Towards a Physics-based Cognitive Science: Reconceptualising the Problems of Consciousness


  • Carolina Czizek University of Vienna


Explaining consciousness has been one of the biggest challenges of human existence. In over 3,000 years of documented thinking, not much progress has been made in finding a satisfying definition. The ever-advancing increase in scientific disciplines has not made it easier, as each field has come up with its own definitions. This is especially relevant in the field of cognitive science.

The thesis aims towards the analysis of the most important conceptions of consciousness in the wider field of cognitive science, providing a theoretical, foundational meta-synthesis of consciousness, focussing on physical concepts. Since the leading disciplines are not yielding fully comprehensive frameworks, a physics-based approach is chosen to widen the discussion of consciousness into one of the most important natural sciences, possibly providing a more comprehensive approach to consciousness. First, the most important conceptions of consciousness and their different ‘problems’ within the field of cognitive science are investigated. Afterwards, psychedelic-research-inspired brain-theories, such as the entropic brain hypothesis [1] are scrutinised, emphasising the potential of implementing physical concepts into consciousness and brain research. The thesis thus provides a theoretical conceptual framework that introduces terminologies from the field of physics into cognitive science, allowing a reconceptualisation of consciousness with an added physical dimension. Third, theoretical and physical concepts of resonance are discussed to shift the focus to a neurophenomenological conception of resonance. Other physical frameworks are presented and contrasted to phenomenological states, among which there will be the 'connectome-harmonics’ [2] and the ‘resonance theory of consciousness’ [3]. The former reports that the functional networks of the human brain are predicted by harmonic wave patterns which are ubiquitous throughout nature. The latter suggests that consciousness is a product of various shared resonance frequencies.

The thesis concludes with an integration of these conceptions in the form of a physics-inspired cognitive science and its implications on different phenomenological states as well as providing possible empirical research suggestions to test these new theories.


[1] R. L. Carhart-Harris, "The entropic brain - revisited," Neuropharmacology, vol. 142, pp. 167-178, 2018. doi:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2018.03.010

[2] S. Atasoy, I. Donnelly, and J. Pearson, "Human brain networks function in connectome-specific harmonic waves," Nature Communications, vol. 7, p. 10340, 2016. doi:10.1038/ncomms10340

[3] T. Hunt and J. W. Schooler, "The Easy Part of the Hard Problem: A Resonance Theory of Consciousness," Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 13, p. 378, 2019. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00378