NATURE LOVES TO HIDE: Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective

Shimon Malin, Author . Oxford $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-19-513894-8

Until the advent of quantum physics, scientists and society described the natural world in empirical terms. The theories of Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger shattered Newton's mechanistic empirical theories, asserting that the reality of the natural world lay hidden behind the sensible world. What kind of reality did these scientists discover? How can one know this reality? Through a splendid survey of quantum physics and Western philosophy, physicist Malin (Colgate) offers answers to these and other questions. Using Plato's theory of Forms he argues that reality cannot be confined to the sensible world. Malin then relies on Plotinus, a much later disciple of Plato, to contend that the universe is composed of multiple levels of being, which include both the phenomenal (the sensible) and the noumenal (the ideal). According to Malin, "our function in the universe is to bring about a relationship between the phenomenal and the noumenal worlds." We can only do this, he argues, if we do not separate ourselves from the world mechanistically, if we do not act as subjects who seek purely to know the objective world. Through contemplation, not reason, we can grasp the organic unity of the universe and transcend the subject/object dichotomy that characterizes the Cartesian and Newtonian views of the universe. In order to explain the concepts of quantum physics and Western philosophy, Malin borrows an idea from Jostein Gaarder's novel Sophie's World, and introduces Julie and Peter, two astronauts who discuss the ideas Malin introduces, but these sections are contrived and silly. They merely interrupt an otherwise smooth narrative, in which Malin writes lucidly and explains complex ideas simply and thoroughly. (June 7)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Hardcover - 290 pages - 978-981-4324-56-4
Paperback - 308 pages - 978-981-4324-57-1
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-19-516109-0
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