Oral History Transcript — Dr. David Bohm
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Interview with Dr. David Bohm
David Bohm; April 16, 1987
ABSTRACT: Conference on quantum mechanics in Finland (1987); importance of dialogue in science; argument between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein; meaning and use of words; Hegel’s unity of opposites; argument between Donald Schumacher and Krishnamurti; use of language, development of new words; Aristotelian logic, metaphysics, and positivism.
TranscriptSession I | Session II | Session III | Session IV | Session V | Session VI | Session VII | Session VIII | Session IX | Session X | Session XI | Session XII
Bohm:Well, last time we were discussing, among other things, the question of the failure of communication between Bohr and Einstein. Remember that?
Bohm:And my student Schumacher, who was very interested in this question of communication. And the fact is that we wrote a paper, which we didnít publish, on the failure of communication between Bohr and Einstein, in which we actually said that they should have had a dialogue between them rather than just each — if we said that each one had his own notions, which we now [???] total assumptions about the nature of truth, and each one excluded the other and that they were arguing across purposes because they never discussed that basic assumption. They seemed to be discussing scientific questions.
Wilkins:I think your point here, it relates to the Thatcher/Gorbachev discussions and you had said that if you wanted to understand the other personís point of view, their presuppositions, you might have to go away and do some reading. I donít think that Thatcher, for example, as reading up Marxism Leninism.
Bohm:Oh, you have to really understand it. I mean remember what we were saying about cherishing all the ideas and really looking at them carefully and giving them value before you —
Wilkins:Itís a bit like role playing, in fact. You have to really act as though you were a Marxist Leninist.
Bohm:Yes, or else as a capitalist. And thereís whatever idea you are studying, youíve got to take that role at that point, cherish that idea, give it a high value and really have enough motive and incentive to really study it and try to work it out, try to improve the other personís presentation.
Wilkins:Yes, even make the other personís base better than he made it himself.
Wilkins:Yes, I think this brings out the fact that this type of dialogue can be really a very immense undertaking.
Bohm:Yes, we sort of suggested that Bohr and Einstein really should have done that, which was the only way out of their impasse.
Wilkins:Presumably, if you had such extremely open minded and —
Bohm:Well, theyíre also full of goodwill.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean the goodwill was very important. And if they failed, it does show how intrinsically difficult this sort of operation can be.
Bohm:Yes. So that was one point. I think that, see, for example, Iím now thinking of going to a conference in Finland in the summertime on the philosophy of quantum mechanics. It turns out that the people, who are going there, mostly take Bohrís point of view. Now, Iíve been in correspondence with one of them. Theyíve given me the name of this book by Folsey, the framework of Bohrís views.
Wilkins:Now, this is a new book youíre referring to?
Bohm:Yes, and Iíve been reading the book. It presents it quite well. But the impression Iím beginning to get is this, which that Bohrís view can be put quite consistently, but you can only discuss with Bohr if you accept his presuppositions. If you donít, you will have nothing to talk about with him. Iíve been wondering what I can do at the conference. In other words, within these presuppositions you can discuss all sorts of questions about whatís better and whatís worse, new ideas and what not. So it seems if you have unlimited freedom, an openness, but in fact, itís limited.
Wilkins:I see. And you mean that if you go to the conference and suggest that these presuppositions, which you think the people are conscious of —
Bohm:Well, they may not be fully conscious of them, but they are conscious in part because theyíve been analyzing the whole thing.
Wilkins:Yes, these things have been [???] but Bohr has sort of defined —
Bohm:Well, his view is basically consistent. There were some points which he didnít work out too well, and these people have tried to supply that in the book.
Wilkins:You mean if Einstein didnít fully appreciate how Bohrís presuppositions were different from his, then presumably they werenít articulated.
Bohm:No. Yes, I donít think that Einstein dismissed Bohrís presuppositions as a tranquilizer philosophy. He wasnít cherishing them. He wasnít going to say, ďIím going to work on them and maybe even improve on them.Ē Nor was Bohr trying to do that with Einstein because he said that was an odd motive philosophy.
Wilkins:So you might find all these Bohr enthusiasts turning their backs on you if you try to undermine their faith —
Bohm:Well, if I were simply to present my own idea they wouldnít quite see the point. On the other hand, maybe we should begin to discuss the presuppositions as the only way out. Just say letís have a mutual discussion of our presuppositions.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean if theyíre not too dogmatic they might be prepared to bear with you in this type of thing.
Bohm:Yes, letís see if we can work out what our presuppositions and maybe go beyond them.
Wilkins:You mean itís tactful to suggest that Bohrís presuppositions are not just going to be rejected, but might be developed.
Bohm:Yes, they may be included in a new synthesis, which goes beyond both of us. Right.
Wilkins:Yes, but I think presumably you feel that youíll have to be really rather tactful. Otherwise, you just get their backs up and they wonít listen anymore.
Bohm:Yes. But anyway, that shows the importance of dialogue in science, which Schumacher and I really wrote about it as early as 1965 or 1966. In fact, dialogue of that kind is extremely rare in science.
Wilkins:I was just going to say it hardly ever happens.
Bohm:Well, anyway, at that time we regarded it as a problem of communication. Saying communication had failed because we were not — It was a problem with communication, but dialogue looks at it in a slightly different way by saying that the failure is due to presuppositions and assumptions that have not been examined. That perhaps people donít want to examine them because the whole structure theyíve built, the whole framework, depends on them. If you build a good solid framework, then you may feel uneasy about examining what itís foundations are.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean if it disappears youíd have nothing left in your life.
Wilkins:The other thing is it requires quite hard work, doesnít it?
Bohm:Yes, well also itís hard work and disturbing, and apparently not rewarding. Itís not going to produce formula and results and Nobel prizes.
Wilkins:A waste of time.
Bohm:Schumaker was a bit strongly interested in the question of language. He felt, as I said, that Krishnamurtiís use of language was interfering with his communication. That he felt he would use the language which was, at one point, was too strong in the sense that it tended to make totality statements. Like thought is —
Wilkins:That a man is his conditioning.
Bohm:Yes, man is his conditioning. The thought is the enemy and so on. Then he has to correct it later and by that time it doesnít work. But in general, Schumacher felt there was quite a bit about Krishnamurtiís language which was in the way. Which he probably felt was a manifestation of Krishnamurtiís deeper character. The fact that he would keep on using this language and not be questioning was somehow connected with what Krishnamurti was.
Wilkins:Yes, thatís a very fair point.
Bohm:Yes, and thatís the point that Schumacher made very strongly with me. When he tried to bring it up with Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti wouldnít really have any of it. I remember discussion — Donald was trying to say the word is the thing in a certain area because in certain areas the meaning of the word is the essential point. You see, the way you use words will contribute essentially to your emotional state, to anger and fear and so on. Now, when it comes to some object out here, the word is not the thing. Now, Krishnamurti kept on repeating, ďThe word is not the thing,Ē at that time. Now, Schumacher objected and said the word is the thing. Krishnamurti wouldnít listen. The point is the dialogue broke down there. Both sides were too strong in presenting their position, once again. Although Schumacher was trying to establish dialogue, at one stage the emotional pressure of this takes hold of both sides. If you say the word is not the thing and I say you must be making a mistake, I think the word is the thing, we are going to get into confrontation and my emotions will be carried away just as yours are and we will both get stuck.
Wilkins:Yes, you really want a more tactful approach.
Bohm:A cooler — you need a cooler approach.
Wilkins:Yes, keep this negative emotions down, where you would say, ďWell, now this is a very interesting point.Ē
Bohm:ďWell, let me begin by cherishing your idea. You say the word is not the thing. Let me think about it and think of that in many ways as capably as I can,Ē right? And vice versa.
Wilkins:Yes, I think one can then go on to examine the whole thing, as you say.
Bohm:It really broke down, and after that they never met. In fact, I donít think either of them wanted to meet each other. Because Krishnamurti felt perhaps that his whole structure was being challenged, and perhaps it was even done with intention to challenge it. But even so, it was not a crime to want to challenge his position.
Wilkins:No, but you mean Krishnamurti had become — well, an anti-guru is a guru. He had become one for his?
Bohm:Yes, but anyway, whatever it was he didnít take kindly to having — See, the point is, even if Krishnamurti could say, ďWell, I think itís probably nonsense, but letís at least talk to the fellow. Letís try to — perhaps he needs help or whatever? But letís have a talk about it, right? Therefore, this approach of cherishing the other personís idea is important, to say I will go through a period when I will really listen to your idea tentatively and really try to go over it in my mind and try to see why you think that way and what attracts you to it, and see if I can even do better than you in presenting it. If they are both doing this then I think something new will happen.
Wilkins:Yes, well thereís also the question of listening, isnít there?
Bohm:But that is listening. Listening is active. I mean I think, again, Krishnamurti would say listening with some mysterious thing which just took place. It didnít mean passive, but it took place beyond words. Thatís true, it does, but at the same time words take their part. Itís their dialectic again. Beyond words and words, they are dialectically related. So taking extreme positions you get out of that dialectical flow. So if you say the thought is not the thing and I say it is the thing, we just confront. Weíre no longer in the dialectical process.
Wilkins:I think most people have extraordinarily strong illusions. Itís perfectly obvious. You just listen and you hear things.
Bohm:It takes tremendous attention to listen, and energy.
Wilkins:Itís entirely the opposite. Itís one of the most difficult things I can do.
Bohm:All your conditioning is against it, you see. Because the minute somebody says something that challenges your framework you are defending, you are not listening.
Wilkins:But donít you also think that there is this great illusion is being built up as some sort of cultural thing, too? That words, the meaning of words — we know what words mean. Stop fussing, stop being awkward, and this is all pedantry and everything. Isnít that part of the whole culture? Itís perfectly obvious what words mean?
Bohm:Yes, but itís clear that words — we were just saying that words have opposite meanings.
Wilkins:Yes, but I mean most people will, I think, dismiss that and say, ďOh well, yes, but still itís all perfectly obvious, and we know what words mean.Ē But I mean once you start examining it you find that words mean all sorts of things in different context, donít they?
Wilkins:And as you say the word is the — well, I mean thatís —
Bohm:Well, psychologically speaking, the word is the thing to a large extent. The way you use words is part of what you are. It has an emotional impact. It doesnít just stop there intellectually.
Wilkins:Yes, but I sort of wonder whether — I mean I can quite see the point about people being attached to their own ways of thinking, and how this will alarm them and make them feel profoundly uneasy if they think this is going to be on their mind. But I wonder if this other thing about this illusion about the straight forwardness. Is it some sort of general cultural thing?
Bohm:Well, thatís like Einstein and Bohr. They are ostensibly talking about the meaning of quantum mechanics. Theyíre actually talking about the meaning of what science meant to them, right? What truth meant to them. So the words had an implicit meaning, which was not specified, was not made open. So very often in an argument, the real meaning is never stated. People are careful to avoid putting out the real meaning. They hide behind other questions, which only the ostensible meaning. When we find that people canít communicate, what it means is that thereís something else that theyíre not willing to say because it will disturb them too much to say it.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean what they say is not really what they mean, but is some sort of superficial construction, which is —
Bohm:Well, even an evasion. Even simply an escape from the issue, right?
Wilkins:You know what the GPs say, that generally the patient that comes to see the GP will spend ten or fifteen minutes talking about all sorts of things and the doctor canít really find out why the patient has come. But then the experienced GP knows that as the patient goes and opens the door to leave and go out of the room, then, maybe the thing will come popping out. ďBy the way, Dr. Such and such,Ē and there you have it.
Bohm:Thatís true, but you have to ask why does that happen. Because those things are the things that will disturb the patient to talk about, or heís afraid they will. Therefore, those words are the patient. In other words, certain ways of — See, letís take Bohr, who studied using language very carefully in his own way. Bohrís way of using language is Bohr. And Einsteinís way is Einstein, right? When Einstein challenged Bohrís ways of language, he was not merely discussing a scientific question. It was not just the assumptions he was challenging. He was challenging Bohr himself.
Bohm:And vice versa, right? So therefore the word is the thing. In the case of [???], the usage of words is the thing weíre talking about.
Wilkins:Yes, I think this is a very fair point.
Bohm:And thatís what Schumaker wanted to say, and thatís what Krishnamurti wouldnít accept.
Wilkins:Yes, presumably the patient going out the door doesnít want to reveal themselves.
Bohm:Well, at that moment he gets his attention on something else and he can somehow manage to let it slide out.
Wilkins:Itís a question of being at the precipice. Itís the last chance. I wonít see the doctor. Iím going away. Itís a desperation, I think, at the edge of the precipice. They get the courage to bring it out. I think that this is — Iím not sure whether — somebody was using the word catharsis in this context. Iím not sure whether itís quite right, but the thing is that if you are in an extreme position where youíve got some sort of last chance, then I think you can summon up the courage to do something you wouldnít normally do. So this gets down to how do you set up a dialogue in such a way that people feel that theyíve got to summon up this —
Bohm:But see, with Einstein and Bohr they never felt that way. Each one was just apparently having a scientific discussion. And so we can have another one tomorrow and so on.
Wilkins:Yes, so maybe if one sat down and thought about it maybe you could do some type of sort of — I canít think of —
Bohm:I think you have to get across the notion of how important this dialogue is and people seriously have to be ready to try it. We could say if Einstein and Bohr had felt that it was more important to dialogue than to defend their positions, or alternatively Krishnamurti and Schumacher.
Wilkins:I donít know whether if you get someone like the science journalists coming in from outside and you ask the person to explain their position they might be more forthcoming because they donít —
Bohm:But they donít know it. The assumptions are concealed from consciousness.
Wilkins:Yes, but if you have an intelligent science journalist, they might sort of probe at them.
Bohm:Yes, but imagine trying to interview Bohr. You would have to be as subtle as Bohr. Bohr was very firm if you talked with him. Either he would light his pipe and let the matches drop. Or else he would come out very firmly with very great power. Who was the journalist to challenge Bohr?
Wilkins:I suppose you mean he was such a remarkable person it was very difficult for anybody to get into a chink of his armor.
Bohm:No, no. As long as you stayed in his framework he was very open and he had very wonderful discussions.
Wilkins:Yes, well, this is the thing about all scientists. That theyíre very open minded within limits, but they decide the limits.
Bohm:They donít even decide it. Itís the unconscious process.
Wilkins:Yes, they just decide it for themselves.
Bohm:You know when they get the limits because they get all edgy and bad tempered. And, as you say, they drop their pipes on the floor. So therefore, see hereís this point. Schumaker was particularly pointing out the importance of dialogue and the word is the thing and all that. And here was Krishnamurti saying the opposite, and there was a confrontation, which was fruitless and really destructive. I think that we have got to go into this theory of dialogue a bit and say that people appreciate the theory of dialogue; they may be able to approach this thing in a different way.
Wilkins:Okay, but in practice, what type of practical means? If you examine the Einstein/Bohr situation, what could you have done?
Bohm:Well, I donít know. I think that the first thing would have been to discuss with both the sole question of dialogue and try to make it clear to them and see if they would really appreciate the importance of it.
Wilkins:What would happen if you came to each of the parties separately and said, ďLook, these damn arguments have gone on along now for years.Ē You could say both of you are being sort of ridiculous.
Bohm:But weíd talk around it. Dialogue with other people. Dialogue here, dialogue there, how important it is in this area, that area, how it works.
Wilkins:Well, thatís one approach. I was thinking the other thing is youíd try and just bring them up in a joke and say, ďLook, you people have been messing around for years like this. I mean youíve got to do something.Ē Pull your socks up, for Godís sake.
Bohm:Youíve got to combine it with a general theoretical approach, which suggests thereís something that can be done.
Wilkins:Well, yes, I agree that may be the more suitable means with that type of situation, because you canít very well talk to distinguished figures like that.
Bohm:No, particularly if you donít have some structure, some sort of suggestion as to what could be done.
Wilkins:So you would get them to listen to an exposition of the theory of dialogue and get them interested.
Bohm:Yes, even write a paper about it and have them read it.
Wilkins:All right, well, better write a paper on dialogue then. What are you doing about it?
Bohm:Well, tomorrow Iím talking over with this Peter Garret. Weíre going to try to prepare a paper. You donít know him. Heís from Nicholton. He wants to come to this group Demarito to look at it. But anyway, thatís sort of a tentative answer seeing I donít know the full answer. But thatís sort of a beginning.
Wilkins:To get at the ideas, the theory articulated.
Bohm:But thatís sort of the importance of the theory. And therefore, if we go back to Hegel — see, letís look at it a Hegelian way and say, ďLook, I am presented with this situation thatís just simply the real situation going like this confrontation, right? And then on the one hand I can try to be like the practical man and try to say my end is to get rid of this confrontation, so Iím going to find some means and work on it and change it. But it doesnít work because thatís much too crude a way. So then I say, ďLetís look at it as the scientist, saying here Iím presented with all this and Iím going to let it reveal itselfĒ. And then I form a theory of it. But in this theory I appreciate the essence of it because there itís clearly a problem of thought, the theory is thought. And therefore Iím able to appreciate the essence of it to a certain extent. Rather itís not merely — it works in me and then everywhere. Iím not separating subject and object, you see. So the point is then part of this is to say that opposites must be present and must be united, and this is part of the dialogue to come to a new unit offkeyhobin, a unity of opposites, which transcends those opposites. Saying that perhaps Einstein and Bohr could have transcended their position and gone into something really new. Or Schumacher and Krishnamurti. In fact, thatís what Schumacher had in mind that Krishnamurtiís position would be transcended. But Iím afraid that Schumacher did not have in mind that Schumacherís position might be transcended.
Wilkins:Did you ask him?
Bohm:No, because I thought he was rather disturbed by the whole thing. I donít think I was able to hold a really good conversation with him about it after that.
Wilkins:Of course, Krishnamurti may have been conscious of that, too. It may have not helped. Because presumably there has to be sort of an agreed recognition of what heís going to say each otherís vulnerability.
Bohm:I think Schumacher had the idea that it would be a new — he called it a form. That this new thing would be a new form, a new formative activity, and that it would be his. Thatís my feeling and that was not right.
Wilkins:Feeling a bit personal about it.
Bohm:Yes. The point is the new form may not belong to anybody.
Wilkins:Yes, well, this is of course an interesting point about an almost DNA history of the same thing about the people who did things and what it belongs to. I think obviously. I mean, the individual can regard themselves as sort of channels through which the new truth emerges or something.
Bohm:But in the dialogue it doesnít emerge through either individual.
Wilkins:Okay, well, the form a joint —
Bohm:Something new appears in it. There are several, if there are more itís a bigger channel. But between — in the dialogue, if something new emerges, which is not either of those extremes. So letís say as Krishnamurti says thought is not the thing and Schumacher says thought is the thing, but something may emerge which is neither of those.
Wilkins:Yes, well, I still donít see how you can get them interested in the idea of dialogue, and what you can hope is that their interest in this idea may help them to not get overwhelmed by their feelings of falsified entity —
Bohm:Yes, and being attached to their frameworks and so on.
Wilkins:Yes, if you can get enough positive feeling there. I think the point is yes, presumably, someone would say a perfect situation would be someone they would get so excited with the idea, the wonderful prospects of dialogue, they would quite sort of forget about their attachments to the — I mean thatís the positive view, isnít it?
Wilkins:You want to get an ongoing enthusiasm, which will carry them through. I was interested to see this word enthusiasm means in a sense the God within. So in a sense youíre letting not the cat out of the bag, but youíre letting the God out of yourself. This is exciting.
Bohm:If the two Gods come together, then you have something newer.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean itís like the alchemical flask where you have the union of these things and the new child emerging. Yes, and of course the chemical model is true in so far as the original two components tend to disappear.
Bohm:Anyway, but the other point that Schumaker — he was very interested in this question of language. He studied Wittgenstein a great deal. But I must confess I never understood Wittgenstein very well. So?
Wilkins:Oh, he found Wittgenstein interesting?
Bohm:Yes. I think in the end he feels that Wittgenstein had gone astray, but he found it very interesting. But I canít comment much on that because I could never get a strong grasp of Wittgenstein. I tried to talk with him about it.
Wilkins:Tried to talk with Schumacher about it?
Bohm:Yes, I mean we did talk about it, but it somehow didnít leave a deep impression.
Wilkins:I was in Cambridge as an undergraduate when Wittgenstein was digging potatoes outside, and I knew one undergraduate, who was, I would say, infatuated with Wittgenstein. I think he — being in a little circle, his main idea was that he was going to get a job in the patent office when he got his degree because thatís what Einstein had done. That was sort of naÔve.
Bohm:He should have listened to Einstein, who said never tell the same joke twice.
Wilkins:Of course, there were very good practical reasons for that, werenít there?
Bohm:At that time, yes. Now days it wouldnít work now.
Wilkins:Yes, normally youíre right. I think that getting people enthusiastic about dialogue will help them over their hurdles. Of course, the Quakers talk about listening a lot. Itís one of their —
Bohm:Itís not really listening, but itís being more active this style in the sense, you know.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean a dialogue is not simply listening. You mean itís the — you say something yourself.
Bohm:And also, you respond and you may take up what the other person says and carry it further and so on.
Wilkins:Apparently some of these principles are recognized fairly widely in jobs like counseling. You see patches done at [???] in bereavement, and she says there the main thing theyíre emphasizing to the counselor is this thing about this thing and how extraordinarily difficult listening is because youíre always starting to impose your own interpretation. How you may say something yourself from time to time, it may not be that you say anything. You may simply make a sound or a grunt, and also the way in which you move your body may be important. All these things. You create a whole environment there, which is somehow reacting sympathetically to the person.
Bohm:The point is to create an environment of openness.
Wilkins:So you came to encourage this stuff.
Bohm:Yes, but I say if you can respond to the other person in the right way it may encourage them still more, if you donít impose your view, but you respond positively.
Wilkins:I think this is where — there was a very interesting television program on babies that die at birth. When Pat said this was coming on I thought, ďOh, God, dead babies. Stillborn babies.Ē Iím going in my study. I started listening, watching it, and this is very interesting because there you have to — one has all sorts of prejudices initially, and I was rather horrified about this. That how important it is that the other people can provide some sense to the — apparently itís an extremely distressing phenomenon, this burying a dead baby. Of course, what I never thought through before is that if they tell you the babyís dead before you deliver the baby then you have all this awful job of the mother pushing this baby out, knowing itís bloody dead.
Bohm:Itís all for nothing.
Wilkins:This must be an extremely depressing experience. And although theyíve never known the baby at all, apparently they have a very strong sense of the identity of that baby that has been inside them for nine months. I never thought or appreciated all this. And the counselors were coming on and saying how everyone avoids them. This has been let down the neighborhood in society. Itís that dead baby. Itís horrible, isnít it? We feel very sorry for them, but we donít want to talk with them. They were stressing how you want to draw this out. And I think to some extent, this whole thing is very similar. Except I suppose in your case with Einstein and Bohr — well, did they have a dead baby inside? Presumably, something was worrying them, wasnít it? They were meeting. They wouldnít have come together.
Bohm:There was a problem of how to understand.
Wilkins:So they both had a problem.
Bohm:Bohr felt he had solved it, and Einstein felt he hadnít.
Wilkins:If he thought he had already one hundred percent heíd solved it, why would he waste any time talking to Einstein?
Bohm:He may feel just because heís a friend of Einstein he wants to communicate.
Wilkins:Ah, you mean he just wanted to try and convince Einstein that heíd got a perfect solution?
Bohm:Yes, saying disabuse him of his wrong notion, saying Einstein had sort of going back into this old past pattern sort of. Maybe it will liberate Einsteinís creativity to get out of it. Any number of things —
Wilkins:So really, Bohr didnít see it. He didnít have a problem. Einstein —
Bohm:Einstein had the problem. Yes, Bohrís problem was Einstein.
Wilkins:Einstein then felt that Bohr had a problem.
Bohm:Yes, Einsteinís problem was he couldnít accept the way Bohr was going about it. He felt it was wrong. He had a basically different idea of how to go about it.
Wilkins:So they really both had dead babies inside them, and they didnít want to face up to the fact. Gosh, itís not easy. I mean I think you know if you do — I think Pat may have a video of one of those things. If you see some of these people going through practical situations where it is difficult for a person to listen, and listening as you say involves a very active exchange with the person, which may involve saying something or may not.
Bohm:Yes, it may be the body.
Wilkins:Actually, one of the counselors was always saying how important it is you say youíre sorry. I think, actually, Pat agreed with me that she didnít mean that. Because simply saying youíre sorry doesnít necessarily get you anywhere at all. But I think what they were trying to say was is that you somehow have to express an appreciation that the other person has a problem. But as you say, in this case —
Bohm:Well, neither of them would appreciate the problem with the other, because they were basically — each one felt the need to defend his own position or his own framework.
Wilkins:I still feel that if the idea, as you say, of interest and enthusiasm for the idea of — sometimes you need to say that I know that Einstein has go this all wrong, but this would be an intriguing game to play, which I know isnít really serious, but I will play it nonetheless, kind of thing. I mean sometimes devices like this can help, canít they? To get the ball rolling.
Bohm:Yes. But Einstein would also have to play the game with Bohr. In our paper we actually started that, whether Bohr would start playing Einsteinís game. Because we thought Bohr would probably have the subtlety to do it.
Wilkins:In your paper you were saying that?
Bohm:Then perhaps Einstein would eventually start the other side. But I think we proposed that Bohr could have started playing Einsteinís game a little bit.
Wilkins:Yes. In the studies on attitude change, the psychologists have found that if people have two strongly opposed attitudes and then if the person has to play the role of the person with the opposed attitude, they find it does make quite a difference to the attitude, having been through that experience. Of course itís quite reasonable. So this is a standard procedure in trying to understand peopleís [???]
Bohm:Thatís part of what constitutes cherishing the other idea.
Wilkins:Yes, if youíre playing a role you have to cherish it, because the role is yourself for the time being. The role takes you over. Yes, but that isnít dialogue thatís normally understood is it?
Bohm:No, but Iím trying to say itís the kind of dialogue thatís needed.
Wilkins:Yes, I think thatís a very good point, because I think that this is a fairly clearly defined and easily understood type of operation, which could be very helpful, which is not normally — I think most people tend to have a sort of idea of dialogue as being sort of as two chaps sitting down have a nice sort of long conversation over a cup of tea, an exchange of views or something. But when you introduce an idea, a kind of role-playing idea like that, you are going much outside the ordinary bounds of conversation.
Bohm:Yes, but weíve got to do something radical like that or else weíll never get through this. Thatís the other possibility is possibly in the larger group, some sort of energy might arise that would break through. See, when two people are there, there is always the tendency to confront. Weíve got to get something powerful enough to get through that.
Wilkins:Yes, well I donít know —
Bohm:Once you start confronting youíre stuck.
Wilkins:Yes, this sort of negative thing, which makes it more difficult because you start — you donít want to concede points, all that.
Bohm:Well, Iíll say youíll become defensive. The more one person says something the more you become defensive. If youíre playing the role of the other person, then youíre no longer defensive.
Wilkins:Yes, I think the subtle thing about it is in playing the role; you kind of kid the person that itís not serious, and thatís why theyíre prepared to do it. But really, as you say, it is very serious indeed and the person is fooled. I donít think — itís not dishonest.
Bohm:No, well he may — probably deep down people know the game is being played, but they sort of enter the spirit of the game.
Wilkins:Yes, I think thatís it. That youíre ready to have a go. Well, it seems to me a very good idea. What other ideas did you have in the —
Bohm:Well, there was no other idea. The only idea we had in the paper was we thought it was appropriate that Bohr might have started it. More plausible than if Einstein would have started it.
Wilkins:I suppose you could think of other forms where you had an audience or something, but these would still be the same. Not essentially. Theyíre different if you had to explain to an audience, if Bohr had to explain to an audience what Einsteinís theory was. With Einstein out in the room possibly. Or not at all with Einstein in the room. I donít know. You could do it different ways, couldnít you?
Bohm:Yes, well, that would be the same as if Bohr would write a paper on Einsteinís?
Wilkins:Yes, you could write a paper, go through the same exercise. That may even be better because you have to — Ah, yes, the whole thing — there is the other thing about attitude change. That if you make a commitment in front of other people that apparently if a speaker is trying to persuade the members of an audience to adopt, to support their point of view, the speakerís point of view, that if you get somebody to come up who feels they would like to support it, to come up to the front of the room and address the audience and make a statement supporting the point of view, then this apparently strengthens their degree of support considerably because they have made a commitment in front of other people.
Bohm:Yes, it carries more weight and itís more important.
Wilkins:Yes. I think then they feel that they mustnít back down from that. That if they are seen by everyone else to be holding this point of view or representing this point of view, they have a certain pride in the whole thing. Itís part of their identity then. And so that this thing about standing up and — is it witness?
Wilkins:Is very important. I donít know whether this type of thing could be — thatís where I think you have other people involved. Other than the two people in dialogue. But there may be other principles. I donít know.
Bohm:Well, that requires exploration to treat dialogue as an object of study and to try to make a theory of it, which will then make it possible to change the whole thing, just as we do with other things. But anyway —
Wilkins:So incidentally, that negotiation book. I donít know whether theyíre — I donít know. There might be a few points there a bit. I forget what I was saying about being hard on the people and soft on the problem or something. They had various slogans, which were —
Bohm:Itís a very static point of view because the subject is sort of given, so is the object. You donít consider it the subject and object in their movement intrinsically, but rather movement as being imposed from the subject to the object, or a subject on itself. Now, so I thought maybe we could get a language or usage of language that would avoid this problem. Now, I thought maybe if we took the verb as the basic element rather than the noun we could get out of this, because we would begin with process and flow rather than sort of beginning with objects and then somehow discussing process. Because itís a sort of contradiction if you once begin with an object and thereís no real clear way of getting to a process except as the object acting on another one. That doesnít really see the constitution of the object as a process. Now, that is a thought of the process being the flowing stream image of a vortex, which exists only in the flow as a recurrent pattern with stability. So I had this image, remember, in all of my previous work of trying to explain things as relatively stable and recurrent patterns in a universal flow or flux. I said objects should not be presupposed first and then actions between objects, but rather the movement is primary, and objects arise in the movement. And then there is a secondary result the objects will be acting on each other as two vortices brought together modify each other. Fundamentally itís the whole flow.
Wilkins:Yes, but you mean that the objects correspond to these regions of stability.
Bohm:Stability and recurrence, right? The vortex does not actually exist. Itís an abstraction. Thereís no such thing as a vortex. There is an abstraction of a stable recurring pattern of flow. But when you take the word vortex it means in your mind you extract that and think of it as an independent thing. Using the ordinary language, youíre almost forced into that. Then we could say one vortex pushed on another one. But then in fact that didnít happen. Just simply that two patterns of flow modified each other. They combined and fused into one, which was different. Is that clear then what I mean? See, if you put two vortices — one vortexís pattern extends to infinity. In other words, you bring two vortices together; at first they have very little effect on each other. But you can see that on the plane between them the velocity is zero on that plane. The patterns have been modified.
Wilkins:Yes, but a vortex has its main concentration — I mean if you consider a smoke ring. I mean the smoke, that particular region of air, is kept intact to a large degree, isnít it?
Bohm:Yes, but still if you bring two smoke rings together that smoke ring has a pattern of flow extending out.
Wilkins:Yes, so it is dispersing gradually.
Bohm:But even if there were no friction it wouldnít disperse. It would be stable. But it would still have a pattern of movement extending beyond the center of the vortex. Thereís no sudden end to the vortex. So the pattern extends out to infinity in principle. Now, another vortex comes along from far away. At first they donít affect each other very much. But if you take the plane between them you will find that the velocity perpendicular to that plane is zero. The two combine. When theyíre far apart it doesnít have very much affect at the vortices, but as you bring them together thereís a kind of a force develops between them, and eventually the two vortices modify each other profoundly and unite into one. But in no stage are their really two vortices. Each vortex is an abstraction from one single pattern of flow.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean youíre concentrating attention on a particular region, of a pattern, not on the whole.
Bohm:Yes. The ordinary usage of language would say we have here a vortex and there a vortex and theyíre interacting and one is acting on the other. But that doesnít really give a right picture of what is going on, because the whole thing is one flow and even the very constitution of your elements arises in that flow. Whereas the ordinary language suggests that the movement has nothing to do with constitution of the elements that are acting and being acted on.
Wilkins:So that the language corresponds to a partial view of the —
Wilkins:Yes, a sort of simplified partial view of the whole thing.
Bohm:Yes, the word abstract is whatís called for. It means to take out a sub part and consider it in your mind as if it were separate when itís not. Weíve got that. Now the point was can we change the language. Now, it turns out that some of the older languages — see, I suggested letís begin with the verb as the basic element and build nouns and so on out of verbs. This might be more appropriate, right?
Wilkins:Can you give an example?
Bohm:Well, in older languages this is whatís done. Itís even done in English, too, as Iíll explain. But in Hebrew, the basic root is always a verb, and by adding prefixes and suffixes you can turn it into adjectives and nouns and so on. The verb to work can be taken — the verb work may mean — the verb may then stand for the action of working, you see, for a worker, right? But even in English you take a verb alternate, and the noun is alternation, a state of alternating. We have the possibility of turning verbs into nouns, but it is not the most basic structure. So, saying could we change the language so as to put the verb at the base, as it was in Hebrew and apparently in many other primitive languages like Tiomno and so on. It seems common that movement was taken as basic in earlier languages. Only later came the development in which we put the nouns as basic as in the modern Endo-European language. But of course by now Hebrew is used in the same sense as Endo-European languages that though the verb is the basic root people are treating it — they use it as a noun anyway. So itís a matter of how itís used, not merely the formal structure that counts.
Wilkins:Well, what did you do at this stage?
Bohm:What I proposed was to — I said we canít change the whole language like that because weíre, as Bohr used to say, ďWeíre immersed in language.Ē But rather I said, ďLetís introduce a different mode of using language.Ē Like we have the indicative mode and we have the subjunctive mode and the various other modes, imperative. So we introduced what I called a real mode, real from the Greek word flow. The flowing mode. Saying that for certain purposes we would use this mode while at the same time we are not going to try all at once to change the whole language. So the attitude is to say this was to be an experiment with language. Now, people ordinarily study language as an object, saying, ďWeíre not experimenting with it; itís an object which is there and we are making a theory of it, right?Ē But Iím trying to say language is modified in the very way in which itís used, so thereís no such thing as a fixed language in which you can study. You can do it approximately, but the very way people use language, it constitutes language. And if you begin to use it differently, language changes. I was sort of opposing the view of Chomsky say that language is some sort of inherent universal grammar. There may be such a thing, but to say language is limited to the sort of thing that we study as an object, I donít accept. I say language has infinite possibilities, and as we start to use it differently itís different. So to experiment with language is to discover the possibilities of language rather than to say take language as it has been used and study it. Now, what I proposed was this new mode, and at that time people were using the word relevant a lot so I thought it would be nice to bring it in. So it comes from a verb to relevate, now out of usage, meaning to lift up. Now elevate. It has two possible meanings. One is relief, to bring relief to lift off the problem. The other meaning is to make it stand out in relief. Lift it out of the context, right? So I took that meaning. So I said to relevate would mean — I said letís bring back the word relevate, to lift it out of the back ground into attention, make it stand out as if in relief. But the word re, what is it doing there? The basic word is levate. So I said to levate means to give attention to this process of lifting out altogether. In all possible context.
Wilkins:But you say relevate.
Bohm:But to relevate means to do it again. Therefore, the first act is levate. Then the next act is relevate. If you relevate you can ask — weíll introduce an adjective, relevant. Is it relevant? Is it appropriate to relevate it? See, if many things once it can be levated up to a point, but after that they no longer count or they no longer have bearing, right? So therefore we could say itís either relevant or irrelevant. Is that clear? It doesnít bear — itís no longer appropriate to lift it out because it has no bearing in the subject anymore, right?
Wilkins:Sorry, what are those two things?
Bohm:Relevant. Re with — instead of saying relevant if put re-levant. Do it that way to emphasize the different meaning.
Wilkins:What was the other one?
Wilkins:Yes, I see.
Bohm:So youíre saying that to a point itís relevant beyond that itís irrelevant. I said that would be crucial for everything, right? Therefore, the word levate means to lift into attention, the whole act of levation without restriction. I said letís use that as a basis and generalize the language in saying — we could do this much more generally, you see. Let me see if I can remember all the different words I used. One word you might introduce is to see. I use the Latin word videry there, as in video. So I said letís introduce to vidate, which is to bring into attention all acts of perception. To revidate is to see again, in a certain context. That may be revident or irrevident. Is that clear?
Bohm:You could go on from there to where I canít remember. You can use words in that way. You can construct words in that way a long way.
Wilkins:What use did you actually make of this?
Bohm:Well, the point is that this was a way of — See, you have to use it a bit to show. For example, I introduced the word to factate. Facar means to make in Latin. Factate would be to bring to attention all acts of making, which might be refactant. To refactate might be refacted or irrifactant. The fact might either be a fact or not a fact. And then the fact had to be constated. See, the word constant comes from constate, meaning to make it stand together; a stand. So a fact has to be established by constating it. But actually you would say to reconstate it because it must be again and again. It might be reconstant or irreconstant, and so on. I went through a whole long list of words. The point about this is to show that we can construct these words to be able to look at philosophical questions. When we do this, you can see we are not thinking of the object primarily. See, this is the first point. Suppose I take the word — we also donít separate subject and object. If I take the verb to levate, it means to call everything into attention all acts of levation. At that very moment you are levating a content. You are doing what you say you are talking about. Ordinarily, thereís a distinction between what youíre talking about and what youíre actually doing while you talk, which separates subject and object. The subject is the one who is talking and thinking and the object is what heís talking about. But the subject is the very same as the object here.
Wilkins:Yes, well, that applies in that particular case.
Bohm:It will apply in every usage of this word.
Wilkins:Yes, that word.
Bohm:Not of this word, but of this kind of word.
Wilkins:That kind of word. I see.
Bohm:If you vidate then you are seeing something. If you factate youíre establishing a fact. You can go through the whole thing. In each case when you use it, it happens. So you can establish that you are not separating subject and object. You are not establishing a fixed thing because you say there may be a state of levation or relevation, which is constant. Or a state of vidation. So we introduced the verb revidation, which is a constant state, which is the first noun. So we have introduced adjectives and nouns out of the verb, as the older languages did. In this way I suggested you could deal with philosophical problems differently if you would, but everybody would have to begin talking. And so I said unless we seriously get together you canít get too far about this. But itís an experiment which shows that language can change. For example, one of the difficult problems was how do we deal with the self, which is a very strongly noun or pronoun. So suppose I introduce the verb I am in the basic sense of self. If you go back to the Bible to the story of Moses, he talked to the voice in the burning bush. So he asked the voice, ďWhat is your name?Ē And the voice answered, ďMy name is I am.Ē In other words, Godís name was I AM, because only God could say that. And I am would have been a hen [?] in Hebrew. He first asked what is your name, and he said, ďMy name is I am that I am,Ē or, ďI am whatever I am.Ē Only God could be that. Then he asked him what shall I say your name is to the tribe of visitors? He said, ďYou should say my name is I am.Ē The idea is that in Hebrew there is no present tense of I am. The verb to be has no present tense because you donít use it. You say this chair right here. You say this is a chair. Is that clear?
Bohm:Now, you can only say I will be. In order for God to say what we mean by am, you have to say I will be whatever I will be. But in principle there is no I am in Hebrew. The fact that there was no present tense of the verb to be meant that this usage of the word I am would have a very powerful meaning. That I am meant pure being from the subject aside. It really was the natural name of God. The notion was only God could say I am, or to put it in Hebrew that I will be. Only God could say that. I will be because that meant I will be forever. In that sense that would have been the natural name of God. So the question is how you put that in the sense of flow? You canít if you have this absolutely eternal I am, you canít. The point is that human beings have identified their personal I am with this eternal I am by the very use of the words, right? And thatís part of whatís behind egotism. Because in the very structure of thought and language, I am, once we got to it, meant the eternal I am. But then each person, by calling himself I, or saying I am here instead of I am is conveying to himself that meaning. Do you see what Iím driving at?
Wilkins:Yes. It is seeing God in yourself in a rather peculiar way.
Bohm:It has a very powerful psychological effect. That language has a powerful psychological effect, and to say in the psychological situation the word is the thing. You canít separate them.
Wilkins:Yes, thatís very true.
Bohm:Now, the words for I am are the most powerful words there are, you see. So how would you deal with this in the real mode? This would have to say that the human personal self is not I am. But I introduced a verb to start from an action. I introduced the verb to iamate, which would mean to bring to attention this whole process of I am. We could say that when a person says I am in some sense he iamating, or he is really reiamating. The original iamation would have been a creative step, but in the habit of reiamating has become irre-iamant. He keeps this up and it no longer has any meaning. So the idea was that we would have to bring our language into process all those things, which are really absolutely eternal nouns now. That would change the psychological impact.
Wilkins:Well, I can see that you are demonstrating that you can develop a new aspect of language like that, but having made this demonstration did you actually use this?
Bohm:See, you canít use it by yourself. The language must be communicated. It can only exist in communication. I gave two talks on this to the Institute for Contemporary Arts and there was a lot of interest, but I didnít pursue it. One trouble was that suppose we set up a group to talk this way, then we would have sort of begun to isolate ourselves with our particular language.
Wilkins:But canít you do it on your own?
Bohm:You canít talk on your own, no.
Wilkins:But if you write a paper you are, in a sense, talking to yourself.
Bohm:Yes, but at a certain stage it becomes empty to keep on using language just to talk about language. If you talk about something else nobody else will understand it.
Wilkins:Yes, but you will. I mean the thing is if you had a certain problem to study and you then started dealing with this developing a solution to the problem using that language, you would then be gradually setting out your ideas, which would develop —
Bohm:But you see, language could have never developed that way, saying Iíve got a problem and Iím going to learn the language. It developed as people communicated.
Wilkins:Yes, thatís quite true. I mean, what youíre saying is that the language enabled people to communicate more effectively, one with another.
Bohm:About certain deeper questions.
Wilkins:Yes, all right.
Bohm:It wouldnít at the same time forbid them to communicate in the old way when that was appropriate.
Wilkins:But I think what I was suggesting was that if you use that language to study some deeper question yourself, that when you start writing your paper, you wouldnít have all your ideas here in your mind. They would develop. You would in fact be talking to yourself as you develop the ideas. So this might help you to solve the problem.
Bohm:I donít have a problem.
Wilkins:Well, there are lots of problems [???] You say you donít have a problem.
Bohm:Not of that kind. It is not a problem in the sense that you consider it to be. See, the practical reason has problems. It says this thing is this way and I must have — through certain means I would achieve a certain end.
Wilkins:You mean the language, you say, would help people to communicate?
Bohm:But if they donít communicate itís not doing anything. See, fundamentally, dialogue, for example, is not a problem.
Wilkins:Okay. But canít you have dialogue with yourself?
Bohm:Very limited, because —
Wilkins:I think you might if you write things down.
Bohm:But you see, in the case of developing a different language itís very limited what you can do. I did try to write some things down, but you eventually get to the point of just talking about it.
Wilkins:Well, I can see this might be —
Bohm:This was something that Schumacher was very strong about it. He got a bit annoyed talking about talk and so on. I mean thereís a very limited value to that.
Wilkins:Talking about talk?
Bohm:Talking about language. To talk about language is limited. You can talk a certain amount about it, but then eventually youíve got to talk about something else using that language, right?
Wilkins:I think you could have a dialogue with yourself by setting ideas down, because the thing is that different ideas come into your mind at different times, and you could set something up like that.
Bohm:I think you really needed some people to talk at. See, I changed the word from reamode to reamodation to say it isnít a noun, itís a process. There is no such thing as the reamode. There is the process of reamodation. Now, you have to engage in this process. The ability to have a dialogue with yourself is rather limited.
Wilkins:Iíve sometimes found that if Iíve been thinking about something, I will write down a question. And then having written the question down on a piece of paper itís, in a sense, a little bit like somebody having made the point. Doubtless this happens to everybody, presumably, but it is very difficult to think out anything, develop ideas, simply in oneís head where you have to have memory to sort of remember one thought and it leads on to another one. This is why you write things down. Isnít this where you were?
Bohm:Well, yes, but youíll find it is much harder to do this with changing —
Wilkins:Yes, I can see that.
Bohm:The point is if youíre going to change the language, the meanings arise in communication. Simply writing something down is not going to get very far. [Pause to make a phone call]. I think this language; there is something in communication which is essential. I actually talked a bit with Schumacher in these terms; we did a little bit that way. But because of all these things that happened, we never got on with it. So I published it in the book, The Wholeness and the Implicate Order as a chapter just to show what might be done with it so that one could see that our language is really holding us back and we are affected by our way of using it. Now, the next chapter sort of followed on that, which was saying that this language was aimed at a natural way of dealing with process, which would not only be a process, but which would be conscious of itself as a process. That the language would draw attention to itself as a process in realmodation. So where as an ordinary language it does not draw attention to itself as a process, but as something which is sort of aesthetic. We are not conscious when we ordinarily use language that we are engaging in a process. Our consciousness is not — we are not conscious of the process, but in realmodation we can be into the conscious of the process because the very word realmodations suggests thatís what weíre doing. I had words for language as well I canít remember, which would be more or less like bringing in the word to languageate. I had a better word than that. What is the Latin word for talk? Iíve forgotten now.
Wilkins:Diere [?] or something.
Bohm:Maybe. I canít remember now. But I had some sort of — I usually went back to the Latin root and constructed a word. For example, to think, I use the French word pensar, the Latin root, pensamento, Portuguese. So I said to pensate would be to get attention to thinking. To repensate would be to continue that, which could be repensant or irrepensant, but one would have to go through this whole pensation, would be thought. Or really, repensation. So the first point was to go through some words to see how you would use them in the short context. To make a really long context I think would require some real attempt to communicate that way. What I did lead on to was the question of understanding the nature of process, because we were saying that the basic idea was what is is movement. What is is process. Thatís the ancient idea of Heraclitus, right? But then we have a contradiction in our ordinary way of talking because we say our language is not treated as a process. And in fact, if I say what is is process, I donít treat that statement as a process. I say thatís going to be the truth, right? But suppose I say what is is process, what is is movement, but even that isnít movement, so that leads to dialectics. Is that clear? Whatever statement I say, it is going to move to something else. Is that clear? If you apply the notion of movement to thought itself you will inevitably come to dialectic. If you donít come to dialectic youíre saying other things may move, but thought is not movement, except in a superficial way. You may say thought moves, but thought is movement means dialectic. If we say what is is movement, then thought must be movement, then what thought is must be movement, therefore, itís the movement which is thought and not the static concepts.
Wilkins:Yes, when you say dialectic, that doesnít necessarily include the idea that you have the opposites.
Bohm:See, the minute it moves it moves to something different, right?
Wilkins:Yes, this is the point about whether differences are —
Bohm:Carried to extremes, that must lead to the opposite, right?
Wilkins:There was something which I meant to read about this about the point to what extent differences can be represented in an opposition and theyíre not all together [???]
Bohm:Well, the essential differences are oppositions. Thatís the idea. There are differences which are mere variety. But for example, in movement on a line we have the movement one way and the movement the other way, right? So we find that the essential differences in movement are in opposition. The point now of going further with that was that how are we to understand this process if what is movement, but we are going to seem to be denying that by saying even this much change to its opposite? Or to something else, anyway. And therefore it seems we canít maintain this view. So that was a puzzle. So Iím trying to say that came from the use of the Aristotelian logic. Because if we say, according to Aristotelian logic, we could say A is A. We could say A is not-A. Thatís one of the basic assumptions of Aristotelian logic. And between A and not-A is no mean and so on. Suppose we now say we have thought and non-thought, the basic division. We say thereís a kind of reality beyond thought and thereís thought. Using Aristotleís logic we would call thought T and a non-thought NT. We would say T is not NT, right? Thatís the first statement. But we could immediately see that this canít be true, because thought has a being, which is beyond thought. For example, movement in the nervous system and so on. Therefore, thought is non-thought. Is that clear?
Wilkins:I think so.
Bohm:At the same time, we would also have to say non-thought is thought because whatever is non-thought is grasped in thought. The very notion non-thought is a thought. So thought is non-thought and non-thought is thought. So we have the contradiction and the attempt to separate the thought and non-thought. And also, what we can then say — So therefore Aristotleís statement something is either thought or non-thought canít hold, right? So we have to say itís both. First of all, something is both thought and non-thought, which is a contradiction. And then in the end you say itís neither thought or non-thought because itís something beyond both. Whatís implied by that is a higher synthesis beyond both of those. So we have to say some reality is implied beyond the distinction of thought and non-thought, because thought is part of reality, and reality is part of thought. Itís a word which is part of thought. So therefore, you have to give up this Aristotelian logic to discuss this question.
Wilkins:Yes, I think thatís the important point to try and get clear.
Bohm:The question is what will you do then? What can we say about thought that get that puzzle by? What I wanted to propose is to say that we can understand this. When we get this far weíre asking the question what is the meaning of metaphysics or assumptions about the nature of reality, which is where weíre coming to? This metaphysics is true even if a very small child was doing it. The minute he makes a distinction of thought and non-thought, he is doing metaphysics. Thatís reality and thatís only a thought. Now, because that distinction is proposed in thought, you say that applies to everything, everything is either thought or non-thought. Thatís the way we get these oppositions. We make a distinction which applies to everything. You say everything is either thought or non-thought. They must stand in opposition.
Wilkins:Yes, do you mean a child has a consciousness that he can distinguish something in the imagination from the real?
Bohm:From the real thing.
Wilkins:But that process of distinguishing is thought.
Bohm:Not only that, but once he goes further and says everything is either something real or in the imagination, then he has gone into metaphysics.
Bohm:Every child is full of metaphysics. Itís not just philosophers.
Wilkins:Yes, well, what about magic? You mean that he can add that or not add it?
Bohm:Yes, well, thatís another question. If he makes that distinction, then he is in a field of metaphysics. In magic, he may be beyond that distinction. But once he gets to making it, then he is making metaphysics.
Wilkins:Presumably, metaphysics could also encompass magic.
Bohm:It could, but Iím saying that as first metaphysics is usually anti-magical. So therefore you have this metaphysics, and we could say what is the role of metaphysics? There is certainly no way ever to prove it or disprove it, right? Neither logically nor — you know, it doesnít follow logic. It raises questions that are not logical. You canít from any finite number of experiences say anything about everything, right? Therefore, is there any role to metaphysics at all? See, as some philosophers have said we should get rid of it. But Iím saying no, there is a role, which is that we think of thought not as with its content. We say thought is part of the dance of the mind. Metaphysics is part of the attempt to achieve a certain harmony in that dance. Therefore, we have gone beyond the meaning. Say that the ultimate function or activity of metaphysics is helping to make the brain operate more harmoniously. If itís bad metaphysics, it will operate less harmoniously. Because metaphysics is not in correspondence with any facts that you could ever get. Nor is it tested by logic, ultimately.
Wilkins:Do you need to bring the brain into it?
Bohm:Yes, because the dance of the mind will affect the brain. Aristotelian metaphysics disorganizes the brain. I want to say, when itís extended too far. It helps create these violent enmities and so on, saying itís either this or that, and thatís all there is to it. That means that we have confrontation.
Wilkins:Yes, well, I could see that.
Bohm:So Iím trying to say metaphysics is not nearly an ethereal subject. It actually tremendously affects the brain. Metaphysical questions affect the brain more than most others because what is true of everything has a powerful affect. Words like always, forever, never, and so on are terribly powerful. Theyíre used in popular songs because of their power. But they are metaphysical notions.
Wilkins:Yes, you mean all science is sort of metaphysical.
Bohm:Yes. And that has powerful — See, metaphysics is what will surely be defended irrationally, if youíre not conscious of it. On the other hand some people have said just scrub out all metaphysics, but you canít. Therefore, we have to say what is the right attitude to metaphysics. I say metaphysics is part of the process. Itís the dance of the mind. In metaphysics the mind is creatively trying to achieve harmony, but when it gets stuck then it achieves disharmony.
Wilkins:Who are the people who want to get rid of all —
Wilkins:Were there any others apart from them?
Bohm:I donít know. Positivism has been a very powerful trend in modern thought.
Wilkins:[Inaudible] limited, isnít it?
Bohm:Uh huh [yes].
Wilkins:I was going to say that the rise of positivism is almost comparable with the rise of Nazism. Itís quite extraordinary.
Bohm:It has a very powerful effect on the mind making those assumptions. It affects the brain.
Wilkins:I think thatís very true, yes. This is the basis of so much of the impact of the science on peopleís general attitudes toward life.
Bohm:Yes, and vice versa, the general attitudes work in science. This positivist attitude may have equally started outside of science and just people wanting to be practical and get results and not be bothered with all these varied questions and so on.
Wilkins:Sort of Philistine [?].
Bohm:Yes. But anyway, I felt that I had come to some sort of consistent view of process, but I didnít fully develop it. I should have stated that this is a proposal; not a truth which I am stating. What I have said about all of this is a proposal also into harmony. But just to say I am not putting it as a final truth, but rather itís the best thing I can see for the time. And that might well be subject to change. We will never get a final — I canít see us getting a final solution to this question. The dialectical process will go on. Whatever we say, it will not be complete. And therefore it will go on to its opposite eventually. Any attempt to say something about everything will inevitably produce opposites.
Wilkins:Okay, well then you could say that was the reason why dialectics led to itís exact opposite in the ???
Yes, well it helped anyway. The positivists (and perhaps other people, I canít remember) said letís get out of this by not trying to say something about everything. But see, you canít get out of it that easily because they already by doing that, they have said something about everything. Which is to say that you must always avoid metaphysics. But that is metaphysics. Any statement with always is purely metaphysical. So you canít actually get out of the question —