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.


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