We no longer believe everything, including the human psyche, is reducible in principle to quantum mechanics. The forces of mind and consciousness are perceived to supersede those of biophysics, chemistry, and physiology
The human brain is today the dominant control force on our planet; what moves and directs the brain of man will, in turn, largely determine the future The human value factor, defined in this way and viewed objectively in terms of brain states that govern acts, thoughts, and decisions, may be seen to occupy a central position of strategic regulative influence in the total biospheric chain of command
This would imply a commitment to progress and improvementnot in the municipal chamber of commerce sense, but in terms of the evolutionary trend toward greater complexity, diversity, and improvement in the quality and dimensions of life and the life experience. A sense of purpose and meaning is thus provided for the life of the individual and for society as a whole
Now, what is the argument in favor of mentalism, the argument that holds that ideas and other mental entities push around the physiological and biochemical events in the brain? The argument is simple and goes as follows: First, it contends that mind and consciousness are dynamic, emergent properties of the living brain in action Second, the argument goes a critical step further and insists that these emergent properties in the brain have causal potency
Let us spell out this answer a little further, since this whole subject has at times been a bit confusing and complicated. To put it very simply, it comes down to the issue of who pushes whom around in the population of causal forces that occupy the cranium. It is a matter, in other words, of straightening out the peck-order hierarchy among intracranial control agents. There exists within the cranium a whole world of diverse causal forces, as in no other cubic half-foot of universe that we know. At the lowermost levels in this system, we have local aggregates of some sixty or more types of subnuclear particles interacting with great energy, all within the neutrons and protons of their respective atomic nuclei. These entities, of course, do not have very much to say about what goes on in the affairs of the brain. We can pretty well forget them, because they are all firmly trapped and kept in line by their atomic overseers. The atomic nuclei and associated electrons are also, of course, firmly controlled in turn. The various atomic and subatomic elements are molecule-bound. that is, they are hauled and pushed around by the larger spatial and configurational forces of their encompassing molecules.
Similarly, the molecules of the brain are themselves pretty well bound up and ordered around by their respective cells and tissues. Along with all of their internal atomic and subnuclear parts and their neighboring molecular partners, the brain molecules are obliged to submit to a course of activity in time and space that is very largely determined, for the lifetime of any given cell, by the overall dynamic and spatial properties of the whole cell as an entity. Even the brain cells, however, with their long fibers and impulse-conducting properties, do not have very much to say about when they are going to fire their messages, for example, or in what time pattern they will fire them. The firing orders for the day come from a higher command.
In other words, the flow and the timing of impulse traffic through any brain cell, or even a nucleus of cells in the brain, are governed largely by the overall encompassing properties of the whole cerebral circuit system, within which the given cells and fibers are incorporated, and also by the relationship of this circuit system to other circuit systems.
Further, the dynamic properties of the cerebral system as a whole, and the way in which these properties direct and govern the flow of impulse traffic throughout the systemthat is, the general circuit properties of the whole brainmay undergo radical and widespread changes from one moment to the next with just the flick of a cerebral facilitatory set.
This set is a shifting pattern of central excitation that will open or prime one group of circuit pathways with its own special pattern properties, while at the same time closing, repressing, or inhibiting endless other circuit potentialities that might otherwise be open and available for impulse traffic. These changes of set are responsible, for example, for such things as a shift of attention, a turn of thought, a change of feeling, or a new insight.
To make a long story short, if one keeps climbing upward in the chain of command within the brain, one finds at the very top those overall organizational forces and dynamic properties of the large patterns of cerebral excitation that are correlated with mental states or psychic activity. And this brings us close to the main issue.
We can take this argument a step further by looking at an illustrative example of one of these mental entities Let us say we are talking about pain in the fingers and thumb of the left hand, and let us pin it down further to pain in the left hand of an arm that was amputated above the elbow some months previously. You will recall that the suffering caused by pain localized mentally in a phantom limb is no easier to bear than that in a limb that is still there. It will be easier, however, by using this example, for us to infer where our conscious awareness really resides.
In regard to the pain in a phantom limb, my contention is that any groans it may elicit from our patient are caused not by the biophysics, chemistry, or physiology of the cerebral nerve impulses as such, but by the pain quality, the pain property, per se. This brings us, then, to the real crux of the argument. Nerve excitations are just as common to pleasure, of course, as to pain, and the same is true of any other sensation. What is critical is that unique patterning of cerebral excitation that produces pain instead of something else. It is the overall functional property of this pain pattern as a pattern that is critical in the causal sequence of brain affairs.
This pattern has a dynamic entity, the qualitative effect of which must be conceived functionally and operationally and in terms of its impact on a living, unanesthetized cerebral system. It is this overall pattern effect in brain dynamics that is the pain quality of inner experience. To try to explain the pain pattern or any other mental qualities only in terms of the spatiotemporal arrangement of nerve impulses, without reference to the mental properties and the mental qualities themselves, would be as formidable as trying to describe any of the endless variety of complex molecular reactions known to biochemistry wholly in terms of the properties of electrons, protons, and neutrons and their subnuclear particles, plus (and this, of course, is critical) their spatiotemporal relationships.
By including the spatiotemporal relations, such a description becomes feasible in theory, probably, but fantastically impractical. Moreover, by the time science arrives at a point where it can describe the critical details of the impulse pattern of a mental experience in the functional terms and setting required, it will be describing, in effect, the conscious force or property itself. When we reach such a point, the conscious force will be recognized as such, and we will be calling it just thator at least that is the hypothesis I am putting forward
The central, emergent conscious force within the brain, as visualized here, is a functional pattern that has to be worked out in entirely new terms, that is, in terms of the functional circuitry of the brain, in terms of the still unknown brain code.
Above simple pain and other sensations in brain dynamics, we find, of course, the more complex but equally potent forces of perception, emotion, reason, belief, insight, judgment, cognition, and all the rest. In the onward flow of conscious brain states, one state calling up the next, these are the kinds of dynamic entities that call the plays. It is exactly these encompassing mental forces that direct and govern the inner impulse traffic, including its electrochemical and biophysical aspects. When trying to visualize mental properties as they have been described, it is important to keep in mind the fact that all of the simpler, more primitive, electric, atomic, molecular, cellular, and physiological forces remain present, of course, and they all continue to operate. None has been canceled, but these lower level forces and properties have been superseded, encompassed, as it were, by those forces of successively higher organizational entities
Near the apex of this command system in the brainto return to more humanistic concernswe find ideas. Man, unlike lower animals, has ideas and ideals. In the brain model proposed here, the causal potency of an idea, or an ideal, becomes just as real as that of a molecule, a cell, or a nerve impulse. Ideas cause ideas and help evolve new ideas.
They interact with each other and with other mental forces in the same brain, in neighboring brains, and thanks to global communication, in far distant, foreign brains. And they also interact with the external surroundings to produce in toto a burstwise advance in evolution that is far beyond anything to hit the evolutionary scene yet, including the emergence of the living cell The phenomena of inner experience are conceived to be emergent properties of brain activity and become causal determinants in brain function.
On these new terms consciousness is given a use, a reason for being, and for having been evolved in a material world. Not only does the brains neurophysiology determine the mental effects, as has generally been agreed, but now in addition the emergent mental operations are conceived in turn to control the component neurophysiology through their higher organizational properties and the universal principle of the power of the whole in determining the fate of its parts
a causal, functional emergent
The idea is that conscious phenomena as emergent functional properties of brain processing exert an active control role as causal determinants in shaping the flow patterns of cerebral excitation. Once generated from neural events, the higher order mental patterns and programs have their own subjective qualities and progress, operate and interact by their own causal laws and principles which are different from, and cannot be reduced to those of neurophysiology
The mental entities transcend the physiological just as the physiological transcend the molecular, the molecular, the atomic and subatomic, etc. The mental forces do not violate, disturb, or intervene in neuronal activity but they do supervene...
It will be helpful as we proceed to have in mind some further concrete examples of the principles of emergent (holist) control as illustrated at different levels in some simpler and more familiar physical systems...
An example I come back to for classroom illustration contrasts the programming determinants in a television receiver with the electronic and other physical interactions involved in its operation. Complete knowledge of the electronic and physical theory that enables one to fully understand, build and repair the appliance, is no help to explain why Mary struck John on channel 4, or what caused the building to collapse on 2, or the laughter on 7. There is no way that these, or the political message on channel 5, can be explained in terms of the laws and concepts of electronics. They involve a different order or level of interaction. Yet these higher order, supervening, program variables do control at each instant, and determine the space-time course of the electron flow patterns to the screen and throughout the setjust as a train of thought controls the patterns of impulse firing in the brain. The shift to a new program or to a new channel can be compared to a shift in the brain to a new mental set, focus of attention, or to a new thought sequence
The reason that mental or other entities cannot be reduced to their parts may be understood more easily if one thinks of a given entity not as a system of just material components, but as a combined space-time-mass-energy manifold. Think of space being bent around and molded by the material parts and time as similarly defined by events in temporal and moving systems with the space-time components both arranged also in vertical nested hierarchies corresponding to and filling in around the material elements and defined by their relative positions and timing. [Ed: in short, their interrelationships]
The process of reducing an entity to its material components, physically or conceptually, inevitably destroys the space-time components at the affected level. These last components from the space-time manifold, interfusing with, shaped by, and demarcated by the material components, are highly critical in determining the causal and other distinguishing properties of any system as a whole. The spacing and timing of the parts with reference to one another largely determine the qualities and causal relations of the whole, but the laws for the material components fail to include these space-time factors
of this is to reject the value of reduction as a method in science
or as a means to gain understanding in general
helps enormously, as a rule, to know how and of what anything is
It is only the reductionist reasoning that therefore
things can be reduced to nothing but their parts that
is rejected, or that the essence of anything is to be
sought in its components.