(was chapter 42 in version 1)
(Permalink) A «true scientific definition» is not an unproven «material explanation», it is a description of what the thing really is. For instance, the definition of electricity cannot be brought back to anything mechanical. Even further, the definition of a number cannot be reduced to anything material. Similarly, consciousness cannot be reduced to anything physical. We can describe it only with its own vocabulary, with its own references.
(The fact that we cannot directly observe the consciousness of others, but only its material manifestations, is not an argument to say that it does not exist. The same thing happens for electricity: we can no more observe directly electricity, only its mechanical effects or heat effects. But nobody invokes the Occam razor to say that electricity does not exist, or Popper to say that electricity is linguistic)
Consciousness is the fact that we experience the world, that we feel sensation, emotions, pleasure and pain. All things which have no material meaning, but which are the very fabric of each consciousness, at every moment. These words have no meaning in physics, they are specific to consciousness, that they however describe perfectly. As a consequence, this definition is perfectly enough as a scientific definition of consciousness, without any need for referring to physical phenomena which are irrelevant for consciousness. This definition is understandable for us human beings. And there is no need for any other, as the observers, it is also us!
Consciousness is Qualia, the difficult problem. Difficult, as recognized by David Chalmers, in the sense that we cannot reduce it to anything physically explainable.
Definitions such as «information acquisition and processing» or the like, despite the high flown «scientific» vocabulary, are not scientific definitions of consciousness: they do not allow to know what it is, and they do not allow to differentiate a poet from a video games console, also able of processing information.
Consciousness is something unique in the universe, irreducible to anything physical.
Much has been done to try to reduce consciousness to the functioning of neurons. But this functioning does only to make possible some capacities of consciousness, such as vision. There is no «consciousness centre» in the brain. Many nervous circuits produce no elements of consciousness, and a computer is not conscious, even if it mimics a brain.
However, unlike electricity that we can observe only indirectly (and thus it can be described only through its mechanical effects), we can directly observe our own consciousness (if not the one of others), just like we can observe directly a mathematical construct. This is because consciousness is precisely what is observing! This was described in chapter II-3, and is the basis of the General Epistemology described in the second part, which is designed to scientifically understand the field of consciousness, with the necessary adaptations of the scientific method.
The fact that we can observe only our own consciousness, and not the one of others, complicates the General Epistemology, in comparison with the materialist epistemology. However this is not a fundamental obstacle, and spirituality found solutions since millennia. In addition, it would be truly extraordinary that «me only» is aware (solipsism), and not the billions of others who however have the same brain. Therefore any conclusion on the nature and operation of our own consciousness can validly be generalize to all the others. The only thing which differs from a person to another is the content of the consciousness (tastes, opinions, etc.)
In more, the third part on metaphysics proposes to explain how the consciousness can exist, without bringing it back to anything physical.
Armed with this definition, and with these precious tools, we can now enter the exact and detailed scientific study of consciousness.
(Permalink) The fact that ordinary (non-parapsychological) activities of consciousness match with activities of neurons led to the hypothesis as what this activity of the neurons would be enough to explain alone all the aspects of consciousness. Neurology and cognitive science study consciousness according to this hypothesis, which is still the standard hypothesis of classical science (2012). And, it must be said, they are very efficient at exploring all these neural mechanisms, «just» eluding the question about how this neuronal activity leads to the experience of being conscious.
Some scientists however recognize that this explanation is not enough, and describe consciousness as an «emergent property» irreducible to the only functioning of neurons, while being supported by them. But, from the absence of theoretical framework on the nature of consciousness, these reflections remain vague or anecdotal. You are about to find such a framework in a few paragraphs, able to lead to a realistic scientific study of consciousness.
We can indeed explore in details how the signals of the sensory organs propagate into the brain, for instance from the eye to the area of vision, up to the vision of an object. From there, we can explore all the connections starting from this area, and analyse how the vision of an object leads to a reflex, an emotion, etc. Modern instruments allow to visualise these signals which are propagating, and we shall soon be able to analyse everything neuron by neuron, and know every nook and cranny of the brain. A both exciting and terrifying perspective: to heal and liberate, or on the contrary to torture and enslave without hope...
But let us discuss with more details how this area of vision is organized: bundles of fibres arrive from the eye, and spread on the outer surface of the cortex called the area of vision (it is said that they project). From there, they excite several layers of neurons, each with a specific function: to analyse colours, movements, lines, shapes, distances, to recognize familiar objects... The visual cortex is provided with a fantastic computing power, which allows for example to learn in a few minutes how to recognize the leaves of wild carrots growing among cultivated carrots that we are weeding... or to break in a glance the visual camouflage algorithms of snakes! (their scales patterns). At last, from this area of vision many fibres leave, carrying the results of these analyses, to the centres of motivation, reflexes, emotions... For instance, we see a red light... we brake. We see a snake, we feel fear. The same goes for the other senses, which each have an area of the cortex (grey matter). For instance the area of touch is shaped in a «cortical homunculus» on the surface of the brain, where are gathered the logic units for the treatment of the sensations of the body.
All this accounts with a fantastic accuracy of a quantity of functions and characteristics of vision, hearing, movement, etc. Neurology has not yet entered the «higher cortex», probably the most complex, where the intents and decisions reside. But it is only a matter of time before they succeed. (They will probably need to develop certain branches of mathematics to understand something in there, such as the algorithms for developing complex action plans)
So this is how cognitive sciences explain the acquisition of information (cognition) by the brain. However none of this shows how we «realize», how we are aware of this information. There is no «centre of consciousness» in the brain, where would converge a huge quantity of nerve fibres from all the sensory areas. We only see that certain areas, when they are active, produce consciousness experiences, and others not. For example the cerebellum, a very complex organ, orchestrates the movement of the body, in a fully automated and unconscious way, starting from very sketchy instructions from the frontal cortex. Even some neurons of the vision are working silently. In addition, each nervous system involved in consciousness produces its own experiences of consciousness, and this one only: neurons of forms make us see forms, neurons of colours make us see colours, neurons of sounds make us hear an alarm or a music... Without anything distinguishing these neurons from the others, or telling why they produce this experience, and only this one. Worse, the plasticity of neuronal circuits can reallocate neurons, and thus create a new relationship with the consciousness. This phenomenon is known for movement (which allows for some paralysed people to move again) but it also exists for all the other activities of the brain... as seen with the example of carrots above.
I am personally a living illustration of the fact that some activities of the brain are unconscious: I am able of fast typing a text, without mistakes or seeking for the keys, despite that... I do not know by heart the places of the keys on the keyboard!
In short, for an electronics technician like me, the brain makes me think of a giant calculation centre, with rows of computer cabinets and large strands of cables linking them... But we see nowhere any keyboard or screen for the operator! This fantastic organization contains number of circuits and processors, which compute and prepare the information, the one which will be used automatically for creating reflexes or emotions. Then, without we know how, consciousness picks up this information, in some carefully selected points of the circuit, where they are the most relevant, generally in the projection areas. For example, it takes the upright corrected, prepared and optimized images in the projection area of vision, and we even not have access to the raw images, inverted and distorted! On the contrary, the snakes detection algorithm probably works with the raw image, but consciousness has access only to its result, and the reflex emotion it produces.
However nothing special happens in these points of the circuit, which would indicate how the signal which is present here causes the corresponding experience of consciousness. The only thing that cognitive science has found is that the experiences of consciousness occurs only when the corresponding neurons are active, which is logical enough. But they have not found why this happens with some neurons and not with others (and never with an electronic processor). This «discrimination» without physical cause seems one of the best arguments available today, that something else is involved. This goes even further: each neuron produces only one kind of consciousness experience, based only on the meaning of the signal, without the neurologists found what distinguishes these neurons of the others, or between themselves: a neuron of the vision desperately resembles a neuron of audition... Worse, there is (while simplifying) one neuron for each different musical note... but they are all identical! How do we feel the different notes, then?
The only logical explanation for this situation is that it is the consciousness itself which imputes a relevant meaning to these nerve signals, according to their relevance, and in order to serve the only needs of this consciousness. This implies that consciousness «knows» what they represent, as a function of their connections with the sensory organs, or with the other circuits of the brain. For example each auditory neuron is connected to a cell of the ear, sensitive to a given frequency: consciousness, which has no access to the ear itself, still knows the relationship between the neuron and the frequency.
The idea which comes at this time, and that we begin to see expressed cautiously in scientific journals, for example by people like David Chalmers, is that there is «something» else, that consciousness cannot be reduced to the physical structure which supports it, and even not to its operation. But, to do this, this consciousness needs to have its own capabilities, structures and operation, instead of being a simple passive «movie screen». But this, the hypothesis of neuronal reduction cannot explain it. So let us see how it can happen.
(Permalink) We saw in Chapter III-8 that a logical self-generation process is perfectly able of creating a sequence of elements of the experience of consciousness, images, sounds, emotions, thoughts, intentions, as soon as a logical rule is able to connect such an element to the next, in a series. The result is then a «consciousness», which is aware of all these elements, with even the appearance of a proper time, in which this succession of elements takes place. However a logical self-generation process is autonomous, it has no information input. The result is equivalent to a dream (or similar states of consciousness such as sleep paralysis, CE3 and some NDE). And actually, the unfolding of a dream occurs according to some logical laws, of which some can be strict, as discussed in Chapter V-8.
However this does not describe the state of ordinary consciousness. Consciousness embodied in the brain may actually dream, when the sensory pathways are closed. But in the ordinary state of consciousness, called wake state, the consciousness constantly receives information about the physical world, through neurons which become excited when they receive such information. I would say that consciousness literally rushes on any sensory input, to the point that the immersion in the physical world constitutes the totality of the life of most people. But this is still true for our ordinary dreams, which result from an intense activity of the neurons of the different sensory areas of the brain, connected in a loop without external information. It is still our neurons which determine our dreams!
It is then clear that the two self-generation processes must communicate, the one of the physical world (the brain) and the one of consciousness, although they seem to be of a completely different nature.
(Permalink) We then postulate that the logical self-generation law of consciousness incarnated in a brain is:
At each instant, consciousness contains an element of consciousness corresponding to the activity of a selection of neurons. For example if the area of the vision contains nerve impulses coding for an image, then the consciousness contains this image. (in plain language, we see the image presented by the neurons in the area of vision)
Thus we really have a flow of information from the self-generation process of the physical world, toward the one of consciousness, which determines the content of the latter: the logical self-generation process of consciousness picks up the information in the brain, in the relevant places, in order to give a simple and organized experience of consciousness. For example, only the exact image at the end of the vision processing chain is used, we do not have access to the distorted image upstream. In addition, we really see an image, and not a table of figures! And indeed, an image is something without any physical meaning, which can exist only in a consciousness.
An evidence of this is visible by people who must wear strong glasses: they distort the field of vision, which is annoying when we put them for the first time. However we get used to it in a few days, to the point that this distortion becomes invisible. Thus consciousness adapts to obtain the most relevant information from a distorted information, if needed by changing its relationship to the neurons.
So this is the explanation of the arbitrary selection of neurons activities which will be translated into consciousness experiences. I would even say that this explanation is necessary. Indeed, if one considers the projection area of the skin sensitivity, it forms an image of the human body, called cortical homunculus. However this image is grossly distorted, with the different parts out of proportion. Furthermore this image is on a folded surface (the surface of the brain, with its lobes and its furrows). But we however perceive our body with its real form and exact proportions. The same goes for the area of vision, which is folded into several lobes. We however perceive flat images. So, it is clear that the physical location of the neurons plays no role, but that their connections and their functions are perfectly relevant. And it is the self-generation law of consciousness which assigns to each neuron the matching sensation, for example a different musical note to each of the neurons of the auditory area, as a function of the frequency to which it reacts. And this assignment is arbitrary, while being logical and very organised: thus, consciousness really perceives a progressive gradation of notes, even if the corresponding neurons are not physically aligned, and in more they are all identical. No material fact explains why this is so, or what attributes the pitch to each neuron.
This may be a fundamental limitation on «thought reading» in the brain, with devices analyzing the activity of individual neurons. As a matter of facts, there is no evidence that adjacent neurons in the area of vision correspond to adjacent pixels in the image. The results already achieved in this way even rather seem to prove the contrary! As to know what a person thinks by reading his mental images, we shall see in chapter V-8 that these images are probably not «in pixels», but rather «vector», which makes any attempt of interpretation impossible. As to really know the opinions or intentions of a person, this would requires analyzing the higher cortex. But the problem is likely to be even more difficult: Nothing tells what is the relationship between a given neuron and a particular intention, and this relationship is likely to be different from one person to another. Not to mention that nothing forces the person to think about his intentions when he is in the analyzer... So Big Brother has worries ahead, which will rather reassure us instead, we normal people.
If so, what about movements, or intents of the consciousness for acting on the world? The hypothesis in this sub-chapter also perfectly explains them: our ideas, thoughts, emotions, would also result of the activity of neurons (at least in the ordinary consciousness). Neurons which code for intentions, define action plans, etc. and control the motor neurons in the cerebellum, which will then organize and execute these actions or speech. And, just as the activity of sensory neurons is perceived as sensations by the consciousness, the activity of the neurons of the higher cortex will be seen by our consciousness as «our» ideas, thoughts, intentions, etc. The activity of the neurons in the limbic system (while simplifying) will produce, on its side, the emotions, that we shall then feel as «our» emotions. The process is the same as with the sensory organs: conscience picks up the signal to a relevant location, and produces the corresponding experience of consciousness, idea, intention, feeling...
Thus consciousness is really a complex structure, containing many imputations, each on the activity of a group of specific neurons.
These imputations each exist as an information channel or gateway between a specific group of neurons in the the physical world, and the consciousness where they each create a specific consciousness experience (image, emotion, music note, idea, intent...). These gateways are constant in the short run, although consciousness can modify them in the long run.
This hypothesis explains perfectly how consciousness, a necessarily non-physical entity, can manifest (to its own eyes) from a physical entity, the brain.
And also how it remains «glued» to the brain: it perceives the information contained in the brain (coming from the sensory organs, or produced by the brain itself: mental images, emotions, ideas...), but also the feelings, ideas, intentions, produced by the neurons themselves, that it perceives as «my feelings», or «my intentions». We shall see the serious problem which results of this in chapter V-10.
To change this relationship, we would need to change the logical self generation law, but this cannot happen spontaneously. Thus we really have this relationship between an unique consciousness and an unique brain, which also explains three of the properties of consciousness:
-To perceive the world by the sensory organs of a single body (including the «perception» of ideas and feelings produced by the brain inside this body)
-That two different consciousness do not communicate together.
-Its ability to form a defined «personality», a complete unit which includes all the capabilities that this brain has developed. We could even say that all the complexity of a consciousness results only of the brain which bears it! The consciousness and all its characteristics are generated by the brain!
(Permalink) How a logical self-generation system can start otherwise than from an original «seed», like the ones we saw previously? (Big Bang, founding paradox, etc.). How can its very definition include information from another system of a completely different nature?
Precisely there is no difference in nature between a material and a spiritual process. Only the elements they contain are different. There is therefore no fundamental impossibility to a logical relationship between the two, starting from the moment where a self-generation law, whatever it is, allows for it. Especially if elements of a given system give rise to other elements, with their own laws, then these second elements can continue according to their own system, while still receiving information from the first. Many physical systems are in this case: some composite particles (phonons, solitons, semiconductor «holes», Cooper pairs, etc.) or even a software which runs on a computer. Neuronal consciousness would be just that.
Scientists call this an emergent property (that they propose as a solution to the dilemma between free will and the materiality of the brain). Considering rule 6 of chapter III-3, I would rather speak of a branching or forking from a self-generation system to another. (strong emergence, where the new system can behave independently of the first) This situation of forking explains, without anything else, that the branch can continue to receive information from the trunk.
The most famous example is in mathematical theories, where we can consider things like polynomials, or complex numbers, as systems forked from real numbers. And indeed, these things continue to receive information from the real numbers, while being able to behave on their own. Since consciousness does not have a «less existing» statute than numbers (chapter III-2), the same reasoning also applies to it.
The idea of forking system however is stronger than the idea of emergent property: a forked system can continue on its own, while an emergent property still requires its substrate.
We shall see in the following chapters how information can also pass in the other direction (free will, parapsychology), and even how the system of consciousness can continue alone (NDE, after life), especially when the trunk stops sending information yo it (death).
These facts definitively place us in the case of the forked system, rather than the emergent property.
(Permalink) According to the metaphysical foundations of General Epistemology (chapter III-1), there is no obstacle for this consciousness to exist without being material. However, this appearance arises a problem: how a physical self-generation process can create a non-physical self-generation process?
We saw, rule 6 of chapter III-3, that an indeterminism in a self-generation system can lead to a bifurcation of it. Then, in chapter IV-9, we saw how this rule can lead to the appearance of new physical laws («domains» of space with different laws of Physics). Moreover, this appearance of new laws occurs spontaneously, and it result only of the physical conditions prevailing in the time when this happens, as soon as these conditions contain a paradox or an undefined parameter.
The only difference is that consciousness is not a domain of space with a different physics, but an independent logical self-generation process with a different nature, uniting elements of the experience of consciousness, which develops outside the physical process, while remaining connected to it by the senses (receiving information from it by the sense organs, and generally by the activity of neurons).
Such a radical forking of a logical self-generation system in several, remains in the allowed consequences of rule 6, itself a consequence of the rules of axiomatic systems. There are many examples in the mathematical theories, where the «creation» of a new entity (for example the notion of vector, or the i number) creates a new branch of mathematics, operating independently of the previous, while remaining based on this previous. We even find, for some mathematical theories, the same properties as with consciousness: a vector is «unobservable» for a simple number, just as consciousness is for a material instrument. However vectors «perceive» very well the simple numbers. This does not mean that vectors do not exist, or that they oppose religions, it just means that information goes from numbers to vectors, and not in the reverse (we can define vectors from numbers, but not numbers from vectors). That consciousness evolved from material brains is just the same type of logical event. This event could be a rigorous definition of an «emerging property».
Thus, we can validly assume that consciousness would have appeared while more and more complex brains appeared, with the evolution of life. And each type of consciousness experience would have appeared with the corresponding neurosensory capacities: vision, hearing, emotions, sense of self, intentions...
It is however difficult to say at which point in the evolution the brains actually became able of producing a self-generation process of consciousness. Was it a special and unique event, at a defined time in the history of the universe, or did it happened gradually, automatically, as the brains were gaining new capacities? In the first case, then we must admit that the entire universe was modified at this time (and this may be well before life appeared on Earth, if consciousness appeared before on another planet). But I rather prefer the second case: the emergence of consciousness would be a direct and automatic consequence of the existence of an information processing system able of giving representations of the world (images, sounds, sensations), feelings, a sense of self, etc. in a way to give the corresponding elements in the experience of consciousness. The question is to know at which level of complexity this occurs, or if some very specific elements of the experience of consciousness are required in order to start the process.
Criteria such as the appearance of the sense of self, or the Aristotelian reasoning, would probably be too anthropocentric.
One of these criteria may be the ability to feel pleasure or pain. At least this test indicates when we should respect a being.
My best choice would be the alliance of an emotion with the consciousness of the body, that we could called «sensuality». It is anyway what is used in high spirituality to create our spiritual body. If things are like this, then we found the creator of consciousness.
That nobody comes saying that this debate would be absconse. Indeed, the idea of consciousness existing as an autonomous entity has important stakes: just when I proofread this passage (January 2013) the medias are advertising a study by Professor Robert Arlinghaus, of the University of Wyoming, arguing that fishes do not feel pain, because they lack some cortical neurons, compared to humans. Of course the good professor starts at once to oppose commercial interests and «science» against the respect for human beings. Remember, not so long ago, it is the Blacks who were denied freedom, and even consciousness, on behalf of science. The General Epistemology aims precisely at putting an end to this kind of gratuitous racist and specist claims, in the name of which an unimaginable amount of suffering is inflicted to billions of beings, just for the egocentric luxury of eating meat.
Today computers, digital, and built after the architecture of Von Neuman, are far from fulfilling these criteria. We shall more specifically study the problem of the consciousness of robots in chapter V-18.
All this could be a full field of scientific research... at least for human beings, the only ones to be able to describe their consciousness experiences.
(Permalink) The idea as what the brain would automatically create consciousness, as soon as it starts to operate, is supported by the fact that each new person who is born is automatically conscious. It is yet difficult to say at which moment, as we cannot make a baby describe his experiences. We are therefore reduced to observe electroencephalograms, which are specific to the wake state (when we are aware). So, children begin to show waking electroencephalograms several weeks before birth, and dream electroencephalogram much sooner. As there is no reason to assume that these electroencephalogram would be «false» (that they would have a different meaning than with an adult), then we are forced to admit that consciousness appears well before birth. This explains the three months legal limit for abortion: it is considered that no consciousness experience can take place earlier, the brain being not yet formed. (We shall see the moral issue of abortion in chapter VI-5, and its spiritual aspects in chapter V-9)
Personally, I saw that my children manifested all the characteristics of consciousness, and this from their very first minutes. For example my daughter watched the people and smiled, and then made a surprised oh by producing her first pooh. My son immediately turned his face away and curled up upon seeing the evil people around him. These are reactions involving a perception of the scene, a notion of the self, and emotions, not just reflex movements. And I can hardly believe that my children alone would have done that, and even less that I would be the only one to notice...
The return of consciousness could be done even faster, for example after a coma, when the brain stopped completely (flat electroencephalogram). It is surprising to see how quickly this can happen, and how everything is back in place without a defect, as if nothing had happened.
We shall see the case of sleep in chapter V-8.
Thus the brain creates physical conditions such as a consciousness self-generation process starts automatically. It even starts well before the full maturation of the brain! Most likely there is a constant interaction between the brain and the consciousness, which allows the two to form.
We can even suppose that the logical self-generation rule defining the relationship between each neuron and the corresponding experience of consciousness, this rule organises itself gradually, with the maturation of the brain: consciousness gradually creates the necessary imputations for gathering the content of the brain. We cannot explore this process on very young children, but we may observe it for example in adults who were born blind, but who suddenly begin to see. Do they see directly perfect images, or do they need to get used to the distortions, as when changing glasses? There is little literature on this case, and I only have a single quote in mind, the case of a newly seeing person trying to grasp a window handle at several meters from him. Another case is that of persons which were made to wear glasses with prism reversing the images: as surprising as this may seem, they get quickly used to it! Yet without visible changes in their neurons...
So, it seems that that the consciousness process has its own capacity of adaptation, which allows it to create its own relationship with neurons, in a relevant and dynamic way. This explains very well the accuracy of the adaptation of consciousness to the brain, and the fact that this adaptation repeats itself in an identical way from one person to another, without any exchange of information between the different consciousness.
We may also think that our consciousness process is built on a predetermined canvas, established over millions of years of evolution, in the style of the archetypes of Jung. However, this case is difficult to distinguish from the case where these archetypes would result only of the raw neurons wiring, such as constructed by the genes. So I shall no more refer to these archetypes, without however rejecting their study. We shall even see some possible examples, in chapter V-16 on instinct, in chapter V-8 on dreams, in chapter VI-9 on art, or in chapter VII-3 on RR4.
(Permalink) A funny experiment, to make you feel the amazing way our consciousness can build new capacities from nothing, and in more much too fast for resulting of a physical modification of the neurons (what the neurologists call a «learning»).
Strictly speaking, to develop a sixth sense requires to develop a new sensory organ, a thing that we cannot do. However there is one exception: the human hearing has all the devices and circuits required for running echolocation (to identify obstacles by echo, as dolphins or bats do), even if the human does not have this sense in an innate way.
So let us try: go to a mountain cranny with enough echo, preferably by foggy weather. Shout, and listen. While hearing the echoes, do the following visualization: each echo comes from a given direction, but also of a given distance, that we can feel from the delay. So, think at the place of each echo into the space around you, direction and distance, including above and below you. Visualize a mountain where an echo comes from, and vacuum where there is no echo. A sharp echo is a rock or a house. A soft echo is a tree or a forest, and so on.
You will quickly find out that you become able of a mental representation of the scene, even through fog, with an astounding accuracy. But the interesting point is that this representation is not a flat image before you, but a complete three-dimensional scene, 360 degrees around you, including behind you. However it is in black and white (if ever you associate colors to it). Of course, training will improve your abilities, to the point that some blind people use it routinely, even in town.
So you have created from scratch a sixth sense that Humans normally do not have, echolocation. And this appearance is too fast to be produced by a simple neuronal learning: you actually created a new capacity of your consciousness, a new type of experience of consciousness: the representation of a three dimentionnal volume. And this capacity did not existed one minute before.
So this process of creating a new type of experience of consciousness is natural and automatic: it happens spontaneously, and nearby instantly, as soon as suitable physical conditions are gathered.
Still a lengthy neuronal learning is required to develop this capacity, but this is different of creating it.
(Phieew, nice collection of super titles, lol)
(Permalink) One of the basic creeds of the religions is the existence of a «soul», which would explain consciousness, because it would have the magical property of «being conscious». The trouble is that this soul makes an ad-hoc element to explain, which would have its own metaphysical existence. Its appearance in early life also poses a problem, that the religions «solve» either with a divine intervention, or with continuous reincarnations from an infinite time.
Only Buddhism considers consciousness as an «aggregate» of elements, in a series of moments of consciousness which are self-generated and kept running by the law of cause and effect. This convergence is not surprising: Buddhism offers a metaphysical theory very similar to the one I presented in the third part, also based on the absence of intrinsic existence of things, the law of cause and effect, and the twelve interdependent links which bind the consciousness to the physical world in a manner very similar to the one described throughout this book.
The theory of the logical self-generation process of a series of elements of consciousness perfectly accounts for consciousness, without requiring any ad-hoc element. In addition, the self-generated consciousness presented in this chapter does not require a divine intervention at every street corner to start: is does this spontaneously, from the only physical properties of the brain, as soon as this brain is in working condition. This theory of consciousness as a logical self-generation process also accounts with survival after death, reincarnation, and probably with many other things, as we shall see in the seventh part. Indeed, rule 5 of chapter III-3 says that the self-generation process of consciousness can continue to run, even when it stops receiving information from the brain. Consciousness then experiences a dream state, unless it finds a reincarnation to «stick» after. Observation facts such as the NDE or CE3 can be explained only with this theory, which is also perfectly sufficient to explain them. By contrast, the theory of neuronal reduction does not account with survival after death, let alone with reincarnation, which puts it in trouble when facing observable facts such as NDE.
This absence of underlying «soul», which would experience consciousness, could be called «the Copenhagen interpretation» of consciousness. Indeed, this way of seeing things is quite similar to the one of quantum mechanics, which refuses to see underlying elements which could not be observed, «hidden» elements which would explain why things exist and how they behave in this way.
This allusion to quantum mechanics should not be confused with the «quantum hypothesis of consciousness» defended by some scientists. This quantum hypothesis explains consciousness by quantum physics phenomena into the brain. The argument is that, just as subatomic particles, the consciousness can also manifest non-local properties. For example, if you look at a movie, the perception of the image and of the sound form an unique experience, despite areas of vision and hearing have no direct connections. More importantly, the quantum hypothesis appears, to the eyes of these scientists, as the only way to explain phenomena such as extra-sensory perception at a distance.
The hypothesis that I defend here does not call for quantum physics to explain consciousness or its properties. So, where the common points with quantum physics come from? They come from the fact that they are very general properties of the logical self-generation processes of any kind (series of numbers, quantum physics, computer program, consciousness, and even psychical universes). We indeed seen in chapter IV-8 that such processes are necessarily quantum, evolving by small jumps, between which no reality is defined. Thus there is no surprise that consciousness can also exist without hidden causes (Copenhagen Interpretation), or manifest non-local effects, whatever in the brain or in phenomena of extrasensory perception.
Classical scientists may see in this idea of «Copenhagen interpretation of consciousness» only an inappropriate comparison, at best a curious coincidence. However I claim, not only that it is an intrinsic property of consciousness, but in more that it has the same cause as in physics (chapter IV-8). This is because it is a general property of logical self-generation processes, of which the elements exist relatively to each other, without depending on anything underlying or outside of the process. Thus quantum physics refuses any «support» underlying physical particles, such as a «continuum» on which they would be «painted». Similarly, the «Copenhagen interpretation of consciousness» makes the elements of the experience of consciousness to exist without any support of any kind: soul, monade, splinter of God, etc.
Of course, for the information sciences, or the cognitive sciences, an image or a sound are physical phenomena which exist only in dependency of a support: the sound need air, the image a screen, while their representation in a computer or in the brain requires memory cells or neurons. But this is for the physical representation. In the theory I propose, the sensations themselves (I accurately say the sensations, not the physical phenomena) exist in the immaterial consciousness, without support, without air, without a screen on which they would be «painted», exactly as the physical particles exist without any support on which they would be «painted». Hence the name «Copenhagen interpretation», which is not a simple comparison.
Clearly, this means that there is no need for «something which is aware».
This also explains very well a number of «unexplainable» properties of consciousness, such as to produce sensations, feelings, intentions, which are all irreducible to any possible physical phenomenon.
Of course, as the ordinary psychological consciousness only «sticks» to the brain, there is an ambiguity, because under these conditions the feeling appears only when a material representation is activated in the brain. But it is only in this case!
But this property of the elements of the experience of consciousness of existing without material support is extremely important, because it is this property which allows the consciousness to continue even after the destruction of the brain, after death, or when the brain is inactivated, such as in the NDE. Its human interest is therefore even more fantastic than its scientific interest, since it makes possible an eternal life beyond death, with no more any dependency on the physical world. These properties of consciousness occur also in some natural consciousness states (chapter V-8), and they are used in advanced meditations (chapter V-10)
Do we need, for this reason, to reject the «religious» interpretation of consciousness? Not necessarily: we can pretilly well make the religions to agree with the self-generated consciousness theory, it we reject any dogma and we consider that the self-generation process of consciousness IS the soul, or that the soul IS the self-generation process of consciousness. Indeed this logical self-generation process of elements of consciousness has all the properties of the soul of the religions, in particular to be immaterial, to survive after death, and even to be eternal, because nothing can stop a logical self-generation process once started (chapter III-3, rule 5). We therefore CANNOT die, just lose our body. We may then leave the physical world for a paradise, or be reincarnated, as described by the religions. The only difference with the view of the religions is that this self-generated soul does not require a divine intervention to start: the brain can do this alone, from its only physical properties, as soon as it starts to operate.
(These two interpretations are in facts two different axiomatic systems, approximating the same reality, as seen in chapter I-9, rules 3 to 6.)
Which of the two interpretation to prefer: the «Copenhagen», or the «religious»? In a scientific presentation, the first is much better. However, to meditate according to the second presentation is not an error, as long as we do not add arbitrary dogmas or ad-hoc elements (in this case it is no more my theory). A spiritual person may therefore prefer the second. But, even in a spiritual practice, it would be a mistake to ignore the first: consciousness being formed of elements, it can grow and evolve by addition of new elements, to the contrary of the monadic soul of the naive catechism.
(Permalink) The vision presented in this chapter answers to the various arguments presented initially, while providing satisfactory explanations to the mysteries of the nature of consciousness, its causes and its laws.
However, in this theory, the information clearly goes from the physical world toward consciousness, but not in the reverse way. In this case, not only the person perceives only the sensations that the brain presents to him, but also his intentions, ideas, desires, opinions are entirely determined by his brain, and only this brain. His words or actions are determined solely by the brain, by the functioning of neurons. Even our complex ideas and action plans are merely the result of algorithms, of the processing of physical information by the brain, while our consciousness feels that these decisions as coming «from us»! And this would make of us kinds of neurological robots, hallucinated by neural circuits, obsessed by them and by them only. Our intentions, our tastes, our desires, would be totally out of control, determined by the sole operation of neural circuits. We would have only the illusion that it is «us» who control, while it would be only the neurons, and them alone.
This state of consciousness is what I call «neural consciousness», or «psychological consciousness», because its content depends only on the brain and its neurological and psychological conditioning.
The difference between the two is a little subtle, but essential: a neurological conditioning is produced by the very hardware of the brain, itself created by the builder genes of the brain (so that we can also speak of genetic conditioning). An example is the sexual desire for the sexual organs. A psychological conditioning, on its side, does not create neurones, but it modifies or conditions the signal which gets out of them (neural «learning»). It can be created by life experiences, by voluntary training, or by hostile manipulations.
Psychological consciousness is definitively not an enjoyable condition, since it leaves us no freedom, only an illusion of freedom, while we are in fact entirely determined by our neurons, by our genes, by the television. Such as drugged people, drunkards or mad persons! In addition, such an explanation of consciousness is untestable like this: it cannot be differentiated from the neuronal reduction.
It is clear, for our comfort as well as for testing this hypothesis, that communication in the reverse way must also occur: from the consciousness to the brain. However this is more difficult, because it is the consciousness which arises from the brain, and not the contrary.
So we need to find cases where the consciousness acts on the brain, where the brain receives information from the consciousness. Fortunately, such cases are numerous, even without calling for parapsychology (which we shall study in the seventh part). The most visible case which was scientifically studied is the one of the NDE happening while having a flat electroencephalogram, which is enough alone to demonstrate that consciousness can also exist without the brain. But, despite it was much less noticed, NDE also definitively demonstrate that consciousness can take also control of the brain: Without interaction of consciousness toward the brain, we could still be able to have a NDE, but we would be unable not remind it!...
But precisely, all the memories of NDE are deeply engraved into our memory.
There are other cases, such as the moments of super-awareness (sort of brief NDE, in situation of immediate danger, but without bodily injury), where we are notified of an invisible danger. This happened several times to me: If someone just tell me it is impossible, my only response will be laughter.
But rather than on NDE, we shall base our reasoning on a less spectacular case, but which philosophical and human importance is paramount: free will. Indeed, it is the prototype of any interaction of the logical self-generation process of consciousness toward the one of the brain, which will allow, in a very general way, the consciousness to control the neurons, and thus to escape the psychological consciousness. In addition, it is easier to produce and reproduce, even if it does not appear in a spectacular or «parapsychological» way.
We shall see further, in chapter V-10 on spiritual evolution, how to enhance the control of consciousness on the brain, and where it can lead.
(Permalink) I mention this theory here, because it seems to be the most advanced of what materialist scientists were able to produce. It is proposed by two scientists, Stewart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, as the Penrose-Hameroff model, or the Orch OR model of consciousness. Basically, consciousness would not emerge from the simple electrical activity of neurons, but from exchanges of quantum states in the fibrin microtubules which form the skeleton of the dendrites. This quantum aspect would be what makes consciousness non-local in the brain, able to pass from one part to another, without a need for the different parts to communicate through the nerve fibres. For example, we can simultaneously be aware of the images in a movie, of the music, and of the emotions it carries, even if these activities are in distant parts of the brain.
Few scientists follow our two pals, especially since the quantum is used in all the dishes.
What I am saying is that this theory looks appealing, because it accounts for several properties of consciousness. However, it does not account for all aspects, for example NDEs (chapter V-9). Above all, we do not see how quantum phenomena would be more apt than electrochemical phenomena to create a consciousness, a Qualia, which cannot be reduced to anything physical.
The theory I propose in this chapter answers these objections. It even accounts for the «quantum» aspects of consciousness, such as non-locality, because these are general properties of all logical self-generation systems.
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