THE UNCONSCIOUS IN PHYSICS
On the "objectal" conditions of theory building in science

Turia + Kant, Vienna 1993)

Contents

Part I: From the body-bound nature of consciousness to the unconscious in the laws of nature

1. Ultradian rhythms and the nasal cycle
2. Psyche-soma, mind, and Hermes Trismegistus
3. The arousal state-boundness of experience
4. Cybernetics of perception and the "fundamental laws of nature"
5. Quantum theory, causality, and the spectrum of the physicists
6. Self-reference and Universal Principle of Perception
7. The self-regulation of matter: quantum cybernetics

Part II: The becoming of the resonances: on an echology of physics, perception, and society

1. Violations of the Universal Principle of Perception
2. The echo in the ears
3. Physics beyond the sixth synapse
4. Creativity: the becoming of the resonances
5. A thematic focus of echology: the logic of evolution
6. Elements of an echology of themata in 20th century physics


Part III: Fractal cognition: the self-organization of the pre-images

1. Motivations for scientific research
2. "The first homeland of the soul"
3. The fractal evolution of (self-)cognition
4. The self-organization of the pre-images


Abstract

The "Unconscious in Physics" circumscribes (in the sense of Michel Foucault's "Unconscious" in science generally) all the processes which do not appear explicitely within the formulation of a theory in natural science, but nevertheless are indispensable for it. It can be illustrated by an analogy between the process of science and the process of cognition: just as cognition is a process characterized by non-rational structures next to rational thought, by the interdependence of sensory and motor experience, by its embedding within a societal structure, and by the use of culture-specific sign systems, so is also the formulation of a theory in natural science irreducible to its purely rational and "objective" content.

However, this does not mean that physics is "ultimately" a matter of feelings or subject to the arbitrariness of individual interests, but merely that the strict claim of objectivity in physics must be rejected. In fact, nothing is more subjective than an objective view which ignores the blind spot of its own subjectivity. However, how should one deal with "objectality", i.e., with the seemingly arbitrary, "subjective" approaches of individuals to the "objective" properties of a complex nature?

The strategy proposed here is adapted from Laurence Sterne's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" (1760), whose literary approach to the telling of a complex life story is by permanently switching between 'progressive' and 'digressive' discourse. Correspondingly, the present book is characterized by digressions into numerous fields of knowledge such as those of cognitive science and perception, states of consciousness, history and sociology of science, self-organization and creativity, etc.. Eventually, these "digressions" provide resonance-like moments of comparability ("echoes") between the different fields, which in turn lead to generalizations that constitute the "progressive" lines of thought in the book. The proposed new field of study, provisionally named "echology" by the author, does not merely employ a comparative structural analysis, however. Rather, what is proposed as crucial to the understanding of the (objectal) evolution of science is the inter- disciplinary comparison of the dynamics of structural changes.

For example, one of the main questions treated in the book is: What is a fundamental law of nature? It is argued that, unconsciously based on a "Universal Principle of Perception", during decades a "fundamental" law of nature had to be formalized as a conservation law, or a symmetry principle, respectively. More recently, however, symmetry breaking has been found to provide a useful mechanism in the framework of even more encompassing symmetry principles. The corresponding oscillation between statements on symmetry on one hand, and symmetry breaking on the other, constitutes the "logic of evolution" not only of natural science, but also of aspects in biological and cultural evolution. Thus, the logic of the evolution of science is embedded in a much wider, inter- disciplinary framework which provides numerous "echoes" between the individual disciplines.

From a metatheoretical viewpoint one can consequently formulate the concept of "fractal evolution" which refers to the self-similar replication of the "logic of evolution" in organization space, i.e., on each level of physical, biological, or cultural evolution. Before a new organizational level is reached, as in a new approach of the physical sciences towards nature, for example, the idea of fractal evolution also provides the concept of "pre-images". These are imaginative prototypes which are both rooted in cultural history and effective individually as curiosity-arousing, creative incitements for the formulation of new (physical or other) theories. Such pre-images can be particularly decisive for the further development of a field during times of reconstruction as we have them today.

Thus, although there always also exist purely internal driving forces in the further development of physical disciplines, there do exist more general (and usually "unconscious") developments that can only be understood when looking beyond the borders of physics per se. If one of the more recent developments in this century's physics is one from the being to the becoming in nature, on the background of a more or less static "being" of the researchers' fundamental tools and concepts, then the future may very well be characterized by the conscious recognition of the historicity of science implying multi-disciplinary echoes between the "becoming" in the nature within and without the observers. Reconstruction thus understood on the basis of a "fractal evolution" is practically defined such as to always leaving the future open.