Consciousness in Bohm’s Ontology

Paavo Pylkkännen

University of Skövde, Sweden

Bohm’s views on both quantum theory and consciousness changed over the course of his life, making it difficult to specify his exact views. Bohm proposed that a quantum particle was accompanied by a field or quantum potential that Bohm proposed as the central feature of his version of quantum theory. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘hidden variable’ or ‘pilot wave’ theory. In contrast to Neils Bohr and his Copenhagen interpretation, Bohm thought that the quantum level was real rather than a mathematical abstraction. For Bohm classical physics, with its separate objects and processes, was real but not fundamental. Bohr is seen as belonging to a Kantian tradition, in which the mind constructs the world, and nothing is actually known about the external world. He is close to the positivists in this respect. Scientific realists such as Bohm are opposed to the Kantian view.

Bohm denied criticisms that he was trying to put back the determinism in physics, which had been removed by the advent of quantum theory. He argued that determinism and indeterminism were two sides of the processes of nature. Determinism and indeterminism were seen complimentary to one another, and as applicable to separate and limited domains.

In his 1957 book, ‘Causality and Chance in Modern Physics’ Bohm took the view that the universe was infinite in a qualitative as well as a quantitative sense, which view is deemed to leave room for the existence of consciousness in the physical world.

Bohm’s version of quantum theory became more relevant to consciousness, when a later reformulation of his ideas led to the proposal that the wave aspect of a quanta was what he called ‘active information’ that could shape the state of a particle. He suggested that this active information was a manifestation of the implicate order which was suggested to underlie both classical and quantum physics, and to resolve their incompatibility.

The logical reasoning of the human mind is here equated to the classical level of physics, and like the classical level it is seen as not the whole or even the most fundamental part of the mind.

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