W o K     :     Ways of Knowing

A Virtual Seminar


Mind as Hardward and Matter as Software 

Present science tries to avoid the problems inherent in mind-matter dualistic models by assuming that mind is just a part of an objective external world, governed by the laws of physics. In this picture mind appears as a kind of software running on a physical hardware given by the brain.

I think that this physical reductionism is incomplete for four reasons:

1) The concept of matter was deconstructed in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. Matter can no longer be considered as a "hardware". It rather appears like pure information, i.e. software.

2) Qualia cannot be explained by the information processing in the brain. They indicate the presence of some kind of "monitor" on which a part of the information becomes subjectively "visible" in a specific form.

3) Even if we had a complete physical theory of nature, it would not tell us why a universe governed by this particular theory "exists" and what "existence" means.

4) I believe that some phenomena occur which simply do not fit into the reductionistic scientific framework.

I do not think that science can address these problems completely, but I do think that science can be extended far beyond its present scope.

In my talk, I suggested the possibility of a project in which the order of reductionism is reversed.  In such a framework, mental processes would be fundamental, and everything would be expressed as "consisting of" mental processes. In the end of my talk, I speculated about several ideas in this direction.

It was the first time for me to give a talk in a "virtual reality". I entered the forum very skeptical, afraid that some technical problems would make the communication impossible (as happened several times before). Fortunately, such problems did not occur. It was a bit strange to be unable to see the facial expressions of my audience. I could not see whether I was causing impatience, doubts, satisfaction, approval etc. But the atmosphere was so familiar and friendly from the beginning that I felt comfortable very soon. In the end, the verbal response completely compensated for the lack of visual information. The talk (which was roughly half an hour long) was followed by an interesting and fruitful discussion, going on for more than another 30 minutes. During this discussion, I almost forgot that we were not really together in one room. I am very happy that I took this opportunity I was given by Piet.

Jan Schwindt

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