That we give off heat is not accidental, but essential. For this is precisely the manner in which we dispose of the surplus entropy we continually produce in our physical life process.

What Is Life? (1944)

Portrait of Erwin Schrödinger

Erwin Schrödinger

Quantum Physicist
August 12, 1887 – January 4, 1961

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in the field of quantum theory, which formed the basis of wave mechanics: he formulated the wave equation (stationary and time-dependent Schrödinger equation) and revealed the identity of his development of the formalism and matrix mechanics. Schrödinger proposed an original interpretation of the physical meaning of the wave function.

In addition, he was the author of many works in various fields of physics: statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, physics of dielectrics, colour theory, electrodynamics, general relativity, and cosmology, and he made several attempts to construct a unified field theory. In his book What Is Life? Schrödinger addressed the problems of genetics, looking at the phenomenon of life from the point of view of physics. He paid great attention to the philosophical aspects of science, ancient and oriental philosophical concepts, ethics, and religion. He also wrote on philosophy and theoretical biology. He is also known for his “Schrödinger’s cat” thought-experiment.

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Mind and Matter

Based on the Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College in Cambridge, Mind and Matter is Erwin Schrödinger’s investigation into a relationship which has eluded and puzzled philosophers since the earliest times.

Cover image for My View of the World

My View of the World

A Nobel prize winner, a great man and a great scientist, Erwin Schrödinger has made his mark in physics, but his eye scans a far wider horizon: here are two stimulating and discursive essays which summarize his philosophical views on the nature of the world. Schrödinger’s world view, derived from the Indian writings of the Vedanta, is that there is only a single consciousness of which we are all different aspects. He admits that this view is mystical and metaphysical and incapable of logical deduction. But he also insists that this is true of the belief in an external world capable of influencing the mind and of being influenced by it. Schrödinger’s world view leads naturally to a philosophy of reverence for life.

Cover image for What Is Life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell

What Is Life?

The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell

This book was based on a course of public lectures delivered by Schrödinger in February 1943, under the auspices of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies at Trinity College, Dublin. The lectures attracted an audience of about 400, who were warned "that the subject-matter was a difficult one and that the lectures could not be termed popular, even though the physicist’s most dreaded weapon, mathematical deduction, would hardly be utilized." Schrödinger’s lecture focused on one important question: How can the events in space and time—which take place within the spatial boundary of a living organism—be accounted for by physics and chemistry?

Mentioned in 13 documents

Ajahn Brahm

Buddhism, The Only Real Science

Brahm argues that modern science has become dogmatic, unlike Buddhism’s humble search for truth. He humorously derides scientists’ arrogance while praising Buddhism’s rigorous objectivity and avoidance of biases. Quantum theory reveals reality as uncertain, not fixed measurements. Ultimately, the mind transcends material reality—the world fits inside it, not vice versa. Buddhism keeps science’s empiricism while avoiding its blinkered materialism, making it the true “science of mind.”

Alan Watts

Does It Matter?

Alan Watts explores modern day problems from the outlook of his own philosophy in this collection of essays, inspired mainly by Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. Tackling problems of economics, technology, cooking, and clothing, he offers a fresh perspective which is all too foreign to Western society and implores us to get back in touch with the sensuous materiality of the world.

Ludwig von Bertalanffy

General System Theory

In his seminal work, biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy outlines a theory of systems that breaks down disciplinary boundaries and argues that there are general principles and laws applicable to systems of all kinds. He contends that phenomena should be viewed not in isolation but as components of systems interacting with their environments. Bertalanffy proposes that there are commonalities across biological, physical, and social systems that can be explored through systems thinking. He suggests the need for an overarching systems science to uncover these universal system principles. The book develops key concepts like open and closed systems, steady states, growth, feedback, homeostasis, differentiation, hierarchy, and emergence. General System Theory was groundbreaking in its interdisciplinary approach and helped foster the growth of systems theory across academia and society.

Stuart Kauffman

Is the Emergence of Life an Expected Phase Transition in the Evolving Universe?

This article proposes a new definition of life as chemical systems that achieve catalytic closure, constraint closure, and spatial closure. It argues that the emergence of such living systems is an expected phase transition in the evolving universe. However, the ever-creative evolution of life thereafter cannot be explained by physics alone, showing the limits of reductionism. Life is a double miracle—expected yet unexplainable.

Terence McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham

Metamorphosis

Join McKenna, Sheldrake, and Abraham on an imaginative journey into nature's creativity. Surfing the chaotic waters of psychedelic states, they catch glimpses of the Gaian mind behind Earth's being. Here, in imaginal realms beyond rationale, novelty is born. By relinquishing egoic control and surrendering to an unknowable creative force, we tap into the divine imagination—the eternal wellspring of nature's endless becomings. Immersing ourselves in this flow, we reunite with the cosmic creative essence.

Tyler Volk

Metapatterns

In the interdisciplinary tradition of Buckminster Fuller’s work, Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature, and Fritjof Capra’s Tao of Physics, Metapatterns embraces both nature and culture, seeking out the grand-scale patterns that help explain the functioning of our universe. Metapatterns begins with the archetypal patterns of space, both form-building and relational. Tyler Volk then turns to the arrows, breaks, and cycles that infuse the workings of time. With artful dexterity, he brings together many layers of comprehension, drawing on an astounding range of material from art, architecture, philosophy, mythology, biology, geometry, and the atmospheric and oceanographic sciences. Richly illustrating his metapatterns with a series of sophisticated collages prepared for this book, Volk offers an exciting new look at science and the imagination. As playful and intuitive as it is logical and explanatory, Metapatterns offers an enlightening view of the functional, universal form in space, processes in time, and concepts in mind.

Heinz von Förster

On Self-Organizing Systems and Their Environments

An adaptation of an address given at The Interdisciplinary Symposium on Self-Organizing Systems in Chicago, Illinois. Von Förster argues self-organizing systems don't exist in isolation but require an environment to draw energy and order from. He defines measures of order and mechanisms whereby order arises, including via internal "demons" that decrease system entropy and external "demons" that increase maximum possible entropy. Overall, some noise helps systems remain adaptable.

Terence McKenna

Our Cyberspiritual Future

Terence holds court on our civilization's journey toward the eschaton at this weekend Esalen gathering. He riffs on topics from psychedelic states and alien intelligences to time travel and VR. McKenna argues we're evolving toward an unimaginable state of accelerating novelty, propelled by advancing technology. A mind-expanding ride for the open-minded psychonaut or armchair traveler, guided by one of the twentieth century's most eclectic thinkers.

Sara Walker and Lex Fridman

Physics of Life, Time, Complexity, and Aliens

Sara Walker and Lex Fridman explore life’s grand mysteries, touching on the nature of existence and the origins of life to the potential of artificial intelligence and the future of consciousness. Walker’s unique perspective challenges conventional wisdom, inviting us to reconsider our place in the cosmic dance.

Alan Watts

Power of Space

Weaving connections between Eastern thought and modern science, Alan Watts explores the wonder of space. For him, space is no mere emptiness but a cosmic tapestry integral to existence. He draws parallels between space and the Buddhist void, seeing both as the interwoven ground of being that allows consciousness to emerge.

Alan Watts

The Book

At the root of human conflict is our fundamental misunderstanding of who we are. The illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe, has led us to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fueled our misuse of technology and our violent and hostile subjugation of the natural world. In The Book, philosopher Alan Watts provides us with a much-needed answer to the problem of personal identity, distilling and adapting the ancient Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe. In this mind-opening and revelatory work, Watts has crafted a primer on what it means to be human—and a manual of initiation into the central mystery of existence.

Eugene Wigner

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

The Richard Courant lecture in mathematical sciences delivered at New York University by physicist Eugene Wigner, in which he observes that a physical theory's mathematical structure often points the way to further advances in that theory and even to empirical predictions.

Swami Sarvapriyananda

The Watcher, the Knower, the Spirit Self

Swami Sarvapriyananda discusses the Advaita Vedanta understanding of consciousness, which sees it as the fundamental, non-dual reality behind all experience. He contrasts this with scientific theories that try to explain consciousness in terms of brain activity, arguing that such approaches cannot account for the subjective, first-person nature of consciousness. He also touches on the Vedantic views on consciousness after death, rebirth, and the relationship between spirituality and emerging technologies like AI.