Quantum Mechanics, Metaphysics, and Bohm’s Implicate Order [SSE]
George R. Williams
Quantum mechanics has provided a successful framework for describing the behavior of the subatomic world. However its ontological interpretation remains mysterious. Alternative interpretations include aspects of our reality existing in quantum superposition prior to measurement (Copenhagen) or splitting into multiple separate realities (Everett). Quantum mechanics also challenges our metaphysical notions or underlying assumptions about reality. The best-known example, perhaps, is the nonlocality between subatomic particles that has been experimentally confirmed. Einstein and his colleagues vigorously argued that quantum mechanics violates locality and therefore had to be incomplete. However, nonlocality was confirmed to be an intrinsic aspect of quantum mechanics.
This historical debate on nonlocality raises the question of what role metaphysical assumptions play among competing interpretations. Another class of quantum mechanical interpretations seeks description of reality more congruent with our experience, yet via sharper deviations in our underlying metaphysical assumptions. Bohm introduced his guidance equation to provide an interpretation for quantum mechanics that allowed particles to have definite location and trajectory. However Bohm achieved this by positing that the movement of particles depended on the configuration space, whose dimensionality is three times the number of particles in the universe. Bohm’s approach suggests that we can perhaps achieve an ontology that is congruent with classical physics through a quantum potential function that is inherently nonlocal and holistic. While most physicists have not followed Bohm’s approach, some find its ontology more appealing than the alternatives. A key question arises, however, is what are the implications of the fact that the quantum waveform operates in a high dimensional (configuration) space. What is this high-dimensional space about? Some have argued that this high dimensional space is real and represents a more fundamental level of reality.
Bohm’s later work proposed that this high-dimensional space of the waveform represents a more fundamental level of reality, an implicate order, which is the foundation for both consciousness and matter. Few physicists or philosophers have been willing to take this step, primarily because of the generally accepted assumption that consciousness supervenes on matter. However the arguments of Chalmers and other philosophers of mind imply that consciousness probably does not emerge from matter. Also the work of Tonini has illustrated that subjective experience seems to require an extraordinary amount of information and dimensions. Thus a framework that takes the high dimensionality of the waveform as real and foundational for both matter and consciousness appears to be a viable alternative, not just a solution for the measurement problem in quantum mechanics, but the hard problem of consciousness as well.
Another important advantage of this approach is that it provides a framework that is consistent with the psi literature. Bohm’s implicate order, existing as a proto-conscious, nonlocal potentia, can provide promising explanations for such psi categories as clairvoyance, precognition, and mind-matter interaction. Thus Bohm’s implicate order, while radical in some respects, distinguishes itself from other interpretations of quantum mechanics through its implications for empirical testing.
Recorded at the Society for Scientific Exploration Conference in Boulder, Colorado 2016.
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Published on November 22, 2018