The Chemistry of Attention
This dissertation arose from concerns that the prevalent philosophy of materialism which reduces everything to matter has inadvertently contributed to the ecological destruction of the planet, and an impoverished understanding of human nature. Conceptual arguments and empirical data cry out for a philosophy beyond materialism (or its current avatar Physicalism) that moves us beyond 17th century classical science, making use of 20th century quantum science to better understand our world. Such a new philosophy would embed a new scientific paradigm that incorporates both the first person point of view and the third person "no point of view."The main issue I engage in this dissertation is whether consciousness can be explained by Physicalism. While functionalism, the dominant theory of Physicalism, answers many questions related to consciousness, it leaves major ones unanswered. I offer a critique of Physicalism using conceptual arguments and empirical data encompassing what I call the "chemistry of attention." I also offer innovative proposals toward a philosophical approach I term "Aspect Monism" that builds on earlier monist philosophies (Spinoza) while incorporating dualistic features, suggesting that this new approach would better account for consciousness. The proximate history of Physicalism to either explain the mind away or reduce it to the brain from Behaviorism through Identity Theory to Functionalism is laid out as well as the difficulty in establishing the boundaries of Physicalism.The project utilizes conceptual arguments to critique Physicalism in three areas of concern: What is left out? What is assumed? What is causing methodological confusion? The areas of qualia, cognition, intentionality, meaning and personhood are left out. This is demonstrated, in part, by various thought experiments like the inverted spectrum argument, the Chinese nation argument, the zombies' argument, the knowledge argument and the Chinese room argument. The problem of causal closure of the physical is that which is assumed. The ambiguity with respect to method is that which causes confusion.Empirical data from the neurosciences (EEG, ERP, fMRI experiments during meditation; OCD and phobia treatment; placebo and nocebo effect) are used to critically analyze Physicalism with respect to mental states and causation and the analysis of such data points to a close relationship between attention and changes in the brain, and subsequently to the collapse of Physicalism into Epiphenomenalism. Such a metaphysical approach to consciousness is suggested from, and provides a home for, the neurophysical approaches to the origins of consciousness. I present a neuro-quantum perspective using Stapp and Penrose-Hameroff who suggest these origins via neuroscience and quantum physics.As we search for a new scientific paradigm and consequently a new metaphysics that takes into consideration the objective and the subjective, and the inner and the outer, a new philosophy and a new scientific paradigm which incorporates both the first person point of view and the third person "no point of view" data is the need of the hour.