“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, December 24, 2010

Zeilinger among the Philosophers

A lot of Dance of the Photon is written as narrative. Now I'm in a section written, suitably, as dialogue (shades of Plato), featuring two physics students and a philosophy student. It's revealing because it shows us how physics (via Anton Zeilinger, a master of engtanglement) perceives philosophy.

Quite sadly, philosophers (according to Zeilinger) don't care who Edwin Schrödinger is, and mount absurdly aggressive ontic arguments like “But I can SEE these mountains, so they exist!” when confronted by quantum theory. They have no idea of the last one hundred years of science. I'm sorry to say that might be quite accurate. I can't tell you the number of times the analytics at Oxford just brayed “But this beer is right here, I can SEE it!” at me when I asked them to prove it existed.

The other lot (the continentals) have been so busy with the grounding of the event of the moment of the clearing of the lighting of the whateverbeing that they forgot to read Einstein or anything after him...

(BTW Einstein does hyperbolic argument, a la Graham—he assumes quantum theory is completely true in his famous EPR essay on nonlocality, then works from there. Look and learn my friends.)

It's a shame, because the physics students admit they can't disprove a Berkeleyan idealist interpretation of quantum theory. They forget to add, “from within physics as such.” This is where philosophy could come in handy. I'm hoping my essay for Qui Parle will help in this area.

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