Chief Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Head of the Sector of Philosophical Problems of Natural Sciences, Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor of the Humanitarian, Social and Economic Sciences Department of Moscow State Linguistic University. Laureate of the Presidential Prize of Academy of Sciences, 2006.
He defended his candidate thesis in 1997. In 2005, he defended his doctoral thesis, qualification in science and technology philosophy. He defended both theses at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Research interests: the philosophy of science and technology, philosophy of physics, quantum mechanics interpretation.
«Nature does not know what you are looking at, and it behaves the way it is going to behave whether you bother to take down the data or not».
How do you think the observer and reality are connected in quantum mechanics?
Understanding quantum mechanics is impossible without a philosophy, and a radically different philosophy, different from the new European one. As an example, I will cite the Feynman statement, who insisted that the world is one, and this world is quantum. Such a statement is erroneous. Although Feynman had a negative attitude towards philosophy, his statement is in line with the new European tradition, which considers the natural, as one and total beginning. At the time of Descartes, there was a rejection of the basic ancient metaphysics concepts, which traditionally considered the ontological concepts triad – necessary, possible, and real. If we do not consider a pair of opposites, the possible – the real, then we cannot explain the two quantum mechanics principles formulated by Feynman himself. The wave function describes a different understanding of matter. I could say that this is a new understanding, different from the Cartesian one, but the most interesting thing is that this new understanding is the well-forgotten old one.
From antiquity to the era of scholasticism, and even later, the matter was conceived as an opportunity. I use this concept of existence in opportunity, and I say that this particular ontological principle, following Aristotle, is the third natural principle, different from what we observe in this world. In the language of modern philosophy, it is a “different existence modus”. Often you hear objections that it is not at all clear what this opportunity existence is.
There are not only objections but also a reprimand that this is all kind of relic and archaic. In a certain sense, it is. I just want to remind you that both the quantum mechanics mathematical formalism creators, W. Heisenberg and E. Schrödinger, later turned to the ancient philosophy of Greeks.
I do the same, only my position differs from both that of W. Heisenberg and E. Schrödinger’s. There is a state of matter that is not in space and time – there is a different existence modus that is different from the observed. There are various objects in this room – this is what is in space and time.
However, the “quantum mechanics lesson” is that we must recognize that a quantum object is located up to space and up to time, which is the beginning, the “source” of ordinary, observable matter. Aristotle denotes this beginning with the term υποκείμενον, literally translated as the subject (underlying, lying at the base). In this case, the problem of the dependence of the quantum phenomenon on the observation means should not be associated with the observer, as it has become traditional in the quantum theory effects interpretation. Instead, it should be associated with a change in the understanding of reality, specifically, matter.
What is the material in philosophical understanding?
There are two approaches to understanding the material: one is associated with the name of Aristotle, the other with the name of Plato. Aristotle insisted that matter could not be described mathematically. Plato talks about the possibility of mathematical description. If we follow this tradition, and the matter should be described mathematically, then the question arises as to what can be described that is not in space and time. How to describe something which is beyond space and time and before it?
Since space and time are outside, it follows that we cannot introduce the “more – less” concept here. This can be done in geometric space using the real numbers field only. The simpliest object where it is impossible to introduce the “more – less” concept is a complex numbers field. If we introduce the elementary event concept, a transition from the initial state to the final state and describe it as a complex-valued quantity, and consider such a set of events, then we can deduce the quantum mechanics basic equations from here.
Based on the analysis of modern quantum theory, you are talking about the special role of time in physics (you talked about this at the temporology seminar by A.P. Levich). What is your understanding of the phenomenon of time?
We know several different types of time understanding in the history of philosophy. We distinguish cyclic and linear time (mythological and real); relational and substantial; dynamic and static; continuous and discrete-time. Our construction brings together all these aspects of time.
The passage of time is related to the actualization of the possible. If we combine the well-known definition of time as “the number of motion” and the definition of the possible from its “metaphysics”, then time acts as the potential actualization, associated with the negation of the negation, defined by Aristotle through “the other” concept.
Aristotle defines time through the “number of motion”. The concept of number is very interesting in Greek. This is “αριθος”, a sophisticated concept that could be translated as “a rhythm that is not a rhythm”. The cyclicity and linearity concept is laid down already here, inextricably linked with the time concept. Taking this further “movement” is associated with the actualization of the potential. In quantum mechanics, the wave function, being possible, appears “different” with respect to our observed reality. Why? The wave function is, from the mathematics point of view, a complex-valued quantity. The observed reality is described by the real number field. Being possible, the wave function appears “different” in relation to our observed reality.
We can talk about the “more or less” objects’ position in reality here, the ordinary geometry principles work here. We cannot talk about ordinary geometry in quantum mechanics case; we need to introduce the “pregeometry” concept – this is the existence modus that precedes the usual spatiotemporal order.
Any elementary quantum act, whether it is a radioactive nucleus decay or a quantum particle hit on a screen in a double-slit experiment, always looks “random”, which previously made N. Bohr and W. Heisenberg talk about quantum mechanics “indeterminism”. However, this is not true in the field of quantum phenomena, it is necessary to speak not about “indeterminism”, but about rethinking the new European understanding of causality when the only one acting reason is taken into account.
You mean binary geometry physics of Yu.S. Vladimirov?
Yes. If the so-called fundamental symmetry equation is superimposed on these elementary events, then we can obtain meaningful physics. Up to the deduction of the P. Dirac equation prototype, obtaining the space-time structure, and a number of other modern physics fundamental results.
The whole pathos of my work consists of two statements. There is relevance – what we see here and now. However, there are a number of phenomena where the Spatio-temporal description is not applicable. This is the quantum phenomena world. All quantum nonlocality is associated with this particular modus manifestation. What we see is a kind of “projection”. An event is carried out either way, in accordance with the two principles of R. Feynman.
We believe that quantum mechanics is the science of time, of which both the physicists themselves and modern philosophers are hardly aware. However, the situation fundamentally changes when we move on to the whole universe description at the quantum level. If we consider the Universe at a quantum level, then time does not flow for the universe as a whole!
We discussed the information universe theory previously. What do you think about the information?
Information is not primary, but a specific material environment. Information is secondary. We invent a bicycle in these phenomena interpretation. Let me remind you that the Greeks considered the world as phenomenal. Like M. Heidegger, who considered the hidden and the phenomenal, quantum mechanics says the same thing.
Potential or possibility can come to a realization in different ways. The so-called matter individuation principle works here. The way in which an entity comes to manifestation depends on matter. Therefore, it was with the Greeks and we see the same thing in quantum mechanics. It is not consciousness that defines a quantum phenomenon, and not knowledge, not information, but a very concrete material.
Everything is very specific, whether one test facility or other works for you. Whether the beam splitter is located in the laser photon facility or not, whether the device is on or not, etc. This is the same generalized E. Mach principle as that introduced by Yu.S. Vladimirov.
Now we are talking about the E. Mach principle, and the Greeks introduced the matter individuation principle. The matter is a certain potentiality that can be manifested, realized in two mutually exclusive ways, according to R. Feynman’s principles. What we observe in experiments, the so-called “relativity from the means of observation” is carried out instantly and throughout the universe in nature. The way to implementation is the potential realization in one way or another.
In your work, you formulated the reciprocity principle, associated with the coordinate and momentum representations symmetry in fundamental physical theories. What is this principle backbone?
There is a paradox. We can consider quantum mechanics in both impulsive and coordinate representations. They are symmetrical, but the equations are simple in the representation. For example, considering a hydrogen atom in an impulsive representation, which V.A. Fock did, we get such a simple and beautiful hydrogen atom model that the atom energy levels are calculated actually at the algebra level.
Impulsive representation is more simple. Moreover, we can talk about its primacy. But here comes the paradox. Impulse is related to speed, and we always associate speed with space in the classical approach. If we say that the impulsive representation is primary, then how can we tear it from space? You need to imagine movement, an impulse in isolation from the coordinate space.
The impulsive representation in quantum theory is set independently of the coordinate one! How can this be, how can an impulse be torn from coordinates? However, no one is considering this issue practically. The answer to it is impossible within the classical physics framework, which is based on the Descartes paradigm. In our approach, as in the binary geometry physics approach of Yu.S. Vladimirov, such a question is raised and solved. Moreover, it was here that the quantum mechanics basic equations were derived first. For the first time, the “quantum principle”, about which J.A. Wheeler raised the question, is deduced and not at all from the “myriad observers participation”, but simply from a different view of the matter.
Paradoxically, the J.A. Wheeler “pregeometry” idea worked here, he wrote about it in the 60s, and he was closer to the truth then than in the last years of his life.
How is Aristotle’s work consistent with the latest findings in quantum theory?
Firstly, the world around us, the real one, being in existence does not exist “in itself”. The real is a manifestation of the possible.
Secondly, although we are talking about the “manifestation” of the possible, it has a very special character. The reality is a manifestation of the possible, not as a photograph is a manifestation of a negative but is a denial of a preexisting possibility associated with a wave function and an operator existence. A quantum-mechanical object properties and characteristics, an object that is fundamentally unobservable, related to the fact that its being is assigned to a different reality modus, are radically different, rather than the de facto existence properties and characteristics. At the very beginning, we mentioned the paradox of the category of possible. The object may pose a pair of mutually exclusive properties in the state of the possible, but in the real implementation, it may not.
And the third circumstance. If the necessary acts as the ‘one’ in metaphysics, then the possibility is always binary, which is connected, in particular, with its paradoxicalness. Aristotle’s possibility is not only an active possibility, acting as the “beginning of movement”, but there is still a passive possibility, non-being, on which the effective agent acts. There is the same famous Yang – Yin duality in Chinese metaphysics, Purusha effective agent acts on the passive Prakriti in the Hindu.
Let us recall the Schrödinger equation structure. It is exactly the same. The operator acts on the wave function, generating some results. In other words, the matter is dual and matter acts as a possibility.
Given this duality, we get in fact not a triad of concepts, but a tetraktide – a tetra. Two pairs of opposing concepts:
● necessary – matter as non-existence (μή ὄν),
● “Deprivation” and possibility – reality.
Only within the framework of this tetraktide of concepts, the consistent interpretation is possible, and we insist on this, a metaphysical interpretation of all quantum mechanics phenomena.
Interview: Ivan Stepanyan