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I tend to approach discussions of the philosophical implications of quantum
mechanics with a degree of caution for reasons that should be apparent in one
my old posts, which can be found below. Jim
Learn or Review Basic Math--------------------------------------------------
Probably at least a few people here have heard of Boris Hessen,- the Soviet
physicist and historian and philosopher of science, whose groundbreaking paper,
"The Social and Economic Roots of Newton’s Principia"
(https://rtraba.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/v1_hessen.pdf) would have a
profound impact on the emergence of the history of science as a distinct
discipline in the West, following that paper's delivery by Hessen at the Second
International Congress of the History of Science in London, as part of a
delegation of Soviet scholars and scientists that included Nikolai Bukharin.
While many people were influenced by Hessen's paper, it made a strong impact on
at least several young British scientists, including J.D. Bernal, J.B.S.
Haldane, Lancelot, Hogben, and Joseph Needham,all of whom achieved eminence in
their respective scientific specialties while also becoming very influential
writers concerning the history and social functions of science, from a Marxist
perspective. A while back, I read Loren R. Graham's book, *Science in Russia
and the Soviet Union: A Short History*. He has a discussion of Hessen and his
groundbreaking paper on Newton. What is interesting about Graham's discussion of
Hessen, is that he sees Hessen's work on Newton as having been motivated in
large degree by his concern with defending modern physics - Einstein's theory
of relativity and quantum mechanics, as developed by de Broglie, Heisenberg,
Schroedinger, and Bohr, from the sustained ideological attacks that these
theories were enduring in the Soviet Union at that time. Both relativity and
quantum mechanics were being denounced as "idealist" and "bourgeois."
Furthermore, the writings of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr along with such
people as James Jeans and Arthur Eddington were widely cited by Soviet
ideologists in support of their attacks on these two theories as being
idealist, since some of these scientists, especially Eddington were in fact
quite insistent that the new physics lent support to an idealist metaphysical
worldview. In addition the fact that Einstein explicitly acknowledged drawing
upon the ideas of Ernst Mach was cited against relativity, since Lenin after
all, had in his b
ook, *Materialism and Empirio-Criticism*, ma!
de the philosophies of Mach and Avernarius the chief targets of criticism.
Most of the Soviet opponents of modern physics championed Newtonian physics as
the physics that was most consistent with Marxism and dialectical materialism.
Graham reads Hessen as attempting to undercut Soviet criticism of modern
physics by attempting to show that Newtonian physics was vulnerable to the same
sorts of criticism. Newton himself was the proponent of a highly theological
view of the universe. He saw his science as lending support to theism and
Christianity. Furthermore, Newton's work was very much tied to the class
interests of the rising English bourgeoisie. Yet, despite all this, his science
was of genuine and permanent value. Graham takes Hessen as attempting to
present a similar case on behalf of relativity and quantum mechanics. Though
both theories could and were often given idealist metaphysical interpretations,
such interpretations were not the only ones possible. Both theories could als
o be given materialist philosophical interpretations too, just as was the case
with Newtonian physics. Newton himself and many of his disciples were quite
pious and they presented theological interpretations of their science, but
materialist interpretations of Newtonian physics were possible and those indeed
were the ones that were accepted in the Soviet Union. But if Newtonian physics
could now interpreted in materialist terms, despite the intention of its
founders who were decidedly not materialists, then the same sort of thing could
happen to relativity and quantum mechanics. The founders of these theories
might not have been materialists, but there was nothing to prevent us from
giving these theories materialist interpretations. Now, I find this view of
scientific theories and the philosophical interpretations to which they may be
given quite similar to the view that the logical empiricist Philipp Frank gave
in his writings such as *Modern Science and Its Philosophy*, and *Philo
sophy of Science: The Link between Philosophy and Sci!
ence*. There, Frank argued for the importance between distinguishing between
the specifically scientific content of theories like Newton's mechanics,
Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum mechanics and the various assorted
metaphysical interpretations that can be provided for any of these theories. In
discussing the metaphysical interpretations, Frank emphasized the extent to
which such interpretations can support various social and political agenda. He
pointed out how the popular mystical interpretations that have been given for
quantum mechanics tend to support reactionary political agenda. He also made
mention of the Soviet debates over philosophical interpretations of relativity
and quantum mechanics. Given that Frank seems to have pretty well informed
about developments in Soviet philosophy, I would be very much surprised if own
approach to the treatment of metaphysical interpretations of science wasn't
influenced by Boris Hessen's work.
---------- Original Message ----------
From: Louis Proyect via Marxism <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [Marxism] Fwd: Materialism alone cannot explain the riddle of
consciousness | Aeon Essays
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2017 09:52:17 -0400
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