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Science-Based Discussion Of Free Will. Synopsis: Free Will: The capacity of mental intent to influence physical behavior. Classical mechanics makes a person’s mental aspects causally inert, thereby eliminating meaningful free will.

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science based discussion of free will
Science-Based Discussion Of Free Will


  • Free Will: The capacity of mental intent to influence physical behavior.
  • Classical mechanics makes a person’s mental aspects causally inert, thereby eliminating meaningful free will.
  • Quantum Mechanics makes a person’s mental aspects causally effective, thereby allowing meaningful free will.
mental versus physical
Mental versus Physical

Each mental aspect is embedded in the mind, or stream of consciousness, of an experiencing agent.

Each physical aspect is specified by assigning mathematical properties to space-time points.

classical versus quantum
Classical versus Quantum

This talk will compare the status of “free will” in two different physical theories:

Classical mechanics


Quantum mechanics.

Classical Mechanics was inaugurated by Isaac Newton in the 17th century (1687), and was generally

Believed to be true until the end of the 19th century.

the core precept of cm
The Core Precept of CM:

Only physically described properties enter into the causal dynamics!

Mental properties do not enter into the description of the causal structure!

quantum mechanics
Quantum Mechanics

During the twentieth century, classical mechanics was found to be incompatible with a growing mass of empirical data, and was replaced by quantum mechanics.

the big change
The Big Change:

Quantum Mechanics includesthe knowledge of the observers and their knowledge-acquiring actions!

Epistemological aspects are rationally incorporated into the causal dynamics!

the most radical change wrought by the switch from cm to orthodox qm
The Most Radical Change Wrought By The Switch From CM To Orthodox QM:

Mental intentions influence physical behavior!

Question: Why did the founder’s of quantum mechanics adopt the radical idea of introducing epistemology into the physics?
the answer
The Answer:

The quantum state of a system,

evolving according to the Schroedinger equation,

almost never corresponds into any possible experience of the kind we know!

Scientist/philosophers can no longer contend that mentally described things are just the physically described things described in a different language!

In QM the mental and physical structures are usually wildly different!

A second dynamical process is needed!

One needs a process that will take the evolving quantum state to a state compatible with the empirical data.

quantum jumps
Quantum Jumps!
  • Allow the continuous evolution of the quantum state, governed by the Schroedinger Equation, to be interrupted by abrupt changes called “Quantum Jumps”!
  • Each subjective experience occurs in conjunction with a “Jump” of the current quantum state to a state, S, that is compatible with that experience!
Acquiring knowledge is thereby represented in the physical world by a new kind of physical action.
each conscious human experience is associated with a pair of choices
Each conscious human experience is associated with a PAIR of choices !
  • Initially the quantum state of the system being examined is not compatible with any experience of the observer.
  • Next the observerchooses a quantum state S that is compatible with a possible experience.
  • Then naturechooses either that state S, or some associated state S’ that is “orthogonal” to S.
  • If nature chooses S, then the associated experience appears in the subject’s stream of consciousness.
the entry of quantum randomness
The Entry of Quantum Randomness
  • Quantum randomness enters only into Nature’s Choices: The probability that the jump will be to selected state S is fixed by a quantum rule.
  • Note that Nature’s Choice, and the associated quantum element of randomness enter logically only after the Observer’s Choice of the state S:
  • The observer’s choice (of the state S) does not depend upon the quantum element of chance!
the quantum rules allow the observer s choice to be a free choice
The quantum rules allow the observer’s choice to be a “free choice”!
  • Neither the observer’s choice of the state S, nor of the time of the jump, is governed by, or constrained by, any known rule, either deterministic or statistical.
  • In this very specific sense, the observer’s choices can be called “free choices”.
the causal gap
The Causal Gap!
  • The known rules do not determine the choice of the experience-associated state S.
a key question
the natural answer
The Natural Answer!

Mental process help close the causal gap!

the causal efficacy of the mind
The causal efficacy of the mind.

Mental processes, by helping to choose the state S, affect the physical dynamics by influencing the quantum jumps!

Thus we have “Free Will”!


QM gives a rationally coherent dynamical structure that integrates the epistemological and ontological aspects of nature into a single dynamical scheme!

comparison of cm and qm theories of the mind matter connection
Comparison of CM and QM Theories of the Mind-Matter Connection
  • In CM the acquiring of knowledge about the physical system is an inessential act: what is learned existed prior to the act of learning it, and is not essentially changed by the learning of it.
  • In QM the acquiring of knowledge about the physical system is an essential act: it creates the fact and the knowledge of the fact, and thereby influences, by its probing, that which it probes.
a widespread misunderstanding
A Widespread Misunderstanding!

It is often asserted that Quantum Mechanics is not relevant to consciousness, because the neural correlates of our conscious thoughts are macroscopic brain processes, and macroscopic processes are said to be described by Classical Mechanics.

correct understanding
Correct Understanding
  • In both classical and quantum mechanics big things are built out of smaller things. The underlyingdynamics is therefore the quantumdynamics, which governs the continuous evolution of the microscopic elements, and consequently also the continuous evolution of the macroscopic structures that are built out of them! The special roles of observed macroscopic structures comes from the quantum psycho-physical jumps, which have no analogs in classical mechanics.
Given that classical mechanics:
  • Is inapplicable to the mind-body problem, because it does not correctly describe the underlying micro-causal brain dynamics,


  • Fails to incorporate the quantum jumps, which are the essential vehicles of the acquisition of knowledge,


3. Demands, that any scientific explanation of behavior be exclusively in terms of physically described properties alone, which,

A. Precludes, a priori, the possibility that the patient’s conscious understanding, per se, can influence his behavior.


B. Requires that the causal effects of, say, spoken words be deduced purely from the mechanical effects of the physical vibrations that constitute the physical description of the spoken words.

one may ask
One may ask:

Is there any good reason for a rational scientist or philosopher to restrict his theorizing about mind-brain connection by imposing the highly restrictive mechanistic conditions imposed by the known-to-be-false classical physics,

Insteadof basing his theorizing on the empirically validatedquantum psycho-physical dynamics, which allows a person’s mental processes to influence his physical behavior, in accordance with the accumulated evidence of everyday life?

a little knowledge is dangerous thing
A little knowledge is dangerous thing!
  • Quantum mechanics replaced classical mechanics more than eighty years ago.
  • The essential improvement was to incorporate the acquisition of knowledge into the causal physical dynamics.
  • Is it rational to cling to the false precepts of CM when discussing the role of our conscious thoughts in the evolution of the universe?