III. Ecosmos: A Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet Lifescape
D. Natural Econsciousness and Ecognition
Sathouris, Elisabet. The Conscious Universe. Clifford Matthews et al, eds. When Worlds Converge. Peterborough, NH: Open Court Publishers, 2002. The holistic biologist and author offers prescient intimations of a self-developing genesis.
I said earlier that western science is changing very rapidly now, toward an understanding of nature as alive, self-organizing, intelligent, conscious or sentient and participatory at all levels from subatomic particles and molecules to entire living planets, galaxies and the whole Cosmos, from local human consciousness to Cosmic Consciousness….In this new framework or cosmovision, biological evolution is holistic, intelligent and purposeful. (69)
Schwartz, Jeffery and Sharon Begley. The Mind and the Brain. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. A professor of psychiatry and a science writer, in collaboration with physicist Henry Stapp, find a remarkable synthesis between new understandings of proactive human mental capabilities and the frontiers of quantum mechanics. The book is a conversational entry to this novel perception of human agency.
The implications of directed neuroplasticity combined with quantum physics cast new light on the question of humankind’s place, and role, in nature. At its core, the new physics combined with the emerging neuroscience suggests that the natural world evolves through an interplay between two causal processes. The first includes the physical processes….The second includes the contents of our consciousness, including volition. The importance of this second process cannot be overstated, for it allows human thoughts to make a difference in the evolution of physical events. (19-20)
Scott, Alwyn. Reductionism Revisited. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 11/2, 2004. The editor of the new Encyclopedia of Nonlinear Science (New York: Routledge, 2004) contrasts the alternative approaches of downward reduction or ascendant emergence, which can define Copernican options of insensate mechanism or viable, developing organism. A quite different view of an oriented evolution vs. blind selection results if the constant impetus of complex, self-organizing systems is included. A Cartesian dualism is thus set aside which allows consciousness to arise from a quantum source.
….few biologists now doubt that the phenomena of life….will eventually be understood as a complex process comprising many closed causal loops and networks of positive feedback that thread through several levels of nonlinear dynamics. (66)
Scott, Alwyn. Stairway to the Mind. New York: Copernicus Books, 1995. In a universe infused by nonlinear dynamics, consciousness is seen to arise with and emerge from its resultant self-organizing hierarchy. (See also Scott’s paper in Hameroff, Stuart, et al, eds. Toward a Science of Consciousness cited in Conscious Knowledge.)
Seager, William. Natural Fabrications. Berlin: Springer, 2012. From the Frontiers Collection, due by September, the University of Toronto philosopher offers his opus that “…ponders the question of how emergence should be understood within the scientific picture, and whether a complete vision of the world can be attained that includes consciousness.” Keywords include: Cellular Automata - Consciousness Scenarios - Emergence of a Classical World - Mental Causation - Ontological Emergence - Reductionism and Antireductionism - Top-Down Causality - Weak vs. Strong Emergence.
Shaw, Robert and Jeffery Kinsella-Shaw. Hints of Intelligence from First Principles. Ecological Psychology. 24/1, 2012. In a special issue on this title subject edited by Michael Turvey and Claudia Carello, University of Connecticut ecopsychologists record, if of a mind to allow and do so, many signs of a proactive cognizance from physical particles and black holes to an intentional thermodynamics, singularities, and universe self-tuning. As a result, an evolutionary emergence unto human cultural acumen can be validly traced back to cosmic origins, as an intrinsic creative source. See also in this issue Self-Organization, Entropy Production, and Physical Intelligence by Dilip Kondepudi, and Guidelines for Inquiry into the Hypothesis of Physical Intelligence by the editors.
Are intelligent systems necessarily biological or might they be only physical? We propose that a system be deemed intelligent if its actions exhibit intentional dynamics. A lower bound on intelligence appears in such diverse physical systems as black holes making anticipatory adjustments to approaching matter and particles choosing among myriad possible steps the next least action step. While thermodynamic laws are known to govern black hole dynamics and cosmological evolution, we show their role in intentional dynamics is analogous—suggesting a new field of intentional thermodynamics. Perhaps systems are intelligent if they conserve the action potential identified by intentional dynamics—one comprising information and control as interacting duals. Hence a foundational mini-max principle is proposed, namely, that the rate at which entropy production is maximized varies inversely with the rate at which this action potential is minimized. Intentional thermodynamics' geometry is shown to be a path space whose solutions are goal-paths, i.e., paths that conserve the action potential. Finally, we ask if physical intelligence might not have been produced during the Big Bang. (Abstract)
Skrbina, David. Transcending Consciousness: Thoughts on a Universal Conception of Mind. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 16/5, 2009. A University of Michigan philosopher argues it is a “brute fact of existence” that “all things that exist – from atoms and rocks, to tables and chairs, to human beings, planets, and stars” are suffused by an innate mental life. Skrbina is also the editor of a forthcoming book Mind that Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millennium (John Benjamins, 2009).
Skrbina, David, ed. Mind that Abides: Panpsychism in the New Millennium. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2009. A 21st century collection that aims to revive and affirm the perennial intimation, out of favor in the reign of moribund matter, that knowing sentience must fundamentally, obviously, ground and suffuse extant existence. From Greek hylomorphic vitalism to today’s “hylonoetic” dynamic systems theory, nature is to be seen as alive and aware in both its implicate and explicate realms. To the Australian philosopher Freya Matthews, this essence, deeply imbued in Eastern wisdom, escapes the West because of a pernicious mechanistism. Such “universal interconnectedness” thus serves to form and illume a “panrelational” reality. Some 19 chapters, including an overview and summation by the University of Michigan editor, offer a timely contribution. But must we await the passing of the Ptolemaic machine to a Copernican cosmic genesis until this once and future milieu can truly be admitted?
Some are prepared to go further and claim that this alleged brute emergence of mind – mind from mindless matter – is not only problematic, it is incomprehensible. This fact was recognized already by Epicurus, who argued that human will could not emerge from deterministic atoms, and therefore that atoms themselves possessed a small degree of will (hence, Panpsychism), Telesio, Patrizi, Gilbert, Campanella, Fechner, Paulsen, Clifford, Strong, Teilhard, and Wright all used versions of the same argument on behalf of panpsychism. (Skrbina,3)
Stapp, Henry. Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics. Berlin: Springer, 2004. A philosophically inclined physicist at the University of California at Berkeley describes a cosmic nature which by its quantum essence is necessarily suffused by observant consciousness. These quotes epitomize the Copernican revolution we are trying to gather and report.
The central theme of…this article is the tremendous difference in the scientific understanding of the dynamics of the conscious brain that emerges from orthodox quantum theory, with its essential introduction of the active human agent-participant, as contrasted to classical physics. (233) A major revolution occurred in science during the twentieth century. This change leads to a profound transformation of the scientific conception of human beings. (265) The physical world thus becomes an evolving structure of information, and of propensities for experiences to occur, rather than a mechanically evolving mindless material structure. (268)
Stapp, Henry. Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer. Berlin: Springer, 2007. Due in August from the philosophical physicist, the quote is from the book web page. If fully appreciated what is implied is a Human Universe wherein phenomenal people are required to bring it into observed selfhood.
The classical mechanistic idea of nature that prevailed in science during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was an essentially mindless conception: the physically described aspects of nature were asserted to be completely determined by prior physically described aspects alone, with our conscious experiences entering only passively. During the twentieth century the classical concepts were found to be inadequate. In the new theory, quantum mechanics, our conscious experiences enter into the dynamics in specified ways not fixed by the physically described aspects alone. Consequences of this radical change in our understanding of the connection between mind and brain are described.
Strawson, Galen. Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism. Anthony Freeman, ed. Consciousness and Its Place in Nature. Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 2006. This is the lead target chapter for a peer review, which includes a chapter by Skrbina, of the CCNY philosopher’s conviction that experiental mind is innate to the material structure of the universe. Since consciousness cannot emergence from its absence, ergo it must be there in an original essence.
Swan, Liz Stillwaggon and Louis Goldberg. Introduction: Mentis Naturalis. Biosemiotics. Online March, 2013. This special Origins of Mind issue follows a book with the same title edited by LS, noted herein, to further explore how the emergence of knowing sentience in entities and nature need be grounded in, indeed requires, a creative mind-suffused cosmos to arise from. Indeed such a basis seems to inform and infuse every other culture and age but our own. Papers include Cephalopod Cognition in an Evolutionary Context by Joseph Vitti, The Origin of Mind: The Mind-Matter Continuity Thesis, Yoshimi Kawade, and The Origin of Cellular Life and Biosemiotics by Attila Grandpierre.
A central underlying premise of the origins of mind project is that we will make more progress on understanding the phenomenon of mindedness if we conceptualize it as a natural process instead of as an object. The long tradition in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science of conceptualizing the mind as an object leads to the practice of forcing poor analogies between the mind and some object mainly because we are in a better position to understand the object - I am thinking here, of course, of the computer. Computationalism, the idea that the human brain is a computer and thus discoveries made in silicon are applicable to the human brain, has ultimately led us further away from a genuine understanding of organic mindedness. (2) I want to ask, is there a more useful paradigm for understanding organic mindedness than a machine that we created from non-organic materials? (2)