Dṛg-Dṛśya-Viveka: An inquiry into the nature of the seer and the seen

The Dŗg-Dŗśya-Viveka is an ancient text consisting of 46 ślokas concerning a systematic inquiry into the nature of the “seer” (Dŗg) and the “seen” (Dŗśya). The text is mainly attributed to Bĥaratī Tīrtha (ca. 1350 ce.) but also to the logician Jagadguru Śaṅkarācārya.

Show key excerpts of the text

“The form is perceived and the eye is its perceiver. It (eye) is perceived and the mind is its perceiver. The mind with its modifications is perceived and the Witness (the Self) is verily the perceiver. But It (the Witness) is not perceived (by any other).”

This śloka demonstrates that the mind is subject to perception. The quintessential question is: Who is perceiving the mind. According to Advaita Vedānta, the ultimate percipient is Ātman, the true-self.

The third śloka continues to analytically dissects the nature of perception described in the first śloka:

“The eye, on account of its interchangeable nature, is an object and its perceiver is the mind.”

The fifth śloka further inquiries into the unity of consciousness and emphasised the distinction between mind and consciousness (a semantic distinction which is currently lacking in the majority of psychological discourses):

“That the mind undergoes all these changes is known to all. Because of its changeable nature, the mind is an object of perception and Consciousness is the perceiver. This is because all the changes are perceived by Consciousness. Consciousness perceives all the states because it is a unity. These states, though distinct in nature, become unified in Consciousness or Self.”

Show the full text as a PDF
Display a video of the chanted version of the first śloka in Sanskrit

Sloka can be translated as “song”, etymologically derived from the root śru, “to hear” and refers to a verse line or poem developed from the Vedic Anuṣṭubh poetic meter. In this video the first śloka is chanted in Sanskrit by Swami Sarvapriyananda.

Abstract algorithmic digital art

“Esse est percipi (aut percipere).”
To be is to be perceived (or to perceive).

~ Bishop Berkeley (*1685; †1753)

Click to open as fullscreen application
Click to open as fullscreen application

“No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.”
~ John Archibald Wheeler (*1911; †2008), Cf. “It from bit

A quantum cognition perspective on the Necker cube
(lecture by Dr. Christopher Germann @ CogNovo – University of Plymouth, 2016)

About this website
www.Qbism.art is an interdisciplinary web-project that synthesises a plurality of perspectives from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, quantum physics, philosophy, computer science, and digital art into a holistic transdisciplinary Gestalt. You can view a series of animated digital Qbism artworks below (the neologism ‘Qbism’ is a composite lexeme composed of ‘Quantum & Cubism’).

Digital Algorithmic Qbism Artworks
Getting creative with the Necker cube: Thinking outside the box!
(Programmatically implemented using HTML5 canvas, CSS3 & JavaScript)

Display exemplary source code of a digital Necker cube artwork

The German “Naturphilosoph” Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775—1854) stated that art is “the eternal organ and document of philosophy” which arises from an “unconscious infinity” – a synthesis between nature and freedom. His “aesthetic idealism” (System of Transcendental Idealism; 1800) was highly influential for German idealism (see: https://cognovo.net/cms/cognovo-art).

The philosopher and art historian Marshall McLuhan interpreted Cubism in the context of his conclusion that “the medium is the message“. For McLuhan, the perception of Cubist art required an “instant sensory awareness of the whole” (as opposed to perspective alone). That is, the necessary holistic interpretation of Cubist art does not allow for the question “what is the artwork about” (i.e., semantic content). Cubist art has to be perceived in its entirety (i.e., holistically).

McLuhan, M. (1946). Understanding Media: The extension Man. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Can observing a Necker cube make you more insightful?

Laukkonen, R. E., & Tangen, J. M.. (2017). Can observing a Necker cube make you more insightful?. Consciousness and Cognition, 48, 198–211.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.11.011
directSciHub download

See also: https://qbism.art/can-observing-a-necker-cube-make-you-more-insightful/

Quantum physics is characterized by its paradoxical logic. Two crucial concepts in quantum logic are the interrelated concepts of complementary and superposition. These peculiar properties can can be visually illustrated by the Necker cube because two incompatible visual interpretations are in a superpositional state and they exhibit the property of complementarity. Observation plays a crucial rôle in this context as the ambiguous superpostional state collapses into an “eigenstate” (a fixed state) when it is observed. In this context Einstein famously asked the question if the moon exists when nobody looks at it – a profound question which highlights the importance of perception, observation, and measurement in physics:

We often discussed his notions on objective reality. I recall that during one walk Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it. The rest of this walk was devoted to a discussion of what a physicist should mean by the term “to exist”.

Associated reference (Pais, 1979; p. 907)

Einstein opposed the stochastic and indeterminate nature of quantum theory. He added the following quasi-Newtonian remark to his initial question in relation to the observer (in)dependence of existence:

“Is till believe in the possibility of giving a model of reality which shall represent events themselves and not merely the probability of their occurrence.”

URL: http://ursula.chem.yale.edu/~batista/classes/vvv/RevModPhys.51.863.pdf

Pais, A.. (1979). Einstein and the quantum theory. Reviews of Modern Physics, 51(4), 863–914.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1103/RevModPhys.51.863
directSciHub download

See also:

Mermin, N. D.. (1985). Is the Moon There When Nobody Looks? Reality and the Quantum Theory. Physics Today, 38(4), 38–47.

Plain numerical DOI: 10.1063/1.880968
directSciHub download

Einstein made a similar statement about the nature of perception and the relation between subject and object (i.e., mind & matter; knower & know; seer & seen; psyche & physis) in a discussion with the Indian polymath Ravīndranātha Ṭhākura (Tagore) which took place in his house near Berlin in 1930:

“If nobody were in the house the table would exist all the same, but this is already illegitimate from your point of view, because we cannot explain what it means, that the table is there, independently of us.”

Read the full Einstein-Tagore debate

Interestingly, the same fundamental question concerning the nature of “external reality” can  be asked with respect to the perception of the Necker cube: What is the position of the Necker cube when it is not observed?
That is, what is its configuration in an unobserved state?

The nature of the seer and the seen (Sanskrit: Dṛg-Dṛśya) has been discussed since ancient times in India philosophy, for instance in the highly psychological text Dṛg-Dṛśya-Viveka attributed to Bâratī Tīrtha (ca. 1350 ce). Numerous famous quantum physicist (e.g., Schrödinger, Bohr, Oppenheimer, etc.) were deeply  impressed by the logic of ancient Indian scholars.

Quantum physics thus revives timeless question concerning the nature of perception and observation and it provides impetus for important questions which are relevant far beyond the domain of subatomic phenomena. It forces us to consider epistemological/ontological questions whose answers are usually uncritically taken for granted. Quantum physics shows that we are not merely passive observers of an a priori existing reality. The exact nature of this relation is a matter of an ongoing scientific debate and it is a question of great pertinence for psychology, specifically for the domain of psychophysics which focuses on sensation and perception.

“In atomic science, so removed from ordinary experience, we have received a lesson which points far beyond the domain of physics.”

In conclusion: The nature of reality is still a mystery to science, despite the significant progress which has been made in many disciplines. Intellectual humility is thus a real scientific virtue (as has already been pointed out by the ancient Greek philosophers). The fundamental questions concerning the relationship between mind and matter (i.e., psyche & physis) are not “only” of philosophical importance but they provide important impetus for the development of novel testable hypotheses and theories. The history of science has taught us an important lesson: Great discoveries are often made without the intention to develop new technologies or products. Innovative inventions are oftentimes the unpredictable byproduct of scientific inquiry into novel areas of exploration. Intrinsic curiosity is thus crucial for cognitive innovation and scientific discoveries.

According to Dirac:

“The superposition that occurs in quantum mechanics is of an essentially different nature from any occurring in the classical theory.”

Dirac, P.A.M. (1958). The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 4th edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK, p. 14.

The quantum state of a given physical system is described by a wave function (an element of a projective Hilbert space).

This can be symbolically expressed in Dirac or bra–ket notation as a vector:

\({\displaystyle |\psi \rangle =\sum _{i}c_{i}|\phi _{i}\rangle .}\)

The mathematical concept of a Hilbert space (eponymously named after David Hilbert) formalizes he notion of  multidimensional space, i.e., space with an infinite number of dimensions. Particularly interesting from psychological/epistemological point of view because human beings experience their cognitive limitations when they try to visualize multidimensional space (that is, beyond 3-dimenisonal Euclidean space). The concept of Hilbert space thus requires us to literally think outside the 3-dimensional box — beyond the ordinary limitation of experiential space-time geometry.

Dynamic Qbism Mind-Map

Physics is to be regarded not so much as the study of something a priori given, but rather as the development of methods of ordering and surveying human experience. In this respect our task must be to account for such experience in a manner independent of individual subjective judgement and therefore objective in the sense that it can be unambiguously communicated in ordinary human language.
Nils Bohr (1960) “The Unity of Human Knowledge”

The problem of a world constitution that takes no account of the mental apparatus by which we perceive it is an empty abstraction…
~ Sigmund Freud (1927) “
The Future of an Illusion”