It sounds like Pearce would agree with the idea that the universe
consists of product and process or that which is observed and that which
facilitates the observation and that these constituents of reality are often
one and the same.
During the recent lull here I've finished reading George Johnson's Fire In
the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order (1995, Alfred A.
Knopf, ISBN 0-679-41192-5). I was fascinated to learn that physicists
claim to have bridged the gap between the world of quantum mechanics,
where subatomic particles exist in a state of probabilities until they are
"observed", and the world of classical Newtonian mechanics, the world of
everyday experience. Apparently quantum mechanics is now able to
explain, in a more general way, why some photons act like particles and
some act like waves. Decoherence is the name given to the process
responsible for the emergence of concrete states through the interaction
of physical objects or systems (whether microscopic or macroscopic)
with their environment. The discovery had eluded scientists because
they were looking at isolated systems and not at how systems interact
with their environment. Perhaps the most interesting part of decoherence
is what is says about the interactions. It says that concrete states
emerge due to an object's affect on the environment and not the other
way around. The affect has something to do with a kind of
thermodynamic transfer of information (read entropy) from the physical
system (object) to the environment.
The following is from page 161.
"In trying to make sense of quantum theory, some have been led to
believe that consciousness, or at least the act of measurement, is
necessary to bring about what we consider the real world. But many
scientists are suspicious of what sometimes seems like a
self-centered attempt to elevate humanity and the classical world we
experience to a special, almost God given role. As Gell-Mann likes to
say, "When it comes to quantum theory even the most intelligent
people can start talking nonsense."
"If we follow the approach of some of the people at Santa Fe and Los
Alamos and admit information as another fundamental, along with
mass and energy, then quantum theory can be viewed in a subtly
different light. All that is required to break the symmetry of the wave
function is information processing. Not only are conscious obervers
superfluous the theory does not even require artificial observers like
photographic emulsions or photoelectric cells. The universe itself
might process information just as it processes matter and energy.
Seen in this light, our role as informational spiders, stringing and
restringing our conceptual webs, is as natural as anything in the
cosmos. We try to set ourselves apart from the universe and pretend
to see it whole. But we are inevitably a part of what we are observing,
and our observations may be but a single circuit in a great web of
Speaking of interactions between objects and their environments, I find it
interesting that the closer I look at Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality the
less satisfaction I get from it. Ted, it seems to have the reverse affect on
you. I wonder why this is.
For me, the Metaphysics of Quality asks more questions than it
answers. Like "what is quality?" Has Pirsig answered the question? Is
his description of quality good enough? Does the MOQ satisfy or does it
beg too many other questions?
As a description of the "source of all things" the MOQ does not explain
why reality is rooted in quality and not something else. If the original
question had been "What is information?" or "What is order?" would the
structure Pirsig developed in the MOQ have been just as easily assigned
to a Metaphysics of Information or a Metaphysics of Order? Pirsig
employs teleological reasoning to reach his conclusion. His
Metaphysics of Quality is based on the premise that Quality is the
source of all things. Pirsig takes this as a given, almost like a belief.
Does the Metaphysics of Quality require faith in Quality?
And although the concept of static patterns of value is very creative it too
begs too many questions. Why does quality differentiate itself into
separate and discreet levels of patterns? Why is quality not continuous
throughout the continuum? And how does the quality in one level affect
the quality on the next level? The MOQ provides no answer.
Another way of looking at this problem is, does the Metaphysics of
Quality, as THE answer to the question "what is quality?" exist or not?
Or, is there value in the Metaphysics of Quality, or not?
Using Pirsig's test for existence (from the philosophic school of realism)
"a thing exists [...] if a world without it can't function normally." If it ban
be shown that a world without the Metaphysics of Quality
functions abnormally then it can be concluded that the Metaphysics of
Quality exists. It would appear to me that the MOQ fails this test.
So where is the evidence that the Metaphysics of Quality is THE answer
to the question, "what is quality?"