Hi Lee,

First I would like to thank you for working hard on this question. In doing this you are challenging me to refine my ideas and explanations and thus you are helping me a great deal. That being said, I would like to refute your "common sense Realism" and show that it is missing the most salient point of Realism: that it not have any "cracks" through which anything "unreal" might slip.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lee Corbin" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

To: "EverythingList" <everything-list@eskimo.com>

Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2005 1:37 AM

Subject: RE: subjective reality

Stephen writes

Just one point while I have some time and mental clarity. Can a Realist
accept that "a wholly independent world "out there" exists and existed
before he did" and yet can admit that the particular properties of this
"independent world" are not *definite* prior to the specification of a
particular observational context?
My opinion is that realists, even those completely up to speed on quantum
physics, will assert that many macroscopic properties of the "independent
world" are indeed *definite* before specification of an observational
context (as you write).


If we are to be consistent with the dictum "all is amplitudes that add" we must admit that such assertions are a posteriori and not a priori, thus the problem of explaining the appearance of *definiteness*.

It can be unassailably proven that one cannot embed a quantum universe inside a classical universe and that one can embed *at least one* classical universe within a quantum universe. What does this imply? It implies that the *property definiteness* that comes along with classical universes is something that cannot be taken as *existing prior to the specification" of an observational context!

All of the claims that "many macroscopic properties of the "independent world" are indeed *definite* before specification..." are ignoring that that entire "independent world" is knowable AFTER the fact of comparing the observations of many observers. When we assume the contrary we are ignoring the fact that "what we know" - the content of our OMs as it where- was specified after the act of having the experience.

We can point to the idea that Numbers and their relationships exist as such without any dependence on some mathematician's scribbles on a blackboard, and I would say that that is true, but the notion of the "meaningfulness" of the concept of numbers, here a case of *property definiteness*, requires that at least one mathematician scribble on a blackboard somewhere AND that that scribbling "means" something to some other mathematician.

A skeptic could point out that chickens scratching in the dirt could reproduce exactly the same arrangements of points, lines, etc. that make up "2+2 = 4", but does it mean anything to the chickens? No! Meaningfulness requires something *to whom it has meaning* and the same applies here to our idea of an "independent world".

For example, if today I ascertain certain properties of, oh, say, the
relative sizes and populations of a number of North American cities,
then it is best to regard those as entirely fixed. That is, that they
are *completely* unaffected by measurement. (Which is entirely true
up to bone-picking.)  Evolution in fact did not at all prepare me to
deal with things whose properties emerge only upon measurement, as
witnessed by the absolute and dumbfounded astonishment of early 20th
century physicists.


I strip and fall headlong over your use of the phrase "...then it is best to regard those as..."! This is what convinces me that you are arguing for a "common sense realism" and not a realism that can be used without such caveats!

I have tried many times to talk to you on the phone about the problem in Einstein's quip, in reaction to Bohr's ideas, that "the Moon does not top existing just because he is not looking at it", or something along those lines. The problem is that Common Sense Realist, like yourself and Einstein, neglect the simple fact that while they are not looking at the moon directly, the particular world that they are contemplating includes causal relations that include the moon with its particular properties.

The problem is that if we are going to be consistent with our claim that the properties of the world or anything in it are *fixed* and "*completely* unaffected by measurement" then one must be sure to remove each and every aspect of their actuality that goes into the act of fixing that definiteness. Here, again, is that "crack" that through which "unreality" is oozing.

I do not like this unreality one bit and thus am trying to patch up Realism so it does not have this problem.

My bottom line: the specification of a particular observational context
makes a difference *only* on the microscopic level. Now yes, it's true
that solid objects---according to our best theories---retain their
integrity only because of quantum effects, but in this and all normal
macroscopic effects, stability emerges as a statistical and overwhelmingly
probable phenomenon.


"*ONLY*"! I'm sorry Lee, but that does not cut it! Your argument is just too positivist for me... If we are going to be consistent then we have to own up to the REAL implications of your last sentence here:

solid objects---according to our best theories---retain their
integrity only because of quantum effects, but in this and all normal
macroscopic effects, stability emerges as a statistical and overwhelmingly
probable phenomenon.

> [SPK]
    I am claiming that we should not conflate *existence* with *property
What is the harm for other than microscopic phenomena?


Oh my! Are we not expecting our models of the world to be consistent? This is like in the theory superstrings where everything is neatly explained and accounted for except for the pesky little things about not being background independent, no evidence of superpartners, etc.

I am, working on an idea as to how the appearance of "property definiteness" comes to be, such that Common Sense Realism works *when we ignore little details*, but that is for another post. First I need to get you to admit that the assumption of a priori property definiteness is an obstacle to the advance of physics.



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