30 December 2016

Order of thinking

Any physicist today will well understand and admit that it makes a great difference in which order certain pairs of observable-operators are applied to a (quantum) dynamic state. Such is famously the case with the two observables, position and momentum, whose operators do not commute. That is, their commutator is non-zero and in fact equal to the equally famous Planck constant multiplied by the imaginary number, i. The non-commutativity of these two operators is the same thing as quantum indeterminacy. No physicist bats an eye-lid today at this strange state of affairs on the sub-atomic level, and such quantum indeterminacy has been experimentally verified -- albeit from within a certain preconception of what motion is.

Heisenberg's formulation of quantum indeterminacy depends essentially on properties of matrix mathematics, and it is very easy to see that matrix multiplication is non-commutative. That is, it makes a difference, the order in which two matrices are multiplied, i.e. AB - BA in general is not equal to the zero matrix.
No mathematician and no physicist has trouble admitting this and, indeed, insists emphatically on the 'truth' of such non-commutativity which can easily be mathematically demonstrated through mathematical reasoning.

When it comes to the order in which fundamental elementary phenomena of physics, to wit, motion and time, are conceptualized, by contrast, thinking in physics becomes carefree and sloppy, and stubbornly and cunningly dumb. It simply takes for granted, on authority of the tradition starting with Aristotle, that motion is prior to time which is thus counted sequentially off motion. No consideration whatsoever is given to whether it could be the other way round, that is, that time in a certain precise sense has to be thought as prior to motion, i.e. as that which enables (not: causes) all motion,  and all movement and change, for that matter.

There is no conceivable scientific experiment that could possibly test whether time is prior to motion or vice versa, for it is an issue for thinking through the most elementary phenomena with which we humans are all intimately familiar. We simply have to reflect philosophically on our own experience of the world and how we understand it to come to a conclusion on this issue. This involves re-vising the tradition that has settled all too firmly and thoughtlessly in its rut: Time is 'self-evidently' taken to be counted off motion as clock-time, even though modern quantum physics is assiduously trying to 'eliminate' this real variable, t, by disguising it. To fulfil its ambitions of calculability, science remains necessarilty wedded to the conception of time as linearly sequential (note the hermeneutic as).

Modern science adamantly refuses to countenance any rethinking of its most elementary concepts for the most elementary physical phenomena of movement and time, and it does so because it fears having to recast itself, thus losing its own power in today's world. Nonetheless, a fundamental rethinking of the order of priority could liberate physics from its own, self-induced tunnel vision. Modern science remains unknowingly in thrall to the Aristotelean productive ontology of movement. In fact, modern science is entirely in denial about its own intimate dependency upon what Aristotle long ago cast as his ontology of movement in Book Theta of his Metaphysics. Modern scientists turn their noses up at Aristotle's thinking which, they pretend, has long since been superseded. This is merely pure scientific arrogance and ignorance.

It remains the task for a few rare, non-scientist, thinkers to broaden the horizon, showing that the mathematical mode of access to the world inaugurated in the 17th century by great scientists considering the motion of celestial bodies -- names such as Kepler, Galileo and Newton -- is not the ultimate mode of access to the world, despite its progressive infiltration into all areas of phenomena. In this way, the path would be cleared for conceiving more appropriately other kinds of movement in the world that cannot appropriately be grasped, and thus controlled, by mathematized thinking. This applies, above all, to the interplay that is the movement of society, which defies calculability (even when abused by statistical methods), but is open to being adequately conceptualized if we just open our eyes and learn to think simply, without diverting our gaze from the elementary phenomena themselves -- phenomena such as the distinction between who and what, which remain thoughtlessly taken for granted everywhere today -- in science and also in philosophy.

A tautophatic thinking is called for, that is, a thinking that thinks through the phenomena, saying them appropriately from themselves, and that hermeneutically in an appropriate, close-fitting interpretation. Tautophatic thinking is entirely different from modern scientific thinking, one of whose main features is to explain phenomena causally in terms of something else: the efficient cause or causes (e.g. a force, a force-field, etc.), thus losing sight of the simple phenomenon itself.


  1. just opened your Christmas gift, went to last paragraph (at the moment, waiting to be called to dinner at the home of friends), and found there a wonderfully exact description of why science fails to satisfy the mind, and never will be able to - as is especially obvious in the instances when science claims to have fully explained a phenomenon. The more complete the explanation, the more completely obscured is the thing explained.

    1. Thank you, Jonathan. You got it, but the lures of the scientific will to efficient power are great for scientists -- who have already succumbed, and cunningly identified their enemy. They play dumb.