Seeing Double: Shared Identities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature

Overview

The separateness and connection of individuals is perhaps the central question of human life: What, exactly, is my individuality? To what degree is it unique? To what degree can it be shared, and how? To the many philosophical and literary speculations about these topics over time, modern science has added the curious twist of quantum theory, which requires that the elementary particles of which everything consists have no individuality at all. All aspects of chemistry depend on this lack of individuality, as do ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $1.99   
  • Used (8) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

The separateness and connection of individuals is perhaps the central question of human life: What, exactly, is my individuality? To what degree is it unique? To what degree can it be shared, and how? To the many philosophical and literary speculations about these topics over time, modern science has added the curious twist of quantum theory, which requires that the elementary particles of which everything consists have no individuality at all. All aspects of chemistry depend on this lack of individuality, as do many branches of physics. From where, then,does our individuality come? In Seeing Double, Peter Pesic invites readers to explore this intriguing set of questions. He draws on literary and historical examples that open the mind (from Homer toMartin Guerre to Kafka), philosophical analyses that have helped to make our thinking and speech more precise, and scientific work that has enabled us to characterize the phenomena of nature.

Though he does not try to be all-inclusive, Pesic presents a broad range of ideas, building toward a specific point of view: that the crux of modern quantum theory is its clash with our ordinary concept of individuality. This represents a departure from the usual understanding of quantum theory. Pesic argues that what is bizarre about quantum theory becomes more intelligible as we reconsider what we mean by individuality and identity in ordinary experience. In turn, quantum identity opens a new perspective on us.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Booklist - Ray Olson
Pesic suavely creates a masterpiece by saying much in little space.
From the Publisher

"Pesic suavely creates a masterpiece by saying much in little space." Ray
Olson
Booklist

The MIT Press

Physics World - Levy-Leblond
... an ambitious but sober reminder of the deep philosophical questions revolving around the ideas of individuality, identity and distinguishability.
The Guardian - PD Smith
... offers a rare insight into the bizarre quantum realm and its implications for our sense of self.
Publishers Weekly
In this suggestive but almost terse volume, Pesic, a musician-physicist at St. John's College, probes the mysteries of individuality and identity in light of quantum theory. For Pesic, quantum theory poses a paradox: electrons and other elementary particles exhibit no individuality, yet we who are composed of these particles believe we are individuals. Every electron is so devoid of distinguishing features that one cannot even mark a particular electron to trace its history; they are perfectly identical instances of their species, a property Pesic christens "identicality." To explore the implications of identicality, Pesic looks not only to science but also to literature and philosophy. He considers Penelope's recognition of Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey, the ship of Theseus, Democritus, Leibniz, Kant, Martin Guerre, Conrad and Kafka, and hopscotches through the history of physics from Newton and Maxwell to Planck and the articulation of quantum theory in the 1920s. Pesic argues that the admittedly strange quantum realm becomes more intelligible if one treats the loss of individuality as a fundamental postulate rather than a peripheral consequence of scaling down the physical world. He concludes by suggesting how identicality may point to novel ways of viewing ourselves, perhaps as modes of a single field, existing through participation. The prose style is clear and accessible, the treatment concise and admirably suited for the author's goal of beginning "a thoughtful conversation among many people," including nonspecialists. But the issues are so large and compelling that the book's brevity is at times frustrating, particularly in its most crucial sections on quantum theory and its implications. Still, the book does a respectable job of opening the conversation it seeks. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262661737
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2003
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,107,515
  • Product dimensions: 5.37 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Pesic is Tutor and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College, Santa Fe. He is the author of Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science; Seeing Double: SharedIdentities in Physics, Philosophy, and Literature; Abel's Proof: An Essay on the Sources and Meaning of Mathematical Unsolvability; and Sky in a Bottle, all published by the MIT Press.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1 Commodity and Sacrament 7
2 The Ship of Theseus 15
3 Atoms and Monads 25
4 Secret Sharers 39
5 Distinguishability and Paradox 51
6 The Fields of Light 69
7 Entanglement 85
8 Identicality 101
9 The Silence of the Sirens 121
10 Beyond Being 133
Epilogue 147
Notes 151
Acknowledgments 173
Index 175
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)