September 28, 2010

1. Sons and Lovers:
Death of Love, by Love, for Love

I started Sons and Lovers, by my old favorite D. H. Lawrence. It’s an autobiographical novel, a novel that draws on the author’s early years in a working-class family. It reminds me of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel. Though I like Sons and Lovers, I think Wolfe’s novel is slightly better — more magical, more poetic. I can understand why Lawrence’s editor, Edward Garnett, cut about a hundred pages from the manuscript, and I’m glad he did so. Lawrence himself tired of the novel, didn’t object to Garnett’s cuts, and said he wasn’t going to write any more autobiographical works. Wolfe, on the other hand, continued to write in an autobiographical vein.

Sons and Lovers breaks with the tradition of Victorian fiction insofar as it has no plot, no suspense. It also has no humor (or very little humor). It’s never tedious, though; Lawrence holds your attention.

Lawrence shows how people in the mining town helped each other; if a miner was injured, for example, his family received money from a group of other miners. I noticed this also in the Hardy novel that I read recently; before the welfare state, there were various systems for helping those in need. Such systems may have developed a sense of community. I’m not sure if these systems were better-developed in England than in other countries.

One of Lawrence’s major themes is the death of love — how love gradually withers, and becomes enmity. This theme is most apparent in the relationship between his parents. Shortly after his parents were married, his mother discovered that his father didn’t own their house, as he had said.

She said very little to her husband, but her manner had changed towards him. Something in her proud, honorable soul had crystallized out hard as rock.... There began a battle between the husband and wife — a fearful, bloody battle that ended only with the death of one. She fought to make him undertake his own responsibilities, to make him fulfill his obligations. But he was too different from her. His nature was purely sensuous, and she strove to make him moral, religious. She tried to force him to face things. He could not endure it — it drove him out of his mind.1

Notice the simple language, the short sentences — another departure from the Victorian tradition.

Lawrence’s mother didn’t love his father just because she thought he owned their house. The issue of the house is part of something larger: a gradual loss of respect/love. The last four words of Chapter 2 are “she had loved him.” The tense is pluperfect because her love has died. Death of love.

Another troubled relationship in the novel is that between the author’s older brother, William, and his fiancée. This relationship illustrates another Lawrence theme: not the death of love, but death by love — a relationship that drives one party to death. For Lawrence, love sometimes degenerates into “a fearful, bloody battle that ended only with the death of one.” Death by love. As William gets closer to marrying, his mother warns him that love is a life-and-death matter:

“My boy, remember you’re taking your life in your hands,” said Mrs. Morel. “Nothing is as bad as a marriage that’s a hopeless failure. Mine was bad enough, God knows, and ought to teach you something; but it might have been worse by a long chalk.”2

But William goes forward, though his love has begun to wither, has begun to mix with hate. He thinks he has gone too far to back out; “I couldn’t give her up now,” he says. His mother responds, “Remember there are worse wrongs than breaking off an engagement.” William begins working harder, to save money for marriage. He becomes “gaunt” and “haggard,” comes down with a “dragging cold,” and then dies, dies of a flawed relationship.

Lawrence himself was so determined to have a good relationship that he eloped with a woman who had a husband and three young children. Earlier, we heard Lawrence’s mother tell her son that her marital problems “ought to teach you something,” and indeed Lawrence seemed to learn from them. Lawrence would do anything to have what he felt was the right relationship. In an earlier issue, I discussed Lawrence’s story “The Fox”: “Henry and March find growth and fulfillment in each other. In order for them to come together, Banford must die.” Henry and March will do anything for love — even kill Banford. Death for love. So Lawrence discusses the death of love, death by love, and death for love.

In Sons and Lovers, Paul Morel represents the author. Paul’s first romantic relationship is with a girl named Miriam, who lives on a farm. (Miriam represents Jessie Chambers Wood, who later wrote a memoir about Lawrence.) Paul says to Miriam, “If one person loves, the other does.”3 This suggests that there’s a synchronicity in love, that it arises in two people at the same time, that you can gauge another’s feelings by your own. Perhaps Paul is telling Miriam, “The love that you feel for me is matched by my love for you.” Lawrence’s observation is psychological and also parapsychological. He deserves credit for a profound observation (what Victorian novelist could have made this observation?), and also for expressing it in simple language. I don’t recall hearing this observation before; I think it’s original.

La Rochefoucauld said that we can’t hide love where it exists, or fake it where it doesn’t exist. La Rochefoucauld is saying that feelings are transmitted telepathically, without a word being spoken, so his observation is parapsychological. But Lawrence goes even further; with his keen sense of the occult, Lawrence finds synchronicity in love.

When Paul speaks of this synchronicity, Miriam is pleased, believing that her love is requited. She’s reminded of her mother’s comment, “Love begets love.” But her mother’s comment suggests cause-and-effect, not a real synchronicity, not an arising together. Paul doesn’t entirely agree with her mother’s comment; he responds, “Yes, something like that.”

Miriam is glad that love has this synchronistic quality; otherwise, she says, “love might be a very terrible thing.” To which Paul responds, “Yes, but it is — at least with most people.” For Lawrence, love is often “a very terrible thing,” because Lawrence understands the death of love, death by love, and death for love. Lawrence understands the dark side of love, the dark side of marriage. Perhaps this understanding came not from his own experience but from his mother’s experience (he was very close to his mother, not close to his father).

Lawrence was fond of the area where he grew up, calling it “the country of my heart,” and he often describes the land in Sons and Lovers. I particularly enjoyed his description of gathering the fruits of the earth:

While they were so poor, the children were delighted if they could do anything to help economically. Annie and Paul and Arthur went out early in the morning, in summer, looking for mushrooms, hunting through the wet grass, from which the larks were rising, for the white-skinned, wonderful naked bodies crouched secretly in the green. And if they got half a pound they felt exceedingly happy: there was the joy of finding something, the joy of accepting something straight from the hand of Nature, and the joy of contributing to the family exchequer.

But the most important harvest... was the blackberries. Mrs. Morel must buy fruit for puddings on the Saturdays; also she liked blackberries. So Paul and Arthur scoured the coppices and woods and old quarries, so long as a blackberry was to be found, every weekend going on their search. In that region of mining villages blackberries became a comparative rarity. But Paul hunted far and wide. He loved being out in the country, among the bushes. But he also could not bear to go home to his mother empty. That, he felt, would disappoint her, and he would have died rather.

2. The Tao of Physics (part 3)

Chapter 15, “The Cosmic Dance,” has little to offer. It discusses the creation-and-destruction of various particles, and compares this to the dance of Shiva, which represents creation and destruction. Perhaps influenced by Heinrich Zimmer, the interpreter of Indian art, Capra describes the dancing Shiva thus:

The upper right hand of the god holds a drum to symbolize the primal sound of creation, the upper left bears a tongue of flame, the element of destruction. The balance of the two hands represents the dynamic balance of creation and destruction in the world, accentuated further by the Dancer’s calm and detached face in the center of the two hands, in which the polarity of creation and destruction is dissolved and transcended. The second right hand is raised in the sign of ‘do not fear’, symbolizing maintenance, protection and peace, while the remaining left hand points down to the uplifted foot which symbolizes release from the spell of maya. The god is pictured as dancing on the body of a demon, the symbol of human ignorance which has to be conquered before liberation can be attained.4

Capra describes forces as particle-exchanges. For example, the electromagnetic force involves the exchange of photons; since photons are massless, the electromagnetic force has an “indefinitely long” range.5 Gravity also has a long range, and it is assumed that gravity involves the exchange of a massless particle called the graviton. The so-called “strong force,” which operates within an atom’s nucleus, involves the exchange of massive particles called hadrons; the strong force has a very short range.

Capra says that the particle-collisions that take place in colliders resemble the collisions that occur naturally in the interior of stars. Various particles travel through space; this is known as “cosmic radiation.” Some of these particles have much higher energy than the particles in a collider. When cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere, there are more collisions, creating more particles.

Particles are continually appearing and disappearing, continually changing into other particles.

Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter.6

Chapter 16 is called “Quark Symmetries: A New Koan?” In fact, I don’t think these symmetries are at all similar to a koan; Capra is sometimes too eager to discover connections between modern physics and Eastern philosophy. Like the previous chapter, this chapter is mildly interesting, but not as interesting as some of the earlier chapters.

Capra notes that, just as earlier scientists discovered patterns in atoms, so too modern scientists are discovering patterns in particles.7 And just as the atom-patterns were eventually traced to different numbers/arrangements of electrons and other “sub-atoms,” so too the particle-patterns may be caused by different numbers/arrangements of “sub-particles,” or “quarks.” But while the quark hypothesis can explain certain things very well, it doesn’t explain other things well. Furthermore, quarks haven’t been directly observed. So the existence of quarks isn’t universally accepted. (But Wikipedia’s article on quarks treats their existence as proven, not hypothetical.)

Are we too eager to find symmetry in nature? Do we have a Western bias in favor of symmetry? Capra notes that the Greeks loved symmetry:

The Pythagoreans regarded symmetric number patterns as the essence of all things... and most Greek astronomers thought that the heavenly bodies moved in circles because the circle was the geometric figure with the highest degree of symmetry.8

In the East, on the other hand, there was a love of asymmetry. In Japanese gardens, for example, stones are arranged asymmetrically. (One is reminded of the asymmetry in Gothic art, which Ruskin was fond of.)

Capra promises us that, in the remaining two chapters, he’ll present a theory of subatomic symmetry that doesn’t clash with Eastern views.

Chapter 17, “Patterns of Change,” is difficult to read, and impossible to enjoy. It discusses Heisenberg’s S-matrix theory, which treats particles not as independent objects, but as one link in a chain of reactions — not as a static “thing,” but as a stage in a process. Instead of looking at the structure of a particle, S-matrix theory looks at the event that produced the particle, and the event that will come next:

The structure of a hadron [is] not understood as a definite arrangement of constituent parts, but is given by all sets of particles which may interact with one another to form the hadron under consideration. Thus a proton exists potentially as a neutron-pion pair, a kaon-lambda pair, and so on. The proton also has the potential of disintegrating into any of these particle combinations if enough energy is available. The tendencies of a hadron to exist in various manifestations are expressed by the probabilities for the corresponding reactions, all of which may be regarded as aspects of the hadron’s internal structure....9 In S-matrix theory, the concept of a reaction channel is more fundamental than that of a particle.10

Then Capra turns to the ancient Chinese classic called The Book of Changes, and argues that it resembles S-matrix theory insofar as it focuses not on being, but on becoming; it focuses not on objects, but on changes.

Both modern physics and ancient Chinese thought consider change and transformation as the primary aspect of nature, and see the structures and symmetries generated by the changes as secondary.11

Chapter 18 is called “Interpenetration.” It’s the last chapter (except for the Epilogue and the two Afterwords). It raises several interesting ideas. The chief subject of the chapter is The Bootstrap Hypothesis, developed by Geoffrey Chew. This hypothesis is an offshoot of S-matrix theory. Though Capra considers The Bootstrap Hypothesis important, Wikipedia says it doesn’t arouse much interest now because other approaches (such as quantum chromodynamics and string theory) are more popular. But I wouldn’t quickly dismiss The Bootstrap Hypothesis; we should judge ideas on their merits, not their date; an old idea isn’t necessarily false, a new idea isn’t necessarily true.

According to The Bootstrap Hypothesis, every particle generates other particles, and is itself generated by other particles. “Every particle consists of all other particles.”12 Thus, no particle is fundamental, they all arise together, they’re all equal. “The whole set of hadrons generates itself in this way or pulls itself up, so to say, by its ‘bootstraps’.... There is only one possible self-consistent set of hadrons — the one found in nature.”13 The Bootstrap Hypothesis is very similar to an idea that I’ve often discussed in Phlit — namely, the idea of Mutual Arising, which says that events don’t have a single cause, but rather a vast network of causes that arise together (I discussed Mutual Arising here and here). Everything causes everything else. As I wrote earlier,

Perhaps the old puzzle, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” can illustrate the Doctrine of Mutual Arising. If one sees causality in a linear way (A causes B, B causes C, etc.), then the puzzle of the chicken and the egg seems insoluble. But if one sees causality in terms of Mutual Arising, then chickens and eggs are no longer puzzling — chickens and eggs arose together, “mutual arising.” The philosophers of India don’t see linear causality, they see everything as part of a huge net, everything inter-connected, everything causing and being caused by everything else.

Every cause is equal (causal democracy), there is no First Cause (causal monarchy). Everything arises together, the universe pulls itself up by its bootstraps. The only possible series of events is the one found in nature. I find The Bootstrap Hypothesis quite congenial.

Capra says that, in The Bootstrap Hypothesis, “all particles are dynamically composed of one another... and in that sense can be said to ‘contain’ one another.”14 All in each, each in all.15 Capra calls this “interpenetration” (hence he calls this chapter “Interpenetration”). In an earlier issue, I said that a tree isn’t an independent thing, it’s connected to the earth, the sun, the air — it’s connected to everything, it’s “interpenetrating.” Likewise, particles don’t stand alone, they come from other particles, and turn into other particles; each particle reflects all others, “contains” all others.

In Mahayana Buddhism, a very similar notion is applied to the whole universe. This cosmic network of interpenetrating things and events is illustrated... by the metaphor of Indra’s net.... a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact is everything else. ‘In every particle of dust, there are present Buddhas without number.’16

Notice that Buddhas are not only in the human race, not only in living things, but even in dust, even in the inanimate world. The world is one; even matter has a kind of intelligence. Geoffrey Chew suggested that consciousness is part of the “world network,” part of that network of causes that arise together.17 And just as history can’t be other than it was, so too the world couldn’t be without everything in it — including consciousness.

This view [is] in perfect harmony with the views of the Eastern mystical traditions which have always regarded consciousness as an integral part of the universe. In the Eastern view, human beings, like all other life forms, are parts of an inseparable organic whole. Their intelligence, therefore, implies that the whole, too, is intelligent. Man is seen as the living proof of cosmic intelligence; in us, the universe repeats over and over again its ability to produce forms through which it becomes consciously aware of itself.18

Not only in the East, but also in the West, mystics have long seen things “interpenetrating” — have long seen that each contains all. Capra quotes William Blake:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.19

Because of the inter-connectedness of the world, we can’t understand something without understanding everything; since we can’t understand everything, a complete understanding of anything eludes us. “The Eastern mystics,” Capra says, “insist that no single phenomenon can be explained.... The Eastern sages, therefore, are generally not interested in explaining things, but rather in obtaining a direct non-intellectual experience of the unity of all things.”20

According to the Eastern worldview, everything arises together, grows up together; the chicken and the egg arise together, the cell and its DNA arise together. Everything follows its own tendency, its own Tao. In the West, on the other hand, God creates, God is the First Cause, and everything follows the natural laws that God has laid down. Capra quotes Aquinas: “There is a certain Eternal Law, to wit, Reason, existing in the mind of God and governing the whole universe.”21 According to Capra, “This notion of an eternal, divine law of nature greatly influenced Western philosophy and science.”22 Since the West viewed matter as dumb, passive, inert, the only way to start the universe in orderly motion, and keep it moving, was to have an intelligent Lawgiver lay down Natural Laws. In the East, on the other hand, it was felt that nature itself had energy, life, a kind of intelligence, and could achieve motion, order, consciousness through its own internal tendencies.

The Chinese didn’t have a word for “law of nature.” Instead, they spoke of li, meaning “principle,” or “principle of organization.” Li originally meant the patterns in jade or muscle; one philosopher said that li was “the innumerable vein-like patterns included in the Tao.”23 How different from the Western concept of Natural Laws!

Capra says that modern physics has moved away from the old notion of Natural Laws. Modern physics has become content with approximations. We can’t understand everything, or how everything fits together, but if we focus on “selected groups of phenomena,” we can achieve an approximate understanding.24 In my view, when science encounters something inexplicable, like a connection between distant particles, that upsets the notion of Natural Laws.

Capra says that Leibniz was familiar with Chinese thought, and Capra asks, Was Leibniz’s theory of monads influenced by Eastern culture — more specifically, influenced by the metaphor of Indra’s net?25 After all, each monad mirrors the whole universe, like one of Indra’s pearls. In an earlier issue, I said, “Leibniz was a rational philosopher par excellence, a representative of The Age of Reason.” So I wouldn’t expect that Leibniz would be in agreement with Eastern thought, or with Blake, or with modern physics. And indeed, Capra decides that there’s a significant difference between Leibniz’s theory and Indra’s net: Leibniz’s monads are solid substances, basic substances, while the Eastern view is that there are no solid substances. Furthermore, the East saw force and energy in matter, while Leibniz sees force outside matter, and sees matter as “a merely passive thing.”26

In the Epilogue, Capra contrasts quantum physics with classical physics, and says what each approach is capable of:

The mechanistic world view of classical physics is useful for the description of the kind of physical phenomena we encounter in our everyday life and thus appropriate for dealing with our daily environment, and it has also proved extremely successful as a basis for technology. It is inadequate, however, for the description of physical phenomena in the submicroscopic realm. Opposed to the mechanistic conception of the world is the view of the mystics which may be epitomized by the word ‘organic’, as it regards all phenomena in the universe as integral parts of an inseparable harmonious whole.... The organic world view is not advantageous for constructing machines, nor for coping with the technical problems in an overpopulated world.27

He says that the organic worldview is “more fundamental” than the mechanistic.28

Capra says that his goal has been, not to prove anything, but to give the reader some of the pleasure that he himself has obtained from this new worldview:

What I hope to have achieved [is] not a rigorous demonstration, but rather to have given the reader an opportunity to relive, every now and then, an experience which has become for me a source of continuing joy and inspiration; that the principal theories and models of modern physics lead to a view of the world which is internally consistent and in perfect harmony with the views of Eastern mysticism.

This “joy and inspiration” is more important than “rigorous demonstration” because people live on joy, not demonstration, and a worldview that brings joy, that touches people’s lives, can contribute to a new spirituality.

After the Epilogue, there are two Afterwords. In the first Afterword, Capra shows a new receptivity to the occult. This suggests that, when he first wrote The Tao of Physics, he simply wasn’t aware of the connection between quantum physics and the occult, but he became aware of this connection before writing the Afterword. He says,

The new kind of interconnectedness that has recently emerged not only enforces the similarities between the views of physicists and mystics; it also raises the intriguing possibility of relating subatomic physics to Jungian psychology and, perhaps, even to parapsychology.29

Capra says that the relationship between parts and whole is different in quantum physics than it was in classical physics:

Whereas in classical physics the properties and behavior of the parts determine those of the whole, the situation is reversed in quantum physics: it is the whole that determines the behavior of the parts.30

If I compare this with my theory of history, I find that my theory, too, emphasizes the whole — the renaissance or decadence of society — and then works back to the individual’s instincts.

Capra says that Einstein was uncomfortable with quantum physics, uncomfortable with occult connections between distant objects:

The essence of Einstein’s disagreement with Bohr was his firm belief in some external reality, consisting of independent spatially separated elements.... Bell’s theorem dealt a shattering blow to Einstein’s position by showing that the conception of reality as consisting of separate parts, joined by local connections, is incompatible with quantum theory.31

Capra discusses the spinning particles that we’ve often discussed in this e-zine:

According to Einsten, since no signal can travel faster then the speed of light, it is impossible that the measurement performed on one electron will instantly determine the direction of the other electron’s spin, thousands of miles away. According to Bohr, the two-particle system is an indivisible whole, even if the particles are separated by a great distance; the system cannot be analyzed in terms of independent parts. Even though the two electrons are far apart in space, they are nevertheless linked by instantaneous, nonlocal connections. These connections are not signals in the Einsteinian sense; they transcend our conventional notions of information transfer. Bell’s theorem supports Bohr’s position and proves rigorously that Einstein’s view of physical reality as consisting of independent, spatially separated elements is incompatible with the laws of quantum theory. In other words, Bell’s theorem demonstrates that the universe is fundamentally interconnected, interdependent, and inseparable.32

As Einstein was uncomfortable with quantum physics, so other physicists are (Capra says) uncomfortable with the bootstrap theory and S-matrix theory, hence no Nobel prizes have been awarded for work on S-matrix theory.33

Capra praises the work of David Bohm:

Bohm’s starting point... is the notion of ‘unbroken wholeness’, and he sees the nonlocal connections that are exemplified by the EPR experiment as an essential aspect of this wholeness.... Bohm wants to... explore the order which he believes to be inherent in the cosmic web of relations at a deeper, ‘nonmanifest’ level. He calls this an ‘implicate’, or ‘enfolded’, order in which the interconnections of the whole have nothing to do with locality in space and time but exhibit an entirely different quality — that of enfoldment.34

In the second Afterword, Capra discusses the tremendous reception that his book has received. This reception, and the reception of Zukav’s book, shows that the quantum/mystical/occult theme strikes a chord with the public. Capra says that this theme strikes a chord because it’s part of something larger, part of a new worldview, part of what I call the Philosophy of Today:

What did The Tao of Physics touch off in all these people? What was it they had experienced themselves? I have come to believe that the recognition of the similarities between modern physics and Eastern mysticism is part of a much larger movement, of a fundamental change of worldviews, or paradigms, in science and society, which is now happening throughout Europe and North America and which amounts to a profound cultural transformation. This transformation, this profound change of consciousness, is what so many people have felt intuitively over the past two or three decades, and this is why The Tao of Physics has struck such a responsive chord.35

Capra praises a book by Heisenberg, and says that Heisenberg helped with The Tao of Physics:

Heisenberg’s book Physics and Philosophy, his classic account of the history and philosophy of quantum physics, exerted an enormous influence on me when I first read it as a young student. The book has remained my companion during my studies and my work as a physicist, and today I can see that it was Heisenberg who planted the seed of The Tao of Physics. I was fortunate to meet Heisenberg in the early seventies. I had several long discussions with him, and when I finished The Tao of Physics I went through the manuscript with him, chapter by chapter. It was Heisenberg’s personal support and inspiration that carried me through those difficult years, when I went out on a limb to develop and present a radically new idea.36

Capra returns to the topic of parts-and-whole, calling it the first criterion of new-paradigm thinking:

In the mechanistic, classical scientific paradigm it was believed that in any complex system the dynamics of the whole could be understood from the properties of the parts.... Therefore the rule was: in order to understand any complex system, you break it up into its pieces.... This started with Democritus in ancient Greece; it was the procedure formalized by Descartes and Newton, and it has been the accepted scientific view until the twentieth century.... In the new paradigm, the relationship between the part and the whole is more symmetrical. We believe that while the properties of the parts certainly contribute to our understanding of the whole, at the same time the properties of the parts can only be fully understood through the dynamics of the whole. The whole is primary, and once you understand the dynamics of the whole, you can then derive, at least in principle, the properties and patterns of interactions of the parts.... Heisenberg was so impressed by the new relationship between the part and the whole that he used it as the title for his autobiography, Der Teil und das Ganze.37

Next Capra turns to structure vs. process:

The second criterion of new-paradigm thinking in science concerns a shift from thinking in terms of structure to thinking in terms of process. In the old paradigm it was thought that there were fundamental structures, and then there were forces and mechanisms through which these interacted, which gave rise to processes. In the new paradigm, we think that process is primary, that every structure we observe is a manifestation of an underlying process.38

This emphasis on process originated with Einstein:

This process thinking came into physics with Einstein’s relativity theory. The recognition that mass is a form of energy eliminated the concept of a material substance from science and with it also that of a fundamental structure. Subatomic particles are not made of any material stuff; they are patterns of energy. Energy, however, is associated with activity, with processes, and this implies that the nature of subatomic particles is intrinsically dynamic. When we observe them, we never see any substance, nor any fundamental structure. What we observe are dynamic patterns continually changing into one another — a continuous dance of energy.39

Capra notes that process is also primary in Eastern thought:

Process thinking is also a main characteristic of Eastern mystical traditions.... The more one studies the texts of Hindus, Buddhists, and Taoists, the more it becomes apparent that in all of them the world is conceived in terms of movement, flow, and change.40

Perhaps process is important not just in modern science, but in modern culture as a whole. In Proust, for example, time and change are emphasized, nothing is permanent and unchanging.

Capra makes the bold suggestion that the current paradigm shift will, in a sense, be the last:

Again and again, throughout the history of science, there has been a feeling that the foundations of knowledge were shifting, or even crumbling. The current paradigm shift in science again evokes such a feeling, but this time it may be the last time; not because there won’t be any more progress or any more changes, but because there won’t be any foundations in the future.... Just as we see reality around us as a network of relationships, our descriptions, too — our concepts, models, and theories — will form an interconnected network representing the observed phenomena. In such a network, there won’t be anything primary and secondary, and there won’t be any foundations.41

Capra insists that truth is never more than approximate, and that

this insight is crucial to all of modern science.... The Cartesian paradigm was based on a belief in the certainty of scientific knowledge, which had been clearly stated by Descartes. In the new paradigm it is recognized that all scientific concepts and theories are limited and approximate. Science can never provide any complete and definitive understanding. Scientists do not deal with truth (in the sense of a precise correspondence between the description and the described phenomena); they deal with limited and approximate descriptions of reality. The most beautiful expression of this criterion I have found is one by Louis Pasteur: “Science advances through tentative answers to a series of more and more subtle questions which reach deeper and deeper into the essence of natural phenomena.”42

Capra says that the time has come to extend his thesis to other sciences:

I see future elaborations of the thesis I presented in The Tao of Physics not so much in future explorations of parallels between physics and mysticism, but rather in extending these parallels to the other sciences.43

Capra himself has written on biology, systems theory, etc. The Philosophy of Today will have an impact on various disciplines.

© L. James Hammond 2010
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Footnotes
1. Ch. 1. I might mention in passing that Look Homeward, Angel, like Sons and Lovers, is preoccupied with the theme of marital strife — strife between the author’s parents. back
2. Ch. 6 back
3. Ch. 7. This reminds one of the mystical view that if you love God, you can be sure that God loves you. “Rumi assures us that human love is returned:
Never does the lover seek without being sought by his beloved.
When the lightning of love has shot into this heart,
   know that there is love in
that heart....
Mark well the text: “He loves them and they love Him.” (Koran, 5:59) (Huston Smith, The World’s Religions, “Islam,” p. 260) back
4. p. 244. Wikipedia discusses the dancing Shiva here. The balance of creation and destruction reminds me of the balance of life- and death-instincts. back
5. p. 230 back
6. p. 244 back
7. “All particles of a given kind,” Capra writes, “are completely identical; they have exactly the same mass, electric charge, and other characteristic properties. Furthermore, all charged particles carry electric charges exactly equal (or opposite) to that of the electron, or charges of exactly twice that amount.”(p. 247) Scientists have been able to put particles into groups or families, just as they once did with atoms. “The patterns in the particle world show great similarities to those in the world of atoms. Most particles, for example, spin about an axis like a top. Their spins are restricted to definite values which are integral multiples of some basic unit. Thus the baryons can only have spins of 1/2, 3/2, 5/2, etc., whereas the mesons have spins of 0, 1, 2, etc. This is strongly reminiscent of the amounts of rotation electrons are known to display in their atomic orbits, which are also restricted to definite values specified by integral numbers.”(p. 248) back
8. p. 257 back
9. p. 266 back
10. p. 268 back
11. p. 283. Capra quotes Richard Wilhelm, a friend of Jung, and a well-known expert on The Book of Changes: “The eight trigrams... were held to be in a state of continual transition, one changing into another, just as transition from one phenomenon to another is continually taking place in the physical world. Here we have the fundamental concept of The Book of Changes. The eight trigrams are symbols standing for changing transitional states; they are images that are constantly undergoing change. Attention centers not on things in their state of being — as is chiefly the case in the Occident — but upon their movements in change.”(p. 283) back
12. p. 295 back
13. p. 296 back
14. p. 296 back
15. p. 292 back
16. p. 296. Capra quotes an English scholar, Sir Charles Eliot, who was an expert on mollusks as well as Buddhism — and a colonial administrator, too. back
17. “World network” is my phrase. back
18. p. 300 back
19. p. 297 back
20. p. 290 back
21. p. 287 back
22. p. 287 back
23. p. 289 back
24. p. 287 back
25. p. 298 back
26. p. 299. “Atomic theories of matter,” Capra writes, “have never been developed in Chinese thought, and although they have arisen in some schools of Indian philosophy, they are rather peripheral to Indian mysticism.”(p. 291) back
27. p. 303 back
28. p. 304 back
29. p. 309 back
30. p. 310 back
31. p. 311 back
32. p. 313 back
33. p. 317 back
34. p. 319 back
35. p. 324 back
36. p. 328 back
37. p. 329 back
38. p. 330 back
39. p. 330 back
40. p. 330 back
41. p. 332 back
42. p. 334 back
43. p. 340 back