Quantum Worldviews and Henry Stapp’s Model of Consciousness

My project takes as its starting point the categories of ‘meaning’ and ‘unity of reason’, which are structural to human cognition, and assumes that they are at odds with the trend toward specialization and objectivation in scientific-academic enterprises. A central question is how these urges for transdisciplinarity and “ultimate meaning”, once inhibited by scientific reasoning, reappear as forms of rejected knowledge, often labelled as scientific speculation, in alternative programs and institutions.

I will carry out both empirical and theoretical research. The James/Heisenberg model of consciousness – developed by the Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp – will be the focus of my theoretical analysis. Stapp is part of a multidisciplinary effort between philosophy of mind, neurosciences and quantum mechanics that aims to understand the mind-brain connection. Stapp’s model has many philosophical consequences to our conception of personhood and the place of human beings in the cosmos. Stapp’s work flourished amid the context of the reassessment of the foundations of quantum mechanics in California during the 1970’s. My empirical research will explore this historical context via interviews, research in archives and historical databases, and secondary sources. The objects of my empirical scrutiny will be two multidisciplinary research groups in which Stapp was a pivotal figure, “Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality” (1976-1988) and “Empirical Evidence for the Survival of Death” (1998-2011), both hosted by the Center for Theory and Research of the Esalen Insitute.

A historical epistemology capable of embracing both the content as well as the context of scientific theories has the advantage of critically comprehending scientific worldviews as wholes. As an approach in the historiography of science it aims to overcome the defects of both traditional history and philosophy of science.

Host University
Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, University of California, Berkeley, US

Academic Sponsor
Prof Cathryn Carson

Fall 2016 – Winter 2017