Reality and Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st Century

Reality and Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st Century

Reality and Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st Century

Reality and Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st Century


Once in a century an overview shakes the mold of preconception and makes a world model fall into shape. This is such a book absorbing, provocative, original, skeptical, and often very funny in spite of formidable scholarship. The focus of the book is on the change in self-perception which physics might bring about if it were made in some way empathically real to non-physicists. The common man's existential attitude is a product now of nineteenth-century, mechanistic models. But in pursuing this, the author lays out a comprehensive survey of impending changes in the philosophy of science, and ranges through physics, biology, mathematics, Jungian psychology, and evolutionary theory, turning also to look at other, non-Western-scientific, world models.

In the task of reshaping the world model of scientists and others, only commitment to the discipline of science will do. It can be combined with enough controlled lunacy to bring conventionally self-evident ideas of reality into question (in mathematics this has always been a winning mixture), but it has to produce testable predictions.

What we are now looking at is the prospect of Jungian physics: a physics model which also addresses the image-forming mechanism and possibly even the non-locality of mind.

The hard-hat model of an objective reality has had to yield to a growing perception that the objective is, in form at least, a construct: what we appear to see is a function of the manner of seeing (hardly a new idea to Greek philosophy), but with the awkward complication that the cogitating I arises from the structures which it sees and orders. "


Worlds are created by brains. At a simple level, bees, migratory birds, dogs and even limpets, which return to a particular spot after feeding, contain internal maps of their surroundings. Humans, who think abstractly, create more complicated inferential maps going beyond their known surroundings, to include the world, celestial objects, real and hypothetical beings, and the past and future as well as the present.

Making world models is a familiar human activity. In our culture they are made on the basis of what we call science, meaning the testing of intuitive or imaginative hypotheses by observation and experiment, conducted upon something which we call "objective reality." Both primitive and scientific world models have, of course, to include the observer, the I who is doing the imagining, observing or experimenting, and the objective world, which appears and presents consistency of behavior to that observing I.

I originally wrote these notes to order my ideas for discussion with one particular group of people, psychiatric residents. These are some of the brightest students one encounters in medicine--bright, perhaps, in a slightly different way from young physicists. They are grounded in science, a fair number of them have read some philosophy, and they are occupationally concerned with people, in the case of my group, with old people. Now old age and terminal illness are . . .

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