Synopsis

The Mind

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, how it occurs, and why it occurs. This contrasts with 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, how they occur, and why they occur. What is 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 bafflingwhat is their nature, how and why 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, 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.

The Basic Theory of the Mind

Based on the wealth of scientific evidence and concepts, this theory has been formed. Its essence is 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 occurs, exists, and functions with the brain (Chapter 1) and that it is the composite of all neural information-processing processes (Chapter 2).

The mind is a composite of neural information processing processes

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

We are just informational entities, ever processing information and living on the informational side of the universe.”

Figure 1. The mind is an information-processing entity.

Because the mind is a composite of neural information-processing processes, it is an informational entity. This non-material entity is composed of information and information processing. Because the information processing processes that form the mind are innumerable 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 composed of elementary particles and their interactions, which constitute conventional physical entities (or mechanical entities) like mass, energy, or force. That is why the mind is so different from conventional physical entities. (Chapter 2).

2. Qualia—mental phenomena that appear phenomenally in our mind and that we can consciously experience, such as the vision of a house, the sound of a song, and the odor of a rose in our mind (Figure 2)—are physical phenomena. They are governed by physical laws and are physically predictable.

Qualia

Figure 2. Qualia are mental phenomena that we can consciously experience in our minds.

Specifically, they are neural-process–associated physical phenomena. (Chapters 3 & 4)

[Quick proof ⇒ Qualia are physical phenomena]

3. 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, called special signaling patterns. (Chapter 5)

“If we open our eyes and experience visual qualia occurring right in front of us now, 

with the fact that we can experience qualia only if the brain can experience the qualia,

it is inescapable to conclude that we are, in fact, experiencing neural signaling patterns

because the only things the brain can experience—read and process—are neural signaling patterns!”

[Quick proof ⇒ Qualia are signaling patterns]

Because neural-process signaling patterns are neural information, qualia are special kinds of neural information—information in specialized forms that, when read by neural processes, are interpreted as phenomenal qualia or qualia that appear phenomenally in our mind (Figure 3).

Special signaling pattern

Figure 3. A general signaling pattern (A) for a visual perception of a house has information meaning “House” together with its physical characteristics (such as its width, length, height, luminosity, and colors). Thus, when a neural process reads it, the reading neural process will get only information about “House” and its physical characteristics but not information about what the house looks like. But a special signaling pattern (B) for a visual perception of the same house has information meaning “House and what the house looks like” together with its physical characteristics. Consequently, when a certain neural process reads it, the reading neural process will get information about “House and what the house looks like—or a quale of the house” and its physical characteristics. Thus, “House and what the house looks like—or a quale of the house” naturally and inevitably occurs in the reading neural process, and the brain.

Like the mind, qualia are non-material, informational entities, not mechanical entities. The fact that qualia are neural signaling patterns 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 processes to be qualia. (Chapter 5)

4. 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 neural-process signaling state is neural information, consciousness is a special kind of neural information—information in a specialized form that, when read by the consciousness neural process itself by the process of reentrant signaling, is interpreted as phenomenal consciousness or consciousness that appears phenomenally in our minds (Figure 4).

A special reentrant signaling state

Figure 4. A special signaling state of a visual perception of a house has information meaning “conscious awareness and experience of what the house looks like.” Thus, when the consciousness neural process reads it by the process of reentrant signaling, the consciousness neural process will get information about “conscious awareness and experience of what the house looks like.” Consequently, “conscious awareness and experience of what the house looks like” or phenomenal consciousness of the house naturally and inevitably occurs in the consciousness neural process, and the brain.

Like the mind and qualia, consciousness is a non-material, informational entity, not a mechanical entity. The fact that consciousness is a signaling state 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 the consciousness neural process’s signaling state, which 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)

5. 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)

6. Because a neural process that performs a certain function (such as perceiving a vision) without a quale occurring and a neural process that performs that same function (such as perceiving the same vision) with a quale 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.

Figure 5. Different signaling patterns have different meanings and different 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. (Chapter 5)

Similarly, it can be concluded that consciousness (conscious awareness and conscious experiences) has physical effects. (Chapter 6)

Therefore, qualia and consciousness are evolved neural functions that have physical effects.

7. 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, such 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—are thus 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 do qualia and consciousness in the form of phenomenal qualia and 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? (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)

In conclusion:

We—our minds, qualia, and consciousness—exist

to increase the survival chance of our species

… and ourselves.

You—your mind, qualia, and consciousness—exist

 to increase the survival chance of your species

… and yourself.

The above summarizes the principal concepts of the theory but is just part of the theory. Other subjects of the theory include subsidiary theories, the explanatory gap, the hard problem, variable qualia, p-zombies, self, and free will.


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