Monist philosophy and quantum physics agree that all is one

By | April 30, 2023

Heinrich Päs writes:

‘From all things One and from One all things,’ wrote the Greek philosopher Heraclitus some 2,500 years ago. He was describing monism, the ancient idea that all is one – that, fundamentally, everything we see or experience is an aspect of one unified whole. Heraclitus wasn’t the first, nor the last, to advocate the idea. The ancient Egyptians believed in an all-encompassing but elusive unity symbolised by the goddess Isis, often portrayed with a veil and worshipped as ‘all that has been and is and shall be’ and the ‘mother and father of all things’.

This worldview also follows in straightforward fashion from the findings of quantum mechanics (QM), the uncanny physics of subatomic particles that departs from the classical physics of Isaac Newton and experience in the everyday world. QM, which holds that all matter and energy exist as interchangeable waves and particles, has delivered computers, smartphones, nuclear energy, laser scanners and arguably the best-confirmed theory in the entirety of science. We need the mathematics underlying QM to make sense of matter, space and time. Two processes of quantum physics lead directly to the notion of an interconnected universe and a monistic foundation to nature overall: ‘entanglement’, nature’s way of integrating parts into a whole, and the topic of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics; and ‘decoherence’, caused by the loss of quantum information, and the reason why we experience so little quantum weirdness in our daily lives.

Yet, despite the throughline in philosophy and physics, the majority of Western thinkers and scientists have long rejected the idea that reality is literally unified, or nature and the Universe a system of one. From judges in the Inquisition (1184-1834) to quantum physicists today, the thought that a single system underlies everything has been too odd to believe. In fact, though philosophers have been proposing monism for thousands of years, and QM is, after all, an experimental science, Western culture has regularly lashed out against the concept and punished those promoting the idea. [Continue reading…]