Aram Boyajian

photo needed In hmolscience, Aram Boyajian (1888-1964) was an Armenian-born American electrical engineer and philosopher noted for []

In 1944, Boyajian, in his “A.A. Michelson Visits Immanuel Kant”, described by Bernard Bell (1945) as a “remarkable paper”, wherein he opens to the following: [1]

“In the ages when people believed in ghosts inhabiting everything, there was no conflict between intelligence and matter, none between purposeful action and physical necessity. But ever since ghosts have been driven out of things by a reign of law in nature, intelligence and purposeful action have been steadily crowded out of the physical world by matter and physical necessity; and the human soul, as the lest of the ghosts, has been reduced to an insecure, furtive existence. What does science say about the matter? What does philosophy?”

He then jumps to the following humorous statement:

Physics teaches us that the universe is made up of electrons, protons, neutrons and quanta obeying certain laws, some pretty well known, others to be clarified further, but, whatever the exact formula may be, the picture is one of blind (unconscious) matter tossed around by blind (unconscious) forces in obedience to blind (meaningless) physical laws.”

This is hilarious to the last; he then states frankly:

“The physicist carefully avoids the embarrassing philosophical implications of these theories with respect to man, god and immortality, and other philosophical questions, but these have to be faced sometime or other.”

Boyajian, on this platform, then injects into the following dialogue between a fictional A.A. Michelson, stylized on Albert Michelson (1852-1931), noted for the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment (Ѻ), and Immanuel Kant, as summarized by Judson Herrick (1956): [1]

“Boyajian reports an imaginary conversation between the philosopher Kant and the physicist Michelson. With the author's Kantian metaphysics, we are not here concerned, but some reflections, which introduce the dialogue, upon the growth of ideas about the chemical equation are pertinent here.

In the early days of chemistry, attention was directed mainly to the matter involved in chemical reactions. The equation for the formation of water from its elements was written as:

2H2 + O2 = 2H2O

in which no account is taken of the energy involved in the reaction. In the familiar laboratory experiment an electric spark is introduced into the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to start the reaction; in other words, there is an energy factor on both sides of the equation. The correct equation as now written is:

2H2 + O2 = 2H20 + 293,000 Joules

‘This equation’, Boyajian says, ‘satisfies the law of conservation of mass plus energy, whereas the old one would not, because 2H20 is a little lighter than (2H2 + O2) at the same temperature.’ Now he asks, ‘But is the new equation really complete?’ It is suggested that it is not, ‘and that someday we shall add to the right-hand member of the equation a third term representing a mental factor:

2H2 + O2 → 2H2O + 293,000 J + X

the X in this equation being the mind-stuff that is necessary to balance the equation.’ I noticed that in the last formula the equality sign was replaced by another symbol and in response to my inquiry for the reason Boyajian wrote:

‘You allude to the fact that in my third equation the equality sign has been changed to an arrow. That had a double significance. First, as the equation became more up to date, its typographical form also was made to conform. Chemistry books nowadays use mostly arrows instead of equality signs. Second, the reason for the change in the convention is that chemical equations represent a reaction moving in a certain direction .... And I would call particular attention to the fact that later in my article I have pointed out that X is another aspect of the physicochemical system and not an additional factor. To use Coghill's language, in my opinion, ‘mentation’ would be a simple shorthand psychological statement of a complex biochemical process, rather than an addition to it’.”

Judson, to note, seems to asserts that some form of this hydrogen plus oxygen to form water argument was done by Claude Bernard in 1865. Judson then attempts to sell Boyajian's argument as potential panpsychism, if one wishes:

“What is important for us here is that no chemical "equation" represents a static balance. It symbolizes a process, and this process is directive. The process is set in motion by a disturbance of an equilibrated system of energy, and it continues until a new and different equilibrated system is established. The essential feature of this reaction and of every other mechanical action, is a change in pattern of organization and performance; or, otherwise expressed, there emerges a new product with different properties. In Boyajian's formula the ‘X’ admittedly stands for an unknown. It may simplify the problem if at this level of organization, we call this unknown ‘pattern’ instead of ‘mind-stuff’. At the higher levels of the organic realm this pattern takes the form that Schrodinger (1944) calls ‘code script’ and Coghill (1938) calls ‘mentation.’ The concept of pattern carries no implication of panpsychism here, though it does not exclude that hypothesis if one wishes to adopt it.”

(add discussion)

In 1915, Boyajian completed his AB in electrical engineering at Swarthmore College (Ѻ), and in 1945, was electrical engineer with General Electric Company, working in the area of transformers. [2] In 1952, Boyajian was a visiting lecturer at MIT. (Ѻ)

1. (a) Boyajian, Aram. (1944). “A. A. Michelson Visits Immanuel Kant” (Ѻ), Scientific Monthly, 59(6):438-50, Dec.
(b) Bell, Bernard I. (1945). God is Not Dead (pg. xiv). Harper & Brothers.
(c) Herrick, Charles J. (1956). The Evolution of Human Nature (abs) (pgs. 58-59). University of Texas Press.

Further reading
● Boyajian, Aram. (1946). “The Strange Trinity Called Man” (abs), Scientific Monthly, Apr.

TDics icon ns

More pages