RELATIONAL REALISM AND THE ONTOGENETIC UNIVERSE: subject, object, and ontological process in quantum mechanics

Angelaki 25 (3):108-119 (2020)
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Amid the wide variety of interpretations of quantum mechanics, the notion of a fully coherent ontological interpretation has seen a promising evolution over the last few decades. Despite this progress, however, the old dualistic categorical constraints of subjectivity and objectivity, correlate with the metrically restricted definition of local and global, have remained largely in place – a reflection of the broader, persistent inheritance of these comfortable strictures throughout the evolution of modern science. If one traces this inheritance back to its ancient roots in Plato and Aristotle, it is clear that the coherence, scientific utility, and historical durability of the various natural philosophies that followed have been directly proportional to their commitment, tacit or explicit, to object-oriented realism. As Simondon might put it, it is a commitment to the primacy of individuated substance over the process of individuation. For Whitehead, it is the misplaced assimilation of becoming to being, of potentiality to actuality. Quantum mechanics has challenged this commitment with a combined breadth and depth of force that far exceeds any other theory in the history of science. The theory’s objectively demonstrable empirical application is manifest only by way of a fundamentally subjective, context-dependent mechanism of measurement. More compelling still, actual system states are always actualizations of locally contextualized yet globally conditioned potential system states, such that “globally objective” reality is no longer merely the object of local measurement, but also its product. Thus, any coherent, ontological interpretation of quantum theory must include a conceptual framework by which objectivity and subjectivity, actuality and potentiality, global and local, being and becoming, individuated fact and process of individuation, are no longer understood as merely epistemic, mutually exclusive category pairs descriptive of an already extant, closed reality – but rather as mutually implicative ontological categories explicative of an ontogenetic, open reality-in-process.

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Michael Epperson
California State University, Sacramento


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