Abstract: What assumptions should be kept to solve the mind-body problem? We need a reality unified by its relationships —a term to be preferred to ‘monistic’— but which leaves its relational levels owners of their frameworks. Indeed their characteristics differ: definition of ‘elements’, elementary time, energy, causal and temporal arrows. Connecting the levels implies the recognition of the complex dimensional manifold and its two axes, horizontal for each system and vertical for their entanglement. In the horizontal axis a system is like a coin with two indissoluble faces, a constitutive face of the relations between elements, a representative face expressing the properties/phenomena of the whole. The levels are correlated in the vertical axis, without current knowledge of a transcendental law to predict them.
After the summary of How to solve the mind-body problem, by Nicholas Humphrey, the account of his criticisms by philosophers of mind, the level of explanation required by the solution and the need to preserve the opposition of physicalist and phenomenological looks, let us return to the root of the problem. Let us examine in particular the assumptions used.
What assumptions should be kept?
Question prior to any further progress. Essays on the mind-body problem pass this stage far too quickly. There is a logic inherent in the mind of the author, who does not necessarily know or understand several. What contract does my mind have with itself to understand itself? To honor the challenge we would need a galactic ambassador, emancipated from current reflections for our species. These are necessarily impacted by human physiology, by our physical and social environments. Let us already note profound divergences from West to East of the planet; Let us imagine that they can be abyssal from one species to another. Unfortunately no alien mind having shown up, I start my investigation from the most basic foundations of the human —just above the digestive borborygma.
Let us choose to say that the reality accessible to our observation is unified by some relational means. If it is not, it is impossible to know what is separated from it. All hypotheses would be possible so none certifiable. We can let the imagination frolic in infinity but reason needs a way. It will be unified reality. But I don’t call it ‘monistic’. This term indeed refers to an overtenable quarrel, as we shall see later.
Is unified reality a sequence of information? Yes, says our ubiquitous structuralism, which seeks to connect all observations. Not only, say our conscious impressions, which are nowhere seen in the ghostly world of pure information. Our mind experiences qualitative substances and sensations. Information, by its quantitative nature, is not capable of discriminating against them. Something more is needed. But this something is in reality, since we want it unified. And that something is always associated with information. We have no example of a substance or sensation that is emancipated from a process. What remains indescribable, by purely quantitative means, is the phenomenon associated with the process.
Time and causal arrows
If the process of reality is a sequence, time is a direction applied to the sequence. The process goes from one end to the other. Obvious direction to our conscious experience; much more difficult to affirm in the microscopic. Time is therefore part of the phenomenon experienced by our mind. Finding its counterpart in the process involves a causal arrow, and more specifically a deterministic causality: any state of the sequence is a result of previous states. Or: for any portion of the sequence, the ‘beginning > end’ direction gives a single ending, while the ‘end > beginning’ direction can give other beginnings.
Determinism creates a difficulty similar to that of time. They are evident in our minds, undetectable in microscopic processes. A first conclusion is that if phenomenons are associated with information, it is not that of microscopic models.
An informal dimension: complexity
Structuralism thinks of reality as an immeasurable sequence because of the number of elements involved. Only portions of the process can be analyzed. One dimension that structuralism has failed to formalize is complexity: reality takes on different aspects depending on the scale of observation. This poorly understood dimension is commonly managed by reductionism: the macroscopic aspects are entirely dependent on the microscopic. If the information changes, from the micro to the macro, it is nevertheless entirely derived from the micro.
From the reductionist point of view, new, macroscopic information is approaching, imperfect, used only because it is not possible to manage the incommensurability of the micro. The macro sciences appear to the reductionist as pragmatisms, for lack of better means. This position is not a realism because it obscures the phenomena, which we must keep in reality. It is called ‘eliminativism’ and we will keep it at bay.
A new dimensional variety
Introducing complexity into reality has dramatic consequences. In the spatial context, adding a dimension is already an upheaval; but here it is an additional dimensional variety that is at stake. Complexity does not provide a quantitative parameter of the same order as spatial dimensions. It is a scale of independent qualitative levels, created with information dependent on the previous ones.
The term ‘scale’ actually introduces two dimensions and not just one. Horizontal bars and vertical bars. The complex manifold actually contains two axes: 1) Horizontal complexion, involving elements that interact by similar properties. 2) Vertical complexion, relationship between the elements forming the same entity without interacting directly, for example the human being made of concepts, cells, molecules, quantons. Vertical complexion is a stack of qualitatively independent horizontal complexions.
The two-sided coin
What is the nature of these qualitative levels? The metaphor of the coin is useful: its two sides have different appearances but they are the same coin. Similarly, a qualitative level has a head side made of information, a tail side made of properties. These quantitatively evaluated properties in turn form the basis of the information of the next level. Complexity is thus revealed as a staged sequence, which segments reality into qualitative levels while keeping it structurally unified. Thanks to complexity we keep together information and phenomena. It is essential to our progress as a realistic, concrete dimension, and not only as an artifice designed by our mind to sort out the extraordinary jumble of what it observes.
Note that in science complexity does not have the same status as the spatio-temporal framework. It is not formalized by equations. Its poorly understood transitions have been the subject of a segmentation of knowledge itself, disciplines whose paradigms are often incompatible. Is it any wonder then that the proponents of a unified reality are seduced by eliminativism? It is the realization of complexity as a physical dimension that can avoid this trap.
Is classical causality enough?
The classical deterministic causality is that of horizontal complexion. Systems of elements unfold their interactions. We must now look for causality between levels of reality, that of vertical complexion. In other words, how do you move from one coin to another in the pile? These two causalities are often confused by the authors and yet it would be hasty to attribute the same characteristics to them. Let’s not forget our major problem: micro time and causality are not the same as those of the macro. It seems that time and causality are the property of each horizontal complexion, rather than principles applying to the entire stack.
This is the current orientation of structuralism, which restores the ownership of the frame to interacting elements rather than making it a universal backdrop. The vertical complexion is then revealed as a stack of horizontal complexions, each displaying specific time and causality. Not entirely independent of each other of course, but enough so that a causal arrow, absent at the bottom, appears at the top.
The emerging controversy
This does not foreshadow the existence of an identical arrow in the vertical dimension of complexity. This point bases the controversy on emergence. The denigration of emergentism is an avatar of eliminativism: if there is no vertical complexion then the possibility of emergence also disappears and causality is reduced to determinism; Everything is simplified. But by reintegrating emerging phenomena into reality it is the opposite: the phenomena are qualitatively independent and it would be arbitrary to declare the causality between them unidirectional. We do not have to make a controversy about the emergence itself but a statement to be found about its causality. Is it exclusively bottom-up, from micro to macro, or also top-down, in the opposite direction?
The exclusivity of the bottom-up is born from hidden, rather fragile assumptions. It assumes that there is an ultimate foundation, the ‘bottom’, and a summit, the ‘top’. Complex verticality is automatically created by these bounds and yet it is not formalized anywhere in the reductionist paradigm. On the contrary, it is eliminated and replaced by a spatio-temporal framework whose universality applies to the bottom. But we don’t know what this bottom really can be. We see what is emerging, precisely. A network of equations is placed in front of the unknown.
Denigrating an experience with an acquaintance?
One principle guides me in this investigation of the mind-body problem: do not eliminate observable things because hypotheses about the unknown origin of things would force me to do so. In particular , I refuse the unknown to denigrate what I feel live, which is best known to me. I encourage you to do the same.
Exclusive bottom-up causality is an avatar of the determinism of horizontal complexion. It postulates in passing that the framework of the base applies to the entire complex dimension. But we have seen that this assumption is untenable. An irreversibility of processes appears, in other words a time arrow. The energy level, the major constant of the frame, varies according to considerable stages, as does the time norm. The assumptions of the bottom-up raise insoluble questions and we must reject them. This is not to give credence from the outset to the possibility of top-down, only to refuse the exclusivity of bottom-up. And we will soon see that this simple step is enough to dissolve the controversy.
A welcoming dimension
Let’s summarize what emerges from our survey of assumptions. Determining the dimensions of a problem is a prerequisite for solving it. The reductionist framework obviously lacks all the dimensions necessary for the solution of the mind-body problem. Keeping reality unified without amputating it implies the rejection of classical materialist determinism, which is too pruning. Let us dress up reality with a new dimensional variety: complexity. Two axes to this dimension: the horizontal axis of the frame specific to each system of elements, and the vertical axis stacking these frames, entangling them, modified in their temporal, energetic, mathematical and qualitative characteristics: our famous coins, impossible to separate from each other.
The benefit of this new dimension: it is possible to integrate into it, personally and integrally. You have noticed that our survey does not lack conflictual couples: body and mind, substantialism and structuralism, information and phenomenon, determinism and indeterminism, quantity and quality, eliminativism and emergence, etc. The entities of these couples seem completely alien to each other, to the point of refusing to include themselves in the same reality. In our minds, most of the time, the conflict is resolved to the benefit of the dominant in each couple. Body and mind fight to make each other an illusion. I touch the substance or virtualize the structure. I count or I feel. I eliminate or I emerge…
Thanks to the realization of the complex dimension, it becomes possible to inscribe quantons, neurons and thoughts in a unified reality. Placed at different heights of complexity, they are able to look at the side of the coin invisible to the other. Thus the mind experiences without being able to give the reason, while the brain, described by neuroscience, explains without feeling. But if, as a human being, I recognize this complex dimension as well as concrete, then I am all these entangled levels of reality, all these coins both constituted and experienced by each other.
Neuroscience is not enough
At this point in my investigation, it appears that the solution of the mind-body problem goes far beyond neuroscience. It requires us to revise our conception of reality, and in depth since it is a question of adding a new dimensional variety. Complexity is not a new concept. It is omnipresent in all our ways of thinking. It is precisely so integrated into our epistemic modes that it is natural to each of them, without it seeming necessary to formalize it. There are many attempts, metamathematical, metaphilosophical, mystical, but nothing coordinated and especially nothing that tackles complexity itself rather than its categorizations.
Creating a complex dimension is not enough to solve our mind-body problem but it allows us to install our different frames, and therefore not to refuse any on the pretext that it would be incompatible with another. Fundamental principles such as time and causality can be modulated. The creation of a hierarchy of levels does not mean that causality can move in all directions, but it makes it possible to free from the ‘bottom up’ principle as exclusivity.
Soon the sequel…
The following article explains more precisely the new complex dimension and its possibilities. We will then see why neural simulations are both a breakthrough and a failure. What is missing from current theories of consciousness? These few steps are necessary to arrive with the greatest ease to the solution of our famous problem.