a reading from the eBook
In this eBook the terms underlined are links to the very useful interactive Glossary.
—WHY THINKING WORKS
What is wrong [in our talking/thinking] is easy to state. It is the idea of an objective truth, a truth of which one can be certain because it is given and the same for everyone. This is an ancient idea that came to dominate the talking/thinking of philosophers, and the rest of us, because it seems so obvious, because it works well in everyday life (discounting the evils that it generates) and because, with Newton, it was seen to enable accurate prediction of the motions of objects like apples and planets, that Newton’s laws of motion enabled. The remarkable pay-offs that predictability led to seemed to confirm that Newton’s laws were simply true. In the 20th century, the predictions enabled by Einstein’s theory of relativity were seen to be even better than Newton’s. Here at last, with the beautiful, surprising and compelling mathematics of relativity, was the incontrovertible truth about the motion of objects, confirmed by measurements with astounding accuracy. Here, it seemed, was a certain basis for the theory of everything that we have been discovering.
The only problem was that Einstein’s story (like Newton’s) failed at the scale of fundamental particles. That was clear to Bohr and others. So, a century followed of elaborately twisted arguments by physicists, which ultimately crystallised into the fantasies of cosmologists (backed by some prominent analytic philosophers).
What is the remedy for the seriously wrong classical thinking that began in Plato’s Academy? That was a way of thinking [a philosophy] which seemed to triumph, first with Euclid, then with Newton, then with Einstein.
The answer is simple. If you are a classical thinker, as most people are, it is not that your classical thinking is false, only that theWorld you imagine, and the theTruth about it that you believe are local to you and only you. Others see differently.
No need to despair at this conclusion. There is a better story than classical thinking, the story that I call mindful physics, a story that everyone can agree about, and should. This, is the story that begins to be told in this book, of many individual brain/minds, each with its own private stories of what happens and what is. This is a story of the kind that was long dismissed — and still is —, by those philosophers who variously called it skeptism, solipsism, relativism, idealism, dualism, physicalism or even nonsense.
In their second thoughts, Wittgenstein and Heidegger, the two sharpest philosophers of the twentieth century, both realised that classical thinking does not make sense, and dealt with that disconcerting fact in very different ways. But, understandably, neither saw how else to make sense of the world in which we find ourselves. Understandably, I say, because it is not philosophy [talk about talk] that can make sense of it but physics [talk about what we see].