Parts of a Whole

Through history until the 18th Century, various peoples of various regions of the world had various ideas about the purpose that breathed life into our lives, giving substance and significance to the decisions we make.

Newton’s idea of a clockwork universe supplanted all that.  There was no room for God, and also no room for beauty or virtue or any human value in a world that conists only in particles bouncing off one another according to deterministic physical laws.  This world-view gelled in the 19th Century as a philosophy with the implicity backing of Science.  Nietzsche told us, “God is dead,” and Darwin told us, “Humans are an accident.”

Quantum mechanics in the 20th Century changed that.  There is room in the interstices of physics for meaning, judgments, free choice, and human virtues.  But art and culture were slow to respond. Our philosophy, the fundamental attitude which we bring to the world, is stuck in the 19th Century.  The existentialism of Sartre, the suicide of Camus, the cynicism of the Dadaists, the rage of the Punk Rockers, the self-defeating selfishness of the New Right, the accountant’s mindset of the Liberal establishment are all products of this window on life rooted in 19th Century science.

If it is ever translated into a coherent view of the world (or a mystical view of the world), Quantum Mechanics can be liberating.  QM is inherently holistic.  Every particle knows what is happening to every other particle, everywhere in the universe, and quantum probabilities.  There is room within QM for mind and intention.  The future is open and does not unfold like clockwork from the past.  It’s safe to be passionate again without betraying your commitment to logic or empiricism.  This can be very liberating, indeed.

Listen to David Bohm talk about Parts of a Whole.
Read Jason Josephson Storm’s article on restoring enchantment to our outlook.

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