Plato meets Quantum Mechanics

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What would Plato have said about the Quantum Mechanics theory development? I mean, we have had to give the reason a second place in order to give to the observations the main motor of the theory and I think that Plato would have a lot to say in this subject. I would like to just discuss this in terms of Plato's conceptions of knowledge, as how we should approach the seek of reality in terms of just the reason.

I am trying to write an essay about the Plato's vision of reality and I would like to counter him into the quantum theory:

  • Quantum theory needs an observed to become 'real', to be a thing (us making the measure). Plato thought about the reality independent of a subject.

  • If Plato just 'believed' in the power of reason in order to find the truth, how would he argue all the quantum phenomena, which is based in our senses, not abstract ideas?

marc-cejalvo

Posted 2017-03-05T12:49:09.183

Reputation: 171

1Hey there, welcome to philosophy and thanks for the question!! Is there any chance you might be able to narrow this down a bit? What is a specific aspect of this problem you're facing in your study? – Joseph Weissman – 2017-03-05T14:29:50.170

Thanks! I am trying to write an essay about the Plato's vision of reality and I would like to counter him into the quantum theory:

  • Quantum theory needs an observed to become 'real', to be a thing (us making the measure). Plato thought about the reality independent of a subject.
  • If Plato just 'believed' in the power of reason in order to find the truth, how would he argue all the quantum phenomena, which is based in our senses, not abstract ideas?

Feel free to edit whatever you thing in the main question. – marc-cejalvo – 2017-03-05T14:56:32.223

But how are we supposed to know what Plato could have said about a theory developed 2000 years after him with extensive conceptual developments in between? He did not possess conceptual vocabulary to even express what quantum mechanics is, let alone to comment on it. – Conifold – 2017-03-08T03:31:56.877

Your views of quantum theory are wrong. Whether something is real in quantum theory is independent of observation. See "The Fabric of Reality" chapter 2 and "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch chapters 11 and 12. – alanf – 2017-03-08T13:58:11.803

Great idea for an essay. I hope it worked out. – Mozibur Ullah – 2018-02-16T19:01:54.140

Thank you @MoziburUllah. It started as an essay and ended as a Bachelor's Degree in Physics Final Project.

When I presented the essay it grabbed the attention of a teacher of mine working on QM without observer theories so we ended working in a quantum measurement alternative theory without the need of an observer.

We kind of made Plato a favor. – marc-cejalvo – 2018-02-17T12:17:53.227

@MarcC: You're welcome. I liked the observation 'Quantum theory needs an observed to become 'real', to be a thing'. I'm not so sure about 'us making the measure', mainly because this is against what we have understood about classical mechanics. I'm open to the idea if there is no way its possible to make QM consistent without this idea, after all, idealism has a long and varied history in physical/cosmologcal thinking; however, given the success of classical physics, I think its important to try for a theory without this if at all possible. – Mozibur Ullah – 2018-02-17T22:18:25.100

Have you come across relational QM? This seems to be one attempt to do this by taking any system as an observer, not just a classical measuring device with someone, an observer, standing there behind it.

– Mozibur Ullah – 2018-02-17T22:20:43.787

Answers

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The book "Große Physiker" by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker deals with this question in the chapter "Platon" pp. 48-72 (which discusses the Timaios dialog), but already the preceding chapter "Parmenides" deals partly with it, because it discusses Parmenides as portrayed by Plato in his Parmenides dialog.

But to disappoint you, large parts of what Plato said are even interpreted as prescient of developments from quantum mechanics, like the role of symmetry Plato expressed by referring to the Platonic solids (for how else could he have talked about symmetries without knowing the concept of a group). What is identified as the crucial difference is the role of time, which was cyclic for Plato, but is open for quantum mechanics. And the theory of relativity where space and time intermix was completely absent in the philosophy of the old Greeks.

Thomas Klimpel

Posted 2017-03-05T12:49:09.183

Reputation: 3 832

Thanks for this answer! I wasn't aware of it. – marc-cejalvo – 2019-01-10T07:24:17.057

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Plato situated the real as an essentially mental experience. There are no perfect physical circles, only mental ones. So I think he would have no problem with QM, relating reality to the sophistication of tgw observer

CriglCragl

Posted 2017-03-05T12:49:09.183

Reputation: 5 272

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"Quantum theory needs an observed to become 'real', to be a thing (us making the measure). Plato thought about the reality independent of a subject."

According to Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics ("Many Worlds Interpretation"), which is gaining popularity among physicists as far as I can tell, observer or "measurement" does not play any significant role.

Mirza Hadzic

Posted 2017-03-05T12:49:09.183

Reputation: 25

Always funny to read here about the 'extensive conceptual developments' developed in between Plato and now! Quite amusing. – None – 2020-10-08T17:16:07.573