Mind, Quantum, and Free Will

Final cover

About this book

The mind‑body problem is the most challenging and important enigma facing humanity. We have accurate scientific knowledge of the way the world works in terms of its physical laws, objects, and properties. There are excellent reasons to suppose that the human brain operates according to these same principles. The mystery is that humans are also something else: we feel. Our percepts are rich in qualities, such as the experienced blueness of the sky, and the painfulness of a toothache. We are also agents in the world, able make significant decisions that affect the course of our lives. The book is in three parts:

Part I The Problem: The case is made that two key errors have made the mind‑body problem intractable for centuries. The successes of science wrongly suggest that physicalism (“everything has an ultimate explanation in terms of physics”) must be true. It is also incorrect that the problem is a scientific one. A novel philosophical solution to the mind‑body problem – fully consistent with science – is promised for Part III.

Part II Fundamental Physics: This gives an account of contemporary physics. Regarding quantum mechanics, there is an ongoing cultural struggle. The majority of physicists agree with Niels Bohr that the quantum domain is so weird that scientists should be content with correctly predicting experiments: on this view, the theory is complete, and any attempt to understand the universe should be abandoned. Einstein disagreed, but he was vilified. Together with others he published a crucial paper which eventually led to the discovery – and experimental verification – that the universe must be “entangled;” an utterly unexpected and quintessentially quantum phenomenon.

Part II includes an introduction to standard quantum mechanics, but with a robust defence of Einstein.

Part III Pan‑idealism – a solution: This is a metaphysical system that combines idealism (“every fact about the universe can be entirely reduced to mental facts”) with realism about the contents of the universe, each item of which is a mind. It will be shown that pan‑idealism: (1) solves the mind‑body problem in principle by reducing all scientific facts to mental facts. (2) It is consistent with genuine human agency (Schrödinger’s critique is answered). (3) It explains how centres of experience coalesce and break down (resolving the “combination problem”). (4) In contrast to physicalism, it gives a satisfactory characterisation of concrete reality. (5) It is a philosophical system that can be linked in a very precise way to physical theories (e.g. GRW). Each of these points is a substantial advance.

Latest news

The book is with with John Hunt Publications, and is fully ready for printing (it will also appear as an e-book). The official publication date is December 9th 2022.

A YouTube video where I describe the book may be found HERE

Updates about the book’s progress will appear here