Microvita Research e.V.


The mind-body problem in light of E. Schrödinger's

"Mind and Matter" (1958)

In 1958, Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger published a small book entitled "Mind and Matter", wherein he provides a solution to the age-old dualism of body and mind, which can be discussed in this thread.

Before entering one might read what has already been written in the preceding threads on "mental causation“, “artificial intelligence“ and "the hard problem":



A Discussion between Dan Hetherington and

Hans-Joachim Rudolph


Hans-Joachim, I am glad that you posted this. I recently read this piece in response to our conversations about the role of quantum physics in explanations of consciousness. I found no indication in there that Schrödinger felt that quantum phenomena offered a means of explaining consciousness, or understanding the supposed "Hard Problem". He rejects dualism early on, and without dualism there is no "hard problem".

This should be the full set. 


Chapter 2 was particularly interesting to me, and I thought of posting a thread on it. Please take a look, Hans-Joachim. In it, Schrödinger discusses biological evolution, highlighting the role of behavior as a driving force. While he does not mention it, it is very similar to an account of evolution given by a fellow by the name of Baldwin, who was a professor of psychology at Harvard in the early 20th century, who placed mental processes and consciousness as the driving force of evolution, using Darwin's general idea. You can find references under the search term "Baldwin Effect".


We could start a textual work, paragraph-by-paragraph?


It is interesting that he starts this essay with a psychological statement, saying that "the world is a construct of our sensations, perceptions and memories." Only in the second sentence he adds what we would expect to hear from a physicist, i.e. that it can also be regarded "as existing objectively on its own." 

You might remember that I also maintained this simple truth. But here, Schrödinger makes a subtle distinction: He says that the world "does not become manifest by its mere existence."

This difference might be a consequence of the "observer effect" described in quantum physics: When it was first noticed by the early pioneers of quantum theory, they were deeply troubled. It seemed to undermine the basic assumption behind all science, that there is an objective world out there, irrespective of us. If the way the world behaves depends on how – or if – we look at it, what then will "reality" really mean?


He goes on to say later that it makes no sense to speak of a world that is not a world for a subject, and that goes back to his questioning of the subject/object distinction. I'll be up to maintaining that there is nothing "spooky" about the "observer effect". It just amounts to there being no such thing as pure observation without any effect, at any level of analysis, be it quantum, biological, sociological or cultural. We are participants, not observers.


The same idea was caught by Heidegger without referring to quantum physics: He spoke about the inexhaustibility of reality and the astonishment over the fact that there are “open places”, where "nature opens its eyes and notices that it is there". Without such testimony the world would be a place of mere presence, closed in itself. So, we might say that witnessing elevates simple presence to manifested existence.


"The nervous system is the place where our species is still engaged in phyogenetic transformation: metaphorically speaking it is the 'vegetation top' of our stem. I would summarize my general hypothesis thus: consciousness is associated with the 'learning' of the living substance: its 'knowing how' is unconscious."

For 'vegetation top' there is the German "Vegetationsspitze'. I assume that is what is called in Biology the "apical meristem', the growing tip which is composed of undifferentiated and partly differentiated cells unfolding into the structure of the plant. Its a beautiful, dynamic image, and it resonates with his later discussion of behavior and learning being at the cutting edge of Biological Evolution, the "Baldwin effect".


"consciousness is associated with the 'learning' of the living substance"

In Integrated Information Theory (IIT), the system becomes conscious as soon as it develops sufficient self-reference. I think this can be seen and understood with the help of a simplified model provided at http://integratedinformationtheory.org/animats.html: S stands for sensory input, M for motor output, A, B, C and D represent those parts of the central nervous system, which are not directly engaged in the processing of sensory input and motor output respectively. 

So, the appearance of 'self-loops' (= activated neuronal assemblies of the CNS) indicates mental activity, which can be associated with the learning of the living substance (= formation of additional circuitries)

Regarding your comment that there is nothing "spooky" about the "observer effect", I must say that this can be condoned to a psychologist. But in classical physics, observer effects were and had to be excluded always! It was a shock for the pioneers of quantum physics, when they found that these "spooky" things couldn't be ruled out, rather they were intrinsic to the system under investigation, which caused A. Einstein to reject the whole of quantum physics. Later, of course, Einstein was proven to be wrong.


Hans-Joachim, those loops you speak of, which "lead to", "support" consciousness: those are the structures Edleman emphasizes - the cortico/thalamic networks of reenty. I might be off here, but I think Damasio cites similar loopy structures critically involving the insular cortex. Wherever you find that "loopiness" of reciprocal connections and potential iterative processing of information, you find a potential "support" of consciousness. What I question about approaches to understanding consciousness and mental functioning based on quantum phenomena is whether, on the one hand, that type of "loopiness" occurs at the quantum level, and whether it is necessary to invoke it, seeing as there is ample support for self-reference in the neurological structures themselves.  

The way I read Schrödinger here is that he doesn't so much posit consciousness as a functional characteristic of a sufficiently self-referential system, as much as he says consciousness is a function of that system in the situation of novelty. He talks about the difficulty of defining 'consciousness' according to neural structures, pointing out that there are many neural structures and functions which occur without consciousness. It is the organism in the process of dealing with novel situations, which is the condition of the appearance of consciousness as a process, rather than as a fixed characteristic of a system apart from it's context. 

As to the "spookiness" of the "observer effect": what you're describing in the transition from classical to quantum physics is a breakdown of the idealization of a completely disengaged observer. I'm with you, there. The sorts of notions I'm highly suspicious of, and that I've seen suggested in the popular literature, are things like one's attitude changes the structure of matter, or the notion of simply wishing makes it so. The "effect" in the "observer effect" is not through mental „waves" (for lack of a better word), but through physical processes, in the extended sense of physical processes involving quantum interactions. What we are dealing with here are the limits of our ability to predict outcomes, because our attempts at measurement change the system whose future behavior we are trying to predict.


I've been thinking about a question that you posed to me earlier in regard to the "observer effect", the Zeno effect, and neural systems. You granted that we have something equivalent to the "observer effect" in sociology, or better, anthropology, in that the introduction of a researcher into the field introduces effects on that field. You asked me how that would apply in neural systems in the context of the Zeno effect. That depends on what you take to be the "observer". In the example of sociology or anthropology, the observer is in fact an intact human agent, a whole person. If you're talking about how that type of observer "interacts" with his or her own neural structures in such a way as to stabilize their own neural state, then I think you are in the realm of the basic question of how an agency occurs in a physical system. That, to me is an open question, and it's been kicked around for a long time. I don't see how the Zeno effect elucidates that situation.


Dan, you ask "whether, on the one hand, that type of "loopiness" occurs at the quantum level, and whether it is necessary to invoke it (the quantum level), as there is ample support for self-reference in the neurological structures themselves."

Of course, self-reference occurs on the level of neuronal circuitry, and the connectome will provide not only a list, but even a map of it in the near future.

The thing is that this "loopiness" doesn't provide any conscious experience by itself. It's just an indicator of conscious activity (depending on the Φ-value of IIT). Experiences occur exclusively on the imaginary level; as we agreed earlier, all experiences (whatever can be described phenomenologically) are imaginary. And it is only the interaction between these two levels, where quantum theory comes in.

Without such an openness, the loops would be places of mere presence, closed in themselves. But remember, this is not a dualist position.

The connection between the two is considered to be as old as the universe. It is also contrary to Emergentism, because consciousness is not considered to develop out of the complexity of organic matter. 

For getting an overview on quantum theory and the human mind, you might have a look at http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-quantum-physics


(depending on the Φ-value of IIT) 

You loss me, Hans-Joachim, with expressions like this. Also, I do not think all experiences are imaginary, but I think it may be possible to model experience with the notion of imaginary and real number spaces, as you have done. That is very different from saying that experiences are imaginary in a mathematical sense. That would be to confuse the model with what is modeled.


... to confuse the model with what is modeled.

You're right. That has been my problem since long. Excuse me for having fallen into this trap again.

But IIT and the Φ-value: We'd discussed it earlier (http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003588), and I'd referred to Tononi et al's Center for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in this thread.

And regarding the imaginary: I had Kauffman's article on my screen: "Self-reference and recursive forms", which we had also discussed earlier. Therein he concludes: Only the imaginary is real.


But I should return to Schrödinger's article, and particularly to the second topic in chapter 1 - "a tentative answer". In the beginning he says that whenever we ask ourselves whether consciousness might also be associated with other than nervous processes, we run into unprovable speculations. Therefore he suggests to start in the opposite direction. Accordingly, he finds examples of processes in the nervous system that remain unconscious or become conscious only under certain conditions. His conclusion is that any succession of events in which we take part with sensations, perceptions and possibly with actions gradually drops out of the domain of consciousness, if the same string of events repeats itself in the same way very often.

In a metaphorical sense he concludes that consciousness is like a tutor who supervises the education of the living substance, but leaves his pupil, i.e. the living substance, alone to deal with all those tasks for which he is already sufficiently trained.

In the next step, he extends this approach to the autonomic nervous system. He says that the heart beat, the peristaltic movements of the bowels etc. are faced with nearly constant or regularly changing situations; they are very well and regularly practiced and have, therefore, long ago, dropped from the sphere of consciousness.

Next he extends these notions to other than nervous processes, and summarizes that what has been said to be a property of nervous processes is actually a property of organic processes in general, namely that they are associated with consciousness only if they are new, which means that consciousness is associated with learning of the living substance; its 'knowing how' is unconscious.  

What I take from these deliberations is that consciousness must have aided living beings from their very beginning. When I wonder about the complexity of bacteria and archaea, I can get along with it only by assuming some cognitive principle helping in its evolution. For me, coincidence is not a choice.

Consequently, there are only two possibilities: Either that cognitive principle emerged from the complexity of these archaea/bacteria, or it existed even before their advent. The first option is called Emergentism, the second Panpsychism.

In the first section of his first chapter (headlined "The Problem"), Schrödinger repeatedly mocks about rationalists, and then he says: The urge to find a way out of this impasse ought not to be damped by the fear of incurring the wise rationalists' mockery.

But in the next sentence he praises Spinoza, then refers to the Greek Holozoists and to Theodor Fechner, who did not shy at attributing souls to plants, to the earth and to the planetary system! His last sentence in this section is: I do not fall in with these fantasies, yet I should not like to have to pass judgement as to who has come nearer to the deepest truth, Fechner or the bankrupts of rationalism.


Paramaprakrti and Paramapurush, the two aspects of Brahma, are translated as the operative (doing or actional) and the cognitive (knowing) principle.

That active principle - Mother Nature - is acting anyhow.

But let me add one more thought, to which you might disagree: In my view, the principles of mathematics are not man-made, rather they are given to us - you can also say, they are found, not made by humans. One of these is the relation between real and imaginary numbers, whose beauty it is that there is no way to arrive at the imaginary unit number i - the square root of minus one - if you think in terms of real numbers only. On the other hand, it is very easy to arrive at the real unit number one, if you think in terms of imaginary numbers (you just have to multiply i with itself three times). If you generalize this truth, you will find that it is easy to start with the cognitive (Paramapurusha), then arriving at the physical, and subsequently proceeding to the cognitive again, rather than starting with the physical and then trying to arrive at some cognition from there.


I'm partial to Emergentism. The problem with Panpsychism is that the type of consciousness that is required to complete the system, as something that is intertwined with matter at the deepest quantum level and has existed through all eternity (or since the first Big Bang, whichever came first) is so far removed from the notion of consciousness that we usually employ in daily life that it is difficult, at least for me, to see the two uses as referring to the same "thing". What I like about Emergentism is not only it's naturalism, but - and this is the part rabid spiritualists overlook - it's appeal to miracles, or "singularities". Christian De Duve, in his account of the evolutionary process, highlights "singularities". The development of Sex is a "singularity". The development of the organelles, mitochondria and chloroplasts, are "singularities" as was the emergence of the Eukaryota from the Archea and Bacteria. Life is a line of very singular events. 

There is something suspicious in using the idea of "emergence" as an explanation of origin. It just happened. In retrospect we could identify the preconditions of the phenomena that "Emerged", but by definition, we could not have predicted it. It is akin to the formation of a Gestalt.

I much prefer this idea of the unpredictable formation of pattern to the notion of entelechy, in which the form is always already there, and simply needs to be realized. That seems too static of a picture, and doesn't square with the inherent unpredictability and spontaneity of life and consciousness.


I agree that our problem of understanding cannot be captured by the dichotomy of Emergentism versus Panpsychism. 

In an earlier thread, we already dealt with Aristotelian versus Nagarjuna's logic, where the former sticks to the principle of "tertium non datur", whereas the latter dismisses the same. This Law of the Excluded Middle could be applied, if we would still see it from the perspective of Presocratics, who thought that the mind is either an elemental feature of the world, or that the mind can somehow be reduced to more fundamental elements. If one opts for reductionism, it is incumbent upon one to explain how the promotion happens. On the other hand, if one opts for the panpsychist view that mind is an elemental feature of the world, then one must account for the apparent lack of mental features at the fundamental level. But after roughly 2500 year, philosophers have paved the way for solutions. A third and possibly a fourth and a fifth have evolved, one of them is Emergentist Panpsychism, another one is Constitutive Panpsychism and then there is also Panprotopsychism. They are summarized at 


and https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/panpsychism/#PanpVersPanp 



Interesting articles, Hans-Joachim. I only had a chance to glance through them, but I'll take a closer look when I can. This caught my eye:

Thomas Nagel (1979) influentially argued that adopting a view like Panpsychism is the only way to avoid what he called “emergence”. Crucially, close examination of the text reveals that Nagel is using the word “emergence” slightly differently to how it has come to be used in contemporary discussions of Panpsychism (discussed above). For Nagel, “emergent” properties of a complex system are ones that cannot be intelligibly derived from the properties of its parts. In contrast, for the “emergentist panpsychists” discussed above, “emergent” properties of a complex system are simply fundamental macro-level properties, which may or may not be intelligibly derived from the properties of its parts. Following Galen Strawson (2006) we can use the word “radical emergence” to express Nagel’s notion of emergence.

I favor the "radical emergence" that Nagel apparently rejects.

Mind and Matter, chapter 2


The sections of Schrödinger´s second chapter. are headlined as follows: A biological blind alley? The apparent gloom of Darwinism. Behaviour influences selection. Feigned Lamarckism. Genetic fixation of habits and skills. Dangers to intellectual evolution. 

In the fifties nobody talked about epigenetics, which has become a focus of contemporary research meanwhile. I'm sure Schrödinger would have cheered and supported it. 

In my view, vacuum fluctuations are the common ground of both, matter and thoughts. Quantum mechanics uses 'creation' and 'annihilation operators' to model particle production and dissolution in the zero point field. Here it is important to note, that the annihilation operator doesn't extinguish the particles, but transmutes them from actuality to potentiality, i.e. from real to imaginary space-time. If this constantly ongoing process leans more to the side of actuality, we get particles (matter), if it leans more to the side of potentiality, we get thoughts (ideas). On the fundamental level, as it was mentioned above, we might, however, better speak of proto-thoughts, constituting what we might call Quantum Protopsychism.

How could matter get organized if it would not observe itself?


"Quantum measuring is a built-in function of all matter."

That's pure speculation. Remember also that "Schrödinger's cat" was a thought experiment set up by Schrödinger precisely in order to highlight the shortcomings of the Copenhagen Interpretation, particularly its lack of clarity in the notions of "measurement" and "observer". So, in the eyes of Schrödinger, you've simply elevated a lack of conceptual clarity into a fundamental principle of the universe. Penrose does the same.

Hedda Hassel Mørch


Today I found in our most renowned, national newspaper - the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) - a long article entitled "Wie kommt der Geist in die Natur?" It's a translation from English, written by the Norwegian philosopher Hedda Hassel Mørch, who is currently at the NYU Center for Mind, Brain and Consciousness as well as the Center for Sleep and Consciousness of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (which had been mentioned during our discussions repeatedly). The original article was published April 6, 2017 in Nautilus (=> http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/is-matter-conscious).

All the questions & queries we were dealing with during our combined efforts in this forum are specified therein. This means more or less that Panpsychism and dual-aspect monism have reached mainstream media.

This is the FAZ-article: 

Regarding dual-aspect monism see 



Some weeks ago we discussed about Kant and the thing in itself. Now this topic returns in the form of Arthur Schopenhauer’s succinct response to Kant saying "We can know the thing-in-itself because we are it" (you find it just after the headline "In order to give both phenomena their proper due, a radical change of thinking is required").

Actually, in Dual-Aspect Monism, the subject/object distinction is elevated to a conception about intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of matter. It reminds me of our discussion on Emergentism and Panpsychism, finally finding Emergentist Panpsychism in the literature. Similarly, we discussed Dualism and Monism, just to come across Dual-Aspect Monism in the end.


It's about consciousness in a very general and basic sense, not in the sense we use the word when we speak about humans. Regarding that difference, she argues that it should be easier to see how to get one form of conscious matter (such as a conscious brain) from another form of conscious matter (such as a set of conscious particles) than how to get conscious matter from non-conscious matter: The 'combination problem' should be less hard than the original 'hard problem'. 

Regarding dual-aspect monism, I referred to an article of H. Atmanspacher. The title is "Dual-Aspect Monism à la Pauli and Jung". W. Pauli was one of the founders of quantum physics. He became a close friend of C.G. Jung in 1931/32, and their cooperation lasted for decades. 

Interestingly, Schrödinger quotes C.G. Jung in his third chapter (The Principle of Objectivation, p 119): "All science, however, is a function of the soul, in which all knowledge is rooted. The soul is the greatest of all cosmic miracles, it is the conditio sine qua non of the world as an object. It is exceedingly astonishing that the Western world (apart from very rare exceptions) seems to have so little appreciation of this being so. The flood of external objects of cognizance has made the subject of all cognizance withdraw to the background, often to apparent non-existence." And then Schrödinger adds saying "Of course Jung is quite right." (p120)

Actually, Hedda Hassel Mørch doesn't say that "consciousness is the real concrete stuff of reality, the fundamental hardware that implements the software of our physical theories." What she says is: "The possibility that consciousness is the real concrete stuff of reality, ... , is a radical idea. It completely inverts our ordinary picture of reality in a way that can be difficult to fully grasp." So she knows that the idea is refutable. Since hundreds of years Western scientists and philosophers used another concept of substances. Now, she says that substance has extrinsic properties, which we can experience and measure with our senses as well as with their technological extensions. But it has also intrinsic properties, which we can experience only within ourselves, including what has been called qualia, i.e. pain, sorrow, pleasure, happiness, etc.

Mind and Matter, chapter 3


I think most of us once thought for a while that the antagonism of matter and energy might be related to the body-mind problem. Schrödinger relates to this possibility; in chapter 3, page 123, he writes:

“Let us, with all the knowledge we have about it, follow such a 'tender look' inside the body. We do hit there on a supremely interesting bustle or, if you like, machinery. We find millions of cells of very specialized build in an arrangement that is unsurveyably intricate but quite obviously serves a very far-reaching and highly consummate mutual communication and collaboration; a ceaseless hammering of regular electro-chemical pulses which, however, change rapidly in their configuration, being conducted from nerve cell to nerve cell, tens of thousands of contacts being opened and blocked within every split second, chemical transformations being induced and maybe other changes as yet undiscovered. All this we meet and, as the science of physiology advances, we may trust that we shall come to know more and more about it. But now let us assume that in a particular case you eventually observe several efferent bundles of pulsating currents, which issue from the brain and through long cellular protrusions, are conducted to certain muscles of the arm, which, as a consequence, tends a hesitating, trembling hand to bid you farewell - for a long, heart-rending separation; at the same time you may find that some other pulsating bundles produce a certain glandular secretion so as to veil the poor sad eye with a crape of tears. But nowhere along this way from the eye through the central organ to the arm muscles and the tear glands - nowhere you may be sure, however far physiology advances, will you ever meet the personality, will you ever meet the dire pain, the bewildered worry within this soul, though their reality is to you so certain as though you suffered them yourself - as in actual fact you do!“

Basically the same argument was brought forward some 300 years before by G.F. Leibniz, who suggested a thought experiment that involves walking into a mill, showing that material things such as machines or brains cannot possibly have mental states. Only immaterial things, that is, soul-like entities, are able to think or perceive.

All this shows not only that our minds must be immaterial or that we must have souls, but also that we will never be able to construct a computer that can truly think or perceive.


Notice, though, Hans-Joachim, that while Schrödinger's description supports the impossibility of reducing awareness to physical processes, thus maintaining them as separate domains, he also speaks of there being no place for a subject/object distinction in philosophy.


I agree, Hans-Joachim. It appears as if the subject/object distinction is context dependent, and is needed "for practical reference", so when we ask "is the subject separate from the object?", we can't say that ultimately it is, in a philosophical sense, but we can say that it is in a relative sense, for practical purposes. It sounds like a violation of the Law of the Excluded Middle. 


Dan - yes, he speaks of there being no place for a subject/object distinction in philosophy. But he maintains that this is valid only for philosophy! First he says that this distinction is deeply rooted in our cultural heritage. Then he emphasizes that we have to accept it in everyday life 'for practical reference'. And thirdly he maintains that this "antinomy cannot be solved on the level of present-day science, which is still entirely engulfed in the 'exclusion principle' - without knowing it - hence the antinomy. To realize this is valuable, but it does not solve the problem. You cannot remove the 'exclusion principle' by an act of parliament as it were. Scientific attitude would have to be rebuilt, science must be made anew. Care is needed."

The whole situation reminds me of a sentence Wolfgang Pauli noted down in a letter to Abraham Pais:

"It is my personal opinion that 'reality' in future science will mean neither 'psychic' nor 'physical', but both as well as neither.“

It's again a matter of Aristotelian vs. Nagarjuna's logic, isn't it?

It is a position that has been called Panentheism. It maintains a difference between God and the world, insofar as He is also transcendent; but being immanent as well, Panentheism represents a form of Panpsychism, which is explicitly referred to in Hedda Hassel Mørch's article.

The difference between Pantheism and Panentheism is that Panentheism is considered to allow for the resolution of the philosophical difficulties inherent in the closely related doctrine of pantheism. For example, some claim that pantheism's conception of a completely immanent God mitigates the sense of power attributed to a God conceived as more transcendent. In Panentheism, although God is, of course, always present in the immanent world, he also possesses all the transcendence of the traditional theist conceptions of God (=> http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Panentheism).

Panpsychism and Emergentism are, on the other hand, currently discussed, for example, in Mikael Leidenhag's article From Emergence Theory to Panpsychism - A Philosophical Evaluation of Nancey Murphy's Non-reductive Physicalism (2016): 

Panpsychism has been confronted with the mockery, that it would imply even rocks to experience an interior psychic life with all the conscious richness of human desires, fears, evaluations, thoughts, emotions, choices, and dreams. To counter such (unjustified) attacks the term Panexperientialism has been coined, which means that individual cells, individual molecules, individual atoms, and even individual subatomic particles, such as photons or electrons, incorporate nothing but a capacity for ‘feeling’, i.e. a degree of subjective interiority.

It is exactly this general interiority, which I had in mind, when I conceptualized imaginary space(s) to coexist with physical space everywhere. The basic idea is presented in my article "Sadhana and Interiority“: http://www.crimsondawn.net/crimson7/node/315

(also contained in http://anandamargabooks.com/portfolio/crimson-dawn-microvitum/ as well as in https://www.amazon.de/Microvita-Exploring-New-Science-Reality/dp/1524691135).

I agree that particles can't experience anything except forces, which is not self-evident, as we can imagine situations where an exposure to forces doesn't mean necessarily to experience them. Suppose you are lying in an operation theatre and the surgeon opens your belly. The force that is applied on your tissues is the same, whether you are conscious or not, i.e. whether you experience the pain or not. Nevertheless, Panexperientialism maintains, that even subatomic particles are able to experience the forces which they are exposed to.

Mind and Matter, chapter 4


But let me come back to Schrödinger's "Mind and Matter", where he describes in chapter 4 what he calls the arithmetical paradox. He says "there appears to be a great multitude of (these) conscious egos, the world however is only one." Further down he concludes. "There are two ways out of the number paradox, both appearing rather lunatic from the point of view of present scientific thought (...). One way out is the multiplication of the world in Leibniz's fearful doctrine of monads: every monad to be a world by itself, no communication between them; the monad 'has no windows', it is 'incommunicado'. That none the less they all agree with each other is called 'pre-established harmony'. I think there are few to whom this suggestion appeals, nay who would consider it as a mitigation at all of the numerical antinomy.

There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousness. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind."

Now, if I take these two propositions together, (1) that the multiplicity of minds is only apparent, and in truths they are just one mind, and (2) that energy and the experience of energy is one and cannot be differentiated into its aspects - if I accept these propositions, I can agree with Dan's position, which he has brought forward repeatedly. But, before going into the details, I would like to ask you, Dan, whether you agree that these two are essential for your philosophical stance?


Hans-Joachim - I hope that you don't expect a straightforward answer to your question : ). I think it gets complex, and ties back to your discussion about reconciling the Immanent and the Transcendent. I read this chapter many years ago, and what I remembered of it, prior to rereading it, was the notion of there being only one consciousness, ultimately. When I reread it, what struck me was that Schrödinger ends on a somewhat ambiguous note. He does not resolve the antimony between the One and the many, and seems to suggest that it is not resolvable: 

"To me this seems to be the best simile of the bewildering double role of mind. On the one hand mind is the artist who has produced the whole; in the accomplished work, however, it is but an insignificant accessory that might be absent without detracting from the total effect."

"Speaking without metaphor we have to declare that we are here faced with one of those typical antinomies caused by the fact that we have not yet succeeded in elaborating a fairly understandable outlook on the world without retiring our own mind, the producer of the world picture, from it, so that mind has no place in it. The attempt to press it into it, after all, necessarily produces some absurdities." 

So, if there is one Mind, one Consciousness, it is a peculiar thing, because it has a double role, and the other role it has is as our particular, personal consciousness, or selves. The simile that Schrödinger was referring to in the beginning was the artistic device of painting oneself into a picture, typically in a very small and insignificant way.

I look at it in terms of the distinction that both Kant and Husserl drew between the Transcendental and Empirical ego. The Transcendental Ego is the artist, that which does the painting, and the empirical ego is the character that is painted into the painting. There is some debate, at least in regard to Husserl, whether when we speak of the Transcendental Ego we are speaking of One thing, or of many. 

"(2) that energy and the experience of energy is one and cannot be differentiated into its aspects"

I'm not sure. I think our understanding of the concept of energy is based on our experience of energy, in the same way that our understanding of the concept of "life" is based on our experience of being alive. To think conceptually is to differentiate, but the basis of our conceiving is our own experience.


Indeed, chapter 4 doesn't provide a positive outlook. Rather it's an account of paradoxes, antinomies and absurdities. Most of all he complains that we have not yet succeeded in elaborating a fairly understandable outlook on the world without retiring our own mind, the producer of the world picture, from it, so that mind has no place in it. 

Nevertheless, I have two remarks:

Firstly, I think that Schrödinger’s „arithmetic paradox“ is actually exactly the same as what Hedda Hassel Mørch calls „the combination problem“. But while Schrödinger seems to be quite desperate, Hassel Mørch has more hope to find a yet undiscovered solution.

Secondly, Schrödinger sees only two ways out of the described dilemma, that is either Spinoza‘s or Leibniz‘s approach. While he favors the former, he ridicules the latter from the very beginning. This is understandable in light of the limited literature available at his time. As we know meanwhile, however, Leibniz elaborated his thoughts in letters, which he wrote to about 1.300 partners. Comprising 20.000, they are all stored at the Leibnitz Archives in Hannover; only a fraction of this material has been edited and published up to now. It is expected that a complete edition will be available by the year 2050.

However, letters made available in the last 60 years already shed new light on his "Monadology". Therefore, mockeries about it are apparently out of place. It is also to be noted that this treatise was (1) published post mortem under a new title, and (2) was never meant for publication. Rather he wanted to propose a conundrum to Nicolas Francois Rémond and his scholarly circle.


I don't see Schrödinger as desperate or hopeless, Hans-Joachim. I may be reading more into what he said than is warranted, but the very last paragraph describes both the necessary atheism of natural science and the personal validity of an experience of the Divine. That is a rich mixture. To me, it offers promise. The double roles of mind and consciousness suggest that sense of Transcendence in Immanence. I think the lack of reconciliation of the antinomies is a fruitful paradox. 


Dan - what you say is true, and there is hardly anything to add. Only one thing: Leibniz's Monadology has been extended, and there is a Quantum Monadology developed by Teruaki Nakagomi. His papers can be found, next to other useful articles, in a periodical called Neuroquantology (=> https://www.neuroquantology.com/index.php/journal/index).

Also, even, if you would like to read these 20.000 letters, you would not be able to do so, as most of them are still unpublished. They have been kept for 300 years in various archives, withstanding wars, famines, firestorms etc.; so it needs a lot of care to prepare them for publication.

In 2016, Leibniz's 300th obit was celebrated in Hannover, and I went there to get a glimpse of it (=> https://www.flickr.com/photos/30954202@N05/31039335711/in/album-72157675343260882/).

In the 17th century, science and philosophy were not run in the way as it is done nowadays. What I know about misconceptions and later corrections on his Monadology is from Hubertus Busche's "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz: Monadology", Akademie Verlag, 2009 (https://www.amazon.de/Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Monadologie-Klassiker/dp/3050043369).

I don't think that you can be more knowledgable about Leibniz's philosophy than Busche, particularly as he didn't write the book alone, rather it's a compilation of various authors...


Speaking disrespectful about him might reveal some lack of understanding. Please consider that Leibniz may have been the first computer scientist and information theorist. Early in life, he documented the binary numeral system (base 2), then revisited that system throughout his career. He anticipated Lagrangian interpolation and algorithmic information theory. His calculus ratiocinator anticipated aspects of the universal Turing machine. In 1961, Norbert Wiener suggested that Leibniz should be considered the patron saint of cybernetics.

In 1671, Leibniz began to invent a machine that could execute all four arithmetic operations, gradually improving it over a number of years. This "stepped reckoner" attracted fair attention and was the basis of his election to the Royal Society in 1673. 

Leibniz was groping towards hardware and software concepts worked out much later by Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace. In 1679, while mulling over his binary arithmetic, Leibniz imagined a machine in which binary numbers were represented by marbles, governed by a rudimentary sort of punched cards. Modern electronic digital computers replace Leibniz's marbles moving by gravity with shift registers, voltage gradients, and pulses of electrons, but otherwise they run roughly as Leibniz envisioned in 1679.


Hans-Joachim - Did Leibniz correspond with Bach?


Dan - your intuition brought me to an interesting article, which 

starts with the inscription: 

"How Bach’s musical intervention into the thought-process of the young King Frederick II continued Leibniz’s epistemological battle against the oligarchical outlook of the Venetian-directed ‘Enlightenment’", and culminates in the following sentences:

"The American Revolution of 1776-1789, was made possible by the growing political influence of a cultural revolution spreading throughout Europe. This was the so-called Classical revolution, led by the vowed defenders of the legacies of Gottfried Leibniz and Johann Sebastian Bach, the leading cultural opposition to the French and British Enlightenment of that time."

It presents lots of details, but also relates to the "Criss-Crossing Paths of Leibniz and Bach", as well as the "Leibniz-Newton Conflict". You can find it at



Thanks, I'll take a look at the article.


Have you had a chance to read the second chapter, Hans-Joachim? That's the one I found particularly interesting as it includes an argument for the role of consciousness in biological evolution. Schrödinger describes what has come to be known as the Baldwin Effect, but he never makes mention of Baldwin, and instead he mentions Julian Huxley. The Baldwin Effect was dismissed for many years in evolutionary theory because it was viewed as trivial or too metaphysical, or both. The first time I came across a description of it was in a book by Richard Dawkins, "The Ancestors Tale". That shows just how close to mainstream the idea has come, because Dawkins represents something close to the epitome of a materialist, non-metaphysical position.

Schrödinger, Mind and Matter p.101: “But is it not absurd to suggest that this process of evolution should directly and significantly fall into consciousness, considering its (evolution's) inordinate slowness not only compared with the short span of an individual life, but even with historical epochs? Does it not just run along unnoticed?

No. In the light of our previous considerations this is not so. They culminated in regarding consciousness as associated with such physiological goings-on as are still being transformed by mutual interaction with a changing environment. Moreover, we concluded that only those modifications become conscious which are still in the stage of being trained, until, in a much later time, they become hereditarily fixed, well-trained and unconscious possession of the species."

I want to separate this portion off from the rest because it is beautiful, and it is a continuation of the above:

"In brief: consciousness is a phenomenon in the zone of evolution. This world lights up to itself only where or only inasmuch as it develops, procreates new forms. Places of stagnancy slip from consciousness; they may only appear in their interplay with places of evolution." 

In placing consciousness at the cutting edge of evolution, Schrödinger shifts the concept of evolution from blind determinism to exploration and freedom, and in our case, moral responsibility:

"I feel as unable as anybody else to explain the "shall" of Kant's imperative. The ethical law in its simplest form (be unselfish!) is plainly a fact, it is there, it is agreed upon even by the vast majority of those who do not very often keep it. I regard its puzzling existence as an indication of our being in the beginning of a biological transformation from an egoistic to an altruistic general attitude, of man being about to become an animal sociale"


Its a different view of biological evolution than what has come to dominate modern biology, and it seems to reflect the times when Schrödinger wrote. I'm reading the sociologist G. H. Mead who wrote just a bit earlier, who also spoke of evolution in these more hopeful, less mechanistic ways. There is a growing movement in modern biology toward a more "systems" view of biological evolution, which shares the flavor of this earlier time: more organic, more holistic. There is a touch of German Idealism back there.


Yes, and I think that this position has reached mainstream thinking in the form of epigenetics. Wikipedia says: The "Baldwin effect" is better understood in evolutionary developmental biology literature as a scenario in which a character or trait change occurring in an organism as a result of its interaction with its environment becomes gradually assimilated into its developmental genetic or epigenetic repertoire (Simpson, 1953; Newman, 2002). And it add the words of D. Dennett: Thanks to the Baldwin effect, species can be said to pretest the efficacy of particular different designs by phenotypic (individual) exploration of the space of nearby possibilities. If a particularly winning setting is thereby discovered, this discovery will create a new selection pressure: organisms that are closer in the adaptive landscape to that discovery will have a clear advantage over those more distant.


I was going to mention Dennett's thought on the Baldwin Effect, but if I had done that, I would have mentioned two of the "Four Horsemen" in the same post, and that might have made some individuals nervous. Just for fun, I want to suggest this rather academic and cognitive description by Dennett: 

"Thanks to the Baldwin effect, species can be said to pretest the efficacy of particular different designs by phenotypic (individual) exploration in the space of nearby possibilities,“ which means that can “play“ in that space. Schrödinger might describe it as an encounter with novelty, and use the metaphor of the growing top of a plant, which, in some cases, when viewed with time-lapse photography, appears to be actively exploring its environment. 

Also, as in the schoolyard, "play" runs a continuum from "competitive" to "cooperative".


Dan, I agree with that notion, but the question is whether such "plays" need awareness, interiority, subjectivity - or whether they can run simply externally, without witnessing their own standing?

At least that's what humans are doing: Before acting externally, we can consider some consequences, playing with an action in our mental space, checking for more possibilities with the help of our imagination. 

I don't mean that plants have a comparable richness of interiority, but they should have something similar, in a rudimentary sense. And that's where intelligence and the divine enter into the "play" of mere chances.


I think that you can equate that "play" with awareness, Hans-Joachim. That is essentially what Schrödinger does with learning and dealing with novelty. Consciousness is what handles novelty. Consciousness occurs with novelty as a means of dealing with novelty, then fades with habituation and habit. At least that's how I read him.

"What in the preceding we have said and shown to be a property of nervous processes is a property of organic processes in general, namely, to be associated with consciousness inasmuch as they are new."

"I would summarize my general hypothesis thus: consciousness is associated with the "learning" of the living substance; its "knowing how" (Können) is unconscious."


Here, we both agree. 

Remarkably, this understanding also implies that what is unconscious nowadays, must have been conscious once before.


Hans-Joachim, It only occurred to me after I responded that you were probably, at least in part, referring to Dennett's description of the Baldwin Effect, which involved no "interiority" or "subjectivity". The original idea advanced by Baldwin no doubt involved the ideas of subjectivity and interiority. It was an explicit effort to highlight consciousness as a driving force in biological evolution. Dennett's description was the materialistic, "tamed" version.

Mind and Matter, chapter 5


But, let us return to Schrödinger's book. We already spoke about chapters 1-4. Now chapter 5, which ends with the following words:

“To my view the 'statistical theory of time' has an even stronger bearing on the philosophy of time than the theory of relativity. The latter, however revolutionary, leaves untouched the un(i)directional flow of time, which it presupposes, while the statistical theory constructs it from the order of events. This means a liberation from the tyranny of old Chronos. What we in our minds construct ourselves cannot, so I feel, have dictatorial power over our minds, neither the power of bringing it to the fore, nor the power of annihilating it. But some of you, I am sure, will call this mysticism. So, with all due acknowledgement to the fact that physical theory is at all times relative, in that it depends on certain basic assumptions, we may, or so I believe, assert that physical theory in its present stage strongly suggests the indestructibility of Mind by Time.“

So, if Mind is to be considered more powerful than Time, how then should it emerge from a completely time-bounded process, i.e. the higher complexity of biological metabolism? How can it be that changes on a physical level can produce something completely new, a new category, i.e. the mental level? There is, of course, a parallelism between physical and mental processes; and once the mental level has been established, numerous modifications can "emerge" from the physical. But at the beginning, that novum has to be created, and I think it's quite unpleasant to delegate such an event to a black box.


"What we in our minds construct ourselves cannot, so I feel, have dictatorial power over our minds, neither the power of bringing it to the fore, nor the power of annihilating it."

It involves the difference between "lived time" and "objective time", or the difference between Kairos and Chronos. When Schrödinger speaks of the unidirectionality of time in the context of entropy, he incorporates time into mind or subjectivity.

"The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos (χρόνος) and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a proper or opportune time for action."

Chronos is time as a quasi-objective frame in which events are given determined places, while kairos places the emphasis on the events themselves, as making time. The conception of time in physics,  including Einstein’s (minus the 'statistical theory of time'), is akin to Chronos. Time as a quasi-objective frame can be run backward or forward mathematically. There is nothing inherently directional about physical objective time until you consider entropy, or the 'statistical theory of time'. And with entropy, you have dynamic systems, which are productive and do not simply repeat ad infinitum. You move from a closed system of time to an open system of time, and time becomes intimately bound up with process, rather than standing apart from process and restricting it. 

A time without direction and entropy is a time which makes no difference. The Newtonian and Einsteinian equations can be run forward or backward in time. The system is determinate. Nothing new emerges. The system is closed, like Laplace's clockwork universe. That all changes with entropy. I get the sense, and it may be wishful thinking, that Schrödinger had some intuition of what was to come out of Chaos  and Complex Systems Theory when he talked about entropy. His view of the role of consciousness and behavior in evolution, and his view of the future of humanity were both forward-looking and open-ended, and there is a sense of kairos, or "opportune time" in the way he says that he sees humanity as in the process of moving from an egoistic to a social species.

Chronos is always retrospective, if only from an imagined future time. Kairos is future-oriented and productive. It’s hopeful.


Very interesting! 

I understand that kairos means the perfect moments, the epiphanies, the times one never forgets. They produce a different time scale, with highlights, followed by meaningless periods of time.

And kairos is hopeful, because everybody thinks that the perfect moment is going to come again, at least with the last breath …


On the other hand, the famous evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, said: "When presented as guidelines for a philosophy of change, not as dogmatic precepts true by fiat, the three classical laws of dialectics embody a holistic vision that views change as interaction among components of complete systems, and sees the components themselves not as a priori entities, but as both products of and inputs to the system. Thus the law of ‘interpenetrating opposites’ records the inextricably interdependence of components; ‘the transformation of quantity to quality’ defends a systems-based view of change that translates incremental inputs into alterations of state; and the ‘negation of negation’ describes the direction given to history because complex systems cannot revert exactly to previous states.” [An Urchin in the Storm,1987, W. W. Norton, New York, pp. 153-154].


That transformation of quantity to quality is not located between the level of biochemistry and mental content. There are several successive and interpenetrating levels of organization between those two, and it's in that complex that the transformation occurs. You've got the basic level of autopoiesis which defines the living system as such in the environment, which defines it through its structure and function. Right there, you have a transformation of quantity to quality through the determination of what is relevant in the environment to the organism, that is, the portioning of relevant "chunks" from the quantitative continuum, which is the environment, carved out by the organism as „meaningful", to the organism. You find that at the level of the simplest unicellular organisms. 

Each successive level of organization, from multi-cellularity on up through social and cultural structures in us are but further refinements of that basic partitioning of "self" and world, which is the transformation of quantity to quality.

If you place the point of transformation from quantity to quality between biochemistry and mental content, you put much more explanatory weight on biochemistry than belongs there. It might in theory be possible to conceive of biochemical structures that are sufficiently complex to account for mental content or meaning, but that complexity will be "borrowed" from the successive levels of organization, the biological, organismic, neurological and ultimately cultural. One could say that a sufficiently complicated biochemical process occurring in a sufficiently complicated biological structure, set within a sufficiently complex social and cultural context would correlate with some mental content, but the organization of that biochemical process would be better described in the terms of those higher levels of organization.

The same issue comes up in descriptions of mind being the product of the brain, or "skull-bound" theories of mind. There can't be a full account of mental content given strictly in terms of neurological functioning. There is always a reference to a meaningful world, which that neurological process is correlated with, and which functionally defines that neurological process as 'the correlate" of a mental content. I think the dialectic is interesting, because it comes out of Hegel, who saw Mind as a distributed process, not localized in heads and brains. Chalmers and Clark's Extended Mind Hypothesis is a modern variation on the theme of a distributed mind, and I recently saw a similar idea in G. H. Mead about 100 years ago. He viewed mind as a function distributed within social systems, rather than located within particular subjects heads. 


I think that Emergentism is incompatible with the idea of an immortal mind/soul. Emergentists argue that mental qualities emerge from sufficiently complex brain activities. In the absence of brain activity, however, mind cannot exist, therefore it must cease to exist when the brain dies.

On the other hand, works of art can, indeed, survive thousands of years, but they are certainly not immortal. 

And mathematics? I don't think that it is produced by humans, rather it is found by the human mind due to subtle similarities in our basic conditions.

On page 142 of his book, E. Schrödinger writes: “A mathematical truth is timeless, it does not come into being when we discover it. Yet its discovery is a very real event, it may be an emotion like a great gift from a fairy.“

Obviously, a higher degree of complexity is a necessary condition for the emergence of mental qualities. The question is, however, whether it is also a sufficient condition. In the context of dialectical materialism, the answer would be a clear yes. 

In contrast, Hegel's philosophy is written in the tradition of German Idealism. His "Phenomenology of Spirit" ends with the famous sentence:

...; both together, conceptually grasped history, form the recollection and the Calvary of absolute spirit, the reality, truth, and certainty of its throne, without which it would be lifeless solitude; 

only — from the chalice of this realm of spirits 

foams out to Him, His infinity.

So, it should be clear that Hegel presupposes a Universal Spirit, whose existence is a conditio sine qua non for the mental in human beings.


I wonder what Schrödinger would say. He certainly seems sympathetic to the notion of one consciousness, yet he doesn't present any discussion of anything like a Universal Spirit in this work. He suggests a kind of loose teleology, but it is open ended.


We already agreed that the belief in an Immortality of the Soul is not identical with the belief in a Resurrection of Man. In that regard I'd quoted the following passage: 

"In the third century, the Platonic belief in immortality infiltrated the Catholic Church, merged with the Christian faith in resurrection and was raised to an ecclesial dogma not before the 5th Lateran Council in 1515. ... Also the institution of requiems as well as the doctrine of the purgatory can be understood only from this perspective",

which implies that in early Christianity this belief was not prevalent, rather the followers thought that they will be reawakened at the time of His second coming.

To me, this idea resembles the reawakening of vegetation after a long and enduring winter. So, in the interim period, our existence could be imagined to be reduced to something like a metaphysical seed...


Plato himself borrows the notion of an immortal soul from Orphism. I find the idea a bit more appealing when I think of it as arising from trance states induced by Orphic mystery rites. Plato gave rational form to the insights of past shamans, in a way analogous to Descartes giving rational justification to Church teachings about the soul.

Gotthard Günther


Before, I read about Gotthard Günther only once - in Peter Sloterdijk's "Die Sonne und der Tod". Now, I can find more in a number of interviews. It's very interesting - and it's directly related to our previous topic, robots and AI.

In summary, Günther's polycontexturality theory represents a formal theory that makes it possible to model complex, self-referential processes, which are characteristic for all vital processes, non-reductionistically and without logical contradictions. In his works, he designs a parallel-network calculus, which he introduces into the sciences as polycontextural logic (PCL).

The basic idea of this calculus is to mediate individual logic systems by means of new operators introduced in his previous works. PCL is characterized by distribution and mediation of various logical contextures, whereby intra-contextual all rules of the classical propositional logic strictly apply, whereas inter-contextual new "transjunctional" operations that do not exist classically are to be introduced. This makes it possible not only to model self-referential processes logically without contradictions, but also to bring them, in principle, to implementation.

Now I understand what was meant with "black box"! Rudolf Kehr opened that thing, and it looks much "worse" than what I had presented to my audience in 2012 (From imaginary Oxymora to Real Polarities and Return). Here's Kehr's paper:

It was written in order to present Günther's idea of transjunctional operators! 


I understand that the whole becomes more than its parts only by virtue of "transjunctional" operators, which allow correspondence between otherwise inkompatible systems. In Google, I find applications of such operators only on logics and sociology. Do you have other references at hand? 

I'm thinking of transjunctional operators to allow for multiple correspondences between Nicolai Hartmann's four levels of reality, i.e. the inorganic, the organic/biological, the psychical/emotional and the intellectual/cultural level.

Wikipedia defines an integrative level as a set of phenomena emerging from pre-existing phenomena of a lower level. The concept arranges all material entities and all processes in the universe into a hierarchy based on how complex the entity's organization is. When arranged this way, each entity is three things at the same time: It is made up of parts from the previous level below. It is a whole in its own right. And it is a part of the whole that is on the next level above. Typical examples include life emerging from non-living substances, and consciousness emerging from nervous systems.

Interestingly, ideas connected to integrative levels can be found in the works of both materialist and anti-materialist philosophers.


One facile critique of Emergentism is that it is in fact materialism. Your comment addresses that oversimplification.

In summary, Günther's polycontexturality theory represents a formal theory that makes it possible to model complex, self-referential processes, which are characteristic for all vital processes, non-reductionistically and without logical contradictions. In his works, he designs a parallel-network calculus, which he introduces into the sciences as polycontextural logic (PCL).
The basic idea of this calculus is to mediate individual logic systems by means of new operators introduced in his previous works. PCL is characterized by distribution and mediation of various logical contextures, whereby intra-contextual all rules of the classical propositional logic strictly apply, whereas inter-contextual new "transjunctional" operations that do not exist classically are to be introduced. This makes it possible not only to model self-referential processes logically without contradictions, but also to bring them, in principle, to implementation.

Now I understand what you meant with "black box"! Rudolf Kehr opened that thing, and it looks much "worse" than what I had presented to my audience in 2012 (From imaginary Oxymora to Real Polarities and Return). Here's Kehr's paper:
It has been written in order to understand Günther's idea of transjunctional operators!


Gotthard Günther himself writes in "The consciousness of machines" (1963):

After all, Wiener and his school questions, in an unprecedented way, the millennial and time-honored distinction between spirituality and materiality, as it has been handed down to us in its special classical form. However, this must not be understood as if a new variant of vulgar materialism has developed in the theory of "mechanical brains", or as if the intention was to abolish the dichotomy of mind and matter by means of new technical tools. Such an idea would be a fatal mistake.

Norbert Wiener said "information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day." And Günther added: "information is information, not spirit or subjectivity." No idealism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.

By the way, Heinz von Foerster and Gotthard Günther were collaborators at the State University of Illinois.


Hans-Joachim - What type of information is Günther talking about here? Information as defined by Shannon? If it is not Information from "information theory", how is it different from meaning? Information as meaning ties information to subjectivity.

This "polycontextural logic" is fascinating stuff. I only took a brief look at it. It answers a weakness in"fuzzy logic" that has bothered me, that the truth value between 0 and 1 is relative to a particular dimension, or „context", in which case it is again either 1 or 0. There is a theory of logic in Buddhism called "Apoha" which was developed to address the Buddhist rejection of a theory of concepts based on universals ("no-self", no context-free essences). One of the explanations of Apoha is that it involves a use of violations of the law of the excluded middle. 

The classic example of how meaning is handled in Apoha is: "a cow is not a non-cow", and this is taken to be more than trivially true. It involves double negation in a productive way. Somebody save me a bit of work and reading by describing "transjunctional operators" and the way they handle negation. It sounds very similar.


Dan, this field is completely new to me; before, I never knew anything about polycontexturality theory, Gotthard Günther, Heinz von Foerster or Rudolf Kaehr!


I have just a tiny bit of familiarity with von Foerster. I put down what I had been reading of his because it seemed to relativistic, but I probably jumped the gun in my judgement. The other two I have never heard of. "Fuzzy logic" as a topic has gotten some airplay in this group, as some major advancement. I never bought it. The space between 0 and 1 is not some vague grey area between truth and falsity. It seemed a gross oversimplification to say that a proposition was .7628....true. That position on the continuum between 0 and 1 is defined by a context. A proposition judged to be relatively true is true in a particular sense, again, in a context. It sounds like Günther nailed that down.


I didn't see fuzzy logic to play an important role in these papers. Yes, it deals with the three-valued logic (with truth values 0, 1/2, 1), developed by Jan Łukasiewicz in 1920. And it rejects the tertium non datur of classical logic.


But, what does Günther mean by "information"? Is this information as defined by Shannon, or is it a more general use of the term?

"Norbert Wiener said "information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day." And Günther added: "information is information, not spirit or subjectivity. No idealism which does not admit this can survive at the present day."

I would like your thoughts about what Günther means by information. I think that the first wave of cyberneticists kept faithful to Shannon's definition, while the second wave played more loosely with the idea. I think Wiener used the term ‘information' in the looser sense. 


Günther wrote a few articles in English:

Cybernetic Ontology and Transjunctional Operations. University of Illinois, Engineering Experiment Station. Technical Report no. 4. Urbana: Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory, University of Illinois (1962), and

Cybernetics and the Transition from Classical to Trans-Classical Logic. Illinois University Biological Computer Laboratory BCL Report 3.0. Urbana: Biological Computer Laboratory, University of Illinois (1965).

But I didn't find a translation of his 200 pages book "The Consciousness of Machines".

The topic is quite challenging, and we might open a new discussion on these things as well.

Regarding information, Günther writes that it is principally impossible to reduce the cybernetic concept of information to purely material-energetic categories. This is exemplified by the fact that information can be conveyed by any means, which shows its independence from specific carriers. 

Also, he writes that in fundamental discussions about information, one should conceive not only the immediate factum of information, but the entire process of communication by which information is conveyed.

Dan, you already managed to find a link to a translation of "Geist und Materie". Couldn't you try to also find a translation of "Das Bewusstsein der Maschinen" (the consciousness of machines)? 


"Also, he writes that in fundamental discussions about information, one should conceive not only the immediate factum of information, but the entire process of communication by which information is conveyed."

That makes "information" co-extensive with pretty much everything if you have a process view of reality. It wouldn't be "Shannon" information, which by definition is not "meaning". I could do a search for "the consciousness of machines" in English, but I don't want to commit to reading it.


Don't worry, Günther doesn't conclude that machines do have consciousness. The title is more a kind of provocation, as people are afraid of machines dominating mankind.

Let me quote from its last page, where he says:

“So nothing mythical happens in the robot brain, and actually it doesn't have any consciousness of its own. If the ideas described in this book can really be carried out, this would mean nothing but that man has managed to detach some of his consciousness processes from his organism and transferred them to another medium. A mechanism doesn't generate consciousness, even if its working rhythm is trans-classical.“


I'm not too concerned about machines having consciousness. My concern is over the term "information" being so broad that it simply takes the place of the term "spirit" or "consciousness". It is a concern with mythologizing, though, a mythologizing of the concept of "information".

Perhaps "information" is the same type of shell-game as "spirit", and is as informative a concept.


I'm still reading "the consciousness of machines", and it's really stunning... I would very much like to share it with you - Günther has been called the "Einstein of philosophy", because he revolutionized the logic foundation of philosophy, just like Einstein did in respect to space and time.

On page 39, he writes:

“But cybernetics is interested in classical laws of nature only as far as it matters to find a deeper layer of being in physical existence, from where natural laws build up as secondary forms of reality. That this layer of being exists, and that its legality is trans-classic - not Aristotelian - that is no longer a question today. In that deeper layer, causality is replaced by statistical probability and the rigid, irreflexive identity of the classical body is replaced by still very dark functions, which seemingly have reflexive, i.e. self-centered character. One can not deny the conjecture that in this subatomic region the classical difference of the law of being and the law of thought becomes obsolete and thus the one of non-me and me. At first this has probably been seen by W. Heisenberg, who expressed it in the lapidary sentence: "The completely isolated object ... [has] ... in principle no more describable properties."

And on page 38 he envisions:

“If the forms of existence, offered by nature for this purpose, are inappropriate - it does not need to be proven first, that it is impossible to teach the differential calculus to the violet - then you produce the appropriate forms of being yourself. You go back to the last conditions of material existence and then seek to determine, whether there is a second way out of the basic forms of objective existence to create reflexive being. We already know the first one. It is the one "nature" itself went in order to produce organisms.“

On page 48 he says:

“Thus, the classical dichotomy between mind and matter, between thinking and thought, resp. consciousness and thing should finally be refuted. In a self-forgotten devotion to the object, classical philosophy produced the theory of an irreflexive, self-sufficient and exclusively with itself identical being. In this period, the problem of reflection was hardly taken care of. It was tacitly accepted that reflection must be the exact counterpart of being, and can therefore also be represented self-sufficient, completely self-determined and fully identical with its own inwardness.“

And on page 49:

“Cybernetics is the science that fulfills the idealistic demand that the absolute must be rounded into a circle. It is that eternal circle that contains the three elements "I", "You" and "It". But the figure of the circle implies that the three moments constituting the Absolute are equal to each other. That is, there is no relationship like above and below, like between divine and human consciousness. But this equality is not yet given, as long as "I" and "You" appear as reflections in-themselves, but the "It" remains excluded from this form of existence.


It looks very interesting, Hans-Joachim. That triad, "I" "You" and "It", has been coming up a lot in things I've been reading by he Pragmatists, and it is also a central idea in the question of the constitution of "objectivity" among some of the Phenomenologists.


These citations are basically about the fact that cybernetics is based on semiconductor technology, which is again based on solid-state and quantum physics. With the advent of such technologies, a new type of machines has evolved, which cannot be compared to Leibniz's wind mill. In his book, Günther doesn't say that such machines could develop a consciousness as it is known to us; he says that they might develop another type of self-reference, which will be new and complementary to our consciousness.


I haven't had any luck finding an English translation of "the consciousness of machines". If you keep going, perhaps you will produce one! What are you working from, a hard copy in German? I did find a few articles by Günther in English which I've bookmarked.


I found the book at http://www.vordenker.de/ggphilosophy/gg_bewusstsein-der-maschinen.pdf

There you can also find a complete bibliography:

I think, the questions we were dealing with in these threads are preconfigured and partially answered in these articles.

Dan - the question of information vs. communication is dealt with at 

There he writes:

“In fact, the success of the theory, which Shannon and his collaborators developed, depends on a careful separation of the two (information and meaning) and on the exclusion of the concept of meaning from the formulas describing the laws that govern the transmission of information from its sources to its recipient. It is obvious that this approach is inadequate both for philosophic anthropology and for the theory of culture which the Humanities try to develop.“


So do you have any access to German/English translation software?


I was using the Google translator, but it needs lots of amendments.

Page 60:

“Hegel's boldness entails in conceiving the materiality of being as reflection itself - a materiality which precedes thinking and manifests itself as such. According to him, substance and form are perfectly equal to each other (at least as far as the foundation of dialectics is concerned). They are logically the same. Reflection and irreflexivity constitute a pure exchange ratio. This means that it makes no difference whether we say: "matter has the property of reflection" (dialectical Materialism) or whether we formulate "the mind has the property of materiality" (objective Idealism). We deeply believe that there is a very essential and fundamental difference between the two statements. But this difference just imposes us on, because when we reflect, that reflection is entrapped into an individual consciousness, an Ego. To be an Ego means having taken sides against the world, which is repelled from our own subjectivity as the Other, as the embodiment of the object-domain. The fact that we can't help otherwise is undoubtedly certain; because that would mean, to give up one's own Ego, which can't be expected meaningfully. But if, as Hegel says, the whole world and its history is, from the very beginning, self-reflection, then we obviously are not entitled to take our unilateral and biased state of reflection as the logical yardstick for a worldview that wants to do justice to the nature of reality.“

On page 64 he quotes from Oskar Lange's "Totality, Development, and Dialectics" (1960): 

"Both these concepts are at variance with experimental knowledge and scientific method. The mechanistic view negates the experimental fact of the existence of totalities having unique properties and patterns. On the other hand, finalism introduces 'beings', which are experimentally unverified and unverifiable. A strict and methodologically correct approach to the problem of totality and dialectic development was, nevertheless, made difficult by the absence of a thought apparatus – concepts and principles of their operation adequate to the task. At present, such apparatus is beginning to be formed as a concomitant of the new science of cybernetics."

Page 66:

“Western literature is full of petty fears that the machine will ultimately enslave man.“ In contrast, the Russian scholar Novik explains:

"A kingdom of machines, even self-reproducing, cannot become independent, self-contained, without depending on man as the prime mover of cybernetic machines ... The automaton is no more than a link in a close chain: man - nature. This link can become progressively longer and more complicated, but it does not become the entire chain. The automaton cannot occupy any other space in the universe except between man and nature. The space of automata can become progressively wider but it cannot cease to be only an intermediate space.... Always nature will be below the automaton and man above it ..."

Page 71:

“It is perfectly possible to translate idealistic terminology into that of intelligent dialectical materialism and vice versa. Unfortunately, our eastern colleagues have not yet understood this fact! However, no arrangement is possible between transcendental idealism and the "stupid" materialism, which has not yet realized that the "material" must have reflective properties as well.“

Page 72:

“Even the deadest, most "mindless" stuff is endowed with reflexivity. It would be - remaining in the usual physical perspective - e.g. quite impossible that on planet Earth self-organizing living beings emerge, which call themselves in self-reflection "humans", and claim to have a "mind", if not all reflection components of what we call consciousness and mind are already in that hypothetical gas cloud and its surrounding space-time dimension, from which our solar system was supposed to have originated. Whether one calls that metaphysical X God, soul, spirit or self-reflective matter, is totally irrelevant. Only children are allowed to quarrel over words.“


I'm still thinking about that quote, and what it might mean to broaden the concept of information to include the processes of communication, and not just the "message" or signal.


Regarding information, Günther says at the beginning of his article "Information, Communication and Many-valued Logic" that additional work is required by logicians and semanticists to permit its full application in the Humanities as well as in Philosophy. What follows is an explanation of this statement. If you read it, you will easily understand why we have no chance to come to terms with the word information in a philosophical context. 

Conversely, I like these two sentences:

Whether one calls that metaphysical X God, soul, spirit or self-reflective matter, is totally irrelevant. Only children are allowed to quarrel over words.


Is that article available in English, Hans-Joachim?


It's this one: http://www.vordenker.de/ggphilosophy/gg_inf-comm-many-val-logic.pdf

Page 83:

“What promises the peoples of the world a common future today is the fortunate circumstance that this provocation will now be experienced everywhere. It challenges Asians, as well as Europeans or Americans, and does so in the same way in every sphere of civilization, in that it exposes the mechanism of human existence everywhere and releases no other choice but to deliver oneself to the mechanism and then go bankrupt, even in the most blatant economic (let alone in a deeper) sense - because the person ready only for mechanical services will have no market value at all - or to develop a new creative image of himself in which he conceives himself as so free that he can fearlessly affirm the historical necessity of the machine, because he is never in danger of being enslaved by it. Sonnemann rightly says: ‘Automation as the first process in the history of technology promises the de-mechanization of man.’"

Page 93:

“It is essential - and may serve as comforting powder to those who need it - that the consciousness that cybernetic endeavors will one day bestow on a machine, will historically always be at least one epoch behind that of the constructor of the mechanism. This distance of around one or more world-historical stages of reflection on subjectivity is the decisive criterion of the difference between man and machine. The difference is therefore a historio-metaphysical one.“

Mind and Matter, chapter 6


Coming back to Schrödinger's "Mind & Matter", I would like to highlight his conclusion in chapter 6, where he says:

Scientific theories serve to facilitate the survey of our observations and experimental findings. Every scientist knows how difficult it is to remember a moderately extended group of facts, before at least some primitive theoretical picture about them has been shaped. It is therefore small wonder, and by no means to be blamed on the authors of original papers or of text-books, that after a reasonably coherent theory has been formed, they do not describe the bare facts they have found or wish to convey to the reader, but clothe them in the terminology of that theory or theories. This procedure, while very useful for our remembering the fact in a well-ordered pattern, tends to obliterate the distinction between the actual observations and the theory arisen from them. And since the former always are of some sensual quality, theories are easily thought to account for sensual qualities; which, of course, they never do.

For further investigations, it might be useful to study P.T. Morgan's "The Experience of Consciousness" (=> https://books.google.de/books?id=oFGNCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA623&dq=conn%27s+translational+neuroscience+%22Morgan%22&hl=de&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjvtZSq96zZAhWHKOwKHS_aAtIQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=conn's%20translational%20neuroscience%20%22Morgan%22&f=false)

In Box 28.1, Morgan directly refers to Schrödinger's Mind and Matter, chapter 6, with the specific paragraph characterizing the problem of qualia.

Next he addresses the problem of how to judge whether a person is conscious or not (in this regard we had already learnt from Giulio Tononi's IIT that there is a possibility by measuring the self-referentiality of neuronal networks (Phi)).

Then he arrives at the problem of artificial intelligence, where Günther had clarified that a machine will never experience a kind of consciousness as we ourselves can have it (I-consciousness). All machines could eventually experience is the type of consciousness others are supposed to have (you-consciousness).

In his second paragraph, Morgan writes: 

"Explanations in this category tend to rely on what Chalmers calls the "extra ingredient". The extra ingredient is something that seems as mysterious as consciousness itself, except that fortunately whoever is explaining it seems to understand it better than, or in a different way from others. Quantum mechanics is a typical candidate, as the uncertainty inherent in quantum mechanical predictions seems well suited to match the “difficulty” around explaining the conscious experience (eg, the Orchestrated Objective Reduction model championed by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff). A fallacy of all such explanations is that they ascribe to the quantum mechanical model of nature itself, rather than accept that quantum mechanics or any other scientific model of nature is just a predictive model."

In the next step he arrives at Schrödinger's lectures at Trinity College with the quote given above (Scientific theories serve to facilitate the survey ...). He interprets Schrödinger as saying that "no scientific models explain why there is electric force, or how it arises. Any such argument would necessarily be circular, ... Similarly, with regard to explaining how consciousness arises, any explanation that summons a scientific model (like quantum mechanics) to explain how the phenomenon arises without the benefit of measurement is scientifically meaningless, as the model is not nature, and has no scientific function outside the measurable predictions it makes."


In the way in which Günther states that we humans, and therefore the type of consciousnesses we are, will always be a "generation or more ahead" of what we take to be consciousness in machines, consciousness is always ahead of whatever it takes as an object, including any models, we as conscious beings make of it (or of ourselves). It is what Schrödinger's talk of paintings with small representations of the painter tucked away within them was about.

Some Quantum Mechanics scientists are not averse to the suggestion of an immaterial base of the micro particles of matter that could approximate to consciousness itself. For Max Planck, mind is the matrix of matter.


Indeed, we can't have consciousness, rather we are either conscious or unconscious (Günther’s I-consciousness). Regarding others, however, we can only assume that they are conscious; so we add something to their existence, which we cannot experience, hence we might loosely say that they have consciousness (Günther’s you-consciousness). This is of special interest in cases of Coma vigile. And regarding robots, we will never know - some might assume, others won't - they might behave just like being conscious. The Turing imitation game replaces the immeasurable by a measure how well humans can distinguish the robot from a real human. Turing's question was: How many of us how often and with what consistency cannot tell the human from the computer? In other words, rather than measure whether a computer becomes sentient, or experiences thoughts or consciousness, the test would measure whether others believe that it does. 

On page 72, Günther wrote that "it would be ... quite impossible that on planet Earth self-organizing living beings emerge, which call themselves in self-reflection "humans", and claim to have a "mind", if not all reflection components of what we call consciousness and mind are already in that hypothetical gas cloud and its surrounding space-time dimension, from which our solar system was supposed to have originated." Interestingly he doesn't speak only about the gas cloud, rather he adds the surrounding space-time dimension. And this is, in my view, the crucial point: Space-time has the potential to develop sentience, provided that we accept it to have a complex structure.

Once, sentience is established, an "observer" can be established, of whom Frank Wilczek said: "The relevant literature [on the meaning of quantum theory] is famously contentious and obscure. I believe it will remain so until someone constructs, within the formalism of quantum mechanics, an ‘observer’, that is, a model entity whose states correspond to a recognizable caricature of conscious awareness. That is a formidable project, extending well beyond what is conventionally considered physics."

After all, this project is well on its way - and it has even reached mainstream thinking, as could be seen in Hassel Mørch's article. Although there is tough opposition - an opposition that is necessary to produce good results - I think and hope that this "recognizable caricature of conscious awareness" can be found within the rest of our lifetime.


"The appearance of mind is only the culmination of that sociality which is found throughout the universe, its culmination lying in the act that the organism, by occupying the attitudes of others, can occupy its own attitude in the role of the other.“ (G. H. Mead)


Dan - that's beautifully said. And it corresponds to the basic reflectivity (reflection components) mentioned above.

On the Imagery of Light


There is an interesting coincidence: The title of this thread is

"The mind-body problem in light of E. Schrödinger's "Mind and Matter" (1958)". It employs the word "light"; but, although Schrödinger is a renowned quantum physicist, I guess hardly anyone would assume that it refers in this context to photons. Therefore, "light" has at least two different meanings. 

It's not unusual that words have different meanings. We talked about information and meaning before, and I had referred to Günther, who showed the more than astronomical difference between Shannon's definition of information, and the broader understanding, which includes meaning: The concept of information derived from information theory has no direct relation to semantics, meaning & knowledge, as these can not be measured by information-theoretical methods.

In philosophical discussions we can't do without semantics, meaning & knowledge, which means that we always move in that more than astronomical field of possibilities.


The word "light" is used in many contexts.

Let me give an example from http://www.neue-werkstatt.de/vortraege/Vortrag_zur_Lichteinbringung:

Freemasonry is a cult of light. Which means that light plays a central role in relation to knowledge, enlightenment and wisdom. Such light cults are known to us since the Isis and Osiris cults of ancient Egypt: the God Osiris, who was killed by his brother and brought back to life by his wife Isis and his son Horus, is a symbol of the sun that appears every day and disappears, comparable to the idea of dying and being born again. At the same time, this dying and being born again is the path, a candidate must take to be accepted and initiated by the priests - a process of inner purification in the dark, before the light of knowledge is given by an external force.

... This structure is encountered not only in ancient Egypt, but later in the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece, which worshiped the earth mother Demeter, then, around 1200 BC, in the Thracian cult of Dionysus with its intoxicating transformations of identity through wine consumption, masks and costumes, all the way to the Mithras - cult in Persia (whose well-known religious founder was Zarathustra), where the central element is fire, light and the sun - in its dualistic interplay with the dark and evil.

On the other hand, if a physicist talks about light, he or she usually means an electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, i.e. that which is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), between the infrared (with longer) and the ultraviolet (with shorter wavelengths). This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz). Sometimes, the term light also refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not. In this sense, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves and radio waves are also light. Like all types of EM radiation, visible light propagates as waves. However, the energy imparted by the waves is absorbed at single locations in the way particles are absorbed. The absorbed energy of the EM waves is called a photon: it represents the quanta of light.

When a wave of light is transformed and absorbed as a photon, the energy of the wave instantly collapses to a single location, and this location is where the photon "arrives." This is what is called the wave function collapse. 

The dual wave-like and particle-like nature of light is known as the wave–particle duality. 

So, a physicist uses the word light in a completely different context than a priest or an antiquary, who speaks about light in various cults. 

Now, one of the many questions arising in this thread was, whether the physical light, investigated by physicists, and the inner light, experienced by mystics, is basically the same. The question was, in other words, whether it is only the context which changes, whereas the substrate remains what it is: light.

On the other hand, one might say that the word "light" has, like many other words, multiple meanings, which are to be distinguished from the context in which they are used. In linguistics, such words are called homonyms: words that are spelled the same and sound the same, but have different meanings, like pen, bank, book etc.

Now, let's deal with the question why photons (light) are not a part of everything in this universe. 

Because Information is neither energy nor matter. 

Three weeks ago, we were dealing with this topic here on this thread. Let me copy and paste the related passages:

Norbert Wiener said "information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day." And Gotthard Günther added: "information is information, not spirit or subjectivity." No idealism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.

Regarding information, Günther adds that it is principally impossible to reduce the cybernetic concept of information to purely material-energetic categories. This is exemplified by the fact that information can be conveyed by any means, which shows its independence from specific carriers.

In other words: Those who think that photons (light) are part of everything in this universe, they assume that information needs carriers which cannot be subtler than light. So, suppose the information is carried by some material, you could argue that this material is nothing but condensed light. But if the information is carried by space-time itself, this argumentation doesn't hold any longer.

The concept is summarized in the venerable Sloka from

Chandogya Upanishad of the Sama Veda (7.25.21):

This outer space is nothing but Cosmic Soul.

So, I tried to show that photons (light) are not part of everything in this universe (emphasis is on everything). First I derived from authorities that information is neither matter nor energy (nor spirit nor subjectivity), and that it is basically independent from specific carriers. Second I argued that among many other possibilities, space-time itself can be a carrier of information, wherefrom I conclude that there must be a type of information which contains no photons (light).

Particle physics talks about 6 fundamental bosons, which are photons, gluons, and W and Z bosons (the four force-carrying gauge bosons of the Standard Model), as well as the recently discovered Higgs boson, and the hypothetical graviton of quantum gravity. All of them can be carriers of information. Additionally, quantum gravity describes structures called spin foam/spin network, which describe the quantum geometry of space and space-time respectively. They can also be carriers of information. Nevertheless, information remains a class of its own. The slogan is Wheeler's "it from bit" / "from it to bit".

In common parlance, Universal Consciousness is the term for Brahman. But I'm sorry to say that I find this translation to be misguiding: In Hinduism, Brahman connotes the highest Universal Principle and the Ultimate Reality. In major schools of Hindu philosophy, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. 

Its oldest meaning in the Vedas is, however, "holy word" or "holy formula". So, in this sense it becomes crystal clear, that Brahman stands for primordial information, i.e. that information which precedes everything else. 

Consequently, instead of a credo for Universal Light, I would plea for Universal Thought, Word or Formula.

However, it is impossible to translate Brahman into one term. It's the ultimate ground of everything! 

Wrong translations automatically lead to lots of misconceptions. Lord Buddha had to start a new movement => world religion due to faulty understandings.

Brahman is not only the ultimate ground of everything, but also the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. Consequently, basic intelligence, primordial thoughts and words emanate from Brahman. This is well beyond space, time and light, which evolve as derivatives.

The advantage of translating Brahman as Universal Consciousness is that you can easily conceive some imaginary content on various stages (Tattvas). The basic concept is that reality has several layers of subtlety, where the physical layer is the least subtle one; light is subtle but not the subtlest. This fits with Max Planck's correct quote:

We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Spirit. This Spirit is the matrix of all matter.


So, why is the inner light 'not made of photons'? 

Well, just as our minds cannot see the brain structures, the neurons, the synapses, the neurotransmitters and all the other molecules and atoms in our heads (except they are opened by a surgeon), likewise our minds also cannot see the photons, appearing randomly or in synchronized patterns during mental/emotional activities. What we see is a product of our imagination; imaginations, thoughts, ideas etc. belong to the infosphere, they don't belong to the physical world.

There is, of course, a tiny overlap in mere sensation. But even there, it was found that the physico-chemical nature of the environment is transformed by sensory cells into neuronal activities, i.e. rhythmic patterns of action potentials or spikes, which basically represents a binary code (from it to bit). So, even mere sensation belongs to the infosphere.

Consequently, I can say that assuming the inner light to be composed of photons is a typical mistake of category.


"Even mere sensation belongs to the infosphere."

This is why I think there might be a minor disagreement. If I follow your use of the term "infosphere", then sensation is already interpreted. The attunement of the sensory cells to particular aspects of the environment is an interpretation of the environment. An organism constructs it's own environment by its selective attunement. Transduction is interpretive.

So, I don't think there is any such thing as "mere sensation". All sensation is cognitively mediated. "Raw sense data" is a theoretical construct, a product of British Empiricism.


Regarding „mere sensation“ I thought of the cellular level and what we‘d learnt in physiology. My point was that even in a single cell, a signal is transformed from analog to digital, I.e. from it to bit!


Yes, I agree. And we might go one step further:

If light travels through space, it does so in the form of light waves. It's a misconception to think that the wave-particle dualism means that we have a free choice to use either the one or the other term. No, never! Light behaves under certain circumstances like a wave, and in other situations like a particle. So, while traveling through pure vacuum it's a wave*. But when it interacts with fermions - may it be a measuring device, an observer, or anything else - then the wave collapses and becomes a photon. This process of wave collapse is somehow similar to what we described before: the signal is transduced from an analog to a digital form; the photon is either there or not there, which can be expressed as 1 or 0. And in analogy to what we said before, we might conclude that in the moment of wave collapse, light enters the infosphere of our fermiotic world.

So, what information these photons and quantum waves might hold. 

Well, this very much depends on the circumstances. Suppose you mean the signals transmitted by an optical fiber, they might hold thousands of telephone calls plus quite a number of radio and tv-programs (of course, the light alone won't do, you will also need the proper decoders etc). But if you mean the light from some distant star, it holds information about the nuclear processes on that star; additionally it might hold information about our atmosphere. In special experiments, it might even give information about gravitational effects on the beam of light.

Regarding the information of a single photon, I would say that it is just 1 bit. On a micro-scale, the flow of information can be awfully redundant. Nevertheless, and this was our point, it belongs to the infosphere. 

Only, what I said about the informational content of a photon needs some specification. 

In the retina, mammals have two types of photosensitive cells, the rods and the cones. While the former produce b/w images, the latter allow color vision. Rods are responsible for our vision in dim light, but don’t function in bright light; they account for our night vision but cannot distinguish color. The cones, on the other hand, are active at high light levels and allow us to see colors and fine details directly in front of us. There are three types of cones, each of them having a different sensitivity for light: Their peak sensitivities are at blue, green and red light respectively.

So, for rods, it is true what I said: the information of a single photon is just 1 bit; cones need a bunch of them to produce 1 bit. And as we have four different types of photosensitive cell, our minds are able to synthesize the colorful pictures we see in front of our eyes.

Once more, these facts show that sensation is interpretation. Or, as Dan said the other day: "the attunement of the sensory cells to particular aspects of the environment is an interpretation of the environment. An organism constructs it's own environment by its selective attunement. Transduction is interpretive."


"This process of wave collapse is somehow similar to what we described before: the signal is transduced from an analog to a digital form; the photon is either there or not there, which means you can write this as 1 or 0"

Hans-Joachim, I think you need to be careful with how "similar" "somehow similar" is. You don't want to make the relationship an identity, or else you will be at risk for making a category error. An issue being discussed on another thread is whether or not it makes sense to describe "wave-form collapse" as an act of perception. I don't think it does, at least not without a whole lot of further discussion about what it means to "perceive". I myself have been on the edge of that same category error when I described transduction as interpretive.


Dan, I didn't intend to say that the wave-collapse produces perception. What I wanted to say is that it produces information (in the most basic form). Here, we are again confronted with the question of Shannon's definition vs. lively information, which necessarily includes meaning. So, couldn't we agree on a scheme like: the more meaning, the more interpretation, the more perception, the more consciousness? Then, on the level of particles, we would expect only mere information to be exchanged (without meaning/consciousness); yet, that would be the home base of infosphere.


But then we have "mere information", rather than "mere sensation". It poses the same problem. The idea of "mere sensation" or "raw sense data" has its appeal because it seems to provide some sort of foundation to knowledge, something "objective", prior to any interpretation, or apart from any perspective. In the way that sensation apart from any subjective experience of it is not a coherent notion, "information" without any conscious elaboration is not a coherent notion. Information stripped of meaning doesn't have any meaning, other than information in the Shannon sense.


"In the way that sensation apart from any subjective experience of it is not a coherent notion, "information" without any conscious elaboration is not a coherent notion."

Dan, I agree as long as we are talking about living beings. But when it comes to non-living materials, particularly those described in solid-state physics, I doubt your proposition. Look, for example, at the silicon-based technologies. They are fine with Shannon's definition of information. Semantics, meaning and purpose, are added due to human interaction. I remember Marco saying in one of our earlier threads: "... the machine, where you are reading this, works in the same way, because you are manipulating it, providing your sense of consciousness to what you do with it." Wherefrom I derived: "Computer systems have no cognition by themselves, but they become 'quasi conscious' by virtue of people interacting with them consciously." Which means that these machines process information, although they are unconscious.

You might argue that solid-state physics is also a mental construct which can't claim to be more real than other reasonable statements. So, whatever we conceive would belong to the infosphere, nothing could be said about that which is beyond, and there would be no choice but to fall quiet about anything "objective", which would be "prior to interpretation, or apart from any perspective".

Morphic fields

On the other hand, I saw a talk of Rupert Sheldrake yesterday, where he presents a shortcut of his concept of the extended mind (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YWiR6TRr4o). More generally he hinted at morphic fields and morphic resonance. So, what do you think about this approach? Do you think these fields could be measured with physical means? Or could it be that they exist only in imaginary space?


I don't put much stock in Rupert Sheldrake's ideas. Too "New Age" for my tastes.


But he also rejects the "Representational Theory" of perception and mental functioning, and instead elaborates on the "Extended Mind Hypothesis", which we'd discussed in our earlier thread on AI robots.

In this context, you'd referred to the early forms of Enactivism, which I regretfully missed to study up to now.

You mentioned Putnam and O'Regan, so, I looked through John O'Regan's thesis published in 2010: Re-Thinking the Extended Mind -

Moving Beyond the Machinery. Only, therein I couldn't find a reference to mental fields extending into the space around (http://uhra.herts.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2299/4824/John%20O%27Regan%20-%20final%20PhD%20submission.pdf?sequence=1). Sheldrake talks about mental fields again and again, which I can accept and imagine easily, whereas the purely psychological discourse is difficult for me to grasp. So, my question is whether you would agree to a mental field, reaching out to our environments, thereby allowing thinking as well as memorizing processes beyond our brains/skulls (extracerebral/collective memory)?


That is a very interesting point, Hans-Joachim. I did not know that Sheldrake rejected Representationalism, nor endorsed Enactivism. I probably should not dismiss Sheldrake so quickly, particularly since I don't know much about him.

The other day I was trying to explain G. H. Mead's idea of consciousness to my friend. I'm coming to realize that the Extended Mind hypothesis has a deep pedigree. Mead characterizes "consciousness" in several different ways, but what ties those characterizations together is a view of "consciousness" as interaction; interaction between individuals and between individuals and the world. He clearly denies that, for him, consciousness is in any sense located in the brain. It is distributed in interactive behavior. In trying to convey this, I realized that, for Mead, there isn't a "stuff" involved which stretches between the individual and the environment. It makes it difficult to describe his position on consciousness, if you assume that consciousness is a substance. I think that difficulty is what you encountered with what you referred to as the "purely psychological discourse" in O’Regan.

Mead predates Enactivism by almost a century, but he speaks of consciousness in a way very similar to O'Regan. You wouldn't find any mention of "mental fields" in O'Regan's work, because O'Regan rejects any view of consciousness as a substance. It is pure interaction, pure "between". That is basically impossible to imagine, or "picture".

I don't know enough about Hegel to say, but I wonder if both Enactivism and Mead take their conception of consciousness from Hegel and his notion of "negativity". I do know that Enactivism is rooted in the thinking of Merleau-Ponty, who in turn was influenced by Hegel, and Mead also studied Hegel very closely. Both positions also seem „dialectical“.

So, whether or not I agree to the existence of a mental field extending from a subject into the environment depends on how you would define a "field". The one example that I recall of "morphogenic fields" that has stuck in my mind involved monkeys living on a group of islands between which there could be no communication. As I remember, monkeys on one of the islands began to wash a particular item of food which they had not done previously. For that island, individual innovation and the communication and imitation would explain the phenomena. But what could not be explained, according to Sheldrake, apart from the existence of "morphogenic fields" was the fact that monkeys on neighboring islands, who had no contact with the first population, began to do the same thing.

A morphogenic field is a potential patterning of physical and behavioral processes, which is not strictly localized. One of my concerns with the idea is that it makes it too easy to explain too much, to explain things that might receive explanation through a systems view, for example. The fact that so many forms in nature describe a limited set of patterns seems to fall out of Dynamic Systems Theory. Sheldrake's "fields" seem something like Platonic Forms, and I'm suspicious of Platonic Forms. I'm skeptical of the idea of "morphogenic fields", but I can't rule it out. It is one of those things that seem to offer possible tentative explanations for marginal experiences such as synchronicity, but I think we already have ample resources to explain the repeated appearance of forms in nature.


Thanks for your detailed reply. It is exactly as you say: my difficulty is to imagine O'Regan's "purely psychological" reasoning, because he rejects, as you say, any view of consciousness as a "substance"; he takes it as pure interaction, pure "between", so it's basically impossible to imagine, or "picture" his conception.

On the other hand, the concept of fields is quite different from that of substances. Fields are understood to be dynamical, always changing, in contrast to Platon's eternal, never changing ideas.

In physics, a field can be thought of as a "condition in space" emanating from a point and extending throughout the whole of space. In psychology, field theory i.e. topological and vector psychology, examines patterns of interaction between the individual and the total field, or environment. The concept first made its appearance in psychology with roots to the holistic perspective of Gestalt theories.

It was developed by Kurt Lewin, a Gestalt psychologist, in the 1940s => http://www.wilderdom.com/theory/FieldTheory.html

From that text: "... We live in a psychological reality or life space that includes not only those parts of our physical and social environment that are important to us, but also imagined states that do not currently exist.“

This is more or less what I meant with my notion of complex space-time ...

He also said that concrete persons in concrete situations can be represented mathematically; and that individuals participate in a number of life spaces, which are constructed under the influence of force vectors.

Which amounts to what I meant with the Microvita-tensor, connecting the imaginary to the "real" (= physical) space.


I was thinking of Kurt Lewin when I replied to you, and I never really followed that up. If you mean "field" as Lewin did, then I don't have a problem with the idea. I do not believe, though, that Lewin thought of the mathematic formulation of his concept of "field" as being in any sense more than descriptive. The vectors did not exhibit some deeper reality than lived experience. That is in contrast to how I understand Sheldrake's "morphogenic fields", which suggest some "deeper reality".

I want to suggest that the difficulty in imagining consciousness according to O'Regan and Mead, among others, actually says something positive about consciousness. It isn't merely a stumbling block. If we are trying to get a sense of what is behind imagining, there is no reason to assume that that can be imaged. The image is always outstripped by the activity of imaging.


That's a subtle but remarkable difference indeed: Beholding mathematical formulations as means to an end (i.e. descriptive), or as agents of a "deeper reality".

Similar to the latter, the activity of imaging is, of course, one level below the images themselves. What we usually do is to put abstract mathematics first and construct space, time, entities, etc. therefrom. So, using mathematics only for description, and, at the same time, trying to get a sense of what is behind imagining, doesn't make sense to me.

Shaldrake writes about this (my) approach (https://www.sheldrake.org/research/morphic-resonance/part-i-mind-memory-and-archetype-morphic-resonance-and-the-collective-unconscious):

One of these traditions stems from Pythagoras and Plato, who were both fascinated by the eternal truths of mathematics. In the 17th century, this evolved into a view that nature was governed by timeless ideas, proportions, principles, or laws that existed within the mind of God. This world view became dominant and, through philosophers and scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler, Descartes, Galileo and Newton, it was incorporated into the foundations of modern physics.

Basically, they expressed the idea that numbers, proportions, equations, and mathematical principles are more real than the physical world we experience. Even today, many mathematicians incline toward this kind of Pythagorean or Platonic mysticism. They think of the physical world as a reification of mathematical principles, as a reflection of eternal numerical mathematical laws. This view is alien to the thinking of most of us, who take the physical world as the "real" world and consider mathematical equations as man-made, and possibly inaccurate, description of that "real" world. Nevertheless, this mystical view has evolved into the currently predominant scientific viewpoint that nature is governed by eternal, changeless, immutable, omnipresent laws. The laws of nature are everywhere and always.



"Nature is governed by eternal, changeless, immutable, omnipresent laws. The laws of nature are everywhere and always“ and yet there is consciousness and agency, which seem to defy the determinism implied by laws of nature. There is freedom. I take a different position in regard to mathematics and natural laws. Husserl spoke at some length about the effect of "mathematization" on our view of the world, and he traced this to Galileo. Part of the effect of mathematization is a conception of the world as being made up of "things in themselves", and the subsequent division by Descartes between consciousness and the rest of nature. Husserl ushered in Phenomenology as a way to get to a level of experience that pre-existed formalizations of experience, such as mathematics and geometry. He did an interesting analysis of geometry as being rooted in the concrete practices of humans, actual planning and building which through reflection was formalized into geometrical principles.

Heidegger was a student of Husserl, and continued Husserl's efforts to get at lived experience. That, in turn led to Existentialism, and the recognition that we exist first in a human world, from which, through abstraction and manipulation, we derive the "objective" world of science.


So, that's what has been called the "phenomenological turn", isn't it. And it amounts not so much to a solution of the mind-body problem as to an announcement that the problem is ultimately a pseudo-problem. You had said this several times before, but I always opposed you in this respect. So we might conclude that my thinking is non- or pre-phenomenological …

On the other hand, there seems to be an unresolved conflict between natural sciences and phenomenological philosophy, particularly because it was impossible up to now to come forward with a generally accepted phenomenological theory of science.

In this situation, my suggestion has been to take space and time as both, objective and subjective, expressed in real and imaginary coordinates. This approach combines Bergson's distinction between the mechanistic time of science, and time as we actually experience it - lived time, which he called 'durée réelle' - with Merleau-Ponty's distinction between space as the environment in which things are (spatialized space), and the space viewed as a person's ability to discover spatial relations (spatializing space).


There's no conflict between natural science and Phenomenology, Hans-Joachim. There is a conflict between Scientific Realism and Phenomenology. There are many places in Phenomenology and Existentialism in which the nature of science is discussed, and it is generally discussed as a very human project, answering to human needs and interests. The notion of "objectivity" in science from the point of view of those alternatives to Scientific Realism is seen as an operative assumption, a heuristic device, rather than as a metaphysical claim. Science, since Galileo's time, has been an attempt to remove as much of "subjectivity" as is possible from a given phenomena. Subjectivity has been equated with error. The end-point of this process would seem to be the absurdity of things in themselves apart from any perceiver. That would be the mythical "objectivity". That is the core of Scientific Realism.

Reasons for questioning the coherence of the Scientific Realism position come from several directions. Phenomenology and Existentialism are just two of them. You have also Quine's thinking, his "Semantic Holism" which leads to an understanding of science as structured by "conceptual schemes". He was responding to the position of the Logical Positivists, whose truncated view of reality and "objectivity" seems to set the stage for the Scientific Realists. Similarly with Kuhn, and his notion of "paradigms" and a recognition of the social character of scientific investigation. Polanyi, who had completed a highly successful career as a physical chemist before he turned to philosophy and the Philosophy of Science, thought along these lines. Kuhn was in fact his student.

What ties these positions together, and in opposition to Scientific Realism, is the recognition that science is a human practice, and is structured by human assumptions and beliefs that not only haven't been validated, but are incapable of complete validation. Complete objectivity does not exist.

You might want to take a look at Putnam. He studied under Quine, and was originally a Scientific Realist. He did very rigorous and sound work in Analytic Philosophy. Putnam was responsible for "Functionalism", the conception of Mind which spawned the use of computers to model the mind, and was a major inspiration for the AI project. Putnam eventually let "Functionalism" go, seeing it's shortcomings as an account of mental phenomena. He actually moved into the "Anti-Realist" camp occupied by fellows like Richard Rorty, then found a "middle ground" in the Pragmatist tradition. He also found much inspiration in Husserl.


The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says on Scientific Realism:

“... a general recipe for realism is widely shared: Our best scientific theories give true or approximately true descriptions of observable and unobservable aspects of a mind-independent world.“

On the basis of my experience, I can't imagine natural scientists to deny this position. In the humanities - yes, of course - but in the natural sciences?

Therefore Sheldrake, as a biologist, is practically bound to use the notion of fields, rather than describing the effects of extended minds just phenomenologically.

There should be a causality, which is provided by that which is in between (the field).


That's a somewhat mild description of Scientific Realism. Here's this:

Scientific realism is the view that the universe described by science is real, regardless of how it may be interpreted. Within philosophy of science, it is often an answer to the question "how is the success of science to be explained?" (Wikipedia)

I assume you are familiar with Thomas Kuhn's work. While he isn't a Phenomenologist, I think his approach illustrates a common theme in the positions that oppose Scientific Realism. That theme is the recognition of the role of human cognition and interpretation in science, particularly as it constructs what are taken to be "objective facts", and "data". In a way, analogous to there being no such things as raw sense data, there are no theory-neutral observations. Theory construction involves social processes, cultural presuppositions and philosophical commitments (as well as simple "fads", what you might call „memes").

If you carry this observation to an extreme, you end up with the "anti-realist" positions. Both the realist and anti-realist positions in the Philosophy of Science are extremes in my opinion, one leading to complete subjectivity, and the other chasing complete objectivity. Reality is both, and they are inseparable aspects, while being distinguishable moments.

A nice piece of a description of Kuhn taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia article on Scientific Realism.

“… paradigms function so as to create the reality of scientific phenomena, thereby allowing scientists to engage with this reality. On such a view, it would seem that not only the meanings but also the referents of terms are constrained by paradigmatic boundaries. And thus, reflecting an interesting parallel with neo-Kantian logical empiricism, the idea of a paradigm-transcendent world which is investigated by scientists, and about which one might have knowledge, has no obvious cognitive content. On this picture, empirical reality is structured by scientific paradigms, and this conflicts with the commitment of realism to knowledge of a mind-independent world.“


Dan - thanks for your detailed response to my proposition that there seems to be an unresolved conflict between natural sciences and phenomenological philosophy, particularly because it was impossible up to now to come forward with a generally accepted phenomenological theory of science.

You said that this conflict is not with natural science, but with scientific realism only. Accordingly, you referred to Thomas S. Kuhn's work, which was, however, questioned by many; particularly, I would like to highlight an essay written in 1998 by Steven Weinberg (http://www.physics.utah.edu/~detar/phys4910/readings/fundamentals/weinberg.html), which gets to the heart of my concerns over Kuhn's and other skeptic's attitude towards 'reality' and 'truth'.

There, he writes for example: "I remarked in a recent article in The New York Review of Books that for me as a physicist the laws of nature are real in the same sense (whatever that is) as the rocks on the ground.

A few months after the publication of my article I was attacked for this remark by Richard Rorty. He accused me of thinking that as a physicist I can easily clear up questions about reality and truth that have engaged philosophers for millennia. But that is not my position. I know that it is terribly hard to say precisely what we mean when we use words like "real" and "true." That is why, when I said that the laws of nature and the rocks on the ground are real in the same sense, I added in parentheses "whatever that is." I respect the efforts of philosophers to clarify these concepts, but I'm sure that even Kuhn and Rorty have used words like "truth" and "reality" in everyday life, and had no trouble with them. I don't see any reason why we cannot also use them in some of our statements about the history of science. Certainly philosophers can do us a great service in their attempts to clarify what we mean by truth and reality. But for Kuhn to say that as a philosopher he has trouble understanding what is meant by truth or reality proves nothing beyond the fact that he has trouble understanding what is meant by truth or reality."

The discussion went on, and was even named 'science war'. A response by Alex Levine as well as the following contradiction by Steven Weinberg can be read at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1999/02/18/ts-kuhns-non-revolution-an-exchange/.

So, I would maintain that there is a profound conflict between phenomenological philosophy and natural science over the status of reality and truth. I think that a scientist who believes/realizes that the reality of scientific phenomena is not given, but man-made, will not be able to continue his work. Such an attitude is possible only for those who survey the whole scenery from a historical point of view - comparable to a warrior who would hardly continue fighting, if he could see the battle from a future point of view. On the other hand, future would be quite different, if those battles would not have been fought in the past…

This reminds me of the passage in Geeta Updesh, where Lord Krsna counters Arjuna's objections. Lord Buddha's advice would have probably been different (Dharma > Ahimsa vs. Dharma < Ahimsa). But it's not only about this, it's also about the proper perspective in life. That's what we are talking about.


Hans-Joachim - I like what you say, and I still contend that there is no intrinsic conflict between Natural Science and Phenomenology. Phenomenology is not "ant-realism", and to be fair, I am not up to defending Phenomenology. Kuhn's work isn't Phenomenology, but I brought him in because he presents a clear challenge to Scientific Realism. I get the point about "truth", and i do not accept Kuhn's notion of "incommensurability". I think that later in his career he was more careful about the need to maintain some idea of truth.

I appreciate this:

"I know that it is terribly hard to say precisely what we mean when we use words like "real" and "true." That is why, when I said that the laws of nature and the rocks on the ground are real in the same sense, I added in parentheses "whatever that is."

particularly the part about what he placed in parentheses.

I'm not sure that the Buddha would have counseled Arjuna any differently than Krishna, but I do see the Buddha as "bucking the system". I'll have to think on it.

Donald Davidson has a very nice response to Kuhn. I think the essay is called "On the Possibility of a Conceptual Scheme". It is primarily a critique of Quine, but also is a critique of the notion of "paradigms".


I've been thinking about this:

"the laws of nature and the rocks on the ground are real in the same sense“ and just how problematic a statement it is. There is no way to divide the "laws of nature" from theories of nature. Statements of "law" are theoretical statements. Theoretical statements are by definition open to revision, subject to falsification. None of that is true of the rocks on the ground. The rocks on the ground are not "laws", and nor are they theoretical statements that by definition are open to revision. Rocks and natural laws are real in very different ways, as they are very different entities.

The entities that play roles in the theories that describe "laws" of nature change in the course of history due to a combination of increased accuracy and sociological and cultural factors. That is the truth of Kuhn's thought. He was no idiot. He recognized the continuity between paradigms and recognized scientific progress.

While our understanding of rocks may change, the rocks themselves don't change with our understanding of them. Our understanding of the laws of nature do change and they are both 1. our understanding of the laws and 2. the laws themselves. In other words, the laws of nature do not exist independently from our understanding of them in the same way that rocks exist independently of our understanding of them. Laws of nature and rocks are real in different senses of the word “real".

One important aspect of Scientific Realism is the assumption that the findings of science are more real than our own experience of the world, that the world is actually, "truly" composed of fields and forces which we can not directly observe, and what we observe as true is really just a very practical simulation. You can see this occurring with Galileo when he divides reality into primary and secondary qualities. The primary qualities are what can be mathematically modeled, and are the "real", the secondary qualities are what we sense, and are taken to be less real than what we can measure and quantify. The same issue was noted by Schrödinger, when he spoke of the argument described by Democritus between the senses and the intellect:

"Galenus has preserved us a fragment (Diels, fr. 125), in which Democritus introduces the intellect having an argument with the senses about what is 'real'. The former says: 'Ostensibly there is color, ostensibly sweetness, ostensibly bitterness, actually only atoms and the void', to which the senses retort: 'Poor intellect, do you hope to defeat us while from us you borrow your evidence? Your victory is your defeat.' "

Scientific realism ends up playing havoc with epistemology. The subject is removed, the very subject who is behind the observations and inferences. The grounding facts as observations are merely fictions and constructions. Epistemology can not get off the ground.

What Phenomenology does, and I think also Pragmatism, is to take our experience of the world, the world as experienced, not as a simulation or construction, but as real, both the arena of and the point of departure for all our activities, including the activity of doing science. The chair on which I sit is very real, it is not "really" a conglomeration of atoms and molecules held together through electromagnetic force, which just "seems" to be a chair. The chair and the atoms and molecules that make it up are all real, but in the context of their own different projects or ends.


What you say is convincing. Also, I had a vague intuition that our conversation didn't depart too much from Schrödinger's book, which is now confirmed by your quote of Galenus' fragment. It shows that our thoughts are moving in a classical circle: What is real, what is true. How to find a balance between the senses and the intellect. Which perspective is supposed to be more suitable to our lives, the believer's or the skeptic’s?

Nevertheless, I agree when Weinstein says in his response to Kuhn's 'Structure': "Kuhn did not deny that there is progress in science, but he denied that it is progress toward anything. ... All this is wormwood to scientists like myself, who think the task of science is to bring us closer and closer to objective truth. But Kuhn's conclusions are delicious to those who take a more skeptical view of the pretensions of science. If scientific theories can only be judged within the context of a particular paradigm, then in this respect the scientific theories of any one paradigm are not privileged over other ways of looking at the world, such as shamanism or astrology or creationism.“


The "wormwood" is really something cooked up by an excessively relativistic reading of Kuhn, which I don't subscribe to. That reading is Kuhn's own fault, as it is there in the "Structure", but he did seek to correct it, and never gave up the notion of truth. Weinstein can say that Kuhn accepted that there is "progress" in science while denying that the progress was toward anything, but Weinstein is then attributing an incoherent position to Kuhn that I don't think Kuhn actually ever embraced.

Kuhn's "Structure" is a critique of an unrealistic and idealized view of the nature of science and scientific practice. That unrealistic view involves assuming that observations, or data, are theory-neutral and objective, and that the core of the method of science is induction from those objective observables to laws. The method of induction is implicitly modeled on deduction, but that is a fundamentally flawed view of induction. Induction can not be modeled or formalized in the way that deduction has been. Instead of a step-wise move from observables to laws, each step having the type of self-evidence that you find in a syllogism, induction makes leaps, and is an intrinsically messy process. It is in that messiness that Kuhn finds a place for Gestalt principles in scientific practice, and social and psychological factors in general.

That implies that science is a constructive, human activity, but it doesn't mean that science is "simply subjective", or purely whimsical. What it does mean is that a full account of science and scientific practice has to include the recognition that scientists are people living in a human world. There are basic aspects of that human world that I do not think that natural science is capable of accounting for or explaining, aspects like values. Some of these values which are outside the scope of natural science are critically involved in the process of scientific activity, values like "honesty", and "free communication", and „objectivity".

Science does progress, and that progression is a trajectory toward something. If you can define the trajectory, it might make the "towards-which" a bit clearer. So the question becomes "what is science up to?". A way to address that question is through identifying the values that constitute science, in addition to the general ones above that apply to all pursuits of knowledge. There is an approach that I find sometimes compelling, sometimes not, that is to take science as "up to" increased prediction and control. Certainly from that point of view science has been progressing. We can predict and control much better now than we could 200 years ago what will happen when we perform some physical operation on a piece of matter, but I think this progress in the ability to predict and control is restricted to isolated events, portions of the world cut out of the broader fabric.

The cost is a missing of the forest for the trees, a losing sight of broader contexts, and that is how we end up with human-generated environmental problems, and ethically suspect uses of scientific findings, like the atom bomb.

The Measurement Problem


You just said “there are basic aspects of that human world that I do not think that natural science is capable of accounting for or explaining, aspects like values“, and I agree, because these aspects are beyond their scope, they usually neither know, nor mind about them. My impression is that it's a kind of mental defense.

If you would compel an experimentalist to rely more on observation than on mathematical tools, he or she would be disabled to continue working. The raw data can be so chaotic and confusing, and patterns usually become visible only after sufficient data processing. That's why Weinstein says that for him the laws of nature are real in the same sense (whatever that is) as the rocks on the ground, where he doesn't mean some abstract laws, but the very mathematical formulas, which describe these laws.


I don't think that it is true that mathematical formulas and rocks are real in the same sense, Hans-Joachim, and that regardless of where one places oneself in the debate over whether mathematics is a human creation or a discovered real structure. I place myself somewhere in the middle, by the way. If you are a Pythagorean, then the reality of mathematics is deeper than the reality of rocks. If you are a Phenomenologist, then human experience (of rocks, or anything else) is prior to mathematics. In either case, formulas and rocks are "real" in different senses.

I also disagree that all laws of Natural Science can be recast as mathematical formulas, but the issue does hinge on what one counts as a "law". I have in mind biological evolution, and I am also thinking about the social sciences.


I think he simply wants to say that these formulas are absolutely basic for his work. Think of someone who does radioastronomy. The raw Data don‘t say anything to him or her. Their meaning is derived only after lengthy data processing. Likewise in many other fields.


It sounds like he's trying to say more than that, Hans-Joachim. He's making an existential claim. Also, what do you mean by "raw data"? Uninterpreted information?


It's an endless stream of numbers pouring out of some receiver or detector. In the early 1990-ies I did research on heart rate variability. I had a prototype of a measuring device, and it produced such raw data. They are uninterpreted, unprocessed and nearly ungraspable.

On the other hand, such measurements can also be understood as acts of transformation. What is measured, c‘est une duree, and the result is a number, provided by a device which contains the information necessary for this transformation. So the data are not as raw as generally assumed.

The process of measurement has similarities with what is called the wave collapse. Before measurement, the object is obscure, thereafter it’s unveiled.


Hans-Joachim, yeah, that's what I'd say, but I'd be repeating myself. For practical purposes, I understand your use of the phrase "raw data", but philosophically speaking, when I hear "raw data" I can't help but think of the old British Empiricist notion of "sense data", which has no reality other than as a philosophical construct. We don't perceive sense data and then interpret it. We perceive forms, patterns and things. There is no point in the sensory system where it makes sense to speak of "sense data". Even at the level of the primary receptors the "data" is already interpreted through the motor pattern which orients the receptor field in the environment. Perception occurs in the midst of a sensory-motor loop. Perception is an active exploring of the world, and not a passive receiving of impressions.


I understand what you say, and I fully agree, having understood the issue after thinking about your valuable comments for a sufficient time. Yes, I didn't see the difference of "raw data", streaming out of some measuring device, and the nature of what is being measured.

I think it's very important to always remember that "information" usually involves some mind being informed. This sentence alone comprised the impossibility of information processing with no mind around. Even the most simple forms of live perform information processing, so, which mind could have been involved in those cases?


Hans-Joachim, no need to be apologetic. It is my privilege to be discussing these things with someone who has experience as a practicing scientist. As you've said, science can not proceed without the notion of a mind-independent reality, and I think that "raw data" is an attempt to capture that quality of mind-independence. It just raises very interesting metaphysical questions.


"Raw data" are quite close to that mind-independent reality, but they must be distinguished from each other: Look for example (as I did in 1992: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/231575413_Increase_of_Heart_Rate_Variation_and_Well-Being_After_External_Cold_Water_Application) at the time period between two heart beats. The measurement of that time produces a number, and that number is considered as "raw data". But the time between two heart beats has many other qualities, which don’t fit into this number. Suppose you experience something shocking (it was a thoracic cold wet sheet pack in my experiments), and you feel as if your heart stops beating. That prolonged period of time will be measured simply as a bigger number, whereas the experience is complex, multilayered and profound.

So, the measurement captures only a particular aspect of that complex reality. The term "wave collapse" signifies a similar process. That's why it is relevant in the context of Schrödinger's book.


I see that. Measurement makes something objective. Husserl talks about the difference between objective and "lived" time, and sets lived time as founding objective time. The thing I'm skeptical about is the idea that consciousness directly causes the wave collapse, the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation. It has been criticized due to its reliance on ontological dualism. I'm more inclined to see the collapse of the wave function as resulting from the experimental manipulation, with a fully embodied scientist back there, rather than some direct and occult interaction between disembodied consciousness and matter.


Setting lived time as founding objective time - that's exactly what I tried to show with my 4 chamber model: Imaginary time is subjective and equals lived time! It's more fundamental than objective time, which might be called "real" or "dead". To derive it mathematically from the former, it needs nothing but a multiplication with -i. The objective becomes secondary, the subjective is primary!

This approach is clearly distinct from dualism, as objective and subjective are not on equal footing. Rather, the objective is only derived, it is secondary to the subjective.

Regarding “wave collapse” I must admit that I’m not knowledgeable enough as to fully comprehend the differences between the various models of quantum mechanics. But it’s also not really important, as I simply stated a similarity, which is not essential for the basic process. In my model the wave collapse is simulated by matrix multiplication, and it doesn’t elaborate on who or what performs this operation.


I think it's more than a similarity: specification through measurement and wave form collapse. The von Neumann-Wigner hypothesis is the one that seems to have sparked all the New Age excesses about our consciousness, somehow bringing reality into being magical. It was based on ontological dualism, and I think highlights the conceptual binds that dualism leads to. I appreciate that your model does not specify the nature of the agent that causes the wave collapse. Personally, that is what I'm interested in, and I think it just comes back to scientists performing their experiments, which is different from scientists making observations. That's where the conceptual confusion comes in, where the ideal of objective science, "neutral observation", is taken up as being a real event. The real event is interaction through experimentation, not "observation".

"Observation" suggests, as it should, a passive reception of the structure of the world, with no "subjective" contamination. But that is an ideal. As long as that ideal is taken as a real event, changes brought about through experimental manipulation will appear magical. That's what I was getting at through the Zeno Effect. The changes observed were caused by the physical (in the sense that includes quantum phenomena) interventions, not by the bare act of observing itself. Observation was instantiated by particle beams, if I recall.


Now, you've got me there. On the one hand I said that my model doesn’t elaborate on who or what performs this operation. But on the other hand I must admit that, when it comes to the Zeno effect, there should be someone whose attention is directed to something. That someone is not defined, but it must be some entity, existing in "lived time", in contrast to the object of focussed attention, existing in "dead time" (as I concluded from Husserl's citation).

Regarding the mechanism of that interaction, we must be careful about what we understand by particles. There are fermions and bosons, and there are "real" and "virtual" particles; on top of that, there are particles and quasiparticles. Also, the quantum Zeno effect is not always described in relation to observation, it can also be found in physical interaction. Henry Stapp uses the term in relation to focussed attention, happening in a human brain. Particle physicists use it when dealing with their physical experiments, happening in a completely different environment.

Generally, the Zeno effect can be defined as a class of phenomena in which some transition is suppressed by an interaction — one that allows the interpretation of the resulting state in the terms "transition did not yet happen" and "transition has already occurred", or the proposition that "the evolution of a quantum system is halted, if the state of the system is continuously measured by a macroscopic device to check whether the system is still in its initial state". (Panov, A. D.: Quantum Zeno effect in spontaneous decay with distant detector, 2001).

There can be many types of interaction, and Stapp remained extremely vague, when he was interviewed years after his 2008 panel at the United nations (in this respect, Jeffrey Schwartz was just the opposite).

Personally, I favored virtual bosons as the agents of interaction, particularly bosonic quasiparticles like phonons in structured water. But it seems better to stay aloft such fixings. The model doesn't require a stipulation, but when it comes to verifying experiments, one has to commit, naturally.


"the evolution of a quantum system is halted if the state of the system is continuously measured by a macroscopic device to check whether the system is still in its initial state".

That's it. The halting of the evolution of the quantum system occurs through the measurement by a macroscopic device, behind which, somehow or somewhere, there is an actual researcher.


So, it's a special mindset which halts the evolution of the system?


No, it’s not a special mindset or state of consciousness that halts the evolution of the system. It is experimental manipulation that does so. The idea that the "mindset" directly influences the sate of matter is the von Neumann-Wigner hypothesis, and that's what has led to all of the New Age excesses.

Symmetry Breaking


AI is going to perform better than humans in all motor and rational tasks. What remains to be done by humans? Some minority will be able to keep pace with the technological developments, and they are supposed to make sure that humans are always at least two generations ahead of robots (Gotthard Günther). But what about normal humans? Is it that they are going to live in reservations, like native Indians in North-America? Or, even worse, like domestic animals in modern farms? To avoid such scenarios, it is imperative to develop specific human skills and talents, which can't be substituted by robots: Our sense of beauty, our depth of understanding and empathy, our individual consciousness, which can be experienced only by ourselves. This introcendence is the source of all mental activities, and it can, or better, must be developed by meditative techniques. In order to avoid domestication, all should learn meditation!

I'm also skeptical about the idea that experiments can be influenced by mental activity. Recently, I received a paper dealing with this question: The PEAR Proposition: Fact or Fallacy? by Stanley Jeffers, Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 30.3., May/June 2006. It concludes that "the answer to the question raised has to be no. There are reasonable and rational grounds for questioning these claims. Despite the best efforts of the PEAR group over a twenty-five-year period, their impact on mainstream science has been negligible. The PEAR group might argue that this is due to the biased and blinkered mentality of mainstream scientists. I would argue that it is due to the lack of compelling evidence."

Rather, I think that our minds can be considered as quantum systems, where the state of our nervous systems is derived from the vastness of subjective possibilities. So, whenever we come to some decision or conclusion, a so-called wave collapse occurs in our mind, which transforms the many-valued logic of subjectivity to a simple two-valued logic of objectivity. But this doesn’t mean dualism, rather it’s a co-existence of dualism and monism, where the former is derived and the latter is primary.

To avoid misunderstandings, it must be emphasized that the vastness of subjectivity cannot be confined to our brain or head. Rather it goes far beyond our bodily limitations. However, when it comes to the wave collapse - that is supposed to happen within our physical body.

What seems to be a contradiction is actually an effect that can be simulated easily by matrix transformations: With this technique, you easily map contents from a vast imaginary space to the narrow space of our physical existence.


I don't see any need for an opening for the mind to influence the brain unless you conceive of the mind as a distinct type of "stuff" other than matter, in other words unless you assume ontological dualism. If you reject ontological dualism, you no longer have the „mind/body (or brain)" problem.

That's not to say that quantum effects are irrelevant to neural functioning, but it is to leave the relevance open.

Hans-Joachim - I can see "wave collapse" and making a decision as having a metaphorical relationship, but I don't see those two processes as being identical, and don't see the advantage of claiming that they are identical. What would be the advantage of identifying decisions with "wave collapse" rather than state change in the dynamic system, which is the brain?


Dan, the decision might be as simple as using a particular word, or taking a particular image as true or false. So, whenever the activity of some neuronal assembly/assemblies stabilize(s), such a decision has taken place, which means that the state of the dynamic system brain has changed in that compartment from vague to distinct. This is the metaphorical relationship, as you say.

On the other hand you maintained that the world is given to us once, not twice (as in a representation). So, where should all the worldly objects, we are dealing with, exist, if not in- and outside of our brain? My answer is: they exist in the vastness of our subjectivity. That subjectivity is not at all confined to our bodies, rather it is connected to the subjectivity of all other creatures, which amounts to Husserl's transcendental intersubjectivity.

This intersubjectivity exists in lived time, it provides direct experiences and it is the result of active exploration. But what about the worldly objects by themselves? All we know about them is by inference and conclusion. Suppose we are sick. We feel uneasy, weak etc., but we don't have any idea about what happens in the lower compartments of our corporality. This has been unveiled only through experiments and conclusions, which, in the end, produce a reality existing in "dead" = physical time. With this reasoning we might conclude, that what we call real is actually an illusion, whereas what we call imaginary is actually the only reality given to us.

In contrast, our common sense says that the world is objective = real, and our experiences are subjective = imaginary. In this dilemma, I prefer to decline the stance of "either/or", and adopt the "as well as" instead. The result is a coexistence of monism and dualism, where the latter is, however derived: Derived in the macrocosmic as well as in the microcosmic scenario (macrocosmically in the sense that the world began as an imagination of a Being Divine, and then flocculated/coagulated to become objective; microcosmically in the sense that in early childhood, we know nothing about a world of its own, and acquire this concept only in the course of our life). Consequently, we are naive monists in early childhood, dualists in adulthood, and eventually undeceived monists in the old age.

Regarding quantum mechanics and the wave collapse, there are striking similarities, but I'm also unable to judge, whether they signify metaphors or identity. Eventually, we can work it out in collaboration.


Hans-Joachim, I have a lot of respect for Husserl and his idea of transcendental consciousness as intersubjective, and I am very sympathetic to the idea that in some sense immediate consciousness, or what you are referring to as "subjectivity", is foundational. One problem with Husserl though is his reliance on spatial metaphors of consciousness. He speaks of the transcendental "field" of consciousness as laid out before the intuitive gaze of the phenomenological researcher, and that spatial metaphor carries the risk of turning consciousness into what it is not: a static arena. I think Husserl gets closer to the truth in his discussion of Internal Time Consciousness, in which he conceives of consciousness in process terms. It's no accident that Heidegger was working with Husserl during the time when Husserl was wrestling with the concept of time, and Heidegger went on to compose "Being and Time“.

That issue of spatializing consciousness also leaves me vaguely uneasy with what you are up to, because the mathematical models you use to describe consciousness are models of spaces. Sometimes I wonder, if modeling may be inherently spatial, and that is just the way cognition works.

If we are sticking with Husserl for the sake of argument, he would never explain the process of making a decision with the physical process of "wave collapse". The psychic processes are the processes through which we come to perceive wave collapse, and so are epistemologically prior to wave collapse. I don't think he made claims about ontological priority, because the phenomenological reduction begins with suspending all questions of actual existence.

The consequence of accepting ontological dualism is accepting Cartesian dualism. They are pretty much the same thing: radical split between mind and body, radical separation between self and other, and between self and world. There is also much more variability between the physical structures of individual brains than you allow for. The structure of brains isn't strictly predetermined by the structure of a person's DNA, the DNA more serves to provide rough parameters for an inherently chaotic process of development. By chaotic I don't mean "random". I mean the properties of chaotic systems; a significant degree of lack of predictability. The interaction between DNA and environment, which informs brain structure doesn't begin at birth. It starts in the zygote, as the environment of the DNA is first the cell itself.

I think that you are raising a similar issue that comes down to the need to distinguish mind from brain. I agree that they are distinguishable, but I don't believe they represent two radically different substances. It might be that the distinction rests on our ability to reflect, on the "raw datum" or given which is the fact that we are embodied subjects. We "have" our bodies and we "are" our bodies, and we can be conscious of ourselves.

I agree with you when you point out that the brain is a necessary condition for mind, but I don't think it is a sufficient condition. We also need language, bodies, history and culture.


Dan, I understood that spatializing consciousness might turn out to be a problem; so I already changed my wording from "imaginary" vs. "real" space-time (which is somehow confusing for those who are not in the mathematical terms), to "lived" vs. "dead" time, substituting not only "imaginary" and "real", but also reducing "space-time" to "time". The core of the model works with time as well as with space-time. And, you are right, there is a tendency in spatial imagination to arrive at a "static arena“.


Thanks for clarifying that, Hans-Joachim. Bergson is hovering not too far away.


It is a difference whether you conceive history, environment and culture to contribute to the mindset of a person, or whether you take the minds of individuals as being interconnected, forming large networks, including all the history, environment and culture of these people. Usually, we don't know how to accommodate such collective spirits into our scientific worldview. Extra dimensions, however, provide a practicable methodology. Only, once you add extra dimensions, you are bound to show a way of interaction between these and the ordinary frame. Without such a linkage the extra dimensions remain meaningless. This is why I have to insist on agents bringing about something like a wave collapse. Obviously, by saying so, I don't mean a physical event. Mathematically, it's like a wave collapse, but this doesn't mean that it's physical.

For a better understandability, I might use the term "monotone time"- instead of "dead time" or "real time", both in contrast to "lived time" or "imaginary time". And instead of "wave collapse", it might be better to say "symmetry breaking", which is involved in the wave collapse, but denotes the broader concept.

Let me reformulate the scenario: We have matter and mind. Either we conceive them as two phases of some fundamental stuff in 4-dimensional space-time, or we conceive them as two phases belonging to different dimensions in a higher-dimensional complex space-time. In both cases the former (matter) is derived from the latter (mind) in a process of symmetry breaking, which is reversible, comparable to water being melted and then being frozen again. And in both cases, bosons will be released along the breaking of symmetry. On the one hand, the process can be described as a phase shift, produced by external conditions, like temperature freezing the water. On the other hand, it can also be described by matrix or wave mechanics on the level of particle interaction. The underlying question is, whether mind is to be conceived, in principle, as a special quality of matter or of space-time or of time alone.

As Günther wrote in the book cited repeatedly on this thread: "It would be - remaining in the usual physical perspective - e.g. quite impossible that on planet Earth self-organizing living beings emerge, which call themselves in self-reflection "humans", and claim to have a "mind", if not all reflection components of what we call consciousness and mind are already in that hypothetical gas cloud and its surrounding space-time dimension, from which our solar system was supposed to have originated." Interestingly he doesn't speak only about the gas cloud, rather he adds the surrounding space-time dimension. And this is, in my view, the crucial point: Space-time has the potential to develop sentience, provided that we accept it to have a complex structure.


"Symmetry breaking" is a very powerful concept. It suggests the move from the Universal to the particular, and I think it has roots in old spiritual and philosophical discussions. When I first came across the idea in a discussion about the Big Bang, I couldn't help but think of the division into darkness and light or earth and sky that you find in many mythical accounts of creation, followed by further distinctions and divisions leading to the existence we find ourselves in. It also suggests the fall into samsara.


Yes, a sentient being can be aware of its own existence, but not necessarily. Plants, for example, are probably not aware of their existence, but they are sentient, feeling something and reacting accordingly. Unicellular organisms are not at all aware of their existence, but we can guess that they feel something when confronted with some threat. So, the basis of sentience is a kind of reflection, a reflection between the physical and the perceptible layer of existence. This reflection might be dormant in a crystalline structure, but at the time of crystallization, as has been pointed out elsewhere, it should allow the atoms to find their proper positions in space (as he said: they would feel "all the possible atom configurations“… "as they remain in superposition, until the right one is found“).

This goes all along, until we reach Günther's "hypothetical gas cloud and its surrounding space-time dimension, from which our solar system was supposed to have originated." So, the question at hand is: Where does that state of superposition exist? Where are the possibilities before they break into actualities. The equations say, as far as I know, that they are in "the imaginary". But what does this mean?


Hans-Joachim - Do these possibilities need to be anywhere before they are actualized? Isn't location itself a product of actualization?


Dan, you are right, and I must concede that I didn't consider this sufficiently. Location itself is definitely a product of actualization.

However, there is a hierarchy in symmetry breaking. The ultimate symmetry is the unity of all, including all possible locations, all possible times and all possible substances with all possible qualities and quantities. This Grand Unity is the ultimate coincidentia oppositorum, considered to be divine. But from there, down the cascade of broken symmetries, the possibilities of location should be limited to a few, finally arriving at the distinct location of the actual event. So, for these intermediary steps, the question can arise as to where these possibilities are?


Hans-Joachim - Yes, Parama Brahman. It goes without saying that there is a parallel between the idea of spontaneous symmetry breaking in the early nanoseconds of the Big Bang and the manifestation of Brahman as the unfolding of the universe. What I wonder about is the nature of this parallel. There is what looks like a general pattern of thought shared by creation mythology and symmetry breaking in Cosmology, but I don't want it to be simply a shared cognitive structure. I think that structure is access to reality. The motif reappears because it is a reflection of a "something". At this point, my metaphysical commitments are Buddhist, so what I see going on is the unfolding of a lived moment in time, rather than the history of a pre-existing superstructure, within which we exist in "dead time". That unfolding occurs potentially in each moment, which makes the transcendent immanent.



By the way: The general term for describing the sentience of plants, is tropism (=> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropism#Types). It works not only with plants, but also with bacteria. Various environmental factors have been tested, including the effect of music. As a reference you might have a look at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4830253/


There are a few good documentaries on plant sentience on YouTube. I think one is called "The Secret Life of Plants", and it uses time-lapse photography (or videography, I guess) to show just how complex plant behavior can be, and how responsive plants are to their surrounds. One example I remember involved a particular vine which only grows on tomato plants. One of these vines was planted between two plants, one of which was a tomato. Using time-laps photography you see the vine weaving back and froth between the two plants until it determines which one is a tomato, and latches on to it. The "cues" the vine had been using were airborne chemicals produced by the tomato plant. It's only one of many examples. There are also examples of particular plants producing toxins only in response to heavy grazing by animals: self-defense.


Dan, I agree with your statement saying that the unfolding occurs potentially in each moment, which makes the transcendent immanent - meaning, and I think you will agree that the symmetry breaking continues: it's not only a matter of the first nanoseconds of the Universe; one level where this can happen, is the production and annihilation of force particles in the vacuum. The following video summarizes the starting point of my private investigations into this field: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3xLuZNKhlY


Hans-Joachim - I found this interesting. It is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, out of a discussion about "continuous creation" :

"Jonathan Edwards, for example, says, “God’s upholding created substance, or causing its existence in each successive moment, is altogether equivalent to an immediate production out of nothing, at each moment…. So that this effect differs not at all from the first creation, but only circumstantially…” (Edwards 1758, 402; emphasis in the original). In other words, there is no real difference between the act of creation and the act of conservation, though different words may be used for them. Descartes, Malebranche, Leibniz, and Berkeley all express similar views.“


The idea of continuous creation holds with or without an agent behind the act.

Complex space-time


Yesterday, I attended a meet up on attention economy. Among other interesting topics, one speaker presented a reversible figure and asked: where is the duck/rabbit? It's obviously not on the screen. Dan, you are certainly familiar with such questions. What would be your answer, keeping in mind our rejection of the Representational Theory?


Nice question, Hans-Joachim. One thing we can say about the location of the duck/rabbit is that it is not located in physical space, if we take physical space to be objective space which contains objects that are there, whether or not there is someone present to perceive them. Obviously we need a subject present in order to talk about the presence of the duck/rabbit. The location of the duck/rabbit is not strictly a question of physical space. If you take location in a broader sense than physical, running the risk of being accused of speaking purely metaphorically, you could say that the duck/rabbit exists in psychological space, or phenomenological space. We do experience it as being in some sense "out there" on the page, but we are also aware that it is "not really there" on the page, that is, we are aware of it as a representation, not a physical reality, and more than that, we are aware of it as an ambiguous representation that by it's nature opens up "psychological space“.

It is through things like the duck/rabbit image that we become aware of our role in constituting experience, that we become aware of the differences between how we see and what we see, so objective and psychological space are opened up simultaneously through ambiguous images.

The question is how metaphorical is the talk of "Psychological space". Something very close to psychological space is what Husserl took to be primary, the field of consciousness, phenomenal awareness. We begin there, and through reflection on things like ambiguous figures begin to draw the distinction between objective and psychological space. What distinguishes psychological space from phenomenological space is that the former invites naturalistic (read „objective") explanations, and questions such as "where is the duck/rabbit really?"), while the phenomenological space does not call for explanations, it calls for an analysis of the ways in which the phenomenological object is presented, "modes of presentation“.

I'd say that instead of the question "where is it", the question more sensitive to it's nature is "how is it situated“. That is a question about "location", but it includes cultural context.


Thank you, Dan, for this answer. I learnt so much in our conversations. What helped me most was your benevolent scepticism.


Thanks for the vote of confidence, Hans-Joachim. I assume that the reason you raised the question of the location of the "duck/rabbit" is that the tempting response is that it is located in the mind, or in the brain, as a representation. Where else could it be, and what else could it be? That is among the classic moves in psychology conceived as a natural science, which is other than the field of transcendental consciousness which doesn't offer explanations. Psychology as a natural science is all about explanations, and the explanation by "representations" is a good example of the paradoxes that natural science explanations end up in when it comes to psychology. You just can not explain a first person process as if it were a third person process. You can't eliminate subjectivity from psychology.


But, isn't it that this paradox can be dissolved by assuming a coexistence of objective and subjective space? The objective space would be that "which contains objects that are there, whether or not there is someone present to perceive them." And the subjective space would be the psychological space, which is "very close to what Husserl took to be primary, the field of consciousness, phenomenal awareness." Both could be accommodated in a complex space-time with monotonous or "dead" time on the objective, and lived time on the subjective side.

Actually, watching the animation on vacuum fluctuations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3xLuZNKhlY) one can experience reversibility in time: You can see it from outside (like in "dead" time), and you can experience it from inside, remembering that each and every element of our environment - inside and outside of our bodies - is undergoing such fluctuations (in lived time). The experience of tilting is similar to that with reversible figures.

Also, the objective space is not necessarily given from the beginning, rather it can be constructed in the course of lived time (mathematically by multiplying its unit two times with itself), ensuring that subjective space, the field of consciousness and phenomenal awareness, remains primary.

But, I think you gave the answer already when you said that you are more interested in "the unfolding of a lived moment in time, rather than the history of a pre-existing superstructure within which we exist in 'dead time'."

Sarkar’s four chamber model


Hans-Joachim, I think whenever the concept of space is introduced that also introduces a sense of objectivity. Subjectivity slips away. On the other hand, I have to admit that I do not understand what it is that you are ultimately up to with modeling the relationship between lived time and dead time mathematically.


Many thanks for this question.

When I started participating in the PhilosophyOfMind@LinkedIn-discussions five months ago, my answer to this question would have been less refined. But now, after almost 5oo pages of turning the issue to and fro, I hope that the crucial point can be communicated more efficiently.

Let me start with a general consideration: When we start counting, we use our fingers to denote 1, 2, 3 ..., hence these numbers are also called digits. It is generally understood that they indicate groups of similar things in our external world. Later we learn, that all rational numbers can be constructed from 1 and 0. We can use them to describe our external world, and since Galileo Galilei, many believe that "mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe”. However, as soon as we close our eyes, we realize that there is also an internal world. Some say it is unreal or imaginary, drawing a line of demarkation between that which is real and can be counted (res extensa), and that which exists in our minds and can "only" be known (res cogitans). However, it remains completely obscure with this approach how to overcome the barrier between the two.

At the times of Galileo Galilei and René Descartes, complex numbers were already known, but they were regarded as useless. Actually, the negative connotation of 'imaginary' goes back to Descartes, who mocked about their crankiness. Leibniz was familiar with complex numbers, but he couldn't find useful applications. It took another one hundred years before Carl Friedrich Gauß discovered their diverse applicability.

For us it is important to know that the imaginary unit "i" can be treated like a "1", with the condition that it refers to another realm, i.e. to that which is subjective, in contrast to "1", which is to be applied on the objective world. "i" is the unit in the field of subjectivity, whereas "1" is the unit in the field of objectivity.

If you start with objectivity (rational numbers), it looks like crazy to introduce i = square root of minus one. That's the point where I usually lost my audience. But if you start with subjectivity (imaginary numbers), it's just reverse: Multiply i three times with itself and you get the unit in the field of objectivity (+1). This can be applied to all aspects of existence (space, time and substance). It shows that objective space, time and substance are derivatives of their subjective counterparts. The subjective is primary, the objective secondary.

But the objective is not only secondary, it is also influenced by the subjective, just like the subjective is influenced by the objective. Mathematically, these interactions are modeled by multiplications with the imaginary unit i, which means that any set of elements can cross that previously unsurmountable border by simply multiplying it with some terms containing i. This is usually done by matrix multiplication, which looks complicated, but is, in fact, only laborious, and can easily be done by small computer programs.

Regarding time, the aforesaid means that we don't have to consider time as an unidirectional arrow, but as a complex plane: at any moment in objective time, we can be at a completely different time subjectively. We can also switch from the regular mode of objective time to the variable and sometimes erratic mode of subjective time. And we can be at different times simultaneously.

However, these explanations refer only to the first version, as presented in "From Imaginary Oxymora to Real Polarities and Return" (2012). In contrast, the extended version, presented in "Microvita - A New Science of Reality" (2017), deals with the four chamber model. Therein, your (Dan's) objection can be accommodated conveniently, which said:

"Whenever the concept of space is introduced that also introduces a sense of objectivity. Subjectivity slips away."

Actually, I didn't realize this point before, but it's very important; and it nicely fits into the general concept:

In the first chamber we have time indeterminacy

(oxymora in time, subjective),

in the second chamber time determinacy


in the third chamber we have space-time indeterminacy

(oxymora in space-time, objective), and

in the fourth chamber space-time determinacy


The general formula is that you move from a complemented to a polarized state (1), next to another complemented state (2) and then to the fourth state, which is again polarized (3). The second move involves a synthesis, which is to bring about a new element, i.e. "space" in the example given above. The third chamber is called "objectivated mind" or "Citta", which amounts to what you meant (I hope you agree) when you said that "the concept of space ... introduces a sense of objectivity". The difference to the fourth chamber, however, is that it is yet indeterminate, where the actualization occurs only with the last move (3).

So, indeterminacy in space obviously means "here as well as there". But what should indeterminacy in time stand for? In the most fundamental sense, it refers to time flowing forwards as well as backwards: It's about a symmetry among entropic and syntropic waves, Luigi Fantappié envisioned as early as 1942 (also see chapter 18 in "From Imaginary Oxymora to Real Polarities and Return“). Also see Tab. 1 in

Last but not least a word about the relation between models and reality. The models are not to be confused with reality. They are only for a better understanding: If it is difficult to understand reality, we can build a model and study its behaviour. As long as it complies with factuality and is additionally able to predict its progression, the model fulfills its purpose.

Additionally, I found the following reasoning:

Mathematical models are used because we try to understand and predict naturally observed phenomena. It also helps us to manipulate the world around us. Historically, we used several mathematical approaches to reach this goal: numbers, algebra, geometry, calculus including differential equations, statistics, dynamical systems & chaos, and complex systems.

Mathematical modeling is used to cast the observed phenomenon into a mathematical description. In general, the observed phenomena are too complex to be described fully. Mathematical modeling gives us a recipe how to simplify observed phenomena and to arrive at a computationally tractable description.

However, we have to keep in mind, that the model is a simplification of the reality. There is always a chance that results predicted by the model deviate from the observed phenomena themselves.

Very often a model must be implemented computationally to enable its evaluation. Very few sufficiently realistic models are solvable analytically.

From this, it is easy to observe that mathematical modeling plays an indispensable place among all tools used to describe, predict, and manipulate natural phenomena. Mathematical modeling is in many cases the only way how to experience a phenomenon.

Think about performing in silicon (computational) nuclear blasts, predicting drug interactions in the human body, disaster evacuation strategy development, doing any experiments unethical to do on humans, etc. So, mathematical modeling enables humans to research in scientific areas previously inaccessible to us.

Actually, there is one mathematical field which enables an even better description of many so far indescribable phenomena: it is called complex systems.



Dan, I remember you saying that "whenever the concept of space is introduced that also introduces a sense of objectivity. Subjectivity slips away."

I agreed and I took this insight as a means to shed some light on the transition from the second to the third chamber in P.R. Sarkar's model.

Now, I found two passages in Merleau-Ponty's works (cited in Noah Moss Brender's essay "On the Nature of Space: Getting from Motricity to Reflection and Back Again" (https://www.academia.edu/33771227/On_the_Nature_of_Space_Getting_from_Motricity_to_Reflection_and_Back_Again): In the first one he speaks about the difficulties when reading a map or when orienting oneself on a plan. He elaborates that it demands to "be capable of transcribing a kinetic melody into a visual diagram, of establishing relations of reciprocal correspondence and mutual expression between them." These "kinetic melodies" seem to be the subjective counterpart of our mental images.

However, kinetic melodies also need some space, isn't it? Just like dancing with eyes closed: We are moving, but we hardly think about our environment. Or in Noah Moss Brender's words: "This is the experience of space as we live it through our bodies: the experience of my body’s “knowing” where things are and how to move with respect to them, without my being able to articulate this knowledge explicitly or to say how I have come by it. This is the space of what Merleau-Ponty calls “motricity [motricité]”, a space of movement and action rather than contemplation and knowledge. It is organized around my own body, and it orients my movements and perceptions. Things have meaning in this space, not in terms of their objective positions, but in terms of my bodily “I can” (Phenomenology of Perception).

In the second one he writes: "The truth is that homogeneous space can convey the meaning of orientated space only because it is from the latter that it has received that meaning. In so far as the content can be really subsumed under the form and can appear as the content of that form, it is because the form is accessible only through the content. Bodily space can really become a fragment of objective space only if within its individuality as bodily space it contains the dialectical ferment to transform it into universal space." (Phenomenology of Perception).

I think this transformation into homogeneous or "universal space" is meant and performed with the transition from the third to the fourth chamber in P.R. Sarkar's model.

So, out of the four chambers, we get three analogues in Merleau-Ponty's works: (2) la motricité, (3) orientated or lived space and (4) the homogeneous or universal space of our natural sciences. And what about the first chamber? What remains is "indeterminacy in subjective time". But what does that mean?

According to Jakob von Uexkull "Every organism is a melody which sings itself". Regarding motricité, we might add: which sings and dances on its own. And in return, that first chamber could signify a realm, which is filled by sound without melody, a sound that doesn't provoke movements, a sound that is pregnant with all melodies, all meanings and all movements, but that has not yet delivered, a sound before bifurcation, before polarization, a sound like the universal AOUM.


Hans-Joachim, the thing is that Merleau-Ponty was speaking of "lived space". It is the ground of modeled, or "homogeneous space". The "dialectical ferment" ontologically precedes universal space, which I take to be a variation of homogenous space. None of this precludes attempts to model the transitions between lived experience and objectified experience, but it does highlight the fact that the models depend on lived experience. I believe that that dependency relationship is better captured by verbal descriptions than mathematical models, but that might just be personal preference. In either case, be it verbal or mathematical, the interesting things happen where the model or the verbal description fail, which might be the 4th and last aspect of the sound "Om", the silence on which the articulation depends.

I need to familiarize myself with von Uexkull. He influenced several major thinkers who contributed to both Phenomenology and Enactivism. His conception of the "Umwelt" is deep, and led to views of co-constitution of environment and organism.


> The "dialectical ferment" ontologically precedes universal space,

> which I take to be a variation of homogenous space.

This sentence shows the advantage of a model: If you have to prepare yoghurt from milk, you put some yoghurt into the milk, because the yoghurt contains the bacteria needed for this transformation. But if you prepare leavened dough, you add yeast, which is the ferment. So, the yeast and the dough are two different things. Likewise with space: You need operators to transform one space into the other. And it works in a reciprocal or dialectical way, back and forth, that's the model! In the model, such operators transform orientated or lived space into homogeneous or universal space (space with or without content, accordingly). But that's not all; they also break symmetries - in many different ways.

All From: LinkedIn.com,

Group: Philosophy of Mind

(https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4011660) =>



Copyright © 2012-2021, Microvita Research e.V.