History reveals that scientific theories are as impermanent as anything else. They are replaced by newer theories that account for observations in a more satisfactory way. So what are we to make of contemporary scientific accounts of nature? Are terms such as 'particle' and 'wave' nothing more than conceptual links in a theory, as the extreme of instrumentalism insists, to be written out of existence later when they no longer serve? What are the implications on the macrosopic level? How could it be that without some kind of independent physical reality, people generally share many experiences of their environment in common? What about causality and the fact that interactions occur in an apparently very regular way in the natural world, regardless of anyone's awareness of them? In short, what alternative is there to 'independent existence'?
The answer is, 'dependent existence'. In the analysis of the lack of one or many, a particle was said to have various attributes, such as extension and duration, which result from the dependence of one part to another. With the help of modern physics we can speak of electrons, mass, charge, wave functions and the uncertainty principle. But the existence of these sophisticated modern concepts does not negate any of the reasoning applied from ancient Buddhist manuscripts. Investigation of the relationship between the electron and its attributes shows that there is no one attribute that can be said to be that particle's intrinsic existence. These attributes, and therefore the entity we have endowed with these attributes, exist, but only in dependence on our conceptualization of them.
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Copyright © 2005 Dan Haig