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A READER'S JOURNAL
Mind, Matter, and the Implicate Order
Published by Springer/NY in 2007
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2007
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"This book deals with topics that have been variously neglected and even 'forbidden' in academic circles during much of the 20th century. One such issue is conscious experience, the study of which was famously suppressed in behaviorist psychology and even in traditional cognitive science, and has only relatively recently become the focus of intense research in a number of fields."
— Paavo Pylkkänen in the Preface
This book reawakened my earlier interest in David Bohm's work in physics and the structure of reality. Naturally none of his work, which dates back to the 1950s — shortly before my academic work in physics, was ever mentioned in my courses at the university. My first contact with Bohm's work was in the 1970s and I read about his work with interest. But, after a flurry of interest by me and others in the concepts of the implicate order and other explanations for the paradoxes of quantum physics, I had not found much since then to excite me about Bohm's body of work, until this book reached my desk to review.
Readers familiar with my style of reviewing books in depth will know that my approach is to read a book, especially a non-fiction one, marking off key passages, writing my comments in the margins, and then when my reading is done, to proceed page-by-page to review the book. In my reviews I would write in my own words what I understood the author to say and then quote the pertinent passage that I had earlier marked.
The challenge this book poses for my reviewing is that Paavo Pylkkänen has used a similar process in the course of writing this book. He discusses the work of David Bohm, adds his own comments to clarify what he understands as Bohm's intent, and then follows with a passage which might otherwise be difficult to understand taken on its own. That would seem to leave little for me to add to what Pylkkänen has written. That is my challenge, and I welcome the Reader to join me in this essay into the intricacies of Bohm's work and how the implicate order explains the hitherto unexplainable paradoxes of quantum reality.
Quantum physics marked a new paradigm when it arrived upon the scene in the early twentieth century. It explained many things which were unexplainable by nineteenth century science before its appearance, but in its wake it created new unexplainables such as the two slit experiments and the non-local effects predicted by the Bell Theorem. One of the problems with a new paradigm is that the very way of understanding problems is in terms of the older paradigm. It takes time for a second wave of innovators such as the author of this book to appear and restate problems in terms of the new paradigm. Once a good question is asked in terms of the new paradigm, the answers that formerly seemed unattainable suddenly become easy and natural. Pylkkänen does this many times in the course of this book.
One example is that of the mind and conscious experience. No one considers it necessary to consider physics or metaphysics, so no one notices that the very problems of psychology, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence are stated presupposing the condition of the world as we knew it in the 19th-century. That was before quantum mechanics came along to give us a new view of the physical world! Paavo Pylkkänen recognizes the problem and this book is his way of calling attention to familiar problems in terms of the view of what "physical" means in the 20th-century paradigm of quantum mechanics. He reveals how Bohm provides us a novel and insightful means of grasping the meaning of "physical".
[page ix, Preface] But what does "physical" mean? Clearly, contemporary physics can at least prima facie have something to say about this. It seems to me that many of the "mind sciences" presuppose a late 19th-century view of the physical world and formulate the philosophical problems of consciousness in relation to such a view. But it is plainly part of the scientific attitude to revise our basic notions, including our notion of the "physical", if experimental and theoretical developments call for this. Thus physics may after all play a key role when we are trying to understand the place of consciousness in nature.
Bohm placed the two theories of relativity and quantum physics side-by-side and noted that "relativity emphasizes continuity, locality, and determinism, while quantum theory suggests that the exact opposite is fundamental, namely discontinuity, non-locality, and indeterminism." This insight led Bohm to search for a theory which includes both relativity and quantum as limiting cases. His theory of the implicate order does exactly that. No longer need we claim that the correct physical description of an electron is its wave equation when it moves, but a particle when it is measured.
[page 3] We need new concepts and images that can better illuminate features such as wave-particle duality, non-locality, and the discontinuity of movement.
Without such concepts, all of our references to the physical world will be fuzzy and lacking meaning. Pylkkänen offers two such questions. Note how the physical world references appear in these questions. We can no longer in the 21st-century continue to ask such questions while thinking of the physical world as philosophers and scientists of the 19th-century did.
[page 3] What is the relationship between mental phenomena and the physical processes in the brain and matter more generally? What is the relationship between meaning and the physical items that carry meaning?
He tells us of a tendency in philosophy called "physicalism" which claims that our general concept of reality ought to be based on what the natural sciences tell us. Unfortunately these philosophers rely on 19th-century notions of the physical world, up until now.
[page 4] What is urgently needed, therefore, is some reasonably general, intelligible account of the results of modern physics, if the Emperor of Physicalism is ever to put on some clothes.
Pylkkänen also asks what "experiencing" is. It is an issue that I have pondered for a long time, and it was only with the advent of the science of doyletics that it has become somewhat clear to me. We have two types of memory facilities, doylic memory and cognitive memory. Doylic memories are stored before one is five-years-old and cognitive memories are stored thereafter. Doylic memories are bodily memories of early childhood events and cognitive memories comprise what we normally call simply "memories." Both types of memories can be triggered and trigger each other at any moment when we are adults. We receive sensory data from the real-time world around us which cause doylic and cognitive memories to arise in us. Doylic memories comprise what we call "feelings, emotions, etc." Since these doylic memories were stored before we had cognitive memory capability, we are unconscious of the original events which stored them, but we are definitely conscious of the effects — they seem to me to be the very effects which Pylkkänen calls "experiencing" in his questions in this next passage (1).[page 5] The greatest puzzle has to do with the simple fact that when I am conscious there seems to be something we might call "experiencing" going on. But what is such "experiencing" and how does it arise? How could objective, physical processes give rise to "experiencing", which at least seems to be something altogether different from objective physical processes?
The question that Pylkkänen raises is whether consciousness can be due only to neural processes. Doylic and cognitive memories are neural processes, as the doylic memories are mediated by the limbic region and the cognitive memories by the neocortex region of the brain. While doylic and cognitive memories help explain our subjective feeling of "experiencing", they do not explain consciousness, which seems to me to transcend the neural activity of the brain much as the operators of a large chemical plant transcend the electrical activity of the equipment they use to regulate the plant. Consciousness is a more general issue and Pylkkänen rules out a mechanical-electrical basis for it.
[page 6] But the question is, why should such mechanical interactions between physical parts make you conscious? I say "mechanical", because most neural theories of consciousness, from the point of view of physics, only appeal to the level of the classical physics of Newton, Maxwell, and the like. And classical physics is mechanical. . . . It is common in neuroscience to think that when it comes to physics, only neural processes that obey classical physics are required to explain consciousness.
The other issue that Pylkkänen raises is about our experience of music. We hear only one tone at a time, but somehow we perceive a "whole structure" that is "timeless". (Page 9) This can be explained by the arising of the doylic memories evoked by the tones of the music which form our experience of the music as we listen to it. The flow of doylic memories must lag that of the sensory experiences which trigger them. In addition, the doylic memories can trigger other doylic memories in a cascade of complex sensations during our listening to passages of music. Our sensory data is the real-time music sounds, but our internal experience while listening is formed by doylic memories which are idiosyncratic to our pre-five-year-old childhood. This explains why tastes in music vary so much from individual to individual. Yet there is music which has a universal appeal in a certain culture because the children in that culture grow up storing doylic memories associated with that music.
Pylkkänen asks, "Could it be that some of the physical processes that enter centrally into the relation of mind and matter could lie outside of the domain of classical physics?" I would have definitely answered "Yes" to that question, and would have gone so far as to say beyond the domain of any theory of physics, until I read this book. It reveals to us that David Bohm's theory of the implicate order includes under its aegis not only classical physics, relativity, and quantum physics, but also the relation of mind and matter. This is the theme of the book and it is succinctly stated in the title of the book.
To understand the implicate order one need only envision placing a drop of ink into a clear liquid such as glycerine stored between an inner and outer cylinder (Diagram on Page 62). When the outer cylinder is rotated, the ink drop will stretch out and gradually disappear into the oil even though it is still there. If one then reverses the direction of the cylinder the ink drop will gradually reappear and coalesce into a single drop. When the ink is dispersed in the oil, we are looking at the implicate order form of the drop. When the ink appears as a single drop after suitable rotation, the ink drop appears to us in its explicate order form. This is the foundation metaphor of Bohm's implicate order. From such humble beginnings Bohm created a new view of physics, of mind and matter, which is the subject of this book. For Bohm the fundamental basis of reality is movement — the movement symbolized by the cylinders moving the oil to create the explicate and implicate order forms of the ink drop.
[page 20, 21] According to Bohm's interpretation of quantum field theory, this also applies to "elementary particles". Underlying each such particle is a movement of a field. This movement enfolds information about the whole universe into the small region where the field manifests itself as a particle-like entity. But because the field is also spread, in principle, throughout the universe, information about the particle-like entity can be found in every region of the universe. In this sense, the whole universe is enfolded in everything, and everything is enfolded everywhere in the whole universe. The implicate order thus prevails as the most fundamental order of the universe currently known to us.
We have obviously left behind forever the pool table metaphor of classical physics where matter is billiard balls moving and bouncing off of other billiard balls. Matter and motion are replaced by motion which enfolds and unfolds what appear to us as physical objects. We ourselves are enfolded into the universe similar to the ink drop in the oil. Each particle of our body is enfolded into the universe. We are truly a "child of the universe" and no longer some microbe on a speck of dust called Earth floating through a vast, vacuous universe.
[page 21] Just think of all the atoms and particles that constitute your body. We are used to thinking about them as tiny little things that just passively sit there. But quantum field theory, as interpreted by Bohm, suggests otherwise. There is a sense in which each particle in your body enfolds information about the whole universe (analogously to the way the activity of light waves in the region where your eye happens to be placed can enfold information about the whole universe). There is also a sense in which information about each particle in your body is enfolded throughout the universe (analogously to the way information about a planet is enfolded in every region of the space in which there are light waves reflected from the planet). The proposal is that, as a part of the universe, each one of us thus enfolds information about the whole universe, not only via our senses, especially vision, but also, and more exotically, via the underlying field nature of the very "particles" that constitute our body. The further suggestion is that through various movements of fields (light and, most fundamentally, quantum fields) information about us is enfolded throughout the whole universe.
Here is a cosmology by Bohm which restores human beings to dignity once more after some six hundred years of degradation into mere physical objects of matter out of which mind has evolved as a by-product! We see the wisdom of the ancients, who saw us as related to stellar fields of the entire universe in our daily lives, made plausible in the latest theory of physics which explains not only matter and motion, but mind and being as well. On page 37, the author says of Bohm, "In general terms, he saw mind and matter as two aspects of looking at an underlying reality, which is movement." In other words, Bohm saw mind and matter as correlated projections from a common ground that comprises an "unbroken wholeness in flowing movement."
Note how the motion of an electron can be seen as "successive localized manifestations" of the electron just as the oil drop in glycerine might appear to move in a time-lapse photography if each time it re-appears from the glycerine, it has been displaced slightly in one direction. With this model the discontinuous jumps of electrons from one state to another are easily understandable. This is in stark contrast to the counter-intuitive nature of such jumps in the classical billiard-ball model of physics.
What is matter then in Bohm's theory? Bohm in 1980 stated it this way:
[page 80] . . . matter as we know it is a small, "quantized" wavelike excitation on top of this background, rather like a tiny ripple on a vast sea . . . this vast sea may play a key part in the understanding of the cosmos as a whole.
In Bohm's view perception occurs when one bundle of disturbances detects another bunch of disturbances.
[page 81] Perception thus involves a relation between two distinct "inhomogeneites" in the plenum, the object (e. g. a chair) and the brain/body. Somehow out of this relation emerges the "virtual reality", the perceptual world we consciously experience.
Pylkkänen tells us that us the Bohm theory throws the "Big Bang" into the trash heap of history, replacing it with the "Little Ripple."
[page 82] He gives an analogy:
. . . in the middle of the actual ocean (i.e., on the surface of the Earth) myriads of small waves occasionally come together fortuitously with such phase relationships that they end up in a certain small region of space, suddenly to produce a very high wave which just appears as if from nowhere and out of nothing. Perhaps something like this could happen in the immense ocean of cosmic energy, creating a sudden wave pulse, from which our "universe" would be born. This pulse would explode outward and break up into smaller ripples that spread yet further outward to constitute our "expanding universe". The latter would have its "space" enfolded within it as a special distinguished explicate and manifest order. (Bohm 1980)
Suddenly we are a child of a universe which is only a local ripple in a large ocean of energy. The world suddenly seems much smaller and cozier than it was under the empty reaches of the Big Bang theorists.
The next amazing idea that Bohm arrives at is the possible existence of a "life force" existing independently of the physical matter of the human body. In this he comes very close to what Rudolf Steiner calls a "life body" or "etheric body" which exists along with, but independent of our physical body. Bohm in 1980 wrote that "in its totality the holomovement includes the principle of life as well." Pylkkänen comments:
[page 88] Of course, such an idea goes strongly against the prevalent views in contemporary biology, where one often meets the attitude that life can be reduced to fairly mechanical physical processes, such as natural selection at the macrolevel and the operation of the DNA molecule and the like at the microlevel. It seems that Bohm is attributing to "the principle of life" a similar status to that he attributes to the laws of nature. However, he is not arguing for vitalism, in the sense of claiming that life can be reduced to the operation of some non-physical force.
The holomovement is the name Bohm gives to the fundamental aspect of reality which is movement. In the next passage he explains how life itself may be abstracted as a sub-totality from the holomovement. This is a breath-taking moment for someone like me who never thought he would read of a theoretical physicist talking about life.
[page 88, 89] Having discussed the nature of matter and biological phenomena in terms of the implicate order, Bohm feels he is in a position to try to characterize "the law of the holomovement" in more general terms. A basic feature of this law is that it is typically possible to abstract a set of relatively autonomous sub-totalities. The domain of the physical world in which the laws of classical physics apply is one example of such a subtotality; inanimate matter more generally is another one; and life is yet another. Each such abstracted sub-totality then has laws that operate within it. Thus, there are, for example, Newton's and Maxwell's laws in the classical domain, quantum laws in the quantum domain, and certain biological regularities at the biological domain.
While Pylkkänen seems uncomfortable with talking about life forces, Bohm seems clear and unambiguous in his belief that something more than inanimate matter is required if we are to have consciousness at all. Matter is no longer playing first violin when it comes to the music of life, even for physicists.
[page 90, 91] There is a tremendous tendency in contemporary science and even philosophy to favor matter over mind. This is perhaps understandable, because the explicate order of matter is the order that typically dominates our sensory experience. However, there are well-known troubles in the attempts to reduce consciousness entirely to the brain, and even the brain — or any living organism — entirely to inanimate matter. Bohm is suggesting that perhaps we have been taking inanimate matter too seriously, attributing to it too strong an ontological status. Physics itself is now undermining the view that inanimate matter ought to be seen as the ultimate substance. But classical physics was very successful in encouraging biologists and even psychologists to adopt such a reductionist idea. It is thus a major challenge for modern physicists to convince the biologists and psychologists and philosophers that they can stop believing in the absolute superiority of inanimate matter, and explore alternative concepts of reality. We have considered an alternative in which inanimate matter, life, and consciousness are all aspects from the underlying common ground in which they are united, and that there is no need to try to reduce them entirely into each other.
It should be clear that we as humans cannot see our own eyes except by reflection. We can only perceive directly what lies outside of us. Becoming "meta" to a situation means to rise out of the situation and perceive it from another perspective. We cannot rise above the universe in which we are a part to become meta to the universe. Therefore it is meaningless to talk about all that exists as a totality. What Bohm gives us to understand this situation is that for each level or order we can talk about, there is a deeper implicate order out of which this order arises as an explicate order. (Pages 91, 92)
We have been concerned since Descartes with the separation of mind and body and how they manage to connect with each other. In what is an elegant approach, Bohm tells us simply that how the mind and body connect is not a mystery — they are a unity.
[page 102] If matter and consciousness could in this way be understood together, in terms of the same general notion of order, the way would be opened to comprehending their relationship on the basis of some common ground. Thus we could come to the germ of a new notion of unbroken wholeness, in which consciousness is no longer to be fundamentally separated from matter.
The akashic record is a spiritual realm which holds a record of all events, actions, thoughts and feelings that have ever occurred. This is a realm from which clairvoyant seers such as Rudolf Steiner could obtain information. In ancient days, such abilities were common, but with the materialistic bent of the past 600 years, this ability has become rare. This next passage reveals that Bohm considered something like the akashic record to be feasible from his theory of the implicate order.
[page 137] Bohm next brings out further ways in which the structure of reality is similar to the structure of consciousness:As with consciousness, each moment has a certain explicate order, and in addition it enfolds all the others, though in its own way. So the relationship of each moment in the whole to all the others is implied by its total content: the way in which it "holds" all the others enfolded within it. (Bohm 1980. p. 207)This suggests that something like "memory" has a very powerful metaphysical significance in Bohm's view. Each moment "remembers" the previous moments, and in this sense each moment enfolds the whole universe.
The next item suggested by Bohm's theory is the appearance of ideas from out of the blue, totally new, into the present now. Something that cannot be predicted from earlier moments. This is redolent of the process of thought production in Rudolf Steiner's view — he saw the brain as the mechanism which communicates to others the results of ideas arriving at the brain from the spiritual world. This process was acknowledged by the ancients who still had access to the spiritual world — they called the source of their inspiration, Muses or Genii. Our word "genius" is derived from the word Genii.
[page 152] The key idea is that of "creative projection", the inception of new content into a sequence of moments. Such creativity in a given moment cannot be fully understood in terms of the previous moments.
What's the matter with Bohm? For one thing, matter is not a substance to Bohm. How can that be? Look at the definition of the word "substance": "The traditional notion of a substance holds that a substance is ontologically independent in the sense that it can exist even if nothing else exists."
[page 193] Bohm is saying that all things that we can know (both mental and material things) are real, but only in their own context. Thus, they are not, strictly speaking, substances. Note especially that matter is not a substance in Bohm's ontology. It is only the "total reality" or the holomovement that can exist independently, and there is thus only one substance in the Bohmian universe. Mind cannot be fully reduced to matter; rather both mind and matter can be, in a sense, reduced to the total reality.
The world seems to work in this way: when we attempt to discover information about the state of something, we risk the possibility of changing the very state we were inquiring about. Consider a man who asks a woman how she feels. If the woman is flattered by the attention of the man, her answer will be about her state resulting after the question, not her state before the question. Amazing as it sounds, the world works this way at the quantum level — we can never be sure of the state of the quantum system before we ask the question (take the measurement) because the act of measuring changes the state. All we can ever know is the state post-measurement — just as in the case of the woman. Women seem definitely to be post-classical, quantum realities. No wonder men find them so puzzling.
[page 196] In a typical measurement at the quantum level, we do not check a preexisting property of the observed system without influencing it. On the contrary, the measuring apparatus and the observed system typically participate in each other. They form an undivided whole. At the end of the interaction, the measuring apparatus will be left into a certain state, indicating that the observed system had that value of that property when the interaction ended. However, the measuring apparatus took part in producing that result, and it is typically not possible to say that one has measured a pre-existent property of the observed system.
The hard problem of consciousness is not hard to explain: How does immaterial consciousness arise out of material? How can any material body have "experience"? Pylkkänen points to the likely origin of consciousness in the implicate order. Rather than material having experience we have both mind and material sharing some deeper reality in the implicate order.
[page 246, 247] The origin of consciousness in the Bohmian scheme is likely to be in the "depths" of the implicate order rather than in the interactions of mechanical elements in the explicate order.
One way to express the hard problem of consciousness in Bohmian terms is to say that there seems to be nothing within the explicate order that would necessitate or make possible conscious experience. Traditional philosophy of mind and neuroscience often assume that the explicate order is all there is to the physical world, while at the same time seeking to locate consciousness to the physical world. Thus it is not surprising, from the Bohmian point of view, that the hard problem is so acute for these subjects. The key point is that the Bohmian scheme proposes that there is more to the world than the explicate order of matter, namely the implicate order and what may be beyond that. If conscious experience cannot be fully accounted for within the explicate order of matter, then there is no choice but to explore the role played by the implicate order and what may lie beyond it.
Pylkkänen sums up his book by calling Bohm's implicate order a "consciousness-friendly" scheme of cosmology.
[page 247, 248] In the traditional materialistic scheme, consciousness is an anomaly, a mystery in a mechanical universe. In Bohm's new scheme, which is based on quantum and relativity physics, consciousness exhibits the same implicate order which prevails in both inanimate and animate matter. The Bohmian universe is thus more "consciousness-friendly" than the universe of classical physics and contemporary neuroscience, which are typically mechanistic. However, Bohm's scheme in its current state does not answer all the puzzling questions about consciousness that have been raised in the contemporary debate, such as the hard problem of consciousness. But perhaps it provides one framework in which we may hope to develop better theories in the future.
Nearly a century has passed since the first ideas of Einstein about relativity and the puzzles of photo-electrical effects were published. It would be amazing if somehow the entire body of 19th-century classical physics had not been overturned long ago. And yet the antiquated thought-traces of classical physics have remained in the biological and psychological sciences up to the present day. David Bohm's work as popularized by Paavo Pylkkänen can serve notice to researchers and scientists in those fields of the existence of an implicate order where mind and matter are connected. Yes, Bohm's work may be called only a theory, but as Pylkkänen points out in his Introduction to Chapter 4, "Theory" derives from the Greek word theoria which means to "to view", and he invites us to "enjoy the show" — the new view — which Bohm's theory can provide for us. It may be only a show, but it's a Show-and-Tell Time for the world to wonder and ponder upon.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------
Footnote 1. This is not a complete answer to Pylkkänen questions, but it does push the issue back to what happens to us before five when those doylic memories are first stored which later become the components of our adult "experiencing." Children under five are like sponges and absorb whatever feeling states appear in adults around them and combine these with whatever bodily states they undergo in their play and everyday activities to form their unconscious store of doylic memories.Return to text directly before Footnote 1.
Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne
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