David Bohm's Influences

Listed in alphabetical order by the person's last name or by the name of the subject.


Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

"Dr. Bohm, whom I have known personally for some years, is, in my opinion, a very gifted and original theoretical physicist. Professionally, he has added materially to our knowlege of quantum mechanics and has more recently become very intersted in the fundamental philosophical implications of that theory. He is also an exceptionally able teacher who is an inspiration to his students.

...having already achieved a very stimulating book on Quantum Mechanics and its application to the the theory of atoms ... [Bohm] has become deeply interested in the following questions: Is it really necessary to assume that the processes in the molecular domain are governed by chance? Is it not possible to explain the present theory in such a way as to indicate that everything should proceed by necessity, so that chance is, in principle, eliminated ... I have had in the past the greatest confidence in Dr. Bohm as a scientist and as a man, and I continue to do so." -- Albert Einstein


James J. Gibson (1904-1979)

From Wikipedia: James Jerome Gibson was an American psychologist who received his Ph.D. from Princeton University's Department of Psychology, and is considered one of the most important 20th century psychologists in the field of visual perception. Gibson challenged the idea that the nervous system actively constructs conscious visual perception, and instead promoted ecological psychology, in which the mind directly perceives environmental stimuli without additional cognitive construction or processing.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

"Hegel was a German philosopher, and a major figure in German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism." -- Wikipedia

"Essentially, it is important to say that Hegel was dealing with the properties of thought, but thought considered as an actual process to which you would pay attention. You see, not just the content of thought, but the process of thought. So in a way, Hegel was considering thought as a real process to which you would pay attention." -- David Bohm


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

From Wikipedia: Immanuel Kant ... was a German philosopher who is widely considered to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that fundamental concepts structure human experience, and that reason is the source of morality. His thought continues to have a major influence in contemporary thought, especially the fields of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics.

"As seems to have been first pointed out by Kant, all experience is organized according to the categories of our thought, i.e., on our ways of thinking about space, time, matter, substance, causality, contingency, necessity, universality, particularity, etc. It can be said that these categories are general forms of insight or ways of looking at everything, so that in a certain sense, they are a kind of theory (but, of course, this level of theory must have developed very early in man’s evolution).

Clarity of perception and thought evidently requires that we be generally aware of how our experience is shaped by the insight (clear or confused) provided by the theories that are implicit or explicit in our general ways of thinking. To this end, it is useful to emphasize that experience and knowledge are one process, rather than to think that our knowledge is about some sort of separate experience. We can refer to this one process as experience-knowledge (the hyphen indicating that these are two inseparable aspects of one whole movement)." -- David Bohm

Weber: Kant’s problem was: We cannot see things as they really are because we impart our structures to experience, so we bar the way to the noumenon with our own inner categories.

Bohm: But my view is to say, “I am the noumenon,” so there is a way out of Kant’s trap. At least I am of the noumenon.

Weber: Or I can come into harmony with it, become commensurate with it, which Kant of course denies.

Bohm: Yes. I am participating in the noumenon.


Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950)

Korzybski is best known for his statement: "The map is not the territoriy".

"There was a fellow called Alfred Korzybski who had been an American philosopher of the 1920s mostly, 1930s. Worked a lot on what’s called semantics or the study of meaning. Korzybski had written an extensive work called Science and Sanity, which Biederman recommended to me and I read it. There were a lot of things in it, but a few points I can probably say. One point is he had of saying whatever we say anything is, it isn’t. It’s more and it’s different, that the word never covers everything. That we however tend to identify things with the meanings of our words, and this is the cause of the vast part of human problems. Because then the way we think about it is going to affect the way we see it. Therefore it was essential not to identify, but to say each particular phenomenon — Like he would say if you have the object now, the object next time, the object next time; it’s not always the same, right. Or anything, like saying Mr. So and So now, Mr. So and So later, and So and So. And as you put suffixes, you know indices to indicate that it’s a different occasion and therefore a different phenomenon and may have a different meaning. The idea is not to identify by a fixed concept, the meaning of the word. This is very important." -- David Bohm


Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

"I also read Buddhism or oriental philosophy, Indian philosophy, yoga, and probably some of the Christian philosophers. During that time this is the story that Sara picked up this book, First and Last Reading, by Krishnamurti. She noticed the phrase, the observer and observed, and thought I talked about it all the time in quantum mechanics, so she thought maybe it had something to do with that and she gave it to me. I found the book extremely interesting. I read it as fast as I could. Then I looked for more books of his. They had a few more in the library. I then wrote to them and asked if there were more books and I got an answer and ordered some more. Finally, I asked if I could meet him. It turned out that in June of 1961, he was coming to London for the first time in many years (he had been ill) and that we could at least come and listen to him. While in London, I wrote to meet him, although they said that he was not meeting people, but still I wrote to this Doris Pratt and she answered finally that I could come and see him. So I came with Sara. This went off very well. I felt that in Chrishner — let me explain that in the writings, there was something there which seemed to be very relevant to the whole human problem, the question of meaning, which was not only this self-awareness that Gurdjieff and Ouspensky had been talking about, but something much deeper. It is very hard to put your finger on it, but I sort of felt that non-verbally at first. The question of the observer and observed was raised, for example, to say that they were not really separate. I felt from quantum mechanics this must be very significant. He was applying it to the human being himself, saying that the human being as observer was not different from human being as observed. Now, this is a very deep point because usually, a human being regards himself as an observer as separate from the observed, even when he is looking at himself. He thinks that he is standing back looking at something inside of himself. But these two are actually one. The confusion that they are separate is the cause of tremendous misery, at least that was saying. I had sort of an intuitive feeling this was right. He was also hinting at something much deeper, some ground, some emptiness in a wholeness ground which everything came, which if we could contact that, then we would sort of rise beyond all these daily problems into a totally different area, where, therefore, we would not be caught in them." -- David Bohm

See David Bohm's Introduction to Jiddu Krishnamurti for more of Bohm's thoughts about Krishnamurti.


Patrick De Mare (1916-2008)

"In this section it is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated. However, it must be stressed that what follows is not given in the spirit of a prescription that society is supposed to follow. Rather it is an invitation to the reader to begin to investigate and explore in the spirit of free play of ideas and without the restriction of the absolute necessity of any final goal or aim. For once necessity and absolute requirements or directions enter into the spirit of this exploration, then creativity is limited and all the problems that have plagued human civilization will surface yet again to overwhelm the investigation.

To begin, it should be noted that many of the ideas to be explored were first investigated by Patrick de Maré, who is a psychiatrist working in England. De Maré has used his wide experience of dialogue in therapeutic groups to support his arguments. However, it is essential to emphasize that his ideas about dialogue are not concerned primarily with psychotherapy, but rather with the transformation of culture, along the general lines that have been indicated in this chapter." -- David Bohm and F. David Peat from the book 'Science, Order, and Creativity'


Michael Polayani (1891-1976)

Bohm studies Polayani's work as he had a deep interest in the movement of thought and knowledge and all of its levels. Polayani is best known for his originating work on the subject of tacit knowing.

"Tacit means that which is unspoken, which cannot be described—like the tacit knowledge required to ride a bicycle. It is the actual knowledge, and it may be coherent or not. Thinking is actually a subtle tacit process. We do almost everything by this sort of tacit knowledge. Thought is emerging from the tacit ground, and any fundamental change in thought will come from the tacit ground. So if we are communicating at the tacit level, then maybe thought is changing.

The tacit process is common—it is shared. The sharing is not merely the explicit communication and the body language. There is also a deeper tacit process which is common. The whole human race knew this for a million years, but now we have lost it, because our societies got too big. We have to get started again, because it has become urgent that we communicate, to share our consciousness. We must be able to think together, in order to do intelligently whatever is necessary. The point is that this notion of dialogue and common consciousness suggests that there is some way out of our collective difficulties. If we can all suspend carrying out our impulses, suspend our assumptions and look at them, then we are all in the same state of consciousness. In dialogue the whole structure of defensiveness and opinions and division can collapse; and suddenly the feeling can change to one of fellowship and friendship, participation and sharing. We are then partaking of the common consciousness." -- David Bohm