Materiality, Mattering and Transcendence

Quantum Mechanics (QM) and Quantum Field Theory (QFT) together de-materialize what prior phyiscs, as well as the majority of other science, projected as material reality. This brings a number of notions into play and into the play of exchange. Materiality, or matter in the physicalist sense reverts to its originary yet esoteric meaning of mattering. “Material” means thus what is relevant, in the sense of what is material to a case in legal terminology.

Matter and meaning are not separate elements. They are inextricably fused together, and no event, no matter how energetic, can tear them asunder. Even atoms, whose very name, ατoµoσ (atomos), means “indivisible” or “uncuttable,” can be broken apart. But matter and meaning cannot be dissociated, not by chemical processing, or centrifuge, or nuclear blast. Mattering is simultaneously a matter of substance and significance, most evidently perhaps when it is the nature of matter that is in question, when the smallest parts of matter are found to be capable of exploding deeply entrenched ideas and large cities. Perhaps this is why contemporary physics makes the inescapable entanglement of matters of being, knowing, and doing, of ontology, epistemology, and ethics, of fact and value, so tangible, so poignant.

Barad, Karen (2007-06-20). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Kindle Locations 173-179). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

This de-materializing of things, hitherto determined as real by physicalist terms such as extension, duration etc. replaces the nominality of a thing with its pure verbalization, denoted by the gerund “mattering”.

In the extreme case, the externality of reality is disavowed, not for a solipsistic self-generated “universe” but a parallel (more accurately, parallax) monadism of similar “worldings”.

The model developed here also gives a fresh account of subjectivity: I am I~. Subjectivity is not denied, vitiated, or mechanized but is given a new life—not as a substance or an action but as alter. I cannot be observed—the subject is “private”—in that I defaults the domain of public observation, yet takes action. I’s action is to participate in constraining the vacuum state match. If we are such creatures … spontaneous upsurges! … autopoietic and autorhoetic (self forming, self-maintaining and self-flowing), variably attuned monads … monads interiorly bathed in lumen naturale … then brain computation is only a pragmatic capability, not the whole story. Being/presence no longer need be a problematic forgotten by science but quantum brain theoretically understandable. If we are at heart such amachinative and alogical quantum creatures, we are ultimately “free” of complete control by our universe … left with some dignity, as poetic and spiritual beings … we Turing-incompatible I~s of an alter universe … empty addresses of default, where not-even-nothing is there … free of logos, episteme and determinism … for each, our indominable harmonious sovereignty assured.


Globus account of world as the “between” of quantum field states produced by the brain has the positive aspect of reintroducing consciousness and its experience without attempting to retain the mechanistic projection of reality only made possible by the prior removal of consciousnes. The monadism he utilizes to replace “quotidian” metaphysics, as described in the following passage, though, remains dependent on certain aspects of that projection:


For the monadological conception, the between is not identified with consciousness or subjectivity but with world thrownness, to which real numbers apply. In the between of the monadic quantum brain our world-thrownness continually lights up; our existence as world-thrown clears in the between. Beyond the monadic bubbles of our living brains with quantum field theoretic degrees of freedom is the unknowable and unthinkable (cf. Plotnitsky, this volume). These bubbles are in “post-established harmony” (Nakagomi, this volume). The monads sustain the illusion of a world-incommon, maya, because they have been similarly tuned by local sociocultural practices, 14 and so when the input is by and large the same across different monads, more or less the same world lights up.

The claim that we are truly monadic beings is surely hard to accept, counter to every moment of our conscious experience of world and its affordances. If we are monadic, then the world is weird, unheimlich, sorceric, hoisted by each monad in parallel, hoisted in the ~conjugate match between quantum attunement and input invariants representative of quantum reality … we are monadic bubbles of disclosure in which we always find ourselves already thrown amidst our world. This position sounds silly to common sense (even more silly than quantum mechanics sounded when first proposed). But as noted above, the quantum revolution extended to brain functioning calls for revolutionary ideas about Being, too, and so the monadological ontology should be taken seriously.


While there is much of use in Globus account, the “monadism” is itself dependent on the scientific view as already abstracted. The “externality” of things (though not of the reality that structures our understanding) is founded pre-ontologically on their stubbornness, particularly the stubborn ordinariness of the everyday, something that cannot be ignored when one is engrossed, involved with things, rather than “stepping-back and just looking”. The subjectivity that is reincorporated by Globus is not unquestioned, but the most cogent question regarding the I-Subject remains overlooked. The “I-Subject” is posited, invented by the self precisely as the kind of gap he describes. Simultaneously this I-Subject disappears when one is engrossed and involved in coping with the things we encounter within the world. It is inconstant, posited precisely in the “standing-back” which cannot be understood as it appears to common sense, as some sort of metaphorical spatial switch of the self, but by the invention of a subject posited at infinity behind where the self factically is. This switch of perspective to one “behind” the self is the underlying meaning of the spatial “stepping-back”. The invention of the subject as a gap itself arose in early Renaissance Italy with the experiments in one-point perspective, something that can be seen precisely in the hole cut in the canvas to demonstrate such perspective. That “hole” is the meaning of the I-Subject as the subtracted gap that representation represents-for. Descartes’ mistake of conflating that subject and the self that thinks and thus also represents was noted as early as Kant. But it remains operative as the identical but
other subject of modern philosophy and science and underlies the notion of monadism in Leibniz. Going back to the recursively aware self inverts Leibniz monadism – monads “have no windows” because they are always already outside. The difficulty is not external reality, but the ability to experience the internal.

This can be seen quite clearly in the experience of waking up. Initially what is experienced is the external as what is within the world as such, only from out of this experience can we return to reflexively experience the self that experiences. What experiences also experiences presentation itself, the irruption of what irrupts, only after the invention of the I-Subject in the abstractive stepping-back does the self “re-present” for this invented I-Subject.

A fundamental misinterpretation of QM and QFT is directly expressed by Globus, that via an apparatus quantum complementarity “collapses” to classical physics. This misinterpretation is at the root of the desire for a “theory of everything” that would somehow unite them. However the failure of classical physics in its predictions when measurement became sufficiently accurate (a revealing by technology, not primarily a scientific advance) that prompted the revolution in physics that became QM and QFT, simultaneously demonstrated that the imaginative and mathematical projection of reality known as classical physics was fantasy, albeit one that in specific areas approximated reality. This projection was itself predicated on the subtraction of conscious experience from what was projected, a subtraction itself made possible by the ambiguous I-Subject in Cartesian thinking. The urge to somehow ‘hang on’ to an exposed fantasy is in truth an attempt to hold on to the invalid assumptions concerning the ambiguous I-Subject, which could only arise in the “smoke and mirrors” of quasi-magical perspectival tricks in Renaissance painting and beyond.

The mode of asleep consciousness in fact exhibits the features of Globus’ monadism. As one might expect in parallel or parallax monadism, despite an overall similarity with waking experience (and with the sleep experience of others) what appears external also lacks the stubborn regularity, predictability and everydayness, ordinariness, of the things of waking experience. It is useful here to think of concrete situations of brain/mind coincidence, such as Bernard Lonergan termed “neurological demand functions”, which if not satisfied in waking life (since consciousness can choose to defer the satisfaction of such demands) often express in dream. Neurological demands that, while often deferred in waking life also must be satisfied while still awake, such as the need to use the loo, maintain the stubbornness and commonality of experience between different selves that is not maintained in those demands that only find satisfaction in dreams, where the satisfaction of the neurological demand may seem both nonsensical and only in some accidental fashion related to the demand itself.

Globus also misses the difference between self-aware, conceptually framed consciousness and consciousness experienced as pre-conceptual, in both its metaphorical and intuitive forms. In another instance of brain/mind coincidence, but one directed the other way, most of us can control our breathing (to a degree) and yet we are unable to say precisely how we do it. It is obviously intentional and can be done on demand, yet the means by which intentional consciousness effects the change is not something of which we are even metaphorically aware. Using some notion such as un- or sub- consciousness to explain what patently arises from consciousness, indeed intentionally and self-aware consciousness, and patently operates through non-conscious brain processes, is no more than an attempt to sustain a ridiculous assumption via ridiculous fictions. Not only does consciousness experience world through the brain in a transparent fashion, we control the body similarly. This indicates a similar transcendence of reality as shared rather than the isolation of monads. The uncanniness of monadism is only experienced in situations that provoke the “step-back” or invention of the I-Subject, while engrossed the ordinariness of the everyday and our at-home-ness in it renders even those things experienced as external as nearly transparent, we do not see the hammer, we simply hammer with it without experiencing it as such.

Globus does provide a foundation for extending the rescue of scientific modeling, which has so far been accomplished only by QM and QFT themselves, from an exchange in which science as it has been is radically undermined. What he calls Heidegger’s “arrogant” dismissal of science appears much less arrogant when pre-quantum science appears as what it essentially is, accounting, as accounting-for what is revealed primarily by technology, which was always prior.

To return to the more cogent problem of the de-materialization of such reality, presencing must be such as to give the impression of materiality. The non-nominality of presencing nevertheless produces an apparent nominality, one that appears as material or matter. This “material” appears within an openness, one that we ourselves are, and while the truth of essence in the exchange becomes the gifting of change itself rather than any substantial materiality underlying what presences, while something endures as presencing it retains the stubbornness that we associate with the material, at least insofar as what presences does so as a body and not a thing of some other mode of experience. As openness, though, we must be inherently openness-to. Since what we are thus open-to remains mysterious as to how its stubborn transcendence is sustained in the absence of any substantiality, with a simultaneous nod to the non-mythical theology of Rahner and the technological poiesis of the music of OMD, I will term the residue of the de-materialization of matter its “mysteriality”. It is as mystereal that things presence and matter, rather than as the real of metaphysical over determination, a real that always simultaneously means property in the sense of ‘real estate’.

The mystereal is what is carried over in the collapse of simile to metaphor enacted in perception itself. Sense-certainty, in Hegel’s sense, is direct experience of what irrupts in its particularity, where all that can be said is “that”. Perception both initiates the similarity of “that as ___” and collapses the duality expressed in the as into a unitary perception of, for instance, a tree. This action of perception grounds pre-ontological, pre-rational understanding as metaphor, and rejects the irreducibility of reason as rational consciousness.

While this rejection of the irreducibility of reason rescues any developmental account it simultaneously restricts the truth-claim of such accounts, since the rationality such accounts use is derivative and originates in the very development such accounts attempt to account-for in a rational way. The rationality of development, and thus its accessibility to reason, is drastically limited.







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