September 30, 2022

Philosophers and theologians often speak of “causal seclusion” when they want to characterize an assumption that many scientists have more or less consciously integrated into their world view. “Nothing happens without reason” or “everything goes right” would be similar, but more striking formulations that express that one assumes that there are no supernatural actors, that the world only develops on its own. Such statements or concepts, however, always remain vague; even definitions that appear to be precise at first glance are based on closer inspection only to other vague concepts. Yet, anyone who has been looking around and reading in the scene where such arguments are articulated knows what “thing” is.
The importance of causality in physics and brain research

In particular, in the recent discussion on the role of structures and processes in our brain for the phenomenon of consciousness, many representatives of the philosophy of mind use the notion of causal seclusion to pin down the position of scientists working in the field of natural science. So you have an (at least clear-looking) thesis in front of you, which can be critically examined. At the same time, some believe that brain researchers can refute this point by referring to physics, arguing that phenomena have long been known in physics, which can be described and explained excellently in the context of quantum mechanics Concept of causality fails: An unstable atomic nucleus breaks down sometime – for what reason at a particular time? – You can not calculate that. Any assumption that could lead to the timing being determined would conflict with the laws of quantum mechanics, but they have been well-confirmed in all experiments. The assumption of causality for all phenomena in this world is obviously a prejudice. In our world of the middle dimensions, we know it as a consistently prevailing principle; But that does not mean that it also has to apply in the world of the smallest dimensions. It can be an emergent phenomenon that only occurs in many-quantum systems, just as we know it from “reality” (see the article “Reality and Non-Seperability in Quantum Mechanics and Buddhism”).

A physicist would not speak of causal seclusion. Since many brain researchers are also trained as physicists and since the communication between these two groups of scientists is quite lively anyway, this has not remained hidden from the brain researchers. On the other hand, a physicist would not see any error in the brain researchers’ working hypothesis that causality is still to be expected in all their processes. Should they realize that quantum effects come into play, they would probably also strive for quantum mechanics. Every Philippika against the assumption of causality in brain research (eg Falkenburg, 2012) is thus a fight against windmills.

Of the “causal seclusion” only the “seclusion” is left, which can seriously be assumed as an assumption. And that is indeed the core that actually differentiates the two camps: those who assume that the phenomenon of consciousness will someday be understood as the emergent properties of a highly complex central nervous system and those that have a “spirit principle” independent of matter. postulate and assert that the “mind is not nature” (Falkenburg, 2012).

Analogy to the mechanization of the worldview

This dispute, which has flared up in the context of the results and aims of modern brain research, reminds me of the situation of the eighteenth century, when Newtonian mechanics celebrated its greatest triumphs and became a benchmark for a science in general. Here, too, there were two aspects of different scope: On the one hand, it became clear that methodological atheism belongs to the basic principle of a natural science. The answer of Laplace to the question of where in these considerations God occurs: “Sire, we do not need this hypothesis” expresses this succinctly. On the other hand, it was believed that these methods of classical kinematics, also called classical mechanics, could explain the whole world. In the preface to his book “Essay sur les probabilités”, Pierre Simon Laplace formulated this in 1814 as follows: “An intelligence which, for a given moment, knows all the forces working in nature and the mutual position of the elements composing them, and, moreover, comprehensively enough To subject these given quantities to analysis would, in the same formula, enclose the movements of the greatest cosmic bodies and the lightest atom; nothing would be uncertain, and the future as well as the past would be open to her “. (See Pierre Laplace. To subject these given quantities to analysis would, in the same formula, enclose the motions of the greatest cosmic bodies as well as of the lightest atom; nothing would be uncertain, and the future as well as the past would be open to her “. (See Pierre Laplace. To subject these given quantities to analysis would, in the same formula, enclose the motions of the greatest cosmic bodies as well as of the lightest atom; nothing would be uncertain, and the future as well as the past would be open to her “. (See Pierre Laplace.Philosophical attempt on the probability. Leipzig 1932, p. 1f.). In this historical situation, the seclusion was assumed by the absence of a divine influence, and instead of causality it was here the equation of classical mechanics with access to a reliable description of the world in general. In the resulting mechanistic view of the world, however, one could not yet differentiate between these two assumptions, because one knew only the classical mechanics.

We know how the story went on: In the nineteenth century, it was becoming increasingly better to tame and understand the electrical and magnetic phenomena. At the end of this century, James Clerk Maxwell formulated a theory that had as much explanatory power for electromagnetic phenomena as Newton’s mechanics for motion. All attempts to trace Maxwell’s theory down to principles of Newtonian physics failed. An electromagnetic field could not be explained by a mechanical model, it turned out to be an entity sui generis.

If somebody had taken a stand against the mechanization of the world view and insisted that the lightning and the strange effect of magnetite were not “out of nature” because they are fundamentally unexplainable by the theory of motion, then he would be partly right, partly wrong had. Indeed, if he had referred to the many charlatans who had long been joking with the electrical and magnetic phenomena on the fairs and courts of the nobility, without having any scientific interest in them, many would even have sympathy felt for this attitude. But as physicists were better and better at quantitatively describing and correlating electrical and magnetic effects, they gave up the specifically mechanistic view of things, where important scientists had some trouble with it. What remained was at the core of the scientific method: seclusion, here against a supernatural actor.
Thus, the brain researchers do not have to feel obliged to causality, but only to the scientific method, which by its nature creates reliable knowledge.

Only the knowledge of relationships is verifiable and can be reliable

But it is not just the seclusion of the world that is behind every scientific research as a principle. There is another aspect that characterizes such research and makes the reliability of its results possible. This is often overlooked and leads to unfulfillable expectations and demands and thus to many useless quarrels. What is it that you can and only want to explore in science? That is what it is: the identification of quantifiable quantities, the discovery of relations between them in general cases, and the relationship of the values ​​of these quantities with observable phenomena. The ontic character of the sizes remains more or less vague. We only know “being” from our human perspective, from our dealings with the things of the world of medium dimensions. Today we can manipulate individual quanta as well as calculate exactly how they behave in any experimental situation, but we will never be able to say what a quantum is “in reality”.

So what can we expect from brain research? But not a verbally formulated and clearly understandable statement about what the “mind” or the “consciousness” really is. These terms are anyway only unjustified substantiation, starting from a highly impressive phenomenon. We can expect relationships – between physiological states and mental relationships between mental phenomena and physiological parameters, and certainly not deterministically, for that the brain is too complex. However, physicists have already gained a lot of experience with the description of complex systems, have tested and cultivated appropriate mathematical methods in many applications. Brain research may still pose a particular challenge to the formulation of stochastic relationships.

But if we accept the notion of quantum, that we can not say what it really is, it may be difficult for us to do so in “consciousness.” We own that and we feel directly responsible. But now we have learned that we do not know so much about all that is going on in our head, and that our conscious motivations, motives, and desires come from a complicated and uncontrollable underground. That we know each other well and our consciousness is really just an illusion.

As beings of the world of the middle dimensions, in the course of evolution we have not been able to develop concepts and notions for the world of the smallest and largest spatial dimensions. Similarly limited will be our access to such complex systems as a brain; we only had to learn to handle very limited systems during evolution. So I do not expect that later in brain research circles or philosophical circles with concepts or notions of our world of medium dimensions one can explain how the phenomenon of consciousness comes about.

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