9 Manifestation

If all fun­da­mental par­ti­cles in exis­tence — con­sid­ered by them­selves, apart from their rela­tions — are iden­tical in the strong sense of numer­ical iden­tity, we are in a posi­tion to account for the coming into being of both matter and space in a manner that is ele­gant and eco­nom­ical by any stan­dard. All we still need is a name for the one sub­stance that every fun­da­mental par­ticle intrin­si­cally is. We shall call it Ulti­mate Reality and abbre­viate it to UR, mindful of the fact that the prefix “ur-​​” car­ries the sense of “orig­inal.” Here goes:

by entering into spa­tial rela­tions with itself, UR cre­ates both matter and space, for space is the totality of existing spa­tial rela­tions, while matter is the cor­re­sponding apparent mul­ti­tude of relata — “apparent” because the rela­tions are self–rela­tions.

If fun­da­mental par­ti­cles are form­less, we are also in a posi­tion to under­stand the coming into being of form.

Forms in the most gen­eral sense are sets of spa­tial rela­tions in more or less stable con­fig­u­ra­tions. They come into exis­tence through aggre­ga­tion — the for­ma­tion of com­posite objects or bound states. Because they “exist” in multi-​​dimensional con­fig­u­ra­tion spaces, as prob­a­bility dis­tri­b­u­tions, they cannot be visu­al­ized (or cannot be visu­al­ized except as multi-​​dimensional prob­a­bility distributions).

The smallest struc­tures that can be visu­al­ized con­sist of the mean rel­a­tive posi­tions of a molecule’s con­stituent nuclei — the sticks of your chem­istry teacher’s balls-​​and-​​sticks models. What makes these struc­tures visu­al­iz­able is the fact that the fuzzi­ness of the rel­a­tive posi­tions of the nuclei (as mea­sured by the stan­dard devi­a­tions of the cor­re­sponding prob­a­bility dis­tri­b­u­tions) is gen­er­ally small com­pared to the rel­a­tive posi­tions them­selves (as given by their mean values).

For at least twenty-​​five cen­turies, the­o­rists — from meta­physi­cians to nat­ural philoso­phers to physi­cists and philoso­phers of sci­ence — have tried to explain the world from the bottom up, starting from an ulti­mate mul­ti­plicity and using con­cepts of com­po­si­tion and inter­ac­tion as their basic explana­tory tools. And to this very day it does not seem to strike them that the attempt to model reality from the bottom up — whether on the basis of an intrin­si­cally and com­pletely dif­fer­en­ti­ated space or space­time, out of locally instan­ti­ated phys­ical prop­er­ties, or by aggre­ga­tion, out of a mul­ti­tude of indi­vidual sub­stances — is at odds with what quantum mechanics is trying to tell us: that reality is struc­tured from the top down, by a self-​​differentiation of UR that does not bottom out.

The reason why this does not bottom out is that the dis­tinc­tions we make — be they of a spa­tial or a sub­stan­tial kind — are war­ranted by nothing but property-​​indicating events, and these do not license an absolute and unlim­ited objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of our dis­tinc­tions. If we con­cep­tu­ally par­ti­tion the phys­ical world into smaller and smaller regions, we reach a point where our dis­tinc­tions between the regions no longer cor­re­spond to any­thing in the phys­ical world, and if we go on dividing mate­rial objects, they lose their indi­vid­u­ality by ceasing to be re-​​identifiable.

The idea that reality is struc­tured from the top down is tra­di­tion­ally asso­ci­ated with the con­cept of man­i­fes­ta­tion: there is an Ulti­mate Reality (UR), which man­i­fests the world, or man­i­fests itself as the world, without losing its intrinsic unity. It does not get divided by the exis­tence of space, for if space is an expanse, this is undif­fer­en­ti­ated, and if space is the totality of existing spa­tial rela­tions, the cor­re­sponding ulti­mate relata are numer­i­cally identical.

Man­i­fes­ta­tion is a tran­si­tion from numer­ical iden­tity to apparent or effec­tive mul­ti­plicity, from indef­i­nite­ness to def­i­nite­ness, from indis­tin­guish­able­ness to dis­tin­guisha­bility, from UR to the macroworld. Quantum mechanics affords us a glimpse “behind” the man­i­fested world at form­less and numer­i­cally iden­tical par­ti­cles, non-​​visualizable atoms, and partly visu­al­iz­able mol­e­cules, which, instead of being the world’s con­stituent parts or struc­tures, are instru­mental in its manifestation.

The fact that the microworld is what it is because of what hap­pens or is the case in the macroworld, rather than the other way round, thus presents itself in a new light. For the indef­i­nite and indis­tin­guish­able cannot be described — nor even defined — without the help of prob­a­bility dis­tri­b­u­tions over events that are def­i­nite and dis­tin­guish­able, and such events only exist in the macroworld. What is instru­mental in the world’s man­i­fes­ta­tion can only be described in terms of the fin­ished product.