Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Quantum Reduction, or Stapp, Marion, Keller, Latour and Caputo Lunching in the Faculty Lounge

Sometimes Quantum Theory (QT) posits that increments of knowledge result from a collapse of the intention of an observer who experiences the phenomenon of a wave function. Certainly QT posits more than this, but it asserts the integral part of the observer to affect (effect, too?) the system under observation, and the phenomena that present to the intuition of  the observer. Henry Stapp, for example, has discussed this notion in accessible language, and his process sounds so very much like Jean-Luc-Marion's neophenomenology's (NP) 'reduction.' The performance of phenomenology speaks directly to Stapp's assertion of the observer as 'agent,' as a participant in the quantum cloud whose agency is accounted for in the appearance of quanta, or the wave function itself. This function as function can be expressed symbolically as mathematics, but it does not take on meaning until a 'collapse' or methodological reduction sets the stage for 'something' to make an appearance. 

My interest in Stapp stems from his panel discussion at the UN in 2008 conference, Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness, a conference where my colleague, Christina Puchalski, MD, a thought-leader in Hospice and Palliative Medicine, was also a speaker. For me, Stapp, who at the time of the conference had just published his Mindful Universe, is more poet than  quantum mechanics specialist , which is how most scientists view him and his long and distinguished career as a physicist. 

I am also interested in how his work resonates with that of Marion, and Keller's as well. QT and NP might make for strange bedfellows at first blush, but in Keller's Cloud, it's all pure theopoetics, which is not to say, poetry. And Keller has no qualms about giving Stapp center stage in his Whiteheadian turn (Cloud of the Impossible, 142ff). Keller does not link Stapp's work with the general feel of continental philosophy of science, despite her minor engagement of Bruno Latour, but John Caputo certainly does not miss an opportunity to acknowledge Latour's release of Pasteur's microbes in the event of biology and the role of the investigator in creating swaths of reality.

...Latour will even go so far as to say that Pasteur's microbes were not 'there' before Pasteur, which is why nobody saw them. It is only after they meet Pasteur that they appear. Pasteur happened to them...It is not the case either that they are purely active and Pasteur their passive observer, or that he is purely active and they are passive products. Rather. both are actants, co-actants, in a collaborative process (PH, 145-47).  The Insistence of God, 203; Caputo citing Latour's Pandora's Hope [PH].

Caputo then immediately accuses Latour of committing phenomenology, a crime "as plain as the nose on Husserl's face." Crime is too strong a word (it's mine, not Caputo's), but Caputo is taking his last licks at the speculative realists, and this is perhaps why he misses the opportunity to take a second look, and observe that it was, after all, Marion's nose, which is where Marion's NP meets Stapp's quantum reduction, the collapse of the waveform so nicely epitomized in Keller's Cloud of the Impossible, and in Stapp's own description at the UN conference and in Mindful Universe. Caputo's accusation is brilliant and accurate, and emboldens me to make my own accusation: it's as plain as the nose on Caputo's face that Stapp is also doing phenomenology---quantum mechanics is phenomenology.

In The Erotic Phenomenon, Marion ingeniously frees love (from Descartes, among others) to conceptualize itself in a series of elegant maneuvers, and deconstructs the metaphysical hegemony on love in the 'erotic reduction'. In a rather exhausting but exhaustive induction, Marion presents a series of questions that sequentially radicalize the 'erotic reduction' itself, whose edges attain the sharpness of a surgeon's blade that he uses to excise love from being once and for all. For now it must suffice to note that Marion, just as Stapp, steers the intention to draw out discrete phenomena from the fluidity of the cloud. By collapsing, reducing that which seems to subsume phenomena into a singularity (for example, a single, collapsing bar comprising area under a curve in integral calculus), the thing itself emerges as itself; and it emerges from the matrix of analogy into the place of univocity, from the analogical to the discrete quanta of reality, moving from the real to the hyperreal. Perhaps the physicists are right: reality is digital, and it appears discretely on self-generated horizons in the ipseity of givenness. For Marion love is the emergent, for Stapp, the particle (quantum from waveform); each emergent, then, is released in the event through an observer hearing its call.

The lover makes appear the one whom she loves, not the reverse. She makes him appear as lovable (or despicable), and thus as visible in the erotic reduction. The Other is phenomenalized in the exact measure according to which the lover loves him or her, and, as an Orpheus of phenomenality, tears him or her from indistinction and makes him or her emerge from the depths of the unseen. The Erotic Phenomenon, 80.

Love then reaches across time-space, and the lovers are inseparable, despite the separation of great distance; and the lovers are affected and effected by each other in their spooky entanglements. This sliver of a knowledge of love emerges from the phenomenological and quantum reduction. The procedure that directs intentionality has the effect of incrementally delimiting possibility itself. And while several years ago I was content to assert that 'information' is the reduction of possibility, I now want to admit that the reductions that decrease possibility create quanta of knowledge, yes, but not as possibility itself approaches zero, but the impossible itself.

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