Re: existence of objects/form
Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:19 am
That remark from Einstein was made when he was out walking with one of his close friends, and thinking about the so-called 'Copenhagen Interpretation' of quantum physics, which posts that the 'act of observation' is instrumental in 'creating' the particle being observed by 'collapsing the wave function'. The reason this was so perplexing to Einstein was that, as a scientist, he was convinced that the fundamental constituents of reality existed independently of any perceiving mind. This was the point that caused him to say 'does the moon exist when nobody is looking at it?' He was very hostile to the apparently mystical implications of Copenhagen.Randomseb wrote:Einstein once complained about the moon not existing if it wasn't observed, due to some quantum physics phenomena..
Obviously, from the common-sense viewpoint, the answer to his question is 'yes'. It is not as if, were all h.sapiens to perish through a planetary catastrophe, the moon and stars would suddenly go out of existence. However, the moon, or anything else, exists from a perspective, and in relation to other things. It is situated in space and time. We bring those perceptual elements to the picture, and name the resulting aggregation of elements, shapes, colours, and so on, 'moon'. Our consciousness 'makes manifest' the various elements of any object and brings it together, as object, as 'something there'. It is not as if, in the absence of that act of observation, that things go out of existence - more that the nature of existence itself, is something within which the mind plays a foundational role.
The point about the scientific attitude, is that it assumes the 'mind-independence' of the world. It begins with the fact of observing subjects in the natural environment. It presumes that 'the mind' is simply another phenomenon in the natural world. What it doesn't see, is that the mind actually constitutes what we call 'the world' by combining all of the various perceptions and judgements which comprise our experience of it, into an apparently coherent whole. To see that, is to start doing something other than 'natural science', because it is asking a very different kind of question, to scientific questions. (However this is not opposed to the scientific approach. It is simply a different type of attitude or outlook.)
Some philosophers (and not only Indian) have long understood that there is this sense in which the mind 'creates' the world. After all Schopenhauer starts his great work, World as Will and Representation, with the statement 'the world is my representation'. (Of all the Western philosophers, he was the one closest in many ways to Hindu and Buddhist thinkers.)
But I don't think this means that the world is simply unreal in any trivial or simple sense. We are in it, and bound to it by our attachments and karma, which extends back into ancient history. So I still have a lot of respect for empirical science and hard facts. It is just that they don't have the final say. The Buddhas are those who see beyond that world of appearances but until we ourselves do that also, we are bound by it.
Have a look at The Mental Universe Richard Conn Henry.