Whiteheadian process and quantum theory

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There are deep similarities between Whitehead's idea of the process by which nature unfolds and the ideas of quantum theory. Whitehead says that the world is made of ''actual occasions'', each of which arises from potentialities created by prior actual occasions. These actual occasions are happenings modeled on experiential events, each of which comes into being and then perishes, only to be replaced by a successor. It is these experience-like happenings that are the basic realities of nature, according to Whitehead, not the persisting physical particles that Newtonian physics took be the basic entities. Similarly, Heisenberg says that what is ... continued below

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14 p.

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Stapp, H. August 1, 1998.

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There are deep similarities between Whitehead's idea of the process by which nature unfolds and the ideas of quantum theory. Whitehead says that the world is made of ''actual occasions'', each of which arises from potentialities created by prior actual occasions. These actual occasions are happenings modeled on experiential events, each of which comes into being and then perishes, only to be replaced by a successor. It is these experience-like happenings that are the basic realities of nature, according to Whitehead, not the persisting physical particles that Newtonian physics took be the basic entities. Similarly, Heisenberg says that what is really happening in a quantum process is the emergence of an actual from potentialities created by prior actualities. In the orthodox Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory the actual things to which the theory refer are increments in ''our knowledge''. These increments are experiential events. The particles of classical physics lose their fundamental status: they dissolve into diffuse clouds of possibilities. At each stage of the unfolding of nature the complete cloud of possibilities acts like the potentiality for the occurrence of a next increment in knowledge, whose occurrence can radically change the cloud of possibilities/potentialities for the still-later increments in knowledge. The fundamental difference between these ideas about nature and the classical ideas that reigned from the time of Newton until this century concerns the status of the experiential aspects of nature. These are things such as thoughts, ideas, feelings, and sensations. They are distinguished from the physical aspects of nature, which are described in terms of quantities explicitly located in tiny regions of space and time. According to the ideas of classical physics the physical world is made up exclusively of things of this latter type, and the unfolding of the physical world is determined by causal connections involving only these things. Thus experiential-type things could be considered to influence the flow of physical events only insofar as they themselves were completely determined by physical things. In other words, experiential-type qualities. insofar as they could affect the flow of physical events, could--within the framework of classical physics--not be free: they must be completely determined by the physical aspects of nature that are, by themselves,sufficient to determine the flow of physical events.

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14 p.

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OSTI as DE00006426

Medium: P; Size: 14 pages

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  • Silver Anniversary International Whitehead Conference, Claremont, CA (US), 08/04/1998--08/09/1998; Other Information: Supercedes report DE00006426; PBD: 1 Aug 1998

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  • Report No.: LBNL--42143
  • Grant Number: AC03-76SF00098
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 6426
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc699010

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  • August 1, 1998

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  • Aug. 14, 2015, 8:43 a.m.

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  • April 7, 2017, 2:33 p.m.

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Stapp, H. Whiteheadian process and quantum theory, article, August 1, 1998; California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc699010/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.