How to Really Solve the Mind-Body Problem (8)

Abstract: Let’s walk through the hustle and bustle of difficult questions about consciousness. Guided tour by the Stratium theory, before the final conclusion in the next article:
-Can we incorporate consciousness into science?
-Qualia or the switch from quantitative to qualitative
-The graduated transition from reactive to enactive
-The bias of the level that evaluates consciousness
-Consciousness as a phenomenon
-Transformation of data into concept: the notion of integrated
information
-Consciousness is a cumulative phenomenon
-The attentional nature of consciousness
-Difference between ‘consciousness’, ‘experience’, ‘consciousness of’
-Alternative or altered states of consciousness
-Does consciousness have causal power?
-Application to mental pathologies
-Why are CBT more therapeutic than psychoanalysis?

We have seen the summary of How to solve the mind-body problem, its criticisms, specified the level of explanation required by the solution, retained the opposition of physicalist and phenomenological looks, but nevertheless required the obligation of a unified reality, showed the interest of a new dimensional variety with two axes, horizontal and vertical complexion, seen how artificial neurons fail to produce consciousness but could succeed, and presented Stratium, the theory that really claims to solve the mind-body problem. How does she respond to objections, including those of Humphrey commentators, which I have referenced?

Can consciousness be incorporated into science?

5 possible answers are proposed by Petros Gelepithis:
•Yes, consciousness can be incorporated into the currently known laws of nature.
•Yes, but it requires an extension of the laws of nature.
•No, consciousness is a mystery beyond science.
•No, consciousness is not a real phenomenon and must be eliminated from science.
•No, consciousness is a mess of mental phenomena and no theory can be developed.

Unfortunately, none of these answers is the right one. Consciousness is a natural phenomenon that is perfectly possible to include in science… provided that it “becomes conscious” of its own dimensions in their entirety, in particular the complex. Is it surprising that science lacking consciousness, it is not very able to integrate it? Many scientists are suspicious of their own minds, so prone to bias, to the point of preferring to exclude it from models.

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Qualia or the switch from quantitative to qualitative

The metaphor of the two-sided coin, which illustrates the characteristics of a complex level, responds to this hairpin bend: The constitutive/quantitative/dismemberible face is indissoluble from the phenomenal/qualitative/fusional face, but is a relative independence of it. The quality of a thing is not reduced to its apparent properties. It is the surimposition of all its complex levels, which is referred to as ‘substance’. What’s going on in the coin? I will deal with this issue in another article.

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The graduated transition from reactive to enactive

A reflex hardly seems to be endowed with consciousness while the reflections are loaded with it. Reaction and enaction, what is the difference? Ralph Ellis rightly points out that it is very difficult to divide them clearly, both in our mental experience and in the neurological pathways of the brain. A correct solution of the brain-mind problem should account for a gradual transition. It is even a recursive process, which gradually broadens the field of enaction, as Frederic Peters argues:

« Consciousness is best understood in context, as one element of an interactive waking state in which the greater part of cognitive processing takes place in a nonconscious fashion. But if conscious and nonconscious processing are combined in the waking state, what distinguishes the former form the latter ? […] Of the answers most frequently proposed—intentionality, subjectivity, accessibility, reflexivity— only the final characteristic, reflexive, autonoetic awareness, is unique to the conscious state. Reflexivity can best be explained not as the product of a self-representational data structure, but as the expression of a recursive processing regime, in which cognition registers the properties of the processing state to a greater extent than properties of the content represented. »

A recursive engine is the principle used by Stratium , which proposes a very large number of “stages” between reaction and enaction, that is to say that the primary reflex gradually aggregates such a profusion of decision-making criteria that from automatism it becomes ‘intentional’. It is the opening of a neurological loop, but not a continuous loop, otherwise it would be only a long reflex, without more personality than the short reflex. Progress is quantified, in the form of intermediate intentions. Potentially it is never closed. Intention continues to increase in terms of conscious depth. We already experience it as a child: we had a conscious experience, as far as it is possible to remember. But since then, it has increased considerably.

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The bias of the level that evaluates consciousness

Another advance emerges from the hierarchical concept in Stratium: consciousness and enactivism are apparent to something of the same order of complexity as them, another evolved consciousness. On the other hand, reflex acts remain soulless automatisms when they are evaluated by a much more complex level. There is therefore an obvious bias in the attribution of consciousness. In solving the mind-body problem, it is a level of consciousness that is looking for itself in others —in vain— rather than a search for consciousness per se.

It is then imperative to split the explanation of “our” consciousness and that of “the” consciousness as a phenomenon. ‘Our’ consciousness is simply a particularly complex variety, due to the richness of functions present in the final workspace, and their high hierarchy. The phenomenal consciousness cannot be denigrated to anything else on the pretext that it is not like ours. Bringing ours together is also perfectly arbitrary and based above all on the fact that by intensively communicating their content they make themselves very similar in our representations. This in no way prejudges a similarity as a first-person experience.

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Consciousness as a phenomenon

Ironically, it is by showing the right direction towards the solution of the phenomenon consciousness that Humphrey turns away from it. To “flatten” the neural-mental divide, he makes it the simple dividing line between sensation and perception, two joint neurological activities. But to make the phenomenon consciousness appear at this interface, it must disappear as an object of experience, otherwise it leads to an endless regression: this experience of the object would in turn have to be experienced by something else to become a phenomenon, and so on to infinity. Never would really appear a place to house the phenomenon.

Humphrey therefore denigrates the fact that sensation is an object of experience. For him it is the simple fact that it is represented as a perception that produces the phenomenon. The neurological loop is enough. Of course his critics are not convinced. In addition to the arbitrary separation between sensation and perception, why would a new phenomenon arise at the interface between some neural networks and not others?

Conversely, Stratium maintains that it is indeed by an “endless” regression that the phenomenon is built. “Endless” here only means that the thickness of consciousness is never definitively fixed, that it is only a function of the accumulation of the underlying layers of complexity. The phenomenon is not related to something “looking” at the sensation. Each complex level is its own object of experience, both sides of the coin. This experience is surimposed on the previous ones.

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Data transformation into concept: the notion of integrated information

The mysterious phenomenon that agitates Humphrey is to be compared to another: How do scattered sensory data turn together into a concept? Common mystery of any complex analytical entity: How does initial information become a result of meaning of another order? As we have seen, AI designers know how to program algorithms but do not clearly understand how information depth works. The intimacy of the process is a “black box”.

The mystery is not total. The information that allows intelligence to deepen follows strict rules. They are integrated. ‘Integration’ means that each element of information has no value in isolation. It only takes on meaning in conjunction with the others, in the integrated group. Each state of the group has a global meaning carried by the simultaneous states of the elements. Each group defines its own time, interval between state changes.

An information-carrying element can belong to more than one group. At least for the richly interconnected biological neurons—each has between 1,000 and 10,000 synapses. The artificial neurons of AIs are organized more simply, in successive layers: the 1st rank elements send their signals to those of the 2nd rank, etc. Each layer is integrated but clearly delimited from the previous one. The hierarchy is sharp. It is also, essentially, an organization programmed to achieve a satisfactory result for the creator of AI.

Natural neurons are self-organized

Nothing like it for the neurons of the brain. They self-organize their groups and meanings. A neuron does not represent anything in isolation. It does this as activation within a built-in group. Its meaning is symbolic and based on its position within the network. Meaning has two independent orders: the individual order, as part of one or more groups; the collective order, as the state of the integrated group. These two orders determine on the one hand a constitutive meaning, set of states of the parts, on the other hand a collective emergent meaning, seen by the other networks connected to this group.

This property of complex depth is modeled rather than understood. It appears in the course of algorithms without the explanation being clear. A metaprinciple is at work, probably too “root” for mathematical codifications to be anything other than emanations. The same principle can be seen behind graph theory, vision models, neurocomputational theory of cognition, and consciousness theorized as Integrated Information.

Complex ‘depth’ is indeed a hierarchy. Groups are activated successively. There is a chain of causality. However, this is not a causal sequence, which would involve completely independent elements. In an integrated system, the levels of information are intertwined with the previous ones. They take their meaning only if the previous one remains. I created the term ‘surimposition‘ to realize this independence relative. A layer of information is surimposed on the previous one to enrich it with a new complex thickness.

Consciousness is a cumulative phenomenon

Stratium reverses Humphrey’s speech: Each integrated layer of neural information corresponds to a ‘sensation’ that is also a ‘perception’ for the next layer. And this on a very high level of information. Crucially, each new perception does not replace the previous one but is surimposed on it. The experience is enriched, thickened, deepened. In an integrated system, it is not two independent entities that examine each other, but entities that take on their full meaning only from each other. There is no need, as Humphrey supposes, for a new external entity to observe the sensations of others. The spirit entity is self-observing with increasing depth. It is its observation, not as a neurological center collecting signals from others, but as all these levels of information integrated together.

Consciousness is a cumulative phenomenon emerging from this extraordinary depth of information. The brain-mind gap is easily crossed this time, because it is filled by thousands, millions perhaps, of sheets huddled together, each at once looked at by the next and looking at the previous one, with an eye more and more conscious because integrating the consciousness of all the previous ones.

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The attentional nature of consciousness

Ralph Ellis also wonders about conscious attention, which can be located indifferently on sensory or perceptual states. What is it based on?

The virtual mental universe is itself complex. Its languages include both data coding, code representation, and representation organization. Overlapping language modes in complexity. The integration of levels makes the higher language able to retrocontrol the lower language. Attention is the phenomenon associated with this feedback. It is the action of the highest level of synthesis, which compares events to predictions, and if necessary remodels its underlying constituent levels.

At the phenomenal level, consciousness devoid of attention is diffuse, extensive, vague, simple emanation of its functions merged without any being privileged. While attentive consciousness is focused, acute, focused on a task to reconfigure it.

Neurological side

To this phenomenal face Stratium associates a neurological face: attention is proportional to the integration of mental functions into the conscious/global workspace (ETG). In terms of neural networks, this integration is the degree of extension of their coordinated stimulation. It is mediated on the one hand by excitatory nuclei, active during wakefulness, on the other hand by the intensity of work of the mental functions themselves, mainly under the effect of sensory stimuli.

When the integration of the ETG is weak, mental functions retain relative independence. Mechanical acts are associated with the wanderings of the abstractive imagination. When integration is strong, higher abstractor networks coordinate with other mental functions and retro-control them. They are able to reshape them to a certain depth. The mind thus improves gestures and other behavioral routines.

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Difference between ‘consciousness’, ‘experience’, ‘awareness of’

These terms are better defined now:
Consciousness is the fusional phenomenon associated with the integration of a complex level above all its constituents. Phenomenon specific to each individualized complex entity.
Experience is the generic term for how each complex entity experiences itself as a specific consciousness.
The ‘consciousness of’ reflects the variable attentional character of consciousness, which ranges from ‘consciousness without’ —there are many contents but they remain a backdrop devoid of identifiable objects because the attention that identifies them is absent— to ‘consciousness of’ which focuses a mental task.

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Alternative or altered states of consciousness

are very easy to explain since they are partial integrations of mental functions, themselves possibly disturbed in their integration by drugs or damaged connections. Eventually the integration is sufficiently weakened to allow direct access to independent functions: state of hypnosis, induced or self-induced.

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Does consciousness have causal power?

Stratium’s answer is clear: yes, by the relative independence that a complex level forms. Its ‘intention’ is its existence as a representation of past events and its maintenance even when all current events do not corroborate it. The resilience of an intention is such that it can be maintained in a mental universe that considers it a myth —a desire that is impossible to satisfy.

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Application to mental pathologies

In addition to meeting the requirements of philosophers of mind, the strength of Stratium is to be a theory of mind that explains a large number of observations about the brain and its behavioral productions, normal or pathological. Let’s look at a few examples.

The symmetrical brain in psychological disorders

Neuroscientists find that a large number of mental disorders are associated with a reduction in the natural asymmetry of the brain. What general cause, in relation to this symmetry factor, can explain this coincidence? Hypotheses have been proposed but remain conjectural in the absence of a global theory of the mind.

Stratium pays little attention to the geographical symmetry of the brain since this theory favors hierarchical organization before anatomical. But let’s look at how networks codify their symbolic values: each conceptual stage of Stratium consists of the synchronous activation of a neural group. Some groups are geographically concentrated —neurons in visual areas gathered around optical afferents. Others, on the contrary, are widely dispersed —the conscious workspace.

The anatomical concentration of groups in a hemisphere improves the responsiveness and accuracy of the symbols formed. Activation times are shortened. A higher control stage is organized more quickly and the hierarchy rises. The functional ‘anatomical centre’ is advantageous here. Because if its elements were instead dispersed between the two hemispheres, function would be slowed down and coordination more difficult to stabilize. Thus, in the case of a specialized mental function, its symmetrical management by both hemispheres is less efficient than its frank lateralization.

Advantageous lateralization at the bottom of the mental hierarchy, reductive at the top

But when it comes to coordinating functions together, a network running throughout the brain is mandatory. It is a dense network because it cannot compress its data. Each fiber indicates the excitation state of a distant neuron and it is the position of this one in the graph that makes the value of the signal. The disappearance of long-track batchs can be catastrophic for final integration. The conscious global workspace (GW) is sometimes amputated from certain functions or parts of the body. It is in such profound ignorance of their existence that it denies their presence.

Advantageous lateralization to build the ‘trunk’ of mental functions, globalization for their general coordination. Yet many psychological pathologies —schizophrenia, autism, post-traumatic stress, dyslexia— are not a conscious network disorder but defects in performance and bridges between mental functions before their proposed results at the GW. Excessive symmetry of the brain disperses these functions too much and makes gateways less effective at stabilizing symbolic concepts regulating behavior. Unconscious routines are of weak quality.

Paradoxically, the section of the corpus callosum does not trigger psychiatric pathology because the hemispheres highly lateralized in their functions do not change their routines and are able to pursue in isolation most of the ‘usual’ behavior. No “madness”. Only coordination in conscious GW is compromised. One half of the body does not know what the other is doing and makes assumptions about it, which it finds perfectly realistic! The GW is only a space for feedback control, coordination, and not for the implementation of behavior.

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Why are behavioral and cognitive techniques (CBT) more therapeutic than psychoanalysis?

Psychoanalysis sees the unconscious as an abstract space comparable to the conscious. These spaces would use the same neural language. We would have in the unconscious twin abstractions of the conscious, “buried” and directing us like puppets. The neural-mental dualism in psychoanalysis is unique in that it is uniform within the different components of the mind. The id-ego-superego triad allows communications between the parties as if they were independent entities.

No, the unconscious is not capable of any higher abstraction. It moves arms and legs. It initiates our actions without “thinking about it”. This is why trying to reach it as a “person” during psychoanalysis is useless. The language of the cure is incomprehensible to the unconscious. It is not equipped for dialogue, only for feedback. If consciousness is confined to abstract communication, saying “I should do this or that”, it dialogues with itself and not with what triggers behavior.

Evolution is acting

To modify acts the consciousness must do, execute. Moving, repeating, reprogramming habit in the Pavlovian way, because this is the feedback that the unconscious levels understand and follow. This is the method used by CBT, which always works unless the exercises remain abstract and anxious talks.

The role of conscious self-observation is not to remain clumped together as usual or deify it as a production of a kind of second brain. Its role is to shift from it, analyze it, return a correction, then congratulate, collect the feeling of reward and confirm that the habit is finally on the right track.

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The applications of Stratium are not limited to psychiatry. They concern all the human sciences, applying its hierarchical principle to our social consciences, from the couple to the species consciousness. Under the teleological look, the mind is not a set of neural centers but an interlocking of Russian dolls each with their own rules. Let’s stop there. A conclusion awaits you in the last article.

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