Tag Archives: metaphysics

Paul McCartney & the Gedankenexperiment of Music

Because this isn’t just any record, there’s still more. . .

Metaphorically, we live moving forward. The future is ahead. The past is behind. The future is something that we can potentially change based on decisions or actions taken in the now. Once a decision or action has been made, the consequences of that are fixed, at least to the extent that an alternative is no longer in play, as it is behind us. However, back in the early 1950s Erwin Schrödinger, he of the cat-in-the-box fame, posited that the “wave function” that he described in equations doesn’t necessarily collapse as a result of observation. Or said another way, when someone opens the box the cat is either dead or alive, which would seem to make the “wave function” come to an end, but he argued that the “wave function” continues to exist, such that in another universe the cat is in a condition that it isn’t in the other. This gave rise to the Many Worlds Interpretation, which basically has it that there is an infinite number of universes such that a decision that “you” make is being made alternatively elsewhere. (And the MWI also gave rise to Marvel making billions of dollars on its movies.)

Still, this has it moving forward: If this, then that. So even if you didn’t decide to quit your job and move to Tahiti and that happens in another universe, it has still happened: cause/effect.

But there is another idea that Schrödinger was involved with and which has continued to gain the support of several quantum mechanics is “retrocausality.”

As Lisa Zyga wrote in an article on Phys.org:

“. . .it does not mean that signals can be communicated from the future to the past—such signaling would be forbidden even in a retrocausal theory due to thermodynamic reasons. Instead, retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another particle) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.”

“A decision made in the present can influence something in the past.”

If we consider the MWI, John Lennon didn’t die in 1980, George Harrison didn’t in 2001, and the Beatles hadn’t dissolved in 1970. (All of these things may have happened in separate universes.)

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Does This Sound Like the Real Thing or What Is Real?

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership.” —Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 1935


One of the things that is absolutely taken for granted is the ubiquity of the arts in our daily lives. Music comes from everywhere and while much of it doesn’t necessarily rise to the levels that one would imagine would have required the invocation of Euterpe, think only of the situation of someone 200 years ago:

One of the least expensive, most common instruments, the harmonica, wasn’t invented until 1821.

While we associate harmonicas with blues performers and hobos, it is a pretty good bet that back in the first half of the 19th century Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann’s instrument wasn’t an inexpensive item.

Hearing music–which we don’t even think about–was certainly something special for much longer than it hasn’t been.

Continue reading Does This Sound Like the Real Thing or What Is Real?