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Home Forums Buddhism & Quantum Physics Chat Forum Module 5: Mind, Matter, and Quantum Physics Clarifying processes/relations vs states

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    Many quantum and Buddhism parallelisms seem to require treating “process” and “relation” as equivalent and basic, but this seems problematic for theory and Buddhism. Research on eg language is turning towards a quantum perspective, modelling language as interactive processes in real time, words being contentless, Nagarjuna-like, just triggers for retrieving context-relevant associations. But we define processes as relations between states, making “states” basic entities in the model, against process-based methodology. Any comments? – intuitively the puzzle understanding “disintegratedness” seems similar?


    Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for your thought-provoking question.

    I don’t know the exact definition of ‘process’ in the context of process philosophy. In physical terms, I would think of a process as the sequential unfolding of events, where the most basilar ‘event’ could be a single interaction between two systems. The properties of the systems, in themselves, are not “absolute”: they arise through the interaction itself. In fact, even their existence as separate and independent systems is not absolute: I’d say that their appearing as two separate systems is the result of their relation with each other.

    This sounds paradoxical, and it reveals the limitations of our language (in my understanding, many modern languages are very object-oriented, rather than process-oriented; David Bohm, for one, was very interested in this). In the additional content for this module (if I’m not mistaken), Dr. Bitbol and Prof. Rovelli discuss precisely this paradox: we say that systems arise through relating, but we have a hard time describing a relation existing a priori, without first considering the two entities that are relating.

    My personal take on this question is that there are dynamical processes, something that manifests itself through change in time… The temptation of our analytical mind (and language, too) is to say that that exists objectively as an entity – whether it is a mind manifesting as thoughts and feelings, or an electron manifesting as a localised particle. In fact, all we can say is that there is a dynamical process manifesting through relations with other processes, but it doesn’t have a solid, independent, and stable existence.

    I hope this helps, and I’d love to read other comments and ideas from other students.

    Best wishes, and good luck with your studies!

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