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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