Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ontological leaps

Two recent IPS discussions lead me to combine them into this post, one called "No ontological  leaps" discussing a paper by de Quincey in the June 2011 issue of Integral Review, and a post by Tom called "Quantum enlightenment" based on his Integral Life post (see posts for related links). Following are some excerpts from each highlighting for me the relevant issues:

From QM


I'll try expressing QM insights from a different angle.  Start with the premise that all description is relative in a relativity that never stops, very Derrida-like.  Say I measure the height of my desk.  It's 32" high.  That measurement is a representation of "length" using inches as reference.  But what's an inch?  To answer that, I now have to measure inches relative to something else, say, the distance traveled by light in X seconds through space.  But what is light, and what is space?  Ok, now I have to define those.

This defining process goes on forever in that Derridesque slipperiness that is definition.

QM pops out of that slipperiness by saying anything relative appears as it is because everything else is as it is.  There's the circular leap that objectivizes relative defining, a leap into meta-defining.

Here's one more developmental characterization I stumbled on:

Newton - particle - absolute foreground - unintegrated background -thesis

Relativity - wave - absolute background, unintegrated foreground -antithesis

Quantum - p'cle-wave duality - nondual integrated background-foreground -synthesis

From NOL:


Does de Quincey's statement that awareness is non-physical make sense to you?


It does not. And being of the embodied mind school for me consciousness indeed arises from physical or embodied processes, i.e., consciousness is not originary. So I find both de Quincey and your ruminations on the non-physical nature of "origin" metaphysical.

There has been some research into the correlation between Bohr and Derrida, like in this book and this dissertation, which examines the book. Derrida was not a "relativist" in the least. And the implications you derive from Bohr are different from those in these references. These references make sense to me. For example from the latter:

For Bohr, what is called reality cannot be reduced to observability, nor is it simply a conceptual creation or construction by the knowing subject. Rather, there is an aspect of reality — designated by Plotnitsky as “material efficacity” — that “affects and constrains all observation, measurement, interpretation, and theory” and yet is not fully accessible to observation or theoretical conceptualization.

Bohr’s displaced notion of reality, in particular, may better be designated as “alterity” in a Derridean sense.... By this alterity Plotnitsky does not mean “absolute alterity,” which would be akin to the Kantian thing-in-itself or conform to “negative ontotheology.”  Bohr’s thought does not refer to the absolutely ‘other,’ but rather operates in a “complementary” or “reciprocal” relation between self and other, inside and outside, or subject and object. It nevertheless concerns itself with the irreducibly and radically other, an other which is in no way secondary or derivative to the self.

How, then, more specifically, does Bohr’s thought revolve around the above notion of radical alterity, and how can it be further associated with Derridean deconstruction? As we have seen, one of Bohr’s basic points is that any observation of atomic phenomena involves an unavoidable and uncontrollable “interaction between the object and the instrument of observation.” This implies that observation carries with it an “inevitable loss of knowledge,” as is exemplified by the case in which the measurement of the position of an atomic object is accompanied by a loss of knowledge of its momentum. As Plotnitsky notes, this loss of knowledge is not a loss of something — in the above case, a definite value of momentum — that was originally present. Rather, it is a radical and ‘originary’ loss which is analogous to the “loss of meaning” in Bataillean general economy and in particular to its Derridean reformulation in terms of the “trace” or “arche-trace."

Of particular note in the above referenced dissertation is the author's analysis in section 6.4 beginning on p. 226. He compares Bohr with Derrida based on the different phases of Bohr's thought, from early to mid to latter, calling them static-contrastive, dynamic and static-symmetrical. It is the first two phases where he sees the most relation with Derrida. However in the third phase, which differs substantially, is where 

Bohr developed his ‘late’-period objectivism, which proceeds with an attempt to restore the standpoint of a pure ‘spectator’ or, in his own term, a “detached observer.” By means of the mechanism of ‘conceptual containment,’ he thus seeks again to privilege the standpoint of the ‘spectator’ over that of the ‘actor,’ or, in other words, to reestablish the hierarchical binary oppositions of detachment/involvement, objective/subjective, and so forth. From a deconstructive point of view – such as Bohr’s own earlier one – this may be characterized as nothing other than a return to the metaphysical tradition (235).

And this is what I'm sensing in de Quincey and Tom. Now we can argue whether this last turn for Bohr was some kind of "developmental synthesis" on a higher level, but such notions are themselves part and parcel of Hegelian metaphysics. (See this post as but one example.)

The author also notes that he only compared the early phases of Derrida's work the full spectrum of Bohr, and that taking into account Derrida's mid to late work might also find some fruitful intersections.

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