The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


A Critique of Neuroscience

Neuroscience of the 20th century was based on classical Physics. No surprise, then, that it derived a view of the brain as a set of mechanical laws: that is the "only" view that classical Physics can derive. No surprise that it could not explain how consciousness arises, since there is no consciousness in classical Physics: it was erased from the study of matter by Descartes' dualism (that mind and matter are separate), on which foundations Newton erected classical Physics (the science of matter, which does not deal with mind). By definition, Descartes' dualism predicts that “mind” cannot be explained from matter, and Newton's Physics is basically an instantiation of Descartes’ dualism. Which means that Descartes’ dualism predicts that Newton's Physics cannot explain the conscious mind. Neuroscientists of the 20th century who were looking for consciousness missed that simple syllogism: they were looking for consciousness using a tool that was labeled "not suitable for finding consciousness".

Neuroscience of the 20th century rested on the Newtonian principle that a physical system is made of independent parts which interact only with their immediate neighbors and whose behavior over time is deterministic. Within this paradigm, a mind is the product of a brain, which is one particular system of the many that populate the universe. This is a useful paradigm for the study of many material phenomena, but it is not what the Physics of the 20th century prescribed. It is what Physics prescribed a century earlier, before it was showed to be wrong.

Neurological descriptions of the brain that are based on Newton's Physics are based on a Physic that is known to have limitations at a small and large scale. Twentieth century neurologists assumed that the brain and its parts behave like classical objects, and that quantum effects are negligible, even while the "objects" that they were studying got smaller and smaller. What 20th century neurologists were doing when they studied the microstructure of the brain from a Newtonian perspective was equivalent to organizing a trip to the Moon on the basis of Aristotle's Physics, neglecting Newton's theory of gravitation.


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