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Friday, 11 October 2013

Bilodeau and Schrodinger

Speaking of what he calls "the nucleation of Being" Douglas J. Bilodeau (then of Indiana University Cyclotron Facility) writes in his 1996 paper:

[...] it expresses my intuition that consciousness must be closely related to existence itself, that it is vastly nearer to the ‘basic level of reality’ than anything signified by physical concepts. The fate of the individual ego-consciousness is obviously linked in some way to its physical expression in the body, but consciousness itself as a category and as a possibility is something more basic. We make machines and we analyse natural objects in terms of machine analogies because it is natural for us to think in that way. But we can hardly expect that that which the mind readily produces is the same as that which produces the mind. Mind is surely not epiphenomenally superimposed on a pattern of information-processing the brain happens to enact. It is far more plausible that the brain and mind are both manifestations of an underlying process, and that our own ego-awarenesses are merely the tip of an ontological iceberg as yet unknown to us. If so, the concept of ‘information’ is not likely to be a useful guide. Information is an enormously useful idea, but it an abstraction of an abstraction. The immediacy of consciousness lies in the opposite direction.
Bilodeau, D. J. (1996),  Physics, Machines and the Hard Problem (JCS Volume 3, No. 5/6).

In the preceding paragraph of the paper Bilodeau laments that "Having driven experience out of our world picture, one’s first impulse (desiring to make amends) is to graft it back on, without disturbing the independence of the physical”.

I find all of this reminiscent of Schrodinger’s views that he outlines in his book “Mind and Matter”:

Ch3: The Principle of Objectivation

By this I mean the thing that is also frequently called the ‘hypothesis of the real world’ around us. I maintain that it amounts to a certain simplification which we adopt in order to master the infinitely intricate problem of nature. Without being aware of it and without being rigorously systematic about it, we exclude the Subject of Cognizance from the domain of nature that we endeavour to understand. We step with our own person back into the part of an onlooker who does not belong to the world, which by this very procedure becomes an objective world. This device is veiled by the following two circumstances. First, my own body (to which my mental activity is so very directly and intimately linked) forms part of the object (the real world around me) that I construct out of my sensations, perceptions and memories. Secondly, the bodies of other people form part of this objective world. Now I have very good reasons for believing that these other bodies are also linked up with, or are, as it were, the seats of spheres of consciousness. I can have no reasonable doubt about the existence of some kind of actualness of these foreign spheres of consciousness, yet I have absolutely no direct subjective access to any of them. Hence I am inclined to take them as something objective, as forming part of the real world around me. Moreover, since there is no distinction between myself and others, but on the contrary full symmetry for all intents and purposes, I conclude that I myself also form part of this real material world around me. I so to speak put my own sentient self (which had constructed this world as a mental product) back into it – with the pandemonium of disastrous logical consequences that flow from the aforesaid chain of faulty conclusions. We shall point them out one by one; for the moment let me just mention the two most blatant antinomies due to our awareness of the fact that a moderately satisfying picture of the world has only been reached at the high price of taking ourselves out of the picture, stepping back into the role of a non-concerned observer.

The first of these antinomies is the astonishment at finding our world picture ‘colourless, cold, mute’. Colour and sound, hot and cold are our immediate sensations; small wonder that they are lacking in a world model from which we have removed our own mental person.

The second is our fruitless quest for the place where mind acts on matter or vice-versa […] The material world has only been constructed at the price of taking the self, that is, mind, out of it, removing it; mind is not part of it; obviously, therefore, it can neither act on it nor be acted on by any of its parts.
Mind has erected the objective outside world of the natural philosopher out of its own stuff. Mind could not cope with this gigantic task otherwise than by the simplifying device of excluding itself – withdrawing from its conceptual creation. Hence the latter does not contain its creator.
While the stuff from which our world picture is built is yielded exclusively from the sense organs as organs of the mind, so that every man’s world picture is and always remains a construct of his mind and cannot be proved to have any other existence, yet the conscious mind itself remains a stranger within that construct, it has no living space in it, you can spot it nowhere in space. We do not usually realize this fact, because we have entirely taken to thinking of the personality of a human being, or for that matter also that of an animal, as located in the interior of its body. To learn that it cannot really be found there is so amazing that it meets with doubt and hesitation, we are very loath to admit it.
It is the same elements that go to compose my mind and the world. This situation is the same for every mind and its world in spite of the unfathomable abundance of ‘cross-references’ between them. The world is given to me only once, not one existing and one perceived. Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.
Schrodinger, E., Mind and Matter (Cambridge University Press, first published 1958).

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