Books Philosophy Reviews

Book Review: Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order

Paavo Pylkkänen’s aim with Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order is to explore David Bohm’s ideas on mind, matter, time, and conscious experience.1 Pylkkänen was a collaborator with Bohm and has for many years had the intuition that quantum theory is relevant to the understanding of consciousness.2 This has led him to more carefully consider David Bohm’s notion of the implicate order.3 Pylkkänen first gives a brief overview of Bohm’s work (27 pages).4 He then explains Bohm’s views (164 pages).5 Finally, he considers other viewpoints as well (42 pages).6

New general concepts
Paavo Pylkkänen thinks that new concepts are needed to discuss the fundamental structure of the physical world, including consciousness.7 Mind and matter are intimately related.8 Experiencing isn’t identical with, and cannot be derived from, mechanical neurophysiological processes.9

… once you change your general concepts,
you will see the world in a new way

Physics can help us to better understand general concepts like space, time, movement, and causality.11 These concepts are relevant to mind and matter.12 No-one has been able to show how the mind can be reduced to matter.13 Pylkkänen suggests that physical processes related to mind and matter lie outside of the domain of classical physics.14 Pylkkänen doesn’t claim that this is the case, but suggests that this is an option worth considering.15 Pylkkänen’s own conclusion is that it seems fairly certain that quantum theory and relativity theory cannot be safely ignored by the mind sciences.16

The architecture of matter
Paavo Pylkkänen examines how the implicate order arises from quantum physics and relativity, the way the implicate order accounts for discontinuity of movement, wave-particle duality and non-locality, and how the implicate order can be extended to cosmology and biological phenomena .17 Quantum theory and relativity theory point to the notion of the implicate order, according to David Bohm. Bohm further suggested that the notion of the implicate order can be extended to biological phenomena and consciousness.18

Bohm suggested that the way we think about the totality influences the way our minds operate, which in turn influences our actions.19 Changing our general conception of reality influences our understanding of the nature of mind and matter.20 The focus on “order” became important for Bohm in the 1960s.21 Quantum theory and relativity theory inspired Bohm to view “order in movement” as fundamental, and the order of things as derivative.22

… parts of a living organism are
internally related to each other,
while parts of a machine are
only externally related to each other

Bohm, furthermore, often used the metaphors of machine and living organism to illustrate the difference between a mechanical order and a non-mechanical order.23 Bohm emphasized that both relativity and quantum theory challenge the relevance of mechanistic order.24 Our macroscopic reality obeys the principles of mechanistic order, but only approximately. Non-mechanical holistic principles provide a more accurate description. This is what led Bohm to the notion of the implicate order.25

… experimental evidence … strongly suggests that
the mechanistic order is inadequate
as a fundamental characterization of
the architecture of the physical world

One may say that everything is enfolded into everything in the implicate order.26 The key point is that the implicate order makes it possible to account for the non-mechanistic features of quantum phenomena: discontinuity of movement, wave-particle duality, and non-locality. A further strength is that it’s possible to derive the phenomena of classical physics as a limiting case.27 The “elementary particle” is something we abstract from the more fundamental movement of unfoldment and enfoldment.28

Bohm proposed that the implicate order ought to be taken as fundamental.29 The idea is that what happens in the explicate order is determined by relationships in the implicate order.30 The implicate order is a general view which is meant to describe the general architecture of being. However, Bohm was also open to the idea that he had not arrived at a final truth.31

The implicate order opens up a new way to understand how inanimate matter becomes animate matter. The key point is that it’s in the process of enfoldment and unfoldment that matter is informed to produce a living entity.32 Life is thus a particularly well-informed process of unfoldment and enfoldment.33 Bohm suggests that matter, life, and consciousness have a similar architecture.34

The architecture of consciousness
Pylkkänen discusses Bohm’s suggestion that the implicate order also is the basic architecture of conscious experience, and how matter and consciousness are related.35 Bohm showed in some detail that matter as a whole can be understood in terms of the notion of the implicate order.36 Bohm assumed, based on the notion of unbroken wholeness, that consciousness and matter have a common ground.37

Bohm argued that the more fundamental nature of matter cannot be understood in terms of the explicate order, but that the implicate order is needed. He also suggested that the more fundamental nature of the mind has to be understood in terms of the implicate order.38 This opens up the possibility of integrating mind and matter.39 Bohm emphasized that what we experience as consciousness ought to be seen as a relatively autonomous sub-totality that arises from the underlying implicate order.40

Interestingly, Bohm advocates a kind of phenomenological method to study conscious experience.41 There are also some interesting similarities between the views of Bohm and Husserl.42 Bohm’s basic proposal is that matter and consciousness are relatively autonomous sub-totalities which can be abstracted from the holomovement.43

Our freedom as individuals depends on our relative independence from each other as human beings, but Bohm emphasized the limits of such independence. Instead of viewing human beings and nature as separate elements in causal interaction, we ought to see ourselves and nature as projections of a common ground. If reality and human beings are a unity, then changing reality means changing oneself.44

Bohm assumed that the totality of existence is movement. And movement implies the possibility of change. Thus it’s natural to expect that both reality and our knowledge of reality can change.45 A change in the general world view can have all sorts of significant implications. New notions of matter, causality and time can have wide ranging implications and opens up many new possibilities.46 Bohm’s general idea was that the fundamental order of matter and consciousness is the implicate order. This leads to the idea that there is an underlying ground.47

… not only is information about the whole
enfolded in each part,
but information about each part
is also enfolded in … the whole

In order to understand the relationship between quantum theory and consciousness, it’s natural to first consider the relationship between quantum theory and biological phenomena.49 Bohm noted that the quantum wholeness is reminiscent of the wholeness associated with living organisms.50 He also noted that active information resembles mind.51 Bohm proposed that active information connects the physical and mental.52

There’s a kind of self-organization for the mind.53 We always act based on a certain understanding, which is related to tacit and explicit knowledge (information content).54 At each level there is active information that connects the mental and physical sides.55 The levels are related via unfoldment and enfoldment. Changes in less subtle levels can affect the more subtle levels, and vice versa.56

Bohm used to describe culture as shared meaning. He was interested in communication, and was very concerned with the social implications of our general world view. Bohm felt that a major source of our problems is in our habits of thought.57 The mechanistic tradition emphasizes external relationships. The implicate order, on the other hand, draws the attention to internal relationships and participation.58 Bohm thought that it was important to understand the factors which supports communication and coherent action.59

An elementary particle, like an electron, is in the ontological interpretation of quantum theory a spatio-temporal entity, which has a proto-mental quality. Paavo Pylkkänen underlines the potential significance of this.60 The implicate order is the ground of space-time. The deeper essence of consciousness might also be beyond space-time.61

A more comprehensive theory of mind and matter
Paavo Pylkkänen then moves on to discuss how the ontological interpretation of quantum theory gives rise to a more comprehensive theory of mind and matter.62 Pylkkänen argues that the implicate order provides a basis for a more adequate theory of time consciousness that those currently on offer.63 Pylkkänen thinks that much of contemporary philosophy of mind, cognitive science, etc. try to reduce consciousness to the explicate order.64

There is … a difference between
our abstractions and the reality
out of which the abstractions are made.
… we have to be careful not to attribute
too strong a reality to our abstractions

Bohm’s views have thus far largely been ignored by the communities which study consciousness.66 Bohm described consciousness in terms of a series of moments, where each given moment cannot be fixed exactly in time, but covers a variable duration. Each moment has a certain explicit foreground content, and an implicit background content.67 Bohm assumed that one moment of consciousness gives rise to the next moment.68 In such a later moment, content which was implicate can have become explicate, and vice versa.69 Different active transformations are all present, while having different degrees of enfoldment.70

Movement, causation, and consciousness
At the end of the book, Pylkkänen further clarifies Bohm’s concept of reality as movement, the role of causality, and briefly considers how conscious experience can arise from a Bohmian perspective.71 Bohm’s basic metaphysical proposal is that reality is movement.72 The essence of the university is not the motion of objects, nor is it a step-by-step evolution of the state of the universe in a process of time. More fundamentally, the universe as a whole is (holo)movement, which involves total ordering. This total ordering is enfolded in each moment. The key point is that the total ordering is not essentially related to a process of time. The holomovement is beyond time. Time arises from the holomovement.73

Bohm considered yet another form of movement, the movement in living beings. This is the movement in which all the various functions of the organism are organized together to create and maintain the whole organism. The movement of life is an organizing energy which works within the organism, and even in its atoms and elementary particles. This gives a feeling what it means to view movement as fundamental.74

The more subtle levels in the implicate order enfold or gather information about the less subtle ones, and in turn act to organize the latter on the basis of the meaning of the information thus gathered. This organizing activity can be seen as a kind of unfoldment of the meaning of the enfolded information.75 The quantum field provides an example – and a mathematical description – of what the subtle levels might be, and how they connect with less subtle levels.76 Certain kinds of non-locality are necessary for the emergence of locality. Non-locality is a non-causal relationship, while locality is causal. Non-causality makes causality possible.77

It’s obvious that we are conscious, but its puzzling how we can be conscious. Paavo Pylkkänen suggests that the failure to come to terms with consciousness is partly related to a tacit overcommitment to a mechanistic framework. The mechanistic framework worked well in physics until the end of the 19th century, but doesn’t fit with the major developments in physics since then.78 Pylkkänen writes that it’s important to realize that mechanistic explanations cannot be used to describe the more fundamental levels of the physical world.79

Bohm never tackled the hard problem of consciousness. Bohm would probably have said that the origin of consiousness is in the depths of the implicate order.80 There seems to be nothing within the explicate order which can make conscious experience possible. If this is the case, then there is no other alternative than to explore the role played by the implicate order.81 Bohm doesn’t have answers to all questions about consciousness, but perhaps better theories can be developed based on his ideas.

Paavo Pylkkänen provides an excellent introduction to and overview of David Bohm’s ideas on mind, matter, and the implicate order. Paavo Pylkkänen was a collaborator with David Bohm and is therefore in a great position to comment on Bohm’s work. I would suggest that those who are interested in Bohm’s ideas also read David Bohm’s own books.

1 Paavo Pylkkänen, Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order (Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2007), p. 12.
2 Ibid., p. xiii.
3 Ibid., p. xiv.
4 Ibid., pp. 13–39.
5 Ibid., pp. 43–206.
6 Ibid., pp. 207–248.
7 Ibid., p. 3.
8 Ibid., p. 4.
9 Ibid., pp. 5–6.
10 Ibid., p. 8.
11 Ibid..
12 Ibid..
13 Ibid., p. 10.
14 Ibid..
15 Ibid., pp. 10–11.
16 Ibid., pp. 11–12.
17 Ibid., pp. 43–92.
18 Ibid., p. 43.
19 Ibid., p. 44.
20 Ibid., p. 46.
21 Ibid., p. 47.
22 Ibid., p. 49.
23 Ibid., p. 51.
24 Ibid., p. 52.
25 Ibid., p. 53.
26 Ibid., p. 57.
27 Ibid., p. 60.
28 Ibid., p. 71.
29 Ibid., p. 73.
30 Ibid., p. 75.
31 Ibid., p. 84.
32 Ibid., p. 86.
33 Ibid..
34 Ibid., p. 90.
35 Ibid., pp. 93–156.
36 Ibid., p. 101.
37 Ibid., p. 102.
38 Ibid..
39 Ibid., p. 103.
40 Ibid..
41 Ibid., p. 108.
42 Ibid., p. 109.
43 Ibid., p. 134.
44 Ibid., p. 145.
45 Ibid., p. 155.
46 Ibid., pp. 157–158.
47 Ibid., p. 158.
48 Ibid., p. 20.
49 Ibid., p. 181.
50 Ibid., p. 182.
51 Ibid., p. 183.
52 Ibid., p. 185.
53 Ibid., p. 186.
54 Ibid., p. 187.
55 Ibid., p. 190.
56 Ibid., p. 195.
57 Ibid., p. 197.
58 Ibid., p. 198.
59 Ibid., p. 199.
60 Ibid., p. 204.
61 Ibid..
62 Ibid., pp. 157–206.
63 Ibid., pp. 207–230.
64 Ibid., p. 100.
65 Ibid., p. 201.
66 Ibid., p. 208.
67 Ibid., p. 221.
68 Ibid., pp. 221–222.
69 Ibid., p. 222.
70 Ibid., p. 224.
71 Ibid., pp. 232–248.
72 Ibid., p. 232.
73 Ibid., p. 233.
74 Ibid., p. 234.
75 Ibid., p. 237.
76 Ibid., p. 238.
77 Ibid..
78 Ibid., p. 240.
79 Ibid., p. 241.
80 Ibid., p. 246.
81 Ibid., p. 247.

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By Jan Höglund

I share my reading, book reviews, and learning in my blog.

2 replies on “Book Review: Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order”

Hi Jan

Did you enjoy this book? I think the one biographical fact I would mention is that Pylkkänen was actually a collaborator with Bohm, and therefore like Hiley, Peat and Bortoft is in one of the best positions to act as a commentator on his work.

I think the fact that Bohm had a phenomenological sensitivity really marks him out against those theories which do not differentiate between the phenomenological and the empirical. Many people discuss “holons” for example but I get no sense of the writers understanding the nuances. It is major implications for your continued exploration of order.

Henri started to explore structure in phenomena such as “jealousy” but did not manage to take his interest deeper. In this article I include insights from one of Henri’s Schumacher College lectures where he discusses the phenomenological approach to jealousy as described by Kohak’s analysis of Husserl:

When I take business executives into the phenomenological, we explore the structure of experience from a phenomenological perspective as well as the empirical, and this is where I think we can have a really interesting discussion about “order” and “structure”.

As for the woman who you mentioned in your retrospective, for me “seeing” and “thinking” are intimately related. Plunging into the phenomenological way of seeing changes our thinking, and an expansion of “heart consciousness” (it will remain undefined) can also be experienced. There is no internal – external difference for me, we are moving into a non-dualistic consciousness.

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