[FRIAM] models

David Eric Smith desmith at santafe.edu
Fri Dec 9 07:37:56 EST 2022

n.b. this is a fun note overall, and my only responding to one tiny part of it is not meant as a disregard of the rest; just acknowledgment that I am not prepared to imagine I can say anything original over much of the framing of the question.

But, to a detail:

> On Dec 8, 2022, at 9:44 PM, Prof David West <profwest at fastmail.fm> wrote:
> 4- Is it correct to say that Quantum Physics has a superlative model, but no theory? (The dictum to, "to shut up and compute" seems to support an affirmative answer to this question.
> 5- is a metaphor a model?

People’s response to QM has always puzzled me.  I listen to their objections, and what I hear is “you can construct arguments without getting lost, but they don’t give you emotional reassurance, so you find the edifice unsatisfactory”.  

I would have expected the contemplatives, of all people, to be eager to engage with this question.  If you say to them, of anything they do, that they seem to be motivated by a desire for emotional stimulation, they will say (patiently or dismissively, according to their personalities) to you that emotion is a mere decoration; they would not traffic in such trivialities; they are referring to Awareness.  Just like cognition is a mere decoration, little more than “opinion” (c.f. a John Cogan essay on Fink’s direction of phenomenology); all just paintings on the wall of Plato’s cave; they are standing outside in the true light of Awareness, reachable only through a “self-meditation” on “I am”.  (Those are not scare quotes; they are verbatims.)

I look at QM and I think:  Here you are given a chance to participate in constructions that satisfy some very stringent empirical conditions of truth, without the crutch of emotional reassurance, a thing that in so many other areas has allowed you to dodge the question of when you are really understanding by supposing that, if you feel okay about it, it must be okay.  When we take that crutch away, you have an opportunity to explore a dimension of truth where you are not in danger of being tempted by your crutches, because they are no longer available.  Can you participate in an awareness of this notion of what is true or correct?

A colleague of mine mentioned a thing that I had never considered.  I haven’t checked it, but suspect it is correct just based on how these things go.  (Not hard to check; I am just too lazy and too busy.)  The assertion is that, in the spectrum of Hawking radiation around a black hole, the dominant intensity is at a wavelength corresponding to the diameter of the black hole.  (As with all things BH, it seems that every property is controlled directly by one number, so dimensional analysis gets you almost all the way to most answers.)  

So if you fall into a BH, whatever the correct resolution of the unitarity problem is, it presumably will entail that you _are_ Schroedinger’s cat.

I imagined wanting to write a paper with the title “Do I feel like Schroedinger’s cat?”.  (If only I had any actual article text to put after the title….)

The point was to have been, in the sentence “you are Schroedinger’s cat”, the problem words are not “Schroedinger’s cat”.  The problem words are “you” and “are”.  Schroedinger’s cat is the one operationally reliable part of that sentence.  It is the notions of “you” and “are” in our folk theories that are deficient, and this test problem offers us possible clues of how to improve them.  To try to understand how the aspect of subjectivity comes into existence in the world, without simply referencing it to an equally undefined trope of the “objective”.  Rather test subjectivity in an arena that was not constructed by its own presupposition of an ontology.

Because I don’t understand the core of the contemplative project (and also that of intuitionism as a “philosophy” (?) of mathematics), I am left to respond to the surface sounds of things.  And it is in the similarities of those sounds that I would imagine a shared interest in exploring notions of truth that are interesting precisely because, in a certain sense, they are “clean”.

But, that conversation about QM is going to go on in the track it has already worn for itself, because that is much what people prefer, and a little kibitzer on the sidelines is not going to get them to prefer otherwise.  


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