("20 minutes and a blackboard")
Given the broad range of my subject, it is very difficult to cover it adequately within the confines of this mission. My conclusions are the result of 40 years of independent thought. Let me try to sketch some of the major lines of my ideas however. Interested readers are referred to the MS itself, (available on the web page), for a detailed treatment. I offer a combination of three original hypotheses as a basis for resolving the mind-brain problem. I believe this is the first solution yet proposed that is not a prevarication of the issues. I think it is the first scientific account of consciousness.
This conclusion introduces an intolerable dilemma, however. Is our ordinary experience, are our ordinary perceptions then not real? I am not suggesting this. What I do suggest however is that from the specific standpoint of science the most commensurable and plausible conclusion is that they are virtual and not representative. This immediately devolves into the question of the reality and nature of scientific knowledge itself. Heinrich Hertz once reflected that the essential function of science was to "predict future". But the "future" it had to predict and correlate with was specifically future experience, (experimental results), not future ontic, (i.e. absolute), reality. Certainly scientific knowledge is real, and just as surely experience is real. That both must correlate with absolute reality is our most basic assumption. It is not basic that that correlation be representative however. This is what modern physics has concluded as well. It is the basic conundrum of modern science, and, I argue with the contemporary biologists Maturana, Freeman, Edelman, et al, that it is the crucial issue in the mind-brain problem as well. My conclusion radically simplifies the rest of the mind-brain problem. Its dilemmas are no longer insuperable.
Because of the level of necessary biological complexity, a representational interface was not practicable for the "evolutionary engineer" and would be in actual conflict with the optimization of performance which was "his" primary goal. Nor is "knowing" commensurable with what we know of the spatially and temporally distributed bio-mechanical process of the brain. I believe this problem, ("the binding problem"), is actually unsolvable given the context in which it is framed. On this latter subject I largely agree with Dennett's position.
"Emergence" is the only answer that ordinary science can give for an actual existence of "mind". It is a poor answer however. Its deficiencies are closely tied to the nature of theoretical reduction -as argued, (contrarily), at length, for instance, by Patricia Churchland, one of the proponents of emergence. If a theory can be fully reduced into another however, then all events of the reduced theory can be explained as events of the reducing theory. But then the reduced theory, (assuming that it is still viable), is just a convenience and contributes nothing new to the explanation. "Water", (in a common example used to support emergence), is surely different in properties than hydrogen and oxygen. However any property that can be attributed to it can be derived, (at least in theory), from the atomic properties of the latter and the atomic theory of which they are a part. The basic dilemma for "mind" in a physical context, however, derives from the spatial and material nature of the physical brain itself. Brain process is spatially and temporally "spread out" and constitutes , (from the standpoint of physics), a pure mechanism. "Mind" cannot escape the distributed mechanism in which it is grounded, nor can emergence contribute something so fundamentally foreign and extraneous to the physical theory which reduces it as a unified "consciousness" -i.e a simultaneous knowing. If mind theory can be reduced to brain theory, (as it surely must be), then mind in our normal, "Cartesian Theater" sense must fall. Churchland does not want to admit this, but Dennett captured the essential truth. Occam's razor cuts very deep here. Dennett had it almost right: the only possibility for "mind" in our ordinary sense was to him specifically a logical one. I agree, but find his logic inadequate to the fundamental problem. But to say that the problem is unsolvable in this frame is not to say that it is unsolvable in another!
II. Second Hypothesis :
How can there be "knowing" without a distinct "knower"? How can logic and thinking exist beyond simple sensory abstraction? How can there be a wholeness of perspective and knowing -i.e. a "Cartesian theater"? My second thesis approaches the problem from a direction radically different from that of my first proposal and offers a solution to the specifically logical dilemmas of sentiency. (This is a specifically logical problem.) Its implications ultimately confirm and enlarge my first thesis. I begin by proposing an extension to classical logic similar to but beyond that proposed by Ernst Cassirer and somewhat similar to that recently proposed by George Lakoff. These arguments attack the universal applicability and adequacy of set-theoretic, property-based classical logic. Specifically they challenge its supposed foundations to our working formal logical concepts and categories. Cassirer argued moreover that the classical formulation of the logical concept has long been inadequate to its actual use in modern science. He argued for a new foundation of the logical concept based in connective rules, (rather than abstraction), instead . (The rule of a mathematical series is a reasonable example.) Science does not ignore a necessary property even when the intersection of its specific expression is empty.( See Consciousness: A Simpler Approach to the Mind-Body Problem .) He argued that the modern scientific concept is grounded instead in rules of functions or series across properties rather than in an identity, (a commonality), of properties. The modern scientific concept subsumes the classical concept only as the special case -the identity case- of the constant function, (metaphorically: f(x) =3, for all x.). I have extended Cassirer's argument through an incorporation of the landmark mathematician David Hilbert's thesis of "implicit definition" in abstract mathematics to arrive at what I believe is the most comprehensive formulation of the fundamental logical concept: "the Concept of Implicit Definition", (C.I.D.). It, like Cassirer's logical concept, is also rule based. The rule of the concept of implicit definition, however, is the conjunction of a system of axioms.
What is unique and important about it for our problem is that it does not require an "outside" input or reference to define an object. Its objects are specifically resolutions of its own rule: i.e. they are "implicitly defined". They, like the objects of abstract mathematical axiom systems, are "known to" it specifically because they are an operative "part of" it and referentially autonomous. (This was Hilbert's thesis.) It opens a wholly new conceptual possibility thereby that did not exist before and exposes the first logical opportunity for a "mind" in our normal, "Cartesian Theater", (simultaneous), sense. It opens the only possibility yet proposed for a logical validation of a wholeness and a unity in mind which is the core of our normal demand on "sentiency". It also supplies a genuine and autonomous theory of meaning.
I now propose a biological correlate. By identifying the "rule" of the brain, (which now, since Cassirer's proposal, specifies a unique logical concept), with the rule of "structural coupling" of the human organism, (after Maturana and Varela's profound characterization of ultimate biological response), then "mind" may now reasonably be defined as the specific "concept" of the brain. Given that the rule is of the specific structure of my extended concept, (C.I.D.), however, (and this is my second hypothesis), then it becomes a "constitutive" concept in the sense of Immanuel Kant, and not an ordinary concept. It is a concept necessary to -inbuilt into- our cognition, (in the exact sense that Kant used the word), not one imposed upon it . It is not something with which we conceive; it is the "we" which conceives. And it knows its "objects"! But those objects, to the extent it knows them, are operative objects of the system only. They are not referential objects.
Combining the results of my first two theses, I then assert a concordance. My second chapter makes the case that it is only by considering our objects as specifically operative logical objects, as objects implicitly defined by the system, that the wholeness and the logical autonomy of sentiency is possible. Referential objects do not convey the same possibility. My first chapter made the case that it is only as virtual objects, objects of the system of control, that the profound difficulties of megacellular response may be overcome. Again, referential objects do not convey the same possibility. The objects of the first, purely biological and operative thesis are thus commensurable with the objects of the second, purely logical and cognitive thesis. They are each objects of the system! I propose that we identify them with each other!
But biology affirms the correlation. From an evolutionary perspective, human logic itself must be taken as a strictly biological, evolutionarily derived rule of response, as must the "concepts" and "categories" within it. From the standpoint of modern science, logic can no longer be taken as "God-given", or "God-knowledgeable". It is more than plausible, therefore, for biology to identify that human "logic", (that bio-logic), with the rules governing the "objects" of the cognitive GUI of the first hypothesis.
The importance of the concordance is that it gives us a new paradigm, a new context within which biological, and specifically neural process might for the first time be scientifically correlated with the specifics of the mind, (in a scientific psychiatry, for example). My answer implies that the correlation must be modular and mathematical. It must be axiomatic! If my thesis is valid, this constitutes a new and powerful scientific paradigm for the whole of the science. I have tentatively proposed a few possible general schemas wherein that might be accomplished. (I have discussed a possible correlation with the work of Walter Freeman in "Mind: a Simpler Approach..." on the web page that might turn out to be much more specific.) That those correlations are as yet somewhat nebulous should not be taken as evidence of a lack of content, (or that my thesis is therefore ultimately non-falsifiable), as this situation is exactly what we should expect at this early stage. Copernicus, (at the beginning of modern physics for instance), faced precisely the same problem. How could he explain even simple motion? Future precision, like Galileo's and Kepler's, needed an overall context wherein it might be formulated and the context itself refined. Without that formative context, their work was not possible at all. I do not claim to be Copernicus, but I do believe that the respective positions of our theories, vis-a-vis the contemporary science of our days, is similar in nature.
What I have outlined thus far constitutes the core of my specifically scientific thesis and marks a natural stopping point for the interest of pragmatic empirical researchers. It remains for me, however, to demonstrate a rationale for a non-referential model still useful to an organism: i.e. a possibility for schematism not based in sensory abstraction. More deeply, it remains for me to demonstrate an epistemology wherein my thesis is not patently self-contradictory as the very language in which it is stated is that of reference and absolute existence. These answers are necessary, even for the empirical scientist, so that he might entertain this new context of possibility in good conscience. Let me now sketch the broad outlines of my proposed solutions to these problems.
III. The Necessary Epistemology
It was perceptively objected to my first thesis once that "even schematism represents only a level of abstraction". I say "perceptively" only because this reviewer realized the importance of the issue. Cassirer's extension to the classical concept, (and Lakoff's as well), exposes why this is not necessarily so. The rigid "hierarchy", (i.e. nesting), of concepts within classical logic, (and which lies at the bottom of that reviewer's objection), does not necessarily follow in the enlarged possibility of an expanded logic. Neither genus-building, ("abstraction"), nor speciation necessarily involves containment or hierarchy. (See my "Afterward: Lakoff / Edelman for a succinct treatment of the issue. I have also shown a contemporary illustration of this enlarged perspective on modeling using Edelman's theoretical model of the brain -specifically in his "global mapping" -see my Chapter 1).
The deeper problem deals with the seeming self-contradiction of my conception, and its apparent semi-solipsistic conclusion. My third and fourth chapters deal with the enormous epistemological difficulties of my main thesis, (concordance). If it is true, then how can we as organisms relate to actual reality? The short answer is that we relate to it through a wholly operative algorithm, (human cognition), and not an informational one just as Bohr proposed to be the case for quantum physics. Modern physics has already reached a very comparable conclusion. Its world is not our naïve world, even in abstraction. The Newtonian, "billiard ball" world, (after Penrose's characterization), no longer exists for it. Modern biology, comparably, suggests that organisms do not know and can never know -indeed do not need to know- the absolute reality in which they live. We, as human organisms, can never achieve a "God's eye view" of reality. As organisms, (again), how could we ever presume we could?
The long answer deals with how we, as realists, can accept such an answer. It must deal with the problem of how my thesis, being stated in the language of reference, need not be self contradictory thereby. My answer, like Putnam's and Lakoff's -and indeed, like Kant's- begins by isolating what we argue are the truly necessary components of our realism. For you and I to be able to reason together as realists, there are two fundamental tenets we must both accept:
2. The existence in just the same sense and force of "experience", (Kant's "intuition"). Without this we have no basis for preference between theories. (I call this tenet the realist "axiom of experience").
He begins with Hertz's reflections on the objects of science. Hertz maintained that the most important business of natural science is simply to enable us to foresee future experience!(It is a pragmatic business.) Science makes "inner fictions or symbols" of outward objects, (Hertz argued), and these symbols are "so constituted that the necessary logical consequences of the images are always images of the necessary natural consequences of the imaged objects". But this "image", (though still couched in the language of the "copy theory" of knowledge as Cassirer expressed it), now expresses a general intellectual condition. Its importance lies in its specifically logical consequences. Its value lies not in the reflection of a given existence, but in what it accomplishes as a logical instrument of knowledge. Hertz said it very clearly:
(Consider P.S. Churchland on the subject:
"It emerged that the meaning", (my emphasis), "of the most respectable of theoretical terms was defined implicitly by the theory the terms figured in, not by the empirical consequences of the theory. Terms such as 'force field', 'energy', and 'electromagnetic radiation' were prime examples where meaning was a function of the embedding theory and where operational definitions were laughable. ....Whole theories have empirical consequences, and it is whole theories that are the basic units of meaning", (my emphasis), " -not terms, not sentences, and not subparts of the network. To be acceptable as an account of nature, a theoretical network must, as a whole, touch an observational base, but not every acceptable sentence or term in the network must do so." (P.S. Churchland, 1986, pps. 265-266)But, Cassirer argues further, if the object of knowledge can be defined only through the medium of a particular logical and conceptual structure, then the existence of a variety of media would correspond to various, differing structures of the object of science itself and to various meanings for "objective" relations themselves. The actual existence of such a variety of media, Cassirer asserts, is already the case. The branches of physical science : biology, chemistry, physics are themselves distinct and differing logical media. They are differing logical media, ("symbolic forms"), whose objects are therefore not commensurable. This is the essence of Cassirer's theory of "Symbolic Forms", (in many ways resembling Lakoff's theory of "Idealized Cognitive Models", [ICM's], proposed recently which affirms an incommensurability of objects as well.)
Even in 'nature', (Cassirer argues), the physical object will not coincide absolutely with the chemical object, nor the chemical with the biological -because physical, chemical, biological knowledge frame their questions each from its own particular standpoint and, in accordance with this standpoint, subject the phenomena to a special interpretation and formation. (Though Cassirer argued from an antiquated version of biology, Maturana's contemporary case for biology is particularly transparent and pertinent in this regard -i.e. in the autonomy of its phenomenology.) "The One Being", (the ultimate thing, i.e. the metaphysical object ), Cassirer concluded, "which thought seems unable to relinquish without destroying its own form, eludes cognition. "With this critical insight ... science renounces its aspiration and its claim to an 'immediate' grasp and communication of reality."
It is the phenomena, (experience), not metaphysical reference, that is the fulcrum and which reunifies this relativity of scientific perspectives and objects. The individual forms do not refer to (metaphysical) reality, their objects are not referential images of reality nor even abstractions of such. Theyare the multiplicitous logical organizations of experience! They allow us to foresee the future , (i.e. future experience). The metaphysical object has become "a mere X"! "The more its metaphysical unity as a 'thing in itself' is asserted,", (i.e. outside of a particular logical framework of theoretical science), "the more it evades all possibility of scientific knowledge, until at last it is relegated entirely to the sphere of the unknowable. It is the realm of phenomena, "the true sphere of the knowable with its enduring multiplicity, finiteness and relativity", on which science stands.
Ordinary Naturalism, (dogmatic materialism), he maintains, confuses a particular organization, (mathematical physics), with the phenomena themselves which are organized. That is the basis of materialism's assertion of reference -and its so-called "scientific realism". The "objects", (the organizational primitives -i.e. "images"), of one particular form are assumed incorrectly to reference ontology -to relate to "an ultimate metaphysical unity". It is an improper assignment of unique metaphysical reference rather than a legitimate judgment of empirical, (i.e. experiential), adequacy for the primitives of the theory.
Cassirer's thesis provides the necessary link to resolve the difficulties raised by my first and second hypotheses which, combined, constitute my actual scientific assertion of concordance. We do not need to know reality, (indeed we cannot know it), we need to deal with it. My own thesis, though framed in ordinary objectivist terms, can still legitimately question the absolute reference of those terms. It is itself part of a symbolic form whose value, like the value of any symbolic form, lies strictly in its ability to predict future (scientific) experience. Cassirer's is a deep rationale, admittedly, but it fits wonderfully with the perspective of modern physics.
My short form answer is that materialism has gone too far. It has gone from being the basis of a superb and wonderfully productive theory of science into a "religious" dogma. It purports to know the essence of reality, not just to explain and predict phenomena. "Material" itself need not necessarily be taken as ontic however. It may instead be taken as an element of a specific symbolic form. This would be a relativized "materialism"!
The long form answer is (necessarily, given my thesis), highly abstract and based in fundamentals. It is based in the two "axioms of realism" I propounded above. Realism, by definition, must accept two basic postulates as truly metaphysical, ontological postulates, (metaphysical existence postulates):
(1) the actual metaphysical/ontological existence of
externality and also
(2) the real metaphysical/ontological existence of experience.
But for these two postulates to have any meaning, there is a presupposition: the existence in that same sense –i.e. (3) the real metaphysical/ontological existence of some connection between the two. (It need not be a simplistic connection, however.) This is the existence that Kant did not mention but which is implicit in his writings. That interconnection, that relationship between the two, is what I will call "interface". That that particular existence, (of the interface), must be described in context free terms -that we cannot describe it from a particular perspective -is the lesson of Cassirer's Symbolic Forms. It is that abstract, that invariant and ontological concept of interface itself whose existence we must also posit as realists and that is what I propose "mind" to be. Assuming, moreover, that it were structured in the way that I have proposed under the concept of implicit definition, (and this is my third hypothesis), then it supplies the actual reality and the metaphysical/ontological existence of mind in all our normal senses of the word. Mind truly exists. We are sentient. We are truly conscious. The mind-body problem is solved.
Knowing, in the sense of scientific knowing, is about knowing future experience; it is not about knowing ultimate reality. The latter is actually contrary to the sense of science. Dennett stands correct here. ("Nature does not build epistemic engines..."; Consciousness Explained , p.382) But could we not believe that the world of science actually does mirror absolute reality? Sure we could, but it would border on the miraculous from the standpoint of that very science. It becomes, then, an act of faith -and a very profound act of faith. So also stands our belief in the truth of our naive world -its reality is also such an act of faith. As Kant himself once argued, however, there does remain room for faith, and we had best recognize the fact. It, (faith), is a legitimate intellectual commodity!
Note: That there remain significant difficulties to my thesis is to be expected at this early stage. There are profound difficulties remaining in logic, and particularly in the mathematics in which the latter is grounded for instance. But given the uncertainty in the foundations of contemporary mathematics, this may not be a negative point but a pointer towards future developments. I take a long view of history.
[RETURN TO "VIRTUAL REALITY" HOMEPAGE]