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The Kantian Wall - The Meaning of Space, Time, and Mass in Modern Physics

  1. Oct 12, 2012 #1
    Some things have extreme simplicity, but because they sideways of our vision, they are unnoticed. Some things are so obvious, so close to us that they are almost invisible.

    This is a philosophical, not a scientific essay. It initially began as an exploration of belief, based on skepticism, but evolved into a line of questioning. Both tracks are kept here.


    The Playground:

    Space, Time, Substance, and Cause and Effects are the playground in which the children go to play their various games. But as the twilight darkens and the children go home, the playground disappears. The playground does not exist. And the next day, when the sun is bright, there is the strange sight of children playing in a nonexistent playground. Because they believe it exists, it must exist. An old man came once, and told them that the playground exists only in their heads, without them it is noumena. Their games were quite acceptable as long as they realized their limitations, but this was forgotten.

    In the introduction to The Critique of Pure Reason is the summary statement of the noumena or “the thing in itself”:

    “If we remove from our empirical concept of a body, one by one, every feature in it which is merely empirical, the color, the hardness or softness, the weight, even the impenetrability, thee still remains the space which the body (now entirely vanished) has occupied and this cannot be removed. Again in we remove from our empirical concept of any object, corporal or incorporeal, all properties which experience has taught us, we yet cannot take away that property through which the object is thought as substance or as inhering in a substance (although this concept of substance to more determinate than that of the object in general.”

    In Hindu philosophy it is noted that even when all perceptions are taken away from an object, something still exists. This is a problem for physics.

    Modern physicists have seen Kant’s Critique as obsolete because classical physics on which his views supported is obsolete. Modern physics and gone far beyond what Kant could construct with his apriori concepts of space, time, substance, and cause and effect. But is this really true? Even though the paradigms of physics have drastically changed, something else has not. The units remain the same and therefore the apriori concepts remain the same. We cannot escape their language.

    Physics is seen as the search for truth, rather than what it is: a pragmatic way of explaining the world to ourselves and only to ourselves. It is description, not a truth.

    Kant rears his ugly head in the middle of the street and it is absolutely amazing for how long it has been ignored or improperly perceived

    Part 1: Intrinsic or Extrinsic?

    Space, time, mass and cause and effects are the basic “constructs” of physics.

    In the view of Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, space, time, mass, and cause and effect are a priori concepts. They exist within us in latent form, before the advent of experience.

    These concepts are like seeds within us. As perceptions and memory accrue they are nourished and grow and become the functions that are used to organize and make sense of what we see. They, along with perceptions and memory, create our structured world. We then see this grand scheme as phenomena. Another way of saying this is that our perceptions, experience, memories are the semantics of physics (ultimately). The apriori concepts of space, time, substance, and cause and effect are the syntactic of physics. While it is readily admitted that the semantics are subjective, what is not realized is that both are subjective, are human made. There must and always must be intrinsic, not some reality that is extrinsic, outside ourselves.

    These intrinsic concepts (space, time, mass, cause & effect), are, in a sense, thought itself. . It may seem odd that space, time, and mass have any meaning other than as a monkey wrench for thought.

    Kant’s support of Newtonian physics was based on the condition that physics is valid, but only within the limits of human knowledge and no further. That it applies to all physics is a tautology that is not noted.

    Part 2: Existence

    1. One of the qualifications that something exists is that it must be perceivable, at least theoretically and in the domains of space, time, mass, and cause and effect (in some form or another). Why can’t something exist without any dependence on consciousness?
    Are there physical phenomena absolutely disjoint from consciousness? There is no way of saying “yes” or “no”.

    2. Perceivable phenomena: The second part of this melodrama is that are there phenomena that are obviously perceivable, but whose causes may be in the Kantian mists of noumena? Are there perceivable” phenomena whose causes are qualitatively and absolutely disjoint from perception, i.e. consciousness?

    If “phenomena” existed with no need of space, time, etc, but manifested itself to perception in terms of space, time, and mass, it would then be useless to try to explain them in terms of space, time, and substance and mass.

    Part 3: Quantum Mechanics:

    Is it possible that at Quantum Mechanics a boundary has been reached which a priori concepts and awareness cannot breach? There is too much static on the line. Communication breaks up.

    From J. S. Bell: “The Six Possible Worlds of Quantum Mechanics”

    The First Possible World:

    “First and foremost, is the purely pragmatic view: As we probe the world in regions remote form ordinary experience, for example the very big or the very small, we have no right to expect that familiar notions will work. We have no right to insist on concepts like space, time, causality, or perhaps unambiguity whatsoever to a clear picture of what goes on at the atomic level. We are very lucky that we can form rules of calculation, those of wave mechanics, which work. It is true that in principle there is some ambiguity in the application of these rules, in deciding just how the world is to be divided unto the “quantum system” and the “classical “ remainder.“

    Bell does not agree with this, but this explanation is reasonable and what is further, why not apply it in to classical physics as well?

    a) The EPR Paradox:

    The EPR paradox resolved by J.S. Bell may have another interpretation.

    If “space” is a mental construct, an a priori construct, used to organize our perceptions then space has no existence outside us. The EPR paradox and its resolution do not exist outside of us.

    Einstein needn’t have worried about “spooky action at a distance” because there isn’t any “spooky action.” This is true because there isn’t any “distance,” since space is “psychological” or in other words, intrinsic.

    By means of outer sense, a property of our mind, we represent to ourselves objects as outside us, and all without exception in space.” Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason.

    Quantum entanglement dances in the dancehall of noumena.

    b) It is possible than the search for Dark Energy and Dark Matter is beyond of reach of our awareness? They are beyond the constructs of phenomena. Their manifestations are with us but their causes are on the other side of the Kantian Wall. And even if they are eventually explained as phenomena, other puzzles will arise from these efforts and continue to arise.

    In so trying to explain them as well as trying to unify gravity with quantum mechanics or to explain the magnitude of the vacuum energy, may find us forever in a Kantian mist.

    The explanation for quantum mechanics is that there is no explanation in the human sense. Its explanation is on the other side of the Kantian wall.

    The most lucid account of Quantum Mechanics:
    Mr. Lewis Carol, “The Hunting of the Snark.”
    Part 4: The Butterflies

    Isaiah, after wandering in the wilderness, preached the prophecies of God to the people. There are now a thousand Isaiahs wandering the desert preaching Godlike prophecies to the people. But it is hard to tell where these “prophecies” come from: God or the devil? And just as many may speak in tongues of religious experience it might also be said that many speak in tongues from the fountainhead of numbers.

    Part 5: Physics and Consciousness:

    Einstein deism was that there is such an esthetic order to the universe that there must be something behind it, “the old one.” But what he missed is the “esthetic order” must also include himself – or in other words consciousness. In examining the “esthetic order” of the universe he seemed to miss this fact.

    Consciousness “sees” physics. Since the nature of consciousness is unknowable then what is the state of physics?

    Since the nature of consciousness is unknowable then what is the state of any “reality” of consciousness?

    Having stripped everything to its smallest point there is still a sense that something must still exist. It is possible that this thing which is called noumena is both dark and has grandeur. Aside from physics, there is something else.

    The world is a prison inside our heads.
    And here is an odd reflexivity:

    The world is a prison inside our heads and our heads are a prison in this world which is inside our heads. And therefore we are a prison in a prison inside our heads.

    Part 6: A problem with awareness:

    a) It is apparent that as the complexity of the neurological system of a living entity increase so does its awareness. A worm or an ant has no awareness, even of pain. This conclusion seems reasonable. It is likely that a lobster as it is boiled alive, does suffer pain, at least to some degree. With the higher order animals they are at least aware of their perceptions. Whether or not they are aware that they are aware of their perceptions goes into grey areas (ask my parrot). However with the most complex neurological system of a living entity man, there is complete consciousness.

    The conclusion is readily drawn: the greater the complexity of a neurological system, the greater the awareness.

    However “the greater complexity of a neurological system” is a perception within our awareness. It is a phenomena and not something outside us. The contradiction is this: how can an appearance create consciousness?

    “Greater neurological complexity” is neurons, synapses, electric currents, chemical reactions, etc., all stuff perceived and thought of by man. What else can it be? Yet how else do we perceive the greater consciousness of man? An “appearance” is not supposed to create something. It is only there to be perceived. It is passive, not active.

    The line of questioning presented here has hit a brick wall. It would seem that “appearance” creates consciousness, but appearance is a creation of consciousness. Form is appearance not a creator.

    These questions are contradictory to what has been discussed. It could be argued that the “appearance” that we see as a body is a projection from noumena. Of what nature we have no idea.

    However it would not seem that noumena would see various degrees of biological complexity as being fit candidates for varying degrees of awareness.

    However, since we cannot possibly know what is in noumena, the projections from noumena which we interpret as phenomena are unknowable. What we see as biological complexity leading to greater degrees in awareness is in the unknowable something else which we interpret as biological complexity, as an analog from noumena...

    The chemistry, the electrical activity, the circuitry, the structures of neurons and synapses in the deep senses of noumena are representative of something else. This is as far as I can guess, but without satisfaction. It would seem that the answer to this question:
    How does the appearance of biological complexity relate to awareness and therefore to physics is the road, although impossible to travel, to a true realization of physics.

    The Rainbow:

    It would seem surprising that, as far as I know, this following question has not been asked. Not only is there awareness of the self, “das Ich,” but there are the unique five consciousnesses that are the five senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting.

    There is of course the mechanical side of it, the light sensitive retina, and the receptive cochlea of the eardrum, nerve cells, and taste buds, etc. However all these could easily be replaced by mechanical devices and hooked up to a computer.

    But the computer would not “see”, “hear”, “touch,” “smell,” “taste” that way we do. Not only is there the “main” consciousness but there are these five “little” consciousnesses. This is extraordinary and unexplainable. And how did they get to be so different?

    Part 7: Apperception, the Liars Paradox

    Going further with Kant's reasoning: if all the characteristics of perception are stripped from the object, something still remains, that which is absolutely beyond awareness. This is an interesting statement: strip consciousness from consciousness and what must remain has no consciousness though it is the foundation of consciousness. But is this true? Can noumena have awareness? “Yes” would lead to an infinite regress.

    Part 8: Two Variations on a Theme

    8a. Janus:

    The God Janus has two faces, each faced in the opposite directions. The trouble with Janus is that is he no idea what he really looks like. One face, in the direction of awareness, sees space, time, and mass and builds a universe based on the constructs of sensory experience (phenomena).

    The other face is in the direction of unawareness. What is there is utterly unknown and, in accordance with Kant, can never be known. The limits of human knowledge have been reached.

    8b. The Shadow Game

    Physics is a representation. A representation presented to who, what? To ourselves, to our awareness.

    But our awareness is also a representation, - to ourselves. Physics is then a representation presented to a representation.

    To bring this into to an analogy: physics is a shadow of a shadow. Does this mean that physics is an illusion? No. Because behind all this is something behind the shadow and the consequent shadow of a shadow which they are projected from: noumena.

    * * *

    To compound this error is that something has been forgotten. There is the first shadow, our awareness.

    It would seem that there are two phenomena: the physical world and awareness. To work as though the two are disjoint is questionable. In fact it would seem that the negligent attitude that one half of “truth” can be excluded in searching for the other half of “truth” is a bit unfair. To work as though they are conjoint may be impossible. At least at first glance. But at least this possibility should be considered.

    * * *

    Nietzsche’s knowledge seeker walks at the edge of noumena and is reprehended by a most beautiful and profound nihilism. There is a sense of lightness and freedom and elegance about it because as we stare outwards we do not see human reality. There is nothing we can see. And in nothing there may be a kind of freedom. And in nothing there may be a vastness of possibilities.

    Theory should not be a search for truth but for use. It is the geistige tier in the illusory forest of truth and self deception. It can never be hunted well or ever captured, but like all strange creatures in the
    forests of the night, it is irresistible.

    Vanities of vanities, said the preacher; all is vanity.
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  3. Oct 12, 2012 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    You do know that this forum is going away and the threads will be merged into General Discussion?
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