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Thursday, July 6, 2006
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In trying to get a better grip on quantum physics, the average Joe or Josephine would do well to also acquaint him or herself with Nietzsche. One of Nietzsche’s major tenants is that there is no “core of reality” which lies behind our perceptions, i.e. what exists “out there” beyond our minds. Well, maybe there is something, but it’s not like anything we’ve ever known.

Yea, this sounds like the quantum world already. Nietzsche called his own metaphysical view “perspectivism”: there is no singular truth or truths about “life, the universe and everything”. There is no one ultimate, objective truth that is the same for everyone. Everything depends upon perspective. Indeed, this sounds a lot like quantum physics, where measurement is everything; you see what you set out to see, e.g. wave or particle, momentum or position, spin or whatever. You don’t get to the core of it, because . . . . well, maybe there is no core! There is no “God’s eye view”, because, as Nietzsche famously said: God is dead.

In 1900, God turned the tables, and Nietzsche was dead. But ironically, 1900 was also the year that quantum theory was born, when Max Planck presented a paper before the Berlin Physical Society showing how the concept of non-divisible “energy packets” or “quanta” solved a bunch of conceptual problems regarding energy radiation. So, quantum theory was born right there in Nietzsche’s German fatherland, just as he died. After a few more decades of research and conceptualization, scientists found out that the quantum micro-world of electrons and photons and quarks was a very un-Godlike place, where things happen for no reason whatsoever. But luckily for us, when billions and billions of random, meaningless events team up in certain ways, meaning and lawfulness emerges (good old “quantum decoherence”, and it’s conceptual cousin “emergent phenomenon”).

And yet, on the personal, conscious level, our lives often seem like a meaningless, random string of events. Let’s hope that a metaphysical anology follows — that even though our day-to-day experiences can be cold, cruel and random, the big picture that eventually emerges from all of them in fact DOES have a theme and does have meaning behind it. Allow me to repeat that Zen-like line from The Man From UNCLE that I so often use: “if you’re nowhere, then you ARE somewhere” (spoken by Robert Vaughn, aka agent Napolean Solo). That’s what wisdom and faith are all about. Even Fredrich Nietzsche could probably dig that. (Cut to “Man From UNCLE” theme song.)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:04 pm      
 
 


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