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Hypothesis for a New Understanding of Consciousness (Part 1)

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posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 04:57 AM
Ask a number of people for their definition of consciousness and you will receive a number of different definitions based on the perceptual bias of their weltanschauung (world view). I was no exception to this, but in pursuance of a plausible hypothesis that answered the age old philosophical ‘mind/body’ problem – how mind relates to body, I realised that an explanation of what consciousness is and how it arises would be integral to the answer?

The perception of our own individual consciousness is a self-evidential condition affirming our own individual existence. While we perceive ourselves in a state of consciousness we are self-affirming our own ‘being’, our own individual ‘aliveness’. However, being in a state of consciousness is not just about being awake and sentient, it is about having a ‘quale experience’ of the external world, the experience of ‘feeling’ what things in nature are ‘like’, and it is this part of the consciousness puzzle, the qualitative aspect of nature and existence that will be the last to fall to understanding. The Australian philosopher David Chalmers correctly identified this as the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness. (1)

What I am presenting here is not a scientific theory, but a hypothesis that brings about a ‘new’ understanding of consciousness that readjusts the kaleidoscope of consciousness theory to a more correctly orientated direction; a resetting of the compass if you will. It does not answer the hard problem, but may open up unthought-of avenues for further investigation and analysis.

I want to begin by restating the mind/body problem, and to zoom in on what its problem really is, to identify the real error. The real problem isn’t about how mind and body relate, but about perceiving how they do. Rather than looking for ways of relation, let us instead look at the ways of how we perceive.

Mind is said to be ‘immaterial’, whereas the body is ‘physical’. The latter is open to analysis and investigation, whereas the former isn’t so inclined. How can something immaterial affect and be affected by something that is physical, and vice versa? This question is central to the mind/body question, and is the reason why it has never been answered.

The error lies in the use of the word ‘immaterial’ and the thinking that mind is immaterial. Of course, if one is going to doubt that mind is immaterial then the other option is that mind is physical, the perceiving of which seemingly discounts this. If one was to discount both possibilities for mind, the question becomes does mind exist at all? However, perception says that it does, or rather that something we equate to mind does. What do we mean by immaterial?

The English Oxford dictionary gives the following definition…

adjective 1, unimportant under the circumstances; irrelevant: the difference in our ages is immaterial. 2. Philosophy: spiritual, rather than physical: we have immaterial souls.
Origin: late Middle English (in sense 2): from late Latin immaterialis, from in- 'not' + materialis 'relating to matter'.
…so, according to the Oxford dictionary, immaterial means not being material, having no substance or matter.

This definition is helpful, as it removes the error from the mind/body question, but to see how it does we have to further investigate why something considered ‘immaterial’ cannot relate to anything at all.

Why do I have a problem with the word ‘immaterial’? It’s because of the way I have come to think about it. I view immateriality has having no properties of interaction. If something can immaterially exist, it will be the last subjective expression of the complex processes and dynamics that bring it forth, and if this is so, it will not require interactive properties, because there will be no higher process or dynamic to interact with. Viewed in this way, immateriality is not an object or thing, but a condition. Immateriality is the inverse perception of physicality. We can conceive things to be immaterial because we firstly perceive things physical.

Space is immaterial, but the only reason why we can perceive space is because of the content in it. Space is spatial-ized by its content, but if space had no content we would not be able to perceive space, and have no conception of spatiality. These are the actual relations, relations of perceptibility.

In this context we can set a new relation for mind and body. We can say that mind is the quale experience of being conscious. We do not have a mind that is conscious, but a conscious we experientially perceive as mind. This is why the mind/body problem has never been solved. The mind truly is as immaterial as empty space, because it is nothing more than a mental mirage. It is not a ‘thing’, it is a perception. The philosophical question of how mind relates to body is answered…it relates only as a perception.

What we need to explore now is how consciousness arises out of the various processes and dynamics internal and external to the human body and brain? This is what this hypothesis contends itself with in part 2 (coming over the next few days).


posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 05:53 AM
reply to post by elysiumfire

Your "hypothesis" doesn't seem to address a "New Understanding of Consciousness".

It more so appears to be a conflict of semantics while attempting to establish context...??

Nonetheless, Part II may shed further light on the subject.

posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 06:51 AM
Hmm, interesting stuff. I'm typing, which is a physical process, being dictated by my thoughts. So can a physical thing have a non physical cause? Doesn't make sense that it could. So could the mind be non-physical? I think so. Through information.

Information is not material. It has no location in space and time. It is viewable through the lens of physicality as a correlation between the states of two physically separate things, though For instance, the bits on my hard drive in some place will be exactly correlated with the bits on your hard drive in another place, if we have the same MP3. The same thing is in two places at once. So its information.

Now suppose for the sake of thought experiment, (though its improbable) that a star somewhere out there has – I dunno – plasma flows or whatever at some point that are precisely correlated with all the firing of neurons in your mind, all the experiences of your life. Is your mind in two places at once? Or is information ABOUT your mind in two places at once? (note that if it were in two places at once, you would not be conscious of being the star, anymore than you are about the molecular arrangements in your visual cortex) That's the fundamental question. Is the mind made of information, or physical substance? In computer terms, is the mind the software, or the hardware?

If the mind is information, many things are possible. Hit a bunch of random keys on your number pad, give the resulting number a name, write it down, put it in your pocket and make it your friend. Then contemplate its story. Its probably showed up in Cray super computers calculating the weather, its been spelled out all over the planet in an encodings of molecules, its probably encoded in the DNA of things. Its been everywhere. And once that particular molecular arrangement dissipates, or the Cray deletes that calculation from memory, or that plant/animal dies its no longer there. But it lives on in other places, like your pocket.

So if you take something like the quantum many-universes model, and mix it with a model of mind that behaves like a number like that, we can imagine minds skipping around from universe to universe, correlating with different versions of ourselves, changing over time to correlating with slightly different physical selves in slightly different parallel universes, and experiencing it all as a continuous, normal life. That's quite a picture, with a lot of room for magic. (Implicit in that model is a funny idea – that if you can absolutely master your mind, your information form, than you can absolutely master your outer reality.)

Of course that's just a possibility. It could just be the human mind is a product of the physical body, but it is incapable of fully representing its physical existence. Not enough bits on the hard drive to represent the complete physical state of the hard drive down to its smallest parts. Either way we're in a pretty speculative space. You go down deep enough and the methods of knowing the answer fall apart.

posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 07:44 AM
reply to post by elysiumfire

If the mind is made of quantum fields created by neurons or is, in fact, a quantum field it could, in fact be immaterial - that's my opinion, at least.

Behaviorism was developed in psychology because studying properties of the mind, like feelings, emotions, senses (although an easier topic to handle, still subjective), was kind of hard.

I'm talking about momentary perception here. If we are talking about memories or beliefs or habits or known skills, those could easily be stored physically in the brain and accessed. But even then, they have to be perceived when they are accessed.

Also, there would have to be a way for the "immaterial" field to interact with the material brain, even if our mind was immaterial, I believe that at least parts of it still function in a material manner, like I mentioned earlier about memories.
edit on 16amSat, 16 Nov 2013 07:47:07 -0600kbamkAmerica/Chicago by darkbake because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 05:07 PM
Ah, this question inevitably leads the classic Philosophy of Mind debate between Dualism and Physicalism. It seems you are advocating a Physicalist view on the problem of consciousness, where we can explain the phenomenon of consciousness entirely within the physical realm. I do not define myself by being either Dualist or Physicalist, but nevertheless I have some ideas as to how we can explain consciousness through a Physicalist perspective.

The Two Minds Hypothesis
This is a hypothesis that Thomas Nagel presents in his article "Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness," and it addresses a recent scientific discovery that presents evidence that our brain has two separate "centers of consciousness": the left and right hemispheres. Nagel uses this scientific evidence as evidence for the idea that our bodies actually harbor two separate minds. I do not necessarily agree with his view because I do not want to concede that there exists an immaterial mind, but I do believe this hypothesis has potential.

I see this hypothesis as a way to advance a Biological explanation of consciousness. A baby is created when a sperm reaches an egg... Our common belief is that the sperm and egg unifies into one person, one identity. However, I suggest that the sperm and egg never truly unifies into one identity, and this is what accounts for our two "centers of consciousness".

Now I disagree with the idea that both sides of the brain are in themselves conscious. I propose that our consciousness arises from the two sides of our brain becoming aware of the thoughts of the other... so by this definition OP I would be agreeing with your assertion that our consciousness is merely our perception, not an actual thing.

It seems reasonable to say that while many animals can think, humans are the only ones with the ability to reason. I define reason as "the ability to think, be aware of these thoughts, and be able to connect multiple thoughts as a result of this awareness." Consciousness accounts for our awareness of our thoughts.

We are able to reason largely because of our use of symbols and language; we constantly disengage our thoughts from our perception when we use symbols. It was proven in a psychological experiment by philosopher of psychology Tim Bayne that chimpanzees also exhibit the ability to disengage their thoughts from perceptions when humans presented them with symbols.

And so it would seem our ability to be aware of our own thoughts is actually just one side of our brain "listening" to the other side. As for the reason why we have this ability to reason and other animals don't... well I don't have the slightest idea. An effect of our ability to reason is our written and spoken language, so I suppose you could attribute it to luck... humans were the first to try this exercise of writing symbols on walls and then we developed the ability to reason.

As I said this is just a hypothesis, I find that explaining consciousness through a Physicalist lens is often a tedious and unrewarding task because all we can do at the moment is speculate. However, I find it more hopeful than the Dualist side, where it is impossible to advance their case because we have no way to ever explain how an immaterial entity could affect a material object.
edit on 16-11-2013 by Wang Tang because: above top secret

posted on Nov, 16 2013 @ 06:50 PM
reply to post by Wang Tang

Those are awesome view points you expressed. I think it is true there must be more then a singular aspect to consciousness. There needs to be the creation and consumption of information. The problem with consciousness is the problem with the knower and seer of information, where does that mechanism reside and how does it work. Our brains work as if video cameras had a mechanism that can store details about the external world it is recording in memory, and then recall those details and images at 'will', and use parts of the images with parts of other images and sections of other things it has seen, and even create new internal images passed on outer images and store abstract principles dealing with time and space and cause and affect and shape and size. So its kinda like you know how 2 mirrors just reflect the light between them, the mind is like a mirror that reflects and absorbs, but its that elusive mechanism that can absorb information and literally 'see it' (as in you have only ever seen inside your mind, that is where all your thought, imagination, awareness of sensation takes place) that is the most mind boggling I think. The mind is just a uber complex state of the art device, so the principles behind it are probably hard for us to grasp just as explaining to a caveman all the parts of a jet engine work or yea even a computer.

posted on Nov, 17 2013 @ 04:58 PM
reply to post by ImaFungi

I really like the mirror analogy, it seems to capture the two minds hypothesis perfectly.

Now I just want to make it known that I do not believe there is significant evidence to back up my hypothesis, as my current idea is entirely philosophical speculation. I have another hypothesis which darkbake hinted on in his post, the idea of a quantum mind.

The appeal of the Quantum Mind hypothesis is the mind seems to act in similar ways to light particles in quantum physics. Our minds seem to split into two separate centers of consciousness when we conduct very specialized experiments on it. Similarly, if we try to conduct experiments locating the position of light particles, they seem to exist in two places at once or jump in and out of existence. When we are not conducting experiments, the mind acts as if it is one singular object, just as light particles do the same.

Again, this is entirely speculative based on the behavioral similarities between light particles and our minds... just because two things behave the same way it does not necessarily mean they work the same way.

posted on Nov, 19 2013 @ 03:40 PM
reply to post by Wang Tang

Yes well while I dont immediately jump towards the different locations quantum stuff, the nature of EM radiation is extremely important in the mind I believe. The human nervous system has electrical aspects, and the mind seems to function using synapses and chemical electric reactions and transfers. And in our modern information world we use EM radiation as well, cell phones, internet, its good medium for transferring information and evolution seems to have discovered this with the creation of the brain. I think according to the speed of light, light can travel the diameter of the earth 6 times in a second (distance in vacuum), and compare the size of the diameter of the earth with the size of your brain, and then compare that to the distance between any of the hundreds of billions of neurons in your brain, and you can only imagine (or calculate) how fast and near immediate transfers of information are occurring billions of times every pico second, and you are living and first hand proof of experience of this, because you are processing these words right now, and know exactly what they mean because you have accessible memory, and this is all happening in very quick spurts of time, but the sum of these micro reactions cannot process and exist at the same speeds as the parts which allow the sum to exist and be manifest. Its like your computer, it probably takes billions of electronic stimulation and transfers of information just to open up a web browser, and to you it takes a second, but all that activity occurred in a second, like wise it is a grand event every second of your life, if you are out to dinner and processing what you want to eat for dinner.

posted on Nov, 23 2013 @ 01:32 AM
I think we've brought up some very interesting ideas... now I want to see what OP's grand hypothesis is... will be waiting...

posted on Nov, 28 2013 @ 09:22 AM
The interesting thing to me is how information in the brain might be stored. Dog, house, mom, math, neighborhood, movies, music, history, face recognition. All of these things are brought to us by our senses, and most information has in common is sight, see able details brought to us by reflected light. But how might this information be stored in the brain, you can think of numerous different types of dogs, when I say golden retriever and make you think of a golden retriever, what occurs in the brain? Is your brain, memory like a filing cabinet, and first you go to section animal, then dog, then kind of dog, and you have all the kinds of dogs you know about stored away? What physically is the information and details of those dogs though, is there physical size and color of the dog in your head, or is the information digitally coded in someway? There must be some malleable like eschersketch, one or a minimum multiple, of screen or substance, like when I say golden retriever you enter in your mind the minimum details of that image, and in your mind viewing chamber, you see the result. I dont think there is a mini version physically accurate of everything youve ever seen. It seems more realistic and efficient if like a computer screen, your computer doesnt turn into a car or dog or cheezburger everytime you recall these items from computer memory, it uses a finite amount of space and substance, to use information/detail points to recreate things that physically and 3d exist. The imagination/thought/memory very well may be 3d, just obviously not to scale, and most likely not analog, as in physical scaled down replicas of real external things.

So then its interesting of how this information might be transferred and stored, and it appears common and layman consensus is electrical impulses from neurons and such. So could it be like how 100101010 can represent any type of image or information in computers, but the thing is computers need software beyond 101010's to make the 101001's mean anything and make sense, so how many different symbols can electrical impulses represent? Well that opens cans of worms like all the different things em radiation can do..think of TV and radio. An entire complex song, millions of different ones actually, can be represented in radio waves, oscillating EM fields.... So my point is this probably has something to do with consciousness.

posted on Nov, 30 2013 @ 07:35 AM
Noumenon is a word that Immanuel Kant resurrected to apply to the larger question of imperceptible bits of physical reality. Material existence isn't the same as physical existence. What is material is necessarily physical, but what is physical isn't necessarily material, and this is where the confusion exists for most people. An event (a progression of action quanta) is a physical manifestation, but it isn't a material manifestation - even if it does involve material items. The event itself is not material, and yet it is physical, since it does affect, perhaps even change, the physical existence of items that do exist as physical (and material in many cases).

A noumenal presence (rage, zealotry, patriotism, fear) that builds to a specific tipping point will generally be the difference between a crowd and a mob, with its elimination or dispersing of relative concentration immediately transforming that mob back into a crowd again. And yet, it's not measurable or observable, and certainly not material.

The mind/brain problem is only "hard" for the materialist-reductionist. Those folks who need to invent graviton particles in order to allow themselves to believe in gravity.

posted on Nov, 30 2013 @ 02:40 PM


A noumenal presence (rage, zealotry, patriotism, fear) that builds to a specific tipping point will generally be the difference between a crowd and a mob, with its elimination or dispersing of relative concentration immediately transforming that mob back into a crowd again. And yet, it's not measurable or observable, and certainly not material.

The mind/brain problem is only "hard" for the materialist-reductionist.

I agree with your first paragraph, but not necessarily with the crowd example. All of those examples have grounds in physical reality. And there are all material reasons for that mob and crowd transforming, it is measurable in theory, and observable, and I dont know what you mean by material. A crowd is most likely gathered due to material information on pamphlets or what not, and a mob of people most likely agree that those words describe their feelings about what material people are doing in the material world. And so they gather in an area, and most likely material cops bother them, or I guess you are focusing on the reason and action that must occur for a group of people to collectively seemingly without plan to become unruly.

And I think the mind/brain problem is hard for anyone, becuase the brain and mind is mysterious how it exists and functions.

posted on Dec, 2 2013 @ 08:46 PM
reply to post by elysiumfire


The error lies in the use of the word ‘immaterial’ and the thinking that mind is immaterial. Of course, if one is going to doubt that mind is immaterial then the other option is that mind is physical, the perceiving of which seemingly discounts this. If one was to discount both possibilities for mind, the question becomes does mind exist at all?

You defined "immaterial" but not "mind" and yet are talking about whether or not there is an immortality of mind.

Some people call "thoughts" and "emotions", the "mind". Others call "awareness/consciousness" the "mind".

thoughts are not physical. A thought about an elephant doesn't weigh any pounds. You can not touch a thought or measure it.

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