Quantum Physics, Consciousness, and Free Will

David Hodgson

in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will

Second edition

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780195399691
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Quantum Physics, Consciousness, and Free Will

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This article begins with an account of how quantum physics represents physical systems and how it differs from classical physics, focusing on three features of quantum theory that have been thought to be relevant to free will: indeterminism, nonlocality, and observer-participation. It examines various interpretations of quantum theory, including deterministic interpretations, such as the “many-worlds” interpretation and hidden variable interpretations. It considers other topics, puzzles about Schrodinger's cat and a recent challenge to deterministic interpretations of quantum theory, called “the free will theorem” by mathematicians John Conway and Simon Kochen. It discusses the views of three thinkers who have argued in different ways for the relevance of quantum theory to both consciousness and free will: mathematician Roger Penrose, physicist Henry Stapp, and neuroscientist and Nobel laureate John Eccles.

Keywords: physical systems; classical physics; quantum theory; indeterminism; nonlocality; observer-participation; many-worlds; John Eccles; Henry Stapp; Roger Penrose

Article.  13367 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Philosophy of Mind

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