(Mis)uses of Quantum Theory in Our Real Evolutionary Cosmos, part II

August 12, 2017

What can science tell us about the immense mystery that surrounds us? In this second part, I discuss Alexander Wendt’s quantum mind thesis and whether it can provide a new foundation for social sciences. Are we really just walking wave functions? (For part I, click here)

Quantum theory, quantum mind and social sciences

In his bold book Quantum Mind and Social Science. Unifying Physical and Social Ontology, Wendt is explicit about the ethical and political dimension of his account of QT and its application to social sciences. He frames the main choice in terms of political and international theory. “Most mainstream normative theorizing about social life today, especially in the liberal tradition, assumes a world of separable, constitutionally pre-social individuals who then struggle to achieve sociability (the state of nature and all that)”. Wendt associates this atomistic and competitive picture with the classical Newtonian worldview. Without acknowledging that there are many ways of making QT compatible with the prevailing Western metaphysics, he states that “quantum phenomena are marked by their holistic and ‘cooperative’ character”, pointing “toward a more communitarian and relational starting point for normative theory” (p.35).

How does Wendt reach this conclusion? What is his interpretation of QT and what reasons and evidence can he, as a social scientist, provide for it? Wendt’s main puzzle is to explain what he calls one the deepest mysteries in modem science: consciousness. But he starts his carefully written book by explaining the main results of and approaches to the QT. While Wendt agrees with the Bohmian framing of QT as an ontological question (what is it that exists at the quantum level?), and recognises that there are ways to make QT non-probabilistic, he claims “that these are contested and come at a high price in other respects” (p.40).

This is typical of Quantum Mind and Social Science, in which Wendt reviews and evaluates a wide range of literatures. Wendt uses the lack of consensus to make different interpretations (twelve in his count, but addressing mainly a sample of five) look equally plausible, at least at the outset. Sometimes Wendt appeals to authority and tradition (in relation to what he considers established results and truths), sometimes to experts’ majority opinion but, equally often, also to its absence. He tends to take the absence of a clear majority opinion as a ground for making room for positions that otherwise might look implausible, or even bizarre.

How- and why-questions

Wendt explains that the core of QT is concerned with how-questions: “It tells us that they will behave in certain ways, but not why” (p.43). It is in the why-questions that social scientists are interested. In this Wendt is opposed to the orthodox interpretation, which is often taken to say that only our calculations and predictions matter. A perceptive reader might notice a connection to the so called F-twist in economics, to the orthodox neoclassical idea that the only thing that matters is whether one’s predictions are right.

Of course, there is a difference between the two: while QT predictions are precise and have so far been correct, the “predictions” of neoclassical economics are vague and contradictory and have largely been wrong (which does not seem to pose any problems for mainstream economists). In both cases, however, the F-twist gives a legitimation to the existing orthodoxy and tends to exclude genuine understanding, conceptual work and critical thinking.[1] Rovelli disapproves of instrumentalism:

Some philosophers of science overly circumscribe science by limiting it to numerical predictions. They miss the point, because they confuse the instruments with the objectives. Verifiable quantitative predictions are instruments to validate hypotheses. The objective of scientific research is not just to arrive at predictions; it is to understand how the world functions; to construct and develop an image of the world, a conceptual structure to enable us to think about it. Before being technical, science is visionary. (Reality is Not What It Seems, p.184)

Wendt in turn notes that the instrumentalist Copenhagen interpretation became hegemonic “for reasons having as much to do with the sociology of knowledge in physics as the substantive merits of his argument” (p.51), citing James Cushing’s thorough study on the topic.[2] Surprisingly, however, Wendt seems to concur with the Copenhagen orthodoxy, at least in one important regard, namely that observation plays a critical role in quantum phenomena. “As long as the electron is not being observed it behaves as if it is a wave, and as soon as it is observed it behaves as if it is a particle.” And he continues: “The implication is that in the quantum world, observer and observed form a single system, rather than being separable as in the classical world” (p.46). On this, Wendt disagrees with Rovelli, Bohm, and theories of quantum evolution. It is of course true that for Rovelli, there are no observer-independent states, nor observer-independent values of physical quantities, but for him observer does not necessarily have connotations of humanity or consciousness. The “observer” can be any physical object having a definite state of motion.[3]

Rovelli’s term “observer” is thus somewhat confusing. What he is saying seems to approximate realist interpretations of QT, in which it is the interaction with a wider system or field that leads to the real transformation of the quantum system observed as “the collapse of the wave function”. The gist of the realist view is that the particles act together to form a co-ordinated whole, which can also be seen as prior to the particles themselves. Quantum systems exhibit many of their “strange” properties only in isolation, but systems interact and isolation is very difficult to sustain.

Panpsychism: Wendt vs. Bohm

The reason why Wendt favours a rather orthodox-looking interpretation of QT (although maintaining that it is incomplete and lacks a proper ontology) is that his ultimate aim is to defend panpsychism as a valid approach to the mind-body problem. If the observer is entangled with the system under observation, her mind and the quantum world must be directly connected.

At the same time, as a sort of scientific realist, Wendt also stresses that Bohm, especially in his 1990 article (Bohm died in 1992 at the age of 74), maintained that “the wave function has a primitive form of mentality” (p.86). From this, Wendt claims, follows panpsychism. Here I must take issue with Wendt’s reading of Bohm (I am equally discontent with his reading of critical realism as “materialist” and “Newtonian” toward the end of the book, but will leave those quarrels aside in this paper). What Bohm is arguing is this:

[T]he quantum theory, which is now basic, implies that the particles of physics have certain primitive mind-like qualities which are not possible in terms of Newtonian concepts (though, of course, they do not have consciousness). This means that on the basis of modern physics even inanimate matter cannot be fully understood in terms of Descartes’s notion that it is nothing but a substance occupying space and constituted of separate objects. Vice versa, it will be argued that mind can be seen to have always a physical aspect, though this may be very subtle. Thus, we are led to the possibility of a real relationship between the two, because they never have the absolute distinction of basic qualities that was assumed by Descartes and by others, such as the emergent materialists.[4]

Bohm neither mentions panpsychism nor advocates the idea. He is trying to overcome the Cartesian dualism between mind and matter. In a plausible reading, Bohm is merely saying that because at the quantum level matter is actually also non-material (in so far as material is understood in the Newtonian manner), and involves information, QT may be able to provide a missing link for explaining the emergence of mind and consciousness from the nervous systems of animals. I accept Bohm’s point that “ultimately mind and matter are at least closely analogous and not nearly so different as they appear on superficial examination”, but it does not follow that quantum-level phenomena would play a significant role in human consciousness.

Scales and emergence

It is indicative of the problem that Wendt is at pains to repudiate the ‘neuron doctrine’, according to which neurons are the smallest units of the brain relevant to explaining consciousness. To me this classical doctrine sounds reasonable. The fragility of states makes quantum systems very difficult to isolate. We know that decoherence prevails already at the molecular level, and as Wendt admits, this is still far below the neural scale. Moreover, he also admits that there is a major problem in explaining “how the experiences immanent in a rock’s elementary parts get lost in the rock itself – and not in people” (p.123)

The only possible explanation is a brain-structure that continuously produces quantum coherence, but this is only a highly speculative possibility, nothing more. As far as I can see, Wendt does not specify any structure or mechanism capable of producing quantum coherence at the level of brains as a whole. Something may well be in some ways analogical to X without being explainable by it. And even if quantum phenomena really played a significant small-scale role in the organization of human brain, which is possible (and would multiply brain’s vast capacity by many orders), panpsychism does not follow.

The hypothesis of panpsychism seems also unnecessary. The relational elements of the brain can be correlated for all practical purposes “non-locally” also within the classical world, given brain’s small size and the high speed of its electrochemical processing. One could easily imagine a further analogy to quantum fields: the information processing of the brain exhibits wave-like characteristics, as each individual neuron has billions of parts and connects to perhaps 1,000 other neurons, and all together there are some 80-90 billion neurons in the brain, adding up to 100 trillion synaptic connections. Perhaps nature, i.e. cosmic evolution up to the level of cultural evolution, tends to develop similar or analogical principles of organization at different levels of emergence and complexity, but with new constitutive elements and new emergent properties at a higher level? Indeed, some macroscopic objects, when guided by pilot waves, do exhibit quantum-like features (see this).

Wendt himself clarifies that language and concepts exhibit “semantic non-locality” (pp.230-42). Brain is nothing like a computer following a step-by-step algorithm; even the internet provides only a poor analogy to the brain. Information resides in relational and functional neural wholes that spread across our bodies, not as binary codes in specific places. Human brain’s capacity to process and transmit simultaneously a vast amount of electrochemical signals in complex interacting and intersecting waves, and the organization of our neural systems as part of our bodily functions, can explain why our thought is mostly unconscious, why we have the ability to instantly recognise patterns and schemes and act upon them, why meanings are so context-dependent, why things that we observe and encounter matter to us, and why language is necessarily evaluative.

Wendt’s paradoxical individualism

A problem for Wendt is that although the ethical and political point of his analysis is to provide an alternative to the atomistic and competitive picture of the classical Newtonian worldview, he ends up in a position close to ontological individualism:

[S]ocial structures are not actual realities existing somewhere above us in space, but potential realities constituted by inherently non-local shared wave functions. In this way, quantum theory underwrites a “flat” rather than stratified social ontology, in which individuals are the only real realities. (p.33)

There is thus a tension within Quantum Mind and Social Science. Although Wendt talks about our entanglement in social structures, social structures are mere abstract quantum metaphors (“we are entangled in a linguistic wave functions”, “we are entangled in social wave functions” etc). I suspect that if adopted widely, Wendt’s ontological individualism could regress to a quantum-version of the methodological individualism of rational choice theories (it must be said though that Wendt’s chapter 8, “Quantum cognition and rational choice”, provides a nice critique of the atomistic and mechanical rat-choice paradigm, a key insight being that “preferences are not ‘revealed’ at all, but ‘constructed’ in the process of choice and as such [are] highly sensitive to framing and context effects”, p.162).

The main problem here is that although Wendt knows the emergentist position very well (for his purpose-driven reading, see especially chapter 13 of the book), his quantum-thesis draws him to stressing the independence of individuals:

[T]o be a human or any other subject is to be individuated as an organism with quantum coherence, the physical integrity of which is constitutionally independent not just of society, but in a sense of the universe as a whole. (p.150)

The ‘quantum mind’-thesis lacks an explanation of the historical rise of conscious individuals. For Wendt consciousness “doesn’t emerge at all, but has been there all along” (p.125). In the light of archaeological and historical evidence, however, it is evident that conscious individuals have become possible through the evolvement of the emergent layer of society. Although analogies to the quantum world may in some ways be illuminating, there is no point in conflating these two levels of reality that are so wide apart; thus we should avoid doing so.

On the historical emergence of consciousness

Animals can learn and reason to a degree. It is even possible to have a capacity to formulate full sentences without being conscious, as humans did some 3,000-20,000 years ago.[5] Consciousness requires more than reasoning and learning, or even language. Contra Wendt, it requires the capacity to imagine oneself in a metaphorically constituted spatiotemporal space and reflect upon one’s thoughts and activities.[6]

The cultural-evolutionary process that has led to the development of metaphorical language and complex society is not so much quantum-like as historical, hermeneutical and dialectical: parts and whole interact and evolve side by side in the meaningful world of actions and structures. Language, which is a constantly changing, relational, multi-layered and multifarious system of meanings; and the evolving differentiation and complexity of social organization; are mutually enabling.

Inscribing laws on stone for all to see and follow (from c.1760 BC onwards) was the penultimate step toward the rise of metaphorical language, which made consciousness possible during what Karl Jaspers calls the “axial age”, in the first millennium B.C.E.[7] It was at that point of our cultural evolution that the social whole acquired the power to constitute its parts as conscious subjects and individuals (who continue to change and develop with their social contexts).[8] We owe our reflective consciousness as individuals to the collective history of humankind. Moreover, it is also easy to show that social wholes have properties that are not reducible to their parts, independently of whether their parts are historically constituted or not.[9]

It may be difficult for us to grasp our existential and causal dependence on social wholes and processes, because as observers of socio-historical developments we are enfolded within them (the same holds true for our dependence on biological and physical processes). Moreover, our enabled and enfolded understandings are shaped by power and interests and affected by various social and cultural influences, themselves constituted within the geo-historical fields of the social.

Ontological atomism is an illusion that can constitute and legitimise particular geo-historical practices and institutions. Although indvidualism is an illusion, individuals are not. Emergent layers such as conscious experience, agency, will and intentions, as well as various social structures and wholes, are all real and causally efficacious. Moreover, to characterise ontological and ideological individualism as an illusion implies nothing about the value of socially constituted but singular individuals, who have the right to have rights.

Another partial analogy to the quantum world is that no pure observation of the social world, thus constituted, is possible. As for instance Jürgen Habermas has explained, the social scientist cannot treat meaningful expressions or actions as mere facts.[10] The process of understanding is bound up with a process of bringing something about that would not exist otherwise – implying participation in social processes and raising the possibility of criticism. Particles or wave-functions do not evaluate or criticise; whereas we humans as complex, conscious and knowledgeable actors do.


Rovelli talks about the end of infinity. Cosmos is vast, but finite. “The only truly infinite thing is our ignorance” (p.208). The end of infinity implies fundamental criticism of approaches such as string theory that presuppose movements in a continuum. But what is especially noteworthy is that ignorance tends to lead to mystification.

It seems that the widespread but unfortunate tendency to mystify the ‘quantum’ arises more from the prevailing social and political ideas than from science itself. Not only do we have uncomplicated and well-structured versions of QT that make this kind of mystification quite unnecessary. It is also the case that analogous ontological and epistemological conceptions have been known to a large number of philosophers and social scientists for centuries. Hermeneutico-dialectical approaches to philosophy and social sciences have explored themes now associated with quantum mechanics at least since the 18th century, such as subject-object and part-whole relationships and the relational and processual nature of reality.[11]

There is no reason to deny the reality of time, space and causation (this denial does not follow from QT), although our conceptions of them can and do change. Attempts to theorise society in quantum terms is largely a category mistake, although quantum-like features can occur also at larger scales and although analogies between the two can sometimes be illuminating.

Instead of multiplying the universe by zillions; denying the reality of time, space and causation; or mystifying quanta and rocks as conscious beings; I would like to propose a rather different claim: better understandings of history and social dynamics could contribute to scientific developments. A critically reflexive orientation toward one’s own background assumptions and their social context – involving relations of power and hegemony – could facilitate new insights and more satisfactory visions of QT and cosmology. Moreover, as Wendt insists, adequate interpretations and further development of theoretical physics and cosmology require critical distance-taking from the dominant Western metaphysics.

For instance, we can now see that there is a sense in which Aristotle was right after all: causation can be also formal or formative and final, rather than just efficient and material, while these categories now assume new, post-Aristotelian meanings.[12] What is more, the dynamics of the whole can have characteristics not anticipated by the empiricist, atomist and reductionist project of modern science. This dynamics is no longer independent of our (and perhaps other conscious species’) normative discourse about possible and desirable futures. Human freedom and what Bohm calls ‘holomovement’ are interwoven.

The degree of our freedom can be increased by replacing particular unnecessary, unwanted and often misrepresented causal sources of determination with more wanted, needed and more clearly understood sources of causal determination, increasing our autonomy as self-determination. Contra Wendt, freedom is not something that is inscribed in the probabilism of the wave-function. Frankly, I have difficulties in understanding how random probabilistic events could mean freedom. Rather, freedom is a contingent ethico-political project that only (holo)reflexive actors such as we can carry on.[13]

Just one final remark. While I do not find the idea of panpsychism particularly plausible, there is nonetheless a sense in which consciousness seems imprinted in the fine texture of cosmos. The fine texture of the cosmos has made possible the process of evolution from the early, dense, hot and undifferentiated universe to a world where we discuss loop quantum gravity and critical social sciences and watch and listen to Eric Sardinas playing “Get down to whisky” (wait until the frantic solo) or Yuja Wang playing Shostakovich’s first piano concerto. We are part of the whole of cosmos, not observers separate from it.

From this perspective, what the emergence of consciousness means is that the creative cosmos is becoming conscious of itself – and not necessarily only on our planet Earth.



[1] The difference is that while the equations of quantum mechanics describe the measurable behavior of quantum systems accurately, the point of Milton Friedman’s instrumentalist ‘positive economics’ is to justify unrealistic, including wildly inaccurate, assumptions in simplified models describing some selected and often unmeasurable aspects of the economy. For instance, in the quantity theory of money (which appears to mimic the Boyle-Charles law of gas pressure and volume), MV = PT. In this, neither M (the amount of money) nor V (the velocity of money) is in practice measurable, and both P (price level) and T (amount of transactions) involve uncertainties. Friedman’s methodology of ‘positive economics’ is explicitly meant to defend the orthodox (laissez faire) position: only those trained in the right tradition in the right way are qualified to make judgements whether e.g. MV = PT is convenient, intuitively plausible, and has “the capacity to suggest […] some of the considerations that are relevant in judging or applying a model”. In spite of these and other differences – Nils Bohr was also interested in Buddhism, pragmatism and other strands of thought – the instrumentalism of the Copenhagen interpretation of QT and F-twist share the idea that neither truth nor meaning really matters. What matters is whether a theory works in the sense of implying predictions, making it possible to manipulate reality for some technical, pragmatic or ideological purpose. In accordance with many variations of liberalism, it is also assumed that these ends are in some sense arbitrary or subjective; it is not the task of science to say anything about them. See Friedman, Milton (1953) “The Methodology of Positive Economics”. In M.Friedman: Essays in Positive Economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp.3-43. For a discussion about Paul Samuelson’s once widely held criticism of Friedman, see e.g. Wong, Stanley (1973) “The ‘F-Twist’ and the Methodology of Paul Samuelson”. The American Economic Review, 63 (3): 312-25; and for a more critical mainstream take on Friedman, see Musgrave, Alan (1981) “‘Unreal Assumptions’ in Economic Theory: The F-Twist Untwisted”, Kyklos 34 (3): 377-87. An insightful recent collection is Mäki, Uskali (ed.) (2009) The Methodology of Positive Economics. Reflections on the Milton Friedman Legacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, especially the chapter by Serrano, D. & Bonilla, J. entitled “The politics of positivism: disinterested predictions from interested agents”, pp.189-213.

[2] Cushing, James (1994) Quantum Mechanics: Historical Contingency and the Copenhagen Hegemony. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. See also the illuminating review essay written by Bohm’s colleague and co-author of his latter days: Hiley, B. J. (1997) “Quantum Mechanics: Historical Contingency and the Copenhagen Hegemony by James T. Cushing”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 28 (2): 299-305. On p.301 he writes: “This is but one example [Bohm’s explanation of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox] of how Bohr’s writings become much more comprehensible when looked at through the Bohm model. Indeed, for me, much of quantum theory becomes much clearer and less mystical. Many of the paradoxes like schizophrenic cats, the watchdog effect, delayed choice effects, etc., which give rise to so many difficulties, disappear. In fact the more 1 explored the Bohm model, the more I was puzzled as to why people have turned it into an ideological battle.”

[3] Van Fraassen, “Rovelli’s World”, op.cit., p.391.

[4] Bohm argues that at the subatomic level there is a plenty of room for fine structures not even imagined so far (as space too has structures that, according to Rovelli, are shaped by physical quantum-level laws). These structures involve an important role for active information and formal causality, and these seem to connect matter and mind through an analogy. But Bohm is saying nothing about panpsychism in this paper (or elsewhere, as far as I know). Bohm, David (1990) “A New Theory of the Relation of Mind and Matter.” Philosophical Psychology, 3 (2): 271-86.

[5] It is wrong to equate the complexity of hominoid language with the bodily structures and genetic constitution of the species homo sapiens or its predecessors, as many biologists, paleontologists and paleoanthropologists tend to do. As a species homo sapiens emerged in Africa at least 200,000 years ago. For most of its existence, homo sapiens has lived similarly to its hominid predecessors and contemporaries. There is no evidence of the effects of complex language and society – certainly no traces of history, religion, arts, architecture, science, or philosophy – before the first cave paintings appeared some 30,000-40,000 years ago. Julian Jaynes’ explanation is simple and plausible: humans did not have language before the era of cave paintings. The development of language was very slow (compared to cultural-historical scales of time) but started, step by step, to accelerate. Each new stage of linguistic learning created new perceptions and attentions, resulting in important cultural changes, which are reflected in the available archaeological record. The first phase is the establishment of clearly recognisable intentional calls. Differentations in terms of intensity of calls resulted in vocal qualifiers and modifiers, the evolvement of which “[…] had to precede the invention of the nouns which they modified, rather than the reverse. And what is more, this stage of speech had to remain for a long period until such modifiers became stable. This slow development was also necessary so that the basic repertoire of the call system was kept intact to perform its intentional functions. This age of modifiers perhaps lasted up to 40,000 B.C., where we find archaeologically retouched hand axes and points.” It took perhaps another 20,000 years before full sentences became possible sometime between 25,000 and 15,000 B.C.E. Jaynes, Julian (2000) The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, quotation from pp.132-3.

[6] Wendt is opposed to the idea that consciousness requires reflection, claiming that “in humans it is easy to conflate this capacity [for reflection] with consciousness per se, since our own experience is reflective, but to maintain such a conflation would in effect be to deny consciousness to almost all other organisms, which seems counter-intuitive” (p.115). I do not find it counterintuitive at all. It is entirely plausible to say that all life forms categorize and distinguish between what is good and bad for their reproduction, that all animals can process information and feel effects, and that some animals can also reason and learn, without imputing consciousness to them. Wendt also dramatizes the leap from non-consciousness (stones) to consciousness (reflective humans). The relatively advanced reasoning exhibit by some mammals and birds has grown out of the long evolution of sensory and motor systems; and even the final cultural-evolutionary steps of homo sapiens of this ‘leap’ toward consciousness took extensive periods of time and progressed only clumsily and gradually. It is the whole of all these evolutionary layers that constitute our humanness and the feel of our consciousness. Jaynes, Origin, op.cit, pp.21-66, provides an excellent discussion also on the nature of consciousness. For Jaynes, consciousness is an operation, which functions by way of analogy. It constructs “an analog space with an analog ‘I’ that can observe that space and move metaphorically within it” (p.65).

[7] Jaspers, Karl (1953) The Origin and Goal of History. Trans. by M. Bullock. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

[8] For discussions about the role of relational systems of language (writing) and social imaginary in constituting our subjectivity and identity in contemporary world political contexts, see Patomäki, Heikki & Steger, Manfred (2010) “Social Imaginaries and Big History: Towards a New Planetary Consciousness?”. Futures 42 (10): 1056-63; Patomäki, Heikki (2017) “On the Possibility of a Global Political Community: The Enigma of ‘Small Local Differences’ within Humanity”, Protosociology. An International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research (33): pp.93-127

[9] It is important to consider different possible contrasts, at different levels of analysis, as explanatory questions are always contrastive. Both in science and everyday life, the microlevel of individual units is often inadequate for explaining phenomena, and we therefore must construct upper-level explanations. For one, any whole that is constrained by some collective principle is different from the mere sum of its parts and have effects on those parts (e.g. gas constrained by conservation of energy and normal distribution of velocities; a school exam constrained by the Gaussian distribution of grades etc). Another related phenomenon stems from the composition of the whole. For example, many famous paradoxes of Keynesian economics arise from a simple fallacy of composition, such as the paradox of thrift: if most individuals and firms tried to save in the same way at the same time, aggregate demand would dwindle, harming incomes and profits. Gluts and unemployment result, and whatever savings have accumulated may soon become depleted. There can also be contradictions between principles of organization of social wholes. In general, whenever the properties of individuals are interdependent or relational, and whenever there are emergent constraints or patterns at the upper level, atomism/individualism fails. For instance, when in capitalist market economy individuals occupy relational positions that pre-existed their entrance to the system, the distribution of various goods and entitlements depends to a large degree on relations of power between these positions, not only on the characteristics of the individuals. A good account of the failure of atomism/individualism is Garfinkel, Alan (1981) Forms of Explanation. Rethinking the Questions in Social Theory. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. A succinct but brilliant philosophical treatment of the problem can be found in Rescher, Nicholas (2006) Philosophical Dialectics. An Essay on Metaphilosophy. New York: State University of New York Press, pp.51-74.

[10] Habermas, Jürgen (1984) The Theory of Communicative Action. Volume One. Trans. by T. McCarthy. London: Heinemann, pp.112-3.

[11] In his classic but largely forgotten magnum opus, Gerard Radnitzky distinguishes between two metatraditions of doing science and philosophy, empiric-analytical and hermeneutic-dialectical. The former is based on the model of (mostly Newtonian) physics and is empiricist, reductionist and Humean in its skepticism and understanding of causation as event-regularities. The latter has developed in symbiosis with humanism and human sciences, typically assuming that meanings are not so much properties of individual minds as language understood as a relational social system; exploring the relationship between parts and the whole (hermeneutic circle, fusion of horizons, process of Aufhebung, overcoming historical contradictions etc); critiquing the technical orientation of the empiric-analytical tradition and its closeness to power; and seeking for emancipatory possibilities to increase the autonomy and self-determination of humans. The hermeneutic-dialectical tradition has for a long while thematized many of the themes now often associated by scholars such as Wendt with quantum mechanics. Radnitzky, Gerald (1970) Contemporary Schools of Metascience. Anglo-Saxon Schools of Metascience. Continental Schools of Metascience. Göteborg: Akademiaförlaget.

[12] Among quantum scientists, Bohm has been especially articulate about the role of formal or formative and final causation. By formative cause he means “an ordered and structured inner movement that is essential to what things are”. Formal or formative causes are instantly connected to final causes. “Any such formative cause must evidently have an end or product which is at least implicit.” I have come to the same conclusion in my friendly critique of critical realism, arguing amongst other things that also Einstein’s theory of general relativity espouses a version of formal causality. ”Einstein’s general relativity explained gravitation more in line with a mixture of Aristotle’s categories of material and formal causes, whereby mass and energy (parts) form the relevant spacetime fields (the whole) and thereby constitute the natural lines of non-forced movements of bodies.” As Milja Kurki has showed, in social sciences the re-appropriation of Aristotle is nearly self-evident, although I agree with Bohm and others that the point is much more general. Bohm, David (1980) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London & New York: Routledge, quotations from pp.15-6; Patomäki, Heikki (2010) “After Critical Realism? The Relevance of Contemporary Science”. Journal of Critical Realism 9 (1): 59-89; Kurki, Milja (2008) Causation in International Relations: Reclaiming Causal Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[13] With the construction of “an analog space with an analog ‘I’ that can observe that space and move metaphorically within it” emerges also our free will in the sense that we can reflect upon different courses of action and make reasoned and conscious choices, thus assuming moral and legal responsibility for our actions. But freedom is more than this capacity stemming from the operation of consciousness. Freedom is also about absenting ills and constraints and enabling possibilities, i.e. a social and political project of development, where the free development of each is a condition of the free development of all. See Bhaskar, Roy (1993) Dialectic. The Pulse of Freedom. London: Verso.