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Understanding the Nature of Reality and Consciousness: Bohm’s Philosophical Project

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Event Series Event Series: Beyond Bohm 2021

July 18, 2021 @ 6:00 pm 8:00 pm CEST

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with Paavo Pylkkänen 

Sunday July 18, 2021
9:00 PDT | 12:00 EDT | 17:00 BST  |  18:00 CEST

2-hour session

If you are unable to attend the live session, the recording will be available.

David Bohm was concerned with providing a description of reality – at the quantum level, and more generally, a unified description of matter, life, and consciousness, all adding up to a general concept of reality or a metaphysical theory. Such synthetic ontological projects were not popular in much of 20thcentury philosophy and thus Bohm’s philosophical work has been often ignored by professional philosophers. However, it is important to realize that although he was clearly more concerned with describing a mind-independent reality than many other 20th-century physicists or philosophers, this concern did not mean that he ignored the role of the mind (language, perception, etc.) in his attempts to describe reality. In other words, he did not ignore epistemological issues or questions that concern the nature of our knowledge and the problems of justifying it, or the way language shapes our perception of reality. On the contrary, his broad philosophical work includes extensive studies of various epistemic issues: physics and perception (Bohm 1965a), the notions of truth and understanding (Bohm 1964), a view of science as “perception-communication” (Bohm 1977), experimentation with the structure of language (the rheomode, Bohm 1977), study of knowledge understood as process (Bohm 1974), and discussions of topics such as communication, creativity, art, and so on. To fully appreciate Bohm’s views about the nature of reality, they should be understood in the context of his epistemic considerations.

What would it mean to go beyond Bohm in philosophy? Before doing that we ought to first be able to understand the philosophical significance of what he did. Perhaps his main contribution was to offer us a version of scientific metaphysics, through his interpretations of quantum theory and the more general implicate order scheme he developed. The need for a scientific metaphysics has in recent years been energetically proposed by Ladyman and Ross in their “ontic structural realism”, which is in some ways similar to Bohm’s implicate order scheme – perhaps some new possibilities arise when thinking together these schemes? But Bohm’s proposal to experiment with the structure of language and to ask what happens to epistemology if both reality and knowledge are processes offer likewise radically new perspectives for philosophy.  In this talk Pylkkänen will go through some of Bohm’s key philosophical contributions and sketch how they could be further developed in future research.

To see the Full Beyond Bohm Series

Paavo Pylkkänen, PhD, Philosopher of Mind, Helsinki University, Finland

Paavo is Senior Lecturer in Theoretical Philosophy and Director of the Bachelor’s Program in Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. He is also Associate Professor of Theoretical Philosophy (currently on leave) at the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy, University of Skövde, where he initiated a Consciousness Studies Program.

His main research areas are philosophy of mind, philosophy of physics and their intersection. The central problem in philosophy of mind is how to understand the place of mind—and especially conscious experiencein the physical world. Pylkkänen has explored whether this problem can be approached in a new way in the framework of the new holistic and dynamic worldview that is emerging from quantum theory and relativity. He has in particular been inspired by the physicists David Bohm and Basil Hiley’s interpretation of quantum theory and has collaborated with both of them.

In his 2007 book Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order (Springer) he proposed that Bohmian notions such as active information and implicate order provide new ways of approaching key problems in philosophy of mind, such as mental causation and time consciousness. The overall aim of his research is to develop a scientific metaphysics. Paavo Pylkkänen has been a visiting researcher in Stanford University, Oxford University, London University, Charles University Prague and Gothenburg University and is a member of the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence in the Philosophy of Social Sciences (TINT).


July 18, 2021
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm CEST