Brain and Values: Is a Biological Science of Values Possible

By Karl H. Pribram | Go to book overview

8
Pragmatic Approach to Consciousness

Henry P. Stapp

1Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

University of California

Berkeley, California 94720


Abstract

Physical scientists were driven during the late twenties to abandon a fundamental idea that had reigned since the time of Issac Newton. To obtain a rationally coherent and practically useful theory of all physical phenomena they turned to a pragmatic approach. The core idea was that the basic physical theory was no longer directly about a physical world that was conceived to exists apart from anyone's knowledge of it. Rather the theory was regarded as being directly about certain of our knowings. This switch appears to be exactly what is needed to establish a rationally coherent theoretical foundation for the science of consciousness. For it converts the immediate objects of psychological and physical theories into things of the same kind, namely human experiencings, rather than things of disparate kinds separated by an unbridgable conceptual gap. Within this pragmatic quantum approach certain particular aspects of human brain structure entail the existence of macroscopic quantum effects that are linked to our conscious experiences. Moreover, our conscious thoughts have causal effects that can both enhance our prospects of survival, and work effectively against thermal noise in the creation of the brain states that guide our behaviour.

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1
This work was supported by the Director, Office of Energy Research, Office of High Energy and Nuclear Physics, Division of High Energy Physics of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract 1998. In N. Osaka (Ed.), Neural Correlates of Consciousness. To be published.

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