Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
In an earlier thread, I noted that one of the reasons (albeit a minor one) I am drawn to Buddhism is because of an intriguing possibility which I believe is coherent but for which I have zero evidence. The possibility comes from the fact that I view physics as:

[indent]"An exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses. It is specifically not a modeling of reality itself."[1][/indent]
Now because I see physics like that (and I'm not alone), a question I've often had is:

[indent]"Well, if physics doesn't tell me about reality itself, what would a field of study/thought/whatever look like that *would*?"[/indent]
For years my feeling was, "there is no such field". Reality is, as Bernard D'Espagnat[2] puts it, "veiled". I saw things as being, in a very true way, just like The Matrix, except there is no red pill, no glitches or edge effects, nothing[3]. The illusion is perfect. And that word "illusion" is important. Keep it mind.

So then I came across Buddhism. Now as an aside, my primary interest is not actually in this physics/reality thing at all. My initial interest in Buddhism was piqued purely by Matthieu Ricard's TED talk. He talked about training the mind so as to be kinder to others, and to develop personal peace and serenity. Even now, those are more important to me than any ontological implications. But the physics thing is a cool potential bonus.

OK, so the possibility of that bonus really first popped up as I watched a video by Bob Thurman in which he was discussing the Four Noble Truths. The specific topic at the time was the Second Noble Truth, which I understood to be something like "The cause of suffering is attachment and craving". So did one of his students. So when Thurman said something about "illusion", both the student and I were caught unawares. She asked, effectively on my behalf:

[indent]"But I thought the cause of suffering was attachment or craving"[/indent]
And Thurman replied, in that grumpy style of his, waving his hand dismissively:

[indent]"Yes, yes, but it's really all about illusion."[/indent]
Huh? Illusion, thinks me. Illusion? Illuuuusion?? Illusion of what!? What am I deluded *about*?

The connecting puzzle piece is my encounter with another video, this time by Ajahn Yuttadhammo[4] (a.k.a. Noah Greenspan), a Mahasi trained monk who produces some cool YouTube teachings. In one of those videos he was discussing some of the very effects often discussed on DoH -- jhanas and all that funkiness. But he then made the killer point (and I paraphrase):

[indent]"But those things, while nice, are not what we're trying to achieve. What we are trying to achieve is an understanding of the underlying nature of reality"[/indent]
I think my heart actually skipped a beat at that point. (Maybe it was stream entry :-) ) I rewound and listened again. "...an understanding of the underlying nature of reality". Gulp. Back to Thurman: I am deluded. Yuttadhammo again: The underlying nature. Illlusion, understanding, illusion, understanding ...

[indent]Holy F*ckalamdingdong! Is ... is Buddhism a red pill!!??[/indent]
OK, calm down Johnny, calm down[5]. As I said initially, while I believe this stuff to be completely consistent -- not at all at odds -- with physics, it is sheer, and utter speculation. There is absolutely no evidence for it whatsoever. But the thing is, there could *never be* any evidence for a theory of reality, because the word "evidence" itself Just Is a name we give for *interactions between* reality and consciousnesses. (Instead, my current working hypothesis is that our only way of getting up close and personal with reality, just as with love, is not via a theory but instead via personal -- oh oh, there's that self again -- experience.)

Still, it is seductive. And as I say it is absolutely consistent with the veiled reality view of quantum mechanics as espoused by d'Espagnat and others. It's a potential answer to my earlier question of "Well, if physics doesn't tell me about reality itself, what would a field of study/thought/whatever look like that *would*?". Buddhism! Buddhism may be about precisely that.

As I said, none of this is the primary reason for me looking at Buddhism. But can you imagine the sheer awesomeosity if on enlightenment -- I mean the full blown traditional-interpretation wahoo, not this piddling jhanas and a&p mental gymnastics -- we really and truly get to See The Truth. Gawd, what a party we'll have emoticon

OK, all done.

JF

[1] To answer the specific question that triggered this new thread: yes, to a first approximation, I consider myself to be one of those "consciousnesses" with which reality is interacting (those interactions being what I call "physics").
[2] e.g. "Reality and the Physicist :Knowledge, Duration and the Quantum World."
[3] And where, to avoid Putnam's "brain in a vat" challenges, the actual underlying reality is, unlike The Matrix reality, simply ineffable; perhaps the best example of Wittgenstein's "Whereof one cannot speak, thereon one must remain silent".
[4] http://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Ajahn_Yuttadhammo
[5] If you want a hint at my reaction, watch Hugh Laurie in this Blackadder video clip just after Rowan Atkinson answer Laurie's question of "Are you the Scarlet Pimpernel" and Atkinson replies "Absolutely not" emoticon
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Mr. Jake *, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Johnny, I love your enthusiasm! It's great ;-)

I have a question for you, which may reflect merely the limits of language in my understanding what you are saying; but if not, perhaps it would be useful.

You seem to be framing this issue (knowledge of reality) in this and other threads within the context of an assumption that there is Reality, over there, and there is interactions between reality-and-consciousness, over here, in the form of all our experiences-- thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, all fall into the category "interaction between Reality and consciousness". So there seems to be a fundamental hypotheses that there are Three Things: 1) Reality, 2) concrete experiences, and 3) Consciousness.

2 = interactions between 1 and 3.

But here's my question(s):

a) why would you *start* with a model that posits separation between these three?

b) What evidence do you have that supports this model?

c) In what way are 2 and 3 separate from 1?

d) How do you know, if any "knowing" (so defined) is by definition part of 2?

Do these questions make any sense? I offer them in a spirit of fun, nothing serious ;-)

--Jake
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Hi Jake,

Mr. Jake *:
You seem to be framing this issue (knowledge of reality) in this and other threads within the context of an assumption that there is Reality, over there, and there is interactions between reality-and-consciousness, over here, in the form of all our experiences-- thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, all fall into the category "interaction between Reality and consciousness". So there seems to be a fundamental hypotheses that there are Three Things: 1) Reality, 2) concrete experiences, and 3) Consciousness.

2 = interactions between 1 and 3.


Yes, that's fair enough.

Mr. Jake *:
a) why would you *start* with a model that posits separation between these three?

Well first it's not something I control. I *find* myself with some beliefs, I don't choose them.

But since I rarely find my beliefs persisting if I then decide they are irrational, it's reasonable to ask why I find the 1/2/3 model sensible. 3) is essentially some kind of Cartesian "cogito ergo sum". I know there are issues with that, but it's a good first approximation. I believe I exist because I feel me existing; I believe I exist because either I do exist, or I don't and instead am simply deluded. But if the latter, then the thing experiencing the delusion exists and then that's what I call "me".

Why the separation? That's in part because although I exert some control over 2) it's not complete control. Something else is wiggling things in addition to me. That's 1) (and other 3's.)

Now there is another possibility (hey, there are tons but whatever). I do believe that what we have is actually a whole bunch of separate 3's. So I guess it's possible that 2) is the interactions only among them and that there is no "central" 1). But I don't think that's crucial for the questions at hand.

Mr. Jake *:
b) What evidence do you have that supports this model?


The notion of "evidence supporting this model" isn't well-formed. "Evidence" is just another name for 2), which is part of the model, so it's not meaningful to ask about evidence for the model. It's a bit like asking "what evidence do you have for evidence?"

Mr. Jake *:
c) In what way are 2 and 3 separate from 1?


What do you mean by "what way"? We're at very bare concepts here; I'm not sure how I'd describe the nature of the separation. All I believe is *that* they are separate. "I" am not "my perceptions" nor "the source of my perceptions".

The sparseness of the concepts is important. It would be very easy to continue (although I'm not saying your are doing this) to use the concept of "separate" to mean spatial or temporal separation as we experience among components of 2). For me, they're all just constructions and concepts and parts of the whole 2) extravaganza. They're not "real" in the sense(s) of "whatever the hell 1) or 3) are". It may simply be that the "separateness" emerges simply from the fact that I need three names to talk about the way things are. Maybe that's where the non-dualism comes from in Buddhism. But in that case, I'm cool with that. I've been cool with that for a long time.

In other words, if non-dualism is something like "You know when you see two balls and you believe there are two balls, well *in reality* there aren't two balls", my response is, "But I never believed that there were *any* balls *in reality* in the first place!"

Mr. Jake *:
d) How do you know, if any "knowing" (so defined) is by definition part of 2?


How do I know that the 1/2/3 model is correct? I don't, and *certainly* not by the definition part of 2. By that definition, all I know are things like:

* I am in pain
* I am attracted to her
* I am afraid
* I perceive a red ball

Mr. Jake *:
Do these questions make any sense?


It makes at least as much sense than my initial rambling. emoticon

Mr. Jake *:
I offer them in a spirit of fun, nothing serious ;-)


Cool emoticon
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Mr. Jake *, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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Johnny Froth:



Mr. Jake *:
b) What evidence do you have that supports this model?


The notion of "evidence supporting this model" isn't well-formed. "Evidence" is just another name for 2), which is part of the model, so it's not meaningful to ask about evidence for the model. It's a bit like asking "what evidence do you have for evidence?"


Okay, great answer ;-) (And thanks for playing). BTW, this is exactly what i was pointing at with this question...


Johnny Froth:


Mr. Jake *:
d) How do you know, if any "knowing" (so defined) is by definition part of 2?


How do I know that the 1/2/3 model is correct? I don't, and *certainly* not by the definition part of 2. By that definition, all I know are things like:

* I am in pain
* I am attracted to her
* I am afraid
* I perceive a red ball


Okay, do you directly know "I am in pain (etc)"? Or is this the output of filtering a more direct experience through the 1-2-3- model? Is it possible that there's just "pain", "attracted to her", "afraid", "perceiving a red ball" which is then plugged into the 1-2-3- model (in which there is some*one* in here experiencing stuff)? What, in fact, is actually happening in experience? If every model we have which purports to "explain" 2 by contextualizing it within a '1"and a '3" is *in fact* just more "2", do we really need a model that "explains" 2 (living experience) by placing it within an imaginary context? Is it possible to experiment with suspending the models? If you have done this, or try to do it, what is that like?

Note I'm not sure you have or haven't done this, so I'm not coming at these questions from a preconceived notion about where you are at. Also, I'm not trying to imply that such questions are rendered entirely moot by practice, or assuming where you are at with practice. I've just noticed that as practice deepens, these questions take on different significances, if that makes sense. And the experiment I suggested could be seen as a kind of inquiry-practice, which might provoke interesting insights into the nature of "2" in a different way than creating imaginary contexts for "2" does. hahaha, hope this makes sense ;-p Anyhow, off to run some errands and play with some three year olds... catch you later ;-)
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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Mr. Jake *:
Okay, do you directly know "I am in pain (etc)"? Or is this the output of filtering a more direct experience through the 1-2-3- model? Is it possible that there's just "pain" ...

No, I directly know it. That's just what the word pain denotes for me: an example of "knowing" experienced by "I". Pain is not a thing that can "just be". It's an interaction between something that's other than me, and me. It's like a stone creating a splash on the surface of a pond. The pond is me. The stone is other. The splash is pain. Talking about "just pain" is like talking about a splash where there's no pond.

But let me ask you some questions. For me, Berkeley's definition "esse est percipi aut percipere" is very cool. In our context, the "to be is ... to perceive" is particularly spot on.

Would you agree? In what way, if any, do you exist? Are you willing to entertain that I, Johnny, exist in the same way? Are we, you and I, one, or more than one? Or, put it another way, exactly who is having this conversation? emoticon

Mr. Jake *:
Note I'm not sure you have or haven't done this, so I'm not coming at these questions from a preconceived notion about where you are at. Also, I'm not trying to imply that such questions are rendered entirely moot by practice, or assuming where you are at with practice.


Appreciated. You are considerate where the occasional other is less so.
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Mr. Jake *, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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Johnny Froth:


But let me ask you some questions.


Fair's fair ;-)


Johnny Froth:

For me, Berkeley's definition "esse est percipi aut percipere" is very cool. In our context, the "to be is ... to perceive" is particularly spot on.

Would you agree?


Not sure, it's been a while since I read any Berkeley. I used to wonder alot about the relationship between matter and consciousness. Practice has led to insights which seem to support the hypotheses that they're really the same thing, which seems to have satisfied, in a profound way, that part of me that was trying to figure out which came from which.

It seems to me that descriptions, whether verbal or non-verbal, have pragmatic and/or poetic meanings. When I confuse descriptions with the "phenomenal field" they describe, they become dogmatic, and epistemic problematics arise (the perrenial questions of Philosophy ;-))

For whatever reason, both the verbal and non-verbal descriptions seem to have come pre-packaged with certain assumptions, namely that there is a subject who (or which) is looking at objects.

This gives rise to an epistemological problematic: what is the nature of the subject? what is it's relation to objects? What are the status of objects; do they exist without subjects? How do two or more subjects relate?

But when descriptions are seen as descriptions, they only seem (to me, so far) to have poetic (finger pointing at the moon) or pragmatic (better put on your rain coat, it's raining outside) meaning. The descriptions are part of an open field of phenomena; they don't actually define phenomena. Phenomena are arising and passing in openness, and even that is too reductive and dualistic ;-) Those were just poetic descriptions of how things seem to me when I'm practicing deeply, not statements of Truth.

That open field doesn't seem to have subjects and objects in the way that the descriptions-- including the instinctual ones that might be expressed in grunts-- seem to assume ;-) That's just what I've found so far, anyhow. (And more to the point, just one way of describing it.) This is my way of describing some aspects of some insights which seem to have led to a felt-sense of completeness and openness which has a big impact on my happiness and ability to act kindly, btw. Much better outcomes than "knowing" IMO. Nevertheless, I definitely find playing around with these descriptions enjoyable sometimes!

Johnny Froth:


In what way, if any, do you exist? Are you willing to entertain that I, Johnny, exist in the same way? Are we, you and I, one, or more than one? Or, put it another way, exactly who is having this conversation? emoticon


Great questions. The more salient point to me would be, what do we mean by exist? I really like the teaching of the "four extremes" which takes some different forms in Mahayana Buddhism (and for all I know appears in some form in earlier layers of Buddhism). Basically these four extremes are four ways of describing "this" (whatever "this" is). One version has them as: 1) eternalism = "the way things are" is fixed and definite and always that way 2) nihilism = there is no "way things are" 3) monism = everything is One 4) dualism = everything isn't One, there are at least two different "kinds" of things

Some examples: Christianity would be eternalist dualism, because there are two kinds of things (created and uncreated) and that's fixed like that forever. Advaita is eternalist monism, there is "one substance" and everything is now has always been and always will be That. And so on. The idea is that "non-dualism" as Mahayana intends it anyway cannot be expressed by any of those extremes. I would say, those 4 extremes as descriptions might have poetic or pragmatic meaning depending on the context, but it would be a mistake to confuse such descriptions with "reality". Imagine that each conceivable answer to your 3 questions above might say something about what's actually going on here, but no one answer or combination of answers can "say it all". That's because descriptions function by leaving certain aspects of a situation out and highlighting others. Clearly the choices of what to highlight and what to downplay are context dependant, and I say, they result in pragmatic and/or poetic meaning, but not Truth. "Reality"-- that of anything and everything-- is just bigger than any description. That's why I think Heidegger was right that epistemology is a dead end for philosophy. In the end what matters concerning descriptions is what we can do with them, or whether they can illuminate things in a meaningful way; and this means they are all utterly context dependent.

Johnny Froth:

Mr. Jake *:
Note I'm not sure you have or haven't done this, so I'm not coming at these questions from a preconceived notion about where you are at. Also, I'm not trying to imply that such questions are rendered entirely moot by practice, or assuming where you are at with practice.


Appreciated. You are considerate where the occasional other is less so.


No problem. Fun conversation! ;-)
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I got into this in some ways based on very similar stuff, but coming from Modern Physics point of view mostly, with some The Dancing Wu Li Masters thrown in around 8th grade just to top it off, and the perplexing question introduced in 12th grade:

If reality is interdependent, all-pervasive psi^2 fields of potential and manifestation oscillating causally on its own as the Schrödinger Equation so neatly tells us, why does it seem to me that I am a separate observing controlling entity?

Anyway, there was the whole wave-particle observer problem, so frequently pointed out, and the Superdeterminism problem, and others that all pointed to the fact that I was clearly seriously deluded somehow, and the time problem of how it drops out of basically every equation if you take things far enough in physics (as a previous thread pointed out), as it all didn't add up at all...

geeks who don't yet know this stuff go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrödinger_equation
and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superdeterminism
and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave–particle_duality

And then there was Buddhism, then there was clear sensate investigation, then there was thought seen as thought, concept seen as concept, space seen directly as extrapolated from fluxing sensations that implied space, sensations of memory and extrapolative sensations of "future" that implied time, all dancing naturally, all fluxing causally, all wavicle-like, and then oscillation of potential and action actually seen as that, clearly, directly, and question after question, such as those posed by why differential equations work when they seem to involve imaginary numbers (so interestingly labeled small "i", meaning -1^(1/2) as if by profound cosmic coincidence or some very clever mystical mathematician who understood what he was doing just fine!), and so, so, so much more was clear and is clear now as I write this in the same way, or as the universe unfolds as it does! Yeah! The paradoxes resolved, the questions answered! It actually does do that, and you are on the right track: just got to take it far enough: strong practice, really, really strong concentration, careful analysis of exactly how those elements of form occur and what happens to them and how they interact, and it finally shows itself in all its pristine and straightforward glory!

It showed clearly how what seemed like the same set of data could produce first the grand paradoxes and contradictions that even Newtonian physics and biochemistry, which seem to have no place for a will or doer at all, and more so modern physics present if you come at things from a pre-awakening point of view, and after you have really examined the data set, meaning sensations, the first basis of all extrapolation and all experience and all theory and time and space and self and other, suddenly leaves you staring straight at no-self, wondrous natural causality, wavicle-default mode, space and time as mere useful extrapolations of something more simple and direct and fundamentally satisfying to that part of the brain that so wanted to have it all resolve, awareness as being non-existent apart from the fact of the simple manifestation of sense phenomena and exactly how that illusion was created and exactly how to see through it (pardon the apparent paradoxes there, they resolve eventually), and it did to complete satisfaction of those burning questions that a young geek had what feels like so long ago in this timeless yet memory-full happening.

Go for it! It definitely can be done and it performs as advertised if you look at things well and clearly and see the core aspects of the thing. This is actually still the stuff I get most excited about in this business, but the kindred spirits who come at it from this point of view are very, very few, so I don't get to share this part often.

Now, the quantum mysticism as pseudoscience people are likely to jump in, and I am very, very aware of those arguments, and they don't change my views at all, or at least none of the ones I had heard, and just to do your job for you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_mysticism

Anyway, have fun! This is the most amazing, fundamental, revealing adventure of them all!

Daniel
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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Daniel M. Ingram:
If reality is interdependent, all-pervasive psi^2 fields of potential and manifestation oscillating causally on its own as the Schrödinger Equation so neatly tells us, why does it seem to me that I am a separate observing controlling entity?

I believe the solution, which I know I've seen and it sounds like you have but I suspect many professional physicists have not, is simply that there is no dichotomy. Fields, oscillations, strings, etc are all just names for ripples that <whatever is *really* real> create on the pond that is me.

Daniel M. Ingram:
Go for it! It definitely can be done and it performs as advertised if you look at things well and clearly and see the core aspects of the thing. This is actually still the stuff I get most excited about in this business, but the kindred spirits who come at it from this point of view are very, very few, so I don't get to share this part often.

Well, I'm practicing, and noting, and pondering, and repeating till sick. I'll let y'all know what progresses. emoticon

Daniel M. Ingram:
Now, the quantum mysticism as pseudoscience people are likely to jump in, and I am very, very aware of those arguments, and they don't change my views at all, or at least none of the ones I had heard, ...

I agree. Just because there is genuine mysticism doesn't mean there isn't mystical fluff out there. Separating the two, well that's maybe what was meant by "Work out your salvation with diligence", no?

OK, but Daniel, now that we're swapping posts, I *have* to ask. Based on your various videos, and on your reply to me just now as an example, I have a question about Daniel Ingram's own experience. I hope you take it in the friendly way in which it really is intended:

Did you use as few commas/breaths, and as many words per sentence, and generate them at such a rate before you were enlightened as you did afterwards? emoticon
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
good question, it is probably worse now, even...
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
I have a lot I want to talk about, but only a little to say.

Analytic philosophy, buddhism and modern physics are 3 incommensurable pieces of wisdom.

They are all deep and rich bodies of work, and they all ostensibly address the same issue, but it does one well to keep in mind which camp a proposed claim falls into. Each of those areas of study has its own language, assumptions, claims, definitions of reality, etc.

Claims about imaginary numbers, claims about reality, form/emptiness, sensate experience, quantum physics... there's no way to put them in a blender and come out with a delicious Truth smoothie.


I'm hobbyist philosopher, earnest yogi, and educated physicist, and I'm endlessly interested in this stuff.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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m m a:

Analytic philosophy, buddhism and modern physics are 3 incommensurable pieces of wisdom.


Those are particularly important to me too, although I'm less interested in physics per se than in how it suggests, to the careful observer, there's more to The World[1] than physics. I think physics has learned humility through QM, and is all the more noble for it. I wish the biosciences would do the same. They seem to have reached the same stage of arrogance -- especially in fields like neuroscience -- that physics had reached around the beginning of the 20th century.

Also, I've more lately added the philosophy of Schopenhauer and the like to that list. I wouldn't have in the past, when Frege, Russel, Ayer and so on were all I cared about.

jf

[1] In the Wittgensteinian Tractatus sense
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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Johnny Froth:
m m a:

Analytic philosophy, buddhism and modern physics are 3 incommensurable pieces of wisdom.


Those are particularly important to me too, although I'm less interested in physics per se than in how it suggests, to the careful observer, there's more to The World[1] than physics. I think physics has learned humility through QM, and is all the more noble for it. I wish the biosciences would do the same. They seem to have reached the same stage of arrogance -- especially in fields like neuroscience -- that physics had reached around the beginning of the 20th century.

Also, I've more lately added the philosophy of Schopenhauer and the like to that list. I wouldn't have in the past, when Frege, Russel, Ayer and so on were all I cared about.


[1] In the Wittgensteinian Tractatus sense



at first, i was going to vehemently disagree with you about the notion of arrogance of physics in the 20th century, but I see now what you mean

PHYSICISTS were arrogant to think they could one day deterministically model the universe. Physics itself has no traits like humility or arrogance. It is merely a beautiful web of math and application.

based on your philosophy reading list, and this topic, you may like feyerabend (philosophy) Buddhism and physics both are based entirely observation, yet are a totally different kind of science. perhaps you may want to look up what i meant by incommensurable, and feyerabend is the go to guy on this topic. (or wikipedia, lol)

In my opinion, physics says nothing of the kind, that 'there may be more to the world.' There's just physics, and it models everything that can be observed. If it doesn't exist in scientific observation, physics says nothing about it.

buddhism fits mold as well, if you tweak what you mean from 'scientific observation' to 'first-person experience'. Buddhism is a 'scientific' system for apperception and sensate experience.

Metaphysics is just that.... meta-physics. After 4 years of studying physics, I can confidently say that there is no 'gap' of explanation that is filled in by 'other wisdom.' QM doesnt mean we don't understand the world, as laypeople commonly interpret it. Having sat down and calculated pages and pages of algebra by hand, I can safely say that quantum mechanics is well understood. The real trick to the matter is that there's nothing in our everyday experience that is similar; so it seems counter intuitive, pathological to a layperson. To an academic, though, it is a simple set of matrices modeling a simple problem.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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m m a:
QM doesnt mean we don't understand the world, as laypeople commonly interpret it. Having sat down and calculated pages and pages of algebra by hand, I can safely say that quantum mechanics is well understood. The real trick to the matter is that there's nothing in our everyday experience that is similar; so it seems counter intuitive, pathological to a layperson. To an academic, though, it is a simple set of matrices modeling a simple problem.

To some academics.

And while laypeople may well endow QM with something akin to magical powers, I think you're understating things. It's not just a mismatch between experience in the large and QM in the small. The fact that we still talk about different "interpretations" of QM shows that something is deeply different between QM and the Physics that came before it.

QM has thrown down a challenge concerning exactly what physics actually does. Since Galileo and Newton, we were increasingly convinced that Physics is an exercise in describing how the world *is*. QM blew that out the water and raised the unsettling notion that Physics is merely an exercise in describing how the world *appears*.

One reason (albeit, as I said, a minor one) I'm interested in Buddhism is that it seems to fit with that. Since I now believe that Physics models only how the world looks, and not how it "is", I'm curious about systems of thought or ways of life or "paths" that purport -- while still respecting the apparent perfection of Physics' modeling of how the world looks -- to lead to an understanding of how the world actually is.
m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:


QM has thrown down a challenge concerning exactly what physics actually does. Since Galileo and Newton, we were increasingly convinced that Physics is an exercise in describing how the world *is*. QM blew that out the water and raised the unsettling notion that Physics is merely an exercise in describing how the world *appears*.



Can you support this claim? Most physicists and physics students I know would laugh at the notion and steer that statement into the realm of the philosophers. In my estimation, neither physics nor buddhism makes distinction between is/appears.

I think the paradigm shift you are pointing at can best be described as deterministic - > quantum. No one actually doing physics is confused about 'what physics does'. Physics models the physical, trying to understand HOW it behaves. The WHY it behaves that way questions are left to other realms of study.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

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m m a:
Johnny Froth:
QM blew that out the water and raised the unsettling notion that Physics is merely an exercise in describing how the world *appears*.

Can you support this claim? Most physicists and physics students I know would laugh at the notion and steer that statement into the realm of the philosophers.

You sound like this is controversial but it is really just a form of the Copenhagen interpretation. And yes, it belongs in the realm of the philosophers. But many physicists, among them some of the greatest, were philosophers.

Obviously Copenhagen is not in itself a concept on which everyone agrees, but the essence in this context is perhaps best illustrated with this quote from Neils Bohr:

[indent]"*Is*? How the f*ck should I know what an electron really *is*? Just do the math and shut the f*ck up."
[/indent]
(OK I lied. Neils Bohr said no such thing. But he should've emoticon )

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m m a, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
The copenhagen intepretation merely states that the wave function is to be interpreted as a probability, it does not deal with the nature of existence.


Of course many great physicists are philosophers! The two words had identical definitions until the 20th century. Thankfully, in the modern interpretation, the two fields diverge.
I think wemay be getting caught up in language. Is there a larger point you are trying to justify by framing QM in this way?
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
m m a:
I think wemay be getting caught up in language. Is there a larger point you are trying to justify by framing QM in this way?

Perhaps. No. Nice talking to you. Good luck with your practice.
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Jim L, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Have you ever taken interest in Immanuel Kant's philosophy? He was an 18th century German (I guess Prussian) philosopher. His work is a bit difficult to read, but he took these questions you're asking seriously and provided some very clever and influential answers to them. If you don't actually want to read Kant, there's a little, nicely written book called "Kant's Theory of the Faculties" (I think) by Deleuze.

You might also want to check out Edmund Husserl. He's also German and a little easier than Kant (not saying much). He founded a school of philosophy called "phenomenology" which is similar in many respects to Buddhism. There's good secondary lit on Husserl if you don't feel like reading him, but actually the best book I read on Husserl's philosophy was by his student, Martin Heidegger, called "History of the Concept of Time".

Personally, I have a more realist take on science. I think we do understand physical reality by performing experiments on it and building mathematical models of it. Of course we don't get an ultimate understanding of it, just inferences to the best explanations. But I suspect something similar applies to investigation of the mind by itself, though. Even the dharma was not finished in Buddha's time but continues to grow as we continue to infer to the best explanation.
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Daniel Johnson, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
The Tao of Physics, along with a Quantum mechanics class at UC Berkeley, a bunch of alcohol, a little bit of mushrooms and pot, and falling deeply deeply in love like I'd never been before ... that was the crack in my windshield.
Johnny Froth, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Physics, Reality and Buddhism

Posts: 59 Join Date: 1/25/12 Recent Posts
Johnny Froth:
In an earlier thread, I noted that one of the reasons (albeit a minor one) I am drawn to Buddhism is because of an intriguing possibility which I believe is coherent but for which I have zero evidence. The possibility comes from the fact that I view physics as:

[indent]"An exercise in the modeling of only the interactions of reality upon consciousnesses. It is specifically not a modeling of reality itself."[1][/indent]

Just found these. It's Allan Wallace being way more articulate than I was:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaAVSy8H8C8
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YXppyvJq_k

Watch for his little head tilt right at the end of the second part, as if he's saying, "OK, so what are you going to do about your life *now*?" emoticon

Makes me want to go sit on a cushion and not get off until ...

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