We have seen remarkable progress in our detailed understanding of the physical world, from the smallest constituents of atoms to the remotest distances seen by telescopes. However, we have yet to explore the phenomenon of consciousness. Can physical things be conscious or is consciousness something else, forever outside the range of physics? And how does consciousness interact with physical things?
A lively account of quantum theory and its puzzles, Conscious Mind in the Physical World examines two developments in particular that have altered the context of discussions about consciousness. One is computer technology, which allows us to make machines that can calculate at speeds far greater than the human brain, while the other is the study of the microscopic world. The book explores philosophical issues such as idealism and free will and speculates on the relationship of consciousness to quantum mechanics. This resource will stimulate physicists with an interest in philosophy, philosophers interested in physics, and anyone fascinated about the waking state of the mind.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The book. The author. Physics and conscious mind: Physics as the theory of everything. Physics and the violation of experience. Physics and reductionism. From physics to conscious mind. Consciousness: What is consciousness? What is conscious? Can a machine be conscious? What does consciousness do? The uniqueness of conscious mind. States of consciousness. From classical physics to the standard model: The classical era. Interference. The quantum revolution. The standard model. The standard model of cosmology. Unanswered questions. Philosophical background: "Words, words, mere words". Idealism. Realism. Materialism. The mind-brain identity hypothesis. Dualism. Psychoneural pairs. Panpsychism. Process philosophy. Summary. Experiments relevant to conscious mind: Science needs experiments. Consciousness in animals. Blindsight. The brain. Split brain experiments. The effects on the brain of mental events. The effects of consciousness on the external world. Free will: A property of conscious mind. Freedom as the possibility of alternative action. Free-will as an illusion. Free-will and determinism. The origin of free-will. Purpose and design. Summary of our conclusions about free-will. Time: Time and the laws of physics. The experience of time. Time asymmetry and thermodynamics. Memory. Movement through time. Time and space. Truth: Facts and tautologies. Paradoxes. Axiomatic systems. Godel's theorem. Does a machine tell the truth?. Quantum theory: Particle-wave duality. The wavefunction of quantum theory. The probability interpretation of the wavefunction. Quantum theory and determinism. Quantum theory and external reality. Quantum theory and locality. Time and quantum mechanics. What does quantum theory mean?: The interpretation problem. The orthodox interpretation. What can make a quantum measurement? Consciousness and wavefunction reduction. Hidden-variable models. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory. Knowledge and quantum theory. Conscious mind and quantum physics: Why does consciousness enter physics? The unique world of conscious mind. Free-will and quantum physics. Psychokinesis and quantum physics. Universal consciousness and clairvoyance. Are brain events microscopic. Conclusions: Is there an external world? Is there anything else? Why does it seem to matter so much? Are we responsible for our actions? What is conscious mind? References. Index.
"Fascinating and wide-ranging."
-The Times Higher Educational Supplement
"… delightful book … an admirable introduction to modern physics and to the philosophy of mind, and it is a model of the use of simple prose to convey complex ideas."
-American Journal of Physics
"… provocative and original … guided by the principle that it is more important to ask questions than to answer them."
-Foundations of Physics