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I've read that consciousness, and a "soul", might be connected by quantum entanglement. As I understand it, "warm temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules" in neuronal cells generate EEG, or brain waves. Then, after death, the quanta that once generated electrochemical activity in the neocortex, somehow gets dispersed throughout space-time. And these particles are then linked by quantum entanglement. This phenomenon could encode, or preserve, information within the space-time fabric indefinitely, outside of a physical body. Could this be possible supporting evidence for the existence of a soul?

The rule of thumb when you hear someone claim that quantum mechanics explains or underwrites something about minds is to be very, very suspicious. Let's suppose that two particles within some microtubule get entangled. (Caveat: I know more or less nothing about microtubules, but that won't matter for what follows.) Now suppose that these particles get dispersed into spacetime. The chance that these particles will remain entangled for any significant length of time at all is near enough to zero that the difference isn't worth arguing about. That's because if anything else interacts with either particle, the entanglement will be destroyed. Entanglement is very fragile. In entanglement experiments, physicists have to go to great lengths to prevent decoherence—the process by which interaction with the environment destroys entanglement, or more accurately, disperses it into the environment, in effect diluting it. But even if the two particles somehow stayed entangled, this wouldn't give us any special...

I read Prof. Galen Strawson's piece on consciousness in the New York Times. He claims that consciousness is "wholly a matter of physical goings-on" and then spends much time addressing the limits of what physics can tell us about matter. His essay, however, never mentions life. Isn't life what "breathes fire into the (physics) equations"? Wasn't the evolution of nervous systems in living organisms the difference between non-living complex physical phenomena and the unique powers of the human brain? Ignoring life's contribution, to me, seemed to remove the center from the argument and constituted a "Very Large Mistake". Am I correct in thinking that a theory of human consciousness must account for life?

Depends on what you mean by "account for life." Many living things aren't conscious at all. On the other hand, if consciousness is a matter of physical goings-on, then it's possible that something could be conscious without being a living thing at all---at least, not in the biological sense. Human consciousness, of course, is consciousness in a living creature, but it doesn't follow that talking about life will add anything to our understanding of consciousness. More important, there's a danger here of missing Strawson's point. Strawson is concerned with the qualitative character of consciousness---with what's it's like to smell the smell of coffee or feel a pounding headache or a frisson of delight. Strawson's view, which he identifies with Bertrand Russell's, is that physics doesn't tell us anything about the intrinsic qualities of matter; physics only deals with mathematical structural properties. Strawson, with Russell, thinks that conscious episodes acquaint us with the intrinsic albeit...

Is it a common belief among philosophers that the external world does not exist independently of consciousness? That consciousness creates the material world rather than the other way around? How can anyone believe this?

I'd say it's an extraordinarily uncommon view among philosophers. Very few philosophers have believed it throughout the history of the discipline (Bishop Berkeley is the most obvious exception) and I can't think of any contemporary philosophers who do, though I'm sure there are some somewhere. Berkeley was an idealist (that's the usual name for such views) because he thought the conception of matter found in Locke, Newton and other thinkers of the time was incoherent. If you read his Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philnous, you may find some of his arguments more interesting that you would have thought. We could add: orthodox theological views hold that not that our minds make matter, but that God creates the world. And accordng to that same orthodoxy, God isn't a material being. So the view that some mind may be the source of matter is actually not at all uncommon. And for various reasons, contemporary New Age and Magical thinkers often favor a view that puts mind first. If you want...

I recently read a story in the news about near death experience...People seeing dead relatives, bright lights etc. The article mentioned that the science community is currently researching and one of the things they are doing is placing objects in operating rooms and/or taping pictures to the ceilings to understand if this is purely something the mind makes up to deal with the situation it finds itself in or if this is an indication that conscienceless can survive outside the body. I've never had such an experience but it poses an interesting question... Does philosophy have a perspective on consciousness surviving outside the body and/or does it have an opinion on this kind of experience?

Lots of interesting questions here, and I won't try to do all the issues justice. But a handful of quick thoughts. First, philosophy doesn't usually have a perspective on a question because the questions philosophy deals with tend to be inherently controversial. Philosophers have views, but there's almost always disagreement amongst philosophers on almost all philosophical topics. This one is no exception. That said if you were to take a poll these days, I'm pretty confident that at least among philosophers in the "analytic" tradition (very roughly: influenced by formal logic, science, careful attention to language and meaning...), you'd find that most don't think there can be consciousness without a body to embody it. This is largely because the more we learn about the workings of the mind, the more we see that it's intimately connected with the functioning of the brain. Turning briefly to one of your examples: suppose a bit of information were taped to the top of a tall object in an...

Is it possible for the constituent parts of a conscious being to be conscious themselves? Can I infer from the fact that I am conscious that the cells which make up my body are not conscious?

It's possible that the constituents of a conscious being might be conscious, though there's no strong reason to think that it's true. Some philosophers have speculated that there are primitive little events or occasions of experience that, when arranged properly, make up minds like ours, though this isn't a popular view. Perhaps a little less odd is the possibility that each hemisphere of your brain contains a separate stream of consciousness. The philosopher Derek Parfit (among others) has had some interesting things to say about this based on evidence from cases of people whose corpus callosum (the bundle of nerves connecting the two hemispheres of the brain) has been cut. Whether this would be a case of one conscious being with parts that are also conscious is harder to say. In any case, from the fact that you are conscious, nothing follows one way or the other about whether your cells are. To infer that they must be would be to commit the fallacy of division. To infer that they must not...

Are animals self aware?

I am an animal, and I am at least intermittently self-aware, so yes. But I'm guessing you wanted to know whether non-human animals are self-aware. We could spend some time trying to sort out exactly what counts as self-awareness, and that would be a lengthy though worthwhile exercise. But the short and plausible answer is that some are and some (perhaps most) aren't. One reason to think that some are comes from research with mirrors. Some elephants and some chimps, at least, seem to be able to figure out that what they're seeing in a mirror is their own reflection. You can read a short account of some of the research here .

Does the individual consciousness depend on the actual atoms or only on the configuration of the atoms? Suppose we have mastered cryo-freezing and atom-manipulation technology. We can freeze and unfreeze people at will. We freeze Sarah. We replace Sarah's atoms one by one. With all atoms replaced, we wake her up. Is it the "same" Sarah? (the same to herself, not just to us). Thanks, Mario

Let's call the being that results from all this replacement Sarah2 . We can ask a pair of questions that seem different. One is whether Sarah2's conscious states will be like Sarah's. I agree with Mark that the answer to that question is yes; at least, it's hard to see why it would be no. But we can ask another question that seems to a different one: is Sarah2 the same person as Sarah? That's a lot more controversial. A comparison, based on an example by Peter van Inwagen: Suppose little Johnny builds a house from a small number of blocks and leaves it in the middle of the floor. And suppose that I come in and clumsily kick the house over. If I re-arrange the blocks in exactly the same way, then the house I assemble will be indistinguishable from the one Johnny built, but it's not so clear that it's literally the same house. And if I actually replace the blocks with new ones that are just like the old ones, then it's even less clear. So if we cryo-freeze Sarah, interrupting her normal...