Chapter 2

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

 

2.1. The nature of the mind and mental processes

In the previous chapter, it is proved that the mind is part of the functioning brain and that mental processes are part of neural processes, but what part of the functioning brain and neural processes are the mind and mental processes, and what is the nature of them? For the mind, one possibility is that it is an additional entity that occurs separately from the physical 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 physical brain at the same location. On the contrary, it is also possible that the mind is an entity that occurs intrinsically in the functioning physical brain with no additional entity occurring, like the information that occurs and circulates intrinsically in the functioning integrated circuit (IC) with no additional entity occurring. As the mind is composed of mental processes and as 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 and what part of the neural process is the mental process.

A neural process is the part of a neural circuit that functions to process signals in the circuit – it is the signal-processing process of the neural circuit (see D5 in Introduction & Definitions). Seemingly, this signal-processing process is composed of only a physical process that is the processing of physical electrical/electrochemical (E/EC) signals. But it is undeniable that a non-material process that is a mental process occurs in this signal-processing process too. Therefore, there must be a non-material process that is not easily noticeable occurring in the physical process also to be the mental process. There are two possibilities of how this can happen. The first possibility is that a mental process is a non-material entity that occurs separately and additionally to the physical process, like the soul and the body in the discussion above. The second possibility is that a mental process is a non-material entity that occurs intrinsically in the physical process but is not easily discernible, like the information in the functioning IC discussed above, and we shall have to find out what it is.

To itemize them, the two possibilities that mental process functionally occurs in relation to its neural process are:

Possibility 1. A mental process occurs separately from the physical process of its neural process as an additional entity. Thus, its functions and effects are separate from those of the physical process. But it somehow functions in unity with the physical process so that it is part of the whole neural process.

Possibility 2. A mental process occurs intrinsically in the physical process of its neural process with no additional entity occurring. Thus, its functions and effects are intrinsically part of the physical process’s. So, it naturally functions in unity with the physical process and is thus naturally part of the whole 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 us examine the physical properties of the proposed mental processes in the two possibilities, one by one.

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

Suppose a mental process is an entity, M (Figure 2.1), that functionally occurs separately from the physical process of 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 that needs a new hypothesis to describe its nature.

PM1.2. The functions of M must be signal processing. But if M functionally occurs separately from the physical process, which processes electrical/electrochemical (E/EC) signals, then the signals that M processes cannot E/EC signals. Thus, many questions will arise, such as what is the nature of signals that M uses in processing; where does M get those signals from; if it is the physical process that sends signals to M, how can the physical process send signals that are not E/EC signals; how can the physical process send such signals to the functionally separated M, how can the physical process do that instantaneously and continuously while it functions, and how can the physical process receive such signals back from M so that it can function with 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. But if M is an entity that functionally occurs separately from the physical process, then what is the mechanism that keeps it anatomically fixed with the physical process and thus with its neural process? When the head moves, no matter which way or how fast, how can M follows the physical process and its neural process correctly and so perfectly that they seem to be one?

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 physical process, how can the physical process produce it? The physical 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 physical 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 physical process – why not independently of the physical process – and how does it create M to exist with the physical 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 to only the physical process, what is the mechanism that makes it occur and exist with the physical 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 the physical 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 all the time?

P.M2.4. M’s abilities must depend on its neural process’s abilities. But if M is a functionally separate entity from the physical 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 the physical 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 the physical 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 and simultaneously 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 simultaneously 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 the physical process, as discussed in PM1.2. and PM2.3. above, how can it get information from the physical process, or if it does not get information from the physical process, how and where can it get information that can be as intensive as that of the physical process?

PM2.8. M’s activities must be associated with electromagnetic activities. If M’s position can somehow be fixed at its neural process (PM2.1.), then this property can be fulfilled because M will always be associated with its neural process’s electromagnetic activities.

So, the possibility that a mental process is an entity that functionally occurs separately from the physical process of its neural process as an additional entity but is able to have all the required properties of mental processes and to retain a functional unity with the physical 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.

Next, let’s examine Possibility 2.

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

If a mental process occurs intrinsically in the physical process of its neural process with no additional entity occurring, then there must be some non-material process occurring intrinsically in the physical process to be the mental process. But can a physical process have a non-material process occurring intrinsically in it? If we examine the physical process of a neural process thoroughly, we shall find that, indeed, it can.

When the physical process of a neural process (which, to emphasize, is a signal-processing process) is functioning, the physical E/EC signals will be circulated and processed in the neural circuit. But, the fact is that, non-materially, the information that is inherent in the physical signals will always be circulated and processed concomitantly in the neural circuit too. This is because the information is the inherent, non-material aspect of the physical signals and because the physical signals are the inseparable, physical aspect of the information. Therefore, the physical signaling process is actually composed of two parts. The first one is the obvious, physical part: the processing of physical E/EC signals. The other one is the inconspicuous, non-material part: the processing of the non-material information that is inherent in the physical signals. Both parts of the signal-processing process – the physical part, which is the electrical/electrochemical-signal-processing process (EPP), and the non-material part, which is the information–processing process (IPP) – are inseparable and cannot occur independently of each other. Each is just a different but complementary aspect of its neural process: the EPP is the physical aspect while the IPP is the informational aspect of its neural process. Because the EPP is material, the mental process, which is non-material, cannot be the EPP. On the contrary, because the IPP is non-material, the mental process can be the IPP. If we verify this concept with all the mental processes, which perform sensory and perception functions, integrative functions, and response or output functions, we will find that all mental processes’ functions are indeed about information processing. Therefore, it is possible that the mental process is the IPP (the information-processing process), which is the intrinsic, non-material, informational part of the physical process of the neural process or, in short, the informational aspect of the neural process. (Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2 An intrinsically occurring IPP

Now, we have to check whether this possibility (that a mental process is the IPP of a neural process)  is correct or not. If a mental process is the IPP of a neural process, then the IPP must have all the physical properties of a mental process; otherwise, a mental process cannot be the IPP. Does the IPP have all the required properties? This can be verified as follows:

PM1.1. The IPP’s nature must be non-material. This property is satisfied because the IPP is non-material, as discussed above. And, because the nature of the IPP is obvious – its nature is an information processing process – no additional hypothesis is needed to describe the nature of a mental process.

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 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, as discussed above, so its location must be at its neural process. This is why a mental process is always at the same place as it neural process, no matter which way or how fast the head moves.

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. This is why a mental process never occurs or exists with anything else.

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. This is why a mental process has only the information that its neural process has and never has information that its neural process does not have.

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 its abilities depend on those of its neural process. This is why a mental process can do only what its neural process can and cannot do what its neural process cannot.

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 its capacities depend on those of its neural process. This is why a mental process can do something with limited capacities like its neural process and cannot do anything exceeding the capacities of its 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. This is why a mental process cannot remain unchanged when its neural process changes and why a mental process cannot change if its neural process does not change.

PM2.7. The IPP’s processing capabilities must be fast, dynamic, and information-intensive. This property is satisfied because the IPP is an intrinsic part of its neural process, which has fast, dynamic, and information-intensive capabilities by its nature. This is why a mental process’s processing capabilities is bound to be fast, dynamic, and information-intensive like its neural process and cannot become slow, inert, and information-deprived by itself even if it tries to.

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. This is why a mental process’s activities are always associated with electromagnetic activities and cannot occur without associated electromagnetic activities.

Evidently, the IPP completely has the physical properties of a mental process. Now, this may not be enough for the IPP to be the entity that the mental process is. We have to check whether the IPP has the functional properties of the mental process, i.e., whether it can function to do or to be as the mental process can, too. This can be checked as follows: Because a mental process is part of its neural process (Theorem I), what a mental process can function to do or to be depends on its neural process’s abilities, capacities, and information. But, because the IPP is an informational aspect of the whole neural process, not just an informational aspect of a partial portion of the neural process, its abilities, capacities, and information are the same as those of its whole neural process. Therefore, what a mental process can function to do or to be, the IPP can function to do or to be 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 (the informational aspect of the neural process) occurs privately in an individual as its neural process does 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 abilities, capacities, and information 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 the physical process of the neural process and that a mental process is the IPP, which is an entity that functionally occurs intrinsically in the physical process of the 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. If this unknown entity can explain something or has the potential to explain something about the mental process more than the IPP can, it is logical and necessary to invent this entity. But, at present, there is no evidence that this unknown entity can explain anything or has the potential to explain anything about the mental process more than the IPP can. On the contrary, the IPP has all the required properties of a mental process without having to formulate additional hypotheses to support its existence. It is thus illogical and unnecessary to forge an unknown entity to be the mental process 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

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 human mind are innumerable in number and involve information that ranges from simple to very advanced (such as the complex visual perception, the complex problem-solving thought, and the complex command of motor movement), the human mind is an informational entity in a highly advanced form.

In conclusion, 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, as noted in the previous section, because the mind is an information-processing entity, it is an informational entity – a non-material entity that is composed of information and information processing – 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 basically 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 (which will be called M-neural process) and the mechanical part of the functioning brain (which will be called 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 electric 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 identically valid for the IPP and the mental process of that EPP: the changes that occur in the EPP and those 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

It may be against the feeling or belief of some people that the mind is not a novel entity or not a separate entity from the brain. So, 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 this something else 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 the IPPs do not. Thus, not only must M’ have all the already listed 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 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 series “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.

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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.

 

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References

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