The Mind and the Quantum: Complementary Perspectives

by Jochen Szangolies Reading the words ‘mind’ and ‘quantum’ in close proximity on the internet rarely inspires great confidence. Indeed, all too often, all this indicates is that you’re about a click away from learning about life-changing techniques of ‘Quantum Jumping’ to a parallel reality where all your wishes come true, using ‘Quantum Healing’ to…

Mindful Murmurations II: Two Views From Nowhere

by Jochen Szangolies In the previous essay, we saw the power of common knowledge to orchestrate collective action. We also saw that, generally, common knowledge is difficult to attain without a shared source of truth. This poses a problem for collective action: if we can’t be certain of whether others act alongside ourselves, taking action…

Mindful Murmurations I: Common Knowledge And The Will To Believe

by Jochen Szangolies In last month’s column, I argued for the notion that life does not neatly decompose into individual life-forms—fish, fungi, firs, and humans. Instead, we are all just part of the same life expressed in many bodies, the way the one life of the butterfly is expressed in the two bodies of the…

Being And Hyperbeing: Life Beyond Life-Forms

by Jochen Szangolies In the 1994 science fiction film Star Trek Generations, while attempting to locate the missing Captain Picard, Lt. Cmdr. Data is given the task to scan for life-forms on the planet below. Data, an android having recently been outfitted with an emotion chip, proceeds to proclaim his love for the task, and…

Mind And Tense: Zombies In The Here And Now

by Jochen Szangolies Zombies have become a mainstay of philosophy as much as of pulp fiction—a confluence that it would be fallacious to assume implies some further connection between the two, naturally. Zombies are beings that act in many ways like living humans—they move around, they interact with the world, and they, to generally horrific…

Mind The Matter: Consciousness As Self-Representational Access

by Jochen Szangolies There are two main problems that bedevil any purported theory of the mind. The first is the Problem of Intentionality: the question of how mental states can come to be about, or refer to, things in the world. The second is the Problem of Phenomenal Experience: the question of how come there…

The Problem Of The Inner: On The Subject-Ladenness Of Objectivity

by Jochen Szangolies Children, they say, are natural scientists (although opinion on what it is that makes them so appears divided). Each of us has probably been stumped by a question asked, out of the blue, that gives a sudden glimpse into the workings of a mind encountering the world for the first time, faced…

The Von Neumann Mind: Constructing Meaning

by Jochen Szangolies Turn your head to the left, and make a conscious inventory of what you’re seeing. In my case, I see a radiator upon which a tin can painted with an image of Santa Claus is perched; above that, a window, whose white frame delimits a slate gray sky and the very topmost…

Incoherent Incoherence: Freedom In A Physical World II

by Jochen Szangolies The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahâfut al-falâsifa) is an attempt by 11th century Sunni theologian and mystic al-Ghazâlî to refute the doctrines of philosophers such as Ibn Sina (often latinized Avicenna) or al-Fârâbî (Alpharabius), which he viewed as heretical for favoring Greek philosophy over the tenets of Islam. Al-Ghazâlî’s methodological principle was…

The Choke-Hold Of Law: Freedom In A Physical World

by Jochen Szangolies There seems to be a peculiar kind of compulsion among the philosophically minded to return, time and again, to the issue of free will. It’s like a sore on the gums of philosophy—one that might heal if only we could stop worrying it with our collective tongues. Such a wide-spread affliction surely…

Hard-Rock Existentialism: The Megalith As A Beach-Head Of Being

by Jochen Szangolies In November 2020, an odd news item cut through the clouds of pandemic-induced haze with a sharp metal edge: way out in the Utah desert, a strange monolith had been found, a three-sided metal prism (and hence, not quite aptly called a ‘monolith’, with ‘-lith’ coming from Greek líthos, meaning ‘stone’). Subsequent…

Absent Absences And Tool-Breaking: On Language Inclusivity

by Jochen Szangolies It’s getting late, and your friends are leaving; however, you decide to linger for a bit at the bar, enjoying a last drink, perhaps quietly observing the people around you. As your gaze sweeps the room, it suddenly locks onto another’s, and your idle attention snaps into focus. You feel a strange…

To See A World In A Grain Of Silicon: Why Minds Aren’t Programs

by Jochen Szangolies The year 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of IBM’s first Personal Computer (PC), the IBM 5150. Since then, computers have risen from a novelty to a ubiquitous fixture of modern life, with a transformative impact on nearly all aspects of work and leisure alike. It is perhaps this ubiquity…

The Projected Mind: What Is It Like To Be Hubert?

by Jochen Szangolies Meet Hubert. For going on ten years now, Hubert has shared a living space with my wife and me. He’s a generally cheerful fellow, optimistic to a fault, occasionally prone to a little mischief; in fact, my wife, upon seeing the picture, remarked that he looked inordinately well-behaved. He’s fond of chocolate…

An Existential Void: Liminality As Transition Between Rule-Spaces

by Jochen Szangolies Even if you’ve never played chess in your life, the image in Fig. 1 is probably readily identifiable to you. The regular grid of the chessboard, white and black standing in opposition, perhaps even the individual pieces—knights, pawns, bishops, and so on—are a cultural staple. If you have some familiarity with the…

Hidden Worlds: Science, Truth, and Quantum Mechanics

by Jochen Szangolies Hearing the words ‘quantum mechanics’ usually invokes images of the impossibly tiny and fleeting, phenomena just barely on the edge of existence, unfathomably far removed from everyday experience. Perhaps illustrated in the form of bright, jittery sparkly things jumping about in a PBS documentary, perhaps as amorphous, hovering blobs of improbability, perhaps,…

How Things Hang Together: the Lobster and the Octopus Redux

by Jochen Szangolies This is the fourth part of a series on dual-process psychology and its significance for our image of the world. Previous parts: 1) The Lobster and the Octopus, 2) The Dolphin and the Wasp, and 3) The Reindeer and the Ape A (nowadays surely—or hopefully—outdated) view, associated with Descartes, represents animals as…

The Reindeer and the Ape: Reflections on Xenophanes’ Rainbow

by Jochen Szangolies This is the third part of a series on dual-process psychology and its significance for our image of the world. Previous parts: 1) The Lobster and the Octopus and 2) The Dolphin and the Wasp Rudolph, the blue-eyed reindeer With Christmas season still twinkling in the rear view mirror, images of reindeer, most commonly in…

The Dolphin and the Wasp: Rules, Reflections, and Representations

by Jochen Szangolies In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded. At least, that’s how the current state of knowledge is summarized by the great Terry Pratchett in Lords and Ladies. As far as cosmogony goes, it certainly has the virtue of succinctness. It also poses—by virtue of summarily ignoring—what William James called the ‘darkest…

The Lobster and the Octopus: Thinking, Rigid and Fluid

by Jochen Szangolies Consider the lobster. Rigidly separated from the environment by its shell, the lobster’s world is cleanly divided into ‘self’ and ‘other’, ‘subject’ and ‘object’. One may suspect that it can’t help but conceive of itself as separated from the world, looking at it through its bulbous eyes, probing it with antennae. The…