Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Quantum Mind?

I can't say that I hold much sympathy for theories of either consciousness and/or cognition that invoke quantum mechanics, and I'm well aware that it's hardly a majority view, but after reading that Searle has apparently recently endorsed the view I became curious as to how many proponents there actually are.

Penrose and Hammeroff are, of course, the most famous quantum mind theorists; Penrose's two books The Emperor's New Mind (1989) and The Shadows of the Mind (1994) being the main explications of his idea that human thought features some non-algorithmic elements. There are plenty of critical replies to both ENM and SotM; Grush & Churchland (1996), Tegmark (2000) and Chalmers (1995) being some of the more well known names who have published responses.

Speaking of Chalmers, he himself has expressed some sympathy for the possibility that quantum mechanics might be linked to consciousness (Chalmers, 1996; 2002). I can't say that I received the impression whilst reading him that he thinks the possibility is likely, however; he merely thinks that it's an option that shouldn't be ruled out, similar to his views on panpsychism.

Henry Stapp is one name I occasionally hear in relation to quantum theories of mind, but I literally know almost nothing about his work.

Searle's (2007) argument, which caused me to start thinking about this topic, is as follows;

Premise 1. All indeterminism in nature is quantum indeterminism.
Premise 2. Consciousness is a feature of nature that manifests indeterminism.
Conclusion: Consciousness manifests quantum indeterminism.

I'm not sold on the truth of either premise (I'm honestly not knowledgeable enough about physics to either agree or disagree with the first, and the second seems untrue), but it's nonetheless an interesting claim. I've yet to properly read through the book which contains this argument, so perhaps Searle will manage to convince me of its veracity.

Apart from the views listed above, I can't really think of (or find) any other major proponents of quantum mind theories. If anyone stumbling across this blog can give me reading recommendations, I'd appreciate it!


Chalmers, D.J., (1995), "Minds, machines and mathematics", Psyche, 2(9), 11-20
Chalmers, D.J., (1996), The Conscious Mind, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Chalmers, D.J., (2002), Consciousness and its place in nature, in (S. Stich & F. Warfield, eds) The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Mind, Blackwell
Grush, R. & Churchland, P.S. (1995), "Gap's in Penrose's Toilings", Journal of Consciousness Studies, 21, pp. 10–29
Penrose, R., (1989), The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford, Oxford University Press
Penrose, R., (1994), Shadows of the Mind, New York, Oxford University Press
Searle, J., (2007), Freedom and Neurobiology, Columbia University Press
Tegmark, M., (2000), "The importance of quantum decoherence in brain processes", Physical Review E, vol 61, pp. 4194–4206

No comments:

Post a Comment