Preprint Article Version 3 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

The Meta-Dynamic Nature of Consciousness

Version 1 : Received: 10 March 2020 / Approved: 11 March 2020 / Online: 11 March 2020 (03:56:58 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 27 March 2020 / Approved: 29 March 2020 / Online: 29 March 2020 (11:56:10 CEST)
Version 3 : Received: 26 August 2020 / Approved: 27 August 2020 / Online: 27 August 2020 (08:27:28 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Barnden, J.A. The Meta-Dynamic Nature of Consciousness. Entropy 2020, 22, 1433. Barnden, J.A. The Meta-Dynamic Nature of Consciousness. Entropy 2020, 22, 1433.


How, if at all, consciousness can be part of the physical universe remains a baffling problem. This article outlines a new, developing philosophical theory of how it could do so, and offers a preliminary mathematical formulation of a physical grounding for key aspects of the theory. Because the philosophical side has radical elements, so does the physical-theory side. The philosophical side is radical, first, in proposing that the productivity or dynamism in the universe that many believe to be responsible for its systematic regularities is actually itself a physical constituent of the universe, along with more familiar entities. Indeed, it proposes that instances of dynamism can themselves take part in physical interactions with other entities, this interaction then being “meta-dynamism” (a type of meta-causation). Secondly, the theory is radical, and unique, in arguing that consciousness is necessarily partly constituted of meta-dynamic auto-sensitivity, in other words it must react via meta-dynamism to its own dynamism, and also in conjecturing that some specific form of this sensitivity is sufficient for and indeed constitutive of consciousness. The article proposes a way for physical laws to be modified to accommodate meta-dynamism, via the radical step of including elements that explicitly refer to dynamism itself. Additionally, laws become, explicitly, temporally non-local in referring directly to quantity values holding at times prior to a given instant of application of the law. The approach therefore implicitly brings in considerations about what information determines states. Because of the temporal non-locality, and also because of the deep connections between dynamism and time-flow, the approach also implicitly connects to the topic of entropy insofar as this is related to time.


consciousness; meta-causation; pre-reflective self-consciousness; physicalism; causal productivity; dynamism; laws of nature; laws of physics; temporal non-locality


Physical Sciences, Thermodynamics

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 27 August 2020
Commenter: John Barnden
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: The content of the paper has been developed in several major ways. There is more extensive temporal non-locality in the meta-dynamic provisions of the proposal:  laws can now refer explicitly to dynmism at past times. Mathematical toy system examples have been added, making the nature of the approach clearer. Many details of the mathematical approach have been revised, with a better treatment of dynamism intensities, and a more detailed account of the reflexivity inherent in the relationship between dynamism and other physical quantities. Some philosophjical arguments in the appendix have been improved or replaced.
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