Beyond the Stalemate

In our contemporary neurobiology and much of the philosophy of mind post Descartes we are classical physics machines and either mindless, or mind is at best epiphenomenal and can have no consequences for the physical world. In this article, renowned scientist and thinker, Stuart Kauffman, discuss a large, interwoven set of topics. Much of what he says is highly speculative, some is testable, some is, at present, surely not. It is, he hopes, useful, to set these ideas forth for our consideration.

BEYOND THE STALEMATE: CONSCIOUS MIND- BODY – QUANTUM MECHANICS – FREE WILL – POSSIBLE PANPSYCHISM – POSSIBLE INTERPRETATION OF QUANTUM ENIGMA

INTRODUCTION

I wish to discuss a large, interwoven set of topics pointed at in the title above. Much of what I say is highly speculative, some is testable, some is, at present, surely not. It is, I hope, useful, to set these ideas forth for our consideration. What I shall say assumes quantum measurement is real, and that Bohm’s interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is not true.

The Stalemate: In our contemporary neurobiology and much of the philosophy of mind post Descartes we are classical physics machines and either mindless, or mind is at best epiphenomenal and can have no consequences for the physical world. The firstmain point of this paper is that we are not forced to this conclusion, but must give up total reliance on classical physics.

THE CAUSAL CLOSURE OF CLASSICAL PHYSICS IS THE SOURCE OF THE STALEMATE.

We all know Newton, his three laws of motion, universal gravitation, and invention of differential and integral calculus. Given seven billiard balls rolling on a billiard table, we might ask Newton what will happen to the balls. “Write down the initial conditions of position and momenta of the balls, the boundary conditions of the edges of the table, and the forces between the balls, and the balls and the edge of the table using my three laws of motion in differential equation form. Then, to find out what will happen to the balls in the future (or past, my laws are time reversible), integrate my differential equations to obtain the trajectories of the balls (for all time in the absence of friction)”. But, I note, integration is deduction of the consequences of Newton’s differential equations for the trajectories of the balls, and deduction is “entailment”. “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is a mortal.” is a syllogism whose conclusion is logically entailed by the truth, if so, of the premises. So too the trajectories are entailed by integration of Newtons differential equation.

But this entailment sets up the Stalemate. If the brain is a classical physics system, then the present state of the classical physics brain is entirely sufficient to determine the next state of the brain. But then, there is NOTHING for mind to do, and NO WAY for mind to do it! It would be like asking mind to alter the trajectories of the balls on the billiard table.

Thus, if mind somehow is present in a classical physics setting, it can have NO consequences at all for the classical physics world. At best, the mind can be merely epiphenomenal. (We might wonder if mind exists and is merely epiphenomenal, and if mind with brain evolved, what selective advantage could it have had?). The culprit is the causal closure of classical physics with, as Aristotle said, no Prime  mover. The Stalemate arises because we want mind to act causally on brain, but it cannot because all the classical physics causes are already in the laws of the billiard ball classical physics neuronal system and attendant classical physics further variables including classical physics noise.

QUANTUM MECHANICS PROVIDES TWO WAYS TO BREAK THE CAUSAL CLOSURE OF CLASSICAL PHYSICS AND HAVE ACAUSAL CONSEQUENCES FOR THE “CLASSICAL” BRAIN.

I begin with a familiar outline of Quantum Mechanics, with the caveat that I am not a physicist. 1) We all know the two slit experiment and the resulting interference pattern of spots on the developed film emulsion beyond the two open slits. 2) We know the Schrodinger linear wave equation,  often set equal typically to a classical potential V. The equation has no energy term, so what is “waving” cannot be matter or energy. No one knows what is “waving”. I will propose below that what are waving are “possibilities”, (1), or, with Heisenberg, Potentialities,(2). 3) We know the Born rule: square the amplitude of each wave, say spin up or spin down, in superposition, and that is the probability that upon measurement that outcome will be found. We know there are 16 interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, in which measurement is real in some and not others. As noted above I assume measurement is real. 4) Finally we all know the astonishing confirmation of Non-locality for entangled quantum variables.

RES POTENTIA AND RES EXTENSA, LINKED, HENCE UNITED, BY MEASUREMENT.

I may be proposing a 17th interpretation of quantum mechanics, rather similar in some aspects to Heisenberg’s Potenia,(2), but on different grounds. I begin with Feynman’s formulation of quantum mechanics as a sum over all possible simultaneous histories,(3). This is accepted as an equivalent formulation of quantum mechanics by most physicists. On this formulation, one must say that a SINGLE photon on its way through the two slits to the film emulsion simultaneously does and does NOT pass through the left slit. But this statement breaks Aristotle’s Law of the Excluded Middle, where “A and Not A” is a contradiction. Thus, on Feynman’s formulation, quantum coherent behavior does NOT obey the law of the excluded middle. After quantum measurement, the result does obey the law of the excluded middle. For example, the electron, upon measurement, is found to be either spin up, or spin down, not both simultaneously. So measurement, if real, does take Quantum Mechanics from something that does not obey the law of the excluded middle to something that does obey the law of the excluded middle.

Philosopher C. S. Pierce noted that Actuals and Probables DO obey the law of the Excluded Middle, but Possibles do not. Thus, “The photon possibly did and possibly did not simultaneously go through the left slit” is NOT a contradiction.

I now wish to propose a new dualism, but not a substance dualism: Res potentia – ontologically real  Possibles that do not obey the Law of the Excluded Middle, and Res extensa – ontologically real Actuals that do obey the Law of the Excluded Middle, linked by measurement, (1). Because Possibles are not a substance, consistent with the fact that the Schrodinger equation has no energy term, this dualism is not a substance dualism. “Possibles” are not far from Heisenberg’s “Potentia”,(2), indeed may be identical. If so, what is waving in the Schrodinger equation are possibilities.

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