The nature of the mind, qualia, and consciousness has been a great puzzle for mankind for a long time. Fortunately, with continuous effort in unraveling their nature with all kinds of investigations for centuries, we now have a wealth of evidence, knowledge, and concepts to resolve this great puzzle. The final key is the detailed examination of their physical properties. When this is done, the nature of these puzzling entities is finally revealed. This has been put into theorems in this theory. Some of the theory’s essences, conclusions # 1 to #8, have been listed on the portal page of this website and will be reiterated here with other conclusions (#9 to #12) and the concluding remarks. They are as follows:
1. From the physical properties of the mind and those of the brain (the alive, processing brain), it can be concluded that the mind always occurs, exists, and functions with the brain and that the brain always occurs, exists, and functions with the mind. Both never occur alone without the other. They are a unity. Each is the intrinsic, equivalent, but different (non-material vs material) aspect of this unity. (Chapter 1)
2. From the physical properties of the mind and those of the brain’s information-processing processes, which are non-material processes, it can be concluded that the mind is the composite of the information-processing processes of the brain. Because the information-processing processes are intrinsic entities in the brain, to explain the phenomenon of the mind, a novel entity or a separate entity from the brain 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. But, because information and information-processing processes are physical entities, the mind, which is an informational entity, is also a physical entity; therefore, physicalism is true in this sense – that everything, including the mind, is physical. Yet, an information entity is categorically different from a conventional physical entity (or mechanical entity); thus, there are two basically different classes of entities in this universe, and dualism is true in this sense. (Chapter 2)
3. Qualia or phenomenal qualia, the mental phenomena that we can consciously experience and that appear phenomenally 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 neural information 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 neural processes of the brain, to explain the phenomena of qualia, neither novel entities nor separate entities from the brain are needed. (Chapter 5)
Because neural-process signaling patterns are neural information, qualia are special kinds of neural information – neural information in specialized forms that, when read by neural processes, are interpreted to be entities with phenomenal appearances or qualia that appear phenomenally in our mind. Like the mind, they are non-material, informational entities, not mechanical entities. And this answers the hard problem of qualia and bridges the explanatory gap of how non-material phenomenal qualia can arise from material neural processes: non-material phenomenal qualia are neural signaling patterns, which always exist intrinsically in material neural processes – no novel non-material entities arise or emerge from material neural process to be qualia. (Chapter 5)
5. From the physical properties of consciousness and those of a special kind of reentrant signaling state, which is the neural information of the consciousness neural process and is non-material, it can be concluded that consciousness is a special kind of reentrant signaling state. Because a special reentrant signaling state is an intrinsic entity in the consciousness neural process, to explain the phenomenon of consciousness, a novel or separate entity from the consciousness neural process is not needed.
Because a neural-process signaling state is neural information, consciousness is a special kind of neural information – neural information in a specialized form that, when read by the consciousness neural process itself by the process of reentrant signaling, is interpreted to be entities with phenomenal appearances or consciousness that appears phenomenally in our mind. Like the mind and qualia, consciousness is a non-material, informational entity, not a mechanical entity. And this answers the hard problem of consciousness and bridges the explanatory gap of how non-material phenomenal consciousness can arise from the material consciousness neural process: non-material phenomenal consciousness is a signaling state that always exists intrinsically in the material consciousness neural process – no novel, non-material entity arises or emerges from the material consciousness neural process to be consciousness. (Chapter 6)
6. The fact that qualia and conscious awareness and conscious experiences of the qualia occur in only the final-stage sensory perception neural processes and the highest-level cognitive and executive neural processes, which are the latest-evolved neural processes, and never occur in the 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 conscious experiences of qualia, qualia must certainly induce the consciousness neural process to function to be consciously aware of and to consciously experience the qualia; 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 conscious 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 likely become extinct in the evolutionary process. This is especially true for a major function in a critical organ as in the case of qualia and consciousness in the brain. 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 other part of the hard problem of consciousness: why does consciousness in the form of phenomenal consciousness occur in this universe? This is also the scientific answer to one of the most basic questions of our lives: why do “we” exist? “We” – our mind, qualia, and consciousness – exist to increase the chance of our own survival and our own species. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
9. Because identical neural processes have identical mental processes and identical qualia, variable qualia are not physically possible. (Chapter 7 & Chapter 9) Also, beings that have identical neural processes to humans’ must have identical mental processes and identical qualia to humans’ – this negates the physical existence of p-zombies (philosophical zombies). (Chapter 7 & Chapter 10)
10. Different neural processes have different mental processes and different qualia. Identical mental processes and identical qualia require identical neural processes. Different mental processes and different qualia require different neural processes. (Chapter 7)
11. Mental interactions are physical processes; they are neural signal transmissions among neural processes. (Chapter 8)
12. It is fundamental in the nature of this universe that it consists of two complementary and inseparable parts – the mechanical part and the informational part. Also, it is fundamental in the nature of this universe that there exists information in the forms of the mind and mental processes, qualia, and consciousness (conscious awareness and conscious experiences) in the informational part, and that these forms are the information-processing processes of neural processes, special signaling patterns of neural processes, and the composite of all special reentrant signaling states, respectively. And by these fundamentals, we – the mind and mental processes, qualia, and consciousness exist. This is the scientific answer to one of the most basic questions of our lives: how do “we” exist?
This Theory is just a basic theory that deals with basic concepts of the nature of the mind and mental processes, qualia, and consciousness. It is a mere one step in understanding this great puzzle. There are still a lot of problems to be solved to understand it completely. For example:
Technical problems – What are the exact characteristics of neural circuits and neural processes that can create qualia? What are the exact characteristics of signaling patterns that are qualia? What are the exact characteristics of a neural circuit and neural process that can create consciousness (conscious awareness and experiences)? What are the exact characteristics of signaling states that are consciousness (conscious awareness and experiences)? How do neural processes encode information in their signaling patterns and signaling states to be qualia, conscious awareness, and conscious experiences of colors, sounds, thoughts, emotions, volitional motor controls, etc.?
Fundamental problems – How can neural processes know the meaning of the signaling patterns and signaling states? Is this ability inherent in their nature without having to learn from experiences or is it experience-induced? From the basic properties of signaling patterns and signaling states, can we predict the characteristics of signaling patterns and signaling states that are qualia and consciousness? Does signaling in other systems, such as electronic systems, have the ability to be qualia and consciousness? Is this theory, in fact, applicable to not only animals with a nervous system but also every system that processes signals or information? As all physical interactions between things can be viewed as the processing of information between those things, are all physical interactions basically kinds of information processing? If so, is this kind of entity – the informational entity, which the mind, qualia, and consciousness are – inherent in all physical interactions and thus actually pervading this universe entirely since the beginning of this universe, with us just an evolved complex form of it?
Thus, there are a lot of questions that this theory does not address. However, the author hopes that this theory, even if it is not complete and even if it may prove to be flawed, creates some new concepts and offers some new directions in investigating this great matter of our lives and helps advance the understanding of this important problem in science.
The author would like to thank Naruepol (https://www.facebook.com/Artbigstudio/) who helped draw many illustrations in this theory.
Also, the author is grateful to PubMed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed), which has been the important source of a lot of valuable publications, to various informative websites on the internet, and to all the authors who have published their works that I have used as resources and references.
Finally, this Theory would not have been finished without the internet and search engines, so I feel much obliged to those who created these beneficial instruments for mankind and me.
Oct 18, 2018
In the end, it can be concluded that we are just information-processing entities on the informational side of the universe.
We are here because it is basically possible to have us in this universe and because we help increase the chance of our own survival
… and our own species.
You are here to help increase the chance of your own survival
… and your own species.