Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science ► 06 ► [6.2.2] Basic Unity Of Physics And Philosophy - B. Unity And Plurality In Physics - Inherent Unity Of The "Whole"

Posted: 23.04.2008

The basic oneness of the Physical Universe is one of the most important revelations of modern physics. It becomes ap­parent at the atomic level and manifests itself more and more as one penetrates deeper into matter, down into the realm of sub­atomic particles. The unity of all things and events will be a recur­ring theme throughout our comparison of modern physics and Jain philosophy, Various models of sub-atomic physics express again and again, in different ways, the same insight - that the con­stituents of matter and the basic phenomena involving them are all inter-connected, inter-related and inter-dependent; that they cannot be understood as isolated entities, but only as integrated parts of the whole.

Quantum theory, in particular, reveals an essential inter-connectedness of the universe. It shows that we cannot decom­pose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, we find that it is made of particles, but these are not the 'basic building blocks' in the sense in which Democritus and Newton believed them to be. They are merely idealization which are useful from practical point of view but have no fundamental significance. In the words of Niels Bohr, one of the founders of the Quantum Theory, and a protagonist of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, "Isolated material particles are abstractions.................".

The Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory is not universally accepted. The universal inter-connectedness of things and events, however, seems to be a fundamental feature of the atomic reality. The following passage from a recent article by David Bohm, one of the main opponents of the Copenhagen In­terpretation, confirms this fact most eloquently:

"One is led to a new notion of unbroken wholeness which denies the classical idea of analysability of the world into separately and independently existing parts......... We have reversed the usual classical notion that the independent 'elementary parts' of the world are the fundamental reality, and that the various systems are merely particular contingent forms and arrangements of these parts. Rather, we say that inseparable quantum inter-con­nectedness of the whole universe is the fundamental reality, and the relatively independently behaving parts are merely particular and contingent forms within this whole1. Thus, from the above, it is quite clear that whereas fun­damental reality was assigned to the "parts and constituents" of the physical universe by Democritus and Newton, the most modern physicists are inclined to reverse the position and con­sider "whole" to be the fundamental reality, relegating the "parts" to mere abstraction as is evident from the above statement of Dr. Bohm.


  1. D. Bohm and B. Hiley, "On the intuitive Understanding of Non-locality as Implied by Quantum Theory', Foundations of Physics, vol. 5 0975), pp. 96, 102.
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