NotaBene .

Quanta, Rationality and Archaic Images

The analysis in this article is focused on the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Atoms and subatomic particles display properties unlike those of bodies and forces in the macro-world; these new properties include particle-wave dualism, absence of continuity in space and time, the impossibility of tracing the transformations occurring across the states of the particles. The only laws that prove equally valid both for the macro and the micro worlds are those of conservation of energy, momentum and charge. The categories valid in the macro-world (causality, discontinuity and continuity, processuality, space and time) lose their validity in the world of micro-particles. This is the framework in which we examine the crisis of classical rationality and the language that would be adequate to describe quantum phenomena. We argue that the mathematical language which successfully deals with the paradoxes of quantum physics is not, and cannot be, sufficient in itself, and that it inevitably engages in dialogue with other languages that are more concrete and closer to common human experience. Moreover, due precisely to the paradoxical nature of quantum mechanics, even its creators found it convenient to resort to images typical of magical-mythical mentality and poetry. The discontinuity of quantum phenomena is similar to the magical transformations of characters in mythology and fairy tales. Thus, science, which in its pursuit of absolute objectivity has progressively freed itself of anthropomorphic representations, has found within the depths of matter (as well as in the singularities of cosmic evolution) certain images analogous to the images and metamorphoses proper to archaic mentality.
Keywords: quantum physics, microparticles, causality, rationality, mythologies, poetry, metamorphoses