entanglement writ large

Here's a cute little meme-game anyone can play: List the different sets of which you are a member. I am a member of these sets: Homo Sapiens Sapiens, Vertebrate, Biped, Human, Capitalist Wage Slave, Baby Boomer, Tenant, Anglo-Celtic, Pantheist, Everything That Is, Father, Son, Husband, Green-eyed, Sentient (I think), etc. My partner is a member of some sets in which I am a member, and is a member in some sets of which I am not a member. She is a member of the following sets: Human, Anglo-Celtic, Biped, Mother, Daughter, Brown-eyed, Animal, Earthling, etc.

As you know, the set of Earthlings contains brown-eyed as well as green-eyed members. The set of Bipeds contains men as well as women. A set contains all the attributes of all of its members.

Remember Venn Diagrams? You could say they are a neat way to illustrate nested gestalts which in turn are a neat way of thinking about the much-maligned and ill-used concept of the Great Chain of Being (scala naturæ). Ken Wilbur is one of the few thinkers I've encountered who understands the importance of the concept of nested gestalts, or overlapping sets, in relation to the nature of reality . Wilbur's term is "holon", which is great as it goes but doesn't go far enough, in my view.

I feel intuitively that nothing has only one attribute, but I can’t prove it, yet. The corollary is that everything is a member of multiple sets, and thereby partakes in one sense of all the attributes of all the members of all the other sets. For instance, I am a man, and a member of the set of men. My partner is a woman, and a member of the set of women. She and I are members of the set of everything that is, and so too is the gestalt, Everything That Is (was, will be, could be).

I am not a member of the set of women, and therefore do not partake directly in the attribute of being-a-woman. However, I am a member of many sets containing members which are men and members which are women. "Human beings" is one such set. "Living creatures" is another. "Things" is another. "The Universe" is another. "Material objects" is another. "Everything that is" is another. I am part of that which has woman-ness as a part. I share in woman-ness.

Entanglement, a term from quantum physics, describes a state in which items or objects are so closely related (entangled with each other) that changing an attribute in one causes an instantaneous corresponding change in the other or other objects that are entangled, irrespective of the spatial distance between the objects. It's not controversial to say that everything is member of the set, Everything. But taking it one step further, I venture to say that everything is entangled with everything and partakes in one sense or another of all the attributes of all the members of the set, Everything. As the Buddhist said to the hotdog vendor, Make me one with everything!"

Gestalts. Lots of 'em. They're everywhere. Gestalts of knowledge, of biology, of chemistry, of physics, of species, of families (their members), nations (their citizens), material things, immaterial things, colours, qualities, and yes, even qualia. Gestalts. They're here. They're there. They're everywhere. They're nested. And they're showing at a cinema near you. Human beings have an amazing ability to identify and create gestalts. Some people call it a problem, "the binding problem", but what a great problem to have: the ability to bind things together into an integrated whole; the ability to create experience; the ability to live, to be alive.

Is this important? Why, yes, if you believe understanding the purpose of life and the nature of reality is important. The synergy of synergies, the overlaps that embrace difference and tame the beast of separateness.

It's late, and I'm getting tired, so we'll come back to this another time. But yes, it is very, very important. Trust me, I'm not a doctor!

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

mumbo (refresh/home)