(The New) Quantum Touching
A Cinematic Model of
Instantaneous Action-at-a-Distance

April 2003

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Index   |   Abstract   |   Introduction   |   Action-at-a-Distance (Sections 1-6)   |   Special Relativity: The Cinematic Deduction   |   Philosophical Background (Sections 1 to 4)   |   Implications for Cosmology   |   Relevant Publications   |   Curriculum Vitae

Philosophical Background

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1. The Bogus Dichotomy, in Physics, of Positivism v Realism

There are no non-philosophical approaches to physics. All approaches are from philosophical positions whose adoption is either recognised or unrecognised by those who hold those positions. In physics, for instance, there is a distinctly philosophical division between two factions. These are, in the 'red corner', as it were, the Positivists, for whom everything has to be couched in terms of either direct or instrumental observational data, whilst in the opposite 'blue corner' are the reactionary anti-Positivists, the self-styled 'Realists', for whom these 'observations' of the Positivists are no more than subjective appearances of what are for them (the 'Realists') the real physical goings-on behind the scenes. (The 'Realists' refer to these underlying realities as 'hidden mechanisms' or 'hidden variables'.) Between these two polarised attitude-extremes are all the various, mostly undeclared, un-thought-out approaches to physics which, for all that they may purport to be 'non-philosophical' are the vestigial bits and bobs of bygone and often extinct philosophical theories. These concealed and unexamined, 'off-the-peg' special philosophical assumptions are, by definition, dogmas, usually expressed in the view that philosophy is a purely academic subject with little or no relevance to the much more practical concerns of the physics community. The fact that physics is now philosophically divided by the chronically unresolved conflict between Positivism and Realism goes unrecognised and/or unheeded.

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2. Normal Realism: the Rejection of the Bogus Dichotomy

By contrast, the well-defined and well-debated philosophical position from which the physics theory of Quantum Immediacy (Quantum Touching) stems is that of NORMAL REALISM. This was conceived in the 1960s in opposition not only to Logical Positivism but also to the reactionary 'Realism' of the anti-Positivists - that is, in opposition to that whole, long-outworn, scholastic dichotomy. Normal Realism began at the University of Wales, Bangor, in discussions between two mature-age Philosophy undergraduates, N. V. Pope and G. A. Evans, who were stimulated by their reading of the famous 1903 philosophical essay 'The Refutation of Idealism' by the Cambridge commonsense philosopher, G. E. Moore (Mind, N.S. Vol. xii, 1903, also Philosophical Studies, Routledge, London, 1960, Ch. 1). That essay destroyed Pope's previous leanings towards Positivism by convincing him that the premise on which Logical Positivism is based - hence also the 'Realistic' reaction to it - is logically untenable. This Positivist premise is, basically, George Berkeley's 18th Century dictum esse is percipi ('To be is to be perceived'). Prior to Pope's reading of Moore's Essay, he had accepted that dictum of Berkeley's as a truism and as a natural basis for the Relativity of Einstein - who, in following Mach had also followed Berkeley. That dictum had also formed the basis of his (Pope's) own Pythagorean paraphrase of the Einsteinian theory. (See Section SPECIAL RELATIVITY, also RELEVANT PUBLICATIONS Nos. 2, 8, 16, 22.) Moore's analysis, however, persuaded him that there is no logical, empirical nor, indeed, any justification whatsoever for regarding that dictum of Berkeley's as true.

If true, then the disastrous consequence of that (happily bogus) dictum would be that whatever is not actually being perceived does not exist, which has had the effect of throwing academic philosophy into a two-centuries-long tizzy. However, as another modern commonsense philosopher, J. L. Austin pointed out, in any ordinary-language sense, 'perceiving' means not only 'seeing' in the narrow sense of actually receiving visual data but also, to a very large extent, inferring from what is actually seen. For instance, in any commonsense way of speaking when we are as sure as we can ever be that what we see is, say, a pig, it is ordinarily well-understood that there are bits of the animal we do not actually see, such as its other side, its insides and other bits hidden, perhaps, by intervening objects. If those bits did not exist, then the pig would not be a pig - not a live one, at any rate. To speak, then, as though 'perceiving' meant just noting and collating those punctiform bits of visual and other data that happen, at an instant, to impinge on one's senses, and that nothing exists apart from those sense-data, far from being the 'truest, most scientific and logical use of language', as the Logical Positivists originally claimed, is just sheer nonsense.

For those philosophers, then, who, as Pope subsequently discovered, had been no less enlightened than he had by Moore's 'Refutation', the Positivist notion of such an ideally precise, 'metalanguage' of logically and mathematically structured 'data' as a description of physical reality is absurd. For these fellow converts, the 'Ordinary Language' philosophers, therefore, all true descriptions of reality revert, by default, to the evolved and evolving everyday language-usage of ordinary folk. Even the very founders of Logical Positivism, such as Wittgenstein and Ayer, eventually came to realise that their attempts to 'rationalise' ordinary language by restructuring it on the basis of their idealised logical-cum-mathematical system of 'sense-data' had been philosophically catastrophic.

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3. Normal Realism's Rejection of the 'Ordinary Language' solution

However, Pope soon became aware of another problem. This was that these new Ordinary Language or 'Linguistic' philosophers, such as Ryle, Austin, and (the later) Ayer and Wittgenstein, tended to regard their 'Ordinary Language' as fixed and oracular and therefore immune to the sorts of revisions which become necessary in accommodating new scientific and technological discoveries. Not being, himself, an academic - indeed, being both professionally and by inclination, an engineer - it seemed strange to Pope that these philosophers had sought to set their 'language' in aspic and had taken virtually no account of this continual need for language to adapt to scientific change. Eventually he rejected what he came to regard as the effete and cloistered 'scholasticism' of those who saw in anything even remotely technical or scientific some bogey they called 'Scientism'. As these Linguistic philosophers taught it, philosophy was exclusively an 'Arts' subject, having little or nothing to do with whatever it was they conceived as science. Seeing physicist leap to the reactionary extreme of dismissing all philosophy as being of that effete and purely academic, 'Ordinary Language' variety, Pope perceived a disastrous academic rift in what he felt should have been a coordinated overall natural philosophy. To see the philosophers and scientists content to split nature between them in that dichotomous way was as unacceptable to him as though, in the story of the Judgement of Solomon, both women claiming to be the true mother of the child had been content to see the child torn in two.

A consequence of that same scholastic splitting of natural philosophy into 'Arts' and 'Science' was, as Pope discovered, that the true advances that had been made in modern philosophy by Moore and other champions of commonsense, were in no way reflected in physics, where the stilted philosophy of Logical Positivism, now defunct even among its founders, was surviving almost intact in Niels Bohr's 'Copenhagen' approach. Meanwhile, those Realists for whom the Positivist account of physical reality was as clearly nonsensical as it was to its founders, were now entrenched at the reactionary extreme of assuming that physical reality is something essentially remote from and inscrutable to human perception and language - and therefore, by implication, to Philosophy. The fact that no attempt can be made to describe these inscrutable infra-realities without use of perception and language was a conundrum which these Realists now felt they could justifiably dismiss as 'merely philosophical'. Their purely practical aim as they conceived it was therefore, without caring about issues of language and philosophy, to penetrate as far as possible into their imaginary and truncated (and therefore metaphysical) 'world-beyond'. The effect of this was to allow the language of science to proliferate as it pleased into a jargon which bears little or no relation to the language - nor even to the logic - of ordinary experience. For instance, in these physicists' new philosophically unaccountable way of thinking, the pig, as it is known to commonsense, has no true existence. What 'really' exists, for these hard-line 'Realists', are the mechanisms of atoms, waves, fields and so on underlying the pig-phenomenon. All those attributes we commonly take as characteristic and definitive of the pig in the context of the world as we perceive it, are thus conceived as no more than fortuitous spin-offs of those atomic mechanisms, having no reality in their own right other than as what Democritus, the originator of atomic realism, had called 'conventions'.

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4. The Philosophical Divisiveness of 'Light-Velocity'

What sustains these opposite assumptions of either the absolute and exclusive reality of our perceptions as in Positivism, or their complete unreality as in Realism, is the overriding assumption that our perceptions of things are never immediate but are always, by the time we receive them, out of date by at the very least the time it takes for light to travel across space. But if the speed of light is finite and if nothing travels faster than it (as relativity theory attests) then we are cut off inexorably, as observers, from any direct contact with physical reality, in precisely the way the Realists assume. And if that were truly the case, then the remoteness of physical reality from our commonsense descriptions of it would be irremediable and the developing jargon of science could, with every justification, ride roughshod over any attempt we make to describe that physical reality. However, the theory of Quantum Touching, or Quantum Immediacy (q.v.), removes this schism between physical objects and our perceptions of them by demonstrating how the ultimate action-quanta are, basically, common to both. This means that the elementary atomic mechanisms of physics, insofar as they are real, are no more radically remote from our commonsense descriptions of them than are ordinary objects like tables, chairs and pigs. In other words, as J. L. Austin was wont to stress, when we get our descriptions of it right, what we perceive a thing to be (directly and/or instrumentally), and what that thing really is, in itself, may be as near identical as makes no difference. Moreover the commonsense principle that we need not perceive the whole thing in order correctly to identify it holds the same for elementary particles as for pigs. That same commonsense principle still leaves room for the illusions and delusions that ordinary language describes, plus, of course, common misinterpretations of even the plainest of perceptions, of the sort exemplified, for instance, by seeing the earth as flat or as situated at the centre of the universe - or, as in the Biblical tale of Jonah, perceiving the whale as a ' fish' whereas we now know it to be a mammal.

Normal Realism, then, is nothing more nor less than just plain evolved - and continually evolving - commonsense, purified by the removal of certain abortive conceptual accretions. In commonsense, neither our perceptions nor the language in which they are couched, whether it be in physics or in any other walk of life, can ever be claimed to be fixed forever. Nor can the fact that we perceive something, however distinctly, to be a 'fish', 'phlogiston', 'photon', 'electron', 'gravitational force', 'electric force', 'quark', 'centaur', or whatever, guarantee immunity of that identification from revision in the light of new knowledge. In recognising this, the interpretation of natural philosophy which, to distinguish it from its competitors has been called Normal Realism, not only reconciles quantum theory with relativity theory; it also reconciles philosophy with physics and, thereby, reconciles both disciplines with commonsense. (See the Cinematic Model, Section 2 of ACTION-AT-A-DISTANCE.)