The Mind and the Physical World: A Psychologist's Exploration of Modern Physical Theory

Los Angeles, USA: Tailor Press (1995)
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Abstract
The mind of man is central to the structure and functioning of the physical world. Modern physical theory indicates that the mind stands in a relationship of equals to the physical world. Both are fundamental, neither can be reduced to the other, and both require each other for their full understanding. This thesis is at odds with the view of the universe found in Newtonian mechanics as well as the generally held view among contemporary physicists of modern physical theory. Since the Renaissance, man has come to understand a great deal about the physical world, and he has gained significant control over it. This increased power over the physical world has occurred hand in hand with the assumption that the structure and functioning of the physical world is essentially independent from his cognitive functioning. According to this assumption, if man’s cognitive capacity did not exist, the functioning of the physical world would not be fundamentally altered. This last statement is not in fact correct, and modern physical theory, and even fundamentals underlying Newtonian mechanics, provide evidence to attest to this. Nonetheless, contemporary physicists for the most part do not see that the relationship of human cognition to the physical world is radically altered in their own modern theory, theory that is supported by a great deal of empirical data. Instead, attempting to preserve the thesis that the structure and functioning of the physical world is independent of the mind while on a practical level relying on modern theory that contradicts this thesis, physicists have placed themselves in the position of wondering at times exactly what is the nature of the physical world at the same time they obtain experimental results concerning the physical world that can only be labeled astonishing in their precision and the scope of their implications. Modern physical theory consists of three main components: 1) the special and general theories of relativity; 2) quantum mechanics; and 3) statistical mechanics. There are very successful theories that have been developed on the basis of these three bedrock areas. An example of one is quantum electrodynamics. But these theories owe their conceptual foundation to the three components mentioned. The basic issues at the core of these three components also are expressed in these later theories. In addition, there are new unresolved issues of a fundamental nature concerning the conceptual integrity of these later theories that do not apply to quantum mechanics, relativity theory, and statistical mechanics. Quantum mechanics and relativity theory are areas I have written about for over twelve years. The nature of statistical mechanics has also been of interest to me during this time. But when I took a serious look in 1993 at Tolman’s (1938) The Principles of Statistical Mechanics, it became clear that the mind is linked to the physical world in statistical mechanics, a relationship I had found earlier in both relativity theory and quantum mechanics. It was after reading Tolman’s justification of the method of statistical mechanics in the original that I decided to write this book. When I found that the three components of modern physical theory all pointed to the same relationship between mind and the physical world, it became clear that the fundamental isolation of the mind from the physical world that has characterized our experience since the development of Newtonian mechanics is unfounded. Based on empirically supported principles of modern physical theory, I determined that the appropriate assumption for one’s experience, that the mind is linked to the physical world, could be stated with confidence. The impact of this change in assumption concerning the relationship of man to the cosmos in modern physical theory will find its way into our everyday experience. It will perhaps have no greater effect than in reducing the sense of isolation of man from the world that has characterized modern existence.
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