Volume 5, Issue 1, 2007

Non-Boolean Descriptions for Mind-Matter Problems
Hans Primas, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

A framework for the mind-matter problem in a holistic universe which has no parts is outlined. The conceptual structure of modern quantum theory suggests to use complementary Boolean descriptions as elements for a more comprehensive non-Boolean description of a world without an a priori given mind-matter distinction. Such a description in terms of a locally Boolean but globally non-Boolean structure makes allowance for the fact that Boolean descriptions play a privileged role in science. If we accept the insight that there are no ultimate building blocks, the existence of holistic correlations between contextually chosen parts is a natural consequence. The main problem of a genuinely non-Boolean description is to find an appropriate partition of the universe of discourse. If we adopt the idea that all fundamental laws of physics are invariant under time translations, then we can consider a partition of the world into a tenseless and a tensed domain. In the sense of a regulative principle, the material domain is defined as the tenseless domain with its homogeneous time. The tensed domain contains the mental domain with a tensed time characterized by a privileged position, the Now. Since this partition refers to two complementary descriptions which are not given it a priori, we have to expect correlations between these two domains. In physics it corresponds to Newton's separation of universal laws of nature and contingent initial conditions. Both descriptions have a non-Boolean structure and can be encompassed into a single non-Boolean description. Tensed and tenseless time can be synchronized by holistic correlations.

The Role of Quantum Physics in the Theory of Subjective Consciousness
Chris J.S. Clarke, School of Mathematics, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

I argue that a dual-aspect theory of consciousness, associated with a particular class of quantum states, can provide a consistent account of consciousness. I illustrate this with the use of coherent states as this class. The proposal meets Chalmers' requirements of allowing a structural correspondence between consciousness and its physical correlate. It provides a means for consciousness to have an effect on the world (it is not an epiphenomenon, and can thus be selected by evolution) in a way that supplements and completes conventional physics, rather than interfering with it. I draw on the work of Hameroff and Penrose to explain the consistency of this proposal with decoherence, while adding details to this work. The proposal is open to extensive further research at both theoretical and experimental levels.

Whitehead, James, and the Ontology of Quantum Theory
Henry P. Stapp, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, USA

I shall describe the beautiful fit of the ideas of Alfred North Whitehead and William James with the concepts of relativistic quantum field theory developed by Tomonaga and Schwinger. The central concept is a set of happenings each of which is assigned a space-time region. This growing set of non-overlapping regions fill out a growing space-time region that advances into the still-uncreated and yet-to-be-fixed future. Each happening has both experiential aspects and physical aspects, which are jointly needed to generate the advance into the future. This conception is useful in passing from the pragmatic interpretation of science to a putative understanding of the reality beyond phenomena, and of our role within it. James' ideas about attention and volition are naturally implementable within this framework, and make us into agents that can act efficaciously upon the physical world on the basis of felt values, rational reasons, and conscious understandings.

Effort and Will: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective
Jay Schulkin, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA

Earlier views associated cognition with the cortex, and the will with sub-cortical non-cognitive structures. But an emerging perspective is that cognition runs throughout the central nervous system, including areas typically linked to motor control. It is an important realization that perceptual/effector systems are pregnant with cognitive resources. Staying the course to achieve one's goals amidst diverse pulls is the primary function of the will. One adaptation is to pre-commit oneself to future recursive actions consistent with one's plans. Diverse brain regions are tied to the conflicts of competing interests that require willpower to persevere towards our longer-term goals. While it is debatable to what extent we are conscious of our willpower and its causal efficacy, the concept of the will is a fundamental category in understanding our mental architecture and a piece of our evolutionary history.

Last revision: 4 May 2007