by Herbert FJ Müller
Oct/Dec 2002, posted 28 January 2003



This essay examines the effects of a change from traditional to working ontology on some conceptual problems that are under discussion in the literature : the liar paradox, the announced surprise paradox, the measurement problem, and the uncertainty relation. Some aspects of these puzzles appear to be by-products of the use of traditional ontology - as it is implied, for instance, in naïve realism - where conceptual tools have a (mind-independent) life of their own. Considering (in working ontology) what people can actually do with the conceptual tools they have facilitates the access to these puzzles.

[ This paper is open for discussion by e-mail. It will also be presented for discussion at a 2-hour seminar at Concordia University, 25 February 2003, 15h45 to 17h45, Room H-411. ]




The problem of how the mind originates from the brain is at present much discussed. It cannot be answered, because the question is wrong : the aim of finding the mind in a supposedly mind-independent reality (of brains, neurons, tubules, quanta, etc.) is self-contradictory. Subjective experience (the center of mind) has to come first because it is the only place we can start from. Awareness that the brain, like all objects, is a structure formation inside the mind dissolves the mind-brain problem (for details see "Brain in Mind", TA45 in this Forum, and "Is the Mind Real ?", TA1).

This result concerning the mind-brain relation should be of interest for our work in psychiatry, which always concerns both aspects. By extension, it also raises more general conceptual questions, and these are my reason for the present working paper, which deals with four other conceptual puzzles - in logic and physics - that are, however, outside my field of expertise. As my understanding in this area is limited, I have to rely much on secondary sources of information. I want to apologize at the outset for doing this, and also stress that I am not trying to present complete solutions, in particular not to puzzles 3 and 4, but rather to point to one aspect which seems to be relevant but is often neglected. But it is necessary at least to attempt inter-disciplinary discussion, because the conceptual foundations are - or ought to be - the same. All of the ideas presented here should be understood as proposals for discussion.



The two conceptual views - (a) traditional and (b) working ontology/ metaphysics - can be briefly characterized as follows (see also end-note {a}).

Traditional realism (metaphysics/ ontology) can be traced to Parmenides' concept of aletheia (about 500 BC). It states that reality exists ready-made, and is only uncovered by us. This idea has been developed in many forms over the centuries. Parmenides emphasized that knowing and being are the same - this probably indicates his opinion that subject and object are not primarily separated, not a position of solipsism.

But unfortunately a primary S/O split was later mostly implied, and in consequence reality was interpreted as mind-independent. And this view then ran into the ever-present difficulty that it was not possible to prove firstly that the postulated or implied mind-independently pre-structured reality (MIR) existed, and secondly even if it did exist how it could become accessible to the mind.

Indeed, western science and philosophy have spent much effort in trying to deal with the problems created by the assumption of MIR. In Greek philosophy, and later again mainly since the 17th century, many attempts were made to correct or avoid metaphysics, for instance in the form of skepticism, empiricism, positivism, critical and analytic philosophy, idealism, phenomenology, existentialism, de-constructivism, irony, etc.

But theories aiming to avoid metaphysics find themselves in a dilemma between the wish to avoid belief in an unclear MIR and the simultaneous need for some structures of this type. In particular, the habit of believing in a primary subject/ object split tends to be very strong. These difficulties have often prompted relapses into traditional ontology. The question arises whether it is possible to modify metaphysics/ ontology, which everybody uses, in such a way that it maintains its stabilizing function, but without the MIR and primary S/O split aspects.

(It is incorrect to say for instance that positivism is per se anti-metaphysical. The positivists had the aim to avoid metaphysics, but relapsed as soon as they claimed to know something MIR-positively. "Positive knowledge" implies trust in our created structures, but tends to be understood as MIR. Also positivism is not the same as an operational view, which can be closer to a metaphysics-free description.)

Working ontology is the view that we have always created all (mental) mind-and-nature structures within the primarily not structured unitary ongoing subjective experience (SE) we don't invent but have to handle. The structures created by us are in principle always ad-hoc and temporary, even if they have persistent success. They include not only Gestalt formations but also the so-called qualia (incompletely circumscribed structures, including non-visual ones), words and numbers, other people, and in particular also the split between subject and object. Reality and truth are established by investment of trust in the created structures. We use the structures as tools for purposes like handling, stability, specialization, and communication. This creative process is only partly deliberate, most of it is automatic.

The terms "WORKING METAPHYSICS" or "WORKING ONTOLOGY" are generalized from "working hypothesis", a familiar concept in science. They imply "AS-IF-MIR", which means that one can treat many (but not all) experiences as if they were mind-independently real and true, despite knowing that they are not mind-independent, and although the term MIR is self-contradictory. In this paper I will mainly use a short term, "0-D", for "ZERO-DERIVATION VIEW", which emphasizes that we create the structures within an unstructured background or matrix. The terms mentioned in this paragraph point to various aspects of this view, but will be used interchangeably.

0-D is related to constructivism and non-Cartesian philosophy (e.g., Vico and the old Kant), as well as to Anaximander's concept of the undefined and unstructured (apeiron, about 600 BC). {a} That is, the SE is originally not structured, it is unitary, and though it accepts structures created by other people, it does not need, nor has it available, any pre-existing, "given", inside or outside structures for building with. Also, our structures are all we can talk about (and measure).

Many (but not all) human structures are word-concepts (that is, visual, auditory, etc. mental structures labeled with words). Metaphysics/ ontology is automatically produced by the use of Gestalt patterns, and particularly of language, because the patterns, and even more so the meaning of words, transcend (go beyond) their momentary significance in the context of presently ongoing SE (cf. TA45[4]). The question is how to use it.

Working metaphysics/ ontology can answer to the metaphysics dilemma. It is a third alternative to either rejecting traditional metaphysics (because mind-independent reality and truth are nebulous and impossible), or accepting it (because something like it is needed to structure and stabilize thinking and action). 0-D can deal with both of these points :

(a) it provides needed structures for stability and stance (epi-steme, under-standing, ver-stehen), and tools for grasping (com-prehension, ap-prendre, be-greifen), etc. The 0-D view can fulfill all the functions of traditional MIR, except for the fictitious mind-external source and/or guarantee, but it avoids some of its side-effects. As-if-MIR can for instance serve, in the same way as traditional MIR, for scientific explanation and prediction. The main difficulty with 0-D is increased responsibility due to lack of outside guarantors.

But (b) the structures are ours, and not outside the mind - although they can often be treated as-if they were mind-independent - and they are fixed by trust (individual and/or collective), mostly on the basis of "feedback" results of their performance, but sometimes just on faith, or on someone's authority. A central aspect of working ontology is that no structures have any reality or truth aside from our working trust in them. Thus there is no such thing as absolute truth or reality.

God and other religious concepts (and surrogate religions) are overall structures for dealing with the apeiron as a whole, created in response to the need for unity, general structure, and individual and collective stability (and often for outside (MIR-) guidance for action). They can also add weight to being, which can be "too light" (Kundera), because decisions can be made at whim - removed from instincts, in thin air so to speak - with insufficient regard to their implications. Religions and similar belief systems are formed as needed, and stabilized as cultural and even intellectual traditions, by human convention (including revelation, with dogma and related techniques for prevention of de-construction of the religious beliefs; cf. also the discussion of TA51). The authority of God, of science, etc., may be tried to provide the needed weight. But priests, particularly those of mono-theisms claiming universal validity, face the intellectual problem that they have to defend their brand of truth as the only valid one, which can create serious problems.

In the following I will use 0-D for some conceptual puzzles which seem to be, at least in part, caused by traditional metaphysics (implicit or explicit MIR); for this reason, those aspects tend to resist analysis within the traditional MIR framework.




This is an ancient problem (please refer to the literature review by Dowden). It comes in several forms, such as:

(1) Someone says "what I now say is a lie".

(2) The (visiting) card paradox. On one face of the card is a statement "The sentence on the other side of this card is true", and on the second side is a statement "The sentence on the other side of this card is false".

A mechanical or electronic analogon to this paradox is a gadget that has as its only function to turn itself off. It may have some entertainment value : in naïve viewers, expectations of other effects are raised but then immediately thwarted.

There have been many attempts to solve this kind of paradox, without generally accepted success, but apparently always with the implication that "is true" and "is false" are meaningful statements in themselves, outside the context of SE and human action.

The purposes of saying or writing something are to structure experience and to communicate it from one person by evoking it in another. (What is said can be straightforward, or it may be distorted by error, or in order to deceive, etc; also, the communication can present difficulties, such as when different persons do not understand words in the same way, etc.). Saying only that I am telling a lie communicates nothing, except perhaps a joke, or a topic for a discussion on logic, etc.

A paradox thus arises only if the statement is seen as an entity-in-itself (without a subject), in questions like "is this statement true or false ?" You call a statement "true" if you trust that it will work properly. Is the statement "2+2=4" true or false, and why ? It originates in an action : you can answer by counting (for instance digitally, on your fingers). The result is the same every time someone, anywhere and anytime, does that correctly (probability of obtaining this result : p=1), and you can delegate the task to a machine. For this reason one says it "is true", meaning a trustworthy procedure. It can be treated as-if it were a mind-independent and eternal truth, but preferably with the awareness that it is not : this truth is our self-created mental tool and exemplifies the reliability of arithmetical and other mathematical procedures.

"Is true" says something about the trustworthiness of mental tools in their use, but it has no absolute meaning that would go beyond this functional statement. (This is presumably related to Tarski's Theorem of 1936, of the undefinability of truth in number theory (cf. Mostowski) : the latter deals with logical-mathematical tools, apparently understood as outside SE, like logic and mathematics generally - see also end-note {i}). The same applies to "is a lie", of course.

The reason for the liar paradox therefore is, it seems, a neglect of the impossibility of the implied traditional ontology. In 0-D, reality and truth result from investment of trust in the reliability of mental structures when used in thinking activity, and then the paradox vanishes; "is true" has no meaning in isolation from SE. It would be different for "2+2=5 is a lie"; that can be tested in action.




This is a more recent puzzle. The 1943 to 1983 literature was reviewed by Margalit and Bar-Hillel. Quite a number of authors dealt with it and came to differing results, and it continues to be discussed because there is no generally accepted solution. It has several forms, of which I will mention three.

(1) A teacher tells his class that there will be a test in the coming week, but the day of the test will be a surprise to them.

(2) A prisoner is told by the judge that he will be hanged on some day next week from Monday to Friday, but that the day of the hanging will be a surprise to him.

(3) Can a specified card be found unexpectedly in a bona fide shuffled deck of 52 playing cards by going through the deck from the beginning, one card at a time (in analogy to the day-by-day experience of the previous two examples) ?

For forms (1) and (2), Friday is not a possibility, because if Thursday had gone by, Friday would be certain and could not be a surprise. Next, the advocated reasoning goes, since the last day, Friday, has now been ruled out, Thursday is also ruled out for the same reason, and the same argument shows that any other (earlier) day is ruled out. Nevertheless the event happens on some day other than Friday, causing surprise.

A few examples of the many discussions of this puzzle :

[Holtzman:] Ruling out a last day for the occurrence of an announced unexpected event and a backwards-in-days reasoning by the prisoner that eliminates all preceding days. This reasoning is contradicted by the actual occurrence of the unexpected event. The challenge is to find a flaw in what appears to be sound logic on the part of the prisoner. - Solution : after prisoner concludes reasoning, he/ she becomes vulnerable to being surprised because of the very fact of no longer expecting to be hanged. ... The paradox depends on a privileged status for the analyst of the problem as compared to the prisoner. But if the prisoner can also reason that way, he will drop the lack of expectation. This can lead to a non-terminating reasoning, the analyst's reasoning iterating with the prisoner's. "... there appears to be no satisfactory mechanism (via Schrödinger's equation, linear wave mechanics) to terminate the sequence with a wave function. ... "

[Margalit and Bar-Hillel :] want to solve the paradox on the basis that the teacher's announcement is not a premise of future action, but rather a promise which may or may not be kept.

[Chow :] addresses it by dealing with ambiguities of the meaning of the word "unexpected". - Other authors have suggested a variety of further solutions (they are discussed by the authors cited here).

I will use here only the probabilistic meaning of "surprise" and "unexpected", namely p<1, and for "expected", p=1. With the probability calculation procedure, clear results are obtained. It is better to avoid psychological expectation, because it can vary for many reasons. Among other things, one may be so blah or well-composed, or so certain, that nothing surprises (including certainty based on wrong assumptions), or on the contrary so nervous (including assumptions of uncertainty based on mistaken beliefs) that everything does.

Probability includes the subject. Considering only probability does not eliminate the subject who uses this method as a tool, and perhaps a calculator as well, but it implies that he/she will adjust their psychological expectation according to the calculated probability (a somewhat schematic assumption). It restricts the number of variables in order to facilitate access to the main question of uncertainty.

We will start with the card deck form (3) of the puzzle, which is less ambiguous than the others, since going through the cards one by one eliminates for instance the question whether the announced event will actually take place. Backward reasoning of the mentioned type suggests that p=1 for finding the specified card in all positions, that is, it cannot be found unexpectedly.

The forward probability of finding the specific card in any one place is 1/52, before looking at the cards. While going through the cards one by one from the beginning and discarding those which are not the one in question, p increases so long as the card is not found. After having ruled out the second to last card, the last one is certain to be it. That is, p<1 for all positions except the last.

Concerning the literature on forms (1) and (2) of this puzzle that I am aware of, I find the following two closely related points puzzling. (a) All authors appear to accept as valid the backward reasoning as described above. This is a concept mainly used since the 1950s, it seems, in computer work on various topics, and perhaps that is the reason why it is widely accepted. And (b) the same authors do not mention forward probability.

I would appreciate knowing the opinions of others on this. My present one, open for discussion, is as follows.

Re. (a) - The type of backward reasoning used here is not valid, since it implies the mistaken premise that the Thursday night or Friday morning p=1 for Friday is a truth-in-itself which can be carried backward. On Wednesday night, p=1/2 (and not p=1) for each of Thursday and Friday.

Thinking that on Wednesday night p=1 for both Thursday and Friday implies two steps : (i) "I have already proven on Thursday night that p=1 for Friday", and (ii) "because this is true on Thursday night, it follows that on Wednesday night p=1 for both Thursday and Friday". It implies backward-in-time causation, which in turn means assuming an (impossible) reversal of the flow of experience, or "time reversal" (the flow of experience is the origin of the "time" concept). It is like saying that "I will be taking an airplane to Timbuktu on Friday, therefore I can have dinner in the Timbuktu Grand Hotel on Thursday."

Re. (b) - In forward reasoning : until Monday morning, the probability of the event occurring is 1/5 for each of the coming days, Monday night it is 1/4, and so forth, Thursday night it is 1/1 for Friday. The probability is a mental (subject-and-object) tool for quantifying forward likelihood of the event. This is so even for researching back in time, for instance "how likely is it that event X happened 10000 years ago ?" (e.g., in studies with radiocarbon dating); the answer to the question is ahead, not backward, in the researcher's flow of experience.

There is a similarity between backward reasoning and playing a videotape backward : it can be done, but in case it is understood as a forward display the content may be clearly false. When a broken wine-glass is shown to assemble itself, collect wine from the carpet, and to jump onto the table, the deception is evident to most people. You accept or reject or correct what you see according to what you had previously accepted as real : 'you see what you know', rather than the opposite, 'you know what you see', which implies the traditional ontological idea that what you see is real and given to you in pre-fabricated (MIR) form. {c}

Some other examples are less clear, both on videotapes (the movement of a pendulum, the bouncing of a ball) and in logic (backward reasoning of the type discussed here. Or also reasoning from effects to causes, for instance if something goes wrong that the devil, witchcraft, or the butler, must have done it). These fuzzy situations are the ones that may cause problems. Furthermore, in the case of "truth" and "backward reasoning" the same word may be used with more than one meaning, which can contribute to confusion of issues. {b}

The time-reversal concept per se also needs discussion. This notion can help to illustrate reversible quantum processes, a method used by Feynman (likely as a purely technical procedure without ontological implications). But a time-reversal assumption is false if it is taken to mean that experience can flow backward, and in that case the concept can be counter-productive. (Kant had in his critical period offered a definition of time and space, and of causality, as "apriori intuitions", needed for comprehension. But in his opus postumum, he had changed his opinion to a constructivist one, and wrote that the only way to arrive at a (conceptual) "system of the world" is to create it (see [53]). - I am indebted to Ernst von Glasersfeld for this and related references.)

Because experience flows only forward, backward reasoning and playing tapes backward cannot be used for proper reasoning or documentation, but perhaps to discuss problems of logic, or for advertising, entertainment, tricks, or (self-)deception. Time is our conceptual tool for handling, including quantifying, the flow of experience; we can make graphic illustrations in which the time dimension points to the past. But the flow of experience - which is the origin of "time" - cannot be an experience-independent (traditional ontological) entity that can go backward as well as forward. And that time and space are not absolute (or primary) was shown by Einstein.

There is no paradox for a subject who evaluates with which forward probability to expect the event to happen. In 0-D, the implied notion of an impossible truth-in-itself which can be carried backward in an equally impossible time-in-itself is abandoned in favor of a view centered on what people can actually do with the word-concepts they trust.




The measurement problem is a conflict between the dynamic properties of quantum mechanics and the postulated "collapse" of the (probability) wave function. "... the postulate of collapse seems to be right about what happens when we make measurements, and the dynamics bizarrely wrong about what happens when we make measurements, and yet the dynamics seems to be right about what happens whenever we aren't making measurements" (Albert, 1992) [from Krips].

As described by Schrödinger (1935) : " ... A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat) : in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal possibility, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left the entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The Psi function {d} for the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."

[Budnik :] We know that superpositions of possible outcomes must exist simultaneously at a microscopic level because we can observe interference effects from these. ...

[Young :] Schrödinger created this story as a reaction against the "Copenhagen" interpretation of quantum mechanics, named for its chief proponent, the Danish physicist Niels Bohr ... [which states that] the actual outcome is not determined until it is experimentally observed. ... [but] ... the triggering of the Geiger counter is an objective, observer-independent event. "Quantum events are objective. They are not dependent upon being observed by a human." The double slit experiment is an exceptional case. Mostly the wave properties of matter cannot be observed, only imagined. (Young wants to reconcile religion and physics; he sees both as mind-independent, but his notes on correction of some conceptual misrepresentations in quantum theory are helpful.)

[Holtzman :] In the measurement problem it is the likeness of the system and the measurement system (both subject to linear wave mechanics) that makes the problem so difficult. The conscious observer was proposed as a solution because of its purported difference (not subject to linear wave mechanics) from the system to be measured. In the unexpected hanging problem, it is the likeness of the reasoning ability of the analyst and the prisoner which causes difficulty with [the resolution of the problem].

In contrast to these and similar opinions, the 0-D view itself implies an "observer effect" in the sense that the only thing we can discuss (and measure) is observer-inclusive mind-and-nature experience (SE, knowledge). The experience, of the atom's or cat's state, is structured by us; we know nothing about an impossible traditional realistic-metaphysical atom-in-itself or cat-in-itself. Schrödinger's "entire system", as described by the probabilistic psi function includes the observer, and this in contrast to his own realistic MIR-opinion. On the other hand, I can see no reason why particles should not have persistent properties, in an as-if-MIR fashion, such as "entanglement" of twin particles.

The question of the observer effect is related to the so-called quantum weirdness, a much discussed conceptual problem. In the following I will discuss both, and also the uncertainty relation (puzzle 4), together. In a definition of quantum weirdness by Ferris "... the trouble is border-trouble ... along the quantum-classical frontier".

Bohr's view of particle physics (the Copenhagen interpretation) was that "we cannot know the state of a quantum system until it is measured". Bohr did not specify whether the quantum system is inside or outside of SE, but this statement is compatible with the view that "measured" means "mathematically defined (structured) by us". On the other hand the Copenhagen view is sometimes understood to say that "the particles WERE in neither spin state until their spin was observed" : this formulation is a (negative) MIR assertion, and then it implies that the observation, or the observer, caused the existence of the spin state, which is an error. It seems that this was not Bohr's opinion. [Material from Ferris]

[Ferris :] "Einstein used to poke fun at the Copenhagen interpretation by asking colleagues whether they really believed that the moon existed only when they looked at it. Bohr's answer was not that the moon does not exist when unobserved, but that we cannot know whether it, or some thoroughly unobserved moon of a remote and uninhabited planet, exists, until it is observed.

His position sports a certain tough-minded bluntness: It confronts quantum weirdness and refuses to blink. But in doing so, it amounts, in the words of David Z. Albert, a physicist who holds a chair in philosophy at Columbia University, to a "radical undermining of the very idea of an objective physical reality" ... - which, I would add, has long been regarded as the whole point of science. ..."

But this point, "undermining" traditional MI-reality, is probably crucial for an understanding of the quantum weirdness. MIR-belief causes the weirdness, or at least some of it. The persistent existence of the moon is an extrapolation from ongoing experience. It works very well, but still it is an extrapolation. The mental ability to construct or extrapolate a persistent MIR from present Gestalt configuration develops at a young age (Piaget).

[Krips :] Von Neumann argued that a measurement on a quantum system involves two distinct processes that may be thought of as temporally contiguous stages. In the first stage, the measured quantum system interacts with a macroscopic measuring apparatus. This interaction is governed by the linear, deterministic Schrödinger equation. This is followed by a second, non-linear, indeterministic, process that involves the quantum leap (which plays role in both puzzles 3 and 4). The subject and his role in the measurement are not mentioned, which suggests that this is an MIR-opinion.

Several aspects of the observer effect, quantum weirdness, and the uncertainty relation appear to need distinction, and are discussed below from the subject-inclusive 0-D point of view : (a) probability, (b) determinism, (c) Gestalt vs MIR, (d) normative structuring, (e) the particle interaction effect, and (f) observer causation.


(a) Probability versus certainty

Although he had developed the psi function equation, Schrödinger objected, like Einstein and DeBroglie, to the idea that nature, which they saw as mind-independent, should "be" probabilistic and observer-dependent. {d} Schrödinger was a traditional ontologist, and wanted - as he said - to "represent" (mind-independent) reality. He felt puzzled by the "jumping quanta", and said that, in case this proved to be a persistent feature, he regretted having had anything to do with particle physics.

Born showed that for atom-size events the square of the psi value is the probability of finding a quantum in a particular location around the nucleus {e,f}, although "finding the particle" is often only a theory-produced imaginary event (Young). (In principle the psi function applies to all physical bodies, but for larger bodies it is so small that it can be neglected.) If one starts from Bohr's opinion [45], one would see the psi function as a mental (SE) mind-and-nature expectation (probability) which solidifies when one sees a particle hit a Geiger counter [38], or when a photon interacts with a particle (the object to be observed) [61]. The collapse is a change in the subject/object system, not in an MIR-system.

The question of probability vs. determinism has been central in the debate on particle physics, but one ought to distinguish certainty vs. uncertainty from presence vs. absence of determination or Gestalt closure, even if there is a relation between these terms.


(b) Determinism and Gestalt closure

In Schrödinger's realism natural entities are mind-independent. They are given in determined (pre-fabricated) form, and are only detected, via uncovering, the aletheia of Parmenides and Plato. For this reason, the notion of nature-in-itself-without-subject (MIR) as being probabilistic is self-contradictory. Thus a central question in MIR-particle-physics is : why can certainty sometimes not be obtained ?

While certainty is best expressed in numerical form, determination has a (visual) Gestalt closure aspect to it. This is easy to do for many macroscopic entities like cats, or even clouds or fog, where our visual Gestalt creations crystallize spontaneously (cf. Luchins & Luchins). Visual Gestalt patterns thus work better for larger items, because that is where they were developed. And then they only have to be labeled with words.

It is more difficult to do this for mental tools like numbers or words per se, because they do not correspond to pre-verbal entities, only to those (mental, motor, auditory, written, etc) related to activities like counting or speaking. And where are time or space ? Kant's definition [34] did not locate them, but his late view is compatible with the 0-D view. [30ff] ("System der reinen Philosophie in ihrem ganzen Inbegriffe. Wir können auf keine andere Art die Verkettung der Dinge als Ursache und Wirkung und die nach derselben geordnete Welt denken als daß wir ein solches System uns selbst durch unsere eigene Vernunft constituieren und dadurch allein ist es auch nur möglich diese Verkettung als Wirklich anzuerkennen.")

The Gestalt determination also does not work well on a small visual scale. Quanta are entities suggested by more ambiguous (but also mostly visual) experiences, and less easily classified into visual categories. Is a photon a particle or a wave ? It depends on what you do with it.

There is actually no a-priori reason why particles should fit one or another macroscopic picture, or to put it the other way, it is not a-priori clear that macroscopic Gestalt classes will be relevant for sub-atomic events. Not only are the latter often short-lived, but some of their properties can also in principle only be described in terms of probability (for instance where a particle will be found, or when a radioactive atom will decay).


(c) Gestalt formation vs mind-independent reality

The perceptual structures are often so stable that it is plausible to think they correspond to mind-external (more or less static, Parmenidan-Platonic) forms. But the MIR-belief is not implied in Gestalt-closure per se. It is a separate step, but the MIR-belief tends to be re-enforced if the created structure works well.

That Gestalt formations are not mind-independent entities becomes clear when one looks at ambiguous figures like the Necker cube, where visual "reality" keeps changing while you look at it, either intentionally or oscillating spontaneously.

Flinn explains such ambiguities objectively : "the brain selects between two or more possible interpretations where there is insufficient information available". But interpretations of what ? Not of a two-dimensional drawing, presumably. He probably assumes that (visual) "reality is three-dimensional", as it is often said, but other ontologists claim that "reality has" four, or eleven, or some other number of dimensions. (In 0-D, dimensions are our ad-hoc tools, created as needed for particular tasks; see also [67].)

Many people, including Einstein and Schrödinger, wanted to "think in pictures", which they took to be identical with objectivity, that is, MI-reality, and they did not feel at ease without MIR. But Gestalt formation and closure occurs within SE, not outside, and MIR is a supplementary ad-hoc pre-supposition.

[Ferris :] "So it is understandable that at least a few philosophically minded scientists kept searching for a more accommodating way to draw quantum weirdness into the embrace of macroscopic logic" (that is, accommodating MIR-belief).

The alternative attempts included Everett's many MIR-worlds view, and Bohm's search for hidden MIR-variables and MIR-order. A concern of Bohm's was that an overall world view is needed - this is quite true, but the overall view neither can, nor does it have to, exclude subjects. Structuring, including Gestalt- and world-view formation, happens in SE.


(d) Normative mind-and-nature structuring in SE

In 0-D the realistic nature-as-MIR is re-interpreted as a working-tool-structure created within SE, not something pre-fabricated outside SE. The main question in 0-D is not why a deterministic result cannot be obtained [47], but instead why a deterministic answer would be expected.

The expectation is a consequence of our normative-MIR-thinking (Gestalt-forming) practice - visual or other. Mental structuring standardizes or normalizes mind-and-nature thinking, by means of its structures (forms, ideas, word-concepts, classes, categories). The visual forms are patterns with built-in transcendence of ongoing SE (by memory-deposition of patterns, communication, and then human convention, science, etc.). The word-meanings that are attached to these forms accentuate this process. It results in creation of persisting Gestalt categories which transcend momentary perception (cf. Merleau-Ponty), and thus produce ontology ("la chose").

You see an animal running between the trees - this first visual Gestalt structure formation ("animal") may be imprecise, compared with the forms in your structure-memory : is it a cat, a dog, a fox, a skunk ? The resulting decision places it into a norm (Gestalt, class, category) {g} that exists in your memory-repertoire. A wide variety of cats - different sizes, shapes, colors, sexes, ages, individuals - are standardized in the cat word-concept or category, which also transcends the present experience, and includes all past, present, and future cats, anywhere.

This normative effect is similar to the effect of a fixed shooting target to the uncertain results of shooting at it (see {e}: Waller, Born). But to avoid conceptual problems, one needs to include the 0-D awareness that classes are tools for structuring SE, and that traditional MIR is an impossible fiction except as such a mental tool.

The traditional realist (MIR) view neglects (and may even deny) that all structures include the subject, because it sees reality as mind-independent. Belief in mind-independently pre-structured reality prevents seeing mind-nature structures as standardizing tools within SE. The experience-shaping normative aspect of visual and other word-concepts (and categories) is inevitably overlooked in the realist view.




The uncertainty relation, as described by Heisenberg (1933, p.297; {h}), is due to the fact that the light (photons) needed for visual observation interacts with, and thereby disturbs, the atomic particles to be observed. "... the product of the probable errors [when measuring location and velocity of the particle] is invariably at least as large as Planck's constant divided by 4pi." This is so in principle too for larger bodies, but there it can be safely neglected because the disturbance is very small in relation to the size of the bodies.

Heisenberg (p.290) characterized the difference between classical and quantum physics as follows. "... the natural phenomena in which Planck's constant plays an important part can be understood only by largely forgoing a visual description of them. ... In classical physics the aim of research was to investigate objective processes occurring in space and time ... In the quantum theory, however, the situation is completely different. The very fact that the formalism of quantum mechanics cannot be interpreted as visual description of a phenomenon occurring in space and time shows that quantum mechanics is in no way concerned with the objective determination of space-time phenomena. ..."

Heisenberg's term "observation" referred here primarily not to the activity of a subject, but to the effect of photons on other particles (understood as traditional MIR, it seems), which is needed for the subject's observation, and inevitably changes their characteristics when they hit them. This meaning (e) differs from the four (a, b, c, d) discussed above. In particular, the mind-and-nature structuring process within SE, which is active for all structures, not only visual ones, should be distinguished from the photon effect.

Heisenberg used the terms "visual description" and "objective" interchangeably, and said that they characterize classical physics but cannot be used for particle events. In other words, he equated, as discussed above [55ff], the normative (visual) Gestalt formation, with a fictitious mind-independently pre-structured reality (MIR, Parmenidan-Platonic aletheia) - both work for many macroscopic objects, but not for some aspects of quanta.

But in this sense (e) the uncertainty relation actually appears not to conflict with traditional macroscopic pictures that one may use to illustrate it. Let us suppose an arrangement where the position and movement of a billiard ball can only be determined by the action of a second ball upon the first one. In this situation it is visually clear that the first ball's position and movement are affected by the impact. (A similar point could probably be made about the wave picture.) It may also help with the difficulty outlined by Albert in [37] above : since the photons create a disturbance, there ought to be a difference between the observed and the unobserved state - as it is found. In contrast, as Heisenberg pointed out, for the same reason a (macroscopic-derived) picture of QM events undisturbed by observation (by photons) is not possible.

In objective (as-if-MIR) consideration there is also a relation between the photon interaction effect (e) and the Gestalt function (b, c). The photon action is needed for the perception to occur - just as neuronal activity is an objective requirement for it (and incidentally, this situation is compatible with Einstein's pre-supposition (1905) that the speed of light is the same for all observers). The optical (light, photon) component does not work precisely, due to the interaction (uncertainty relation), and then the neuronal system cannot work properly either, because its input is inconsistent, it cannot achieve stable closure.

In 0-D the pre-fabrication problem disappears. The dimensions are our products (and thinking tools), not something we discover outside. The drawing of the Necker cube [55] provides stable targets for two of your dimensions only, it is ambiguous for depth. The picture oscillates when you try to add a depth dimension, as you normally do when looking at things (and this does not require binocular vision). In 0-D you are aware that subject and object (in this case you and the drawing) are not primarily separated, and then it is self-evident that we supply the dimensions ad-hoc; the question how many dimensions the real MIR has dissolves.

Heisenberg stated his conceptual position more explicitly in a later communication [1958 :] "... modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. ... The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms. "All things are numbers" is a sentence attributed to Pythagoras. ... the mathematical forms that represent the elementary particles will be solutions of some eternal law of motion for matter. This is a problem which has not yet been solved."

Timaeus was a Pythagorean philosopher who tried, according to this Socratic dialogue, to explain matter, including atoms, in mathematical terms. He referred mainly to triangles, which had greatly impressed the Pythagoreans with their numerical properties. Heisenberg's opinion that elementary "particles are mathematical forms" contests Gestalt formation as the only reality function, or "representation of reality", as Heisenberg put it. But this formulation suggests that the mathematical tools could then be thought of as being another version of traditional nebulous MIR, taking the place of the earlier MIR-Gestalt function.

The equations of quantum physics are internally consistent and efficient, including situations where Gestalt closure does not work. One can say, as Heisenberg did, that we cannot describe quanta in visual Gestalt form, only in mathematical (probability) terms. However, the problem may not be primarily one of size, nor of vision per se (Heisenberg). It may result, rather, from the error of thinking that our Gestalt-formations are (or at least "represent") a mind-independent "objective" reality, and then finding that they are unstable for particles. (And in case we assign an MIR-ontological meaning to mathematics, as Bohr as well as Heisenberg seem to have done, similar problems can arise there too, à la Timaeus.)

In 0-D, "particles", whether in the form of visual Gestalt and/or as mathematical entities, are conceptual tools, like all word-concepts and mathematics. Probability can be used to handle experience in some areas where (visual) Gestalt formations and imagery ("substance") are ambiguous or missing.

The uncertainty or unpredictability aspect of particle behavior appears to be due to quantum interaction, which results in probability reduction (von Neumann [from Krips]), that is, "collapse" of the within-SE-probability-wave, which after the photon interaction or counter event has a definite value. If we consider mathematics as an alternative means for structuring the apeiron which is ours to start with, the conceptual part of the problem is easier to understand. {i} {j}


(f) Observer causation

On the other hand, human experience does not cause or invent the quantum events - although it structures them, as it does with all experiences - except in the trivial sense that some events take place because they are arranged by humans. "Is not caused by observation" (Young) can be less ambiguously rendered as "can be treated as-if it were mind-independent."

Some of the conceptual difficulties with the proposed observer effect, quantum weirdness, or uncertainty relation, may be caused by a conflation of points (a) to (f). They differ and need to be distinguished.

The measurement can be an accurate procedure but it is limited by the photon effect, for which reason it sometimes supports only ambiguous Gestalt formations in particle physics.



Working ontology/ metaphysics offers an access to some aspects of conceptual puzzles that are difficult to analyze within the traditional realist (metaphysical) framework, explicit or implied. The reason, as I have tried to show here, is that these puzzles are, at least in part, caused by the traditional view of mind-independent structures, specifically by the ideas of mind-(SE)-independent truth (puzzle 1), SE-independent time (2), or SE-independent Gestalt formation (3 and 4). (In addition, logic and mathematics are also sometimes mistaken to be SE-independent.)

In 0-D it is clear that these perceptual and conceptual structures are our tools, used within thinking, and cannot be relegated to some reality of which we are not a part. One changes from belief in mind-independent entities to the creation and use of mental structures within ongoing thinking activity. They are not given to us, we put them there. Thus one would want to separate the ontology question from others. One could then eliminate the artifact caused by traditional ontology from the puzzles, and re-evaluate them. Such a differentiation might particularly be needed for some problems in particle physics (such as puzzles 3 and 4).

Another consequence concerns the relation of quantum physics puzzles to the mind/brain problem. It is often speculated that there is a connection between the two fields. Based on the presented ideas, one would think that this is true, but not in the sense that the mind can be explained as a quantum process, nor that quanta are caused by an observer's consciousness, but rather because they share a common conceptual problem : the non-functional assumption of mind-independent reality.

This result suggests an evaluation of the working-metaphysical view for more general use. The needed change from postulated external (mind-independent) sources and guarantors (and scapegoats) to an exclusively mind-internal (individual and communal, mind-and-world) source can cause hesitancy. Objections to this change in view typically invoke the problems of arbitrariness and solipsism. These concerns are understandable, but they are not warranted, because the construction of reality and truth is not haphazard, but rather a result of constant evaluation of the created structures within ongoing individual and collective experience.

Generally, it is probably better in the long term to see the uncertainties, the lightness of being, and the increased responsibilities as practical problems to be dealt with, rather than to place one's trust in mind-external fictions. Working ontology should be easier to defend than the traditional MIR-ontology of realism, which no one has made plausible.



Brief historical remarks. The work of the radical constructivism school has developed such a point of view for several decades (see below). It was preceded by authors like Jean Piaget (1896-1980), who showed that (visual) Gestalt formation is a mental tool which develops early in childhood; the biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) who described the worlds of different animals, and the non-Cartesian philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744). The conceptual basis may, it seems to me, be traced back further, to Anaximander's "apeiron" (about 600 BC), an unstructured background, within which we build mind-and-world structures. I will mainly use the terms working ontology, as-if-MIR, or zero-derivation (0-D), which I think express the main intent of this view. (The term "as-if" was introduced into philosophy by Vaihinger, in a more restricted sense.)

In this connection it is worth noting that Anaximander's structure-free apeiron concept was earlier by almost 100 years than the positive truth (aletheia) of Parmenides.

The latter started from a divine revelation (by Dike, the goddess of justice), and was based on the premise that a non-existent is unthinkable. This might refer to the apeiron, although Parmenides did not expressly say that.

But there is a difference : Anaximander's apeiron is unstructured and cannot be grasped, but it exists : it is the ever present background for our structuring which we are faced with. Parmenides' characterization of not-being is correct, in case not-being is understood to mean non-structured and therefore in-com-prehensible. He rejected the absence of being as unintelligible, and only existence as comprehensible. And that is really the reason why we have to create structures : to enable us to stand above (epi-steme) and to grasp (prehend) experience as it happens.

But Parmenides also said that the object of knowledge must exist (this can lead to attempts like those of an ontological proof of the existence of God : if you believe in Him, He must be there). He did not specify, on the other hand, whether the structures are inside or outside of experience (the mind), and whether or not their reality and truth depend on our belief. Both interpretations are in principle compatible with what he said, but the historical development has favored the notion of mind-independent reality.

The MIR version of Parmenides' aletheia has been of much greater influence historically than Anaximander, particularly on the thinking of Plato and Aristotle, and from there on Christianity, Islam, scholastic philosophy, Descartes, and modern science. The MIR-version of Parmenidan positive truth has shaped and stabilized occidental thinking until recently. But it does not follow from there that we have to continue with the MIR-mistake. (Whitehead pointed to something important when he said that all of Western philosophy amounts only to footnotes to Plato, but his statement does not have to imply a prognosis.)

Since it has led into some blind alleys, as is evident particularly in recent decades, it may be a good idea to return to its roots in human intuition (including the kind of intuition that is called "revelation"). We may start from Anaximander's unstructured background, in the sense that we create structures secondarily within it (which by the way the goddess forbade Parmenides to think; with this she really caused a problem : "the being" was defined as fixed, resulting in Zeno's strange notion that movement is impossible).

The question of solipsism (cf. Thornton) may arise in connection with statements like the one of Parmenides that "knowing and being are the same", Berkeley's "esse est percipi", and the principle of radical constructivism (see TA40 by Dykstra), and 0-D. It arises from the mistaken idea that the subject-object split is primary (i.e., ontological). If subject, object, and other minds are all seen as forming parts of overall SE, this difficulty does not arise.

For more information on the 0-D view see my Target Article 45 and other papers and discussions in the Karl Jaspers Forum.

For Radical Constructivism, see TA17 and TA43 by Ernst von Glasersfeld; also the Radical Constructivism web site


which provides information on the literature related to this view.


The following is an example of a description of backward reasoning. It is from the "Handbook of Medical Informatics", ed. Van Bemmel JH, and Musen MA.


" In backward reasoning, the inference mechanism selects rules from the knowledge base and checks whether data are available in the patient database for inferencing. The inference mechanism actually starts with a single rule (the goal rule) and then attempts to determine whether the goal rule is true by evaluating each of the premises of the goal rule in light of data known about the case that the rule-based system is analyzing. If there are no case data that suggest whether a given goal rule premise is true, then the backward reasoner determines whether there are any rules in the knowledge base that, if one of these rules were true, would allow the system to conclude that the particular premise of the goal rule also is true. If such rules that might be helpful are available, the system then uses case data to determine whether any of these rules is true. Of course, establishing the truth value of one of these other rules may require the inference mechanism to consider yet other rules in the knowledge base and even more data about the case being evaluated. This goal-driven reasoning continues recursively until either the goal rule is proven to be false or until all the premises of the goal rule are known to be true. At any time during the inference process, if not enough data are known, the user may be asked by the backward reasoner to provide more data, if possible. As a consequence of attempting to prove the truth value of the goal rule, the backward reasoner will have invoked many other rules that will have inferred many other conclusions about the case at hand. These conclusions collectively provide answers for the decision problem under consideration. Some reasoning mechanisms combine both forward and backward reasoning. When we have few data, it is better to start with the data first, because those data can trigger selectively the corresponding rules in the knowledge base. When there are many data about the case at hand, we do not want to trigger a myriad of production rules in a forward-chaining manner; in these settings backward reasoning is much more efficient. "

Backward reasoning here means referring back to available information, not back-in-time causation. Furthermore, the terms "is true" and "is false" are used here, not in the ontological but in a technical sense, indicating "does apply" and "does not apply".


You use ontological reasoning as well, if it fits into your previously accepted self-and-world picture, which may be conceptualized either in MIR or in as-if-MIR form. If it does not fit, it is either rejected or modified, or the overall picture is adjusted, or else you may have some incongruent components in your overall picture. The latter is not necessarily a mistake. Paul Feyerabend emphasized that logical structures are islands in an ocean of irrationality (Conquest of Abundance, 1999). Working (0-D) ontological reasoning makes this easier to accept than traditional ontology.


From : "A Dictionary of Scientists", Oxford University Press, (c) Market House Books Ltd 1999


" ... [Schrödinger was] dissatisfied with the early quantum theory of the atom developed by Niels Bohr, complaining of the apparently arbitrary nature of a good many of the quantum rules. Schrödinger took the radical step of eliminating the particle altogether and substituting for it waves alone.

His first step was to derive an equation to describe the behavior of an electron orbiting an atomic nucleus. The deBroglie equation giving the wavelength = h/mv (where h is the Planck constant and mv the momentum) presented too simple a picture for in reality, particularly with the inner orbits, the attractive force of the nucleus would result in a very complex and variable configuration. He eventually succeeded in establishing his famous [psi] wave equation, which when applied to the hydrogen atom yielded all the results of Bohr and de Broglie. It was for this work that he shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for physics with Paul Dirac.

Despite the considerable predictive success of wave mechanics, as the theory became known, there remained two problems for Schrödinger. He still had to attach some physical meaning to ideas of the nature of an electron, which was difficult if it was nothing but a wave; he also had to interpret the [psi] function occurring in the wave equation, which described the wave's amplitude. He tried to locate the electron by constructing stable 'wave packets' from many small waves, which it was hoped would behave in the same way as a particle in classical mechanics. The packets were later shown to be unstable.

Nor was his interpretation of the function as a measure of the spread of an electron any more acceptable. Instead the probabilistic interpretation of Max Born soon developed into a new orthodoxy. Schrödinger found such a view totally unacceptable, joining those other founders of quantum theory, Einstein and de Broglie, in an unrelenting opposition to the indeterminism entering physics. ... "


Waller, I. Presentation Speech, Physics, Nobel Committee, 1954


"... Born provided the solution to the problem [of how it is possible to make statements about the positions and velocities of particles if one knows the wave corresponding to the particle]. He found that the waves determine the probability of the measuring results. For this reason, according to Born, quantum mechanics gives only a statistical description. This can be illustrated by a simple example. When you shoot at a target it is possible in principle - according to the older conception - to aim the shot from the start so that it is certain to hit the target in the middle. Quantum mechanics teaches us to the contrary - that in principle we cannot predict where a single shot will hit the target. But we can achieve this much, that from a large number of shots the average point of impact will lie in the middle of the target. In contradiction to the deterministic predictions of the older mechanics, quantum mechanics accordingly poses laws which are of a statistical character, and as regards single phenomena will only determine the probabilities that one or another of various possibilities will occur. For material bodies of ordinary dimensions the uncertainty of the predictions of quantum mechanics is practically of no significance. But in atomic phenomena, on the other hand, it is fundamental. Such a radical break with older ideas could not of course prevail without opposition. But Born's conception is now generally accepted by physicists, with a few exceptions. "


From "Overview of Schroëdinger's equation" , The Shodor Education Foundation, Inc, North Carolina.


"Schroëdinger's equation made it possible to resolve a variety of the inconsistencies that had been present in previous theories. There were, however, still some problems. Max Born, in his experimental work on electron and atomic collisions, could not completely buy into the wave theory. Born's contribution was to develop a new interpretation of Schroëdinger's wave function. Born received a Nobel Prize for the realization that while psi was not a physical reality, the square of of psi could be shown to be the probability of finding a particle (in our case, an electron) at a certain location around the nucleus."

Categories as general classes of word concepts have been extensively discussed by Aristotle, Kant, and several more recent philosophers including Russell, Wittgenstein (cf. Thompson) and Jaspers. They are treated as structures of thinking, but also with a relation to reality ("being"), which is either seen as mind-independent or left undefined, and this can result in an effect of oscillation between MIR and as-if-MIR. In the 0-D view, their relation can be unambiguously defined : reality and truth are word-concepts which are trusted, and therefore invested with working-ontological reality- and truth- belief. The traditional MIR-view originates in the same way but usually lacks the awareness that it is created within SE.

Concerning "quantum weirdness", Bohr had apparently demanded that new ideas be "crazy enough" to contribute to quantum theory [Ferris]. Fair enough, one might say, because many scientists cling to MIR and might consider working ontology as crazy. One could though turn this around and ask why they would want to continue with a crazy idea like the non-functional traditional MIR. This is actually the same obstacle for particle physics as for the mind-brain problem. And this connection might explain why recently attempts have been made to explain "consciousness" as a quantum process, or conversely, quantum mechanics as a result of consciousness. But something better working is available, it seems, and Parmenides and Plato should no longer be a sufficient excuse for continuing with the traditional MIR.

[Heisenberg, 1933:] (p.290) "... the natural phenomena in which Planck's constant plays an important part can be understood only by largely forgoing a visual description of them."

(p.291-2) "The experiments necessary to define the electron-path concept also furnish an important aid in revising it. The most obvious answer to the question how the orbit of the electron in its path within the atom could be observed namely, will perhaps be to use a microscope of extreme resolving power. But since the specimen in this microscope would have to be illuminated with light having an extremely short wavelength, the first light quantum from the light source to reach the electron and pass into the observer's eye would eject the electron completely from its path in accordance with the laws of the Compton effect. Consequently only one point of the path would be observable experimentally at any one time. In this situation, therefore, the obvious policy was to relinquish the at first the concept of electron paths altogether, despite its substantiation by Wilson's experiments ... "

(p.296) "In classical physics the aim of research was to investigate objective processes occurring in space and time ... In the quantum theory, however, the situation is completely different. The very fact that the formalism of quantum mechanics cannot be interpreted as visual description of a phenomenon occurring in space and time shows that quantum mechanics is in no way concerned with the objective determination of space-time phenomena. ..."

(p.297) "Whereas in the classical theory the kind of observation has no bearing on the event, in the quantum theory the disturbance associated with each observation of the atomic phenomenon has a decisive role. Since, furthermore, the result of an observation leads only to assertions about the probability of result of subsequent observations, the fundamentally unverifiable part of each perturbation must, as shown by Bohr, be decisive for the non-contradictory operation of quantum mechanics. This difference between classical and atomic physics is understandable, of course, since for heavy bodies such as the planets moving around the sun the pressure of the sunlight which is reflected at their surface and which necessary for them to be observed is negligible; for the smallest building units of matter, however, owing to their low mass, every observation has a decisive effect on their physical behaviour."

"The perturbation of the system to be observed caused by the observation is also an important part factor in determining the limits within which a visual description of atomic phenomena is possible. If there were experiments which permitted accurate measurement of all the characteristics of an atomic system necessary to calculate classical motion, and which, for example supplied accurate values for the location and velocity of each electron in the system at a particular time, the result of these experiments could not be used at all in the formalism, but rather it would directly contradict the formalism. Again, therefore, it is clearly that fundamentally unverifiable part of the perturbation of the system caused by the measurement itself which hampers accurate ascertainment of the classical characteristics and thus permits quantum mechanics to be applied. ... the product of the probable errors is invariably at least as large as Planck's constant divided by 4pi."

(p.298) "These uncertainty relations for the results of the measurement of classical variables form the necessary conditions for enabling the result of a measurement to be expressed in the formalism of quantum theory. ... The experimental determination of whatever space-time events invariably necessitates a fixed frame - say the system of coordinates in which the observer is at rest - to which all measurements are referred. The assumption that this frame is "fixed" implies neglecting its momentum from the outset, since "fixed" implies nothing other, of course, than that any transfer of momentum to it will evoke no perceptible effect. The fundamentally necessary uncertainty at this point is then transmitted via the measuring apparatus into the atomic event."

"Since in connection with this situation it is tempting to consider the possibility of eliminating all uncertainties by amalgamating the object, the measuring apparatuses, and the observer into one quantum-mechanical system, it is important to emphasize that the act of measurement is necessarily visualizable, since, of course physics is ultimately concerned with the systematic description of space-time processes. The behaviour of the observer as well as his measuring apparatus must therefore be discussed according to the laws of classical physics, as otherwise there is no physical problem whatsoever. Within the measuring apparatus, as emphasized by Bohr, all events in the sense of the classical theory will therefore be regarded as determined ... . In quantum theory, too, the scheme of classical physics which objectifies the results of observation by assuming in space and time processes obeying laws is thus carried through up to the point where the fundamental limits are imposed by the unvisualizable character of the atomic events symbolized by Planck's constant. A visual description for the atomic events is possible only within certain limits of accuracy - but within these limits the laws of classical physics also still apply. Owing to these limits of accuracy as defined by the uncertainty relations, moreover, a visual picture of the atom free from ambiguity has not been determined. On the contrary the corpuscular and the wave concepts are equally serviceable as a basis for visual interpretation."

(p.299) "The laws of quantum mechanics are basically statistical. ... But ... there are observations which yield accurately predictable results ... the principles of conservation for energy and momentum still hold as strictly as ever ... they can be checked with any desired accuracy ... however, ... an accurate study of the energetic conditions renders it impossible to pursue at the same time a particular event in space and time."

(p.301) "... the thought of the great epistemological difficulties with which the visual atom concept of earlier physics had to contend gives us hope that the abstracter atomic physics developing at present will one day fit more harmoniously into the great edifice of Science."

[Heisenberg, 1958 :] "... modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. ... The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms. "All things are numbers" is a sentence attributed to Pythagoras. ... the mathematical forms that represent the elementary particles will be solutions of some eternal law of motion for matter. This is a problem which has not yet been solved."

It may be of interest to determine the relation of the theorems of Gödel and Tarski [17] to the impossibility of MIR. [Devlin :] Theorems are proven by deduction from axioms. (These were traditionally understood as simple assertions of self-evident truths, i.e., of MI-truths).

In 0-D the axioms are instead human assertions or propositions, intuitively posited as being manifestly valid (like the manifest destiny to conquer a continent) and functional with no reference to MIR. Truth has no meaning outside subject-inclusive experience, and is established by trust [7]. But, like Euclid's geometry, all mathematics and logic can function correctly, like a car, as tools for SE, without truth claims, if they are internally consistent.

And beyond that, one wonders to what extent some 20th century developments in physics - such as relativity and quantum theories - had a similar causation : the 2500-year old impossibility of MIR, and SE centrality.

Jaspers' large book on truth does not mention Tarski. He wrote (p.680) that philosophical logic "lebt aus dem Antrieb zum Einen", and he added "Ob es das Eine gibt, ist für das Wissen unbeantwortbar", which may essentially come to the same as Tarski's result. We would do better to base ourselves on Anaximander and face the increased responsibility for what we think and do (we have actually had it all along). The One has to be sought inside our experience, with or without religions and/or theories of everything. Whether it "exists", as Jaspers said, may be less important than trying to establish and maintain it.

The debate around the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen paper of 1935 has much to do with the definition of reality. EPR gave the following criterion as "sufficient but not necessary" for reality : "If, without in any way disturbing a system, we can predict with certainty (i.e., with probability equal to unity) the value of a physical quantity, then there exists an element of physical reality to this physical quantity." The EPR argument is for "local reality", that is, deterministic (see [49]) primary or a-priori reality (cf. [4ff]). If p<1, the quantity is not real; and also, the system must not be disturbed by observing it, which is in principle impossible. [61] - This led to the testing of a condition which all local theories must fulfill (Bell's inequality, 1971), in the Aspect & al. experiment (1981). The authors concluded : "[O]ur results, in excellent agreement with quantum mechanics predictions, are to a high statistical accuracy a strong evidence against the whole class of realistic local theories." This would in my opinion then suggest an "a-posteriori reality" (vanHees), i.e., constructed working ontology [11(b)], or as-if-MIR.



Budnik P, Schrödinger's Cat


Chow TY, The Surprise Examination or Unexpected Hanging Paradox.


Devlin K, Kurt Gödel - Separating Truth from Proof in Mathematics. Science 298, 6 Dec 2002, p. 1899-1900. {i}

Dowden B, Liar Paradox.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Ferris T, Quantum Weirdness. (1997)


Flinn S, Visual and Auditory Illusions.


Heisenberg W, The development of quantum mechanics


Heisenberg W, (from Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science. New York, Harper and Row, 1958)


Holtzman JM, A Note on Schrödinger's cat and the Unexpected Hanging Paradox. Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 39 (1988) 397-401.

Jaspers K, Philosophie (3 Vols.) Berlin, Springer, 4.Aufl. 1973.

Jaspers K, Von der Wahrheit. (pp.1103) München: Piper 1947, 1991.

Kant I, Opus Postumum. Berlin and Leipzig, W deGruyter, 1936. p.146. [53]

Krips H, Measurement in Quantum Theory. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Kundera M, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Transl. H Heim. New York, Harper & Row, 1985.

Luchins AS, Luchins EH, Comments on the Concept of Closure.


Margalit A, Bar-Hillel M, Expecting the Unexpected. Philosophia 13, 263-288, 1983

Merleau-Ponty M, Phénoménologie de la perception. Paris: Gallimard, 1945

Mostowski A. Tarski, Alfred. In Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol.2, New York: MacMillan, 1967.

Piaget J, The Development of Reality in the Child. Transl. M. Cook. New York, Basic Books, 1954.

Schrödinger E, Naturwissenschaften 23, 1935, see


Thompson M, Categories. In Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol.2, New York: MacMillan, 1967.

Thornton S, Solipsism and the Problem of Other Minds. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/s/solipsis.htm#Historical Origins of the Problem

Van Hees H, Herr Einstein, Herr Podolski und Herr Rosen


Young L A, Rescuing Schrödinger's Cat


See also :




[The following are some questions I would be interested to see discussed in the context of this paper. This does not mean of course that any other questions are excluded.]

If you think that traditional ontology is more useful than working ontology, please say why.

Also how do you propose that traditional ontology might work ?

In particular, how would mind-independent reality become available to the mind (subject) ?

Why would the addition of the as-if stipulation to the MIR-view interfere with its function ?

What is "time" ? Can time go backward ? Can time be deformed ? Why ? or why not ?

Why is speed of light the same for all subjects ? (Einstein's pre-supposition) Is it because science works mainly with visual word-concepts ? For visual structuring we need to receive light.

Where are number, categories, classes located ?

Where and how should we look for "the One" ?

Are Gödel's and Tarski's theorems, and the result of the EPR controversy, due to the impossibility of mind-independent reality and truth ?

How reasonable is backward reasoning ?

Relation of quantum weirdness to MIR-belief.

What is the observer effect ? Its cause ?

How are the uncertainty relation, and more generally the statistical nature of QM, and the collapse of the wave function, related to the photon effect and the action of emitted particles on a counter ?

Relation of quantum weirdness to the mind-brain problem.


Herbert FJ Müller MD FRCP(C)

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, McGill University

Studied Medicine at the University of Köln, subsequent studies in Psychology, Neurology, Psychiatry, and EEG at Universities of Bonn, Düsseldorf, New York University, Universidade do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro), and McGill University, Montreal.

Clinical work in psychiatric EEG, Psychogeriatrics, and related fields. Present main clinical work : Memory Clinic multidisciplinary assessments (clinical assessment, EEG, evoked responses, in conjunction with physical, psychological, and social evaluation).

Over 70 paper publications, 6 electronic articles, and many contributions to discussions.

Editor, Karl Jaspers Forum, an electronic multi-disciplinary Journal for Target Articles. This is a testing ground for propositions in the areas of psychology, psychopathology, and related fields, including clinical and basic sciences (there has also been an unexpected large input from theoretical physicists.) Of particular interest are the mind-brain relation and "consciousness"; there is some emphasis on clarification of conceptual pre-suppositions. Publications are in English, or also in other languages if accompanied by an English translation. URL : <http://www.mcgill.ca/douglas/fdg/kjf>


Herbert FJ Müller

e-mail <hmller@po-box.mcgill.ca>