- The nature of Consciousness1 and the interpretation of quantum mechanics2 are two subjects that excite great interest. Even more exciting then is the idea percolating through certain quarters that there are deep and significant connections between the two.
- Among those who have advocated a quantum mechanics3–consciousness4 connection are physicists Penrose (Roger)A+, Eugene Wigner, and Henry P. Stapp, philosophers David Chalmers, Michael Lockwood, and Quentin Smith and even a judge, David Hodgson, and an anaesthesiologist, Penrose's co-author Stuart Hameroff.
- Why do these, and many of those who attend the huge Consciousness5 conferences in Tucson, think that quantum theory6 has anything special to do with Consciousness7? There seem to be two kinds of reasons.
- One is that according to the standard way of thinking about quantum theory8 — also known as the Copenhagen Interpretation — measurement and observation play a central role in physical reality in ways that are utterly different from classical mechanics. The theory's founding fathers said and current orthodoxy concurs that quantum mechanics9 requires for its very formulation reference to the measurement process; and while it might not be a majority view among physicists, it is often said that a measurement is not completed until it is registered in the mind of a conscious observer. Some physicists have taken this so far as to claim that reality is indeterminate until observed — or as it has been put ‘the moon is not there until someone looks’.
- The other, complementary, reason is that the problem of understanding the relationship between Consciousness10 and physical phenomena is so hard. Advocates of the quantum-consciousness connection think that it is so hard, in part, because the physical phenomena are understood in terms of classical physics. They suggest that progress can be made on this problem by recognizing that the physical basis of Consciousness11 involves specifically quantum mechanical phenomena. Stapp, Penrose, and Smith, for example, claim that while classical mechanics is incapable of accounting for Consciousness12, quantum mechanics13 succeeds in providing explanations of how experience, unity of mind, free choice, and other features of mind emerge from physical states.
- Quantum mechanics14–consciousness15 enthusiasts see a mutual need: quantum mechanics16 needs Consciousness17 for its formulation — Consciousness18 needs quantum mechanics19 as its physics. Thus mutual necessity makes for strange bedfellows.
- Here I will be mainly concerned with the idea that quantum mechanics20 implicates Consciousness21 although I will also make a few remarks about whether philosophers have much reason to look to quantum mechanics22 to illuminate philosophical issues concerning Consciousness23. But first, since this book is primarily a collection of papers on philosophical problems of Consciousness24, I will provide a quick tour of some of the main features of quantum theory25 that explain why it is thought to involve Consciousness26 in some way.
- Quantum Mechanics27
- Quantum Theory28 Needs Consciousness29
- Consciousness30 Needs Quantum Theory31
Part Four: Quantum Mechanics32 and Consciousness33, Chapter 18
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2020
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)