MLE Webcast: Philosophy

Track "Philosophy"

The first MLE webcast series is a course on philosophy, curated by MLE Association Member Prof. Dr. Michel Bitbol, MD. Specifically, the course centers around the topic of “Quantum Mechanics: A Theory with no View of the World”.

The interactive webinar (90min.) for Q&A regarding the webcast on Philosophy took place on October 20, 2020 at 18:00 CEST. MLE Friends had exclusive access to this interactive online event.

About the Expert

Michel Bitbol, France

Michel Bitbol is researcher at CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. He received a M.D., a Ph.D. in physics and a “Habilitation” in philosophy. After a start in scientific research, he turned to philosophy of science, editing texts by Erwin Schrödinger and formulating a neo-kantian philosophy of quantum mechanics.

He then studied the relations between physics and the philosophy of mind, in collaboration with Francisco Varela, and drew a parallel between Buddhist dependent arising and non-supervenient relations in quantum physics. He also developed a first-person conception of consciousness expressed from the standpoint of an experience of meditation. More recently, he engaged a debate with the philosophical movement called “speculative realism”, from the same standpoint.

Philosophy - Quantum Mechanics: A Theory with no View of the World

Part 1: How can we compare quantum mechanics and Buddhism?



It is widely held that there is a similarity between the Buddhist and the quantum views of the world. But, actually, the only similarity between the two disciplines is that they tend to challenge any view of the world whatsoever.

Part 2: Critique of views of the world in Buddhism & Quantum mechanics



From Niels Bohr (1927) to Chris Fuchs (2019), many physicists have challenged the idea that quantum mechanics is meant to give a “picture of the world”. Their arguments are compared with Buddhism.

Part 3: Relativity of properties: The defeat of own-being



In quantum physics, there are no “intrinsic properties”, but relational observables. Phenomena are co-arising with the process of their detection. This feature is compared with the Buddhist “emptiness of own-being”.

Part 4: Dispelling 'quantum paradoxes' (1) - Schrödinger's cat without own-being



The defeat of own-being makes it easy to dispell “quantum paradoxes”. We start with dispelling the famous paradoxes of “ the collapse of the wave function” and “Schrödinger’s cat paradox”.

Part 5: Dispelling 'quantum paradoxes' (2) - Wave and corpuscles without own-being



Neither intrinsic waves, nor intrinsic particles : the behavior of quantum objects is relative to one’s experimental approach.

Part 6: Dispelling 'quantum paradoxes' (3) - Indeterminism



There are no intrinsic causes to individual events, but only relative causes. We compare this with Nagarjuna’s critique of causality.

Part 7: Dependent arising, entanglement, and 'non-locality'



Quantum entanglement is remarkably similar to Buddhist dependent arising. The meaning of this similarity is that even relations are relative, even emptiness is empty.