The aura of the physical

As every student of physics learns, ‘solid’ matter is not solid.  So they ‘discover’ a fact that is counter-intuitive; yet they still understand it on the basis of naïve experience – that is, they rely on the concept of solid in order to appreciate its opposite.  In other words, understandings of fact remain rooted in our subjective realisations which build a knowledge of the world and ourselves upon the capacity for recognition.  In short, there is no knowing without its subjective content.  And whilst we can appreciate that reality is bigger than our concepts, we have no notion of the real, the right or the true that is ‘discoverable’ without some reference to those intuitive sensibilities.  How else might we recognise a truth for ourselves?  Unfortunately, a mutual distrust lingers between scientists and proponents of common sense over the identification of ‘objective facts’ which allow for the recognition of things that are ‘meant to be’ independent of what we think.

Actually, the physical sciences don’t replace common sense or vice versa – they are mutually complimentary – and no pragmatic physicist or engineer behaves as though the world at large can’t be solid, or functionally flat.  In fact, ‘behavioural phenomena’ matter at all levels – as constituents of diverse realities from the quantum and beyond.  The fact is, there is more to reality than a single version – the world is and is not solid etc.  Likewise, there is more to the ‘world at large’ than the ‘characteristic’ properties of the physical, especially when they turn uncharacteristically subjective and reflective.  Thus objects ‘do science’ but not like scientists do it.  Then, in order to bridge the gap, scientists look upon the fact of conscious experience retrospectively as an effect that is wholly identifiable with its physical causes – as if physics encounters itself in the ‘psychoplasm’ of the brain – as if to cancel out any duality in the event – as if dualities are unnatural.

Mike Laidler

 

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A question of stature

What does it mean to exist?  What is our place in existence?  What makes nature ‘necessarily so’, perceptible, or an ‘it’?  What makes us think that we can capture it in our concepts any more than we can lay claims upon the world through the possession of bodies?  What if it is all transitory and our temporary presence is but a faint speck in the ‘cosmic panoply’ – an integration of ‘material’ and ‘mental’ dimensions in which notions of ‘our time’ and ‘our experiences’ furnish vain illusions of self-importance?

However, just as time extends space and vice versa, so the various perceptible dimensions – such as energy, matter, life, consciousness and thought – may be seen to co-exist ‘in nature’ as an extended reality that is simultaneously one thing and another.  Hence we cannot specify ‘being’ in terms of the way things are or were, nor ourselves for that matter, any more than we can know the extent of the mind in terms of our contemporary thinking – since there is more to existence than we can find ‘in existence’.

Mike Laidler

Standing stones

There is more to a memory than its physical traces.  And despite the importance of libraries, a book recedes into oblivion until someone opens it.  The same applies to the data filed on the ‘world wide web’ – for just like our books, artworks or machines, and even the ancient stone circles, it represents ideas and memories that cannot be realised or revived without an act of recognition.  Indeed, as with the world itself, all such devices remain essentially oblivious to the fact that theirs is a reality of oblivion.  Together with the universe at large, they simply function as temporary storage devices for the information built into them, which scientists read as the laws of physics.  Nonetheless, this physical memory is active at its own level – because everything exists in active form.  Thus the physical world ‘behaves’ lawfully.  However, there are other sorts of activity that build into different realities – where information translates into knowledge, meanings and understandings that act both within and upon the laws of physics.

Of course anyone can set a stone rolling, and the physical world happens to resonate with our activities.  The computer is a more sophisticated example which appears to take on a life of its own; but in terms of that ethereal thing called awareness, or its ephemeral counterpart called intention, it is more like the rolling stone.  And of course, only physical forces can upend stones, though no one is in any doubt that these stones were put there intentionally. As such they represent a part of nature that is more than just natural.  They represent an intentional shaping of reality located in a nature that acts without intention or awareness.  They remind us of a fact that physics does not teach – of things we are apt to forget.  Meanwhile, scientists hang onto the idea that it is always possible for the standing stones to have fallen into place by chance.  But where in nature do we find the ‘thingness’ of intention and awareness except as resonant features of our beliefs, theories and ideas?

Mike Laidler

Self-consciousness

Think about it – a cause of consciousness.  What does it mean?  Does it mean that the cause is operative in the identification of itself?  Or does it mean that the cause and effect work in some kind of relationship brought about by a difference occasioning an interaction?

But how are we to identify a difference without a point of comparison that is particular to the nature of consciousness?   And how can the observation of parallel changes in the operations of consciousness and its physical support processes prove sufficient to explain any differences or show that they are one and the same thing?

Mike Laidler