Welcome to mindtheory.net. This site is the principal site for “The Basic Theory of the Mind”, which is a physical theory about the mind and its phenomena, such as consciousness and qualia. It also involves related matters, including the hard problem of consciousness, different qualia, p-zombies, self, and free will. The theory is a scientifically verifiable theory – it is based on physical evidence and has experimentally testable predictions.
The mind is one thing that has always fascinated and puzzled us. It is the only thing that we can be certain of existing, yet, apparently, we do not know exactly what it is, why it occurs, and how it occurs. This is in contrast to things outside the mind, such as houses, cars, and even other people, which we cannot be certain that they really exist – they may be just illusions – yet, apparently, we know what they are, why they occur, and how they occur. What’s more, the phenomena of qualia and consciousness, such as the red color as it appears phenomenally red in our mind and our phenomenal conscious awareness and experience of that red color, have always been enigmatic – why and how do they occur, and cannot there be just the mind without them? Fortunately, with centuries of studying these matters, first by philosophers and later also by neurologists, neuroscientists, neuroradiologists, and other scientists in related fields, we now have a wealth of scientific evidence and concepts that are complete enough to form a theory that can answer these great puzzles.
Based on this wealth of scientific evidence and concepts, this theory has been formed. Its essence is as follows:
1. From the physical properties of the mind, it can be concluded that the mind is part of the functioning brain – it is not a functionally separate entity from the brain, but it is not identical with the brain, either. (Chapter 1)
2. From the physical properties of the mind and those of the information-processing processes of the brain, which are abstract, non-material processes, it can be concluded that the mind is the composite of the information-processing processes of the brain (Figure A). Because the information-processing processes are intrinsic entities in the brain, to explain the phenomenon of the mind, a novel or separate entity (Figure B) is not needed.
Because the mind is a composite of information-processing processes, it is an informational entity – a non-material entity that is composed of information and information processing, and because the information processing processes that form the mind are innumerable in number and involve information that ranges from simple to very advanced, the mind is an informational entity in a highly advanced form. Because the mind is a non-material, informational entity, it is not a conventional physical entity (or mechanical entity) like mass, energy, or force. That is why it is so different from the conventional physical entities. (Chapter 2)
3. Qualia or mental phenomena that we can consciously experience in our mind, such as the vision of a house, the sound of a song, and the odor of a rose in our mind, are physical phenomena. They are governed by physical laws and are physically predictable.
Specifically, they are neural-process associated physical phenomena. (Chapter 3 & 4)
4. From the physical properties of qualia and those of special kinds of neural-process signaling patterns, which are abstract and non-material, it can be concluded that qualia are special kinds of neural-process signaling patterns. Because neural-process signaling patterns are intrinsic entities in the brain, to explain the phenomena of qualia, neither novel nor separate entities are needed. (Chapter 5)
“If we look around and consciously experience the visual qualia occurring right in front of us now, with the facts that the consciousness can experience the visual qualia and that the only things the consciousness neural process is capable of reading are signaling patterns of neural processes, it is inescapable to conclude that we are, in fact, experiencing the signaling patterns of neural processes!”
Because neural-process signaling patterns are neural-process information, qualia are special kinds of neural-process information – information in a highly advanced form that can appear phenomenally in our mind. Like the mind, they are non-material, informational entities, not mechanical entities. (Chapter 5)
5. From the physical properties of consciousness and those of a special kind of reentrant signaling state, which is abstract and non-material, it can be concluded that consciousness is a special kind of reentrant signaling state. Because a reentrant signaling state is an intrinsic entity in the brain, to explain the phenomenon of consciousness, a novel or separate entity is not needed.
Because a neural-process signaling state is the neural-process information, consciousness is a special kind of neural-process information – information in a highly advanced form that can create phenomenal consciousness, or consciousness that appears phenomenally in our mind. Like the mind and qualia, consciousness is a non-material, informational entity, not a mechanical entity. (Chapter 6)
6. The fact that qualia and conscious awareness and experiences of the qualia occur in only the final-stage sensory perception and the highest-level cognitive and executive neural processes, which are the latest-evolved neural processes, and never occur in more primitive neural processes, such as the brainstem, cerebellum, and basal ganglia, or over the whole brain scatteredly indicates that they are not randomly occurring phenomena but are evolved functions of the nervous system. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
7. Because a neural process that performs a certain function without qualia occurring and a neural process that performs the same function with qualia occurring have different information in the processes, they have different signaling patterns (to convey different information). Therefore, they have different physical effects on other neural processes, at least from the different effects of different signaling patterns. Qualia thus have physical effects. Also, because we do have conscious awareness and experiences of qualia, qualia must unavoidably induce the consciousness neural process to create conscious awareness and experiences of themselves in the consciousness neural process; therefore, because the consciousness neural process is a physical process, qualia cause changes in a physical process and thus have physical effects.
Similarly, it can be concluded that consciousness (conscious awareness and experiences) has physical effects.
Therefore, qualia and consciousness are evolved neural functions that have physical effects. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
8. Because a function requires resources in building, maintaining, and operating the function and may have some negative effects, if its overall effects do not help increase the survival chance of the animals that have the function, those animals and the function will become extinct in the evolutionary process. The fact that qualia and consciousness still exist today indicates that they have been selected to remain in the evolutionary process. This means that their overall effects must help increase the survival chance of the species that have them. Qualia and consciousness, in the form that they are – phenomenal qualia and phenomenal consciousness, or qualia and consciousness that appear phenomenally in our mind – thus are evolved functions to help increase the survival chance of the species, including humans, that have them. This is the scientific answer to the hard problem of consciousness: why and how does consciousness in the form of phenomenal consciousness occur in this universe? (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
Therefore, “we” – our mind, qualia, and consciousness – exist
to increase the chance of our own survival
… and our own species.
“You” – your mind, qualia, and consciousness – exist
to increase the chance of your own survival
… and your own species.
The above summarizes the principal concepts of the theory but is just part of the theory. Other subjects of the theory include subsidiary theories, different qualia, p-zombies, self, and free will. The complete content of this site consists of Preface, Introduction and Definitions, Chapter 1 to 12, Conclusions, and Glossary, which are partitioned into separate chapters in this website.
> To Preface
N.B. The theory has been published and is available in a hardcover form.
Keywords: Mind, consciousness, qualia, the hard problem of consciousness
N.B. The hard problem of consciousness is answered in items 5 to 9.
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