ABSTRACT – Niels Bohr’s maxim contraria sunt complementa (contraries are complementary) indicated his strong suspicion that the complementarity interpretation of quantum mechanics might someday be expanded into a generalized principle. It now appears that such a principle has been found in metastability which appears at the scale of living things. Metastability has been proposed as a principle of brain~behavior, and is captured in the extended or ‘broken-symmetry’ version of the HKB model of coordination dynamics. The metastable regime of coordination dynamics reconciles the tendency of specialized brain regions to express autonomy (segregation) and their simultaneous tendency to work together as a synergetic whole (integration). There is growing evidence from recent studies in the brain and behavioral sciences that the complementary nature of integrating and segregating tendencies is essential to the way human brain~minds work.
Binding problem, brain~behavior, complementary pairs, coordination dynamics, Niels Bohr, generalized complementarity principle, metastability, metastable regime, mind~brain, multistability, nonlinear dynamics, relative phase, tendencies, the squiggle symbol (~).
In recent years, Kelso and colleagues have developed a theory of mental activity that respects both the contents of thought and the dynamics of thinking. The dynamics, in this case, refers fundamentally to animated, meaningfully coupled self-organizing processes (coordination dynamics) and exhibit multistability, switching and, because of symmetry breaking, metastability. The interplay of two simultaneously acting forces underlies the metastable brain~mind: the tendency for the coordinating elements to couple together (integration) and the tendency for the elements to express their individual autonomy (segregation). Metrics for metastability have been introduced that enable these cooperative and competitive tendencies to be quantified. Whereas bistability is the basis for polarized, either/or thinking, the metastable régime—which contains neither stable nor unstable states, no states at all in fact–gives rise to a far more fluid, complementary mode of operation in which it is possible for apparent contraries to coexist at the same time. This was the famous quantum physicist Niels Bohr’s deep intuition: “If you hold opposites together in your mind, you will suspend your normal thinking process and allow an intelligence beyond rational thought to create a new form.”
This same intuition has been expressed again and again in literature, e.g. in the works of James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc (see TCN).