The Self and Its World: Husserlian Contributions to a Metaphysics of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Heisenberg’s Indeterminacy Principle in Quantum Physics
AbstractThis paper centers on the implicit metaphysics beyond the Theory of Relativity and the Principle of Indeterminacy – two revolutionary theories that have changed 20th Century Physics – using the perspective of Husserlian Transcedental Phenomenology. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) abolished the theoretical framework of Classical (Galilean- Newtonian) physics that has been complemented, strengthened by Cartesian metaphysics. Rene Descartes (1596- 1850) introduced a separation between subject and object (as two different and self- enclosed substances) while Galileo and Newton did the “mathematization” of the world. Newtonian physics, however, had an inexplicable postulate of absolute space and absolute time – a kind of geometrical framework, independent of all matter, for the explication of locality and acceleration. Thus, Cartesian modern metaphysics and Galilean- Newtonian physics go hand in hand, resulting to socio- ethical problems, materialism and environmental destruction. Einstein got rid of the Newtonian absolutes and was able to provide a new foundation for our notions of space and time: the four (4) dimensional space- time; simultaneity and the constancy of velocity of light, and the relativity of all systems of reference. Heisenberg, following the theory of quanta of Max Planck, told us of our inability to know sub- atomic phenomena and thus, blurring the line between the Cartesian separation of object and subject, hence, initiating the crisis of the foundations of Classical Physics. But the real crisis, according to Edmund Husserl (1859-1930) is that Modern (Classical) Science had “idealized” the world, severing nature from what he calls the Lebenswelt (life- world), the world that is simply there even before it has been reduced to mere mathematical- logical equations. Husserl thus, aims to establish a new science that returns to the “pre- scientific” and “non- mathematized” world of rich and complex phenomena: phenomena as they “appear to human consciousness”. To overcome the Cartesian equation of subject vs. object (man versus environment), Husserl brackets the external reality of Newtonian Science (epoché = to put in brackets, to suspend judgment) and emphasizes (1) the meaning of “world” different from the “world” of Classical Physics, (2) the intentionality of consciousness (L. in + tendere = to tend towards, to be essentially related to or connected to) which means that even before any scientific- logical description of the external reality, there is always a relation already between consciousness and an external reality. The world is the equiprimordial existence of consciousness and of external reality. My paper aims to look at this new science of the pre- idealized phenomena started by Husserl (a science of phenomena as they appear to conscious, human, lived experience, hence he calls it phenomenology), centering on the life- world and the intentionality of consciousness, as providing a new way of looking at ourselves and the world, in short, as providing a new metaphysics (as an antidote to Cartesian metaphysics) that grounds the revolutionary findings of Einstein and Heisenberg. The environmental destruction, technocracy, socio- ethical problems in the modern world are all rooted in this Galilean- Newtonian- Cartesian interpretation of the relationship between humans and the world after the crumbling of European Medieval Ages. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) comments that the modern world is going toward a nihilism (L. nihil = nothingness) at the turn of the century. Now, after two World Wars and the dropping of Atomic bomb, the capitalism and imperialism on the one hand, and on the other hand the poverty, hunger of the non- industrialized countries alongside destruction of nature (i.e., global warming), Nietzsche might be correct: unless humanity changes the way it looks at humanity and the kosmos. The works of Einstein, Heisenberg and Husserl seem to be pointing the way for us humans to escape nihilism by a “great existential transformation.” What these thinkers of post- modernity (after Cartesian/ Newtonian/ Galilean modernity) point to are: a) a new therapeutic way of looking at ourselves and our world (metaphysics) and b) a new and corrective notion of “rationality” (different from the objectivist, mathematico- logical way of thinking). This paper is divided into four parts: 1) A summary of Classical Physics and a short history of Quantum Theory 2) Einstein’s Special and General Relativity and Heisenberg’s Indeterminacy Principle 3) Husserl’s discussion of the Crisis of Europe, the life- world and intentionality of consciousness 4) A Metaphysics of Relativity and Indeterminacy and a Corrective notion of Rationality in Husserl’s Phenomenology
Archival historyArchival date: 2013-02-20
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