NIAS Wednesday Discussion Meeting: “Quantum Ontology and Ultimate Reality” by Sisir Roy, Lecture Hall, 0930 hrs
NIAS Wednesday Discussion
Topic: “Quantum Ontology and Ultimate Reality”
Speaker: Sisir Roy
T.V. Raman Pai Chair Visiting Professor, NIAS
Chairperson: B V Sreekantan
Visiting Professor, NIAS
Date: 11th January, 2017
Time: 9.30 am
Venue: Lecture Hall, NIAS
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Abstract: Both Scientists and Philosophers are trying to understand the ultimate reality. However, it is necessary to understand first what is meant by “ultimate reality” in Physics and Philosophy. T.R.V. Murti stated: If nothing can be predicated of the Absolute and no terms can be applied to it, how then do we continue to speak of it ? How can it be cognized at all as the ultimately real?
The question is: as “absolute” or ultimate reality (paramartha) is not delimited by any attribute. It is Unknowable or “a nakshara”, (inexpressible) because it cannot be the object of any Knowing. How then can it be cognized and attested to exist? In the drkdrshyaviveka approach (i.e., discrimination between the subjective seer and the objective seen), one adduces a hierarchy of higher level realities, such that any given level of reality is cognized by the next higher level.
In physics, we can witness an analogous situation where more general or fundamental theories replace more restricted theories. For example, the discovery of General Theory of Relativity by Einstein changed the Newtonian paradigm. It does not imply the falsehood of Newtonian theory of Gravity. Einstein’s framework is more general than the Newtonian one, which has limited validity with respect to the Einsteinian one. Both depict the same Reality however, but at different levels, with the Einsteinian perspective being deeper. As another example, the discovery of quantum theory at the beginning of the twentieth century changed our understanding of reality. As per modern cosmology the universe arises in the process of “fluctuation of quantum vacuum”, not out of “nothing” but out of a certain physical reality. This vacuum or ontologically speaking a substratum exists which is devoid of any matter but full of activities or full of potentialities. Scientists and philosophers both require a hierarchy of realities. Whereas philosophers posit such an ultimate Reality from direct intuition, scientists approach the reality in a top down fashion, starting from the macroscopic level to subatomic scale to the scale of strings and then to the ultimate level of physical universe called Quantum Vacuum. The concept of quantum vacuum has striking similarity with the concept of Tathagatagarbha in Yogacara Buddhism.
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