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After retiring from a stellar career as a professor of mathematics at world-leading institutions such as MIT and UCLA, and having previously also studied physics and contributed a theoretical solution to the re-entry problem associated with manned spacecraft, Wolfgang Smith turned his attention to writing a series of books designed to “correct the fallacies of contemporary scientific belief by way of insights derived from the perennial wisdom of mankind.” Together, the related works are intended to elucidate the foundational principles of quantum theory and overcome the challenges associated with visual perception.
In Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology, Smith focuses on the field of physics and the notion that its traditional ontology—to the limited extent that it can be argued to actually have one—is both insufficient in general and a source of terminal confusion in relation to quantum theory in particular. But to begin at the beginning, what is ontology? Simply put, as a dimension of philosophy, ontology is “the science of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects.” That is, ontology seeks to achieve the classification and explanation of entities.
As Smith explains, the ontology of modern physics tends to be tied to the Cartesian doctrine of bifurcation, which entails the enforced separation between what science shows to be true and what humans are actually able to perceive and experience. Smith contends that bifurcation has no scientific basis, and further, that the associated understanding of visual perception condemns people to “a chronic state of schizophrenia” whereby entities have to simultaneously assume two incompatible identities or states.
In Physics, Smith expands on the problems he perceives in relation to the traditional ontology and the knock-on adverse effects it has with regard to attempts to understand the intricacies of quantum theory and other branches of physics that extend beyond the long-established boundaries of the field. He goes on to explain how he arrived at a solution to the identified deficiencies within the traditional approach in a stepwise fashion, which involved recognition of the ontological distinction between the physical and the corporeal, the influence of vertical causation, and the fact of irreducible wholeness.
In setting out his stance on the matter, Smith provides an overview and explanation of a wealth of theories and notable works, which helps to ground his arguments and provides numerous avenues for further research. As is likely expected, despite being only a slim volume, Physics is a weighty tome that requires a close reading and considerable digestion of the presented ideas. However, while the text is certainly densely packed with concepts and theories, Smith has a readable if formal writing style that presents complex issues in a clear fashion.
Reviewed by: Erin Britton
Author: Wolfgang Smith
Star count: 5/5
Page count: 101 pages
Publisher: Philos-Sophia Initiative Foundation
Publish Date: January 24, 2023
Buy This Book: Bookshop.org
Issue: April 2023
Category: Science & Nature