Yuanqi, Yin & Yang and Ontology of Quantum Physics. Some Chinese Import.


In ancient China, there was a saying in ‘The Book of Rites-University‘ edited by Confucius (551BC-479BC): To gain knowledge via ‘gewu’, the knowledge comes only after the “wu”(object) is “ge”. The words “gewu” was interpreted by the philosopher Cheng Yi (1033-1107, in Song dynasty) as “reaching the object” while Zhu Xi (1130-1200) explained it as “touching the object”. In Ming dynasty, Wang Shou-ren (1472-1528) interpreted it as “seeing the object” and Wang Gen (1483-1540) ex- plained it as “the measurement on the object”, yielding a considerable progress (see [10]). It was not until Mao Zedong (1893-1976) in his article “on Practice”, a principle of “the cognition being stemming from the changing” was stressed, implying that “gewu” is now interpreted as some “changing process” (“biange” in Chinese). It seems just appropriate. Just looking at the experimental methods in modern physics evolving more and more abundant, the energy being raised higher and higher, new phenomena and new particles emerge successively, we have been convinced that the replacement of the “reflection theory” by the “changing theory” in the epistemology of philosophy is indeed a big progress, a jump in conception.

In philosophy, one swam upstream from the epistemology to the “ontology”—the inquiry about the nature of universe and the origin of matters. It seems to us no surprise that in conformity with the principle in epistemology that “the information is generated from the changing process”, the “noumenon” does not contain information. There were various pronouns for the noumenon in Chinese philosophy, e.g., “emptiness(void)” or “oneness”. Sometimes, it was called the “Tao” (which means the “way” or “law”). Lao Tze (who lived in the same time with Confucius, maybe a little earlier) said: “The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the permanent name”. In our understanding, his saying implies that the fundamental (eternal or perpetual) law cannot be expressed in words and the permanent name in wholeness (or totality) cannot be divided and put into various categories. Actually, similar point of view was prevailing in the Eastern philosophy, e.g., in the doctrine of Hinduism or Buddhism. But it seems to us that a deep philosophy without explicit saying is also a philosophy difficult to develope in real life. Lao Tze was wise to say more. He said: “the Tao generates one and one generates two…”. Then after common efforts of many philosophers, especially Wang Chong (27-100), Zhang Zai (1020- 1077) and Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692), the theory of “yuanqi (the primary gas)” was developed. They claimed that all matters are generated from “yuanqi”, inside which there are two opposites named “yin and yang”. It is the interaction and mutual transform between yin and yang that are responsible for the motion and change of everything in the world. This is really a deep and flexible “ontology”.


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