Recent Proposal for Freedom of the Will and Consciousness


Dr. Mir Faizal is an Adjunct Professor in Physics and Astronomy at the University of Lethbridge and a Visiting Professor in Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan.

One of the more interesting colleagues, for me, is quantum cosmologist and string theorist professor Mir Faizal. I am always keen to have conversations on a wide range of subject matter with him, including cosmology and consciousness.

Recently, in the International Journal of Geometric Methods in Modern Physics, he published a solo article entitled “Quantifying consciousness using quantum uncertainty in the brain.”

The paper on consciousness has been published. He makes the basic premise assumption of the undefinability of consciousness followed by the quantifiability of freedom of the will. In that, with quantum uncertainty, there is a proportional increase with coupling, so Faizal argues, with neurological complexity.

Perhaps, this terminology could be extended to computational complexity, as the premise is quantifiability, then the quantifiable more readily accessibly to colloquial expression comes in the form of computation rather than neurology.

In neurology, as a discipline, the premise is something of gross anatomy and examination in contrast to neuroscience, for example, where precision and process reign supreme. Computation covers the big and the small in one as a more generic and generally applicable term.

The real intriguing aspects of the proposal in the paper are the seemingly bold assertions of two items. One, the existence of freedom of the will. Two, the possibility to quantify the degree of freedom of the will.

One of the implications of such a view is the finite form of freedom of the will derived from the argument. As Faizal describes, he sees a direct relationship between consciousness and free will. In that, if an organism is more conscious, then the organism has more free will.

He sees free will as something related to a deep idea of ontological lack of information. As he has described to me, there is an epistemological form of a lack of information. For example, when we think about something in the ordinary world, the way in which we know things inevitably leads to a lack of information.

As epistemology is how we know, it is in the way in which we know that we derive a lack of information. You may have some information about an archaeological dig. However, you have some general coordinates, and then begin the dig and search for the buried remnants. There’s a there to be discovered with the quality of the discovery depending on the epistemology.

Or think of the scientific method, its general methodology leads to a lack of information because of its epistemology, but the empirical knowledge exists. It’s an epistemological lack of information. As to how the universe seems fundamentally, it appears to lack information about itself.

At bottom, the universe, in some manner, lacks sufficient internal information to communicate with itself entirely. In this sense, we come to an ontological lack of information. Where, the way we know isn’t the issue, epistemological lack of information, but the way the universe is, is the problem, ontological lack of information.

In this way, it doesn’t have to do with how you know, your epistemology, because, fundamentally, you will not have complete access to the universe; no matter the precise epistemology or way of knowing applied.

According to Faizal, the more information lacked, then the more freedom of will, which, as he interprets, the more consciousness connected to the system. Furthermore, as an example, with only a particle and two holes, there is an ontological lack of information about the end-point of the particle in terms of which of the two tubes.

To Faizal, this can be considered freedom of the will. If considered as a closed system, then this can be considered a system with the property of freedom of the will and, in turn, quantifiable freedom of the will.

Any further systems with more holes added would mean more freedom of the will due to ontological lack of information rather than epistemological lack of information. Faizal’s argument for freedom of the will is highly interesting due to its foundational thinking, as in ontology, where the basic premise is more rigid in its fundaments.

In that, it doesn’t matter how much one changes the system of knowing, because the freedom of the will links to the basic nature of the world as a consequence of how the world operates quantum mechanically, a specialty for him.

Here, the higher the degree of lack of ontological information, i.e., the more holes, then the more freedom of the will for the system. Quantifiable freedom of the will, where 2-hole systems have less free will than 3-hole systems, than 4-hole systems, and so on, to the nth-hole systems.

He argues that the classical uncertainty is epistemologically true and the quantum mechanical uncertainty is ontologically true. In this interpretation, Faizal argues two things: 1) free will exists, and 2) free will is calculable, as per the above example and reasoning.

He couples the increases in quantum uncertainty with more complexity of a system, including “neurological complexity” or computational complexity, with more free will. Think about it in this manner, the more complexity, neurologically or computationally, amounts to more holes “to the nth-hole,” which means more uncertainty grows with more cognition and so more freedom of the will in the system.

This would not count as a classical formulation of the freedom of the will with an infinite capacity for change of an agent. It would not define the “spirit” or “soul” of an organism, or even assume such an extra-corporeal entity, so as to argue for that which would be free in and of itself as if the organism was a puppet on the spirit’s freely willing strings.

With larger brains, there will be more complexity, more neurological complexity, and more computational complexity, so more quantum uncertainty and, therefore, more freedom of the will in the system.

Faizal, following from the above reasoning, argues for more free will directly following from larger consciousness, so neither free will nor consciousness are illusions. He argues for metaphysical implications of such an argument, for which few true models fit.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash


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