16:55 GMT +321 September 2019
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    Brave New World

    The Many Faces of Coincidence

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    All of us experience coincidences. Mostly we dismiss any thoughts about how odd it is that they occur. But should we start paying more attention to these phenomenon, and have we considered the implications of taking coincidences seriously?

    My guest on this programme, Dr Laurence Browne, has defended a thesis on the subject of coincidences and recognises that there are different types of coincidence.

    Academics have come to recognise different types of coincidences. Dr Browne commented: “There is actually a bit of a schism in academia in relation to coincidences, because on the one hand you have the mathematically minded approach, and mainstream philosophical thinking, which basically looks at chance and causal reasons for coincidences. On the other side, you have the more Jungian way of looking at it, which includes the idea of ‘synchronicity’ which is another idea of meaningful coincidence. There is also a parapsychological way of looking at coincidence, as when the phone rings and you know who is on the phone…”

    Many so-called coincidences, however, are in fact not coincidences: “If we both go to a Leonard Cohen concert and meet each other, and you say ‘What a Coincidence!.’ This in fact it is not a coincidence, because there is a causal reason for that to happen. True coincidences happen when there is no causal reason, and when there is a meaning in what happens for the person who experiences it.”

    Discussion led to the existence of a basic deep structure behind the ‘surface’ reality that we experience on a daily level. Dr Browne commented: “Jung postulates what he calls the ‘unus mundus’ which is taken from scholastic philosophy of the 13-14 century….He postulated that when you have a meaningful coincidence, something on the outside and something on the inside correspond, for a split second. The duality shifts and there is an experience. Then the doors close again and you go back to normal.”

    “Coincidences open up the possibility that there is an underlying unity. That there is a psycho-physical unity, underlying mind and matter…” To the question: Can you train yourself to be more attuned to coincidences?, Dr Browne answered: “In a way you can, by being more attuned to them, when these things crop up, you are less likely to dismiss them. But it's less likely to be such a big deal either…”

    To the question why so little attention is being paid to the field of coincidences, Dr Browne answered: “Because there are two sides of academia which don’t talk to each other, they say that meaning has no place in mathematical modelling.”

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