Thoughts About Thinking

Before delving into [physicist David] Bohm's substantive
contributions to science, I will touch briefly on his ideas about
language and thought. In his penchant for precision, Bohm analyzed
ways that our language deceives us about the true nature of reality.
We generally consider ordinary language to be a neutral medium for
communication that does not restrict our world view in any way. Yet
Bohm showed that language imposes strong, subtle pressures to see the
world as fragmented and static. He emphasized that thought tends to
create fixed structures in the mind, which can make dynamic entities
seem to be static. To illustrate with an example, we know upon
reflection that all manifest objects are in a state of constant flux
and change. So there is really no such thing as a thing; all objects
are dynamic processes rather than static forms. To put it crudely,
one could say that nouns do not really exist, only verbs exist. A
noun is just a "slow" verb; that is, it refers to a process that is
progressing so slowly so as to appear static. For example, the paper
on which this text is printed appears to have a stable existence, but
we know that it is, at all times including this very moment, changing
and evolving towards dust. Hence paper would more accurately be
called papering--to emphasize that it is always and inevitably a
dynamic process undergoing perpetual change. Bohm experimented with
restructuring language in this dynamic mode, which he called the
rheomode, in an effort to more accurately reflect in language the
true dynamic nature of reality.

A primary tenet of Bohm's thinking is that all of reality is dynamic
process. Included in this is the very process of thinking about the
nature of reality. If we split thought off from reality, as we are
conditioned to do, and then speak of our thought about reality, we
have created a fragmentary view in which knowledge and reality are
separate. Knowledge is then in danger of becoming static and somehow
exempt from the conditions of reality. Bohm emphasizes that "a major
source of fragmentation is the presupposition that the process of
thought is sufficiently separate from and independent of its content,
to allow us generally to carry out clear, orderly, rational thinking,
which can properly judge this content as correct or incorrect,
rational or irrational, fragmentary or whole, etc." (Bohm 1980, 18).
In his writing and talks, he was fond of referring to A. Korzybski's
admonition that whatever we say a thing is, it is not that. It is
both different from that, and more than that (Korzybski 1950).

The artificial separation of process and content in knowledge becomes
especially problematic in systems of thought that seek to encompass
the totality of existence (as do grand unified theories in physics,
for example). As Bohm notes (Bohm 1980), it then becomes quite easy
to slip into  "the trap of tacitly treating such a view as
originating independently of thought, thus implying that its content
actually is the whole of reality. From this point on, one will see,
in the whole field accessible to one, no room for change in the
overall order, as given by one's notions of totality, which indeed
must now seem to encompass all that is possible or even
thinkable. . . To adopt such an attitude will evidently tend to
prevent that free movement of the mind needed for clarity of
perception, and so will contribute to a pervasive distortion and
confusion, extending into every aspect of experience." (p. 62)

Bohm goes on to suggest that the movement of thought is a kind of
artistic process that yields ever-changing form and content. He
intimates that "there can no more be an ultimate form of such thought
that there could be an ultimate poem (that would make all further
poems unnecessary)" (p. 63). Indeed, imagine a Grand Unified Symphony
that encompassed all possible symphonies--past, present, and future--
thereby rendering all further musical composition redundant and
unnecessary. The idea is preposterous, and yet many physicists, not
recognizing their theories as art forms, strive for just such an
ultimate scientific theory. In truth, science is essentially a
creative art form that paints dynamic portraits of the natural world,
using the human intellect as its canvas and the tools of reason as it
palette. Bohm was rare among physicists in recognizing this, and he
exhibited commensurate humility in the interpretation and
extrapolation of his theories.

--From the article "Lifework of David Bohm" by Will Keeler

http://www.vision.net.au/~apaterson/science/david_bohm.htm






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