an invitation to read

A New Account Of What Happens

It is obvious, isn’t it, that minds are responsible for much of what happens here on Planet Earth, and nowhere else that we know of? Twentieth Century physics chose to ignore minds in the fond hope that minds are either illusions (whatever that might mean) or will in due course be reduced (whatever that might mean) to a mindless physics. We have chosen to forget the clearly stated belief of John von Neumann that minds (the observers of quantum phenomena, the inventors of instruments, the designers and performers of experiments) are indispensable for our understandings of phenomena (understandings that are reached by minds arguing, experimenting and often agreeing). 

Unfortunately, the attempts, by Wigner and others, to realise von Neumann’s idea, failed to impress a professional world of physicists possessed by their belief that what we see happening out there is an objective reality, independent of our seeing it. That belief, sometimes called “realism”, is shared (unthinkingly) by most people and (thinkingly) by many philosophers. It is a faith that must be given up if we are to bring minds into physics, and giving it up is not easy. My Apple iBook Mindful Physics introduces an alternative to “realism” called radical empiricism. If radical empiricism had a slogan, it might be LOOK WHERE YOU CHOOSE, QUESTION WHAT YOU ARE TOLD, BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE AND REMEMBER THAT IT IS JUST WHAT YOU SEE. From that, a new extended physics emerges that takes account of minds and accounts for them, while rejecting next to nothing of the mind-ignoring physics of the 20th Century. 

The case for mindful physics is long and cumulative, and cannot be related in a few words. Let me just say this. Your mind is what you experience, and that experience is private; though you may talk about your experience, no-one else has your experience. That is what it is to be you. For every other individual mind it is the same. Your private actuality, greatly constrained but also somewhat free, happens in your private time, a time in which it is invariably now, with a past that is only remembered and a future that is only anticipated. Out of the private actualities of individual minds, agreements that are made produce a multiplicity of agreed realities, of which the objective world of physics is just one, but the one that is most compelling and most useful. (Those agreements, I suggest, are down to the entanglements of minds that make/are the changing human Mind.) To recognise that the world physicists agree about is not independent of minds does not diminish that world, but opens the way to our seeing a timeless underlying geometry that is far more mysterious than we have imagined.

That briefly summarises what I call taking account of minds.  As to accounting for minds, mindful physics sees your individual brain/mind as an individual physical/mental process, sustained for so long as you live, of alternating coherence and decoherence. Your brain is an immensely complex physical system, different from all others, which generates and is generated by the mind, different from all others, that you privately experience in those moments of decoherence. Yours is just one of the many brain/minds that have acquired this amazing ability, thanks to the very long evolution that serendipitously has produced a species which copes better than other animal species with the place where it finds itself. That place, increasingly is made, for better or for worse, by human minds.