Unfolding the Enfolded...

Cosmos, Mind & Soul

Physics & Piaget


Jean Piaget's developmental epistemology is often considered in discussions of physics and cognition. 

Ideas to Explore

Cognition &
Quantum Mechanics

Quantum Mechanics has imposed strain on traditional (dualist and representationalist) epistemological conceptions. An alternative was offered by Bohr and Heisenberg, according to whom natural science does not describe nature, but rather the interplay between nature and ourselves. But this was only a suggestion. In this paper, a systematic development of the Bohr-Heisenberg conception is outlined, by way of a comparison with the modern self-organizational theories of cognition. It is shown that a consistent non-representationalist (and/or relational) reading of quantum mechanics can be reached thus. [Abstract, Nonrepresentation]

Purpose of Physics

"...the basic task of physics is to control sequences of phenomena by means of reversible and organized experimental actions. It is not surprising that mathematics, which coordinates systems of possible reversible actions by means of a deductive symbolism, is able to provide physics with very efficient instruments for anticipating the phenomena which result from actual (experimental) actions tending towards reversibility. According to J. Piaget, in physics, "(...) far from reducing to a language, mathematics is the structuring instrument which coordinates those actions and expands them into theories" . As a consequence of this view, the purpose of physics is not to elaborate a series of convergently faithful pictures of a nature given in advance. It is rather to accommodate and assimilate sequences of irreversible phenomena within the schemes of reversible actions which are formalized in mathematics.

Metabolism, the Lowest Level of Cognition

...in contradistinction to the representationalistic point of view, cognition is construed as interaction between and mutual definition of a living unit and its environment. The most direct form of cognition for a cell is thus metabolism itself, which necessarily implies exchange with the environment and therefore a simultaneous coming to being for the organism and for the environment. A second level of cognition is recognized in the adaptation of the living unit to new foreign molecules, by way of a change in its metabolic pattern. We draw here an analogy with the ideas developed by Piaget, who recognizes in cognition the two distinct steps of assimilation and accommodation. While assimilation is the equivalent of uptake and exchange of usual metabolites, accommodation corresponds to biological adaptation, which in turn is the basis for evolution." [Abstract, Autopoesis]

Representation in Neural Networks

[A cognitivist, non-representational view:] "The changed structure (of neural networks) does not represent the external world, but it represents - if one wants to stick to the term - the interactive process: input-organism's or environment-organism's interaction. (...) it means something to its owner although never in an absolute sense, but only in relation to the organism's actions in its environment."

A Postmodern Worldview

...according to [Ken] Wilber and many scholars he cites, there is a trajectory of consciousness evolution for our species as a whole. For example, even though at the time of the Buddha some individuals attained very advanced states of consciousness, their society on average was at a lower developmental stage. Thus, today our species has evolved to a higher average level of consciousness (for example, Piaget's concrete operational, or formal operational rational stages). Furthermore, it seems a significant number of people have already developed to the next stage, vision-logic; and a smaller number to even higher stages. So, although a particular individual could, at any epoch, develop to a higher stage of consciousness, the average level of consciousness for societies and the species as a whole does evolve through identifiable stages.
[Critique of Wilber's TOE]