Are Kant and Schopenhauer right after all? Are the evolutionary philosophers wrong who claim that our mind accurately reflects the objective world? It seems that our mind has evolved in adaptation to the objective world, but only as far as is necessary to survive in the immediate environment. In other words, our mind is faulty; space, time and causality may be ‘working tools’ to find our way in daily life, but our mind cannot accurately perceive the real essence of the objective world, which may not lie in space and time and not be causal. All our ideas about this ‘spooky’ world are indirect, derived by means of complicated mathematics from experiments that explore only the objective world but say nothing about the subjective (conscious) side of it.
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Since the first beginnings of Western science in ancient Greece, philosophers speculated about the outside world. Democritus assumed that the world was not really what it appears to be, but that there was reality only in atoms and the void. Galileo Galilei, Descartes and Newton did not believe that the world is what it appears to be. According to John Locke (1689), all knowledge is acquired by experience through sensory perceptions. He distinguished primary and secondary qualities: the former are properties which are independent of the observer and include solidity, extension, motion, and numbers. The latter are properties which are produced by sensations in the observer, such as colour, smell and sound, and do not provide objective facts about nature. Or: primary qualities can be measured, secondary ones are purely subjective. He did not accept that there are innate ideas. David Hume (1739) believed that we can only know objects of experience and relations of ideas. Our belief in causality results from habit, the experience of ‘constant conjunction’. We have no conception of the self, we are only bundles of sensations. Berkeley and Leibniz among others doubted that primary qualities are really properties of the world, and Immanuel Kant (1781) claimed that space and time, as well as causality, are categories of our mind, i.e., features which are necessary to form experience. The thing in itself (the noumena), which is the ground for the phenomena experienced by us, cannot be perceived by us. Schopenhauer (1818), in his ‘Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ agreed with Kant concerning the categories of our mind, but goes further in saying that the experienced phenomena and the thing in itself are different sides of the same ‘coin’, and that we do indeed have access to the thing in itself, because we are not only objects of perception, but also subjects who do the perceiving. He identified the thing in itself as essentially Will. I refer to it as consciousness (See also Remarks below).
Some later philosophers (e.g., Bernhard Rensch), under the impression of the theory of evolution, suggested that our mind has evolved in adaptation to the external world, the environment, and that the categories of our mind, space, time and causality, therefore reflect real characteristics of the objective world.
Here I suggest that the latter proposition, that our mind has evolved in adaptation to the objective world and therefore reflects it, may be faulty. Particle physics has taught us that energy/matter is quite different from the solidity of matter earlier claimed to exist and experienced by us (how many neutrinos pass through our body every second without being noticed, for example ?). The phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement may perhaps suggest that space and time are not real characteristics of the world. When two particles, located far apart even in different galaxies, are entangled, a measurement of one of them will immediately, without any time delay, give us information about the other. Or: when we measure the state of a particle, we collapse its superposition, determining its state and thereby the state of the other, with which it is entangled. This is seemingly in contradiction to the Theory of Relativity. (Einstein did not accept this postulate of quantum physics and referred to is as the ‘spooky action at a distance’). However, the phenomenon has now repeatedly been shown experimentally to exist (although not yet at galactic dimensions!). If particles are entangled, information about them is not separated in time or space, although there is no causal action at a distance. Murray Gell-Mann illustrates this with Bertlmann’s socks. The mathematician Bertlmann always wore one pink and one green sock, so seeing let’s say a green sock on him we know immediately that the other one must be pink. Likewise, measuring (determining) a certain type of polarization of one photon, we know immediately (determine) what the polarization of the other, entangled photon must be, even if both are separated in space. (The sock illustration, however, is not entirely correct. It ignores that in the quantum world two states of entangled particles do not exist before they are measured, whereas the socks are really red and green, whether we look at them or not).
Is this evidence that Kant and Schopenhauer were right after all? Are the evolutionary philosophers wrong who claim that our mind accurately reflects the objective world? It seems that our mind has evolved in adaptation to the objective world, but only as far as is necessary to survive in the immediate environment. In other words, our mind is faulty; space, time and causality are ‘working tools’ to find our way in daily life, but our mind cannot accurately perceive the real essence of the objective world, which may not lie in space and time and may not be causal. All our ideas about this ‘spooky’ world are indirect, derived by means of complicated mathematics from experiments that explore only the objective world but say nothing about the subjective (conscious) side of it.
I put this up for discussion.
John Locke (1689). Essay concerning human understanding.
David Hume (1739). A treatise on human nature.
Immanuel Kant (1781). Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Engl.transl. Critique of pure reason).
[Also: Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik die als Wissenschaft wird auftreten können (1783) (Engl.transl. Prolegomena to any future metaphysics that will be able to present itself as science.]
Arthur Schopenhauer (1818). Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (Engl. transl. The world as will and representation).
Bernhard Rensch (1968). Biophilosophie (Engl. transl. Biophilosophy 1971).
Murray Gell-Mann (1995). The Quark and the Jaguar. Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. Abacus.
Two entangled particles trying to become disentangled (decoherence in the physicists’ jargon). Only in the eye of the observer? © Klaus Rohde
Remarks: “Die einzig mögliche Interpretation ist, dass das Bewusstsein die sozusagen ‘andere, subjektive Seite’ bestimmter (wenn nicht aller) Nervenprozesse ist: ein Physiologe misst was sich im Nervensystem abspielt, und das Individuum erlebt, was er misst. Oder: Bewusstsein kann nur subjektiv empfunden werden, und nur Analogieschlüsse erlauben mir, auch bei anderen Menschen und Tieren ein Bewusstsein anzunehmen. – Dies hat enorme Konsequenzen für unser Weltbild. Es existiert eine Welt der physikalisch/chemikalischen Prozesse, die wir beobachten und messen können, und daneben eine Welt des Bewusstseins, die man nur empfinden kann. In der körperlichen Welt herrschen strenge (vielleicht kausale) Gesetzmässigkeiten, in der subjektiven Welt fühlen wir uns frei, meinen wir könnten machen was wir wollen. Da die physikalisch/chemische Welt ‘unsterblich’ ist (???? zumindest vom big bang bis zum vielleicht nächsten) ist auch das Bewusstsein unsterblich, da es ja mit der körperlichen Welt verbunden ist.” Zitat aus https://krohde.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/das-leben-ist-zerbrechlich-warum-lebe-ich-die-verbindung-das-bewusstseins-und-der-physischen-welt/
Stephen Wolfram, the famous inventor of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language, and author of A New Kind of Science, recently published his very interesting views of what he calls ‘consciousness’. However, he discusses not consciousness which, according to him, is located in (not clearly defined) ‘souls’, but the physical correlates of it, namely intelligence and neural networks, as well as artificial intelligence, the history and importance of symbolic languages, etc. See here: http://edge.org/conversation/stephen_wolfram-ai-the-future-of-civilization
‘Here’s one of my scenarios that I’m curious about. Let’s say there’s a time when human consciousness is readily uploadable into digital form, virtualized and so on, and pretty soon we have a box of a trillion souls. …………This question of realizing that there isn’t this distinction between intelligence and mere computation leads you to imagine the future of civilization ends up being the box of trillion souls, and then what is the purpose of that?’