Meeting 1.3: Mind and Matter

The science and religion reading group at MIT met for the third time on 9 October 2013.



Schrodinger, Erwin. “Mind and Matter” (1944). Chapters 3-4.


Summary: Lucas Mix presented his summary of Schrodinger’s argument


Two main (descriptive) principles of science: Understandability and Objectivation of Nature

Understandability is as it sounds, but may be weakened as the uncertainty principle threatens our ability to observe (physical) determinist causal relationships.

Objectivation: the process of excluding the “Subject of Cognizance” from its object in order to create objectivity.

–       Within this objective natural universe, one includes one’s own body.

–       The subject observes others’ bodies, but has no experience of their subjective consciousness.

–       Therefore, one infers that other consciousnesses are objective.

–       By extension one’s own consciousness is objective.  But this denies the premise.

 “The material world has only been constructed at the price of taking the self, that is, mind, out of it, removing it; mind is not part of it; obviously, therefore, it can neither act on it nor be acted on by any of its parts.” p.119

“we have not yet succeeded in elaborating a fairly understandable outlook without retiring our own mind, the producer of the world picture, from it, so that mind has no place in it.” p.137

Against the common “where is mind in nature?” argument, Schrodinger asserts we only have qualia and have constructed nature (aka the objective universe) out of subjective cloth.  Nature may only be constructed in a mind.  One may as well ask “where is the play in Hamlet?”

Similarly, because our model of the universe has a POV behind the eyes, we assume the observer must be within the skull, but that is the same as assuming your avatar is just outside the computer screen.


What are we to make of other subjects?

We can only conceive of one subject, despite appearances of multiple minds and sub-minds.  This suggests that the idea of unitary minds may be mistaken.



Discussion focused on creating meaningful understandings of the principles o understandability and objectivation.  Lucas saw them as common, clear assumptions in science, but was unable to communicate them unambiguously.  Discussion centered on:


What is meant by understandability? It could be a claim that

–       someone somewhere could, in theory, hold knowledge of the external universe

–       someone somewhere has had such knowledge

–       I could, in theory, hold such knowledge

–       I do hold such knowledge

–       a person could hold all such knowledge


If knowledge of the external world is possible, by what means?


Is scientific knowing differentiable from other knowing?


What is the relationship between the observer (Subject of Cognizance) and the associated body?  Is it identity?  Can it be identity?


In what way can we say we have knowledge of our own qualia?

            Can you observe yourself observing?


Is it possible to have knowledge of other people’s qualia?

            Can you infer other observers? 

Can you observe other people’s qualia scientifically?


We discussed the inter-relatedness (possible inter-relatedness) of these questions and realized there were some gaps in communication that warranted further discussion on the topic.



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