Scientific Reflections

Some may notice that the dynamic concept of “physical object”, proposed in the cited paper with Dubochinski, although it emerged from the physics of nonlinearly-coupled oscillating systems, has close parallels to ideas of Wolfgang Köhler in his Gestalt Psychology. In our paper (see link on the page “Scientific Reflections”) we sketched our notion of physical object as follows:

“… an individual physical object must be conceived always as something inseparable from a specific ‘regime of functioning’, i.e. from a specific, active physical process by which the object maintains itself in a stable manner, interacting with and reacting to changes in its environment while retaining its essential characteristics.

To put it more directly: the real individual objects are for us the functional regimes themselves. To the extent a system such as a star — or a living cell — can exist in various different stable or quasi-stable regimes, each of those regimes constitutes for us a distinct object, a distinct physical individual.”

Compare this with the following quote from Köhler’s book “The Task of Gestalt Psychology”. Discussing the structurs of living organisms, Köhler writes:

“… Hardly any part of the organism, hardly any of its anatomical structures, is a solid object or thing in this sense (the idea of something completely static and without internal activity – p.C.) When closely examined, almost all these structures prove to be processes, so-called steady states, the materials of which are gradually and slowly being eliminated and at the same time replaced … It is only the structures, the forms of these tissues… that do not vary… These steady states are often so stable and tough that they can serve as constraints, by which more passing dynamic events in the organism are compelled to take certain courses.  … It is a remarkable fact, that, strictly speaking, there are hardly any ‘things’ in the organism, that it consists almost entirely of processes.”

In a sense, Doubochinski’s and my notion of “physical object” simply extends this from living organisms to ALL physical entities, including for example electrons and other particles as well as stable or quasi-stable modes of interaction (e.g. energy levels of an atom or molecule), which are also physical objects in our sense. (From this standpoint there is nothing mysterious in Einstein’s relationship of matter to energy.)

The most interesting point, it seems to me, is to  elaborate the general notion of a “mode” or “functional regime” of a process. This needs to be made as precise as possible, and work in that direction could be extremely fruitful. Here just a couple of ideas:

1. A concept or idea in our mind must somehow correspond to a dynamic regime (or an invariant or principle of a dynamic regime) in the electro-physiological processes in our brain tissue.

2. Music — in the classical sense we are striving to revive and develop further — may be the ideal realm to explore the emergence and transformation of “modes” and “regimes” in our mental processes,  and by implication in the Universe generally. Keys and modulations of key in musical compositions are just one case of something much more general. A piece by Beethoven develops in a succession of “phase states”, regimes or modes, whose richness seems unlimited. We shouldn’t forget, however, that those regimes are happening in our mental processes, not in the notes. (That is a point where, it seems to me, Heinrich Schenker and Zuckerkandl tend to be a bit weak)

3. A mathematical approach to physical objects as “regimes” or modes might find a point of departure in the theory of geometrical invariants.

Comments and ideas are most welcome!

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