Quantum Interactive Dualism: An Alternative to Materialism

Here is the abstract of an awesome paper I just read. It was written by Henry P. Stapp of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California. It was originally published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, but you can find an online version of it here:


"Materialism rest implicitly upon the general conception of nature promoted by Galileo and Newton during the seventeenth century. It features the causal closure of the physical: The course of physically described events for all time is fixed by laws that refer exclusively to the physically describable features of nature, and initial conditions on these feature. No reference to subjective thoughts or feeling of human beings enter. That simple conception of nature was found during the first quarter of the twentieth century to be apparently incompatible with the empirical facts. The founders of quantum theory created a new fundamental physical theory, quantum theory, which introduced crucially into the causal structure certain conscious choices made by human agents about how they will act. These conscious human choices are “free” in the sense that they are not fixed by the known laws. But they can influence the course of physically described events. Thus the principle of the causal closure of the physical fails. Applications in psycho-neuro-dynamics are described."

If you are familiar materialist philosophy, then you know it provides much of the underpinning of modern atheism, especially the extreme reductionist materialism of Richard Dawkins and others. I am fascinated by the role that quantum mechanics will play in our growing understanding of the Universe!


Terry said...

this really doesn't challenge the foundational idea of materialism, although it may sound like that on a semantic level. reductionist materialism may have more to worry about, but materialism never denies that the mental doesn't exist, it simply stated that we didn't know HOW it interacted, so we doubted it existed. but ultimately since a mental state must be a physical phenomenon as well as mental one, who is to say it introduces any real dilemma for materialists? and again, just as materialists only denied mental phenomena based on our inability to know their true basis, we readily can admit it if they find their way into the physical equations (even if we don't fully understand HOW they fit in- you said yourself they seem fixed but not by KNOWN laws- emphasis on KNOWN, since we could eventually and hopefully discover just how they interact, thereby solving this dilemma once and for all).

Ken said...

Of course a materialist would say that "a mental state must be a physical phenomenon", but that is hardly a universal premise. Perhaps some mental states are completely physical, and perhaps some aren't. If some mental states are not wholly physical, and/or are epiphenomenal (such as the qualitative sensation of pain), then that WOULD present a problem for materialism.