P. A. Heelan, "Consciousness, Quantum Physics, and Hermeneutical Phenomenology" in: B. Babich and D. Ginev (eds.), The Multidimensionality of Hermeneutic Phenomenology, 91 Contributions to Phenomenology 70 (Frankfurt am Main: Springer Verlag, 2014), pp. 91-102


Continental Philosophy | Logic and Foundations of Mathematics | Philosophy | Philosophy of Mind | Philosophy of Science


Two hundred years ago Friedrich Schleiermacher modified Kant’s notion of anthropology—‘hermeneutically,’ as he said — so as to make it inclusive of the tribes that Captain Cook found in the South Sea Islands. This paper honors the late Joseph J. Kockelmans for making a similar hermeneutic move to update Kant’s notion of natural science so as to make it inclusive of the phenomenological lifeworld (For ‘lifeworld,’ see Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Philosophy, 1954, 121–148, and the ‘lifeworld’ theme throughout the Crisis. ) syntheses of classical, relativity, and quantum physics. The new synthesis is in fact not alien to the views of some of the founders of quantum mechanics, notably Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, Paul Dirac, Werner Heisenberg — possibly even Albert Einstein. In this hermeneutical move, the ‘observer’ is ‘embodied consciousness,’ and ‘measure-numbers’ represent ‘observable presence.’ The new theoretical synthesis of physics is a representation of a physical system as a dynamic Hilbert Vector Space; empirical ‘observables’ are represented by projection operators, each of which maps a subspace of definite measurable values. Among these projection operators, some pairs are ‘ complementary’ and share a common subspace of the Hilbert Space where they can be precisely measured together in a common laboratory setting. Some pairs, however, are ‘non- complementary’ and do not share a common subspace; these lead to Uncertainty Principles of the quantum mechanical kind. The quantum notion of an “observable” introduces into the discursive language of physics the common sense lifeworld notion of “contextuality.” This analysis completes Husserl’s analysis of science in the Crisis , so well articulated and developed by Joseph Kockelmans (see especially his contributions to the phenomenology of natural science in Kockelmans and Kisiel [1970]).