Markus Müller´s “no-container” ontological concept



I get the rough outline, but would greatly appreciate any insight in the format of ELI5. Thanks!

In: Physics

A quick search on this yielded me….. Nothing.

As far as I can tell, it’s related to philosophical mathematics and physics, and deals with quantum information. There aren’t many that has studied in that field and even less so that understand it.

Perhaps ask in more targeted subreddits that are physics or quantum information related.

Like /u/spsfisch I struggled to find something on this but eventually uncovered [this essay]( which defines the idea on page five.

I cannot really comment on it from a physical perspective, but there are some easy metaphysical tie-ins that I’ll attempt to characterize. Oh, and this will definitely not be ELI5 (sorry).

When we think about metaphysics – that is, the second order analysis of the physical world that is still more or less rooted in ‘philosophy’ and not the empirical methods of ‘science’ – there’s a notion that the world and all of the physical entities in it have a discrete phenomenological lineage or provenance from some root, universal ‘entity’. For Plato, it was his idea of the ‘forms’ – all houses have some shared abstract notion of ‘houseness’ that exists independently of any actual, physical house – hence the common word ‘Platonism’.

However, even in cases where Platonism is rejected, there is still usually an assumption objects are rooted in reality as objects in their own right, often with ‘hidden’ qualities that can be discovered. This basically explains the Western scientific paradigm of reductionism in physics – looking deeper and deeper into a cell or mineral to find molecules, then atoms, then sub-atomic particles, then quarks, then strings(?), etc. This paradigm has been very successful as demonstrated by our technology, but it does come with a couple of caveats.

The big one is the idea that with these ‘hidden’ qualities we can never know the truth. We can only know an ‘approximation’ of the truth. On the philosophical side, we can see this pop-up ontologically with Descartes and his ‘Cartesian dualism’ – there is a difference between the mind (soul) and body, which translates into a limiting interface between the external, objective world and the internal, subjective consciousness observing that world. An apple on a table is neither an apple nor a table, but a mass of buzzing atoms. Moreover, we are not ‘seeing’ that mass of buzzing atoms, but rather ‘seeing’ what our mind has interpreted based on the photons reflecting off it. This is essentially that ‘anti-realist’ position that Mueller refers to in the linked essay.

(By contrast, the phenomenological tradition (i.e. Husserl) tries to overcome this Cartesian problem by essentially saying that whatever ‘appearance’ you obtain from an object – even if there are an infinite number of manifolds you could be observing – that appearance is a true representation of the object and thus IS the object. Not very useful when compared to scientific reductionism, but perhaps I am also being unfair.)

In any case, all of these positions are predicated on a metaphysics of ‘things’ that are objective ‘containers’ in themselves holding properties/qualities. What Mueller is suggesting is that this is **not** the case:

> In particular, what is rejected is the ‘doctrine of containment’: “On this doctrine, the world is a kind of container
bearing objects that change location and properties over time.
These objects cause things to happen by interacting directly with one another. […] they themselves are containers in turn,
and their properties and causal dispositions are to be explained
by the properties and dispositions of the objects they contain
(and which are often taken to comprise them entirely).”

What he proposes instead of a metaphysics of things is a metaphysics of *structure* in the form of the following hypothesis:

> The quantum world is probabilistic structure. In other words, it is not a “thing” or a collection of things, but it is the multitude of statistical patterns and their structural relations that any observer encounters in their data.

Unfortunately, this may be where the physics takes over, so it would be even more reckless for me to try to comment on that.