Erwin Schrodinger on Consciousness

Here is an extract from the pioneer of quantum theory Erwin Schrodinger, discussing the unity of creation and the implication of this for consciousness.

“The reason why our sentient, percipient, and thinking ego is met nowhere within our scientific world picture can be easily indicated in seven words: because it is itself that world picture. It is identical with the whole and therefore cannot be contained in it as part of it. But of course, here we knock against the arithmetical paradox; there appears to be a great multitude of these conscious egos, the world, however, is only one. This comes from the fashion in which the world-concept produces itself. The several domains of “private” consciousness overlap. The region common to us all where they all overlap is the construct of the “real world around us.” With all that an uncomfortable feeling remains, prompting such questions as; is my world really the same as yours? Is there one real world to be distinguished from its pictures introjected by way of perception into every one of us? And if so, are these pictures like unto the real world or is the latter, the world “in itself,” perhaps very different from the one we perceive?

Such questions are ingenious, but, in my opinion, very apt to confuse the issue. They have no adequate answers. They are all, or lead to, antinomies springing from the one source, which I called the arithmetical paradox; the many conscious egos from whose mental experiences the one world is concocted.

There are two way out of the number paradox, both appearing rather lunatic from the point of view of present scientific thought (based on ancient Greek thought and thus thoroughly “Western”). One way out is the multiplication of the world in Leibnitz’s fearful doctrine of monads: every monad to be a world by itself, no communication between them; the monad “has no windows,” it is “incommunicado.” That they all agree with each other is called “pre-established harmony”.

There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not only the Upanishads.”

Erwin Schrödinger
The Oneness of Mind

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5 Responses to Erwin Schrodinger on Consciousness

  1. whitefrozen says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if more physicists were like Schrodinger, and actually knew philosophy?

  2. whitefrozen says:

    Though his understanding of the Gospel of Thomas, which is profoundly gnostic, is odd. If there was anything which distinguished gnosticism, it was its profound dualism – it certainly did not hold to any kind of unity of creation.

  3. guymax says:

    Yes, it would be great. The level of philosophical debate in physics is a scandal. It seems to me that physics is beginning to look very insular and old-fashioned.

    I’ve not read anything by Schrodinger about Thomas so cannot comment on that. He wouldn’t have known the Nag Hammadi library.

    As I see it, Gnosticism may sometimes be dualism, but gnosticism (lower case) is not. Thomas is certainly not promoting dualism, it is the rejection of dualism. To me so is, overall, the Nag Hammadi library. But interpretations vary and some of the issues are subtle. There’s plenty of room for disagreements.

    If we go back to Zoroaster we find a trinity of deities or hypostases in Gnosticism, thus allowing dualism to be resolved by a unification. Later on the trinity was lost, and the two remaining deities became a dualism. Even then, in the most dualistic of traditions there is often a hint that this dualism is not fundamental. Then there is mitigated dualism, absolute dualism, non-reductive dualism, etc. Christianity is often dualistic in one of these senses, in its division of the world into good and evil, in the idea that we are fundamentally apart from God, and so on. . .

    But I’d never argue for Gnosticism, which takes various forms and is difficult to define, only for gnosticism.

  4. guymax says:

    I find that definitions cause so many problems that it’s hard to say anything definitive. There’s always a use of the words one didn’t reckon on. I sometimes suspect that all philosophical discussions are at cross-purposes.

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