Quantum physics – is reality all in the mind?

May 2024 Forums General discussion Quantum physics – is reality all in the mind?

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    <p dir=”ltr”>”He who asserts the doctrine of Necessity means that, contemplating the events which compose the moral and material universe, he beholds only an immense and uninterrupted chain of causes and effects, no one of which could occupy any other place than it does occupy, or act in any other place than it does act. The idea of necessity is obtained by our experience of the connection between objects, the uniformity of the operations of nature, the constant conjunction of similar events, and the consequent inference of one from the other. Mankind are therefore agreed in the admission of necessity, if they admit that these two circumstances take place in voluntary action. Motive is to voluntary action in the human mind what cause is to effect in the material universe. The word liberty, as applied to mind, is analogous to the word chance as applied to matter: they spring from an ignorance of the certainty of the conjunction of antecedents and consequents.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>Every human being is irresistibly impelled to act as he does act: in the eternity which preceded his birth a chain of causes was generated, which, operating under the name of motives, make it impossible that any thought of his mind, or any action of his life, should be otherwise than it is. Were the doctrine of Necessity false, the human mind would no longer be a legitimate object of science; from like causes it would be in vain that we should expect like effects; the strongest motive would no longer be paramount over the conduct; all knowledge would be vague and undeterminate; we could not predict with any certainty that we might not meet as an enemy to-morrow him with whom we have parted in friendship to-night; the most probable inducements and the clearest reasonings would lose the invariable influence they possess. The contrary of this is demonstrably the fact. Similar circumstances produce the same unvariable effects. The precise character and motives of any man on any occasion being given, the moral philosopher could predict his actions with as much certainty as the natural philosopher could predict the effects of the mixture of any particular chemical substances. Why is the aged husbandman more experienced than the young beginner? Because there is a uniform, undeniable necessity in the operations of the material universe. Why is the old statesman more skilful than the raw politician? Because, relying on the necessary conjunction of motive and action, he proceeds to produce moral effects, by the application of those moral causes which experience has shown to be effectual. Some actions may be found to which we can attach no motives, but these are the effects of causes with which we are unacquainted. Hence the relation which motive bears to voluntary action is that of cause to effect; nor, placed in this point of view, is it, or ever has it been, the subject of popular or philosophical dispute. None but the few fanatics who are engaged in the herculean task of reconciling the justice of their God with the misery of man, will longer outrage common sense by the supposition of an event without a cause, a voluntary action without a motive. History, politics, morals, criticism, all grounds of reasonings, all principles of science, alike assume the truth of the doctrine of Necessity. No farmer carrying his corn to market doubts the sale of it at the market price. The master of a manufactory no more doubts that he can purchase the human labour necessary for his purposes than that his machinery will act as they have been accustomed to act.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>But, whilst none have scrupled to admit necessity as influencing matter, many have disputed its dominion over mind. Independently of its militating with the received ideas of the justice of God, it is by no means obvious to a superficial inquiry. When the mind observes its own operations, it feels no connection of motive and action: but as we know ‘nothing more of causation than the constant conjunction of objects and the consequent inference of one from the other, as we find that these two circumstances are universally allowed to have place in voluntary action, we may be easily led to own that they are subjected to the necessity common to all causes.’ The actions of the will have a regular conjunction with circumstances and characters; motive is to voluntary action what cause is to effect. But the only idea we can form of causation is a constant conjunction of similar objects, and the consequent inference of one from the other: wherever this is the case necessity is clearly established.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>The idea of liberty, applied metaphorically to the will, has sprung from a misconception of the meaning of the word power. What is power? — <i>id</i><i> </i><i>quod</i><i> </i><i>potest</i>, that which can produce any given effect. To deny power is to say that nothing can or has the power to be or act. In the only true sense of the word power, it applies with equal force to the lodestone as to the human will. Do you think these motives, which I shall present, are powerful enough to rouse him? is a question just as common as, Do you think this lever has the power of raising this weight? The advocates of free-will assert that the will has the power of refusing to be determined by the strongest motive: but the strongest motive is that which, overcoming all others, ultimately prevails; this assertion therefore amounts to a denial of the will being ultimately determined by that motive which does determine it, which is absurd. But it is equally certain that a man cannot resist the strongest motive as that he cannot overcome a physical impossibility.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>The doctrine of Necessity tends to introduce a great change into the established notions of morality, and utterly to destroy religion. Reward and punishment must be considered, by the Necessarian, merely as motives which he would employ in order to procure the adoption or abandonment of any given line of conduct. Desert, in the present sense of the word, would no longer have any meaning; and he who should inflict pain upon another for no better reason than that he deserved it, would only gratify his revenge under pretence of satisfying justice. It is not enough, says the advocate of free-will, that a criminal should be prevented from a repetition of his crime: he should feel pain, and his torments, when justly inflicted, ought precisely to be proportioned to his fault. But utility is morality; that which is incapable of producing happiness is useless; and though the crime of Damiens must be condemned, yet the frightful torments which revenge, under the name of justice, inflicted on this unhappy man cannot be supposed to have augmented, even at the long run, the stock of pleasurable sensation in the world. At the same time, the doctrine of Necessity does not in the least diminish our disapprobation of vice. The conviction which all feel that a viper is a poisonous animal, and that a tiger is constrained, by the inevitable condition of his existence, to devour men, does not induce us to avoid them less sedulously, or, even more, to hesitate in destroying them: but he would surely be of a hard heart who, meeting with a serpent on a desert island, or in a situation where it was incapable of injury, should wantonly deprive it of existence. A Necessarian is inconsequent to his own principles if he indulges in hatred or contempt; the compassion which he feels for the criminal is unmixed with a desire of injuring him: he looks with an elevated and dreadless composure upon the links of the universal chain as they pass before his eyes; whilst cowardice, curiosity, and inconsistency only assail him in proportion to the feebleness and indistinctness with which he has perceived and rejected the delusions of free-will.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>Religion is the perception of the relation in which we stand to the principle of the universe. But if the principle of the universe be not an organic being, the model and prototype of man, the relation between it and human beings is absolutely none. Without some insight into its will respecting our actions religion is nugatory and vain. But will is only a mode of animal mind; moral qualities also are such as only a human being can possess; to attribute them to the principle of the universe is to annex to it properties incompatible with any possible definition of its nature. It is probable that the word God was originally only an expression denoting the unknown cause of the known events which men perceived in the universe. By the vulgar mistake of a metaphor for a real being, of a word for a thing, it became a man, endowed with human qualities and governing the universe as an earthly monarch governs his kingdom. Their addresses to this imaginary being, indeed, are much in the same style as those of subjects to a king. They acknowledge his benevolence, deprecate his anger, and supplicate his favour.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>But the doctrine of Necessity teaches us that in no case could any event have happened otherwise than it did happen, and that, if God is the author of good, He is also the author of evil; that, if He is entitled to our gratitude for the one, He is entitled to our hatred for the other; that, admitting the existence of this hypothetic being, He is also subjected to the dominion of an immutable necessity. It is plain that the same arguments which prove that God is the author of food, light, and life, prove Him also to be the author of poison, darkness, and death. The wide-wasting earthquake, the storm, the battle, and the tyranny, are attributable to this hypothetic being in the same degree as the fairest forms of nature, sunshine, liberty, and peace.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>But we are taught, by the doctrine of Necessity, that there is neither good nor evil in the universe, otherwise than as the events to which we apply these epithets have relation to our own peculiar mode of being. Still less than with the hypothesis of a God will the doctrine of Necessity accord with the belief of a future state of punishment. God made man such as he is, and then damned him for being so: for to say that God was the author of all good, and man the author of evil, is to say that one man made a straight line and a crooked one, and another man made the incongruity.</p>
    <p dir=”ltr”>A Mahometan story, much to the present purpose, is recorded, wherein Adam and Moses are introduced disputing before God in the following manner. Thou, says Moses, art Adam, whom God created, and animated with the breath of life, and caused to be worshipped by the angels, and placed in Paradise, from whence mankind have been expelled for thy fault. Whereto Adam answered, Thou are Moses, whom God chose for His apostle, and entrusted with His word by giving thee the tables of the law, and whom He vouchsafed to admit to discourse with Himself. How many years dost thou find the law was written before I was created? Says Moses, Forty. And dost thou not find, replied Adam, these words therein, And Adam rebelled against his Lord and transgressed? Which Moses confessing, Dost thou therefore blame me, continued he, for doing that which God wrote of me that I should do, forty years before I was created, nay, for what was decreed concerning me fifty thousand years before the creation of heaven and earth?” — Sale’s <i>Preliminary Discourse to the Koran</i>, p.164.</p>


    So, L. Bird, if humans created nature, they created the Earth and the stars, and all other living beings. They created the dinosaurs, the wild grasses, the mountains, the sun and the moon. Anthropos, supreme deity.


    I don’t need to lose myself in Marx’s convoluted language. I have all I need from Marx – how capitalism functions, wages system, surplus value. In that respect I’m a Marxist. His Victorian, bourgeois-progressivist and speciesist, shallow, interpretation of Darwin can go get buggered. Marx is no god. He was not an expert on Darwinism. He was just a man of his time with limits and fallible. He was a reductionist in many ways, which I am not. And he was a human supremacist.

    I am a Marxist only in the political sense.
    I am not going to seek to impose my humanness on the cosmos. Such arrogance is ridiculous and unscientific.


    John Oswald wrote: “So, L. Bird, if humans created nature, they created the Earth and the stars, and all other living beings. They created the dinosaurs, the wild grasses, the mountains, the sun and the moon. Anthropos, supreme deity.

    Thanks again, John, for a model ‘explanation’ of what Marx argues, from a materialist’s perspective.

    All materialists separate ‘mind’ from ‘matter’, ‘consciousness’ from ‘being’, ‘humanity’ from ‘nature’ – even though they claim to be ‘monists’.

    Marxists do not do this – their account always includes both.

    So, for example, we don’t separate ‘dinosaurs’ from ‘knowledge of dinosaurs’, and pretend that some special ‘scientist’ has access to ‘dinosaurs’ that doesn’t involve our active participation. Any ‘dinosaur’ that we know has been create by us – that’s why we can give a socio-historical account of ‘dinosaur construction’, and, for example, see how different our view of ‘dinosaur’ differs from the Victorian view of ‘dinosaur’. There isn’t (and never will be) a ‘final’ account of ‘dinosaur-for-us’ which is ‘dinosaur-in-itself’.

    But, to be clear, this is not just a ‘historical’ problem about ‘dinosaurs’. Exactly the same point applies to ‘nature’, ‘Earth’, ‘stars’, ‘beings’… and indeed ‘rocks’, ‘bricks’, ‘matter’, etc., etc.

    And yes, for Marx, humanity was the ‘supreme deity’.

    And he also pointed out that, since a ‘supreme deity’ is always need for organised, conscious production to take place, the materialists, having falsely claimed that they deal only with ‘dinosaurs’ or ‘rocks’ in-themselves’, will proceed to produce ‘dinosaurs’ or ‘matter’ for their own, elite, undemocratic purposes. They’ll claim ‘objectivity’, of course! But we know, this elite will play the part of the ‘supreme deity’. They’ll retain power.

    This is the whole point of Marx’s view of socialism: it’s a creation of the mass of humanity, by democratic means.

    Materialists, as did Lenin, dispute this, and wish to retain the power of production for an elite. They call it ‘Science’. And they won’t have democratic control of physics. Or of ‘dinosaurs-in-themselves’. 😉


    John Oswald wrote: “I am a Marxist only in the political sense.

    Unfortunately, you’re not even that, John.

    Politics is about power, and Marx argued for democratic power.

    I think that quite probably you’ve either read Engels or heard Engels’ views from other materialists, and had them labelled ‘Marxism’.

    Whatever your ideology is, and to me it seems to be a pretty standard bourgeois materialism/physicalism/realism, it’s nothing whatsoever to do with Marx’s social productionism, the belief that humanity socially produces its world, a ‘universe-for-us’, a ‘nature-for-us’, and that that production should be democratic.


    Socialists who say they are materialists but believe in non-material substances, including non-material mind, free will and human divinity should petition Rome for a mass baptism and a receiving into the Church.
    … Oh, wait a minute … The Catholic Church has now accepted evolution as valid science. Oh drat!


    A pair of legs went walking. But then Walking got sick of doing what Legs did.
    “I’m Walking”, said Walking, “and i’m free to walk on my own.”
    So Walking left Legs and went walking by himself, without legs.


    John Oswald wrote: “Socialists who say they are materialists but believe in non-material substances, including non-material mind, free will and human divinity should petition Rome for a mass baptism and a receiving into the Church.
    … Oh, wait a minute … The Catholic Church has now accepted evolution as valid science. Oh drat!


    Yeah, it’s been said before, John, that ‘Socialism’ is a form of religion, and that socialists regard Marx as a prophet!

    But… there’s no substitute for discussing just who the materialists have in mind for their god – ‘Science’ or ‘Matter’.

    Whichever it is, it certainly isn’t the great mass of humanity.

    That’s why your ideology of materialism/physicalism/realism isn’t suited to any democratic socialism. It contains no account of ‘social production’, no account of ‘democratic control’, no account of socio-historic change… in fact, it’s supposedly ‘objective’, so it doesn’t require any of these essentially human requirements.

    Oh, and when the materialists find ‘mind’ in the wet brain, be sure to tell us.

    We’re going to have a long wait, because ‘mind’ or ‘consciousness’ is a social product, not wet matter. But try telling the current generation of researchers…


    Mind is a function of matter, as is walking. We know which areas of the brain are responsible for what, as Stephen Hawking says here.

    So no, they won’t find Mind or Consciousness, any more than they will find Walking; because these are not entities. They are material properties.

    As for social history: the  materialist understanding of it is proof of the reality of cause and effect.

    Stephen Hawking:

    “Do people have free will? If we have free will, where in the evolutionary tree did it develop? Do blue-green algae or bacteria have free will, or is their behavior automatic and within the realm of scientific law? Is it only multicelled organisms that have free will, or only mammals? We might think that a chimpanzee is exercising free will when it chooses to chomp on a banana, or a cat when it rips up your sofa, but what about the roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans—a simple creature made of only 959 cells? It probably never thinks, “That was damn tasty bacteria I got to dine on back there,” yet it too has a definite preference in food and will either settle for an unattractive meal or go foraging for something better, depending on recent experience. Is that the exercise of free will?
    Though we feel that we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets. Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our actions, and not some agency that exists outside those laws. For example, a study of patients undergoing awake brain surgery found that by electrically stimulating the appropriate regions of the brain, one could create in the patient the desire to move the hand, arm, or foot, or to move the lips and talk. It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”


    You can all keep your stinking Marxist human supremacism! And your non-materialist idealist anti-scientific drivel!


    We don’t need Marx or Engels, what we need is the political, social,  economical knowledge,  and the class consciousness that they had. If Marx did not call himself a Marxist, why some peoples continue using the same term ? Rejecting Engels, but he was one of the personality who used the concept of Marxists and Marxism, along with Bakunin and others close collaborators of Marx, and the wrong concept of ideology. The working class around needs a new system of production, nothing else, but they do not have real class consciounes


    Every time that we have topics similar to this one, instead of discussing about the essence of the article or the post, the post is always taken into a different route by a few peoples. Probably, it would be better to publish article about baseball


    Mind is a function of matter, and the properties of mind include analytical thought, such as philosophical problems.
    I am not a genetic determinist. But I am a determinist in that every effect is preceded by its cause. Hence, social history and the evolution of ideas, none of which would make sense or happen if the mind was a separate entity.

    Hi John

    Nobody is saying the mind is a “separate entity”.   You need a brain to think with. But this is not the issue.  The issue is whether the mind is therefore a “function of matter”.  To say that it is amounts to reductionist physicalism.


    It is the same kind of reductionism that says there is “no such thing as society, there is only individuals (and families)”.  Now it is clear that you cannot have society without individuals (just as you cannot have thoughts without the brains neurons)  but that does not mean society is a mere epiphenomenon that does not really exist or that it cannot exert “downward causation” on individuals – in other words influence individuals.

    If something exerts downward causation – acts as cause which induces an effect on that which it supervenes or depends for its existence  – then it has a degree of relative autonomy – NOT absolute autonomy, note – with regard to that upon which it supervenes.  Society has a degree of relative autonomy vis a vis individuals in that it has its own dynamic, it own laws which influence individuals.


    Mind too has a degree of relatively autonomy vis a vis the brain inasmuch as it can exert downward causation.   One  example of this would be psychosomatic effects.  Of course, it is true  that direction of causality works the other way too.  Consider the influence of hormones.   The issue is not whether or not there is cause and effect coming into play but the orgin and direction of causality in particular instances.


    Emergence theory is based on the idea that there is a hierarchy of levels of reality which corresponds to the way the world evolved – from inorganic to organic to consciousness itself.  Each level is dependent on the one below but is nor reducible to it.  Chemistry is nor reducible to physics any more than biology is reducible to chemistry or psychology to biology or sociology to psychology




    John Oswald wrote: “You can all keep your stinking Marxist human supremacism! And your non-materialist idealist anti-scientific drivel!

    Yeah, this is always the materialists’ response to reasoned argument, historical knowledge and philosophical expertise in workers. The replacement of political argument with personal abuse is the standard reply, and the archetypal example of this was the materialist Lenin, in texts like his Materialism and Empiriocriticism. There is never any attempt to analyse the opponent’s argument or outline the materialist’s own, but simply a resort to name-calling. This was how Lenin responded to Bogdanov’s arguments, which were far closer to Marx’s, than Lenin’s were.

    The epithet ‘Idealist!’ plays the same role as does ‘Satanist!’ in a church’s reply to atheistic criticism. And materialists wouldn’t know ‘anti-scientific drivel’, because they refuse to give an account of ‘science’ to measure ‘drivel’ against, because any socio-historical account of ‘science’ shows that it’s nothing to do with materialism, has its modern origins in the bourgeois defeat of revolutionary, democratic science, and that ‘science’ changes constantly. Only Marx’s social productionism can deal with these issues about ‘science’, and attempt an answer to the question posed in the thread title.

    Physics and mathematics are social products, and change, and any democratic socialism will have to explain how these, and all academic disciplines, can be democratised, so that we, the associated producers, can control these changes. Otherwise, ‘reality’ will be in the hands of an elite.


    The title of this thread is ‘Is reality all in the mind?’

    There are three possible answers, which correspond to the three politico-philosophical positions that I outlined earlier.

    1. Idealism answers ‘reality is in the divine mind‘;
    2. Materialism answers ‘reality is in reality-itself‘.
    3. Marxism answers ‘reality is a reality-for-us, a social product, which we actively produce, and so we can change it’.

    The elite social producers of ‘Quantum physics’ are trying to fool us that the ‘reality’ that they produce is ‘reality-itself’. Only we can democratically determine whether ‘quantum physics’ suits the interests, aims and purposes of ‘reality-for-us’. We can change this ‘reality’, it isn’t a ‘final’ account of ‘reality-itself’, or an ‘Ultimate Truth’.

    Whatever the quantum physicists write today about ‘reality’, they wrote differently in the past, and they’ll write differently in the future.

    Any ‘reality’ that we know, has a history, is a social product, and changes – it is a changing, socio-historical product, a ‘reality-for-us’.

    And democratic socialism would mean that we politically control its production, for our benefit. ‘Science’ must mean the creation of a better world for all, not the supposed disinterested exposing of a ‘truth-out-there’ by an unelected elite of ‘experts’.

    Physics is a political issue.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by LBird.
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