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Philosophers and physicists have been throwing around the idea that "consciousness causes collapse" since the early days of QM. Today most physicists reject this idea, but it seems to me this is motivated by unsubstantiated metaphysical belief (materialism) rather than contrary evidence. In fact, I am convinced that consciousness must play a role in the collapse of the wave function. Here's why.

Right now I am thinking and writing about my observation that I am a conscious being with subjective experience. What does this imply? The reality of my subjective experience has a clear influence on my actions and hence the physical world. Put another way, we act the way we do because we have subjective experience. Moreover, this action could not possibly be determined (in the absolute sense) by classical mechanics or, in fact, any purely mathematical deterministic description of reality. To deny this, you must claim either

a) Subjective experience is a necessary consequence of some physical system (reductionism). Thus a mathematician could hypothetically prove the reality of subjective experience from the laws of physics.

or

b) I would still be making this post even if I had no consciousness. That is, the decision to write about my subjective experience was not influenced in any way by the fact that I have subjective experience.

Neither of these options seems to hold any water. My conclusion is that subjective experience influences the world in a way that is not determined (completely) by the laws of physics. Of course, we clearly don't have the ability to break the laws of physics. This to me suggests two things:

1) The workings of the human brain cannot be explained in terms of classical mechanics.

2) Consciousness somehow "chooses" a brain state from the long list of possibilities given to us by the Schroedinger Equation. The many-worlds interpretation of QM could only say that we happen to be in a world where I chose to make this post - but this does not take into account the clear influence of my consciousness on the decision.

To be clear, I don't think this is a proof for free will, since I couldn't possibly prove that I had the option to not write about my subjective experience. However, it does seem to suggest that I have a will, free or not, and that QM must play a role.

Is there a flaw in my reasoning?

closed as off-topic by Swami Vishwananda, Frank Hubeny, Dan Hicks, Not_Here, virmaior May 22 '18 at 20:18

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions that push a personal philosophy with no question beyond "am I right" or "what do you think" are off-topic here as this is not a blog. It's ok to express unique opinions, but you must have an actual, answerable question to go with them." – Swami Vishwananda, Dan Hicks, Not_Here, virmaior
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • You have an interesting theory and I am sympathetic to it, but your question is broad and it looks like it is promoting a personal philosophy. It will likely be closed. However, if that happens don't give up. Focus your next question on something specific from a book you are reading that is related to this more general idea. The more specific the question the better. – Frank Hubeny May 22 '18 at 2:03
  • The many-worlds interpretation says that we happen to be in all "worlds" simultaneously. Only in those worlds where you make this post do you think we're in a world where you make this post. – Hurkyl May 22 '18 at 2:42
  • Correct. Hence it would be by chance that I observe myself to be in a world where I am making this post. But I claim that it cannot be by chance alone - my subjective experience led me to the state of curiosity about my subjective experience which led me to the decision to make this post. – kohaku May 22 '18 at 3:03
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    In a nutshell: CM can not explain consciousness, therefore there must be something else, and QM is the only available candidate. This is a typical argument, but. First, your "model" is more CM with causal gaps than anything specifically quantum, see indeterminism in CM, and second, QM can not explain consciousness either because any dependence of probability distributions of individual events on collective states is ruled out by it. For a recent attempt to use QM as is in explaining consciousness see Kauffman. – Conifold May 22 '18 at 4:58
  • @Conifold You raise a good point - it does not follow from the failure of CM that QM is any better in accounting for consciousness (I prefer the words "accounting for" here because I did not mean to suggest that QM can explain why we are conscious). Thanks. – kohaku May 22 '18 at 5:48
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Right now I am thinking and writing about my observation that I am a conscious being with subjective experience. What does this imply? The reality of my subjective experience has a clear influence on my actions and hence the physical world. Put another way, we act the way we do because we have subjective experience. Moreover, this action could not possibly be determined (in the absolute sense) by classical mechanics or, in fact, any purely mathematical deterministic description of reality. To deny this, you must claim either

a) Subjective experience is a necessary consequence of some physical system (reductionism). Thus a mathematician could hypothetically prove the reality of subjective experience from the laws of physics.

Point (a) doesn't follow from your assumptions. If every event is constrained by deterministic laws of physics, such as the Schrodinger equation, that doesn't imply that the only relevant explanation is that equation. For example, bird's wings aren't made out of lead, but the relevant explanation is in terms of evolutionary biology, not the Schrodinger equation. Biological evolution is compatible with the Schrodinger equation but doesn't follow from it. Likewise the explanation for your thoughts in terms of your culture, your attempts to produce variations on the ideas you got from culture, etc. is compatible with the Schrodinger equation but doesn't follow from it. We don't have anything like a full explanation of the process of knowledge creation, thought, etc., but there is no reason to think it has much to do with the low level laws of physics. The explanation is at a higher level of abstraction.

A good explanation of many of these issues of both quantum mechanics and higher levels of abstraction can be found in "The Fabric of Reality" and "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch and "Godel, Escher, Bach:An Eternal Golden Braid" by Hofstadter.

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