Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Schopenhauer and Wolfgang Pauli: part one

Wolfgang Pauli
photo: Bettina Katzenstein
"The idea of meaningful coincidence—i.e., simultaneous events not causally connected— was expressed very clearly by Schopenhauer [1788-1860] in his essay "[Transzendente Spekulation] über die anscheinende Absichtlichkeit im Schicksale des Einzelnen [On the Apparent Design in the Fate of the Individual]." There he postulates an ultimate union of necessity and chance," which appears to us as a "force," which links together all things, even those that are causally unconnected, and does it in such a way that they come together just at the right moment." He compares causal chains with the meridians, simultaneousness with parallel circles—corresponding exactly to your "equivalent cross connections." He sees, "albeit imperfectly from a distance." the compatibility of the opposition "between the apparent chance element in all occurrences in the life of the individual and their moral necessity in the shaping of that life in accordance with a transcendental practicality for the individual—or, in popular language, between the course of nature and providence.

"Perhaps some reference in your work to this essay of Schopenhauer's would be a good idea, all the more as he, too, was influenced by the ideas of Eastern Asia that you quote so frequently. Although Sch.'s essay is probably known to only a relatively small number of physicists, it is always pleasing in a fundamental issue to be able to make connections with what is already in existence.

"This essay of Schopenhauer's had a lasting and fascinating effect on me and seemed to be pointing the way to a new trend in natural sciences. But whereas Sch. wanted at all costs to cling to rigid determinism along the lines of the classical physics of his day, we have now acknowledged that in the nuclear world, physical events cannot be followed in causal chains through time and space. Thus, the readiness to adopt the idea on which your work is based, that of the "meaning as an ordering factor," is probably considerably greater among physicists that it was in Schopenhauer's day."

The above is an excerpt (editorial references are in the published work) from a very long handwritten letter from Pauli to Jung on 28th June 1949, Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters 1932-1958, ed. C. A. Meier, Princeton University Press, 2001, pps 36-42.  in response to a letter from Jung together with an early draft of Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle . The last part of Pauli's letter is virtually a draft of the start of an essay on the physics of synchronicity and Pauli's closing starts with "this is as far as I have got.". He  looks forward to speaking with Jung about it and nearly a year later he writes to Jung about the subject again including details of two dreams he had after reading Jung's draft and refers to another conversation on the subject the previous day. Jung did, indeed, include the reference to Schopenhauer that Pauli suggested (see yesterday's post for the quote). The entire Schopenhauer essay can be read on Google Books (scroll down below p. 200 which is not shown).

IThe World as Will and Idea, Vol 2. Schopenhauer says:
"Therefore in self-consciousness also the known, thus the will, must be what is first and original; the knower, on the other hand, only what is secondary, that which has been added, the mirror. They are related very much as the luminous to the reflecting body; or, again, as the vibrating strings to the resounding-board, in which case the note produced would be consciousness."
Michio Kaku, the co-founder of String Theory says: "What is physics? Physics is nothing but the laws of harmony that you can write on vibrating strings." and a number of commentators on string theory have mentioned Schopenhauer's aforementioned book, making the connection directly or indirectly, but Schopenhauer, as we discussed yesterday, was strongly influenced by the Upanishads. Since the seventeenth century, classical Indian musical instruments such as the sitar and the sarod have included a number of resonating strings that are not deliberately played by necessity (although sometimes are, optionally), but resonate in response to the vibration of the main, played, strings. The purpose of introducing these strings comes from the Upanishads and other Vedic works about the interconnectedness of the universe and is currently applied in texts about classical Indian music as the "Indian saturation aesthetic". So again, we have an acausal connecting principle which in String Theory hangs onto physicality by only one dimension. David Bohm's Implicate Order "source", however, is completely non-physical. The way we express such abstract ideas  have such connections through meanings which lack the more direct relationships of classical logic but become connected through multiple realities as is explained in transdisciplinarity, itself coming from quantum physics.

Tomorrow, Wolfgang Pauli's problems with Schopenhauer's God.

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  1. Excellent but Pauli was wrong in saying Schopenhauer was influenced by the East. Probably the generation after Shop but not the man himself. Kant came to the same conclusions as the East and this is why his primary disciple sounds Eastern!

  2. Thanks for this clarification, Moesy, and sorry for the delay posting -- I have not been checking my blog as much as I should be lately!