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Consciousness Observes Different Laws From Physics

At Closer to Truth, British philosopher and pastor Keith Ward provides an example to host Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Last week at Closer to Truth, host Robert Lawrence Kuhn interviewed British philosopher and pastor Keith Ward on “What’s the Stuff of Mind and Brain?” Ward is an idealist philosopher who “believes that the material universe is an expression or creation of a Supreme Mind, namely that of God’s.”

In this excerpt, he explains how we can know that the mind is not simply what the brain does. One way is that the mind or consciousness functions according to different rules:

Kuhn: [5:53] Keith, what is it that we need to combine with the brain to make this non material consciousness?

Ward: [6:04] Well, you need — what Buddhists would say is — thoughts and feelings and sensations and perceptions. And this is a stream of, believe it or not, consciousness. And that is something which is at least partly produced by the brain. It’s causally correlated with events in the brain, that is to say, but it also has its own psychical or spiritual or mental forms of causation.

So let me give you one example. [6:35] If I go through a mathematical calculation, I don’t know what’s happening in my brain at all. And I don’t believe that when I get a logically correct result and I say — amazingly, 2 plus two does equal 4 — I don’t believe that that is produced by purely physical laws in the brain. It is a logical calculation and there are laws of thought which produce it. So that’s what you need.

Kuhn: [6:57] So Keith, do you need something like a soul to combine with the brain to make consciousness?

Ward: [7:04] That’s a loaded word. I think the most important distinction I would make is between the laws of physics, which are mechanical in the sense they’re not directed, they’re not for the sake of anything, they’re just proceeding in accordance with mathematical equations … To contrast the laws of physics with the laws of thought, which you use in mathematical calculations for example, … you’ve got a criterion of correctness… the laws of mathematical and logical thinking are not reducible to or statable in terms of laws of physics or of any known science. So there must at least be two completely different ways of understanding what human beings are, a physical way and a way concerned with thinking – and I would say feeling and perception as well. And these you have to put these two together and I believe that nobody on Earth knows how to do that.

Ward is stressing that it is only in the intellectual world that concepts like correct vs. incorrect (or right vs. wrong) are meaningful. That’s a different world from the one created by physics. The unacknowledged difference between the two is one of the reasons materialist philosophies are not working out well in the study of consciousness.

You may also wish to read: What Christof Koch misunderstands about the mind and the brain. In his revealing interview at Closer to Truth, the Allen Institute neuroscientist attributed subjective experiences to “brains” even though he doubts physicalism. The brain does not see, hear, feel, taste, or smell. It is the person who sees, hears, feels, tastes, and smells. (Michael Egnor)

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Consciousness Observes Different Laws From Physics