TA 106 (Müller)


Response 16 (to C39 by SM Rosen)




by Herbert FJ Müller

15 August 2009, posted


I quite agree with Steven Rosen’s remarks on the need for a conceptual review of the thinking in modern physics and other areas.

The conceptual difficulties in particle physics are due to the prevailing and mostly unquestioned use of ontology (a branch of metaphysics) which has as its main characteristic the notion that reality is defined by mind-independently structured objects (or ‘matter’ more generally).   This leads to the implicit postulate that subjects (‘observers’, ‘measurers’) are to be excluded from reality, so that in effect observations and measurements supposedly observe and measure themselves.   This puzzling opinion has its roots in the desire to eliminate subjective bias, added to the classical epistemological proposals of Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle.

To deal with it, one has to re-introduce the subject as a part of all reality.   As Steven points out, the phenomenologists have contributed to such efforts.   I find Jaspers’ concept   that the mind encompasses   all structures of self, world, and all, helpful;   and Merleau-Ponty’s analysis of perception as well.   (A problem with Heidegger is that he wanted to build a  ‘fundamental ontology’ on the basis of phenomenology, which is a self-contradictory proposition;   and of course he did not succeed).   Secondly one needs the awareness of constructivism that reality is actively structured by subjects, and thirdly that the structuring occurs in an otherwise unstructured background or matrix, as particularly oriental epistemologies emphasize, with the help of concepts like Nirvana and Tao (or also the Greek equivalent of Apeiron).  


Herbert FJ Müller
     e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>