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Blogger Hendrik Wintjen writes:

Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger is known for the phrase “The total number of minds in the universe is one. In fact, consciousness is a singularity phasing within all beings.”

Did he say that?

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    Likely this isn’t notable enough for this site since it appears to only be a quote from a random blogger. My guess is that it is a made up quote. “Singularity phasing” is word salad, a nonsensical phrasing in physics as far as I’m aware. Apr 28, 2020 at 10:34
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    @JarrodChristman I think it's meant to be read as "consciousness is a singularity [that is] phasing within all beings". It would make more sense if there was a comma there.
    – F1Krazy
    Apr 28, 2020 at 10:43
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    IIRC Schrödinger was keen on philosophy, and had a strong interest in monistic Hindu traditions. This quote sounds like monism, so doesn't sound too out of place. Assuming the quote (if real) comes from his philosophical/theological writings rather than his physics ones, the terms used might be used in a broader sense than a physicist would expect.
    – Jack B
    Apr 28, 2020 at 13:43

4 Answers 4

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It appears that this quote was fabricated and mis-attributed to Schrödinger in May of 2016. It is impressive how widely this mis-attribution has spread, first across the internet and then to a number of books, but it does not seem to date back any further than that.

If the listed date on this blog post is accurate, it is probably the original source of the fabricated quote: http://ascienceofspirit.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/number-of-minds-in-the-universe-is-one/

The same quote also appeared to have been added on or shortly before May 26 2016 to this list of alleged quotations: https://web.archive.org/web/20160526132013/https://stephenpickering.com/2011/12/29/cosmic-consciousness-quotes-vol-1/

If Schrödinger ever did use these words, it would almost certainly show up in Google Books or even random websites that predate these examples. At best it may be a paraphrase of something he actually said in the lecture "Mind and Matter". but those words do not appear there.

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    He said some similar sounding things (according Wikiquote). Couldn't it just be a recent translation that used a different phrasing? (Genuine question.)
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 28, 2020 at 16:40
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    If that were the case, it should not be hard to find the translation. Which "similar sounding things" specifically do you propose might fit this quote? I don't see any candidates, but if we have one we can look for alternate translations.
    – Brian Z
    Apr 28, 2020 at 19:17
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I believe the first sentence of the quotation is a paraphrasing of a section from his book of essays, What Is Life? : The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell ; with Mind and Matter ; & Autobiographical Sketches. (From the Cambridge University Press 2012 edition translated by Schrodinger's granddaughter, Verena). Schrödinger writes on page 129:

There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.

The second sentence does not appear in this particular book and appears to be an addendum by someone else as Brian Z has outlined.

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From what I have found, this is from one of his books but I have no access to the text. A quote page says it is from the German version of Mind and Matter chapter 4.

The German text is:

Bewusstsein gibt es seiner Natur nach nur in der Einzahl. Ich möchte sagen: die Gesamtzahl aller »Bewusstheiten« ist immer bloß »eins«.

That translates to something like:

Consciousness by its nature is always singular. I want to say: the total number of all "consciousness units" is always just "one".

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    Dec 22, 2023 at 5:55
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The original quote by Schrödinger1:

Bewusstsein gibt es seiner Natur nach nur in der Einzahl. Ich möchte sagen: die Gesamtzahl aller »Bewusstheiten« ist immer bloß »eins«.

English translation via Google Translate:

By its nature, consciousness only exists in the singular. I would like to say: the total number of all "consciousnesses" is always just "one."

1 Geist und Materie, Zsolnay Verlag, Wien 1986, 4. Kap., S. 90, ISBN 3-552-03810-8

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  • Chat gpt isn’t a valid source for answers
    – Joe W
    Dec 31, 2023 at 16:22
  • It's not the source of the answer, @JoeW; that would be Geist und Materie, Zsolnay Verlag, Wien 1986, 4. Kap., S. 90, ISBN 3-552-03810-8. GPT-4 was merely used to provide one of the English translations of Schrödinger's original German.
    – Miles
    Dec 31, 2023 at 20:06
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    You are quoting chat gpt as part of your answer. It doesn't matter that you have other sources in it or not. The fact remains that chat gpt should not be used in answers (or questions but that is a different matter)
    – Joe W
    Dec 31, 2023 at 20:08
  • @JoeW: I have removed GPT-4's translation and left Google Translate's version (which is virtually identical).
    – Miles
    Dec 31, 2023 at 20:13
  • It should be noted that translation software isn't perfect and it can change the meaning. Though I should ask what does your answer provide that is not in an existing answer?
    – Joe W
    Dec 31, 2023 at 20:15

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