The nature of the mind, qualia, and consciousness has been a great puzzle for mankind for a long time. Fortunately, with the continuous effort in unraveling their nature with all kinds of investigations, both mental and instrumental, for centuries, we now have a wealth of evidence, knowledge, and concepts to answer 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:
- 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)
- The mind and the information-processing part of the brain have identical properties; therefore, they are the identical entity: the mind is the information-processing part of the brain.To explain the phenomenon of the mind, a novel entity is not needed; only the correct point of view to see the unobvious part, the informational part, of the obvious entity is. The mind is the informational part of the brain; it is an informational entity, not the conventional physical entities like mass, energy, or forces, and is in the informational category, a different category from that of the conventional physical entities. That is why it is so different from the conventional physical entities. (Chapter 2)
- 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, are physical phenomena.(Chapter 4)
- Qualia and some special forms of signaling patterns – special signaling patterns or SSPs – of neural processes have identical properties; therefore, they are the identical entities: qualia are special forms of signaling patterns of neural processes. Because signaling patterns of neural processes are information of the neural processes, qualia are special form of information of neural processes.To explain the phenomena of qualia, no novel entities are needed. Qualia are just under-recognized parts (the signaling-pattern parts or the information part) of the well-recognized physical entities (the neural processes). (Chapter 5)
- Consciousness (conscious awareness and experience) and the composite reentrant signaling state of special signaling patterns have identical properties; therefore, they are the same entity: consciousness is the composite reentrant signaling state of special signaling patterns. (Chapter 6)
- 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 require 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. It can be proved similarly that consciousness has physical effects. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
- The fact that qualia and conscious awareness and conscious experiences of them 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, indicates that they are results of nervous system evolution. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
- The fact that it took more than two billion years after life had appeared on earth and hundreds of millions of years after the nervous system had developed before neural processes that were advanced enough to create qualia and consciousness could emerge into existence also means that qualia and consciousness came into existence because of no other cause than evolution. (Chapter 5 & Chapter 6)
- The fact that qualia and consciousness still exist today indicates that they have been selected to remain in the evolutionary process. This means that they must have helped increase the chance of survival of animals that have them. Qualia and consciousness thus are the evolved functions to help increase the chance of survival of animals, including humans, that have them. (Chapter 5 & 6)
- Because identical neural processes have identical mental processes and identical qualia, different qualia are not physically possible. (Chapter 7 & Chapter 9)Therefore, 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 as defined by the philosophical definition of a p-zombie. (Chapter 7 & Chapter 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.
- Mental interactions are physical processes. (Chapter 8)
And the fundamental nature of this universe can be concluded as follows:
- It is fundamental in the nature of this universe that there exist mind, consciousness, qualia, and related phenomena.
- It is fundamental in the nature of this universe that mind, consciousness, qualia, and related phenomena can occur in the neural processes of the brain.
- It is fundamental in the nature of signaling patterns of neural processes that some of them – the special signaling patterns – can be qualia.
- It is fundamental in the nature of signaling states of neural processes that some of them – the special forms of reentrant signaling state of special signaling patterns – can be the consciousness (conscious awareness and conscious experiences).
This Theory is just a basic theory that deals with basic concepts of the nature of the mind, consciousness, and qualia. It is a mere one step in understanding this great puzzle. There still is a lot of problems to be solved to understand their nature completely:
Technical problems – What are the principal characteristics of neural circuits and neural processes that can create qualia? What are the principal characteristics of signaling patterns that are qualia? What are the principal characteristics of a neural process that can create consciousness (conscious awareness and experiences)? What are the principal characteristics of signaling states that are consciousness (conscious awareness and experiences)? How do neural processes encode specific information in their signaling patterns and signaling states, such as how do they encode 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 in the signaling patterns and signaling states? Is this ability inherent in their nature without having to learn from experiences or is it experience-induced ability? – Do signaling in other systems, such as electronic systems, have the ability to be qualia and consciousness? 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?
Thus, there is 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 is finally proved by experiments to be only partially correct or even incorrect, creates some new concepts and offers some new directions in investigating this important matter of our lives and helps advance 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.
Aug 18, 2018