Penetrating Deeply into the Object and Changing it at the Root: Dream of the Red Mansion & Quantum Epistemology. Another Chinese Import. Note Quote.


In the Chinese classical novel titled “Dream of the Red Mansion” (Also known as Hong Lou Meng, this is arguably China’s greatest literary masterpiece. A chronicle of a noble family in the eighteenth century; but the splendor of enchanting gardens, pleasure pavilions, and daily life of the most sophisticated refinements hides the realities of decay and self-destruction) by Cao Xue-qin, who told a story occurred in a big Jia’s family in Beijing during 1729-1737 in Qing dynasty, a young man Jia Baoyu was worried about Ms. Lin Daiyu who used to feel sad all day long. “I can’t understand her”, Baoyu thought. Until one day he suddenly got an inspiration and wrote down as follows:

You won’t be you if I wasn’t born.
One can’t understand her from her alone.

Therefore, to understand an abstract quantum state |ψ > of a particle, one brings his subjective activity into full play by introducing a fictitious apparatus |x,t >, yielding the wavefunction ψ(x, t) =< x, t|ψ > to reflect the “contradiction” due to the interaction between the particle and the fictitious apparatus for measuring x (x is not necessary a continuous spatial coordinate). By calculation of ψ, one can predict in advance what are potential observables and what are their probabilities of occurance before the experiment is really made.

Similarly, to understand Daiyu, one has to survey her environment. Being a sensitive young lady, Daiyu was living in the global environment of Jia’s big family. If isolated from her relations with Baoyu, Baoyu’s grandmother, Ms. Wang Xi-feng and Ms. Xue Bao-cha, etc., i.e., if isolated from all realistic appearances of these relations and their contradiction analysis, Daiyu would be never understood why she was so sad.

After reading what Baoyu wrote, Daiyu, with Ms. Xue and Ms. Shi Xiangyun, went immediately to visit Baoyu for a conversation, aiming at learning what he was thinking at that time. But was it a simple “thought exchange or reflection?” No. Just at the instant their conversation began, everyone of them was changed once again and Daiyu was caught by a new suffering.

Hence, a measurement is by no means a process of “reflection”, but a process of changing (biange) the object by the subject. However, the sole English word “changing” is far from enough to express the deep connotation of Chinese words “biange”, which implies “penetrating deeply into the object and changing it at the root”. The root is nothing but “contradictions”. So the changing process is actually a process of transform (transmutation) between contradictions. In terms of newest terminology in quantum mechanics, during the measurement, a new quantum correlated state (entangled state) is established between the apparatus and object. Meanwhile, the quantum (coherently) correlated state originally existing inside the object is destroyed. It is just during the process of destruction and reestablishment of the equilibrium state among contradictions, can some “information” be created and is sensible to the subject.

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