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The Enigma Of The Universe : 2. Philosophy of Heisenberg and the Jain View

Published: 03.01.2015
Updated: 13.01.2015

Amongst the scientists there are many who subscribe to the pluralistic realism. For example, Newton accepted the existence of both physical and non-physical existences as real. Among the modern scientists, as we have seen, Whittaker and some others held this view and accepted the objective reality of the physical substance. Specially, Werner Heisenberg who is one of the most eminent physicists of the modern age stands prominent among the pluralist realists. In his famous work Physics and Philosophy, he has dwelt upon the philosophy of the modern physics. There, he has accepted the objective real existence of the physical objects (or the physical world) and also accepted the real existence of consciousness, independent of the physical existence. At one place, he observes:[1] "It is very difficult to see how concepts like perception; function of an organ, affection could be a part of the coherent set of the concepts of quantum theory combined with the concept of history. On the other hand, these concepts are necessary for a complete description of life, even if for the moment we exclude mankind as presenting new problems beyond biology.

"Therefore, it will probably be necessary for an understanding of life to go beyond quantum theory and to construct a new coherent set of concepts, to which physics and chemistry may belong as 'limiting cases', history may be an essential part of it, and concept like perception, adaptation, affection also will belong to it. If this view is correct, the combination of Darwin's theory with physics and chemistry would not be sufficient to explain organic life; but still it would be true that living organism can to a large extent be considered as physicochemical systems-as machines, as Descartes and Laplace have put it-and would if treated as such, also react as such. One could at the same time assume, as Bohr has suggested, that our knowledge of a cell being alive may be complementary to the complete knowledge of its molecular structure. Since a complete knowledge of this structure could possibly be achieved only by operations that destroy the life of the cell, it is logically possible that life precludes the complete determination of its underlying physico-chemical structure. Even if one holds this second view one would probably recommend for biological research no other method than has been pursued in the past decades: attempting to explain as much possible on the basis of the known physico-chemical laws and describing the behaviour of organisms carefully and without theoretical prejudices.

"The first of these two views is more common among modern biologists than the second; but the experience available at present is certainly not sufficient to decide between the two views. The preference that is given by many biologists to the first view may be due again to the Cartesian partition, which has penetrated so deeply into the human mind during the past centuries, Since the 'res cogitans' was confined to men, to the 'I', the animals could have no soul, they belonged exclusively to the 'res extensa'. Therefore, the animals can be understood, so it is argued, on the same terms as matter in general, and the laws of physics and chemistry together with the concept of history must be sufficient to explain their behaviour. It is only when the 'res cogitans' is brought in that a new situation arises which will require entirely new concepts. But the Cartesian partition is a dangerous oversimplification and it is therefore quite possible that the second view is the correct one. "

The world thus appears as a complicated tissue of events, in which connections of different kinds alternate or overlap or combine and thereby determine the texture of the whole.

"But even if complete clarity has been achieved in this way, it is not known how accurately the set of concepts describes reality."

Again he observes:[2] "Any concepts or words which have been formed in the past through the interplay between the world and ourselves are not really sharply defined with respect to their meaning; that is to say, we do not know exactly how far they will help us in finding our way in the world. We often know that they can be applied.

"This is true even of the simplest and most general concepts like 'existence' and 'space and time'. Therefore, it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth."

We may include Heisenberg's view in "modern positivism". He himself dealing with modern positivism writes:[3] "The criticism of metaphysical realism which has been expressed in empiristic philosophy is certainly justified in so far as it is a warning against the naive use of the term 'existence'.

"The underlying difficulty has been clearly recognized by modern positivism. This line of thought expresses criticism against the naive use of certain terms like 'thing', 'perception' 'existence' by the general postulate that the question whether a given sentence has any meaning at all should always be thoroughly and critically examined. This postulate and its underlying attitude are derived from mathematical logic. The procedure of natural science is pictured as an attachment of symbols to the phenomena. The symbols can, as in mathematics, be combined according to certain rules, and in this way statements about the phenomena can he represented by combinations of symbols. However, a combination of symbols that does not comply with the rules is not wrong but conveys no meaning."

Now, if we compare Heisenberg's view with the Jain view, we may say that among the modern scientists, it is the view of Heisenberg that is very akin to the Jain view. Both accept real existence of matter as well as consciousness. However, we cannot make a detailed comparison of Jain epistemology with that of Heisenberg's view, as we do not get his epistemological view in detail.

There are many more physicists and scientists who accept the reality of both matter and consciousness. David Bohm[4] who has made a thorough research in the field of consciousness is one of the most eminent physicists believing in the real independent existence of consciousness. At the same time, he accepts the reality of matter. Although it would be much interesting to have a detailed discussion on David Bohm's theory, yet it would be beyond the scope of this book, for it would be too complicated and lengthy.

We conclude here the comparison of the Jain view with the views of western philosophers and scientists.


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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Consciousness
  2. Descartes
  3. Heisenberg
  4. Newton
  5. Quantum Theory
  6. Science
  7. Soul
  8. Werner Heisenberg
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