My View of the World

Author: Erwin Schrodinger
Published: 1983
Website: Amazon Page

In case anyone in the world didn’t know, Erwin Schrodinger was an incredibly famous physicist responsible for the Schrodinger equation, which describes the changes in the quantum state of a physical system. What most people don’t know is that he was also a theoretical biologist, and more relevantly, an amateur philosopher. His short tome, as he explains, is an attempt to avoid the false modesty of silence by contributing some measure of thought to all of human pondering on metaphysics and a little ethics. It is now out of print, and in fact my copy is printed upside down and backwards (the pages relative to the cover) but it still contains some fascinating ideas which deserve some attention.

Schrodinger’s main idea is a metaphysics of wholeness, wherein we are all part of a larger consciousness that includes other people but also all the world. The influence from Schopenhauer, who he greatly admired, is clear. However, Schrodinger, as a scientist, makes a paean to rationalists by attempting to deduce this strange mysticism logically. He claims that because dualism is clearly false, leading to a contradiction (if there is a physical world and a psychic world, how could they possibly interact in the ways we know they do?), there is a choice to be made between materialism (a world of all matter, which he finds devoid of meaning) and his suggestion (a world of all consciousness) which is also derived from many Indian teachings.

The most important part of Schrodinger’s thinking however, is not his conclusions (which are a little woo-heavy) but rather his approach. He argues forcefully that the naive materialism of his rationalist scientific compatriots is just as much a metaphysics as his own, and just as unprovable. This philosophical view of the world, including science, is rather admirable, given that science itself often tries to be the sum total of all necessary philosophies. He also acknowledges that our analysis of ancient and past philosophers is probably deeply flawed, since we try to pit them against each other (Plato v Aristotle, Kant v Bentham) as if they were all talking about the same things when in reality, they were probably talking about different aspects of similar things or perhaps different things all together. It’s a very pragmatic and sympathetic way of seeing the work of philosophy.

My favorite part? Out of his conception of the importance of shared consciousness comes the gem: “The worst of all punishments is prolonged solitary confinement without books.”

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2 Comments to “My View of the World”

  1. woo-heavy?

  2. In the skeptical community, woo refers to fuzzy, mystical ideas that are not religious but rather ascientific in their meaninglessness, positively speaking. “We are all one” “The universe is powered by love.” Etc.

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