Direct Realism falling in Wittgenstein’s Silence: Accelerating the Paradigm Change that Renders Relativistic Quantum Mechanics Natural

Abstract: Quantum mechanics (QM) and at times still even relativity are sold as incomprehensible theories that nobody ‘really’ understands. However, QM is natural under a modal realist paradigm, which itself may be natural to many who grew up integrated with virtual realities. As usual with paradigm changes, the following generations’ biggest difficulties will be with grasping what the previous generations’ big hang-up was. In order to facilitate the current paradigm change, this essay will in a positivistic style remove the most severely wrong of our basic physical assumptions: Direct realism and the related attitude treating physics as not being foremost a description needing consistent semantics. Modal realism will be introduced as tautologically true. It belongs to the fundamental theory of totality by definition. After describing the core of QM as the correlations between mutually exclusive possibilities that necessarily enter modal realism into physics, the locality versus non-locality distinction is clarified. Everett relativity becomes understood as a mere upgrade to special relativity that conceivably could have become obvious to Einstein a century ago (if he had questioned his basic wrong assumption). Visually intuitive many world models can illustrate and thus convey some of the previously most difficult concepts on a high school level – students can “really see” where and why direct realism stops working. QM-non-locality in the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen problem is suddenly as easily acceptable as the twin paradox resolves via Minkowski diagrams.

Keywords: Modal Realism; Einstein Podolsky Rosen; Everett Relativity; Non-Locality; Observer dependence



Introduction: Describing the Fundamental Description

  Which basic physical assumption is wrong? Ludwig Wittgenstein did perhaps not foresee the profound relevance to modern physics, but he knew. Wittgenstein seems arrogant and idiosyncratic beyond comprehension. He claimed to know with complete certainty. Why did he not merely claim believing to have a promising idea? And why could he not just simply say how ‘the world really is’, if he knew what is wrong? Well, all precisely because he knew such to be wrong!

  You cannot be wrong inside of a consistent code. A description cannot be inconsistent if it is throughout tautological. A description may not fit something outside of itself, for example if it belongs to a set of descriptions related by duality transformations (like the different string theories, see also ~ conceptual ‘dual’ism). Each single member of the set may not encompass the whole, much like you need several coordinate patches in general curved space-times if no single one of them is able to cover the entire manifold. However, if the description is the (set of) description of totality, there is nothing more outside of it left to describe. Any attempt to describe more is doomed to failure and suggests the indescribable. Therefore:

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” [Wittgenstein 1922] [1]

  This renders the most profound insights incompatible with the evolved culture of discourse. One cannot state simply what is wrong without being wrong. If you avoid this wrong, the description is likely regarded as nonsensical or worse. At best, it may be rejected as vacuous drivel or leaving the reader eventually empty, thus at least implicitly acknowledging its tautological nature.

  Wittgenstein claimed to have more fully and accurately than ever before covered all the unspeakable, simply by refusing to mention it. This essay is similar because the topic is fundamentally the same: The fundamental description. The basic physical assumption that is wrong is the type of realism that is often unintended and implicitly held (even if refused on the surface, like e.g. Tegmark does). However, writing lengthily on how anything is wrong cannot but be wrong too much. In a truly improved description, the wrong should simply not arise!

  Much of what I would like to say has been said before in more conventional ways, and I do recommend for example [Smerlak2007][2] whole heartedly. Here however, I try to get a few elsewhere neglected aspects across in the most Wittgenstein-like way I can manage, because this is the only possibly correct way of dealing with this issue.

  In consequence, this essay is difficult especially for those feeling strongly about what constitutes ‘proper’ physics (a sort of math game or a form of advanced engineering guided by experiment as long as results respect “common sense”). Physics is (not “merely”) a description. Many feel that I do not dare to clearly admit what they suppose I ‘really’ mean. What they desire belongs to the realm one cannot talk about. I dare say with precisely Wittgenstein’s arrogance: Do keep this in mind or you will not only not understand this essay but also never describe the foundation.

Totality and Quantum Mechanics (QM)

  I) Totality is the total of all possible alternatives. I separate “possible” from “possibly observable” in order to be relevant to quantum mechanics (QM): The “possible” includes both, the observable and the unobservable. Otherwise the observable versus unobservable distinction would add too little to the possible versus impossible one, especially in QM. “Impossible” then is, for example, that the sine of areal number exceeds unity.

  II) In the mathematical description of QM, everything not forbidden is mandatory. Whether or not you do non-relativistic QM with path integrals, when it comes to field theory, every allowed way a process can happen does contribute. A particle seems to take every possible path from A to B simultaneously. This includes paths that involve highly improbable possibilities like a photon dividing into an electron-positron pair that then annihilates to result again in photons. Quantum electrodynamics (QED) predicts the interaction between an electron and a magnetic field correctly to 14 decimal places. For more accuracy, interactions that do not strictly belong to QED must be taken into account and also today’s measurement accuracy is not sufficient to show whether QED predicts still more precisely. In order to predict so enormously well, one takes ridiculously complex interactions into account, any paths that the involved particles could have taken in as far as one can tell from the outcome.

QM is about the all possibilities,including unobservable possibilities, which are, together with the knowledge from the already determined and actualized, QM’s input. This completely constraints the background of uncertainty, so that QM can output  …  well what does it output? It outputs precisely all the possibilities with their attendant probabilities (amplitudes), which are our expectation measure. The unobservable possibilities are those with zero probability.

  III) Relativistic QM is the most exact theory, without a single refuting anomaly found although it is still linear. Strange? No, not if you compare II) with I) and consider that QM is also the very theory that is most inquisitive of the act of observation (~ measurement interaction, radical instrumentalism). Clearly, QM is not just some more detailed statistical physics. QM is about totality, the totality of alternatives, both observable and unobservable [e.g. tachyonic off shell paths, inconsistent histories, virtual particles, QM fluctuations relative to the outside of a stable ground state, or Boltzmann brains at zero Kelvin (classical or Unruh/Hawking temperature)].

Modal Realism versus Direct Realism and Anti Realism

  Let me introduce modal realism [3] in a novel way, talking casually about the totality of possibilities. Modal realism is the fundamental equivalence among alternatives such as the fact that I wear white instead of black socks today. In other words:

  1) White socks today instead of black ones is not prescribed by the symmetries of the deepest level foundation of it all.

  2) Even if white socks were prescribed by the initial conditions of a classical model universe, it would be foundational only relative to that universe having those initial conditions. Even under classical determinism, totality includes all possible initial conditions, and thus white socks initial conditions and black socks initial conditions are equivalent relative to the most foundational description of totality.

  IV) Modal realism is true by definition! It is the equivalence of all alternatives relative to the most foundational description. There is nothing to be believed or experimentally verified. If they are not equivalent, you simply do not deal with the most fundamental description.

  We want fundamental physics to be precisely that, namely the most fundamental description of totality. If QM is not yet fully that, there will be a theory like just described waiting for us below it anyway (And I will call their combination QM)! Luckily, we likely found the best part of it already, perhaps implicitly all of it: QM is like that. QM is the very description which treats all alternatives equivalently, because only in that way can it fully describe the correlations between all possibilities. These correlations is what tells us how much to expect alternatives, making some of them unobservable (zero expectation value).

  I will not spend time on repeating who said what similarly about a Cosmological principle of Mediocrity or the principle of Plenitude/Fecundity. Much more important is the following:

  V) Modal realism does not need QM. Modal realism is tautologically true also in an imagined classical world. This has never been said before, but it is the core of QM:

  VI) QM is those correlations (entanglement) between the possibilities/alternatives of totality that make modal realism inevitable in physics. Interpret this in much the same way as “Classical Mechanics (CM) is the interactions between all the actualized objects/things/particles/waves/strings within an assumed directly real world”, where “Classical” means non-quantum and includes relativistic models. What does “directly real” refer to?

  Direct realism (DR) is the profoundly wrong assumption obstructing progress in physics. It holds that actualized alternatives [for example the now-moment (“presentism”)] are actualized not relative to observers, but absolutely, while not actualized alternatives are ‘dead’; they do not “exist” or are “unreal”. DR usually supports a sort of “universe as a lonely box with things bumping around inside” feeling.

  How do we best deal with DR? “Anti-realism” is the denial of that verification-transcendent statements are either true or false. E.g.: There is no fact of the matter as to whether or not superposition states are ontological entities or epistemological constructs. Wittgenstein’s positivism is more advanced: It is disinterested in inconsistent terminologies that create such controversial discussions in the first place and instead improves terminology. In that tradition, we can rescue the term “DR” by adding a verifiable distinction: DR holds when non-actualized alternatives cannot interfere. Hence, DR is a defining property of classical single world models (‘lonely box with things’). “DR” can therefore be applied fruitfully latter on to distinguish worlds and different kinds of many world models.

Second Part see here

[1] Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London (1922)

[2] Smerlak, Matteo, Rovelli, Carlo: “Relational EPR." Found. Phys. 37, 427-445 (2007)

[3] Lewis, David Kellogg: “On the Plurality of Worlds.” Blackwell (1986)