Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 11, No 2 (2015)

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The Physics of Symbols Evolved Before Consciousness

Howard Pattee


The human brain appears to be the most complex structure for its size in the known universe. Consequently, studies of the brain have required many models and theories at many levels that involve disciplines from basic physics, to neurosciences, psychology and philosophy. For over 2000 years the two most controversial and unresolved models of brain phenomena involve what we call free will and consciousness. I argue that adequate models at all levels require epistemic complementarity – distinct necessary models that are not derivable or reducible to each other. The primitive irreducible complementarity at all levels is the subject-object distinction required by an epistemic cut. This complementarity first arises with self-replication where a self, the subject, must be distinguished from the non-self, the object

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