REALITY AND EMPATHY: Physics, Mind, and Science In the 21st Century by

REALITY AND EMPATHY: Physics, Mind, and Science In the 21st Century

Email this review


Readers can expect less joy and more hard work from this scholarly exercise in metaphysics by the prolific Cambridge-trained physician/scholar/writer, currently Adjunct Professor at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. Comfort's premise is sound enough: psychiatrists probing patients' problems must come to grips with each person's world-model--that notion of reality and identity that is implicit or explicit in one's existence. The times are rife with competing models, recognition of failed systems, a certain confusion, disorder, existential anxiety. Comfort alludes to the limitations of old-time religions, to Newtonian reductionism, to the allure of the paranormal, Eastern mysticism, pseudo-science, etc. At the same time, evolutionary biology, brain science, psychology, and particle physics are presenting their own new orders. The neuroscientists point out that mind is both the order-seeking element and the instrument through which order is found: a self-reflecting identity. Physicists appear to be content to incorporate logical contradictions--holding on to various dualities and polarities (e.g., elements of waves and particles). Comfort's approach is to explicate current thinking in physics and biology, emphasizing analogies and metaphors that bridge fields. Thus he speaks of the influence on physics of concepts of brain structure, reworking the hologram of David Bohm and Karl Pribram. He also deals with mathematical-logical models, evolutionary concepts, Jungian world views. These excursions, plus some arch fables, Socratic dialogues, and other entr'acte material, make up a book that's occasionally brilliant, always glib, sometimes funny, but often impenetrable. Comfort does state Iris own feeling that the metaphysical leap should be one in which introspection is joined with disciplined science--the empathy added to reality. For scholars and other diehards, still.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1984
Publisher: State Univ. of New York Press