School of Bioscience
Early on in my studies I became interested in the mind-body problem, and the problem of interpreting quantum theory, and I suppose these interests have continued throughout my career and led me where I am today.
Main area of research - Consciousness and quantum naturalism
On the one hand I am interested in how modern physics, and quantum theory in particular affects our general scientific world-view. On the other hand, I am interested in whether mental phenomena – including conscious experience – could be understood in a new way in the light of such a new quantum world-view. I have focused upon the physicists David Bohm and Basil Hiley’s interpretations of quantum theory. The areas relevant to my research are thus philosophy, consciousness studies, cognitive (neuro)science and physics.
My current projects relate to some very exciting developments in my areas of interest. Within philosophy, Ladyman and Ross have proposed a naturalistic metaphysics which they call “ontic structural realism”. While I have sympathy with many aspects of this programme, I also disagree with it in some ways and am thus currently considering alternative ways of naturalizing metaphysics. (For a preliminary attempt, explicating some of Bohm’s ideas, see my book Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order, Springer, 2007.) Within quantum physics, I am interacting with Basil Hiley in order to bring out the philosophical significance of his recent developments of the Bohmian programme in quantum theory. Within consciousness studies, I am discussing with the anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff and the philosopher Rocco Gennaro the prospects of combining quantum approaches to consciousness with higher-order theories. Also, I follow and plan to comment the recent fascinating advances in quantum cognition (see e.g. the forthcoming target article by Pothos and Busemeyer in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences).
Early on in my studies I became interested in the mind-body problem, and the problem of interpreting quantum theory, and I suppose these interests have continued throughout my career and led me where I am today. As should be clear from the above, one main purpose of my research is to help philosophy, consciousness studies and cognitive (neuro)science to come into terms with the radical implications of quantum and relativity theory. I think this would open up a whole new way of understanding many of the key problems in these fields. As Peter Bruza has recently emphasized, quantum theory is not merely a physical theory, but also a framework in which other theories can be developed. Such a framework might also enable a new way of thinking – we might call it “quantum thinking”. This might allow us transcend the mechanistic thinking habits of Newtonian physics and contemporary neuroscience that tacitly dominate and limit our current attempts to understand mind and consciousness.
Areas of expertise
- Philosophy of mind
- Philosophy of science
- Philosophy of physics
- Consciousness studies