Sunday, April 30, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 8/8: Origin of these ideas

8. Origin of these ideas

I have presented these ideas as worth of consideration on their own, but they really have a long history in a variety of contexts. The basic idea that causation only truly works from the mind into the brain (and not vice versa) is not a popular one today. However, it can be traced back to ‘non-standard’ insights of people such as Plotinus (b. 205), Boehme (b. 1575), Swedenborg (b. 1688) and some other traditions. Swedenborg was well educated as a physicist and then physiologist, so I find his accounts the most detailed and useful. Of course, he knew nothing of quantum mechanics (only Newtonian mechanics), so I have had to ‘re-apply’ his principles in the light of what we now know about the physical world. He has the clearest presentation of the idea of ‘conditional forward causation’ (he calls it ‘influx into uses’), and he gives the most complete account of the ‘correspondences’ that exist between mental and bodily things. For a brief summary of his ideas, see [15]. 

My References

[8] I. J. Thompson, "Discrete Degrees Within and Between Nature and Mind," in Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A. Antonietti, Ed., Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008, pp. 99-125.
[13] I. J. Thompson, "The Consistency of Physical Law with Divine Immanence," Science & Christian Belief, vol. 5, pp. 19-36, 1993. 
[14] I. J. Thompson, Starting Science from God, Pleasanton, CA: Eagle Pearl Press, 2011. 

[15] I. J. Thompson, "Swedenborg and Modern Science," Scientific and Medical Network Newsletter, vol. 26, pp. 3-8, 1989. 

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 7/8: Connections to Theism

7. Connections to Theism

In theology, there has long been a tension between the transcendence and the immanence of God. To avoid a deism which has only transcendence, to avoid pantheism which has only immanence, and thus to see how theism may be a coherent belief, it is necessary to give some rational account of how God may be both transcendent of and immanent in the world. One common account [12] has been to see God as the ‘Author, Sustainer, and Finisher’ of all natural processes. For thinkers ranging from Aquinas to Descartes “the action of divine conservation is construed to be an ‘extension’ of the action of divine creation”, but the means of this conservation is rarely explained further. Such accounts leave uncertain the question of exactly how, in an effective as well as in an abstract sense, the Divine is immanent in nature. They do not describe the actual relationship between the immanent Divine and the causal powers determined by physical investigation.

I suggest [13] that even the Divine and creation together can be considered two generative levels, by analogy to all the other kinds of generative levels we have seen to exist within physics, within psychology, and between physics and psychology. The Divine would be the ‘A’, the first in the sequence, as the ‘deepest underlying principle’, ‘source’, or ‘power’ that is fixed through all the subsequent changes to in created beings. This is in agreement with the fundamental concept of theism, where the Divine is the source of changes, but in itself is constant in essence. This essence or underlying power would thus be the Divine Love, and could reasonably be called the Substance of the Divine. Consciousness is therefore not the divine source itself, but an essential aspect of operations from that source. More details are in [14].

The existence, powers and changes in all finite beings follow the rule that the dispositions of an object are those generated derivatives of Divine Power that accord with what is actual about those beings. Consider two analogies. God provides life as the sun shines on the earth. The sun shining on the earth is constant, but the energy received by the earth varies by days and seasons. We know, however, that this variation is according to the earth’s distance and orientation: according to something actual about the earth, not because of variations in the sun. A second analogy is that God provides life as we are provided with food. Consider the way animals consume food in order to live. What an animal is capable of doing after eating depends on its digestive system and how it has assimilated the food. Different species will respond quite differently to the same food, according to how they are constituted. 

[12] J. Newman, Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979. 
[13] I. J. Thompson, "The Consistency of Physical Law with Divine Immanence," Science & Christian Belief, vol. 5, pp. 19-36, 1993. 
[14] I. J. Thompson, Starting Science from God, Pleasanton, CA: Eagle Pearl Press, 2011. 

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 6/8: Conservation laws and closure

6. Conservation laws and closure

One purported strong indication against mind-body or mental-physical dualism is that the physical world appears to be causally closed. The total of energy and total momentum appear to be conserved whenever they have been measured in modern physics. There does not seem to be any room for minds to make a difference to evolution of the physical world. We should first note, with Meixner [9], that there is little or no experimental evidence to prove this within living bodies and especially within brains. The universal application of conservation laws is an assumption of the physical sciences, not a result as it is commonly presented. Arguments for causal closure have turned out to depend on some assumption that is almost identical to the result to be proved [10] [11].

Suppose that physicists found that energy and momentum were not conserved in some instances. How would they react? First, they would note that the laws apply only to isolated systems, so they would examine whether the object really was isolated or not, and whether they should look for something further (like a hidden planet) that was producing the effects. Secondly, they would generalize the conservation laws so the new law was satisfied but not the old one. It used to be thought, for example, that total mass and total energy were separately conserved, but, after many subatomic experiments showing the annihilation and creation of massive particles, those separate laws were quietly dropped in favor of a general law of conservation of mass-energy in combination. If, therefore, the non-conservation of energy and/or momentum were found in certain biological or psychological processes, science as we know it would not collapse. Either the influence from other kinds of beings would be ascertained, or a further generalization of the conservation laws would be sought. The only novelty in the proposals here, is that these ‘other kinds of beings’ would not be ‘physical’ in the traditional way.

[9] U. Meixner, "Physicalism, Dualism and Intellectual Honesty," Dualism Review, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-20, 2005.
[10] U. Mohrhoff, "The Physics of Interactionism," J. Consciousness Studies, vol. 6, pp. 165-184, 1999.
[11] W. Hasker, "How Not to be Reductivist," PCID, vol. 2.3.5, pp. 1-16, 2003.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 5/8: Mind and Physics as Levels Themselves?

5. Mind and Physics as Levels Themselves?

I have argued that there are multiple generative levels within both the physical and mental realms. The next hypothesis is that the physical and psychological are themselves generative levels linked together, so that physical dispositions as a whole are derivative from mental dispositions within living and/or thinking organisms. We entertain [8] the view that the dualism of mind and body is not an ad hoc division, but one that logically follows from the kinds of causation that exists within a universe in which there are both minds and bodies as distinct ontological substances connected as generative levels.

To see whether this works in practice, we have to consider the detailed requirements of any theory of psychology. At the simplest level of generalization, minds must be able to
  • implement intended functions by feeling and thinking, then using motor areas,
  • establish permanent memories, presumably by means of permanent physiological changes,
  • form perceptions using information from the visual and auditory (etc.) cortexes,
  • follow ‘internal’ trains of thought/feeling/imagining without necessarily having any external effects.
One way that these requirements can be accomplished is by means of the ideas presented so far, formulated in the following three principles:
  1. I. Some physical/physiological potentialities (both deterministic and indeterministic according to quantum physics) are derived dispositions from minds as their principal cause. That is, minds predispose the dynamical properties of some physical objects.
  2. II. The dispositional capacities of the mind are consequentially restricted (and hence conditioned) by their actual physical effects, by means of occasional causation.
  3. III. The pattern of I and II is repeated for individual stages of more complex processes.

These principles together give what has been called conditional forward causation, or ‘top-down causation’. Note that we do not have a fourth ‘bottom-up’ principle that neural events directly cause events to occur in the mind. We do not have general matter → mind causation, although something resembling this does arise, namely selection. This is not causation in the sense of principal causation as producing or generating the effect, but is occasional causation as being a necessary prerequisite.

A strong argument for these three principles is that they are already similar to what is known already to happen in physics. According to quantum field theory we saw how virtual events predispose the ordinary quantum wave function. These virtual events operate deterministically and describe the operation of the electric, magnetic, nuclear and gravitational forces. They are not the actual events of quantum mechanics, as those are the definite outcomes of events like observations. Rather, they are a ‘prior level’ of ‘implicit events’ whose operation is needed in order to derive or produce the potentialities for events like observations. The principle (I) states the analogical result that mental events themselves are a ‘prior level’ of ‘implicit events’ whose operation is needed in order to produce the potentialities for physical events.

The argument for the principle (II) is more general. This principle can be seen as the law according to which your future life is restricted and influenced by your past actions (by selection). Physical events are in this way the necessary foundations for permanent mental history and structure.

Principle (III) has an important corollary connected with the observations of the above section on correspondences:
  1. IV. The mind predisposes the brain to carry out those functions which ‘mirror’ or ‘correspond to’ the mind’s own functions.
Mental functions involve intermediate steps, and these intermediate mental steps predispose suitable intermediate physical steps (by I), and are in turn conditioned or confirmed by them (by II). Thus, the sequence of physical steps follows the sequence of mental steps, and the overall function of the physical process is analogous (in some sense) to the overall function of the mental process.

[8] I. J. Thompson, "DiscreteDegrees Within and Between Nature and Mind," in Psycho-Physical Dualism Today: An Interdisciplinary Approach, A. Antonietti, Ed., Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008, pp. 99-125.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Quantum mechanics and consciousness - Part 4/8: Generative Levels in Psychology

4. Generative Levels in Psychology

It is easier to understand this downward causation pattern within psychology. There are many examples of derivative dispositions in everyday life, in psychology, in particular in cognitive processes. The accomplishment of a given disposition requires the operation of successive steps of kinds different from the overall step. The original disposition on its operation generates the “derived dispositions” for the intermediate steps, which are means to the original end. An original “disposition to learn”, for example, can generate the derived “disposition to read books”, which can generate further “dispositions to search for books”. These dispositions can then generate dispositions to move one’s body, which in turn lead to one’s limbs having (physical) dispositions to move. These successively generated dispositions are all derived from the original disposition to learn, according to the specific situations. 

Another example of sequential and derivative dispositions is the ability to learn. To say that someone is easy to teach, or that they are musical, for example, does not mean that there is any specific action that they are capable of doing. Rather, it means that they are disposed to learn new skills (whether of a musical or general kind), and that it is these new skills that are the dispositions that lead to specific actions.

In this I follow Broad [7]: that there are “levels” of causal influence. Particular dispositions or intentions are not the most fundamental causes, but rather “intermediate stages” in the operation of more persistent “desires” and “motivations”. The intention to find a book could be the product or derivative of a more persistent “desire for reading”, and need only be produced in the appropriate circumstances. Broad would say that the derived dispositions were the realization of the underlying dispositions.

The pattern of “underlying propensity / distribution / result” for “mental sub-degrees” shows the steps by which deep motivational principles (purposes) in an “interior mind” lead to action. These purposes come to fruition by means of discursive investigation of ideas, plans and alternatives in what can be called a more exterior “scientific discursive mind”, as constrained by existing intellectual abilities. The actions of the sensorimotor mind select one outcome among many, as constrained by bodily conditions. Psychologists who have investigated perceptive and executive processes within the sensorimotor stage realize that these are far from simple. What we see is very much influenced by our expectations and desires, as well as by being constrained by what is in front of our eyes. There are subsidiary degrees of expectation, presentation of alternatives and resolution even during “simple” sensations. 

Consciousness enters into this picture whenever actions occur. All actions of desire or love are conscious actions, and part of the conscious awareness of at least some personality or person. Consciousness is therefore not a mental source itself, but an essential aspect of operations from mental sources.

[7] C. Broad, Mind and Its Place in Nature, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1925.