Notes on Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy
||To procure a more solid foundation for my own ideas, I am
carefully analyzing the statements of relevant thinkers. Since my
hypothesis is that Quantum Mechanics is one of the meta-stage
developments, it is appropriate to study one of its founders Heisenberg in
detail. This book is particularly valuable because he does apply the
new thinking to areas beyond physics.
||I had been working through Fromm's The Art of Loving.
One very interesting sidenote is that both books are from the World
Perspectives series. Someone else thought both Fromm and Heisenberg
were worth studying.
||I am going to start with the Introduction by FSC Northrup.
I do not know who he is so he lacks Heisenberg's authority.
Nonetheless, I think he provides a valuable distillation of Heisenberg's
book. I am not sure how valuable my secondary distillation will be,
other than to get ideas on the site.
||Northup's opening sentence is "There is a general
awareness that contemporary physics has brought about an important
revision in man's conception of the universe and his relation to
it." This supports the notion that the development of quantum
mechanics corresonds to something much more general than its explicit
subject matter. Northrup pre-echoes my sentiment that Heisenberg's
application of the themes of quantum mechanics to broader issues has some
inherent credibility that might be lacking if the same observations were
made by another.
||Northrup lists three issues addressed by Heisenberg in
P&P. "(1) What do the experimentally verified
theories of contemporary physics affirm? (2) How do they
permit or reuire man to think of himself in relationship to his
universe? (3) How is this new way of thinking, which is the creation
of the modern West, going to affect other parts of the world?
||One question that comes to me is why did it appear in the
West. Perhaps, because the West put more faith in classical
thinking. It drove the latter to its extremes, where the paradoxes
were confronted. The East might have expected less and thus did not
confront or were not concerned about the challenges being posed.
||Northrup notes that H notes that, whether we like it or not,
modern ways are going to alter and in part destroy traditional customs and
values. Quantum theory rests on philosophical assumptions that
generate a personal and social mentality and behavior quite different
from, and at points incompatible with, the family, cast and tribally
centered mentality of Asia, Middle East, and Africa. As Western
science and instruments are introduced into these cultures, the trained
youth will upset old values. There is a risk that emotional conflict
and social demoralization could result. To address this, the youth
need to be aware of the meeting of very different cultural
traditions. Hence, the importance for everyone of understanding the
philisophy of the new physics. (a mix of quotes a paraphrases.
It seems Northrup may be a little more condescending toward these other
cultures than Heisenberg is.
||"Newton left the impression that there were no
assumptions in his physics that were not necessitated by the experimental
data.. . . Were this conception of the relation between the physicist's
experimental observations and his theory correct, Newton's theory would
never have required modification". Einstein countered that
theories are speculative. Deduction is not from facts to theory, but
from theory to hypthesis.
||Northrup distinguishes between two different types of
changes in metaphysics (my term): Ontological and
Epistemological. Einsteins theories of relativity had ontological
effects, radically altering by altering the subject matter independent of
the perceiver. Quantum mechanics addresses the epistemological
aspect as it changed the relationship of the experimenter to the object of
scientific knowledge. Quantum mechanics has brought potentiality
back into physical science--this makes quantum theory as important for
ontology as for epistemology.
||Regarding the dichotomy between relativity not having
epistemological implications, did not Northrup just say Einstein changed
Newton's epistemology? From organizer of facts and deriver of
theories directly from facts, to speculator of theories for which facts
are sought for confirmation/disconfirmation. Is not this
epistemological? This is an area for thought--what is the
relationship between the epistemological contributions of relativity and
||Einstein expressed "God does not play dice".
By this he meant that all limitations in our knowledge are limitations of
the finite knowing mind, not the omnicomplete reality. Thus, the
concept of chance or probability is not appropriate for scientific
||Those emphasizing operation definitions would say there was
no practical distinction between Einsteins determinsitic view and
Heisenberg's probabilistic view. However, uncertainty enters into
quantum mechanics in more than an operational-definitional sense.
(Some points on pages 7-8, I did not understand). The key is that
the assumptions about the actual nature of reality are speculation,
accoring to both Einstein and Heisenberg, but only the probabilistic model
is confirmed by experiment, the deterministic model is disconfirmed by
experiment. This does not rule out another theory that is
deterministic--but one that conforms to experiment has not yet been
||Northrup suggests that there are two different meanings of
"causal". One equal to "deterministic" and the
other broader than that. He thinks Heisenberg uses causal to mean
deterministic. Quantum mechanics is causal in the weaker sense, not
in the stronger sense.
||While the lay person thinks of causality as indicated a
relationship between objects, the scientists think of causality as a
relationship between a system at one time and a later time. Quantum
mechanics moves probability from an epistemological (theory of errors)
role to an ontological role.
||Northrup has more to say, but it did not click with
me. The main benefit from this section is the realization that
Einstein took a first epistemological step, and Heisenberg used that as a
basis for the second step. But Einstein could not follow the second