Stuart Kaufman on Consciousness

Stuart Kaufman on Consciousness

Excerpted from

We have had the problem of consciousness for thousands of years, and here I am, about to offer a working hypothesis! Perhaps “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, but, frankly, I don’t believe in angels and, foolish or not, I will tread.

What I will say rests on two simple, but major premises:

First, as I have argued in the past several posts, Is the Mind Algorithmic?, How Can Mind Act On Matter?, and Towards A Responsible Free Will., I think these antique problems in the philosophy of mind just might be open to elucidation given the hypothesis that the human mind-brain system is a quantum coherent-decohering to classicity and recohering partially or completely to quantum coherence. This “Poised Realm” surely cannot happen in any physical system, for the decoherent loss of phase information is not easily recoverable. But the chlorophyll molecule, coherent for at least 7000 femtoseconds when the normal time scale of decoherence is 1 femtosecond, or 10 to the – 15th seconds, is amazing. More, it is thought that decoherence is either prevented or reversed by the evolved antenna protein that wraps the chlorophyll and, in line with Shor’s theorem about quantum error correction, may be partially correcting inevitable lost phase and amplitude information. We can test this with mutant antenna proteins.

Second, it seems to be a coherent and consistent interpretation of the Schrodinger wave equation that what is “waving” are possibilities that are ontologically real. This interpretation is radical. As I have noted, Empedocles argued that what is real in the universe are Actuals and only Actuals. Yet Aristotle in various senses, argued for the ontological reality of Actuals and Potentia, and Alfred North Whitehead in the early 20th Century argued similarly that ontologically real Actuals give rise to ontological real Possibles which give rise to Actuals which give rise to Possibles, where ontological reality is both Actual and Possible.

With Whitehead, I am going to assume a metaphysics in which Actuals and Possibles are Ontologically real. One cannot avoid a metaphysics. For Newton and Einstein, only Actuals are ontological real. Quantum Mechanics admits as one interpretation, ontologically real Possibles. Therefore the step to taking seriously an ontological real Possibility may not be as great as we tend to think three centuries after Newton. There are, of course, other interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, from epistemological Possibles, to the Multiple World interpretation of Everett, to Bohm’s Implicate Order interpretation. Thus the detailed experimental verification of Quantum Mechanics allows but does not prove, an ontologically real Possible.

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