Bohr and solipsism

  • #26
But from a scientist's viewpoint, it would always be regarded as "knowable", as assuming otherwise leads to the end of science altogether
I agree with you. I think it is not possible to state scientifically that something is "unknowable". Indeed I am still not sure if that is even possible in the philosophical realm, because it may not accomplish logical rules.

So, probably, Bohr knowing of that, decided to take a scientific-compatible way and utter that it just doesn't exist. Reality doesn't exist while not observed.

This statement led to new problems: how can the Universe evolve if it doesn't exist meanwhile nobody is observing? How could the Bohr's CI of QM explain the Universe evolution near after the Big Bang? Nobody was there observing it!

I don't know if Bohr had ever the opportunity to answer this kind of questions. I don't know if anybody (contemporary to him) had the chance to ask them to him. I don't know if Bohr eventually reply to Einstein question about the existence of the Moon. I really appreciate any hint about all these subjects.

Thanks!
 
  • #27
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This statement led to new problems: how can the Universe evolve if it doesn't exist meanwhile nobody is observing? How could the Bohr's CI of QM explain the Universe evolution near after the Big Bang? Nobody was there observing it!

I don't know if Bohr had ever the opportunity to answer this kind of questions.


Answer? No, i don't think so. These kind of questions cause a great deal of confusion among physicists, from the PHD to the Nobel Prize winners. When you answer 1 questions, it opens up at least a hundred new ones. Bohr said:

"Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question."

Further:

"There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them."
Niels Bohr



I don't even think that most physicists will even make an attempt at such questions.
 
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  • #28
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What we are to make of an experienced reality? Solipsism/Idealism seem to be just a very small step ahead.
I'd say your reaction is the result of the 'profound shock' that Bohr was talking about.
It is not a small step at all. Naive realism and solipsism are extremes.
I don't agree with this in the context of Bohr, the cat and the Moon. The prevailing attitude of that time was that those objects do not exist prior to the observation and collapse, but exist as a ghostly superposition of states. This seems to confirm the idea of an experienced reality(phenomenological), not one that exists in time and space.
My table is an object, a solid object. But physics tells us, that it is mostly empty space. For someone not educated in physics, this is mindbending. This is not the same as quantum superposition, but I think it is a similar knowledge problem for us. Objects don't exist prior to observation, in this sense either, because objects are distinguished in large part by their function and usefulness.... or lack thereof. So the 'table' object is real, but so are the atoms its made of.

Its not that the universe has some property called 'unknowable', its that human beings are limited creatures. When we look at an opaque cube, and we can only see 3 sides at a time.
I see no way to twist my mind around the idea that there is a material reality that is not material at all times. I don't understand it, and what's worse nobody seems to be either.
No one understood Newton's action at a distance... his math worked, but it made no sense. How could an object be affected by another, hundreds of miles away? Then Einstein described gravity as the curvature of space time. Genius really, but Newton's concern was a consistent description of what gravity did, not what it was
You'd say it's unknowable, incomprehensible and that was Bohr's opinion - ok, it could be. But from a scientist's viewpoint, it would always be regarded as "knowable", as assuming otherwise leads to the end of science altogether. Definitely not something a scientist will readily accept.
You know, this is a very strange thing. I have had this converation before, and been told this exact same thing. And yet, it sounds, to me at least, completely ridiculous coming from someone who professes a scientific outlook. Science, at its most basic is about knowledge derived from empirical observation. What is knowable via science, is what can be observed, and/or what can be inferred from observation. What is unknowable to science is the 'unobserved state' of being, because science involves observation. Its true by definition.

An omniscient god would be able to know what it can't observe because it has innate knowledge, but a human scientist can't because this is the nature of human knowledge. Science is limited, because humans are limited creatures. But this is hardly the end of science, there is a huge amount of 'observables' out there we haven't seen yet. Science just has limits, very human limits.

Does this mean, no theoryofeverything? Maybe... maybe not. We can infer quite a lot.
A reality of appearances is a good example of idealism or its further extention - solipsism.
If all the ontology includes is appearances... sure, but reality is not always equal to existense.
But it seems you've set your viewpoint on reality being unknowable, and i cannot refute that Bohr didn't mean to say exactly that in some of the quotes.
You mean 'underlying reality', its an important distinction.
My problem was mainly with your statement about interactions that lead to the classical world we observe
Classical examples are all we have... whether its my yellow cat or the one that belongs to Schrödinger.
The only interpretation that seems to make sense is the MWI
I would object to that on the basis of occam's razor... it seems like a lot of unnecessary work for the universe.... and its way too fanboy-sci-fi... for my taste.
Getting back to the topic and this question is towards everyone - what is a contextual reality, if not a form of idealism/solipsism?
Something like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenomenology_(philosophy)#Empathy_and_Intersubjectivity
 
  • #29
Its not that the universe has some property called 'unknowable', its that human beings are limited creatures. When we look at an opaque cube, and we can only see 3 sides at a time.
I am afraid that is equivalent to the assertion that Quantum Theory is not complete. But according to Bohr, Quantum Theory is complete.

The only way out for Bohr I think it is saying that the universe has some property called 'unknowable', or saying that the universe has no existence while not observed.

Is that correct?

Thanks!
 
  • #30
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I'd say your reaction is the result of the 'profound shock' that Bohr was talking about.
It is not a small step at all. Naive realism and solipsism are extremes.


Sure they are, but it's usually reality that sets the rules, not our tastes and preferences.



My table is an object, a solid object. But physics tells us, that it is mostly empty space. For someone not educated in physics, this is mindbending. This is not the same as quantum superposition, but I think it is a similar knowledge problem for us. Objects don't exist prior to observation, in this sense either, because objects are distinguished in large part by their function and usefulness.... or lack thereof. So the 'table' object is real, but so are the atoms its made of.

That's not the fundamental point Bohr was trying to get across.
What does the function and usefulness of of objects have to do with the topic? And how does it follow that 'table' and 'atoms' are real?


Its not that the universe has some property called 'unknowable', its that human beings are limited creatures.

What does it even mean to have a limit? Why isn't everything in a superposition at all times, instead of there being limits and actualities? This is a very fundamental question as superpositions are a mess of states. This is what you'd expect the universe to be like, not in a lawful orderly state governed by laws that seem just right for life and existence.
Just stating 'beings are limited creatures' doesn't mean much of anything, philosophically. Just because we seem to be limited in certain contexts doesn't mean that some questions are illogical or meaningless. If the universe has some new property as you say, we have to assume that it's knowable, right? I don't understand how something could be incomprehensible(for long). Just think about how many aspects of existence have been explained, what would make someone believe that this process will suddenly come to a stop?



No one understood Newton's action at a distance... his math worked, but it made no sense. How could an object be affected by another, hundreds of miles away? Then Einstein described gravity as the curvature of space time. Genius really, but Newton's concern was a consistent description of what gravity did, not what it was

So? How is this related to Bohr's views?






Classical examples are all we have... whether its my yellow cat or the one that belongs to Schrödinger.

We do have an awful lot of quantum examples. And a lot of cosmological ones.



I would object to that on the basis of occam's razor... it seems like a lot of unnecessary work for the universe.... and its way too fanboy-sci-fi... for my taste.

I agree. But it's the only one that has the power to oppose "God did it!" and maybe even win. With the rest of the interpretations, there is too much room for "God Did It", and philosophically they all seem to come down to a sort of "God did it" in the end. I would guess the MWI is the ultimate atheist bliss.




I don't think i understand how this is related to a reality that doesn't exist all the time(ala Bohr).
 
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  • #31
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I am afraid that is equivalent to the assertion that Quantum Theory is not complete. But according to Bohr, Quantum Theory is complete.

The only way out for Bohr I think it is saying that the universe has some property called 'unknowable', or saying that the universe has no existence while not observed.

Is that correct?

Thanks!
Hmmm... that may have been a bad example. The point is that 3 sides exist... in reality at any given time. The others are inferred. Obviously any example that uses classical objects is going to be problematic, but I can't see another way to explain what I mean.
 
  • #32
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Sure they are, but it's usually reality that sets the rules, not our tastes and preferences.
Except this is a discussion about the very nature of reality.
That's not the fundamental point Bohr was trying to get across.
What does the function and usefulness of of objects have to do with the topic?
It goes towards showing our newtonian prejudices about what an object actually is.
And how does it follow that 'table' and 'atoms' are real?
'Real' here, just means observed phenomena, its a bit circular, or even recursive maybe. Table is phenomenalogically more real to a human being. Atoms are less observable, more abstractions.

The 'quantum world' would be even more fully an abstraction. A model.
What does it even mean to have a limit?
Good question.
Why isn't everything in a superposition at all times, instead of there being limits and actualities?
Because god wants it that way?

Personally, I'm inclined towards something like the idea of a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirac_sea" [Broken] or some sort of symmetry breaking.
This is a very fundamental question as superpositions are a mess of states. This is what you'd expect the universe to be like, not in a lawful orderly state governed by laws that seem just right for life and existence.
What to expect from a universe? I haven't a clue. The entropy thing is definitely interesting, but without some knowledge of 'before the big bang', what is likely for a universe is something I don't think anyone can rightly claim.
Just stating 'beings are limited creatures' doesn't mean much of anything, philosophically.
If reality is centred around the observer/observed relationship, then the nature of the observer is quite important.
Just because we seem to be limited in certain contexts doesn't mean that some questions are illogical or meaningless.
Our logic is based on the consistency we observe in the world around us. What form a universal logic would take.... assuming universal logic is not nonsensical... is hard to say.
If the universe has some new property as you say, we have to assume that it's knowable, right? I don't understand how something could be incomprehensible(for long).
This is a language problem, unknowable is not the same as not understood. The latter is more a value judgement based on a lack of knowledge, whereas the first indicates knowledge is not possible, in this case because of the logical contradiction between observing something, that is not observed.
So? How is this related to Bohr's views?
Bohr's QM position seems similar to Newton's position on Gravity. Newton wasn't really concerned with the explanation of gravity, he focused on the math that described it. Einstein wanted, and found, an explanation for gravity, but was then frustrated by QM.

I think one of the big problems with Interpretation of QM, is not just that they don't understand it, but that people don't like, even fear, the implications.
We do have an awful lot of quantum examples. And a lot of cosmological ones.
Maybe I should have said 'analogies', examples that explain, not just occurences.
I would guess the MWI is the ultimate atheist bliss.
Well, I'm an atheist, but a contrarian. Nerd-bliss, maybe.
If god did it, I want to know.
Because if she did, she's got a lot of explaining to do.
I don't think i understand how this is related to a reality that doesn't exist all the time(ala Bohr).
Its an example of a phenomenological alternative to solipsism.
 
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  • #33
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I think one of the big problems with Interpretation of QM, is not just that they don't understand it, but that people don't like, even fear, the implications.


...{runs and hides}


We are all sentenced to death, one way or another. :yuck: What are we to lose in the long run? {opening beer can for fear of time running out}
 
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