Supplementary Lecture Notes: Chapter 10: Conclusion

       © 2013-17 Imants Barušs

    Note about these "Supplementary Lecture Notes"

Please note that these "Supplementary Lecture Notes" consist of an Outline and a summary of some of the material covered in class that is not in the textbook. The textbook is actually the "lecture notes" (that got published). So, except for the outlines, which are usually just a list of the sections from each chapter in the book, these supplementary lecture notes cover only supplementary material that is not in the textbook.


    Challenging our materialist legacy


Challenging our materialist legacy: Computationalism, which we discussed in Chapter 2, has been unable to make meaningful headway with the hard problem of consciousness, which we defined in Chapter 1. Perhaps by attending to neural networks in the brain, we are looking at the wrong level and we should pursue our reductionist program to the real bottom.

The classical bottom begins historically in 1628 to 1710 with the resuscitation of ancient Greek atomism by Pierre Gassendi. Then, from 1695 to 1710 Gottfried Leibniz introduced the metaphor of the universe as clockwork. In 1748 David Hume used the motion of billiard balls to discuss causation. And in 1814 Pierre-Simon Laplace maintained that we could know the past and future from knowledge of the forces in the present. By this account, all of reality is the result of tiny, continuously existent billiard balls that behave in a predictable manner. Not only have we inherited this outdated intellectual tradition, but we appear to use a billiard ball schema when we reason about the nature of the universe.

However, the real bottom is not classical, but quantum. On a quantum account, elementary particles have no continuous existence, no spatial extension, nor are they particles. Space itself is expanding at the rate of the Hubble flow. And by the Kochen-Specker Theorem, observables have no values before we decide what to observe, or the values of observables change depending on what else we choose to observe. In a recent so-called Cheshire Cat experiment, a neutron’s mass went down one path while another property, called its “spin,” went down a separate path (Denkmayr et al., 2013). So, how would that apply to billiard balls? This would be the equivalent of striking a blue billiard ball and having the billiard ball, minus any color, go off the right, and having the color blue go off to the left all by itself. It is difficult to conceive of detaching the color of a billiard ball from the billiard ball itself. So, we have lost "scale modelling." In other words, materialism has poor goodness-of-fit to empirical data. If materialism cannot explain matter, how likely is it to succeed at explaining consciousness? It is an antiquated theory that is well past its best-before date.


Barušs, I. (2010). Beyond scientific materialism: Toward a transcendent theory of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17(7-8), 213-231.
Denkmayr, T., Geppert, H., Sponar, S., Lemmel, H., Matzkin, A., Tollaksen, J., & Hasegawa, Y. (2013). Observation of a quantum Cheshire cat in a matter wave interferometer experiment. arXiv: 1312.3775v1 [quant-ph] 13 Dec 2013.