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"Implicate Order" and the Good Life

Ib Ravn



In an attempt to formulate a coherent view of quantum reality, the theoretical physicist David Bohm has proposed a new concept of order to supplement the mechanistic Cartesian order of traditional physics. The "implicate" order is a subtler and deeper order that emphasizes "unbroken wholeness in flowing movement," in contrast to the coarser and more superficial, "explicate" Cartesian order of distinct phenomena.

This dissertation attempts to develop a meaning for the idea of implicate order in the human world. First is offerend an account of some evolutionary episodes in terms of implicate and explicate order which draws on compatible work in cosmology, embryogenesis, visual perception, brain memory, decision making and phenomenology.

Two important characteristics of the implicate order are then identified: in an implicate order, the whole is enfolded (or represented) in each of its parts; and all parts renders different perspectives of the whole. Using arguments from decision making, the study of "flow" in human consciousness, and a model of skill acquisition, it is suggested that these characteristics manifest themselves in the human world as the "unity experience" and the "diversity experience," respectively. The former is the experience that a given part of one's life reveals a larger wholeness or unity; the subject-sobejct distinction is trnascende and one becomes absorbed in the flow of whatever activity is pursued. The latter is a deep appreciation of the diversity of ways in which people may seek the unity experience. These experiences are proposed as general values: social and psychological conditions ought to be such that these experiences are enhanced in all people.

A two-by-two matrix of these experiences demonstrates the danger of pursuing one to the exclusion of the other. The experience of unity without diversity turns into absolutism, the insistence that one's chosen activities or beliefs are the only right one. The experience of diversity without unity becomes relativism, the excessive tolerance of and indifference to other people's pursuits. The good life lies in the simultaneous realization of both, unity-in-diversity. Lastly, it is suggested that this so-called unity-diversity matrix may be used as a personal compass the meaning of whaich is negotiated and calibrated in a community of users.