June 17, 2023

Physicalism - II

Physicalism and Objective Realism are useful tools but they say as much about the true nature of 'external objective reality' as Newton's Laws.

Physicalism (the belief that the world is fundamentally composed of physical entities) and objective realism (the belief that there's an objective reality independent of consciousness) are foundational to much of modern science.

However, these philosophies also have limitations. They can struggle to account for certain phenomena, particularly those related to consciousness and perception. As our scientific understanding progresses and we delve deeper into the mysteries of the universe, from the vast realms of cosmology to the tiny world of quantum mechanics, we are discovering that reality may be more complex and strange than the straightforward physicalist or objective realist perspectives can fully encompass.

A colourless, silent, tasteless reality....

The investigation comes down to 'inherent properties of the physical world independent of an observer', to establish what inherent qualities exist in 'Objective Reality'.


1. The physical world has radiation of different wavelengths, but no colour. Colour is a quale. 

2. The physical world has only pressure waves, but no sound. Sound is a quale. 

3. Physical substances have no taste. The brain experiences 'taste'. Taste is a quale.

4. Colour is not an inherent property of objects, but a result of how our eyes perceive different wavelengths of light. It is a quale.

5. Sound is not something that exists in the world independent of an observer, but a perception created in our brains in response to patterns of pressure waves in the air. Sound is a quale.

Could it ever have been different...?

Answer: No.

Does 'Objective Reality' have anything 'solid' in it? Are physical objects 'solid'?

On a fundamental level, what we perceive as "solid" is mostly empty space. The solidity we experience is a result of the electromagnetic forces at work on a microscopic scale. 

In an atom, electrons create a "shell" around the nucleus, and the electromagnetic repulsion between these electron shells is what we perceive as solidity. 

An atom is mostly empty space. The nucleus of an atom is incredibly small compared to the size of the atom itself. If an atom were the size of a stadium, for instance, its nucleus would be about the size of a pea in the centre, and the rest would be empty space, except for the incredibly tiny electrons whizzing around - which no one has seen and will most probably never see.

In terms of quantum mechanics, particles aren't just little balls bouncing around, they're also waves and exist in a state of superposition, being in many places at once, until measured or observed. 

Solidness is a quale.

All these concepts challenge the traditional notions of what's solid, what's real, and what objective reality is. 


1. Colour is a quale.

2. Sound is a quale.

3. Taste is a quale.

4. Solidness is a quale.

A quale is something you experience. It is not an inherent property of 'Objective Reality'.

In philosophy of mind, "qualia" (singular: "quale") is a term used to refer to the subjective, experiential aspects of consciousness. 

Qualia are what it is like to have a particular experience. They are the "raw feels" of experience, like the redness of seeing a red apple, the sourness of tasting a lemon, or the feeling of solidity when you touch a solid object.

May 08, 2023

A look at Physicalism

Physicalism is a philosophical position that holds that everything that exists is fundamentally physical or material in nature. 

According to physicalism, all phenomena, including mental processes, emotions, and consciousness, can ultimately be explained in terms of physical processes or properties, such as those described by the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. This view contrasts with dualism, which posits that there are both physical and non-physical (or mental) substances, and idealism, which holds that reality is primarily mental or immaterial.

Physicalism has its roots in the empiricist tradition of philosophy, which emphasizes the role of observation and experience in acquiring knowledge. It is closely related to materialism, which has a similar focus on the physical world but may differ in some nuances.

There are different forms of physicalism, including reductive and non-reductive varieties. 

Reductive physicalism posits that mental states and properties can be completely reduced to, or explained by, physical states and properties. 

Non-reductive physicalism, on the other hand, argues that while mental states depend on physical states, they cannot be fully reduced to them.

Physicalism has been a dominant position in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is often seen as compatible with the scientific worldview and has been supported by advances in neuroscience and other sciences that study the relationship between the mind and the physical world.

Problems with Physicalism:

1. The hard problem of consciousness, posed by philosopher David Chalmers, asks why and how subjective experiences (qualia) arise from physical processes in the brain. While physicalism may offer explanations for the correlations between brain states and subjective experiences, it has not yet provided a fully satisfactory account of how and why subjective experiences emerge from brain activity.

2. Decoherence: The transition from the quantum scale to the macroscopic scale, where objects exhibit classical, deterministic behaviour,  this transition is not defined by a specific scale or size but rather by the emergence of classical behaviour from the underlying quantum phenomena.

The process that links the quantum and classical worlds is called "decoherence." 

Decoherence occurs when a quantum system interacts with its environment, causing the superposition of quantum states to break down and the system to behave more classically. In essence, the quantum effects are "washed out" by interactions with the surrounding environment, and the system starts to exhibit classical behaviour.

The scale at which constituent particles behave classically is determined by the extent to which decoherence takes place. Due to the large number of particles in a physical object and their constant interactions with each other and their environment, the quantum effects become negligible, and the object behaves as a classical object with a well-defined position, size, and shape.

There isn't a specific scale at which the transition from quantum to classical behaviour occurs. Instead, the emergence of classical behaviour in macroscopic objects, is a result of decoherence brought about by the interactions between particles and their environment. This process effectively "hides" the underlying quantum nature of the particles and gives rise to the appearance of an objective, classical reality.

March 23, 2023

Gazing at the sub Planck Length realm using Philosophy of Science

(With inputs from ChatGPT)

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued that we could only have knowledge of the world as it appears to us (phenomena) and not the world as it is in itself (noumena).

In other words, noumena represent things in themselves that are beyond our direct experience, whereas phenomena are the appearances or manifestations of those things that we can perceive and understand. 

A nice article on the Kantian perspective of noumena & phenomena is at Allzermalmer

Another interesting description(below), it's inspired by the Kantian point of view though it's a description in terms of the lens of human emotions. Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy. Schopenhauer was a German philosopher who was deeply influenced by Immanuel Kant:

(Brief commentary on the above: The Schopenhauerian progression in "Tristan and Isolde" can be seen as an artistic exploration of the human experience and the underlying Will, which is related to the realm of noumena in Immanuel Kant's philosophy. The opera delves into the deep emotional and metaphysical aspects of human existence, providing a glimpse into the world beyond mere appearances or phenomena.)


And now, let us take a quick look at Henri Poincaré's worldview and then use it to gaze at the realm below the PLANCK LENGTH:

Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, and philosopher of science, however, revised Kant's view in a more optimistic direction. He believed that while we may not be able to directly access the noumena or unobservable entities postulated by scientific theories, we could still indirectly gain knowledge about them through the study of their relations or structure. In Poincaré's structuralist view, scientific theories offer a way to describe and understand the structure of the world, even if we cannot directly observe all the entities involved.

And this brings us to a very intriguing aspect of Physics, the PLANCK LENGTH. What could lie below it, could Poincaré's philosophy help here?

While it's not possible to provide a definitive answer about what could lie below the Planck length from Poincaré's perspective, we can try to relate his ideas of noumena and phenomena to our current understanding of the Planck length and theoretical physics.

The Planck length (about 1.6 x 10^-35 metres) is the smallest meaningful length scale in current theoretical physics, which arises from combining fundamental constants like the gravitational constant, Planck's constant, and the speed of light. At or below this length scale, our understanding of space and time, as described by classical and quantum theories, breaks down. It is generally believed that a complete theory of quantum gravity is required to describe phenomena at such scales.

In the context of Poincaré's views on noumena and phenomena, one might argue that the Planck length represents a boundary between what we can currently describe as phenomena (our current scientific understanding of the world) and what might be considered noumena (unobservable aspects of the world that are beyond our current theoretical framework).

Since Poincaré emphasised the importance of structural relationships in understanding scientific theories, it is possible that he would have been open to the idea that a new theoretical framework, such as a successful theory of quantum gravity, could provide us with an indirect understanding of what lies below the Planck length. This would be in line with his belief that we can gain knowledge about unobservable entities through their structural properties.

However, Poincaré's views were developed in a different scientific context, and his ideas on noumena and phenomena might not map perfectly onto modern theoretical physics. The specific details of what lies below the Planck length would depend on the development of a complete theory of quantum gravity, which remains an open question in contemporary physics.

Poincaré lived between 1854 and 1912, a period that saw significant developments in mathematics and physics, but many of the key concepts and theories we now consider fundamental, such as quantum mechanics and general relativity, had not yet been developed or were in their infancy.

The concepts of noumena and phenomena, as discussed by Poincaré and Kant, pertain to the distinction between things as they are in themselves (noumena) and the way those things appear to us (phenomena). While these philosophical concepts can still be relevant to modern discussions in the philosophy of science, they might not perfectly align with the more specific and detailed concepts in contemporary theoretical physics.

For example, modern theoretical physics deals with a variety of phenomena that were not known or understood in Poincaré's time, such as the behaviour of particles and fields in quantum mechanics.