4. Nature of Consciousness
Home ] Website Introduction ] 1. Introduction to Consciousness ] 2. Discovering Your 'Self' ] 3. Introduction to Intangible Affecters ] [ 4. Nature of Consciousness ] 5. Functions As They Relate to Physics ] 6. Self : From Action Plan to Person ] 7. Pinocchio : Thought ] 8. Pinocchio : Consciousness ] 9. Pinocchio : Self ]

Abstract: The world’s physical aspect (what-it-is-like to be some thing) eludes us completely and always will because of the what it means to know and to be a ‘self’ that knows.  Scientists speak of sensorial experience (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings) as not having a known place in physics, as physics is currently understood.  The reason that scientists are frustrated by not being able to decipher what experience is, is that they are oblivious to the fact that they do not know what it is to be physical. It is an error in their perspective.  Experience is physical and knowledge of experience is intangible.  Then how do we know of experience?  This problem is explained and the solution suggested.

Statistics: 9 printed pages, 3589 words, 40kb  
Published: March 29, 2000

          You believe (though in fact it is not true) that you are a material being in a material world when in fact you are an intangible spirit (function) and know nothing of the material world.  I will show you how this is so.  How can our minds have a true notion of being material when the contents of our notions, thoughts, perceptions and ‘selves’ are not physical but are only transient computations of our brains?  Experience is a material characteristic of the brain. I will explain its relationship to consciousness.

Though representations in our minds refer to an assumed external environment, I want you to consider the possibility that maybe the kind of environment that is assumed does not exist.  The adherents to the branch of philosophical thinking known as idealism believe there is no external environment.  They believe the only world is the one in our minds. There is no way to disprove idealism because we are not able to consider any evidence for an external world except in our minds.  I am certain that there is an external environment, but I am suggesting that it is not the one we imagine. We can show that there is the highest probability of an external environment by demonstrating how the functional organization of our minds is designed to interact with the organization of an external world.  Nevertheless, we are not correct in assuming to know what the external environment is. 

The external environment does not have an appearance yet our minds give it one.  The world as it is represented in our minds is at times dull or colorful, soft or hard, heavy or light, large or small, noisy or quiet, hot or cold, far or near, fast or slow but these representations are nothing like what the external world is.  We assume to know what the physical world is on account of our representations of it.  The fact is that we don’t know the ‘what-it-is-like to be-ness’ of the physical world because our minds cannot reach beyond the limitation of being minds, of being something themselves and not being able to be the things (other than the mind itself) that a mind can think about.  We process representations of things, not the physical things themselves.  We are imprisoned within our minds in such a way that the true quality of the physical world eludes us.  Scientists speak of sensorial experience (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, feelings) as not having a known place in physics, as physics is currently understood.  The reason that scientists are frustrated by not being able to decipher what experience is, is that they are oblivious to the fact that they do not know what it is to be physical. It is an error in their perspective.  They believe that they are observing the physical world when in fact perceptions are inextricably locked in our minds and we can have no proper idea of what being physical is.  We perceive only one aspect of the physical world and that is its functional aspect, which is intangible.  Physics is based on the observation of this functional aspect. The world’s physical aspect (what-it-is-like to be some thing) eludes us completely and always will because of the what it means to know and to be a ‘self’ that knows.

Our notions and ‘selves’ are isolated from the material world by being mental products of our brains.  Our thoughts, the objects that we ‘see’, the words that we hear or those we think and our ‘selves’ are only just transient computations in our brain.  They are passing experiences in a virtual realm of representation.  They can no more comprehend what-it-is-like to be something physical than could a calculation in a computer.  The stimulation of our external sense organs causes activity in our brains but it does not carry any of the ‘what-it-is-like to be-ness’ of the object to which the stimulus is referenced.  Even if that were possible, it would still not enter into the virtual realm of thoughts and notions.  Thoughts and notions are mere patterns passing on the material substrate of the brain.  The thoughts and notions are not in the substrate; rather they are in the patterns, which are supervening on the substrate. All the elements of our minds, our ‘selves’ and our consciousness (everything that we know and are) emanate from the specificity of relationships in the physical brain. The cognitive qualities of those elements are qualities deriving from the specifications of the relationships themselves and not from the substrate supporting the relationships.  You could say that the relationships in the substrate hold knowledge that the substrate cannot know about. Notions held in patterns are in a virtual and/or intangible realm.  All that we consider to be our thoughts, knowledge, perceptions and also every aspect of our ‘selves’ are intangible patterns in the substrate.  If the organization of the substrate is disassembled as happens in death, then thought, knowledge, perception and ‘self’ all disappear because they only existed in the specificity of the brain’s organization.  The external world, as it is represented in the mind, also emanates from the organization of relationships in the brain.  Representations of the environment in the mind cannot convey what the environment is.  It is not possible for us to have a true notion of what it is to be physical.

All that we consider being the external environment is presented to us as imagery in the media of experience. Experience is a physical quality of the material brain.  The media of experience can be manipulated by the mind into images of infinite variety. Images have an ephemeral character.  Their substance is the changing form of the experiential substrate.  The images themselves are intangible.  They are the illusive edge, sameness or difference in color or tone or patterns of organization and change.  The same applies in the other sensory modalities, emotions, feelings and etc.  

In searching our minds for some way to comprehend physical-ness, it should become apparent that the only thing that is some thing about our conscious circumstance is experience. There is nothing else going on in our conscious minds that we would label as something that we would not also label as experience.  The images that pass through our minds are actors and sets in the navigation process.  They form a Map that we think is the world.  The forms of the actors, the sets and the patterns of their interactions are only manifest as consciousness because they are in a substrate that is experiential.  One could infer from our mental behavior that there are also actors and sets represented on the physical substrate of the brain that are not experiential.  Of those there is no consciousness just because they are not experiential.  We would experience no joy or color in a sunset if there were no experiential characteristic of the substrate processing the stimulus of the sunset.  The experiences of color and feeling are swept along in a dance created by the mind as it reacts to the visual stimulus.  We would not hear or feel the movement of our thoughts if the phenomena of experience did not exist.  Experience is a characteristic of the substrate, not a function of it as is information processing.  Experience tags along.  The nature of information processing is intangible and because it is something that is not a material thing it certainly cannot have a characteristic like experience that is something.  Remember from my explanation of intangible affecters that evidence of their existence only exists in their affects on material things.  There is no realm in which they themselves exist apart from the things that they affect.  It is a tough concept until you have understood it well.

          It seems that we must abandon the idea of a true notion of the physical but we do know about something physical.  That is experience.  Because we are trapped in consciousness, experience is the only physical something about which we do know.  Juxtapose those facts in your mind.  We don’t know what-it-is-like to be physical but we do know what experience is like.  (Common linguistic concepts are not sophisticated enough in this field to mean exactly what I want to say.  It is more correct to say that the mind can point at experience than it is to say that it can know it because experience is in the physical realm while knowing is in the intangible realm.)

          It is worthwhile to consider how we can know that experience is something.  If we only thought that experience were something, then there would be no experience to fill the images (figuratively speaking) of our consciousness and we would not experience consciousness. We would not be conscious. This is so because images are intangible, are merely the criteria for forms that must be begotten from something.  If the experiential aspect of consciousness were only thought to exist then it too would be intangible, not a thing.  The edges and qualities of an experiential image are intangible criteria that make the experiential substrate of an image into something distinct with a role in the contextual relationships of the Map’s functional path.  I should note again that not all images are experiential images.  Images define the boundaries of physical states. They are only experiential when the physical states are experiential.  It is by understanding in contrast that images/forms/patterns are not things that I am having you realize that experience is something.

Not withstanding the world’s intangible aspect, I believe the world is/has only a material/physical/substantial existence. I hope that I have demonstrated to you that thought and the formation of conscious imagery are intangible processes.  It is important here to understand that these intangible processes are affecters but are not something in themselves; they are only revealed in the material things they affect.  It is a hard new concept but what is important about it is that it is necessary to explain events and that it doesn’t create classic dualism.  It is just an aspect of the material world that hasn’t been properly understood.  But here, all I need is your appreciation that there are no dogs chasing cats in my brain but only the interactive forms of the experiential substrate representing them.  We cannot find any something-ness about dog-ness in our minds except the experiential aspect of the substrate in which a dog is modeled.  Dog-ness is more than just the experiential aspect of an image.  It is also the image and a set of interactions of the image of the dog with other conscious images.  This aspect of dog-ness is intangible.  It arises out of the contextual relationships of the images, what they are doing.  If you were able to freeze-frame the dog chasing the cat so that it was a still and then took away your understanding of how the images function together, there would be nothing left except experience which is all that is substantial about perception in the first place.  The dog and the cat would be shapes without meaning.  It is what they do in relationship to each other that is the genesis of meaning and meaningful behavior.  The aspect of meaning and behavior is an intangible overlay.  It is the way that the relationships of the underlying experiential forms change, that gives meaning to a dog chasing a cat. 

The world that we perceive is a model in our brains; it is not the world that we look at.  It is a Map used for computing navigation.  The foundation of the Map is the configuration of brain states into images.  The brain states contribute sensorial characteristics to consciousness for the simple reason that they are experiential.  The interactive relationships of the images in the Map reflect the activity of intangible processes overlaying (shaping, directing and controlling) brain states.  The whole gambit of our conscious experiences are explained by the dual aspect of an experiential foundation being overlayed (shaped, directed and controlled) by intangible processes. Everything in the world is happening for us within the tiny spaces of our brains.  The richness of our living experience demonstrates the awesome power of the human mind to process information.

All that we can know about anything is function, how something behaves.  We can’t know what it is like to be anything, not even experience.  Our minds can point at our own experiential states but we do not know what it is like to experience per se.  We would not seem to know about experience if experience were not a characteristic of brain states supporting information processing.  The physical state of which experience is a physical characteristic is the physical substrate of the information processing that creates knowledge about the experience.  Consider an analogy.  The machinery in the engine and drive train of a car produces the function of propelling the car.  The machinery is not the same thing as the function it produces.  The function is in an intangible realm whereas the machinery is in the physical realm.  (See the papers on intangible affecters for a clearer understanding of this distinction.)  Analogously, experience is in the physical realm and the awareness of the experience is in the intangible realm.  There can’t be knowledge of experience because they are in different realms but that doesn’t matter because they both stem from the same physical foundation and are concurrent.  On account of their physical connection, experience is occurring when information that is putatively about that experience is occurring.  There constant conjunction (or at least the potential for constant conjunction) makes it seem that we know of our experience.  The machinery of an automobile produces a characteristic function.  The machinery of a physical substrate that has the characterisitic experience of red, for example, would also produce a characteristic function, the one that is information about red.  It is because of a common supporting physical process that there is a conjunction of knowing and experiencing so that, for instance, if one is describing a tomato in one’s hand as being red, the experience of red, the idea of red, and even the vocalization of the word red can be in conjunction. The experience of red happens at the same time as the idea of red because of having supporting states in common.  The false idea of knowing of experience sets a ‘knower’ apart from the experience and implies that somehow the ‘knower’ knows or experiences the experience.  The fundamental distinction between a ‘knower’ and experience is that the first is an intangible construct and the other is a physical state.  They are not in the same realm except for the conjunction of their commonly supporting states and therefore the idea of knowing the quality of experience must be false.  The idea of red, on the other hand, because it is physically associated with the means of creating the experiential state of red, can cause the experience to occur such as happens in imagining red.  I am making the most reasonable assumption that because the idea of red was learned in conjunction with the experience of red that they are associated and therefore can be co-causing of each other neurophysiologically.

        It just happens that the patterns of the mind entrain physical experience such as vision but as automated radar guided navigation demonstrates, the experience of vision is not necessary to sight.  The experience of vision is just what it is like to be a particular state of your brain.  It is not the experience of vision that enables us to navigate.  Rather it is how the physical substrate, of which it is a characteristic, functions in the processing patterns of navigation.  Yet, we can’t say that the characteristic of experience is epiphenomenal.  It is not the appearance of something being ‘looked at’ as we might have thought when we considered it to be the appearance of an object.  Experience is the physicality of the working brain.  It is not just a non-essential appearance as the idea that it might be epiphenomenal suggests.  The functional properties of a brain state characterized by the experience of red would be different than one characterized by blue or one with no experiential property.  The question of why evolution would select for the experience of red if it does not create an advantage is inappropriate.  Red is what it is like to be something and not what it is like to do something. 

        We experience consciousness on account of evolution’s selection of an analog method of presenting a navigation Map.  The world is represented in the Map in the form of images, which aggregate and organize the experiential properties of materials that would otherwise be unorganized.  Further, those formed images in the material realm are associated to information processes in the virtual or intangible realm on account of their emanating in part from the same physical processes in the brain.  For that reason, information processes can point at experience such that it seems to us that we are aware of our experiences.  Experience has to be a primary characteristic of (being) something material in order for the experience of consciousness to be possible.  The two other critical aspects of the structure of consciousness are the aggregation of experience in the formation of images and a cognitive recognition of their existence.  Should this leave you wondering if there is something experiential that it is to be like the Universe, then keep in mind that unless experience is part of an information processing function there would be no awareness of the experience.  Consciousness is a very unique phenomenon.  There is much to understand about the information processing aspect of consciousness.   Understanding intangible affecters is essential to the understanding of those processes.

        My explanation of consciousness conforms to my belief that there is only a material world.  Despite that, we have no true notion of what it means to be physical/material.  We have no access to the world outside of our minds. Our minds are an information process that creates our ‘selves’ , our sense of being an observer, a subject of experience and the world that we observe and experience.  Information and information processing are intangibles that arise out of the specificity of dynamic relationships in the brain.  Experience is the only characteristic of consciousness that is something.  Because experience is something doesn’t it have to be material?  Experience is what-it-is-like to be a particular state of something physical in our brain.

        The belief that oneself is a subject of experience is untenable to be seriously considering the subject of consciousness.  Being a subject of experience is an idea that a mind has.  All aspects of our ‘selves’’, whether they are the sense of being an observer or a subject of experience, are intangible functions that are shaping, directing and controlling brain states (and therefore, experiences) that support the intangible functions.  Experience just is and it will exist in a conscious brain whether a ‘self’ exists there or not.  If we find that we are trying to experience our experiences, then we haven’t caught on.  We are being driven by a false idea.  The idea that you are the subject of your experiences is at the axiomatic level of the epistemological structure of your perspective where your present point of view about what mind is doesn’t work because it is axiomatically incorrect.

        It is this difference between being experience and having experience that is hard to grasp.  The superficial insistence of the ‘self’ on having a point of view preemptively obscures a correct perspective.  The ‘self’ is a cybernetic entity and agent that has a vested interest in its own perpetuation.  It is invested in zillions of memory tracks as the experiencer.  Your ‘self’ will find it threatening to consider that you may not be the subject of experience, that maybe you are not so in control of your relationship to the world as you think and that maybe you don’t really exist as you think you do.  You have to see the harmony that the new perspective I have presented brings to the philosophy of mind to want to make these changes.  But, to believe that you ‘experience’ when experience is primary to your ‘self’ in the structure of consciousness is to be philosophically lost.  (I can’t make out that it is too important to be so wise.  Millions of people will live happily without knowing all this.) 

        It is clear that experience is a characteristic of the physical brain but there is still much exciting territory to puzzle over in understanding the neural correlates of experience.  We will not be able to appreciate what experience is if we don’t advance beyond trying to experience it.  There is no subject of experience.  There is only a ‘self’ that has lived a life of illusion.