Knowing, Doing, and Being: New Foundations for Consciousness Studies by Chris Clarke

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Knowing, Doing, and Being: New Foundations for Consciousness Studies by Chris Clarke

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Gloria Nneoma Onwuneme
Reviewed by Gloria Nneoma Onwuneme
Summary: 'Knowing, Doing, and Being is the result of Clarke's exploration of the parallels and ties between consciousness and quantum physics , bringing in some of the remarkable findings which have been made in the past number of decades - and proposing ideas for how a progression in these studies might be made.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 218 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Imprint Academic
ISBN: 9781845404550

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Man suffers from a regrettable lack of a ’hotline to reality’, or to noumenon. In order to give a relatively faithful rendition of reality, however, people use two aspects of consciousness. By researchers, they've been termed the relational and the propositional. A number of thinkers from a number of fields propose that the structure of consciousness may be unveiled using the tool of quantum physics.

In Knowing, Doing, and Being, Chris Clarke presents the fundamentals of both consciousness and quantum physics. His well-structured work gets right into the debate of how studies might bring about groundbreaking discoveries of the nature of both of these truly complex subjects. It’s not a quick, easy read, but even the uninitiated can expect to enjoy an insight into this high-octane intellectual mystery.

The book assumes a logical starting point of trying to define consciousness - an intent challenged by the fact that there is no concretely universal definition of consciousness. What ensues instead is Clarke’s summarisation of previous attempts at capturing what consciousness is. Most would agree that will and self-awareness are parts of consciousness. Most would also agree that this compendium of abstracts is far from a comprehensive description. But is there one undivided consciousness to an individual, or are there many? How does self relate to different thinking forms? Does the self develop, or is it a complete thing, present from the start? Where is consciousness located? What beings enjoy the possession of consciousness? Clarke makes some of the putative answers clear. One group of philosophers proposes that all of nine subsystems make up a mind! On the other end of the spectrum, neurologists have sought out the configuration of brain neurons which constitute consciousness, typically with the premise that the conscious I is undivided. A middle path is established by Teasdale and Barnard’s description of consciousness as being propositional and relational in which the propositional analyses components of the environment, while the relational synthesises forms ties between these.

Quantum physics, and the related subject of quantum mechanics, is another conundrum. The modus operandi of a quantum physicist is to analyse the contexts, quantum states and spaces, and Hamiltonians (i.e. dynamics) of a particle. A deeper epiphany which quantum physics has enabled is that not only can't we see reality in itself - its full self eludes us by being extremely uncertain.

Though typically looking at the microscopic, quantum physics’ awareness of, and its established language for, uncertainty has enabled important discoveries about the universe, including the nature of its expansion, and phenomena which may have surrounded its inception. Its potential in the progression of the study of consciousness is held to be great, and may be a part of the step succeeding McGilchrist's theory of how hemisphericity brings about a duality of worldviews in each being. Clarke describes some exciting products of the attempt to bridge consciousness research with quantum physics concepts. Some examples of the bolder claims made come from Penrose, supposing that the subcellular microtubules of neurons might be involved in information processing which resembles quantum computing, and Stapp, putting synapses forth as more key players in the generation of consciousness, whatever that might be.

Not only does Clarke do a great job at laying bare the more miry aspects of an integration of consciousness and physics, without compromising its intricacies in any way. Knowing, Doing, and Being also manages to make it clear that this integration has called for a non-traditional form of logic, and, to me, suggests that the nature of consciousness might even inform an advancement of the way in which physics research and reasoning is conducted. History has seen an ever-increasing significance of the propositional in the sciences, pushing for the attainment of Leibniz’s goal of being able to say ‘calculemus’ in all fields. Clarke makes an argument for bringing the relational back into academic research, and into the pursuit of the truth about consciousness.

Truer than for most books, you'd be hard-pressed to fully comprehend all there is to the book at first perusal. In the spirit of the thinkers and experimenters whose ideas are mentioned in Knowing, Doing, and Being, Clarke has displayed a great breadth of knowledge in a book coursing in and out of neuroscience, quantum mechanics and philosophy.

If you do enjoy a bit of mental gymnastics, and are looking to pick up the names and theories of academicians involved in exploring consciousness, quantum physics, and its overlaps, I highly recommend this book.

A closer look at quantum physics and its philosophical implications is to be found in Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar.

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