Chapter 2

Theorem II: The Mind is the Composite of All Information-processing Processes of the Brain

 

2.1. The possibilities of the nature of a mental process

What is the nature of the mind and mental processes? For the mind, one possibility is that the mind is an additional entity that occurs separately from the functioning brain, like the soul (in many beliefs) that is envisioned to be a separate, additional entity to the physical body. However, it is to be noted that the separation in this case must be a functional separation, not an anatomical separation, because it has been proved in Chapter 1 that the mind occurs and exists with the functioning brain at the same location. On the contrary, it is also possible that the mind is an entity that occurs intrinsically in the functioning brain with no additional entity occurring, like the information that occurs and circulates intrinsically in the functioning integrated circuit with no additional entity occurring. As the mind is composed of mental processes and the brain is composed of neural processes, to simplify the investigation of this matter, we will investigate this problem by examining the possibility of how a mental process occurs in relation to its neural process. Like the case of the mind just discussed, there are two possibilities of how, functionally, a mental process occurs in relation to its neural process:

Possibility 1. A mental process occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity. Thus, its functions and effects are separate from those of its neural process, but it retains functional unity with its neural process so that it seems to be part of its neural process.

Possibility 2. A mental process occurs intrinsically in its neural process with no additional entity occurring. Thus, its functions and effects are intrinsically part of its neural process’s functions and effects, and it is naturally in functional unity with its neural process.

Now, the mean to identify which possibility is correct is to examine the physical properties of the proposed mental process in each possibility. This is because anything that is a mental process must have all the physical properties of a mental process, which are the same as the properties of the mind and mental processes discussed in the previous chapter. They are listed here again, as follows:

Physical properties of a mental process (PM)

PM1. Required physical properties

PM1.1. Its nature is non-material.

PM1.2. Its functions are signal processing.

PM2. Observed physical properties

PM2.1. Its location is at its neural process.

PM2.2. Its occurrence and existence are with its neural process.

PM2.3. Its information is part of its neural process’s information.

PM2.4. Its abilities depend on its neural process’s abilities.

PM2.5. Its capacities depend on its neural process’s capacities.

PM2.6. Its changes are with its neural process.

PM2.7. Its processing capabilities are fast, dynamic, and information-intensive.

PM2.8. Its activities are associated with electromagnetic activities.

 

Now, let’s examine the physical properties of the proposed mental processes in the two possibilities, one by one.

   Possibility 1: A mental process occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity.

Suppose a mental process is an entity, M (Figure 2.1), that functionally occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity.

Figure 2.1 A functionally separate, additional entity M

PM1.1. The nature of M must be non-material, but what is the exact nature of this non-material entity M? Up to the present time, there is no answer to this question. So, at present, M is an unknown entity.

PM1.2. The functions of M must be signal processing. But if M functionally occurs separately from its neural process, then the signals that M processes cannot be electrical/electrochemical (E/EC) signals. Therefore, many questions will arise, such as what is the kind of signals that M uses in processing; where does M get those signals from; if it is the neural process that sends signals to M, how can its neural process send signals that are not E/EC signals; how can its neural process send such signals to the functionally separated M, how can its neural process do that instantaneously and continuously, and how can its neural process receive such signals back from M?

(For a separate entity M to send its signals or information to a neural process, it must be able to affect millions of neurons in the neural process correctly and accurately, that is, it must be able to affect billions of neural membrane channels and synaptic channels at correct positions, at a precise time, and in a correct way so that appropriate depolarizations occur and result in appropriate signals circulating in the neural process in a precisely correct pattern. How can M know about these exact details, and how can M carry out such effects? See more discussion of this matter in Chapter 8.)

PM2.1. M’s position must be at its neural process. It is clear that M has this property.

PM2.2. M’s occurrence and existence must be with its neural process. The question of M’s occurrence is how does M occur? If M occurs from the neural process, how can the neural process produce it? A neural process does not have apparatus to produce anything that can contain signals, except E/EC signaling patterns. But if M does not occur from the neural process, then what creates it? And if there is something that creates M, questions will arise, such as what creates that thing, what is the nature of that thing, how can that thing create M, and why does it create M only in association with the neural process – why not independently of the neural process – and how does it create M to exist with its neural process correctly both spatially and temporally? Or if M occurs from nothing by itself, many questions will also arise, such as how can it do that, what is the mechanism that ties its occurrences with only its neural processes, what is the mechanism that makes it occur and exist with its neural process correctly both spatially and temporally?

PM2.3. M’s information must be part of its neural process’s information. But if M is a functionally separate entity from its neural process, its information needs not be part of its neural process’s information. Or if its information somehow matches with its neural process’s information so perfectly that it seems to be part of it, where and how does M get the information that can be or can seem to be part of its neural process’ information?

PM2.4. M’s abilities must depend on its neural process’s abilities. But if M is a functionally separate entity from its neural process, its abilities need not depend on those of its neural process. Or if its abilities somehow match with those of its neural process so perfectly that they seem to depend on them, how can it do that or what is the mechanism that keeps its abilities matching with those of its neural process all the time?

PM2.5. M’s capacities must depend on its neural process’s capacities. But if M is a functionally separate entity from its neural process, its capacities need not depend on those of its neural process. Or if its capacities somehow match with those of its neural process so perfectly that they seem to depend on them, how can it do that or what is the mechanism that keeps its capacities matching with those of its neural process all the time?

PM2.6. M’s changes must be with its neural process. But if M is a functionally separate entity from its neural process, it needs not change with its neural process.  Or if its changes somehow match with those of its neural process so perfectly that it seems to invariably change with its neural process, how can it do that or what is the mechanism that keeps its changes matching with those of its neural process all the time?

PM2.7. M’s processing capabilities must be fast, dynamic, and information-intensive. M can be fast and dynamic by its nature, but how can it be information-intensive. To be information-intensive, it must receive information from something. But if M is a functionally separate entity from its neural process, as discussed in PM1.2. and PM2.3. above, how can it get information from its neural process, or if it does not get information from its neural process, how and where can it get information that can be as intensive as that of its neural process?

PM2.8. M’s activities must be associated with electromagnetic activities. There is no evidence that this cannot be true because M’s position is at its neural process (PM2.1.) and because its neural process is always associated with electromagnetic activities.

So, the possibility that a mental process is an entity that functionally occurs separately from its neural process as an additional entity but is able to retain a functional unity with its neural process so that it seems to be part of its neural process has several critical questions that, at present, have no answers, and several new hypotheses are needed to support this hypothesis.

Now, let’s examine Possibility 2.

Possibility 2: A mental process occurs intrinsically in its neural process with no additional entity occurring.

If a mental process occurs intrinsically in its neural process with no additional entity occurring, then it must be some intrinsic part of the neural process, which is the signal-processing process of the neural circuit. But which intrinsic part of the signal-processing process is the mental process? The signal-processing process itself is composed of two intrinsic parts. The first one is the obvious, mechanical part: the processing of physical E/EC signals. The other one is the inconspicuous, informational part: the processing of the information that is inherent in the physical signals. In reality, when the signal-processing process is going on, not only the E/EC signals are being circulated and processed in the process but the inherent information is being circulated and processed in the process concomitantly as well. Both parts of the signal-processing process – the mechanical part, which is the electrical/electrochemical-signal-processing process (EPP), and the informational part, which is the information–processing process (IPP) – are inseparable; they are the other aspect of the other and cannot occur independently of each other. Because the EPP is material, the mental process, which is non-material, cannot be the EPP. On the contrary, because the IPP is informational and thus is non-material, the mental process can be the IPP. Therefore, it is possible that the mental process is the informational part of the neural process – the information-processing process (IPP) (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 An intrinsically occurring IPP

Now, let’s examine the physical properties of the IPP to see whether it has all the physical properties of a mental process.

PM1.1. The IPP’s nature must be non-material. This property is satisfied because the IPP is non-material, as discussed in the paragraph above.

PM1.2. The IPP’s functions must be signal processing. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of the signal-processing process, as discussed in the paragraph above.

PM2.1. The IPP’s location must be at its neural process. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of the signal-processing process, which is the neural process, so its location must be at its neural process.

PM2.2. The IPP’s occurrence and existence must be with its neural process. These properties are satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of the neural process, so its occurrence and existence must be with its neural process.

PM2.3. The IPP’s information must be part of its neural process’s information. This property is satisfied because the IPP itself is the informational part of its neural process. Moreover, information-wise, its information is all the information of the neural process.

PM2.4. The IPP’s abilities must depend on its neural process’s abilities. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of the neural process, so what it can do depends on what its neural process can. But it should be noted that, information-wise, its information-processing abilities are all the information-processing abilities of the neural process.

PM2.5. The IPP’s capacities must depend on its neural process’s capacities. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of the neural process, so the limitations of what it can do depend on the limitations of what its neural process can. Again, it should be noted that, information-wise, its information-processing capacities are all the information-processing capacities of the neural process.

PM2.6. The IPP’s changes must be with its neural process. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of its neural process, so its changes must be with its neural process.

PM2.7. The IPP’s processing capabilities must be fast, dynamic, and information-intensive. This property is satisfied because the IPP is the information-processing process, which has fast, dynamic, and information-intensive capabilities by its nature.

PM2.8. The IPP’s activities are associated with electromagnetic activities. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of the neural process and because a neural process is always associated with electromagnetic activities.

Evidently, the IPP completely has the physical properties of a mental process. Because of this and because what a mental process can function to do depends on its physical properties, what a mental process can function to do, the IPP can function to do as well. Thus, for the functional properties that some philosophers believe are the properties of the mind and mental processes, such as such as being private, subjective, intentional, representational, etc. [1-6], the IPP has these properties too. For example, because the IPP (which is part of a neural process) occurs privately in an individual, like the mental process of that neural process, and because only that individual is the subject who experiences it, the IPP is certainly private and subjective, like the mental process. Similarly, if a mental process of a certain neural process is a representation of something, then the IPP of that neural process is certainly a representation of that thing too because the IPP has the same information as the mental process does. And, if it can be proved that a mental process of a certain neural process is intentional by some arguments, then the IPP, which has the same physical properties as the mental process does, can also be proved to be intentional by the same arguments. Therefore, in all aspects, both physical and functional, the IPP has the same properties as the mental process does.

2.2. Theorem II

Thus, there are two possibilities – that a mental process is an entity that functionally occurs separately and additionally to its neural process and that a mental process is the IPP, which is an entity that functionally occurs intrinsically in its neural process. However, the former hypothesis has to devise an unknown entity and needs several additional hypotheses to explain how it can have the “must have” physical properties of a mental process, as discussed above. As, at present, there is no evidence that this unknown entity can explain anything about the mental process more than the IPP can, it is unnecessary to invent this unknown entity and rational to conclude that the IPP is the mental process. Therefore, this theory asserts this as Theorem II:

Theorem II: A mental process is the information-processing process of its neural process.

Generally, mental processes are the information-processing processes of their neural processes. Because the mind is the composite of all mental processes while the functioning brain is the composite of all neural processes, the mind is the composite of all information-processing processes of the functioning brain. However, because the information-processing processes always occur in a functioning brain, not in a non-functioning or dead brain, the term “functioning brain” can be stated simply as “brain”, without causing misconception. Theorem II regarding the mind can thus be specifically stated as:

Theorem II: The mind is the composite of all information-processing processes of the brain.

Figure 2.3 The mind

That is, the non-material entity that exists in an animal with a nervous system and that functions to sense, operate, and send signals is the composite of all information-processing processes of the brain (Figure 2.3A). To explain the phenomena of the mind, therefore, an unknown entity (Figure 2.3B) is not needed; only the correct point of view to see the unobvious part of the obvious entity – the information-processing part of the brain is.

2.3. Physicalism and dualism

Because the mind is part of the functioning brain (Theorem I), the mind is part of a physical entity. Moreover, because the mind is the composite of all information-processing processes of the brain (Theorem II), if we consider an information-processing entity to be a physical entity, then the mind is a physical entity. Therefore, in these senses, this theory supports physicalism [7-13], i.e., that everything is physical. However, because the mind is an information-processing entity, it is an informational entity – an entity that is composed of information – not a conventional physical entity like mass, energy, and force, which will be called mechanical entities in this theory. The mind is thus basically different from the mechanical entities, and that is why it is so different from them. Evidently, there are two different classes of entities in this universe, and, in this aspect, the universe consists of two parts: the mechanical part, which is the part of the universe that the mass, the energy, the forces, and other mechanical entities, including the mechanical part of the neural process (M-neural process) and the mechanical part of the functioning brain (M-functioning brain), exist; and the informational part, which is the part of the universe that the mind, the mental process, and other informational entities exist. Both parts are inseparable and complementary to each other, and complementary entities in both parts, such as the mental process and the M-neural process or the mind and the M-functioning brain, function mutually as one. Therefore, each part is not an epiphenomenon of its counterpart: the mental process is not an epiphenomenon of the M-neural process, and the mind is not an epiphenomenon of the M-functioning brain. Unlike an epiphenomenon, such as the sound from a working engine, which can be ridden of in a certain way without affecting the essential function of the engine (such as let the engine work in a vacuum to get rid of the sound),  the mental process cannot be ridden of from the M-neural process, and the mind cannot be ridden of from the M-functioning brain at all – there cannot be the M-neural process without the mental process, and there cannot be the M-functioning brain without the mind.  Moreover, it is not that the M-neural process and the M-functioning brain cause the mental process and the mind to occur and function according to them – they both occur and function together as one. The M-neural process and the M-functioning brain are just the mechanical side while the mental process and the mind are just the informational side of the same signaling process. It is the nature of this universe that there exist, not one, but two sides in the signaling process. Thus, this theory supports dualism [7,12,14-15] in the sense that there are not one but two basically different classes of entities in this universe; however, because they function mutually as one with their counterparts, this theory does not support dualism in the sense that there are two classes of entities that function independently of each other in this universe.

2.4. Implications

Because the E/EC-signal-processing process of the neural process, or the EPP, is the mechanical counterpart of the IPP, the physical characteristics of the EPP can be surrogates for the physical characteristics of the IPP. And because the mental process and the IPP are the same entity, the physical characteristics of the EPP can be taken to be surrogates for the mental process, too. Thus, by this theory, it must be possible to study (measure, monitor, compare, etc.) a mental process physically (qualitatively and quantitatively) by studying the physical characteristics of the EPP, such as the number of neurons participating in the signaling process, the details of the signaling pattern, the electrical and magnetic parameters of the signaling process. For example:

– The EPP characteristics, such as the signaling pattern, can be used to identify exactly what the mental process is occurring, such as what the exact visual image, thought, or emotion is occurring in the person’s mind.

– The EPP characteristics, such as the number of neurons participating in the signaling process or the electrical or magnetic parameters of the signaling process, can be used to objectively quantify and compare mental processes, such as to quantify how intense the pain feeling, anger emotion, or alertness that the person is experiencing is and to compare who is experiencing the pain or anger more.

Also, because the EPPs and the IPPs are inseparable, complementary to each other, and cannot occur independently of each other, anything that affects the EPPs will similarly affect the IPPs. Thus, they will always be created, changed, and destroyed similarly in all events and experiments. This can be the basis for experiments about the IPPs and mental processes by using the EPPs as surrogates.

2.5. Predictions

  1. A mental process can be identified, quantified, or monitored by identifying, quantifying, or monitoring only its EPP, respectively. These actions on the EPP are both necessary and sufficient for the corresponding actions on the mental process to occur, and these actions on anything else without having the actions on the EPP will not result in the corresponding actions on the mental process.
  2. A mental process can be created, modified, tested, or destroyed by creating, modifying, testing, or destroying only its EPP, respectively. These actions on the EPP are both necessary and sufficient for the corresponding actions on the mental process to occur, and these actions on anything else without having the actions on the EPP will not result in the corresponding actions on the mental process. Experimentally, isolated actions on the EPP, without having actions on anything else, can be done by electrical stimulations, magnetic stimulations, and pharmacologic agents that have effects on only the E/EC signal transmissions of the neural process (because the EPP consists of the E/EC signal transmissions among neurons of the neural process).
  3. In any event or experiment, all predictions that are valid for the EPP, such as that the EPP will occur, change, or disappear, will be valid for the IPP and the mental process of that EPP, and the changes that occur in the EPP and that occur in the IPP and the mental process of that EPP will be identical in all aspects (quality, quantity, temporal pattern, etc.). For example, if the EPP changes its function abruptly from processing visual signals of the static, faint, homogenous red color to processing visual signals of the dynamic, vivid, complex movie, the changes in the IPP and the mental process of that EPP will be identical in all aspects, such as identical changes from homogeneous color to complex movie (quality), from faint to vivid (quantity), and abruptly from static to dynamic (temporal pattern).

2.6. Remarks

Even with all the demonstrated evidence, some people may still insist that the mind is not the IPPs of the brain but is something else, let’s denote it with M’. If this is the case, then there must be some properties that differentiate M’ from the IPPs. These properties must be the mind’s properties, other than those listed at the beginning of this chapter, that M’ has but that the IPPs do not. Thus, not only must M’ have all the already listed physical properties of the mind but also it must have these additional, differentiating properties too. The questions are, other than the IPPs, what is the entity that has all the already listed physical properties of the mind and what are these additional, differentiating properties that will abrogate the IPPs as the entity that the mind is? As long as such an entity and such additional, differentiating properties are not identified and as long as the predictions pertaining to the assertion that the mind is the IPPs, as stated above, are true, it is illogical and useless to devise M’ or any other entity to be an entity that the mind is and logical to insist that the mind is the IPPs.

Also, it is to be noted that the idea that mental processes are caused by specific brain activation pattern is not a novel one. For example, Moutoussis K [4] wrote that “… a specific brain–activation pattern, leading to the formation of a specific percept. The Causal Theory of Perception (see Grice, 1961; Lewis, 1980; Snowdon, 1981) is a philosophical standpoint in harmony with this view …  specific, individual perceptual experiences are caused by specific, individual brain activation pattern …”. The idea that the mind and mental processes are just the signal-processing processes or a computational process device [16] is not novel either. For example, Roederer JG [17] stated that “when does a specific distribution of neural firings actually become a mental image? This neural activity distribution does not become anything—it is the image.”. These ideas are also evident even in sci-fi novels and movies. The movie “The Matrix”, for example, certainly based their plots on these principles. However, this theory proves this concept methodologically, and it specifically proves that a mental process is the neural process’s information-processing process and states it explicitly as a theorem.

Looking ahead

All the puzzles about the mind and mental processes are not yet completely solved. Theorem I and II are true for the mind and all mental processes. However, when the mind and mental processes function, sometimes there are mental phenomena called qualia and consciousness (conscious awareness and conscious experiences) occurring. What are these additional phenomena? Are Theorem I and II applicable to these phenomena as well, or are they different entities that need additional theorems? These questions will be answered in the following chapters.

—————————————

What happens when we see, hear, and feel things around us, experience moods, think of various things, and command our hands, lips, and body to move, if not information, information, and information are being processed.

We are just information-processing entities living on the informational side of the universe.

 

Next: Chapter 3 – Qualia and Conscious Awareness >

Back to Chapter 1 – Theorem I


References

  1. De Sousa A. Towards an integrative theory of consciousness: Part 1 (neurobiological and cognitive models).Mens Sana Monogr. 2013 Jan-Dec;11(1):100–150. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3653219/
  2. Fieser J. Chapter 3: Mind. Great Issues in Philosophy. Copyright 2008, updated 5/1/2016. https://www.utm.edu/staff/jfieser/class/120/3-mind.htm
  3. Jacob P. Zalta EN, editor. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition). Retrieved 2017 Apr 20 from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/intentionality/
  4. Moutoussis K. The machine behind the stage: A neurobiological approach toward theoretical issues of sensory perception. Front Psychol. 2016;7:1357. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5020606/
  5. Pernu TK. The five marks of the mental.Front Psychol. 2017;8:1084. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5500963/
  6. O’Madagain C. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 2017 Apr 20 from http://www.iep.utm.edu/intentio/
  7. Calef S. Dualism and mind. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 2018 May 3 from https://www.iep.utm.edu/dualism/
  8. Chambliss B. The mind-body problem. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2018 Jul;9(4): e1463. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1463. Epub 2018 May 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29727520
  9. Giannetti E. The possibility of physicalism. Dement Neuropsychol. 2011 Oct-Dec;5(4): 242–250. doi: 10.1590/S1980-57642011DN05040002. PMCID: PMC5619037. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5619037/
  10. Gillett C, Loewer B, editors. Physicalism and its Discontents. Cambridge University Press. 2001. Cambridge, United Kingdom. ISBN 0521801573 hardback. https://www.physicalism.com/physicalism-discontents.pdf
  11. Stoljar D. Physicalism. Zalta EN, editor. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition). Retrieved 2018 May 02 from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/physicalism
  12. Mind–body dualism. Retrieved 2018 May 01 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind%E2%80%93body_dualism
  13. Physicalism. Retrieved 2018 May 01 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism
  14. Robinson H. Dualism. Zalta EN, editor. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition). Retrieved 2018 May 02 from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/
  15. Zimmerman D. Dualism in the Philosophy of Mind. Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2nd edition. 2005. p113-122. http://fas-philosophy.rutgers.edu/zimmerman/Dualism.in.Mind.pdf
  16. Varvatsoulias G. Discussion on the claim that the human mind is a computational process device. Psychological Thought. 2014;7(2):127–133. doi:10.5964/psyct.v7i2.109. https://psyct.psychopen.eu/article/view/109/html
  17. Roederer JG.Pragmatic information in biology and physics. Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci. 2016 Mar 13;374(2063). PII: 20150152. http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/374/2063/20150152.long

 

Next: Chapter 3 – Qualia and Conscious Awareness >

Back to Chapter 1 – Theorem I

 

Previous editions:

Go to Chapter 2 (The original version) >

Go to Chapter 2 (The first edition) >