Empirical idealism: A modern foundation for the science of the mind
Franks, Valerie T.
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I argue here that cognitive psychology's mechanical-materialist foundations have lead to the science's self-described failure, and I propose an alternative theory--that of Empirical Idealism. Mechanics was so successful in early physics that social scientists came to believe that scientific explanations are, by definition, mechanical explanations. However, even physics "did not succeed in carrying out the mechanical program convincingly, and today no scientist believes in the possibility of its fulfillment (Albert Einstein)." At the turn of the twentieth century, with the development of quantum science, mechanical materialism was displaced as the theoretical foundation of modern physics, and this has serious implications for the science of the mind. In the quantum ontology, consciousness exists, as do choice and meaning. In this view, man's mental properties are a natural part of the physical world, not anomalies to be dismissed or denied. Physicists have been developing quantum theories of consciousness since the early days of quantum physics, although these theories are mostly ignored by professional psychologists. In this paper, I focus on the quantum models of mind forwarded by Roger Penrose and Henry Stapp, as these are the most rigorous and the most scientifically viable. Penrose and Stapp are able to show how a quantum physical interpretation of neurological data can better explain psychological phenomena. Henry Stapp calls his theory the Heisenberg-James model of mind. It is my position that the similarity between quantum models of mind and the psychology of James is analogous to the correspondence between the early field theories of electromagnetism and the quantum physics these field theories ultimately produced. James' "field theory of consciousness" proposes that a stream of consciousness, described by its wavelength, produces a field of character from which actions emanate. To describe consciousness, James uses the metaphor of light, which is itself electro-magnetic energy. And with electromagnetic energy, a current at a frequency produces a field. This is the metaphor James is suggesting: our stream of consciousness (current), characterized by the state of consciousness (wavelength), defines our field of character (field of force). Electromagnetic energy can be treated either with field-theory or with quantum theory depending on whether you count your energy as a fluid (continuous) or a particle (discontinuous). Further, I am able to show, using the example of magnetism, why it may be that brains exhibit their quantum properties while in most other substances quantum processes remain hidden. Finally, this paper shows how "empirical idealism" can solve the persistent problems plaguing the philosophy of mind.