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William Seager
University of Toronto, CA

One or Many

The question of whether reality should be conceived of as a single holistic unity or as a plurality of fundamental and independently existing entities is a truly ancient one. This metaphysical question may seem to be a purely philosophical issue on which empirical science can have little to contribute. And yet, as in the case of the Bell Inequality, Quantum Mechanics appears to open a door leading to something like Abner Shimony’s ‘experimental metaphysics’. In this regard, the views of David Bohm are especially interesting. Bohm had deep philosophical interests, which included highly interesting ideas about mind and consciousness, but his interpretation of Quantum Mechanics may seem somewhat ‘schizophrenic’ when it faces the one versus many question. Bohm is famous for developing an interpretation which allowed genuine particles (i.e. definite in position and momentum; definite trajectories) in its ontology. But the interpretation also includes ‘guidance’ by the universe spanning wave function which co-ordinates the motion of the particles. And Bohm once wrote that ‘entire universe must, on a very accurate level, be regarded as a single indivisible unit in which separate parts appear as idealizations permissible only on a classical level of accuracy of description’. But what does this last remark mean? Idealization is, prima facie, an activity of the mind. Are ‘classical objects’ then mind dependent, transforming idealization into idealism? What is the ‘indivisible unit’? I examine here whether the philosophical theory called ‘neutral monism’ can motivate a picture in which Bohm’s philosophical aims, including his approach to the mind-body problem, can capture both the urge towards monism and that towards pluralism.

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