that different laws will apply do different metaphysical realms,

[Dieter]
provided the boundaries are clearly defined

[Peter]
Even if they are not at first, we can still begin the process of inclusion of all levels of reality in our scientific theories. If we are proceeding with integrity and in possession of a genuine transcendental method (which I am) then the boundaries will become clearer and clearer as we progress in our inquiries and our dialogues and our dialectical unfolding. Boundaries are, after all, just specific elements within the metaphysical approach - the overall approach must tell us what boundaries really mean, not the other way around.

[[Peter]]
and the task ahead is to synthesize these laws creatively and endlessly until we finally reach a unified law which is a true expression of a unified and transcendental reality, which includes in a genuine way both objectivity and subjectivity.

[[Dieter]]
Let me only mention that I do not agree with Stapp's conclusion. It is partly wrong and partly irrelevant. (He is now discussing this with Erich Joos.)

[[Peter]]
I would be most interested in seeing your arguments, or Joos', against Stapp's latest paper on the "Basis States in MWI", which is on his website.

[Dieter]
So did you find his arguments convincing, or did you just believe his claims?

[Peter]
I do defer to Stapp on these matters, which are his particular area of profound expertise, but I am in the process of thoroughly digesting his arguments, and yours.

It should be mentioned that I am not technically proficient in my training as a physicist in the conventional sense. However, I believe this gives me the advantage of a clean slate - trying to construct the ideas from scratch, without introjecting alot of "chicken-scratch", which I have also done my share of as a student. My life has been devoted to the pursuit of the kind of approach I have already outlined for you, although I did start out as a physics student and minor prodigy at U of M. I was there in the late 60's, during the hotbed of counterculture activity, and I was sorely distracted from my studies by a number of peak experiences, one of them an experience of internal energy, spiritual effulgence, and out-of-body absolute consciousness aware only of itself. This culminating phase lasted for well over an hour, during which there was absolutely no bodily awareness, but full and intense one-pointed awareness nonetheless. This was in the presence of a Zen Master, named Roshi Philip Kapleau, and not a drug-induced experience. At the end of the experience, upon returning gently to normal consciousness, I heard a sacred word in my heart center, spoken in a still small voice, so I believe that it was a genuine initiation experience into the spiritual order headed by Lord Maitreya, the coming Buddha, with whom David Bohm became involved through his dialogues with Jiddu Krishnamurti.

[[Peter]]
This is certainly a decisive issue in this debate. If reductionist theories are adequate, then indeed there is no motivation for seeking deeper theories.

[Dieter]
They have at least not been refuted yet (provided consciousness is an epi-phenomenon). [The most remarkable problem to me is how behavior-as-though-being-conscious could then arise.]

[Peter]
On the other hand, if all of nature is inherently conscious, then the most amazing thing is how most of it could appear to be so insentient. That is, according to philosophy, a property of the noumenal (unknowable) aspect of nature. It is really only our ignorance of nature that makes it seem insentient to us - the seeming insentience is a manifestation of our profound ignorance. By transcendental enlightenment only can that state of affairs be altered, at which point the externality of nature ceases to exist, according to the testimony of enlightened Zen Masters and others.

[[Peter]]
If they are not, in principle, self-consistent (as Stapp claims),

[Dieter]
Does he claim they are or they are NOT?

[Peter]
He claims the Schrodinger Equation by itself cannot produce local orthogonal basis states that could correspond to either experiment or experience. However, your reading of von Neumann seems different that mine and, I think, Stapp's. First of all you say, in "The Problem of Conscious Observation in Quantum Mechanical Description", which is on your website at http://www.zeh-hd.de, "John von Neumann seems to have first clearly pointed out the difficulties that arise when one attempts to formulate the physical process underlying subjective observation within quantum theory [Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics]. He emphasized the latter's incompatibility with a psycho-physical parallelism, the traditional way of reducing the act of observation to a physical process." I do not think he found any such incompatibility. He simply mapped mental, emotional, and physical world elements onto a III, II, and I existing as vertical structures or sub-worlds within the physical world. Only I and sometimes II obey the Schrodinger Equation, which governs only the lower sub-worlds of the physical world, while III as the mental sub-world does not obey the Schrodinger Equation. The whole brain must be regarded as a ground within the mental world, and only certain types of figure, indicating function, that emerge from such a ground can be reduced to the physical. Then, von Neumann employed the moveability of the cut to establish the principle, insofar as whatever starts out in III can be regarded by moving the cut as in II or I. If one continues that process to its conclusion, III will finally be emptied of all materiality, but it cannot cease to exist, lest the quantum formalism fail, so an abstract "ego" (actually a physically reduced "ego sum" correlated to an abstract "ego") is thereby deduced, according to von Neumann's logic.

Secondly, you say, "These problems in formulating a process of observation within quantum theory arise as a consequence of quantum nonlocality (quantum correlations or "entanglement", characterizing generic physical states), which in turn may be derived from the superposition principle. This fundamental quantum property does not even approximately allow the physical state of a local system (such as the brain or parts thereof) to exist. Hence, no state of the mind can exist "parallel" to it (that is correspond to it one-to-one or determine it)."

I remember very clearly that von Neumann does mandate the application of a reduced density matrix to sub-systems such as the brain. The reduced density matrix is obtained by tracing over all variables except those of the sub-system. There are certain assumptions that go into this theorem of von Neumann's, which may be violated by your findings. Stapp's criticism of MWI is based on Zurek's use of the reduced density matrix and the diagonalization of it, which Stapp assumes to be the only way that has even been suggested to get local orthogonal basis states out of unitary Schrodinger dynamics. If you say the reduced density matrix cannot represent the brain, then that would make irrelevant Stapp's criticism. But how do you then obtain local orthogonal basis states capable of representing the outcomes of experiments or experiences?

[[Peter, cont.]]
then there is an obvious motivation for seeking a new and different type of theory, which is more in accord with the type of philosophy which has in fact been espoused by the founders and which you so despise.

[[Dieter]]
If you know of any experimentally confirmed limitation of the Schroedinger equation, just let me know! I wonder if you have followed the corresponding experiments during the last one or two decades.

[[Peter]]
No, and if you have a list of them, on your website or elsewhere, I would be very interested in learning about them.

[Dieter]
Try Sect. 2.1.1 of my new Chapt. 2 of our Decoherence book (on my website), although I do not describe the experiments in detail there.

[[Peter]]
To me, that is not decisive, however, since I am mostly interested in the deeper question, which present experiments will still not touch upon, of the relation of the material world to our subjectivity and consciousness.

[Dieter]
So am I, but I do not see any ways to answer it except by CONCLUSIVELY refuting physical realism.

[Peter]
Jeez, I though quantum theory had done that back in 1925, or at least in 1935. The attempts to revive naive physical realism have all failed to my knowledge, but this does hinge on the question of the basis state problem that should now assume center stage, thanks to the tireless work of Henry Stapp. In any case, more is needed than refutation of physical realism - we will need a deeper theory of metaphysical realism, which I take to be the synthesis and resolution of the Bohr-Einstein debates, that everyone in their right mind can agree upon. William James also mandated such an approach, although he put it off several hundred years. Stapp is assuming his timetable to be correct - I declare that it is not - I have the metaphysical approach right now!

[[Peter]]
I very deeply feel

[Dieter]
(!)

[Peter]
Nothing wrong with deep feelings (prehensions). According to Whitehead they are all (except for abstractions) that really exist. They are the only part of the present that does not vanish into the past upon analysis.

[[Peter, cont.]]
that science should not objectivize the world any more that it has to. To me, that is the human dilemma, that our subjective nature is trapped in an objective world. The purpose of science should not be to strengthen the walls and bars of our prison, but to find a way to transform the prison into something that can no longer hold our subjectivity in submissive captivity and that can rather be mastered by our true subjectivity. I suppose that I hold this view in common with Sir Francis Bacon, and although this view can certainly lead to egotism of the rankest kind, I believe that it can also lead to genuine self-realization.

http://www.geocities.com/saint7peter

--------------------------------------------------------------
H. Dieter Zeh
Gaiberger Str. 38
D69151 Waldhilsbach, Germany
Phone: (+49)6223 74097
Fax: (+49)6223 74098
e-mail: zeh@urz.uni-heidelberg.de
See also: www.zeh-hd.de (or www.time-direction.de)



Peter Joseph Mutnick 1949 - 2000


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