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We present a model of a fundamental property of consciousness as the capacity of a system to opt among presented alternatives. Any system possessing this capacity is “conscious” in some degree, whether or not it has the higher capacity of reflecting on its opting. We argue that quantum systems, composed of microphysical particles, as studied by quantum mechanics, possess this quality in a protomental form. That is, such particles display the capacity to opt among alternatives, even though they lack the ability to experience or communicate their experiences. Human consciousness stands at the opposite end of the hierarchy of conscious life forms as the most sophisticated system of which we have direct acquaintance. We contend that it shares the common characteristic of a system capable of opting among alternatives. Because the fundamental property of consciousness is shared by human beings and the constituents of elementary matter in the universe, our model of consciousness can be considered as a modified form of panpsychism.
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Keywords: Sartre and spontaneity; freedom; hierarchy of matter; models of consciousness; opting from alternatives; panpsychism; quantum mechanics; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: ( ~religion/) is a professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Iowa, 314 Gilmore Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242;, Email: [email protected], URL: 2: Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa, 203 Van Allen Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 June 2008

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