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Implicate Order

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David Bohm left a considerable legacy. Particularly since he was still working on new ideas, as well as developing the implications of earlier ones, right up to the time of his death. One of his significant ideas was that of the Implicate Order [See David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge, London, also Bohm and Peat, Science, Order and Creativity]

The reality described by classical physics, Bohm suggested, a reality of solid, well-defined bodies with definite positions in space and a specific duration in time should be termed the Explicate Order. Much of what we perceive of the world is in the form of this Explicate Order. By contrast, the reality appropriate to quantum theory is one of superpositions, enfoldings, interpenetrations and a space that is non-local. Bohm referred to this as the Implicate Order. For the purposes of illustration Bohm pictured this implicate order in terms of images of a holograph, or a drop of dye being twisted into a fluid until it becomes totally enfolded. (But such metaphors are, in themselves limited and do not exploit the full implications of the Implicate Order.) Thus elementary particles could be thought of not as exclusively solid well-defined objects in space but rather as processes that unfold and enfold out of the entire universe.

Referring to the persistent inability of science to reconcile Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum theory, Bohm suggested that what was required was not so much new theories and ideas but a radical new order within physics. The Implicate Order would be such a new order. According to Bohm physics is still dominated by what he called the Cartesian Order. That is, an explicate notion of space and time which, in turn is expressed using Cartesian co-ordinates - every point in space-time being well defined and corresponding to a set of numbers. The considerable practical success of the Cartesian order lies in the fact that the motion and transformations of objects in space are describable by differential equations. By contract, an Implicate Order would proceed via some different descriptive scheme, such as an algebra.

But, according to Bohm, the Implicate Order does not apply to quantum physics alone but is also an appropriate way to view the processes of consciousness. The neuroscientist, Karl Pribram, for example, has used the holographic analogy in his model of the way memory is distributed in a delocalised manner across the brain. Bohm also felt that the Implicate Order provided insights into the ways we perceive the world and work with ideas. In this sense the Implicate Order is a little like Bohr's Complementarity - an idea born out of physics which extends into more general fields of consciousness, art and culture.

Yet Bohm has left behind him a number of questions as to how we are to interpret his writings on the Implicate order and how this concept may be extended and applied. After all, Bohm was always developing his ideas so that what he wrote or lectured about the Implicate Order at one period may not be exactly the same in an other. Currently these ideas are being explored by Bohm's long-time collaborator, Basil Hiley, at Birkbeck College, London; by the philosopher Paavo Pylkaanen and by others.

Attached are notes relating to the Implicate Order. Bear in mind that these are speculative and unedited.

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See also
Bohm-Biderman Correspondence



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