Lately in my inquiry into the ways in which the Internet is shaping our reality I have been comparing Kant’s philosophy vis-à-vis quantum physics and what it ushers into our consciousness as a possible reality. Of course, as most historians of philosophy will agree, we owe Kant’s influential perspectives to David Hume’s challenge to classical philosophy. After David Hume, folks were looking into closing the book on philosophy. But Herr Professor Kant who in his late middle-age decided to take up Hume’s challenge would have none of that. Upon responding to Hume, Kant famously pronounced that Humean skepticism awakened him “from his dogmatic slumbers,” hence starting a whole new chapter in philosophy.
In his new and improved way to see the world, Kant looked at the mind with a brave new system of philosophical conception. He saw the mind as an active entity that utilizes intuition, perception, deep understanding, reflection, and reasoning. Kant believed that although our minds conceive of “reality” as a result of experiencing that “reality,” we have no direct access to the “real world” as the ways in which we perceive the world is in fact warped by the limitations of our minds. So for Kant the real world is independent of our minds. Sounds like a footnote to Plato. Nonetheless, considered an original approach, Kant named this so-called real world the “noumenal world.” I wonder what he would be thinking in respect to the Internet and the how “the digital way” is permeating every facet of our lives in the developed world, and soon the rest of the globe as well. In some ways the Internet is mirroring what quantum physics has been theorizing. But more on that later. Indeed, we can refer to this way of experiencing reality as a phenomenal reality.
Many philosophers and social scientists claim the world we perceive is the phenomenal world. Then again, from a metaphysical perspective, one that is grounded in scientific thinking, we could argue that our whole experience of the world is a blend of the noumenal and the phenomenal. Kant would argue that our perception is obscured, given that we receive everything in terms of time and space, and science cannot help us there. But there was no quantum physics in those days. So, following that logic we actually construct the notion of time and space.
So, what about the quantum paradigm? There are three things that distinguish the quantum world from the classical word. Indeterminism, Nonlocality, and Holism. Indeterminism tells us that even if we know the condition and location of subatomic particles, from Newtonian physics we can’t know where these particles will be or what may happen to them in the future with certainty. The German film, Run Lola Run (1998) made by Tom Tykwer toys with this idea in a quantum fashion, where Lola runs against conventional reality. Non-locality proves that a pair of subatomic particles that come into interaction, can and often do disjoin and go to different places. However, it has been known–and exaggerated cinematically in Run Lola Run–that this interaction can, and does, affect each particle despite the fact that there seems to be a great distance between particles. Holism shows that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. In short, even if we know all properties of quanta that are parts of a complex entity, such as a human being, the complex entity has a holistic property that we cannot know–and is changing all the time.
In order to understand quantum reality, predicated on findings of quantum physics (mechanics), we need to acquire a new language. We cannot speak in Newtonian language and expect to be inside this paradigm. With the new language of course we can start asking questions like, “To what extent can we find freedom to gain access to the real reality?”
Freedom vs. determinism has been one of the most fundamental issues that have kept philosophers of past and present occupied. Given this fundamental problem at hand, how does quantum paradigm deal with freedom, consciousness and determinism or rather indeterminism? If Newton was right, and many still think he may have been free will is a convoluted notion. What if the future is determined because the physical reality presents to us the states of objects, conceived in time and space? Conversely, Quantum physics, producing a sort of quantum realty, dictates much indeterminism. Ironically we have to employ Aristotelian logic to make sense out of quantum reality, hence the language problem we must solve. Scientific experiments have proven that subatomic particles are quite unpredictable and can be at two places at once. So, if we as human beings are made up of these subatomic particles, does it not make sense to draw a conclusion that we can be at two places at once as well? As I alluded to earlier, this of course requires a radical way in which we understand reality. We as human beings may just be indeterministic. As it stands, we simply have not acquired the tools to access the “real” reality. The internet is ushering in some of these new tools to help us to at least develop new metaphysical theories. Someday, perhaps! Unless of course that day has come and gone or keeps coming and going!