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. 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, it can be proved that the mind is the information-processing processes of the brain. To explain the phenomenon of the mind, therefore, a novel entity is not needed. And because an information-processing entity can be considered to be a physical entity, this theory supports physicalism in this sense. (Chapter 2)
However, because the mind is an information-processing entity, it is an informational entity – an entity that is composed of information and/or information processing. It is not a conventional physical entity (or mechanical entity) like mass, energy, or force and is categorically different from them. The mind is thus in a different category from that of conventional physical entities. And this theory supports dualism in this sense. (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 neural-process associated physical phenomena. They are governed by physical laws and are physically predictable. (Chapter 4)
4. From the physical properties of qualia and those of special kinds of neural process signaling patterns, it can be concluded that qualia are special kinds of neural process signaling patterns. To explain the phenomena of qualia, no novel entities are needed. Qualia are just under-recognized parts (the signaling-pattern parts or the informational parts) of the well-recognized physical entities (the neural processes). (Chapter 5)
Because neural process signaling patterns are neural process information, qualia are special kinds of neural process information. Like the mind, they are informational entities. (Chapter 5)
5. From the physical properties of consciousness and those of a special kind of reentrant signaling state, it can be concluded that consciousness is a special kind of reentrant signaling state: it is the composite of all special reentrant signaling states.
Because a neural process signaling state is the neural process information, consciousness is a special kind of neural process information. Like the mind and qualia, consciousness is an informational 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. 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 qualia induce the consciousness neural process to create conscious awareness and experiences of themselves and 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 proved 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 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 – with phenomenal characteristics, 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 there is consciousness in the form of phenomenal consciousness. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
9. Because identical neural processes have identical mental processes and identical qualia, different 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. (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, and it is fundamental in the nature of this universe that there exist the mind, mental processes, qualia, and consciousness (conscious awareness and conscious experiences) in the informational part, that the mind and mental processes exist as the information-processing processes of neural processes, that qualia exist as the special signaling patterns of neural processes, and that consciousness exists as the composite of all special reentrant signaling states. And because of these fundamentals, we exist.
This Theory is just a basic theory that deals with basic concepts of the nature of the mind, 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 do neural processes learn to read the meaning of information 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 of all things can be viewed as the processing of information of those things, are all physical interactions basically kinds of information processing? If so, is the kind of entity that is us, 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.