Conceptualizing Reality: The Philosophical Implications of Relative-State Quantum Mechanics and Shankara?s Advaita Vedanta


Eric Haynie

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Reality, and the pursuit of understanding it, is a fundamental core shared by both scientific inquiry and religious and spiritual belief. In the science of quantum mechanical theory, there has been a radical shift in the way that we recognize and conceptualize the reality of the world around us. A world once considered determinate and complete at the subatomic and constitutive level is now viewed as essentially probabilistic. Furthermore, the tenets of quantum theory introduced by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in their Copenhagen Interpretation assert that world is essentially unknowable in a complete and whole sense. Relative-State quantum mechanical theory, a contemporary topic of philosophical debate, is predicated on an ontology in which the breadth of reality is a unified, superposed wave function. Within the metaphysics of the Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu thought there exists a similar affirmation of fundamental unity. Shankara, the prominent figure in Advaita Vedantic thought, affirms that all has its being in Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. Both relative-state QMT and Shankara?s philosophy entail a dual-hierarchy of truth. Our own experiences and sense have their own truth, but pale in comparison to the truth of reality as it truly is. Each also describes reality in a way that is essentially unknowable through our sensory experience. This project explores the metaphysical claims that each of these philosophies makes. Furthermore, it analyses their intersections as a basis for pursuing a synthesis and reconciliation of science and religion.


Carolyn Brighouse




Ford Research Endowment

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