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Determinism and Dualism, The Scientific Method Says Both

December 22, 2019

In the post on Neuroexistentialism we pointed out the distinction between naturalist, deterministic approaches and subjection, phenomenological approaches. Michael Gazzaniga in “The Consciousness Instinct” suggests this distinction is the same distinction physics faces between measuring and the thing being measured, Quantum and Classical Physics.

Drawing on the revolutionary work of Howard Pattee from the mid-20th Century, he pegs this distinction as stemming from the difference between organic and inorganic life. As highly evolved organic life (for all we know), this difference is built into us.

“Pattee states ‘our models of living organisms will never eliminate the distinction between the self and the universe, because life began with this separation and evolution requires it.'” [Gazzaniga p.198]

[This aligns with Sartre, Dennett and others’ description of the self as the first mode, as it were, of being.]

Our minds reflect the distinction at a relative high level of sophistication. Pattee and Gazzaniga suggest we adopt Niels Bohr’s idea of complementarity as the most accurate description of the way we understand the world.

“It should therefore not surprise us that two complementary modes of behavior, two levels of description, keep appearing in our thinking. The subject/object cut is present in all the great philosophical debates: random/predictable, experience/observation, individual/group, nurture/nature, and mind/brain. Pattee regards the two complementary modes as inescapable and necessary for any explanation that links the subjective and objective models of experience. The two models are inherent in life itself, were present from the beginning, and have been conserved by evolution. Pattee writes, ‘This is a universal and irreducible complementarity. Neither model can derive the other or be reduced to the other. By the same logic that a details objective model of a measuring device cannot produce a subject’s measurement [see Schrodinger’s cat], so a detailed objective model of a material brain cannot produce a subject’s thought.'” [Gazzaniga p.198]

[Echoes of Godel’s incompleteness theorem] [Echoes of the Tao]

[Cells as complete semiotic systems.] [Cells as memetic machines.] [Biosemiotics, memetics as a science equivalence? or guiding path? (see Vada)]

It seems a useful description. Its seems applicable to the way we embrace uncertainty in an organization, balancing deterministic tools and the wonderfulness of human unpredictability for management.

Grounded in the scientific method. It aligns with there being other modes for groups to believe things e.g. religion, shared experiences.

The memetic heuristic less useful. More a reflection of shifting to a different mode of explanation. There is, needless to say, recursion here.

Caruso, Gregg, and Owen Flanagan, eds. Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, morals, and purpose in the age of neuroscience. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Gazzaniga, Michael S. The Consciousness Instinct: Unraveling the mystery of how the brain makes the mind. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.
Pattee, Howard Hunt, and Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi. Laws, language and life: Howard Pattee’s classic papers on the physics of symbols with contemporary commentary. Vol. 7. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.
Vada, Ø., 2015. What happened to Memetics. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 17(2).

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