by Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D.
There are more discoveries that offer new insights about time-space and, consequently, also about reality. On the whole, these discoveries phenomena result in the crumbling of the Newtonian world of certainty and determinism.
I shall belabor myself of explaining the historical development of quantum science because of the discoveries about the nature and dynamics of our Cosmos and reality that surfaced as quantum discoveries progressed.
Turned upside down, the world in the quantum view becomes a world of illusion, probabilities, opposites, continuing process of creation and annihilation, uncertainty, complementarity, interconnectivity, and of beings in a continuing process of becoming. We have come to learn of a new world that: (1) no longer distinguishes the subjective from the objective realm; (2) demonstrates the interrelatedness and interconnectivity of everything and everyone in the entire cosmic system; (3) gives importance and significance to the role of the conscious observer in creating present and future realities; (4) abandons the age of certainty and determinism; (5) is continually in a cyclical process of creation and annihilation; (6) lays down, as a result, only infinite possibilities and opportunities the realization of which is dependent on the exercise of the human mind and free will; (7) views the quantum world as also metaphysical in view of the intervention of the observer’s mind and free will and the transformative effect it bears on reality; and, finally, (8) opens a new dimension of life and existence that goes beyond the Newtonian’s solely physical realm.
The concept of ultimate building block of nature as having both a physical abd netaphysical dimension pervades the thinking of the later Greek philosophers. Aristotle himself speculates that his ether is a divine and indestructible substance. Its place is in the heavens, where it makes up the stars and other heavenly bodies. Their most important contribution, of course, is that they introduce to science the idea of atom (literally “not able to be cut”) as the primeval stuff from which all things proceed. This idea is advanced by Leucippus of Miletus (490 B.C.) and his disciple Democritus of Abdera (460-362 B.C.), who argue that atom is the smallest indivisible unit from which all things originate. According to them, there is an infinite number of atoms; atoms differ in size and shape and move in the void. In the beginning, they say, there are only atoms and the void. In the void, collisions between atoms are inevitable; atoms of irregular shapes get entangled with one another, eventually forming groups of atoms. In this way, the world expands simultaneously giving birth to all the things we see around us. It is in this manner also that the four elements—fire, air, earth, and water—are formed.
In fact, according to Leucippus and Democritus, these continuing chance collisions among infinite number of atoms moving in the void give rise to planets, stars, moons, suns, galaxies, and the entire Cosmos, including all living things from the smallest one-celled organism to multi-cellular, highly complex organisms like plants, insects, animals, and plants. There is no external cause of the atoms’ eternal motion; it seems that Leucippus and Democritus do not require an explanation for the atoms’ source of motion. Like their Greek predecessors, Leucippus and Democritus confine their exploration into the ultimate reality in a purely physical and mechanistic way. Primarily using the method of logical reasoning, Democritus expresses the dominant view of the Greeks during that time that in the beginning there is only atom and the void interacting with each other.
The Roman poet Lucretius, in his “The Nature of the Universe,” calls the atom “the seeds of things” or the “raw material” from which comes all the things in the Cosmos. In his words (see Milton K. Munitz, 1957:42):
I will set out a discourse to you (Memmius) on the ultimate realities of heaven and the gods. I will reveal those atoms from which nature creates all things and increases and feeds them and into which, when they perish, nature again resolves them. To these in my discourse I commonly give such names as the ‘raw material,’ or ‘generative bodies’ or ‘seeds’ of things. Or I may call them ‘primary particles,’ because they come first and everything else is composed of them.
The concept of ultimate building block of nature as having both physical and metaphysical dimensions continue to dominate during the stormy period of the medieval philosophers. Francis Mercury van Helmont (1618-99) develops the theory of the monads as the primary imperishable unit of reality. He subscribes to the conception that the continuing attraction and union between monads is responsible for the creation of complex structures. In turn, each of the newly-formed complex structure is governed by a central monad, the soul or spirit, which directs the whole complex organism, including humans. All monads are imperishable; they continually join other sets of monads in order to attain perfection, until they enter into union with God, the Creator and End of all the monads. Van Helmont shares common interest with his predecessors in magic, occultism, and alchemy.
But it is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) who develops a relatively extensive theory of monads. Leibniz maintains that objects are composed of simple substances that contain no parts; these simple substances, he called ‘monads,’ which, according to him, are “the true atoms of nature and, in a word, the elements of things” (Copleston 1963b:301-305). According to Leibniz, the ultimate reality is the monad, which can come into being only by creation. Being without parts, the monad is indivisible and possesses no shape. In addition, there is in every monad its inner constitution and law, also attributed as the inherent principle, force, energy, or virtue. Each monad, therefore, is the source of its activities; each possesses the inert tendency to act and self-develop. To Leibniz, therefore, each monad is both prime matter or object and active force or principle. This primitive force manifests itself in the form of activity or action, by combining with other monads to form their simple substances into complex ones. In this manner, the Cosmos comes to existence.
The Cosmos is composed of a multitude of monads joined together in what Leibniz calls “substantial bond.” But while monads possess no shape and form, each monad is, nonetheless, distinguishable from the other, because, to Leibniz, each monad differs in the degree of, what he calls, “perception” and “appetition,” which each possesses. Each monad has its own way and degree of perceiving the external environment. Some monads have confused and indistinct perceptions and without memory and consciousness, example of which, according to Leibniz, are the monads of plants. But some monads possess a higher degree of perception, especially when it is accompanied by memory and feeling, as are the monads of animals. Still, a much higher degree of monads are those whose perception is accompanied by consciousness, wherein perception becomes distinct, clear, and the perceiver is aware of such a perception. “The action of the internal principle which causes the change or the passage from one perception to another may be called appetition” (in Copleston 1963b:314).
But both Democritus’ conception of atom and Leibniz’s monads differ with that of the quantum physicists’ view, in the sense that the former views believe in the indivisibility of atoms and monads, while that of the latter is just the opposite, contending that atoms (or monads) are made of still smaller particles. But just like the earlier Greek and Medieval philosophers’ views, quantum physicists also believe that the ultimate building block possesses inherent principles or “cohesive forces” that govern its operation.