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The mind-body problem and social science: Motivating a quantum social theory



This comment addresses some of the critiques of “Quantum Mind and Social Science” by the other contributors, with special reference to the challenge that the mind‐body problem poses to conventional, classical thinking about social science. A quantum social ontology transcends those challenges, and in the process could transform social scientific thinking across the board. As an example the essay concludes with a consideration of the physics of social structure.
The mindbody problem and social science:
Motivating a quantum social theory
Alexander Wendt
The Ohio State University
Alexander Wendt, Department of Political
Science, The Ohio State University,
United States.
This comment addresses some of the critiques of
Quantum Mind and Social Scienceby the other con-
tributors, with special reference to the challenge that
the mindbody problem poses to conventional, classical
thinking about social science. A quantum social ontol-
ogy transcends those challenges, and in the process
could transform social scientific thinking across the
board. As an example the essay concludes with a con-
sideration of the physics of social structure.
physics of social structure, quantum consciousness, quantum decision
Quantum Mind and Social Science (QMASS)
elicits mixed reactions, though what mixedmeans
depends on context. There are mixed reviews at the individual level, where someone likes some
parts of a book but not others, and so has a mixed opinion overall. To my knowledge QMASS has
not received too many reviews like that, though Douglas Porpora's in this forum and another,
equally thoughtful discussion by Patrick Jackson elsewhere,
are good examples. Instead, its
reviews are mixed at the aggregate level, where some readers like the book a great deal, and
others dislike it in equal measure. Given QMASS'sensational yet highly speculative claims this
split is to be expected, and should make for more fun reading than a typical book forum. But it
does complicate the task of responding to my critics.
Going forward, for example, it would be most interesting to exploit constructive comments and
interpretations that would further develop my argument. In this respect I could hardly ask for a bet-
ter (much less generous) review than Steve Fuller's, which highlights an important implication of
QMASS'argument that except obliquely in reference to free will, I had barely thought of. Namely,
a quantum ontology can ground a genuine notion of possibility, of how things could truly be other-
wise, that the deterministic classical ontology cannot do. That matters partly because it'struertoour
experience. It may not feel like it, but no matter how dire the situation, it is possibility, and therefore
Received: 16 February 2018 Accepted: 2 March 2018
DOI: 10.1111/jtsb.12171
188 © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd J Theory Soc Behav. 2018;
the need for choice, that we face at every moment of our lives right down to how we face our certain
death. And possibility could also matter politically, since people taught to think that the world can be
different than it is are probably more likely to make it so than those schooled in deterministic fatal-
ism. On both counts, Fuller's point provides one answer to Matthew Donald's question about what
would change under the quantum model of the brain namely, our experience of possibility would
make sense, and thus could be cultivated rather than ignored or denied.
Especially as a political scientist, it is tempting to explore at length Fuller's opening into the
politics of quantum social ontology and (undoubtedly) epistemology. However, unless I want to
mostly give up the chance to respond to my critics, I would quickly hit a very classical constraint:
our editor's word limit. So while the politics of quantum social science is now very much on my
agenda, for the time being I'm reluctantly going to set aside my favorite review in this forum, and
hope someone else picks up the ball where Fuller and I left it.
I am going to do something similar with Vicki Kirby's, also mostly positive review. Unlike Fuller,
Kirby has been writing for a number of years in a quantum (if mostly New Materialist) register, a
fact which I'm embarrassed to say I did not know. By the end of writing QMASS I thought its map of
the bibliographic terrain, at least on the quantum side, was pretty thorough, but apparently I missed
aprettybighillBut in reading the introduction that Kirby helpfully provides here to her work, the
resonances of/with my work are obvious, especially in our shared holographic pictures of reality.
However, there is one point from which I would dissent, which is her reading of me as a human
exceptionalist. To my mind quantum panpsychism points exactly the other way, toward an essential
continuity between humanity and not just other life, but reality itself at the fundamental level.
That said, Kirby's concluding question is an important one, about what to do with mistakes,
prejudice, and all the other nonsense people get up to. This matters because in QMASS I suggested
(p. 173) that in contrast to the clashing atomistic billiard balls of classical mechanics, quantum
forces are holistic and thus essentially cooperative,which means the baseline for social theory
should not be the Hobbesian state of nature, which makes conflict the norm and cooperation the
exception, but just the opposite. Kirby reminds us that quantum holism isn't a magic wand with
which we can wave conflict away, nor does it make sustaining cooperation any less urgent as a polit-
ical project. But here's a riff on her question that she might enjoy: could part of the reason that there
is so much conflict be that, after centuries of inculcation, there is too much classical thinking in (and
about) social life? Either way, I look forward to reading more work by this fellow traveler soon.
Having given up the chance to exploit some of the more enthusiastic comments on QMASS,Iat
least now have room to maneuver against the more critical ones, which are all by Old
Materialists. Donald and Daniel Little's broad and dogmatic reviews beg crucial questions and
as such naturally deserve special attention. Porpora's narrower and more openminded engage-
ment is ultimately skeptical too, but in ways that may help clarify key issues and thus be especially
productive down the road. However, before jumping in, I want to prepare the ground a bit, since in
my experience (repeated here) the depth of the challenge that the mindbody problem and spe-
cifically the hard problem of consciousness poses to classical social science is often not appreci-
ated. Reiterating why it is the most important (or perhaps first) problem of social science
help clarify why I would knowingly make such a speculative and (frankly) risky argument.
Social life presupposes an inner life let's call it a mind
because it involves taking an Other's
perspective to anticipate their actions and adjust one's own accordingly. But what are these
minds? Obviously in part they are brains, immensely complex material objects that move our
bodies in response to environmental stimuli. But our minds are more than just neural circuits.
Robots and zombies have neural circuits too, but while their behavior might look social, I doubt
many of us would call it social. That's because they don't have a subjective perspective on the
world, much less on others'perspectives. What robots and zombies lack though they could
never know what they're missing is the best thing about being a brain, which is the experience
of it, or consciousness. It is only when we are conscious that we can take an Other's perspective
and thus be social at all (cf. sleeping), not to mention taking the perspective of the literally mil-
lions of Others encompassed by an institution like the state which has no material existence as
such at all, but only a shared fictive one in many minds. In short, almost everything social sci-
entists study presupposes consciousness. And yet as social scientists we tend to take that fact
for granted, as no more interesting than the fact that we breathe air, and so consciousness rarely
appears explicitly in our work at all.
The premise of QMASS is that mainstream thinking about the mindbody problem has come
to the point where it is necessary to think very hard about whether this long neglect of con-
sciousness in social science is still tenable. The Modern Scientific Worldview (MSW) is sup-
posed to provide us with an authoritative ontology, an empirically wellfounded account of
what there is (and isn't) in the world around us. And the problem is that, after centuries of hard
work, the orthodox, classical materialist version of MSW's ontology has found no trace even of a
place for consciousness, much less consciousness itself.
Let's be clear how deep this ignorance truly is. It's not like we just haven't discovered what
causes cancer. Cancer we have no reason to doubt exists; it is a material object that we can
see and touch, and causal effects we can trace. Consciousness is not only unobservable, but
doesn't feel material either. As such, there seems to be no scientific reason to expect it to exist
at all, any more than ghosts do. So if this object (sic) we call societydepends for its supposed
existence on consciousness, then society too should not exist. And in that case, what exactly are
social scientists much less everyone else even doing?! Hence the question that ultimately ani-
mates QMASS, and the mindbody literature more generally, is really a transcendental one: how
is consciousness possible in the first place?
For a problem as fundamental as the mindbody problem to persist so long, it seems like
something must be wrong with the MSW, but what? And does the whole thing have to go, or
would tweaking it be enough? For present purposes the relevant parts of the MSW's ontology
consist of two commitments (both of which, it should be noted, I share though with a twist).
The first commitment is to monism, the belief that ultimately there is only one reality, not
multiple ones. For most scholars and scientists today that takes dualism (at least in its ontolog-
ical form) out of serious contention, since its whole thesis is that Mind and Body are irreducibly
different realities. To be sure, dualism still has thoughtful advocates, not least because monists
have failed to solve the problem. But my personal view is that dualism is both an acceptance
of failure and aesthetically unappealing, and so should only be embraced if all monist
strategies demonstrably do not succeed.
The MSW's other metaphysical commitment is to physicalism, the belief that ultimately real-
ity is 100% physical. What precisely that means is the crux of the issue, but there is at least con-
sensus that physicalshould be defined by reference to what physics tells us about reality. More
specifically, physicalism assumes that everything in the world including consciousness is sub-
ject to the laws or causal closureof physics, or CCP(see pp. 711). That takes God out of the
mindbody debate, and out of social science too (where all sides are methodological atheists),
but the CCP's significance is wider than that. Even though human beings are far removed in
scale from subatomic particles, our bodies are made up of them, and as such social scientific
laws cannot violate the laws governing particle behavior the laws of physics without ceasing
to be scientific theories altogether.
However as I show in QMASS, the content and constraints of the CCP, and therefore of phys-
icalism, differ dramatically depending on whether the laws of physics in question are classical or
quantum on whether we are talking about the CCCP or the CCQP. In philosophy of physics
the CCQP is taken for granted because everyone knows that the hard, material objects of classi-
cal physics break down at the quantum level into wave functions, the nature of which is unclear
but it is definitely not classical. But in philosophy of mind and also the social sciences, when
scholars opine about physicalreality, they almost always ignore the quantum option and take
the classical one for granted instead.
Little, for example, defines physicalism as the view that consciousness is a function of the
Central Nervous System. Well, no. (Understood in a nontrivial sense) this makes two assump-
tions that a Qphysicalist does not have to accept: that consciousness is solely a macroscopic level
phenomenon; and that its explanation will be found at that level too. I grant that there are prin-
cipled, decoherencerelated reasons to favor classical assumptions ex ante, but these are
contested by quantum consciousness theorists on physicalist grounds. In other words, because
there are two physics there are really two physicalisms, one of which has a natural place for con-
sciousness (in the collapse of the wave function), and one of which does not. So Little's framing
of the problem, in which physicalmeans classicaland material,is actually an interpretation
of physicalism and as such begs the central question from the start.
The importance of the mindbody problem, and the threat it poses to contemporary understand-
ings of our work, is easily lost on social scientists (or at least it long was on me). Partly it's just
training; with so much else to do in graduate school there's little time to worry about the nature
of consciousness. But there's also a substantive argument for social scientists to ignore it, made
by Donald and Little here and by Jackson as well.
Namely, regardless of the knots that philos-
ophers can get themselves into, we all know that people are conscious. So why can't social scien-
tists just take that knowledge as given, and get on with explaining/understanding human
behavior, like we always have? Even Donald a physicist thinks that if you need to consult
a physics textbook to know that love is real, then you've just never been in love!
Philosophers'confusion probably won't cause most social scientists to stop doing what they
do, but there are three reasons it should give us pause.
2.1 |Reason #1: If Consciousness is an Illusion, Then No Social Science
Despite Foucauldian bells and statistical whistles, in the end most social scientists rely heavily
on folk psychology: on ancient, prescientific concepts or mechanismslike beliefs, desires,
intentions, choices, passions, etc., all of which refer to intentional and thus in principle con-
scious states. We do this for an obvious reason: because it works. Folk psychology enabled
human beings to create enduring societies long before social scientists came along to make them
better. So if consciousness is actually an illusion, or ghost in the machine,then that would not
only call into question how most social scientists do their work, but also make a complete puzzle
of human society.
Most people will find illusionism about consciousness deeply counterintuitive if not down-
right silly; whatever its cause, consciousness seems to be clearly a fact (I think therefore I
am…”). Yet this is increasingly what leading materialist philosophers themselves have concluded
from their failure to solve the mindbody problem.
(Of course, they might have concluded more
plausibly that materialism is the illusion, but one can nonetheless admire a willingness to fall on
their ontological sword). To be sure, many materialists are not yet ready to bite the illusionist
bullet, and still entertain hope that concepts like supervenienceor emergencewill save the
day. But after a century emergentism has failed to convince even most materialists, who argue
(speaking of Little'sconjurer's move) that the term is just shorthand for “…and then a miracle
happensand thus not really an explanation at all. So with no new explanations on the horizon,
Illusionism has captured materialists'imagination (sic). That love of Donald's might not be
reallove after all.
So now imagine that social scientists take seriously the belief of eminent materialist philos-
ophers that consciousness (and for good measure, free will too) is an illusion. Where does that
leave folk psychology, and what kind of social science can be done without it? It seems to me,
nowhere, and not much.
It may be useful to think about the challenge of Illusionism by distinguishing illusions from
fictions, with which social scientists work routinely. A majority would probably say that, onto-
logically speaking, the objects we study political parties, states, markets, and so on are not
really objects, out there in the external world, but only as ifor fictional objects in our minds.
Usually, this deflationary ontology Instrumentalism, but in this context Fictionalismmight be
better is challenged by Realists, according to whom, if mental fictions are acted upon then they
can create social objects with ontological status of their own. States are not just as ifpersons,
but realones, and so on.
Illusionism challenges Fictionalism from the opposite direction. While I have not seen it
defended in the literature, Fictionalists should agree that, even if the state, per se, is a fiction,
it must exist in at least one, more limited, sense, as an intentional object inside people's minds.
And that's important because like other folk psychological concepts, it can then serve as a basis
for mental causation, motivating people to act in certain ways and thereby anchoring the causal
claims one needs to do social science.
Illusionism explodes this logic. Its claim is not (against Realism) that social objects suppos-
edly out there in the external world are actually fictions, but that our experience of such objects
in our own minds is fictional (illusory). Setting aside its counterintuitiveness, the consequences
of adopting such an ontology in social science would be dire. If not just the state, but our very
ideas about the state are a fiction, then how can people act upon those ideas? And with mental
causation out the window, can social causation be far behind? Indeed, while they may seem
innocuous to social scientists, from an Illusionist standpoint such quaint folk psychological con-
cerns actually pose a threat of vitalism to social science, because they admit phenomena into our
work that have no more place there than entelechies in biology, or for that matter, the Devil. So
all this talk of consciousness and intentional objects has to go, and be replaced with real, objec-
tive data, from fMRIs of our insides correlated with pure (purged of all intentional [i.e. illusory]
content) behavior on the outside. Carried to its logical conclusion eliminative materialism and
behaviorism that is what a real social science would be.
It may be objected that I'm pinning too much here on Illusionism, which is so bizarre as to
give all materialists a bad name. However, I am not aware of any positive explanation for con-
sciousness that even most materialists would accept and presumably few would resort to a des-
perate negative expedient if they thought anyone had a better idea. So in Illusionism it seems we
reach the apotheosis of the materialist research program on consciousness. For isn't rejecting the
reality of your object of study to save your theory not only the ultimate degenerating problem
shift in the Lakatosian sense, but an almost religious leap of faith? Be that as it may, while we
might save materialism with such a tactic, discarding folk psychology would kill social science.
2.2 |Reason #2: The Emperor Has No Clothes
The most rigorous (sic) theories and methods in social science like game theory and Bayesian
statistics are thoroughly classical in structure and thus implicitly materialist in their ontology.
Upon first encountering the mindbody problem, therefore, social scientists'first instinct will be
to hunkerdown, while looking over the parapet for help from Donald, Little, Porpora and other
materialist philosophers. Reassured by CCCP stalwarts that consciousness will ultimately be
explained in classical material terms, social scientists can then get on with their work, confident
that (some version of) the classical model of man is an Established Scientific Fact. As such, the
burden of proof is squarely on any alternative ontology, quantum or otherwise.
Or at least so the mainstream would have us think, since this again begs the question. Exhibit
A is disagreements among materialists about how their approach to consciousness could possibly
be true. Why treat materialism as an epistemically privileged Fact when its advocates can't even
convince each other? Why not conclude that it's not consciousness which is wrong,but mate-
rialism? It's unclear what would convince materialists of that of what would make their ontol-
ogy falsifiable and therefore more than just an article of faith but my point in this section is not
that materialism is wrong. Rather, it's that the challenges it faces are so deep that we have no
more reason to think it is right than some wild quantum alternative. When it comes to conscious-
ness, the Emperor is just a Passionately Held Opinion, not an Established Scientific Fact.
Honestly facing that ignorance, that at this point we have NO IDEA what consciousness is or
where it comes from, is a good standpoint from which to judge classical critiques of QMASS (and
for social scientists to think about the mindbody problem in general). For it's then not enough
to say that because quantum panpsychism seems crazy, the orthodoxy must be true by default.
Of course it's crazy! For after all this time, what else is going to solve the hard problem of con-
sciousness (certainly not materialism) or, for that matter, the problem of interpreting quantum
mechanics, the eventual solution to which John Bell argued will surely astonish us?
Consider for example Little's point that if quantum brain theory proves to be wrong, then my
realist claim that human beings are walking wave functions, and with it my whole social ontol-
ogy, falls apart. That's true, and like many others, Little thinks that Max Tegmark's calculations
proved exactly that over 15 years ago, so end of story. The theory's defenders obviously disagree,
but that's not my point here. It's that even if Tegmark is right that brains cannot sustain quan-
tum coherence, how does that in any way vindicate materialism? For isn't it even more clear,
after centuries of failure (vs. one set of contested calculations), that consciousness can't possibly
have a classical explanation and so Little'ssystem fell apart years ago? The default position here
must be ignorance, not a tired orthodoxy whose only new ideas are illusions.
We see a different but related kind of questionbegging in Donald's paper, and in particular
in his suggestion that for someone with [his] background,QMASS'panpsychist interpretation
of quantum theory and claims about nonlocal interaction in social systems are simply ridicu-
lousand absurd.I will of course defer to his knowledge of quantum theory, but panpsychism
has had a following among eminent quantum theorists from the start (Eddington; Pauli;
Schrodinger). And after long being sidelined in the subsequent philosophical debate,
panpsychist interpretations have been gaining renewed traction lately (look for Harald
Atmanspacher, Michel Bitbol, Shan Gao, Roger Penrose, Hans Primas, Paavo Pylkkanen, Henry
Stapp, and now even Professor Tegmark!).
As for fanciful claims of nonlocal social interaction
which many social scientists will tell you are routine there too I was able to build on (while
speculating beyond) extensive work by Diederik Aerts, Peter Bruza, and others developing a
quantum approach to language. In short, while Donald may find my arguments absurd, they
nonetheless represent the distilled thoughts of any number of quantum theorists of standing.
So where does that leave consciousness in the ontology of the MSW an illusion (not
Donald's view it seems), a mystery to which we will never find the answer, an inconvenient truth
to sweep under the rug, or what? Regardless, he exhibits a curious lack of urgency about finding
out for someone who has thought hard about these issues for over 25 years.
But then again, in
his view we don't need consciousness to interpret quantum theory, to secure our humanity, to
make us moral, to explain mental causation, or to study social life. Indeed, it's unclear in his view
why we do need consciousness, but whatever it's for it can't be very important in such a disen-
chanted world. So if materialists never do succeed in explaining it, well then, so what?
Perhaps that is the universe we live in, even if it doesn't feel like home. But until we have an
actual materialist explanation for consciousness rather than just ritual incantations of centuries
old articles of faith, there is no reason for social scientists to accept the Emperor's classical model
of man if they don't want to.
2.3 |Reason #3: You Can't Avoid the Choice
So what's a young social scientist to do? Well, one answer is nothing at all, and to just carry on
with one's research using folk psychological categories. That is a legitimate option because
Donald, Jackson, and Little are right that we don't need to solve the mindbody problem to do
social science though I would put it differently. We don't need to confront the problem to do
social science. We can always ignore it, just as ontological questions can be avoided in quantum
physics, where wideeyed firstyear students who ask but what does it all mean?are told to
shut up and calculate.But folk psychological concepts are vague, and as intentional phenom-
ena they lack a clear basis in the physical world (the threat of vitalism above). So part of the job
of social scientists is to define our concepts more rigorously, and to integrate our work into the
larger body of science.
But to do that we need a conceptual grid, a coherent structure of assumptions about the
nature of logic, probability, and reality that will enable us to think about and observe social life
in a systematic (and hopefully right!) way. Where do such grids come from? From ontologies in
part, including assumptions about the nature of the mind and how it relates to the external
world. Those ontologies might not themselves be objects of fervent belief, or even very selfcon-
scious; but just working ontological assumptions that, if called to our attention, we would bet or
wageron so we can continue with our work. Whether just working or not, however, without
some ontology we will have no grid; with no grid no perception or methodology; and without
those no way to do social science. So while we don't personally have to solve the mindbody
problem to do social science, we only get this luxury if we adopt someone else's ontology, at least
as a working hypothesis.
Still, that would not in itself be a problem if, as in physics, the grid we are adopting at a par-
ticular moment were presented as an option, which we are choosing explicitly for X or Y reason.
After all, in physics there are still many situations that classical mechanics would naturally be
chosen for analysis. But in the social sciences the classical grid we are given is presented as if
it were the only game in town. If you asked social scientists whether they knew that logic itself
and probability too come in two radically different forms, what percentage do you think would
say yes? 10? 5? 1? It would almost certainly be the first time many had heard the question.
In accepting the classical worldview upon commencement of our training, therefore, we
social scientists adopt a fictional (albeit possibly correct) solution to the mindbody problem,
not an actual one. Again, that gets essential jobs done: it gives us a grid with which to con-
ceptualize and measure social objects, methods to analyze their behavior, and generally to do
useful work untroubled by philosophers'concerns. The problem, of course, comes if we are
making the wrong wager. If consciousness is actually quantum (and I would say the jury is
still out on that), then using a classical grid for social science would be a rare but truly his-
toric Type II error (rejecting a true theory as false). And it would touch everyone, not just
positivists, who are explicit (and sometimes indeed fervent) in their classical worldview.
Because for all their antinaturalism, interpretivists too cannot dispense with logic and some
notion of probability, and (as far as I can tell) they have almost all at least implicitly chosen a
classical one as well. The danger, in short, of making the wrong ontological bet is that we
produce an apparently scientific yet systematically distorted picture of social reality across
the board.
Moreover, in addition to this epistemic risk, applying a classical grid to a quantum reality
could also negatively affect social life itself. For insofar as the classical worldview of society per-
colates down to how we teach our children and it has had 300+ years to do so then from the
beginning in socialization we are in effect trying to create (discipline?) classical out of quan-
tum beings. As I suggested above in connection to Fuller, that would be unfortunate even
tragic at a global level if it reduced our creativity and capacity to cooperate in times of crisis.
And likewise at the individual level, where producing classically rational actors means
repressing the socially entangled, free and vital beings that we truly are in favor of an alienated,
deterministic, and mechanical simulacrum. Sounds like a recipe for mass neurosis to me.
Be that as it may, how should social scientists think about choosing between such different
grids, or ontologies, given that we need some grid to even think? It's little comfort that in prin-
ciple the choice is a false one because quantum mechanics subsumes classical at the limit. Most
social scientists will still have to choose, since agnosticism is not an option in practice. You can
think what you want in your head, but when you sit down to write a paper, you generally either
have to use quantum tools or classical ones. The only question is whether or not you choose con-
sciously, and on what basis.
So is there some principled, as opposed to sociological, basis upon which to make such a
choice? Well if by that we mean an epistemic principle
that would tell us which perspective
is more likely to be true, then in my view at this stage the answer is no. One implication of
acknowledging honestly our fundamental ignorance about the nature of consciousness is recog-
nizing that there is no compelling, nonquestion begging argument favoring either social ontol-
ogy. I'm personally confident that quantum panpsychism is the way to go, but QMASS comes
down in the end to an aesthetic judgment (too elegant not to be true), and we know what they
say about beautySo Donald, Little, and Porpora could be right. Until we know much more
about the brain we will remain in the domain of intuition, judgment, and sheer play, not rational
theory choice.
That gives a beauty contest(and indeed, sociological/political) quality to the question for
now, but at least it would be progress to see it as a beauty contest, rather than as an Established
Scientific Fact that the human mind is a classical machine. And it would also be progress to see
the question as one on which social scientists cannot avoid taking a stance in their work and so
in the spirit of all things academic, would do well to consider explicitly.
That's all I can say right now about why social scientists should care about the mindbody prob-
lem. Even if we can get away with ignoring it in practice, I don't see why we should want to if
answers (one way or the other) to deep and longstanding questions about our work might be
at hand. So let me turn now to three more specific challenges that our Old Materialists have
posed to my social ontology, which will hopefully subsume some others as well.
3.1 |The Meaning of Quantum Decision Theory
Donald and Little think it very damaging to my case that quantum decision theorists whose
work I argue provides the strongest evidence to date for quantum brain and consciousness the-
ory, and thus ultimately a quantum social science do not make such inferential leaps them-
selves. Not that the leaps are necessarily wrong their stance is usually agnostic rather than
antagonistic but in their work it is clear they do not want to be associated with such claims,
much less even wilder ones like panpsychism and quantum vitalism. So if the experts so clearly
disavow speculative appropriations of their work like mine, Donald and Little suggest, then
surely that says a lot.
Or does it? In fact, this criticism again begs crucial questions.
First, remember that it is perfectly legitimate indeed, routine when using quantum theory
to be agnostic about its actual physical basis; after all, physicists themselves do it all the time
(shut up and calculate…”). Although the underdetermination of metaphysics by quantum
physicsis a headache for philosophers, it gives everyone else the freedom to use the formalism
as a heuristic for purposes that have no obvious connection to subatomic particles at all.
the fact that quantum decision theorists bracket ontological questions arising from their work is
per se unremarkable and unproblematic.
Second, let's say that Donald and Little concede that point on a technicality. They might then
respond in a more sociological vein, still, isn't it suspicious that, when given the opportunity,
quantum decision theorists so consistently dissociate themselves from ideas like mine? Doesn't
that tell us something about their plausibility?Well, again, no. For once we enter the sociology
of knowledge very different, nonepistemic considerations come into play and in the case of
quantum decision theorists two in particular.
One is that these people are as hard core as scientists can be primarily physicists and math-
ematical psychologists. Most probably have little interest in metaphysics, and even if they do,
(based on observations of my physicist brother over the years) they are inclined both by temper-
ament and training to stick closely to the facts, avoiding wild speculation above all. These indi-
vidual level factors are probably then reinforced by a more structural one, which is the struggle
that quantum decision theorists faced early on getting their work published. I know from con-
versations with several that their papers were put through (let's call it) exceptionally rigorous
vetting by editors, who were both skeptical on the merits about such dramatic findings, and no
doubt worried too about being seen as strengthening the quantum consciousness heresy. (This
resistance belies Donald's comment that of coursethe quantum formalism can be used fruit-
fully to model human behavior; initially, no one else thought so). In such a hostile environment
it's not surprising that quantum decision theorists would avoid taking any more controversial
positions than necessary. This is not to suggest that they secretly agree with me and are merely
engaging in strategic selfcensorship. In fact, most of them probably are either still genuinely
agnostic, skeptical, or just don't care. But it does reinforce my previous point that the lack of
public endorsements of quantum brain and/or consciousness theory is not evidence that such
ideas are being rejected.
Third and now I want to go on offense just because quantum decision theorists have not
yet addressed some of the larger, realist questions that their work raises does not make those
questions disappear. So imagine that in 25 years, propelled by continuing experimental suc-
cesses, quantum decision theory has become the new orthodoxy, subsuming expectedutility the-
ory as a sometimes interesting limit case. The question would then be: does the success of the
quantum model of the mind at the behavioral level tell us anything about the mind itself? Today
we don't know for sure, since at least in theory it might be possible to reconcile quantumlike
behavior with classical brains. But this is inelegant and counterintuitive.
For despite Donald and Little's blasé attitude toward the empirical successes of quantum
decision theory in explaining KahnemanTversky type anomalies,
I suspect neither they nor
I nor anyone would have expected such a thing even just a few years ago (and journal editors
apparently held the line as long as possible!). After all, the natural expectation which social sci-
entists have assumed all along is that classical brains would produce classical behavior. So if we
are observing quantumlike behavior instead, then that is surprising and demands an explana-
tion. So does Little really think these findings are irrelevant to quantum brain theory? Imagine
the counterfactual, that human behavior clearly followed classical predictions. My guess is that
even though it's only behavioral, he would tout this as evidence (as he should) against quantum
brain theory (and thus for classical). But then why wouldn't similar rules apply in reverse? The
question of whether quantum theory is relevant to psychology was first raised by Bohr over
80 years ago, yet it took almost 70 to get seriously asked. Why so long, and why such resistance,
if we expected this all along? I don't know, but as the behavioral evidence mounts, the question
of whether it's because we have quantum brains will become harder and harder to ignore.
Of course, even if quantum decision theory is eventually seen as evidence for quantum brain
theory that still wouldn't prove consciousness is quantum. That's because from a materialist
standpoint even a quantum one, like the Many Worlds Interpretation Little favors there is
no more reason to expect quantum brains to be conscious than classical ones. So the metaphys-
ical leap to panpsychism plays a key and separate role in my ontology. But because in the col-
lapse of the wave function quantum theory has space within the formalism itself for
phenomena that seem inexplicable in material terms, quantum brain theory at least enables
quantum consciousness theory, and the behavioral successes of quantum decision theory are
exactly what it would predict. In sum, I would draw no conclusions at all from the reluctance
of quantum decision theorists to endorse quantum brain (or consciousness) theory at this time.
In the end they or their descendants will come around.
3.2 |The Problem of Biological Quantum Coherence
We have seen that one place Donald and Little attack QMASS is at the bridge it tries to build
between behavioral evidence (quantum decision theory) and the metaphysics of consciousness.
Inbetween behavior and metaphysics, however, are many purely scientific questions about the
body, the crucial one of which here is whether any biological systems much less complex ones
like our brains are physically capable of sustaining quantum coherence. If they can, then that
would be crucial evidence for QMASS'claim that people really are walking wave functions, and
support its conclusion that a realistic social science must begin with a quantum framework or
misrepresent social reality from the start. If on the other hand even simple organisms cannot sus-
tain coherence, then it is likely that humans can't either. In that case, we are just the complex
classical computers the orthodoxy always said we were, and so social scientists don't have to
change a thing (except perhaps accept that our experience is all an illusion!). So a lot rides on
the issue of biological quantum coherence, not just for QMASS but for the social sciences as a
whole, so we should be grateful to Donald and Little especially for highlighting it.
Unfortunately for us nonbiologists, this is a question of straight biological science, and one
that we might not get a clear answer to for some time. Or at least that is the strong impression
I get from a (proquantum) review article like The Principle of Coherence in MultiLevel Brain
Information Processing,published in 2013 in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology.
This article has two takeaways for me as a social scientist. First, despite the authors'evident sym-
pathies, they are clear that neuroscientists know far too little about the brain for anyone to con-
clude confidently that quantum coherence there is possible. We just don't know. Donald and
Little are right that, on the physical/scientific side (much less its metaphysical one), the argument
of QMASS is based on a conjecture, and in light of the decoherence problem, a highly speculative
one at that. However, and second, it's equally clear from the article and its 400+ references
that the question of biological quantum coherence is a very active, very serious, and very interdis-
ciplinary field of scientific research. The work is being published in major journals and by major
presses, and in my anecdotal impression has been expanding rapidly in the five years since 2013.
So the upshot is the same but now with the opposite valence: neuroscientists know far too little
about the brain for anyone to conclude confidently that quantum coherence there is not possible.
We just don'tknow.Donald and Little are therefore wrong to conclude, not agnostically, but
decisively against the coherence hypothesis, to the point of ridiculing it.
Either they are going
well beyond the evidence themselves, or simply begging the question.
Still, accepting this critique might be cold comfort for social scientists, who are left waiting
on biologists and neuroscientists to answer the very first question of our inquiry namely
how to think (classical or quantum) about our inquiry at all. Perhaps, but in the meantime I
think there are still two valuable lessons to be learned here. One is that even if the principals
in the biological debate think of it in scientific terms, for those of us in the bleachers, watching
it at third hand, it is useful to think about what we are seeing as more like a legal contest. By that
I mean that, because the truth is not yet known, when doing my case studieson the debate
about coherence in Chapter Five, or when Donald and Little invoke particular articles in their
essays here, it is important to remember that we are all doing so for essentially rhetorical pur-
poses, and that none of us is any position to take strong epistemic positions (except agnosticism)
on the actual science.
In light of this legalistic framing it is instructive to look at Donald and Little's strategy for
prosecuting (and ultimately extirpating?) the heresy of biological coherence and to do so in his-
torical perspective. For in 2018 any such prosecution faces in the jury a problem at least of atmo-
spherics, which stems from the emergence of quantum biology as a scientific discipline and
specifically the discovery that plants, birds, and several other organisms make nontrivial use
of quantum processes. As I read this literature, it has not yet proven that even simple organisms
can sustain quantum coherence over time, so there is no immediate threat to the classical model
of man. But these discoveries certainly hint strongly to that effect, and many more scientists are
now heading into this territory. Thus, the independent emergence of quantum biology has given
renewed impetus to a central claim of quantum brain theory going back to Herbert Fröhlich's
pioneering work on coherence in 1968 and in so doing puts classical skeptics more on the
defensive than they are used to.
Donald and Little both acknowledge quantum biology, but then something curious happens,
especially in Little's paper. Rather than seeing it as a potentially revolutionary, paradigmchang-
ing scientific development (as many of its practitioners do), he concludes with a yawn if birds
use quantum effects, then that doesn't seem like an enormously surprising result.
That kind
of discounting plays an important rhetorical function in his presentation, because minimizing
our post facto surprise will dampen ex ante expectations for any earthshattering revelations
in the future, which prepares the jury psychologically for the coup de grace in Little's closing
remarks: that whatever (relatively uninteresting) quantum effects there are in the biological
realm, undoubtedly they stop short of quantum coherence.
Neat as it is, however, this in effect rewrites history, since less than 25 years ago, prominent
neuroscientists were confident and categorical in stating that there is absolutely no indication
that quantum mechanics plays any significant role in biology.
Indeed, despite (again) having
been suggested by Bohr, and occasional articles and books in subsequent decades, within biology
itself the idea of quantum biology seems to have been a fringe, even taboo, topic until perhaps
So actually, the confirmation that plants and organisms exploit nontrivial quantum pro-
cesses in nature is very, VERY surprising indeed. That's why it made headlines, after all, and I
bet it would have surprised a younger Donald and Little as well!
Having now reset our expectations or priorspost facto, the first question that naturally
comes up is, if plants and birds can perform the amazing and unexpected feat of exploiting quan-
tum processes in nature, then isn't it reasonable to suppose that humans the most evolved crea-
tures on the planet should be able to do so too (in vision, for example)? And from there it is
natural to ask the $64,000 question, whether we should expect fullblown biological quantum
coherence as well? If members of the jury think quantum biology is really no big deal, then so
be it. But if they believe quantum biology might augur a paradigm shift, then I would expect
them to be more optimistic that coherence and downstream, quantum brain theory will be
So when it comes to the unresolved debate about biological quantum coherence, the question
for social scientists and as I argued earlier, we can't avoid the question in practice comes
down to which side of history you think classical and quantum biology are on. Until more sci-
ence is in, each one of us will have to place that bet for ourselves.
3.3 |The Physics of Social Structure
Porpora's essay is more addressed to QMASS'sociological implications than the others, and it is
also more narrowly focused (looking primarily at Chapter 13), which gives us the opportunity to
drill deeper and hopefully make progress on specific questions. He frames his interest in terms of
the agentstructure problem, emergence, and the place of extradiscursive reality in my ontology.
As I see it, these concerns all tap into the same basic issue: the relationship between physics and
the physical on the one hand and social structures (not consciousness this time) on the other. So
to save space let me try to address at least most of his worries and some of the other
contributors'within that singular frame of reference.
Everything turns on what we mean by physicaland physicalismin relation to the causal clo-
sure of physics, or CCP. Porpora points out (correctly) that my use of the term physicalismis het-
erodox, which is confusing enough; but he then argues that the confusion is compounded by
inconsistencies in my text (p. 8 vs. p. 257). However, when read against the background of my larger
argument, in my view these passages are not inconsistent (even if they could have been phrased
more selfconsciously to avoid misunderstanding), and as we'll see, my definition of physicalism
is actually truer to its realmeaning. What is going on here, I think, is not that Porpora completely
rejects my social ontology, or that he has completely misunderstood it but rather that his recon-
struction of my argument misses some key points. That's partly on the clarity of my prose, however,
so let me try to sharpen how these definitional issues relate to my overall thesis. In doing so I hope
to show how some of the ways in which Porpora describes his own ontology are confusing as a
result, and that perhaps there is less distance between us than his paper suggests.
Physicalism as I take it is the view that our metaphysics should defer to our physics, and spe-
cifically the causal closure of physics (CCP). The central definitional contribution (if I may) of
QMASS, and the tip of the wedge that I'm driving into the orthodoxy's lines, is that physicalism
is usually understood unthinkingly in classical terms, which begs crucial questions. Here'smy
argument in a nutshell:
1. there are two versions of the CCP”–the CCCP and CCQPand thus of physicalism
(Cand Qphysicalism), which have different physicalproperties and potentialities;
2. the CCCP implies a materialist metaphysics of tiny material objects within which no trace of
consciousness exists; in that classical world it is correct to say, with Porpora, that physical-
ismis the contemporary form of philosophical materialism;
3. under the CCQP, however, those tiny material objects dissolve into ghostly wave functions,
and there is ontological space for mind at the fundamental level; in that world, there is no
necessary connection between deference to physics (physicalism in the strict sense) and
materialism, since the physics itself can be read in antimaterialist, panpsychist terms.;
4. Failure to recognize these distinctions, and in particular identifying the CCP implicitly with
a classical materialist ontology begs the whole question of whether quantum theory is
necessary to make sense of human action;
After working hard (and I think charitably) to read between my lines, Porpora gets most if
not all of this argument. However, he fails to carry it consistently through and so we end up
in a muddle, talking past each other.
I am referring in particular to his twopart suggestion that a) I am more materialist than he
because I am (also?) an avowed physicalist, whereas b) he is a materialist but not a physicalist.
As we've seen, the becausein (a) only follows in Cphysicalism, not Qphysicalism, since
panpsychism is perfectly at home in the latter. All materialists are physicalists, in other words,
but not all physicalists are materialists. So (a) is out. As for (b), that he is a materialist but not
a physicalist, I'm trying to get it, but frankly I just don't. Porpora says he does not think that
hermeneutical meaning or anything that derives from it are in any way physical.
Is he then
rejecting the CCP altogether? And if meanings and other intentional objects are not in any
wayphysical (classical or quantum), then what (or where) are they? Unless angels or devils
are an option, the only other answer I see is ontological dualism. Yet I would be surprised if
Porpora, an historical materialist of long standing, saw himself as a dualist. In short, on this
one I have to punt, pending clarification from Porpora but that doesn't mean we can't still
do some other useful work right now.
Specifically, and relating directly to the mindmatter relationship, Porpora argues that the
extradiscursive aspects of social structures by which he means (what I assume he would call)
materialphenomena like inequality, power, conflicts of interest, competition, and the like
[e.g. from my own field of IR, war]
lie beyond my approach. That mystifies and worries me
in equal measure, since with a subtitle like Unifying Physical and Social Ontology,if QMASS
cannot accommodate extradiscursive phenomena then clearly I have failed in my central aim!
In responding to this serious charge I first want to park the example of demographic struc-
ture, since we seem to disagree about whether it is a fully social structure at all and thus can
stand in for the larger debate and space is running short. Instead let me address less debatable
cases like the social structures that generate capitalism, the state, or international system. These
have the added advantage that on Porpora's view they should be harder cases for my argument,
because considerations like inequality, power, and violence play central roles in sustaining them.
So, to what extent are such structures actually extradiscursive, and is that aspect of their being
necessarily outside a quantum social theory?
The answer is very little and no. If extradiscursivemeans has no intentional content,
then it is difficult to see how any structure that human beings have ever devised to govern their
interactions not just nice ones in a home but horrible ones in war could be not fundamentally
and essentially minddependent. I tried to show this early in QMASS for the case of the state, a
social structure which will be invisible to orbiting ETs if they can't read our minds, and which
will disappearif its citizens stop believing in it (the USSR in 1991). But perhaps as an example
the state is still too warm and fuzzy (I do liken it to a rainbow, after all), so let's take a seemingly
stronger case of extradiscursivity: the ontology of war. Where and what is war, for example the
Syrian civil war?
Well, like all social action it takes place in particular (classical) spacetime coordinates; it
takes people to fight it; and many of those people need to engage in the characteristic behav-
ior of war, which is trying in an organized fashion to kill other people. All of these are purely
material phenomena that could be observed and recorded by orbiting ETs without knowing
anything at all about the content of our minds. And yet even these most extradiscursive
aspects of war only make sense as being partly constitutive of a particular war, like the Syr-
ian civil war, if we bring in discourse, which for present purposes we may define as shared
intentional content.
Consider first the people who fight in wars. Which ones count as being inthat particular
war, as opposed to the nearby war in Iraq or guerrilla war in Turkey? ETs won't be able to tell,
since the fighters mostly look the same and in a spatial sense are all fighting nearby. The only
way to distinguish who is in each war
is by reference to the citizenship and/or objectives of
their combatants, but those are intentional phenomena. Now take spacetime coordinates.
Although ETs could see that the fighting is concentrated in a certain region, the boundaries of
Syriavs. Iraq’–and thus the specific spaces for control over which people are fighting (and
beyond which it might not spill) only exist as intentional objects in people's minds. Temporal
coordinates might seem more thoroughly extradiscursive. However, as I argue in Chapter 10,
what social scientists call timehas a subjective aspect,
and putting boundaries around events
too has intentional content. Even accepting the orthodox or New York Times view of the Syrian
civil war as a free standing event, when exactly did it begin? And what if we take the heterodox
view of some of the fighters themselves, and construe the fighting as simply the latest round of a
1000 year war between Shia and Sunni Muslims? From that (very discursive!) standpoint, the
Syrian civil warbegan before Syria even existed.
Finally let's talk about the ultimate extradiscursive aspect of war, killing, or removing of
people from discourse altogether. Even so, who gets killed, how, when, and why are all shot
through (no pun intended) with intentional content. First there is identifying which people
are at war (and thus potential targets) vs. neutral parties; then among those at war, identifying
who is friend, enemy, or merely rival (and thus potential ally); then agreeing on what everyone
is fighting about; how individual fighters are constituted into groups; what rules there are for
limiting violence; and on and on and on.
In short, war is all about discourse, not in the sense that it has no extradiscursive aspects
whatsoever (life and death see to that), but in the sense that it is hard to say anything at all about
what is going on without reference to the mostly shared contents of people's minds (discourse).
So even if it were true that QMASS cannot handle purely material, extradiscursive phenomena
(more in a moment), in my view the domain of such phenomena in human society is much,
much smaller than Porpora makes it out to be, and in most respects is of only marginal interest
per se. What makes war waris overwhelmingly its intentional rather than extradiscursive
content, and of course QMASS'basic proposal is that all intentional phenomena are quantum.
So I don't see social structure as posing any problem at all for quantum social theory, and if any-
thing, the latter's radical holism substantially strengthens the case for the strongly relational
view of structure that Porpora and I have both long favored.
But as a final question to QMASS'view of social structure, even if it constitutes only a trun-
cated, rumpmaterialism, how does the classical mindindependent world of bodies, bullets,
and spacetime relate to the quantum social world? Porpora sees my quantum model of man
in almost idealist terms, as completely cut off from material reality, and in one sense I can see
why. Each and every one of us is a unique bubble or monad of experience, and because life
depends on protecting quantum coherence, an impenetrable bubble at that to penetrate our
bubble is to kill it/us. Never mind that we do not have a classical explanation for any experience
at all; by conjuring up the movie Boy in the Bubble,my approach naturally raises the question
of how minds or subjectivity relate to the world beyond our biological boundaries without being
instantly atomized by environmental decoherence.
However, while the details are surely formidable and still mostly unknown, my answer here I
think is easy. If the findings of quantum biology hold up and keep growing, then it is likely our
minds hook onto the world in the same way that the minds of all organisms do, down to the very
simplest: through quantum mechanisms like entanglement, nonlocal causation, tunneling, and
so on. In the human case these mechanisms are centered on vision, from which (apart from lan-
guage) we get most of our information about the external world, but many organisms can't see,
so quantum processes are presumably present in all senses.
Again, if plants and birds can relate
to the world quantum mechanically, then it seems very unlikely that people would have lost
such a precious ability over the course of our evolutionary ascent.
Little concludes his critique of QMASS with an oldfashioned appeal to authority: And really
this is just not a plausible theory in my assessment(p. 14). To which one can only reply says
who?An orthodoxy that concludes from its own explanatory failure that consciousness is an
illusion? Or, if it's not an illusion, then where is the materialist solution to the problem that,
in Little's assessment, is more plausiblenot just than a quantum one but other, competing
materialist ones? As far as I can tell, there is no epistemic authority around here at all, just anar-
chy and daunting burdens of proof on all sides.
Moreover, in this light it is particularly hard to see why it seems so important to destroy the
quantum heresy, rather than welcome it with a good luckand perhaps knowing smile and
its potential contribution to a surprisingly intractable problem. There seems to be far more con-
cern in this literature with avoiding a Type I error (accepting a false theory as true) than a Type
II, but that only makes sense if we have a secure base from which our knowledge can grow. The
historic failure of a classical materialist approach to make any progress on solving the hard prob-
lem of consciousness shows, at the very least, that we do not have such a base.
A quote widely attributed to Schopenhauer
captures what I hope we're seeing in these and
other initial responses to the first appearance of systematic quantum ideas in the social sciences:
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third,
it is accepted as being selfevident.If my experience here is any kind of microcosm and com-
pared to most existing work in quantum social science, QMASS is a hard sell due to its insistence
on a realist vv. as ifapproach we seem to be mostly beyond Stage One. For that I have espe-
cially Donald and Little to thank, who spent what must have felt like too many hours of their
evershortening lives reading and writing about a book the central thesis of which they found
utterly incredible. That's definitely progress, though in the larger scheme of things getting past
Stage One is probably the easy part. Stage Two will and should be much tougher, and has hardly
even begun in the social sciences. But the generous reactions of Fuller, Kirby, and even Porpora
each in their own way on the road already past Stage Two are grounds for optimism. Regard-
less, the question of whether consciousness is a classical or quantum phenomenon is of funda-
mental importance for the proper analysis of society, and it does not yet have an answer. Stay
For detailed comments on a draft of this article I am grateful to Ben Kenzer, Brandon Zaffini,
and other members of my Quantum Brain Trust.
Unless otherwise noted, all page and chapter references in the text below are to Wendt (2015).
See Jackson (2016).
Steve Smith, and through him the late Martin Hollis, led me to this view.
Although I think all organisms have minds of a sort, I'll limit myself here to the easy, human case.
Cf. Bhaskar (1979), which does not thematize consciousness per se.
See Porpora (2006) for a provocative take on this issue.
See Jackson (2016).
See Seager (2017) for a root and branch critique of illusionism.
See Wendt (2004) and commentaries in the same issue.
See (2015: 2628) for further discussion.
Much of it cited in footnote 18 on p. 113.
This, of course, does not make them right. See Filk (2015) for a review of QMASS by a quantum theorist who seems to find the
argument perfectly sensible.
See Donald (1990), which predates even Penrose and Hameroff's agendasetting work.
There is also the possibility of using a purely normative principle to choose under such profound ignorance. I would welcome
others'thoughts on that.
This is known as weakor generalizedquantum theory; see p. 5.
Which admittedly can be read more skeptically than I did in QMASS; for an excellent deflationary account see Waldner (2017)
who nonetheless thinks quantum decision theory could be a game changer in the social sciences.
See Plankar, Brezan, and Jerman (2013); also see AlKhalili and McFadden (2014), and Engel (2014).
Note that this is in an article about coherence in the brain, not organisms in general, where the references are probably by
now countless.
Their confidence seems particularly unwarranted given that neither deals with a single mechanism that proponents have
proposed as ways organisms might deal with the decoherence problem; it's pure argument by assertion.
Little, p. 9.
Hopfield (1994: 53).
The first major mainstream book of which I am aware is Abbott, Davies, and Pati, eds. (2008).
The main one that I shall leave aside is the nature of emergence in a flat ontology, since here Porpora relies on Nancy
Cartwright's work, which on this issue is ultimately classical, and since he does not address the quantum emergence literature
himself I would not have much more to say at this point than I do on pp. 25566.
Porpora, p. 4.
Porpora, p. 7.
And even this will be quite imperfect, given the transnational aspect of these particular conflicts.
This is because we are usually more interested in the Aseries than the Bseries of time; see pp. 126130.
See Turvey (2015) for an impressive synthesis of two decades thinking about the intersection between ecological psychology
and quantum theory, where vision plays a central part.
A website called Quote Investigator finds that there is no matching adagein any of his work, which I would not have
learned but for the research assistance of Quinn Riley.
Abbott, D., Davies, P., & Pati, A. (Eds.) (2008). Quantum Aspects of Life. London: Imperial College Press.
AlKhalili, J., & McFadden, J. (2014). Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. London: Bantam
Bhaskar, R. (1979). The Possibility of Naturalism. New York: Routledge.
Donald, M. J. (1990). Quantum Theory and the Brain, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A,427,43
Engel, G. (2014). Direct Observation of Quantum Coherence. In Mohseni, M., Omar, Y., Engel, G., & Plenio, M.
(Eds.) Quantum Effects in Biology (pp. 144158). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Filk, Thomas (2015) Book Review: Quantum Ideas in Social Science, Mind and Matter,13(2), 26164
Hopfield, J. (1994). Physics, Computation, and Why Biology Looks so Different. Journal of Theoretical Biology,
Jackson, P. T. (2016). Fundamental Grounding. Perspectives on Politics,14(4), 11531157.
Plankar, M., Brezan, S., & Jerman, I. (2013). The Principle of Coherence in MultiLevel Brain Information
Processing. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology,111,829.
Porpora, D. (2006). Methodological Atheism, Methodological Agnosticism and Religious Experience. Journal for
the Theory of Social Behaviour,36(1), 5775.
Seager, W. (2017). Could Consciousness Be an Illusion? Mind and Matter,15(1), 728.
Turvey, M. (2015). QuantumLike Issues at Nature's Ecological Scale (the Scale of Organisms and Their
Environments). Mind and Matter,13(1), 744.
Waldner, David (2017) Schroedinger's Cat and the Dog that Didn't Bark: Why Quantum Mechanics is (Probably)
Irrelevant to the Social Sciences, Critical Review,29(2), 199233.
Wendt, A. (2004). The State as Person in International Theory. Review of International Studies,30, 289316.
Wendt, A. (2015). Quantum Mind and Social Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
How to cite this article: Wendt A. The mindbody problem and social science:
Motivating a quantum social theory. J Theory Soc Behav. 2018;48:188204.
... One of the implications of it is that this research extends the application of panpsychism to contemporary social theory, thus building on the work of Wendt (2015Wendt ( , 2018 and Vetlesen (2019). Wendt (2018) remarks that the hard problem of consciousness is not only a problem for philosophy but is also ultimately 'the most important (or perhaps "first") problem of social science'. ...
... One of the implications of it is that this research extends the application of panpsychism to contemporary social theory, thus building on the work of Wendt (2015Wendt ( , 2018 and Vetlesen (2019). Wendt (2018) remarks that the hard problem of consciousness is not only a problem for philosophy but is also ultimately 'the most important (or perhaps "first") problem of social science'. This research has the potential to benefit social theory and the social sciences by furthering the attention that is paid to this problem and to panpsychism. ...
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Le nuove tecnologie (social networks, blogs, etc.) aumentato esponenzialmente la possibilità di creare un dialogo bidirezionale tra consumatore e produttore. Tradizionalmente, nel Marketing, il flusso comunicativo procedeva in modo unidirezionale, da fonte comunica verso molti attori passivi. I consumatori adesso, invece, intervengono, richiedono, orientano il mercato. In questo senso alcuni hanno proposto un Marketing Relazionale. Lungo questa linea, questo contributo propone di prendere a prestito alcuni concetti mutuati dal mondo della Fisica Quantistica, per trovare nuove chiavi interpretative che possano aiutare a costruire il nuovo modello. L'idea che ci sia comunicazione tra i vari domini del sapere è alla base dell'approccio proposto. Si propone un nascituro Marketing Quantistico come forma possibile del Marketing Relazionale.
How burdens of proof are allocated in science has an important bearing on how new knowledge develops. Usually, the burden is on new theories to prove their worth relative to a default, baseline of knowledge that is considered established and secure. However, in the case of classical vs. quantum social science matters are not that simple because the long-standing classical default has itself already failed to pass crucial tests, which has spurred the search for quantum solutions instead. Part I of this paper, therefore, tries to ‘re-balance’ the burdens of proof with Quantum Mind and Social Science’ critics, by highlighting two significant limits to date of classical thinking about the mind and society: the philosophical problem of finding a place for consciousness in the universe, and the scientific problem of explaining the Kahneman–Tversky anomalies in psychology. Acknowledging these outstanding problems does not equalize the burdens of proof, but it does mean that as we head into the more substantive discussion in Part II there is no secure default position. Just burdens of proof all around.
Notre thèse explore deux anomalies quant aux théories sur les interactions hydriques transfrontalières. Le lac Victoria, où toutes les conditions matérielles, économiques et environnementales sont données pour les conflits, et pourtant la coopération s’impose. Et le fleuve Uruguay, où un régime institutionnel solide existait et les conditions environnementales étaient optimales, et pourtant la coopération fût brisée et le conflit éclata. Pour élucider l’énigme de ces cas, au lieu de sonder les aspects politiques et institutionnels des bassins, comme font certaines approches, ou ceux physiques, comme en font d’autres, nous proposons une autre voie. Notre démarche consiste à porter le regard vers ce qui donne naissance aux actions des agents en interaction avec leur milieu, à savoir la nature humaine et le fonctionnement du cerveau. Afin de conduire cette enquête, nous nous appuyions sur trois axes. Le premier est celui des entretiens que nous avons réalisés dans les bassins étudiés. Le deuxième est la sociologie de Gabriel Tarde, laquelle invite à une continuation actualisée d’un projet de recherche du social permettant l’intégration des développements scientifiques biologiques, évolutifs et cognitifs. Le troisième axe est celui des neurosciences, lesquelles confirment plusieurs intuitions tardiennes, et permettent de mieux cerner les aspects référant à la nature humaine dans son interaction avec la société et l’environnement. Notre enquête montre alors comment les dynamiques du conflit et de la coopération convergent dans la conscience, en tant que la clé qui, par-delà toute situation environnementale donnée, permet aux humains d’actualiser d’innombrables potentialités.
While the application of quantum theory to social science and social theory is a young field, at earliest dated to the 1990s, there is a remarkable diversity in the different approaches contained within the broad tent of quantum social theory. This diversity is sometimes hidden by the forced categorization into “actuality” or “analogy.” Through this review of the rise of quantum social theory in recent decades, I outline the full spectrum of approaches to imagining the social world in quantum terms.
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jats:p> This article stands at the intersection between the relational turn in International Relations (IR) and the quantum turn in the social sciences (and more recently in IR as well). The relational turn draws much-needed attention to the centrality of relations in global politics, yet its imprecise conceptualization of whole-part relations casts shadow over its relational ontological foundation. The quantum turn, meanwhile, challenges the observed–observer dichotomy as well as the classical views about causality, determinacy, and measurement. Yet, despite their common stance against the Newtonian ontology, the relational and quantum turns have largely neglected each other at least in the IR context. This article aims to bridge this gap by introducing a quantum holographic approach to relationality. Drawing on theoretical physicist David Bohm’s work on quantum theory and his key concepts about wholeness and the implicate order, the article argues that the world is being holographically (trans)formed: its parts are not only parts of the whole, but also enfold the whole, like in a hologram. This quantum holographic ontology contributes to both a clearer differentiation between internal/implicate relations and external/explicate relations and a renewed emphasis on wholeness and whole-part duality. In doing so, it not only provides new conceptual tools to rethink IR as holographic relations which involve the dynamic processes and mechanisms of enfoldment and unfoldment, but also has important policy and ethical implications for the conduct of “foreign” relations and for transforming the way we think about identity, survival, relationship, and responsibility. </jats:p
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This special issue is conceived out of the proposition that recent developments in quantum theory as well as innovations in quantum technology have profound implications for international relations, especially in the field of international security. Interaction with quantum theory outside the circle of physics has been limited; our goal is to catalyse an informed debate on the virtues of quantum theory for international relations. As new scientific discoveries and technological applications suggest large-scale quantum phenomena, near-simultaneous interconnectivity creates global entanglements, and ubiquitous media produce profound observer-effects, we wish to make of quantum theory a human science. With the arrival of quantum computing, communications and artificial intelligence, we can also expect to see significant transformations in the nature, production and distribution of power and knowledge. This special issue introduces quantum approaches that can help us better understand, anticipate and perhaps even ameliorate the most pressing global issues facing us today and in the near future.
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Alexander Wendt’s Quantum Mind and Social Science reopens the question of the relevance of quantum mechanics to the social sciences. In response, I argue that due to “quantum decoherence,” the macroscopic world filters out quantum effects. Moreover, quantum decoherence makes it unlikely that the theory of quantum brains, on which Wendt relies, is true. Finally, while quantum decision theory is a potentially revolutionary field, it has not clearly accounted for alleged anomalies in classical understandings of decision making. However, the logic of quantum decoherence can motivate a new approach to the structure-agent problem.
The problem of integrating consciousness into our scientific, physicalist picture of the world has proved remarkably difficult. One possible explanation of the difficulty is that we are the victims of an illusion: we think that consciousness exists. Although almost self-evidently ridiculous, the claim that consciousness is in some significant sense illusory can be defended. One line of argument holds that consciousness is merely an “intentional object”. Another argues that the sense that consciousness has a distinct and special kind of existence (apart, say, from its physical basis) stems from a kind of misunderstanding of indexicality. I examine these two approaches and argue that ultimately they fail to even begin to show that consciousness is an illusion.
Detecting quantum coherence Observing quantum coherence is a tricky business. Even before we fire up the femtosecond laser systems and start our search, we need to ask ourselves some basic questions: What is coherence? How does coherence manifest in measurements? What methods can we use to detect and measure coherence? Only then, can we begin to interpret data to search for coherence and to try to make sense of the observed signals. In this section, I will discuss detecting quantum coherence both in theory and in practice. The goal of this section is to present a unified view of experimental approaches in broad strokes and to provide useful references to guide further exploration. What is ‘quantum coherence’? Firstly, the precise meaning of ‘quantum coherence’ must be pinned down. I define quantum coherences to be off-diagonal elements of the density matrix representing the ensemble. (I am explicitly setting aside questions of ‘quantum’ versus ‘classical’ coherences; let us simply assume that the system in question is best described quantum mechanically and presume that the coherences in such a system are also quantum in nature. The simple fact is that we don't yet have the tools to answer this debate definitively.) This definition, however, is still insufficient. The density matrix and the magnitudes of its off-diagonal elements in particular depend on the basis set used to write down the matrix. For the purposes of this chapter, I will consider the density matrix only in the Hamiltonian eigenbasis.
Quantum mechanics provides the most accurate microscopic description of the world around us, yet the interface between quantum mechanics and biology is only now being explored. This book uses a combination of experiment and theory to examine areas of biology believed to be strongly influenced by manifestly quantum phenomena. Covering subjects ranging from coherent energy transfer in photosynthetic light harvesting to spin coherence in the avian compass and the problem of molecular recognition in olfaction, the book is ideal for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in physics, biology and chemistry seeking to understand the applications of quantum mechanics to biology.
There is an underlying assumption in the social sciences that consciousness and social life are ultimately classical physical/material phenomena. In this ground-breaking book, Alexander Wendt challenges this assumption by proposing that consciousness is, in fact, a macroscopic quantum mechanical phenomenon. In the first half of the book Wendt justifies the insertion of quantum theory into social scientific debates, introduces social scientists to quantum theory and the philosophical controversy about its interpretation, and then defends the quantum consciousness hypothesis against the orthodox, classical approach to the mind-body problem. In the second half, he develops the implications of this metaphysical perspective for the nature of language and the Agent-Structure Problem in social ontology. Wendt's argument is a revolutionary development which raises fundamental questions about the nature of social life and the work of those who study it.
A theory of perception for all organisms encounters two quantum- like issues. Issue 1 is the there not here enigma or outness problem. For example, given visual entities here (e.g., in the sensory organ, or in the brain), how are they experientially situated there (in the environment) coordinate with the entities to which they belong? The outness problem's foundation is the principle of local causality: no action at a distance. The problem does not arise under a principle of nonlocality, raising the question of whether there is a conception of action at a distance befitting nature's ecological scale. Issue 2 is the observation problem so labelled by Gomatam and implicit in deliberations of Bohr, Einstein, Bell and others: to identify a quantum-compatible nonclassical conception of everyday objects, one consonant with the principle of superposition. The ecological notion of accordance is an organism-relative perspective on macroscopic objects. Any given object makes possible (accords) difierent actions for difierent organisms simultaneously. Accordance raises the question of whether there is a conception of superposition (and, perforce, decoherence) befitting nature's ecological scale. Conceptual steps to addressing the two questions relating to the two issues are presented and the significance of doing so for a theory of perception-action encompassing all organisms is emphasized.
Review of Hattich, F. (2004): 'Quantum Processes. A Whiteheadian Inter pretation of Quantum Field Theory'. Agenda Verlag, Munster. ISBN 3-89688-204-X (Euro 29.90; pbk)
This book presents the hotly debated question of whether quantum mechanics plays a non-trivial role in biology. In a timely way, it sets out a distinct quantum biology agenda. The burgeoning fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum technology, and quantum information processing are now strongly converging. The acronym BINS, for Bio-Info-Nano-Systems, has been coined to describe the synergetic interface of these several disciplines. The living cell is an information replicating and processing system that is replete with naturally-evolved nanomachines, which at some level require a quantum mechanical description. As quantum engineering and nanotechnology meet, increasing use will be made of biological structures, or hybrids of biological and fabricated systems, for producing novel devices for information storage and processing and other tasks. An understanding of these systems at a quantum mechanical level will be indispensable.