I was having a conversation with a biographer of Schrödinger about the physicist's works and philosophy. I asked him if he eventually accepted that his "Cat (mental) experiment" could be actually real, but he told me that not really because he thought that observable elements such as cats are just "constructs" out of perceptions. This suggests that he denied that observables existed

But in this article 1 it appears to indicate that Schrödinger precisely thought that these constructs were the blocks of reality:

"Constructs which enable one to perform daily or experimental actions so efficiently must be taken as seriously as the hypothetical transcendent entities of metaphysical realism"

So this appears to indicate that Schrödinger thought that "constructs" were real entities.

So, did Schrödinger deny the existence of "constructs" or, on the contrary, consider them as the blocks of nature? Did he eventually accept that his "Cat experiment" could be real?

  • You might get some info on his views from the book Schrodinger: Life and Thought--page 45 notes that "As a young man, Schrödinger was able to maintain a pragmatic balance between Machian positivism and Boltzmannian realism, but as he grew older this compromise no longer satisfied him and he sought but probably never achieved a synthesis of the two." ('Machian positivism' judges theories on utility, not whether their entities are real or not--p. 43 notes Mach saw atoms as theoretical constructs)
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 0:01
  • Also, near the end of his life he wrote a book called My World View that laid out his philosophical beliefs, and p. 476 of *Schrodinger: Life and Thought says that in that book he endorsed a form of of idealistic monism inspired by Vedantism, one which says ultimate reality is a kind of universal mind which all seemingly separate beings are part of, though he didn't think he could 'prove' this.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 0:06
  • Off topic, physicist Sean Carroll mentions in one of his videos that Schrödinger'd daughter said, "I think my father just didn't like cats."
    – user4894
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 5:30
  • @Hypnosifl - Idealistic is a misinterpretation of the Advaita Vedanta. Schroedinger shares his thoughts on it in his 'Epilogue" to his "What is Life?". Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 12:15
  • @SwamiVishwananda - Why do you say it's a misunderstanding? This article says 'The essential philosophy of Advaita is an idealist monism'--my understanding is that Vedantists generally say all our experiences are experiences of Brahman, do they address whether material objects have any reality outside of perceptions? In any case, Schrodinger did at least interpret it as a form of idealism and that was his belief, see the link to p. 476 above which talks of how he rejected the mind/matter dualism, and favored a monism where all is mind.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


I think Schrödinger is saying that he is simply on a line from Kant. Not exactly like Kant, but on a line of development from the Critique of Pure Reason. These “constructs” we make to adapt and evolve are simply on a line from Kant’s constructs. And if we add in the thing in itself, Hegel, everything is capable of having the notion of the notion [I simply mean they have the notion]. So all “reality” is subject capable of knowledge that it is subject that can know the notion. So all “reality” is capable of knowing and understanding what Schrödinger wrote there, one day if we last long enough.

It may already have the notion of the notion but we don’t know it. Now mixing the cat thought experiment in here may not be helpful. I am just considering the quote you gave.

You may be interested in this Podcast or book. It is a “TED Interview” with Psychologist? Donald Hoffman. November 13, 2019. Hoffman’s book “A Case Against Reality”. But it is obvious he has a good understanding of philosophy too. It starts kind of slow but gets better as it goes along.

Only a cold, hard universe under time pressure can “make” Subject. At some point Subject makes and continues to make itself. If we are the only subject, I could certainly see how Advaita Vedanta (or something like that) would interest Schroedinger. But if the universe makes SUBJECT more broadly, and continues to make subject, then it seems to move us closer to Faust Act Two. “Stay, thou art so fair.” With emphasis on Stay, who knows WE may solve, develop a “solution” to the Second Law, who knows what else. With more self-consciousness, more SUBJECT, it would reduce the attraction of OBJECT (it would fade away) , and the “attachment” that goes along with the subject-object world. Hmmm, do we see Brahman again at this point? Or an idealistic monism? Perhaps so.

  • Interesting take, but why the teleological discussion, couldn't the mind of Brahman just be a pure being without a goal?
    – Gloserio
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 7:00
  • @Gloserio I definitely think that Brahman is without a goal. Perhaps I should not have brought Brahman into the answer. //. I simply think that man, the first one with self-Consciousnesses, begins to see the world of objects as being “plastic”, as being more like Subject., and not like rigid object. The world as subject in development. The subject could also evolve, develop. I am taking a “theme”, motif etc from Hegel.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:46
  • The Hoffman interview up there is very good also. I don’t know if you can get it on Podcast or not.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 21:47
  • 1
    it's an interesting take (+1) no doubt, I just wanted to make sure I understood. Kant did not deny existence of reality, he simply put it out of pure-reason's reach. Hegel seems to have introduced the idea of a subject converging toward reality (as a totality). The vedic systems usually establish an immediate link between the subject and reality, first by containement (in mereological terms) and second by isomorphism (atman is brahman). As to Schrödinger, I have no idea, but was he not in the line of Copinhaguen interpretation, hence maybe refuting reality as an aim of science ?
    – Gloserio
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 7:15

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