"To be. To be. What does it mean to be?": On quantum-like literary models

Plotnitsky, Arkady
March 2012
AIP Conference Proceedings;3/29/2012, Vol. 1424 Issue 1, p463
Conference Proceeding
This paper discusses a particular type of quantum-like literary models, which are conceptual, rather than mathematical, in character. These models share with quantum mechanics the difficulties of applying the concepts of reality and causality at the ultimately ontological levels they consider, analogous to the level of quantum objects and processes in quantum mechanics. They respond to this difficulty by suspending and even precluding the application of both concepts, as do certain interpretations of quantum mechanics. I call such models and such interpretations "nonclassical ", in juxtaposition to "classical " models, which retain realism and causality at the ultimate level of description, even when considering random events. While I offer a sketch of Western thinking concerning the subject, I focus on certain philosophical and literary quantum-like thinking of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, associated with Romantic literature, which shows particular affinities with quantum-theoretical thinking later on. I also consider, in closing, the literary model, found in Beckett's plays, that was developed after quantum mechanics and that shares with it features that earlier literary quantum-like models do not possess.


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