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 quantum mechanics?
  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 descriptions.
  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 presented.
  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 step.
 
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