- There is something fundamentally disturbing about contemporary philosophy of mind and philosophical cognitive science. Almost without exception, the philosophical theories are logically inconsistent with the most well-confirmed theory ever developed by humans, namely, quantum mechanics1. Why do philosophers develop theories of the mind-brain as if quantum mechanics2 does not exist, or as if it is utterly irrelevant to theories of the mind-brain?
- I believe this epistemic situation has arisen due to a series of questionable philosophical arguments about the role of philosophy of mind/cognitive science and quantum mechanics3 in our overall theoretical framework. In section 1 I explain some of these arguments and contend they are unsound.
- A second factor is that the most epistemically warranted resolution of the conflict between philosophical theories of the mind-brain and quantum mechanics4, namely, that current cognitive science and philosophies of mind be replaced by a quantum cognitive science, involves such a radical violation of the theory-forming criterion of ‘conservativeness' (roughly ‘change your old, most central beliefs to the minimal degree required by the new evidence or arguments’), that philosophers might think it is more reasonable to retain standard, non-quantum cognitive science and wait until a ‘new science' is developed that allows the criterion of theoretical conservativeness to be more nearly met than would be the case if we made the transition from non-quantum to quantum cognitive science. This second factor is typically expressed in noting the ‘bizarreness' (relative to our non-quantum background beliefs) of the various ontologies with which we are faced if we have to accept any of the presently known interpretations of quantum mechanics5 and their implications for cognitive science.
- In fact, there may be an even more basic (and perhaps unique) problem that arises due to the highly non-conservative shift in thinking that a trasition to quantum cognitive science would require. It may be that the quantum ontologies are so ‘strange' that many, most, or virtually all philosophers find them psychologically impossible to believe. This may be a genetic problem rather than merely a problem in the lack of intellectual acculturation in quantum ontology. For example, one of the ontological interpretations of quantum mechanics6 requires us to believe that each of our minds (conceived in terms of substance dualism) is regularly splitting into an infinite (continuum-many) number of distinct minds, each with the same body (so there is just one body or brain for all the minds), such that each of the minds is unaware of the other minds (e.g. a version of Albert and Loewer's 'many-minds' interpretation of quantum mechanics)7. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this is the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics8. It could be that many, most, or all of us are not psychologically capable of actually and sincerely believing this ontology. Varying on McGinn, it could be that we are not cognitively closed to understanding the mind-brain relation (for example), but that we can understand the true theory of this relation but are cognitively closed to believing it. This should not be surprising. Why should we expect that homo sapiens sapiens is genetically capable of finding epistemically plausible the ontology implied by the true cognitive science, especially if this ontology differs radically from both folk psychology and what Stich calls ‘our folk physics' (common sense beliefs, predictions, explanations, etc., about the nature of physical reality)? Believing such an ontology appears to confer no increase in our survival value; it may even decrease our ‘fitness' to survive and reproduce. Would we still want to undertake the difficult task of raising offspring if we all knew and emotionally appreciated the significance of the fact that infinite sets of varying copies of ourselves were continually coming into existence? Admittedly, many of our beliefs have no firm explanatory link with enhanced reproductive success, but in the case of quantum mechanical beliefs the decrease in our ‘fitness' seems much greater than with other beliefs.
- Quantum cognitive science (in so far as it is presently developed) requires the rejection of both folk psychology and folk physics, but not in the name of eliminative materialism, reductive physicalism, or what the Churchlands call ‘neuroscience' or ‘neurophilosophy'. For these ontologies (e.g. Patricia and Paul Churchland's versions of eliminative materialism) are non-quantum ontologies and will have to be rejected for the same reasons that require the rejection of folk psychology and folk physics.
- There will remain two positive aspects of non-quantum cognitive science or philosophy of mind (if my arguments for quantum cognitive science are sound).
- One positive aspect is that non-quantum cognitive sciences, if interpreted instrumentally (and anti-realistically) can still have the theoretical virtue of being successful at predicting approximately accurate macroscopic observations. Although non-quantum theories are false if interpreted in terms of ontological realism, they are none the less highly useful for instrumentalist purposes.
- The second positive aspect is that the non-quantum theories or theses can in some cases be ‘quantized' and made consistent with quantum cognitive science and in these cases their quantized versions can be interpreted realistically and thereby can have the truth value of true (in the sense of 'correspondence' to reality).
- These theses are argued for in section 1 of this chapter. In section 2 I outline a new version of quantum cognitive science that is capable of explaining the only available experimental, macroscopic evidence for quantum cognitive science, the Nunn-Clarke-Blott experiments. Note that the widely discussed Hammeroff-Penrose quantum theory9 of the physical basis of consciousness (they do not develop a theory of the nature of consciousness) is not put forward by Hammeroff and Penrose as an experimentally confirmed theory, but as a testable proposal that is not yet confirmed. Much of the criticism of their theory is based on the false assumption that they put it forward as a confirmed hypothesis.
- A response to the Standard Objections to Quantum Cognitive Science
- 1.1 Fallacious Reasoning about Prior and Posterior Probabilities of Non-Quantum Cognitive Science and Quantum Cognitive Science
- 1.2 The Objection that Quantum Cognitive Science is Mere Speculation
- 1.3 The Objection that Cognitive Science is an Autonomous Science
- 1.4 The Objection that Quantum Mechanics10 is Unnecessary for Predictive Success in Cognitive Science
- 1.5 The Objection that Quantum Mechanics11 can be Interpreted Instrumentally, in which case Non-Quantum Cognitive Science can be Realistic
- Macroscopic Evidence for the Quantum Basis and the Quantum Nature of Consciousness
- 2.1 A New De Broglie / Bohm Quantum Consciousness Hypothesis
- 2.2 A Quantum Brain Hypothesis
Part Four: Quantum Mechanics12 and Consciousness, Chapter 15
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
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