Anomalous Mind-Matter Interaction and the Nature of Causality | George Williams

Are some categories of psi, specifically psychokinesis or anomalous mind-matter interaction, fundamentally inconsistent with our understanding of causal laws? Some physicalists effectively rule out the possibility of psychokinesis on the basis of our current understanding of the world’s causal laws. The physicist Sean Carroll has argued that our best understanding of causal laws does not support such anomalous mind-matter effects. Psi skeptics such as Carroll argue that fraud or error is more likely than such mind-matter interaction being veridical. However, such arguments against accepting this data rests on the assumption that our knowledge of the causal laws are complete (or close to complete).

Some philosophers inquiring into the metaphysics of causality might argue that our current understanding is incomplete. They might note that, as Hume argued, we lack the ability to fully characterize causal laws. Such an argument arguably weakens the case that we can rule out anomalous mind-matter interaction a priori. However, philosophers on the metaphysics of causality have also noted that popular notions of the “laws of nature” are based on controlled experiments that may not always reflect some aspects of world because our reality is rarely that controlled.

They have often argued that a superior characterization of casual relationships is based on dispositions and tendencies that are context sensitive. Instead of causal relationships in terms of iron-clad “laws,” the behavior of the world is better characterized by powers or potencies that are expressed dependent on various conditions. Such a view appears to be supported by quantum mechanics, which describes the behavior of subatomic particles fundamentally in terms of tendencies and possibilities.

Important gaps remain not only in our knowledge of causality, but on the nature of consciousness as well. Arguably, anomalous mind-matter interaction, as it is presented in the laboratory psi literature, is linked with the metaphysics of mind as well as causality. Arguably, the persistent gaps in our understanding of these domains make it difficult to rule out a priori the possibility of psychokinesis. Further, the intersection between these two domains (the metaphysics of causality and consciousness) likely impinges on the question of true volition or free will. Although they are not the same, it does appear that psychokinesis requires true volition, which our conventional scientific understanding also has difficulty explaining. In order to make progress, we must consider how the metaphysics of causality might be linked with consciousness in a way that could support real volition and psychokinesis.

Perhaps we might link the view of dispositionalists — who argue that the world’s causal nature is best characterized by potencies and dispositions. Is this in turn supported by the wave function of quantum mechanics—with consciousness? I propose doing this in two steps. First, we might follow an argument from Ismael and Schaffer (2016) that the quantum wave function requires the presence of a common ground. Specifically, they argue that a quantum or common ground coordinates the probabilities of the wave function. Their proposal that this quantum ground resides in an ontologically prior high-dimensional space, outside of our spatiotemporal order. We can take things a step further (beyond Ismael and Schaffer) and propose that this quantum ground also governs or influences the behavior of the subatomic particles (and thus resolve the measurement problem).

The second step is to argue that this non-structural and fundamental quantum ground is the intrinsic aspect of the world and therefore (via Russellian monism) also a ground for consciousness. Thus, the inherently non-local quantum field is also the base of conscious experience This becomes a version of cosmopsychism, where all conscious organisms are aspects of the consciousness of the universe.

This framework, where conscious experience is ultimately rooted in a non-local field of consciousness, supports such psi phenomena as telepathy, remote viewing, and precognition. This framework also arguably is consistent with both free will and psychokinesis. This quantum field of aware potentiality is likely the ground of fundamental causality. As a result, this fundamental field of aware quantum potentiality is arguably the basis of true volition. And that our own volition is ultimately rooted in this more fundamental nonlocal field suggests the possibility that mental intention might remotely affect physical processes, as the psi data on psychokinesis suggests. Thus, with individual consciousness rooted in the nonlocal quantum ground, mental intention may be able to influence the field of potentialities which constitute our world as well as the relationships that describe behavior.

Published on May 17, 2022